Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some Assembly Required

IKEA now sells bikes – that’s right, bikes! The SLADDA is a city bike aimed at commuters who – like their typical customer – wants something simple and functional while not breaking the bank. If you are already an “IKEA Family” member, all the better for your wallet: the price drops from the regular $999 to $599.

Two SLADDA bikes greet customers at the Toronto/North York IKEA entrance

The highlights:

  • Aluminum Frame
  • Disc from brake + Backpedal rear brake
  • Maintenance-free Rubber Chain
  • SRAM “Automatix” Internal Gear
  • Available in 26″ and 700c

The SRAM 2-speed rear hub is notable in that it is cable-less like the Sachs Torpedo rear hubs — except that it shifts without requiring any back-pedaling. This can be both good and bad; it does shift relatively early, but is smooth-shifting.

As you can see, he’s very happy with his new SLADDA.

In any case, I welcome more inexpensive and decent bicycles to the market; it dilutes the number of garbage bikes in service from the likes of SuperCycle, et al!

Food Item of the Week: ‘Blizzard Warmer’

 

This is a very neat dish that one can whip up in a jiffy. Makes a great meal on a cold day; the spice will really warm you up!

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Ingredients

  • 6 Sausages (spicy!)
  • 450g Fusilli
  • 450mL chicken broth
  • Italian meatballs
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbs of oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp oregano flakes
  • 1 tbsp parsely flakes
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes

Instructions

  1. Heat deep saucepan or pot, adding the oil to the centre.
  2. Place meatballs and chopped sausages into pan and fry
  3. When cooked and browned nicely,
  4. Add chopped onion, and cook on med-high until onions are semi-transparent
  5. Add 450ml of chicken broth to the pot
  6. Bring to simmer, using medium-high heat so as to avoid boiling
  7. Add the coleslaw mix
  8. Cook for 10 min, or until greens are tender
  9. Add in pasta and simmer until soft
  10. Drain excess broth.
  11. Add tomato paste, the sausages and meatballs, the seasonings and salt+pepper
  12. Toss the pasta thoroughly, and serve

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

 

Trunk and Bookcase Resto: Intro

With my grandparents moving out of their house and downsizing to a condominium, lots of furniture and goodies came out of the rooms and crawlspaces of their large back-split that had to be sold or given away. My grandfather’s old medical equipment ( he was a surgeon and GP ) along with the Pharmacist’s shelves where they sat, and his “Steamer Trunk” from the Old Country are now in my charge.

The neat sliding glass and stacking Pharmacist’s shelves are in original condition; they are still wearing their original white oil (lead?) paint from the 1940s, and almost exude the atmosphere of sterility of a doctor’s office. The base shelf has a broken wooden front panel with cracked glass – when this is removed, the wide shelf makes for a perfect place to store my record collection. Now it’s down to finding an oil-based paint to paint the unit; since strict VOC regulations came into place in 2010, it’s been tough to find any oil paints, and putting latex over aged oil paint makes for a poor finish.

Edit: Turns out its not a pharmacy shelving unit after all! Despite being sold to my grandfather from a pharmacy, it turns out it is in fact a barrister’s bookcase. This particular stacking model has 3 levels, and is manufactured by Macey’s Canada Furniture Company, giving it a much higher value than I originally thought. Now knowing that it is made of quarter-cut oak planks, I will be removing all the paint and restoring it with wood stain instead.

The metal steamer trunk is an interesting find from the crawlspace. It still bears my grandparent’s waybill from Yugoslavia to Canada – dated May 10th 1959, showing that they rode the SS Saxonia, and were destined for Montreal. It’s an interesting piece of family history, and it should be a great conversation piece once refinished. Since I value the stickers and stamps attached to the chest, I’ll be trying to preserve the original finish of the metal chest, while also trying to clean the brass fittings and repair the metal edging which has come loose. For this it looks like a thorough cleaning and then laquering of the exterior metal should do the trick. For the interior, I’ll be using a steamer to do away with the smelly and tattered wallpaper lining, and then sanding and refinishing the exposed wood.

Quicksand Trapolines and Inukshuks

O’Malley and I took advantage of the great weather today for an impromptu bike trip to bluffs, to see how the construction on the breakwater was proceeding. Construction prevented us taking our usual route, but after a few rocky starts, we made it down the alternate (and much more rugged) trail down to the lake front.

Construction appears to have more-or-less halted. Grass and reeds are beginning to take over the mud flats formed in the area between the breakwater and the bluffs. When we went over to one of the sandy mud-flats, to our surprise we found that jumping would turn the solid-looking areas into semi-liquefied pancakes of earth!

Further investigation showed that it was actually a type of quicksand, the kind caused by “soil liquefaction’ (in fact, Wikipedia has an interesting article on it). Amused by the growing area of dry mud and sand which undulated under our feet, we decided to try jumping – with positive results:

 

 

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Jumping on the quicksand “trampoline”

After this, we went on to make some inukshuks:

 

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Choosing a Frontend PC

XBMC is a really great piece of frontend software – that is to say, the PVR software with which the user will directly interact – which is available on many platforms, including windows, linux, and android. It’s what we use in my household, and it’s what I’m going to use in this instructional.

Along with the different OS options for XBMC, we have a plethora of hardware platforms, ranging  from basic and inexpensive, to fully-featured mini-PCs that cost upwards of $250. To simplify these choices, I will group some common options into categories, and also go over my own set-up.

  1. Decide on What’s Needed:
  • Ethernet or WiFi?
  • Will you use Hulu, Netflix or other plugins?
  • Do you need multi-purpose TV computer?
  • How important is power consumption?
  • Budget?
  • Will it be connected to a stereo/sound system?

Ethernet vs. WiFi
There are many ways to set up a mythtv system.

  1. If the server computer has built-in WiFi, it may be worth it to set it up as a hotspot and connect directly with client computers. This is a good option if your frontend computers won’t be located far from the TV, and if you have only a few frontend connections, as bandwidth is relatively limited.
  2. Alternatively, an ethernet connection to a router or switch will allow the server to connect clients directly from a wired connection, OR through any WiFi routers connected throughout your home. 

For our setup, we opted for the second choice, as we need to serve up to 3 TVs placed far apart. If we want to use our laptops to watch, WiFi also lets us watch anywhere in our house.

Hulu, Netflix and Other Plugins
These require extra computing power, and as such, only really work well on the moderate or higher-priced frontend PCs. That being said, they can be run on even a Raspberry Pi device, if you are willing to put up with a bit of lag.

Multi-Purpose PC
Of course, for this area, you’ll need to fork out some extra cash – you’ll be limited to higher-priced frontends, which don’t run Android, but instead are capable of running full versions of Linux (or Windows).

Power Consumption
Power consumption is typically affected by:

  • The number of hours per day you watch TV
  • The computing power of your frontend

Low-price and small Linux/Android boxes are a good choice if you will be watching a lot of TV, as they don’t usually require more than 5-8 watts of power. However, more powerful PCs such as Zotac’s Z-Box or the Aspire Revo draw upwards of 20 watts. Do some math to figure out how many killowatt-hours you’ll use in a year, and how much it will cost to run.

Note: it costs us approx. $32/year to run our myth server: 40 watts @ 24/7/52 = 350.4 kWh/year

Budget
This is pretty self-explanatory. Count your pennies and decide what you can afford! Check out Power Consumption to decide what a device will cost you to run in the long term.

Stereo and Sound System Connections
Most cheap frontends won’t support more than 2.1 sound out via HDMI, and may have a simple 3.5mm audio jack for sound output in stereo format. If you plan on connecting to a stereo system, having more than HDMI is a must – otherwise the stereo set must be always on in order to ‘pass-through’ the HDMI signal, even if surround-sound isn’t needed.

SP/DIF optical output can be found on most high-end machines, and also on a few medium-price machines. The MyGica box is a notable exception, which includes this in the low-price range.

Inexpensive (<$50)

  • Raspberry Pi Model A – $25
  • Raspberry Pi Model B – $35
  • Your Android cellphone! – Free, if you have a mini-HDMI
Low-Priced($50-100)
  • Rikomagic MK802 – $60
  • *802 copies/clones – $50-90 (check them specs!)
  • MyGica Android Box – $70
Moderate-Priced($100-200)
  • Pivos Android Media Centre – $120
  • JynxBox – $120
High-Priced (>$200)
  • Zotac Z-Box (Nvidia) – $260 to $300
  • Acer AspireRevo (Nvidia ION) – $290 to $320