Dispelling Some Myths About Cambridge’s Old Post Office Project

old-post-office-current-vs-newThe hot topic around Cambridge lately appears to be the new library project that is going on in the Old Post Office in Downtown Galt. There seems to be loads of negativity from a vocal minority of people deriding any number of aspects about the project. Most are of the typical refrain of “waste of tax dollars” or “too much glass” without ever taking a wider view of the project. Libraries do certainly serve a purpose in this day and age and I think it’s wonderful that something is being done with this building. As someone who didn’t live in Cambridge until 2007, Fiddler’s Green(the previous restaurant tennant) was practically the reason to come to Cambridge. It was a beautiful building that my friends and I used to love to come to. I even had the good fortune of being there one night when they had the elusive 3rd floor lounge open. It was a really cool space and it has been quite unfortunate that the building had fallen into disrepair. The fact that the City is breathing new life into this heritage building is awesome.

Now having been a keen observer of what’s gone on with this building since Fiddler’s closed I thought I would tackle some of the myths that seem to be involved in many of the complaints about this project.

Myth #1 – This Project Is Moving Too Fast

People seemed to be pretty revved up about this because they feel this is sudden and that the outgoing council is looking to pull a fast one. Not so much in this case. This project was initially announced in September 2012 with a plan being completed in late 2016. I found this article mentioning the possibility of the City purchasing the building back in 2011. The reality here is that the moving gears to this project have been going on for 2 years now. Council already approved the expenditure of money for this in 2013. So if you’re hopping up and down about this project not having enough consultation you’ve been napping for the last 2 years. If council deferred everything to allow every shortsighted naysayer in town their input the project would never get done.

Myth #2 – This Is Just An Expensive Restaurant/Coffee Shop

From the article Cambridge Libraries page on The Old Post Office project

After Fiddler’s Green closed in 2007, the Post Office was purchased by the Landmark Group which intended to renovate it as a restaurant.  Instead they ended up renovating another historic riverside building just upstream, the Dickson Mill at the Parkhill Bridge, that has become the Cambridge Mill restaurant.  The City of Cambridge became the owner of the old post office once more.

Now the Landmark Group has done some fantastic work in renovating the Cambridge Mill into a highly regarded restaurant destination in Galt. Many people I know that live outside the area will bring up coming from out of town to go to this restaurant. Essentially they restored a landmark and made it even better. When selling the Post Office building back to the City the Landmark Group made it a stipulation that they would retain the rights to being the food vendor. And given the smashing success that project was, why wouldn’t you want them involved? They already have experience with revitalizing Cambridge landmarks.

cambridge-mill

As someone who attends meetups of all sorts in Kitchener/Waterloo/Guelph I’ve found viable meeting spaces are at a premium in Cambridge. It would be great to have a meeting space that would allow you to have a group as well as order food and drinks. Many of the restaurants in town simply don’t have private spaces. I know to the average Cambridge person they might not care, but as someone who wants to see more community events happening in this town this type of space could be ideal.

Myth #3 – It Won’t Mesh With The Existing Architecture

In case people haven’t been paying attention, Downtown Galt has been evolving for years now. The City Hall project did a wonderful job of meshing new and old architecture into a cohesive civic space. We have the Dunfield Theatre that has a large glass front facade with a second floor glass area that juts out from the building, almost in some ways mirroring the new design of the Old Post Office project. There is one Waterscape condo tower built, with a second on its way. Down the other end of downtown there are the Grand Lofts condominiums with another set of modern condominium towers being built right beside with the Riverside Condo project. As mentioned before, the Cambridge Mill was recently renovated, adding a glass pavilion right beside the dam. If you think Galt is all old stone and brick work you just haven’t been paying attention. Give it 5 years and this library will fit right in with the modern direction Galt is going.

waterscape-condos-cambridge

Myth #4 – This Will Just Be Some Yuppy Hangout

This is probably my favourite criticism I’ve heard of this project. I paraphrased a bit referring to this tweet I received about the project

@modsuperstar @bretthagey Call it what it is: #camoflagued #opulence. #OldPostOffice is to become an upper-middle class lounge; not library

— omnigorn (@omnigorn) July 11, 2014

When thinking of this particular criticism I couldn’t help but see through it. Why exactly wouldn’t you want upper-middle class people spending time and money in the largest of Cambridge’s downtown cores? The City has been working rather hard to intensify the population of the downtown core. As I previously mentioned with all the big condo projects, Cambridge wants people living in their downtowns, that’s a no brainer. The reality is this is the type of project that can make people consider living in Cambridge. It can draw in families by having great access to children’s programs. It gives people a reason to spend time downtown. When people are downtown they will spend money on goods and services at local businesses in the area.

Libraries As Vehicles To The Future

Most people with this project seem to be hung up on the concept of what a modern library is today. I know myself growing up in the 1990s I wouldn’t be where I am today without a library with internet access. I learned many of the basics of HTML coding and started building my own web pages by going to the library and using their internet access, which wasn’t as readily available to everyone back then. Those foundational skills I learned in a library are what employs me to this day. This next generation of library is offering stuff like access to a 3D Printer. I can only imagine what I could have cooked up in my teenage years with access to one of those. My guess is most people in Cambridge don’t even know what a 3D Printer is or how it’s going to shape our future. It could viably be as big as the introduction of the internet was to libraries back in the 1990s. Giving access to these types of tools is what this project is all about. Enabling the next generation to think bigger and bolder. A project like this is inspiring and I hope a majority of people in Cambridge can see that fact.

Ignite PopUp is coming Cambridge

beginnings-slideI’m sure if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ve probably noticed me talk a lot about an event called Ignite PopUp. If you’re not familiar with the concept of Ignite it is a speaker driven started in Seattle in 2006 and the concept quickly spread around the World. The event is focused around a series of short talks on a variety of different topics. Each talk is comprised of 5 minutes, 20 slides and the slides auto-advance every 15 seconds. The mantra of the event is Enlighten Me, But Make It Quick. This makes for a great evening of bite sized, easy to digest talks.

Why Ignite In Cambridge?

There are a few different Ignite events that run in our area, Ignite Waterloo and Ignite Guelph. The Waterloo event started in 2010 and just completed their 14th successful event, while Guelph has done 3 events. Having been to the inaugural evenings for both of these events I’ve witnessed the type of enthusiasm they can foster within a community. There is so much positive energy from the speakers, the crowd and the organizers that it really becomes infectious. To a point I view the start of Ignite Waterloo as one of the landmarks of building the strong social media community in Kitchener and Waterloo. This is why I got involved in bringing an Ignite event to Cambridge, with an aim to build a strong and active social community.

One of the biggest hurdles Cambridge has faced is the fact there are 3 cities in near proximity to it that always have things going on in their social media and tech communities. With myself being a social media guy and just general tech geek there is no shortage of things going on in surrounding cities. Be it Ignite Waterloo(& Guelph), TEDxWaterloo, Steel Rail Sessions, Hackersnest, DemoCampGuelph, Waterloo Wellington Webmakers, Guelph Movie Club & numerous more there is really no shortage of community driven events. With all these things a short drive away its quite easy to forget that Cambridge is a community of 126,000, which makes it larger than surrounding communities Waterloo, Guelph and Brantford. It’s about time Cambridge started hashing out their own social culture instead of piggy backing on what’s going on elsewhere.

Why Come To Ignite PopUp?

Are you someone who likes to meet new and interesting people? Do you like hearing talks on thought provoking issues, funny topics or moving stories? Like to be creative and put your brain to work to win fun prizes? Ignite is an event for you then. If you’ve been to an Ignite event before we’d definitely love to have you take part in Cambridge’s very first Ignite event. And if you haven’t been before, it’s definitely a great experience that will open your eyes to what your community has to offer.

Ignite PopUp 1: Beginnings

6pm Thursday June 12th, 2014 at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

Eventbrite - Ignite PopUp 1: Beginnings

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Ignite talks I’ve ever seen. Kyle Mackey spoke at Ignite Waterloo and tells us about what life is like having a big head. I’m not sure it’s the best Ignite talk I’ve ever seen, but what I love about it is how he’s spun a very quirky topic into 5 entertaining minutes. It is the virtual embodiment of Ignite, you never know what type of talks you’re going to see.

How To Filter Your Tweets To Facebook Using WordPress, Twools & IFTTT

Awhile back I received a complaint from my sister-in-law about posting Instagram photos to Facebook. Now I have been for years now syndicating my Twitter feed to Facebook, which many people may very well hate. I know personally I derive more value sharing to Facebook and interacting with people than I would if I simply didn’t share to Facebook. If I didn’t share there, I simply wouldn’t be a Facebook user, so this is the compromise I have to strike as an ardent Twitter user.

The Problem

The root of my SILs complaint was that she had to go to Instagram to see my photo anytime I posted, whereas anyone else who posted directly to Facebook from Instagram gets a nice big photo that people can comment on. If I post direct to Facebook from Instagram it would end up showing up twice, once for the Facebook share and a second time for when it gets shared to Twitter, then syndicated to Facebook. There was no way to filter my feed so as to eliminate the Twitter duplicate from being posted to Facebook.

While there used to be Facebook apps that allowed you to filter your posts to a point, those have gone by the wayside once Twitter and Facebook offered native integration. There is an app called Selective Tweets on Facebook that allows you to use a #fb hashtag and only import those tagged posts, but now I’m cluttering my posts with extraneous Facebook only data, which is now bringing the problem of platform cruft to Twitter instead of Facebook. I wanted something that was a lot smarter and would allow me to filter things based on my defined rules.

Twitter As RSS

This used to be something rather trivial to sort out, but since Twitter phased out RSS support on their platform awhile back. Bummer. So now we’ve got to figure out how to generate an RSS feed from Twitter. This is where I happened up on a WordPress plugin called Twools. Basically what Twools allows you to do is generate your own custom filtered RSS feed, which is exactly what we’re trying to achieve here. Twools is also available as a standalone app that will work on a PHP enabled server, but I’m going to outline the WordPress method of setting things up.

Requirements:
A WordPress self-hosted blog(not a WordPress.com site) or a host that can run PHP
A Twitter account

Create A Twitter App

  1. Go to the Twitter Apps site and login with your Twitter account. Create a new app.

    RSS Twitter App

  2. Create your app with your own credentials based on the server you’re hosting it on. When naming your app you can’t have Twitter in the name or it will reject the name.
  3. Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.55.54 PMIn your newly created app go to the API keys, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the create access key button.
  4. In the top right of the page click the Test OAuth button and you will find the keys you need to setup your app credentials in Twools. Keep this tab open.

Setting Up Twools

  1. Download Twools. It isn’t available as a regular plugin through the WordPress admin panel, so you will have to fill out the form on their site and get the download links sent to your email.
  2. Install Twools in WordPress by going to Plugins > Add New > Upload. Upload the zip file you downloaded from the site.
  3. Navigate to Settings>Twools and input the API credentials from that Twitter tab you left open earlier into the corresponding fields in Twools and save your settings.
  4. Click the Launch Twools button and it will leave the WordPress Admin area and go to the full Twools dashboard. Click the feeds button to start setting up your RSS feed.
  5. Under input feed choose user timeline. There are all sorts of other ways of interacting with the Twitter data in here, but for this we’ll just focus on parsing your individual Twitter account.Twools Twitter Feed Setup
  6. Under Filters this is where you’ll start individualizing what you’d like to prevent from showing on your Facebook feed. In my case I wanted to block a few different services as well as filter just the links in my feed. I also added the @ symbol so as to remove any tweets that are directed at someone, since the @username syntax just doesn’t make any sense on Facebook. I opted not to filter hashtags, since they actually do have their place on Facebook these days. There are lots of ways of you can filter things here, so get creative. Once you’re done hit the Generate Feed button.Twools Filtering Settings
  7. You should now see your newly generated and filtered RSS feed of your tweets. If they aren’t filtering properly, hit the back button and play with the filter settings until you get the desired result. Copy this RSS feed for our next steps.

Posting To Facebook From IFTTT

IFTTT RSS to Facebook
  1. Go the ifttt.com and signup or login if you already have an account.
  2. Click Create to start a new recipe. Click the this link and choose RSS from the options.
  3. Under Choose A Trigger select New Feed Item. Then under Complete Field Trigger paste the RSS feed that you generated earlier.
  4. Click the That link and select Facebook from the options. If you haven’t setup Facebook before in IFTTT it’ll prompt you to grant it access.
  5. Choose Create A Link Post. This will make it so your link from Twitter will parse nicely on Facebook with the previewed URLs you always see on the site.
  6. Under Link URL, click the plus sign and select EntryUrl from the Ingredient list. Do the same for the message box, but choose EntryTitle.
  7. Click Create Action, then Create Recipe and your new Recipe will be active. Click the Check Recipe Now button and it should run the recipe for the first time and send your latest post to Facebook.Posting from IFTTT to Facebook

Once I got this setup working I realized I had a need for a second recipe to be created, one for when I posted something that wasn’t a link and had no @ symbols, so I created a second RSS feed for those instances and created a second recipe in IFTTT. That recipe was different in that instead of using Create Link Post I used Create A Status Message. If I didn’t make this second feed I found that Facebook would always want to create a post with a link, which would point back to my original Tweet on Twitter which wasn’t ideal, so that solved it.

One thing I thought I should mention is that since you’re running your tweets through essentially 2 different services before posting to Facebook there is a delay in when your tweet will be posted. In my experience so far it can be as little as a couple of minutes to up to about half an hour, which to me isn’t a big deal.

While it may not be the most straightforward way of achieving the goal I have found that it is by far the best way of controlling the flow of data from Twitter to Facebook. I find I’m shocked that nobody has built a Facebook app that brings more robust filtering of Twitter, but until that happens with is the next best thing.

My New Hackbook Pro – An HP Probook 6460b

I’ve been working on configuring my new toy, an HP Probook 6460b that I’ve now been able to turn into a Hackintosh laptop. Now if you’re not familiar with what a Hackintosh is, it is basically Apple’s OS X operating system running on a regular PC device. The obvious benefit of this is that you can buy cheaper PC hardware and be able to get the superior Apple operating system. The other big benefit I love is the ability to upgrade hardware whenever you see fit, just like PC users have had the luxury of doing forever.
hackbook-6460b

Previous Hackintosh Projects

Fully Customizable

hackbook-6460b-insidesMy favourite part about this laptop is how amazingly easy it is to upgrade components. The HP Probook 6460b is part of HPs professional line of laptops, so it’s the type of device that is run by corporations for their employees and is easily upgradable if any of the components needs swapped out. To get this benefit you definitely have to compromise on the size of the laptop. While it’s a little bulky, I’m not really too bothered. In an effort to make my laptop as compatible as possible I swapped out the wifi card for an HP branded Broadcom BCM943224HMS wifi chip from eBay. I installed it, the OS picked it up right away and it worked without any issue, which is one of the biggest issues with Hackintosh laptops, actually getting the wifi to work without too much mucking. So safe to say I was pretty overjoyed to get everything working.

More Bang For Your Buck

I also picked up a 128gb SSD drive and got that swapped in and I’m just waiting for a hard drive caddy to arrive so I can take out the DVD drive and swap in the 500gb drive I pulled out of the machine. Now I just need to upgrade some RAM and I’ve got a budget priced laptop running OS X without actually paying the price for an Apple laptop. From what I’ve pieced together I have a system roughly comparable to a late-2011 Macbook Pro, slightly faster i5 processor, faster SSD hard drive, better screen resolution, and a second hard drive for about $600. Just taking a cursory glance at what the going rate for Macbook Pros on Kijiji, many people are looking for $700-750+ for 2009 and 2010 models. So even though this laptop is a little older, I still have a better machine than what my money would be able to buy on the used market. I had been considering buying a 2011 Macbook Air, but given the lightweight processor it made more sense to go the Hackintosh route.

Now I will fully admit that Hackintoshing is not for the faint at heart, but it definitely appeals to my geeky side to be able to muck and play around with PC building while not leaving my platform of choice, the Macintosh. If you’re feeling bold and have some time to learn the ropes, it’s definitely a fun little hobby.

A Fresh Start for modsuperstar.ca

Holy crap, I actually updated my blog. I know it’s shocking. For the longest time I’ve wanted to redesign my blog and have never been able to find the push to get it done. I have big ideas and a concept that I hope to one day actually bring to fruition, but for the time being I decided buying a template would be a good intermediary step for me. I always aspire to blog, but then I cast my thoughts to the large task of redesigning my site and would just end up depressed and opt not to blog. This is essentially my way of removing a road block from my life.

I design sites for a living, but can never find time to redesign my own pursuits. So I figure this was $40 well spent. I bought the Ipsup Social WordPress Theme and really couldn’t be happier. While I didn’t design it, I can at least quickly put a fresh face on my blog and not feel embarrassed about not having redone the design of it.  And at very least it gives me something to pick away at and refine. My old template didn’t give me anything worth salvaging, so it was just really frustrating to stare at anytime I hit publish.

So to new beginnings and actually blogging again. Feels so good.