A Big Idea For Cambridge

I have lived in Cambridge for 6 years now and I’ve always noted the feeling that something was off. The fact that this city is comprised of 3 different communities has always been a challenge for creating cohesiveness. One of the challenges of this amalgamated city is that Hespeler Road was developed without much forethought and vision put into it’s planning as it primarily served as a way of connecting Galt and Hespeler. Mall upon mall was built around a lot of the cruft that existed between our 3 communities since all 3 had their own separate downtown cores.

park-conceptFlea markets and car dealerships are typically found on the edges of most towns, yet in Cambridge we have them pretty much at the geographical centre of the city. The flea market is an absolute eyesore and it’s something people traveling from out of town drive past to get to the Cambridge Centre and our other shopping destinations. The large Chrysler dealership lot sits overgrown with weeds. The lot at the end of the block sits empty and for sale.

What I’m proposing is that the city work to redevelop this land. The whole block from Dunbar to the Can-Amera Parkway along Hespeler Road is either vacant or an easily relocated in the case of flea market. Otherwise only the Volkswagen dealership and Pioneer gas station are functioning businesses along this huge strip of land. This is a huge area that is essentially wasted potential for our community as a whole.

Consider if we took this land and created a proper transit hub that our city could really use. Make space so Grand River Transit, Greyhound and Go Transit could co-exist. We could solve the sad Greyhound station on Industrial Road where people wait in front of a factory to catch a bus. Moving the GRT hub across the street isn’t a huge change and makes it easy for people taking a bus to leave the city with Go Transit or Greyhound without much hassle.

Then we could create civic space to hold events. So often we see things like the carnival or circus coming to town and setting up shop in the Cambridge Centre parking lot. Why not create a space that can naturally hold these type of events. Being adjacent to the mall offers lots of parking for people, then having the transit hub right there makes it easy to catch the bus and come to an event. Make an area where you could have a picnic. Make it so there is something else other than strip malls and parking lots along Hespeler Road.

How great would it be if the Christmas and Canada Day parades had room to include planned outdoor events, like a vendors market before and a concert afterwards? There aren’t many residential spaces around in the immediate vicinity so there isn’t much cause for noise issues. What about hosting a food truck festival or any number of other events that could be run using this newly found space? The possibilities are endless.

The part I love most about this idea is how it could serve as a unifying space. It’s not Galt, Preston or Hespeler, but genuine Cambridge space. A space that is at the centre of the community and doesn’t aim to detract from each individual downtown. Make this the core that Cambridge has long been missing, a place that people from across our community can access and enjoy.

Sure there are lots of obstacles to overcome with this plan when it comes to displacing businesses, land acquisition and potential contamination of those properties, but all those things can be overcome. I put this idea out there merely to get the gears moving. Put the idea in people’s heads that we can have something better than the current state of Hespeler Road.

Keeping it rolling into 2013

Happy New Year everyone. I thought I would actually get around to a follow up blog post to my previous Turning Over A New Leaf post from November. Corina and I have managed to keep on course through the holidays with our weight loss and I’ve managed to get through the season relatively unscathed. While I didn’t entirely avoid holiday indulgences, I definitely was mindful of it. I’m now looking forward to getting back to normal as far as schedule with eating.

IMG_3579I find reading through my November blog it’s somewhat amusing that I’ve practically changed or evolved all the methods I was using then. Instead of using Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, I bought Nike+ Kinect for Xbox. What I find I like about the Nike+ game is that it’s a lot more structured than Your Shape. So far I’ve worked through the first training program once, which was a month and a half worth of exercises. And I’ve done the baseline “Fuel Print” test, which compares your overall fitness. My first Fuel Print was 44 fitness / 47 athleticism, with the average for men 30-39 being 43/50. On my most recent test this week I was able to jump up to a 50/63 which I was pretty proud of. Just helped show me that my hard work was in fact showing dividends.

I also managed to upgrade my FitBit as well. I ended up upgrading my iPhone 4 to an iPhone 4S, which in turn gave me better Bluetooth syncing capabilities. So I decided to pick up a FitBit One, which allowed me to sync with my phone during the day. I find it took a bit of getting used to, as I did quite like the design of the Ultra, but now I’m feeling pretty comfortable with the FitBit One. I find I sync it a couple times a day, which in turn helps with my food tracking. FitBit also syncs with RunTracker as well, so I’ve got all the different apps I use working together which is pretty great.

On the topic of food tracking, I also made a switch there, where I’m no longer using MyPlate and have moved onto MyFitnessPal for my daily tracking. This actually came about after using the FitBit for awhile. It was quite handy to be tracking calories on my FitBit, but then I had to manually subtract them on MyPlate which became a pain. This is where the switch to MyFitnessPal happened. They have API syncing, so they natively worked with FitBit which was all sorts of awesome.

I’ve found that since starting my weight loss journey I’ve already started seeing gains on the soccer pitch. I find my speed and agility has improved, where I’m starting to make plays that I might not have been able to do 3 months ago. The Nike+ program I was on was about improving cardio and agility, so it only makes sense I’m seeing these gains.

So far I’m down over 23lbs and I’m over halfway to my goal of 200lbs. Corina has been keeping right up with me, having lost roughly the same amount. I’m looking forward to the new year as we keep pushing forward to our goal.

Turning Over A New Leaf

If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that I’ve mentioned a few times about working out and running. Well I have been doing just that. My wife Corina and I have decided to shape up and get fit.

I think I had a few moments of clarity on this whole process. I had gained weight, maybe 8 pounds over my regular weight in the last year. For about the last 8 years I’ve weighed the same. I gained most of my weight in college and never really lost it. I always stayed roughly 235 until this last year. At about this time I was at work and overheard a co-worker talking about how he had lost 40lbs and had altered his diet, started biking and just generally got healthier. It was that day the light went on for me. I decided that tomorrow was the day I would start and began working towards my goal.

My goal is to get to 200lbs. I know I’m going to have to work hard to get there, but I finally feel like something inside me has changed. I feel driven towards my goal. My wife had been trying to lose weight for awhile now and had some success, but now we’d be going on the path together. I had kinda been horrible in that regard, she was trying to make healthier choices, but I wasn’t necessarily interested in doing the same at the time. So now we’re working towards the same goal and it seems to be working so far.

On the 16th of October, I started tracking my calories with MyPlate, an app that I had used before to lose some weight with some success. I’ve found it even easier to use than it had been before. Now I could easily track on my iPhone, iPad and computer. I created a pinned tab in Firefox that is always there so I can track my caloric intake. In the first week and a half I lost 6 lbs.

I started using RunKeeper to track my comings and goings. While I may not have been running, something like a trip to IKEA certainly is worth tracking given how many kilometers you end up walking there. I track bike rides, when I go roller blading and now when I use the treadmill at the gym.

I went out and bought a Kinect for my Xbox along with a few games. Corina had mentioned the idea of wanting to try Zumba, so I picked up a game for that. I also picked up Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012. I personally really like this game. While originally I had kinda thought the Kinect was a gimmicky concept to compete with the Wii, I’ve definitely found it is so much more than say WiiFit. It’s basically interactive workout. It can see what you’re doing and suggest how to correct it. It really is the next evolution past workout videos as far as I’m concerned.

I started going to the gym on the weekend. There is a gym at work that I had used maybe twice since I started there, so I figured I’d finally start getting some use from it. I’ve mainly stuck to the treadmill, as I have a goal to do the Jingle Bell Run 5k in Cambridge in 2 weeks. I’m actually amazed how well I’ve been doing. The first week I ran 1.6k, second week 2.7k, third week 4.7k. This week I wanted to do a 5k without including warmup and cool down in the distance. I was able to run 5.1k in 31:38, which I’m pretty proud of. I had to stop for 30 seconds, but aside from that was able to do the whole thing. My soccer conditioning definitely helps. I find I can recover quite quickly and keep going, even after today’s run I still had more to give in my legs.

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I also picked up something called a FitBit. It’s basically a fancy pedometer then you clip to your belt. It can track calories burned, how many flights of stairs you’ve tackled and miles walked. I bought one for myself and Corina as an early birthday present and I love it. I have barely taken the thing off since I got it, as it also allows you to track your sleep too. To me this thing was the missing link to calorie tracking. On MyPlate they have settings for sedentary and light activity for calculating calories. I chose sedentary, as I pretty much sit at a computer all day. What I discovered with the FitBit was that I was burning a lot more calories in a day than I thought. I already took the stairs every day, but now that was being tracked. I broke 10000 steps this week after playing soccer. The FitBit gives you badges for progression, so I definitely have goals to shoot for that are attainable within the framework of my everyday life.

Now have I cut out all bad food? No, but I am now accountable for it. I know that if I have a bad day food wise that I have to offset it. If I know I’m going out to somewhere at night, I know to save calories during the day so I can indulge a bit at night. I’ve found one of the biggest things for me has been kicking drinking pop. This is all tied to my change earlier this year to quit caffeine. I had cut down drinking pop already, but now I don’t really have anything luring me back to the dark side.

So far I’m down 11 pounds since I started and have been quite encouraged by the results. There have been good and bad days, but I’ve been keeping positive and moving forward. Corina is doing great as well. I just want to keep moving along on this healthy path as it feels great doing it. I’m challenging myself in ways that maybe I’ve never done before and my body is meeting the challenge and then some. I’m looking forward to being stronger and faster on the soccer field and shocking some people next summer, that’s for sure.

Building A Hackintosh 2.0 – Part 2

Believe it or not I’ve finally got around to writing a follow up post about my Hackintosh project that I started in February. Through lots of trials and tribulations I am finally using my new machine. This was an absolute bear of a project to do. It was probably an intermediate to expert type mod and I am someone who had built one computer with a pre-fab case before, so I definitely did a lot of learning, mucking around, made lots of mistakes and various rethinks of how to tackle this project. With that said it was pretty fun to do. I found it really pushed me to be creative and think outside the box to find solutions to some of the unconventional problems this project posed.

Components

From the start of this project I made the decision that I was going to do an internal case modification instead of modifying the outside of the case. Typically when other people have done mods with a Macintosh G5 case they will cut out a chunk of the back of the case to accommodate a regular ATX motherboard. I decided to go the other route and instead set my motherboard back into the case away from the back and run cables to the back. This decision is what probably cost me the most grief when it came to how to lay out this project inside the case, and also added a fair bit of additional cost in cabling as well.

The Motherboard

Getting the motherboard seated properly in the case was something that caused me quite a bit of issue. I think I ended up having it in 3 different positions in the case, while having all sorts of trouble getting it to actually stay put once inside. Using a regular ATX board required me to re-seat all the board screw mounts inside the case, as they didn’t come anywhere close to lining up with the previous Mac board that had been inside.

I used epoxy and crazy glue and could not get all 7 mounts to maintain contact with the case.  In the end I used an epoxy putty on the mounts and that finally held them nice and firm.

Power Supply

When I started this project I intended on putting the standard power supply in towards the front of the case, then running an extension cable to the back of the case. Many of the other mods I had seen for this case had modified the back and actually putting the power supply at the top of the case using the built in shelf. Unfortunately I didn’t have the shelf for the case, so that wasn’t an option. As I got further along into the project I realized that the placement of the PS was an issue when I had to move the placement of the motherboard within the case. As I didn’t have the original PS that would have fit nicely at the bottom of the case, I decided to see if I could track one down. After posting a message on Kijiji about it, amusingly the person who sold me the case originally replied and said that he was willing to give it to me for free. That definitely made my life a lot easier.

Upon getting the power supply I realized it was going to need some work. The original PS was absolutely gigantic, as it filled the bottom of the case, running the full length of the case with fans at the front. I decided I would need to get a little crafty on this task. I ended up taking apart the G5 PS case, gutting the inside and roughly halving the size of the box.  I cut the box in half using a pair of tin snips, it wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it did work. I then glued the board from the new PS into the old and kept the existing fans. You can see a rough version of it to the right, I cleaned it up a fair bit after this picture. I ended up using the extra space inside the case to hold the surplus cables from my PS. This really helped tidy up the case, as I didn’t have to find a home for 3 extra cables after the fact.

Rear Panel

This part of the project was a headache all onto itself. As I didn’t have the motherboard aligned to the back of the case it meant I had to run extensions for each cable that I wanted to run to the back of the case. Also it left me with an alignment problem. Since the holes in the back were set in a bit from the edge, I needed to figure out a creative way to mount the wires so they would line up. What I ended up doing was taking a look at Home Depot and finding something usable in the ducts and home heating section. I don’t quite know what the piece was, but it was a short piece of aluminum that I was able to cut using tin snips and bend into a small L shaped shelf. I then drilled holes into it so I could mount it to the existing screw mounts I had left towards the back of the case. When installing the wires I tried a few different methods, first trying to use epoxy, then using the epoxy putty again. That stuff solved so many of my problems with this project. It’s basically a putty that would harden into a solid plastic, very handy stuff.

The wires themselves I had to order many of them custom. I found one of the annoying things about this project was that I didn’t always know what the name of a certain cable was, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was actually searching for. Here were a couple of the more difficult ones it took me to track down.

Fans

The fans inside the case were something that drove me pretty crazy. Once I got everything in place within the case and fired it up it definitely was too loud for my liking. As someone who has been a Mac user for years, I have a certain expectation for how quiet the case must be. At first I tried using the fans from the G5 power supply, only to find they were the loudest thing in the case. So I bought another pair of 60mm fans only discover they were also quite loud. I eventually splurged on the SilenX fans which as virtually silent. The rear fans I thought I bought some good fans with the Nexus 92mm 750-2500RPM Real Silent fans, but as it turned out I couldn’t properly control the fan speed on them. I ended up opting for another pair of Silenx fans, which ran at a set RPM instead of variable and that fixed my issue.  All told I have 7 fans in my case, which I think might be able to get away with less when the summer temperatures cool down. My computer is upstairs in our house, which is the hottest part during the summer.

This is what the innards look like now. Could use some tidying up of the cords inside, but overall I’m pretty happy with how this all came together. I still have a couple things I need to address with the case, but overall it’s been working pretty well the last couple of weeks. The only snafu I’ve been having is with regards to waking from sleep sometimes. I’ve been trying to work through a solution for that, so hopefully I will be able to sort something out for that. I also need to wire up the front panel with a headphone jack and USB port, but those are pretty minor issues.

If you have any questions about this build, feel free to ask me in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Building a Hackintosh 2.0

A couple years ago I blogged about my experiences about building a Hackintosh HTPC, which kinda got my feet wet as far PC building as a whole.  When building that PC I can’t say I was shooting for the moon when it came to specs, just something that at minimum could handle streaming video and play movies back at 1080p. I’ve had that computer running, with somewhat light use for a couple years without too much issue. It works great for what it was built for.  I never bothered upgrading or updating that computer because it worked and I really didn’t want to much anything up with it, using the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mantra.

So now here we are in 2012 and I’ve rolled up my sleeves again and dive into a Hackintosh project. This time around I’m looking to replace my workhorse machine, my mid 2007 24″ iMac. It still works as a viable day to day machine for the most part, but in putting together the last edition of The Read Book I definitely stretched some of it’s limits with that project as far as processing power, so I’ve decided it’s time to build a new workhorse.

Being a Mac user for over 20 years at this point I definitely felt some guilt about plotting a course away from using actual Apple hardware, I decided I would try and build my Hackintosh in an old Mac case. I put an ad on Kijiji and got a few bites back managed to secure an aluminum PowerMac G5 case for $25. It was entirely stripped on the inside so there isn’t too much to work with, so it’s pretty much a blank canvas at this point.

PowerMac G5 case

Specs

I bought all those components last week and set about building. The only problem was that the case wasn’t nearly ready to do anything with, but I will cover all the logistics of that in a future blog post.  So I decided to gut my existing HPTC and install my new components as it is the only other case I own. I couldn’t take the chance that I had dud hardware and didn’t actually test it before the return period.

I was able to install and get the hardware working in pretty short order. It was the software stuff that turned out to be the long process, and I will admit to making some ill advised decisions along the way with that. Since I had a working system running Leopard I decided that would be a good starting point to work off of. I cloned my drive and then tried to upgrade to Snow Leopard, then subsequently Lion. I’ll just tell you this was entirely unnecessary and wasted a lot of my time.

The easiest way to go about things is to do a fresh install of Lion. I followed the instructions on Lifehackers’ Always Up To Date Hackintosh Guide and it definitely pointed me in the right direction. If I were to make a suggestion for improving on these instructions it would be to burn an rBoot disk at the very start of the process, as that is what helped me with a lot of the crashes and issues I ran into along the way.

The real bug I ran into was trying to get my video cards to work properly. I started the process with the old card from my HTPC and later bought a new one. For some reason I was never able to get the card running with the GraphicsEnabler set to yes, but my card seems to run fine and have Quartz Extreme and Core Image without it enabled.  I think I spent a lot of time trying to get this working thinking that I needed to have the graphics enabler on, when it just seemed to work out of the box in Lion without it.

Hackintosh Screenshot

I was able to get audio, ethernet and the USB 3.0 ports in the back working as well without issue. I don’t actually have any USB 3.0 devices to test it out with, but the ports do work.

Overall I’d say it wasn’t that painful of a process, I just made some errors reading either old data or trying to freelance on things when the solutions after were staring me right in the face.  The process isn’t that hard, you just have to follow the instructions I linked to above.  Using the Hackintosh is pretty slick. Everything feels really snappy and fast, as is usually the case with a fresh install. So far it’s held up to any testing I’ve done with it. I was able to watch a streaming HD movie from my iMac without so much as a hiccup, which was pretty awesome. I was able to download and install Twitter from the App Store, as well as have my iPhone sync with it.

I’m going to do another blog post once I get cracking on building my Hackintosh in the G5 case, but that is a whole other topic.  I figure that will be a couple weeks away as I’ve still got to track down some internal parts to make it work.