Archive for January, 2007

Just how high can our condo prices go?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

They’ll likely keep climbing until at least 2011: report

Derrick Penner
Sun

The mortgage insurer Genworth Financial Canada, using data from the Conference Board of Canada, reports that demand in Vancouver’s condominium resale markets will slow, but so will the rate of new construction. Photograph by : Vancouver Sun Illustration

It’s good news if you own real estate, but bad news if you don’t: A new report predicts condominium prices in Greater Vancouver will keep rising through to 2011.

The mortgage insurer Genworth Financial Canada, using data from the Conference Board of Canada, reports that demand in Vancouver’s condominium resale markets will slow, but so will the rate of new construction.

The result will be enough demand to push prices up 6.2 per cent to an average $307,305 this year, then 4.4 per cent on average through the end of the decade.

That will make the average condominium price in Greater Vancouver $349,409 by 2010, compared with $289,344 in 2006.

“Vancouver’s condominium market took off in 2001 and has not looked back,” the report says, and supply has not kept up with demand.

And although sales of existing condominium units fell 10 per cent over the first three quarters of 2006, the report said supplies were still tight and will remain relatively so through 2011.

Price gains up to 2006, the report adds “have been so steep that affordability is becoming an issue,” even for relatively less-expensive condominiums.

However, Genworth Financial president Peter Vukanovich said he hopes the report reassures people that the bottom is not about to fall out of Vancouver’s condominium market.

“People are seeing a lot more skyscrapers and cranes [around Vancouver] and are wondering ‘who is buying all these things, and [saying] it can’t last,’” Vukanovich said.

“When you do the research, you see we have some well-balanced supply being met by demand.”

Vukanovich said Genworth has just started working with the Conference Board of Canada to generate semi-annual reports on Canadian housing markets.

He added that in research being done on rental markets, they found more people are renting because they think prices will go down.

“Our job is to help people get into homes the cheapest possible way through mortgage insurance,” Vukanovich.

He said potential buyers might be less reticent if they had more confidence that prices are going up.

“I’m not trying to stimulate demand, I’m trying to put people more at ease,” Vukanovich said.

Robyn Adamache, senior market analyst for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said the findings of the Genworth and Conference Board research are consistent with her expectations for the market to trend down gradually.

“We see that, both in terms of housing starts and in terms of resale markets, things plateauing now,” Adamache said. “We are still expecting a soft landing, and that’s what’s happening.”

One unknown, however, is how many owners of condominium units that are still under construction plan to sell them upon completion, said Tsur Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate at the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C.

“The piece we don’t understand is how many completed units are coming back on the market because they’re investment units,” Somerville said.

Somerville added that the Genworth report appears to assume that the absorption of new units will continue to increase.

However, if anything weakens the local economy “as we start having less of a construction-project employment boom,” demand in the condo resale market will also decline.

The metropolitan condominium outlook reviewed resale markets in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and is based on data from the Conference Board of Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the Canadian Real Estate Association.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

 

Vancouver’s condo-resale prices most expensive

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Growth to continue without any price correction

Gordon Clark
Province

The prices of used Vancouver condos will continue to rise until 2010, says a report released yesterday. After experiencing average price growth of 17.1 per cent in 2006, Vancouver condos will “rise about 6.2 per cent this year and average 4.4-per-cent annual growth through 2010,” said Genworth Financial Canada in releasing its Metropolitan Condominium Outlook.

The firm linked a slower rise in prices to lessening demand more in balance with supply.

“In 2006, Vancouver’s condo market remained as strong as ever and the good news is that growth is forecast to continue without a price correction, so it is still a smart time for buyers to realize the dream of homeownership,” said Genworth president Peter Vukanovich.

The report used Conference Board of Canada data to review resale condo markets in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. New condo prices were not included.

“The good news is that there is no end in sight to the current cycle of strong demand,” the company said. “This will allow condominium price growth to stay in positive territory across all six markets.

“Vancouver condo prices will continue to lead the nation, followed by booming Calgary and steady growth in Toronto,” it said.

The average Vancouver condo that sold for $289,344 last year will be worth $307,305 this year and $349,409 by 2010.

Among those surveyed, the city with the cheapest average price was Montreal at $169,899. It was expected to rise to $177,015 this year and $200,063 by 2010.

After Vancouver, Calgary had the next most expensive average condo at $262,456 in 2006, which is expected to rise to $294,681 in 2007 and $335,885 in 2010.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

 

Three-quarters of all Canadian e-mail is spam

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Internet resources being drained in cat-and-mouse battle

Jim Jamieson
Province

Spam has reached an all-time high of 77 per cent of e-mail traffic in Canada and the U.S., says an Internet security expert.

“It’s a remarkable thing,” Jordan Kalpin, Canadian regional director for IBM Internet Security Systems, said yesterday after IBM released a comprehensive security report.

“Organizations spend a lot of money on anti-spam technology and they think if they can keep it outside of their system then they don’t have to make their infrastructure any bigger. But it’s a cat-and-mouse game because the spammers have access to the same technology and they are constantly figuring out ways around it.”

Spam is loosely defined as mass-distributed, unsolicited e-mail, but it usually has a commercial angle — real or fraudulent.

Spammers set up networks illegally and lease them out to the highest bidder. Typical spam messages direct recipients to websites that sell drugs, pornography or other products. Some spam e-mails contain “phishing” scams, sending you to fake online sites where you can be defrauded or have your identity compromised.

According to Internet security company IronPort Systems, 63 billion junk-mail messages were sent daily in October, up from 31 billion a year earlier.

Besides being a huge drain on Internet resources, Kalpin said the increase in spam has fundamentally altered the medium of e-mail. “It’s very difficult now to tell whether an e-mail is legitimate or not,” he said.

“It’s eroded people’s ability to trust what they’re seeing in their in-box.”

Kalpin said the latest trend amongst spammers is image-based e-mail, where the message is contained in a photo attachment — allowing it to escape spam filters.

“The anti-spam software started to adjust, but then the spammers came out with ways of tiling many images together to get around the detection capabilities,” he said.

Kalpin advised consumers to have anti-spam software installed on their computer and to subscribe to an e-mail service that has these technologies built into it.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

 

Overdue Vista operating system a physical and mental challenge

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Computers must be able to handle the new system; operators have to decide which edition to use

Steve Makris
Sun

EDMONTON — If Microsoft’s long-overdue Vista operating system had taken any longer, a digital Caesarean section might have been in order.

But now that Vista goes public today, don’t expect consumers to line up at stores for midnight-madness launches, like the bygone era of Windows 95.

Vista’s “soft” launch to the business community last month took the edge off the new operating system, and today’s computer-savvy consumer might take technology more in stride.

But that won’t stop Microsoft from spending hundreds of millions to promote its flagship operating system, along with a smartly revamped Office 2007.

Are you ready for Vista, physically and mentally speaking?

Physically, because your computer has to be in shape for Vista, despite Microsoft’s claim that any PC that runs Windows XP can run Vista.

It needs one gigabyte of RAM, half of which is used up just to get Vista fired up. And unless your graphics card supports Direct3D 9 pixel shaders, Vista will run minus the fancy looks, but still function. Most folks with budget computers past their first birthday will miss the neat screen graphics Vista boasts, but can upgrade their graphics for about $100.

Mentally, because you have to decide which of the editions of Vista you want, or can afford.

Vista comes in four versions, ranging from a $129 upgrade to a full-retail $499 version.

“I don’t understand why Microsoft thinks it has to have so many editions of an operating system,” said Michael Cherry, senior analyst for independent DirectionsonMicrosoft.com. “I think Apple’s model, where there’s one operating system with all the features in it, is a much more simple model to license and to understand. Microsoft could have found a price for it and let everybody have all the features, and still make a profit.”

Is Vista worth the trouble?

Based on what the industry has seen so far, yes. It’s a massive program, taking up more than 12 gigabytes on your computer, but it is slick-looking and has extra well-thought-out features, including significant security enhancements.

You can check out all the Vista features on Microsoft’s site, www.microsoft.com/windowsvista and download a small Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor that checks your current computer’s software and hardware capability to handle Vista and generates a personalized checklist.

All the “wow” stuff aside, will Vista withstand the type of malicious online beating Windows XP has gone through? Early versions, including the final release I have been testing, clearly show Vista’s security prowess.

Vista handles changes to your computer made by you or unbeknownst to you much differently than it did before.

In simplistic terms, Vista does a far better job of isolating problematic programs.

Microsoft Canada security initiative senior program manager Bruce Cowper said that, by default, allowing a program installation is a one-time affair. This means that even if a rogue malware program installs the first time, typical multiple attempts to reinstall are stopped, asking for your permission, an obvious red flag.

“Internet-loaded programs are sandboxed even further,” said Cowper. “Not only are they installed in a temporary Internet file area, but further malicious activity is restricted in that area.” He said in a worst-case scenario, an infected user account will not affect the main computer or other users.

“At the end of the day, Vista users still have a layer of protection,” he said, adding there still is a need for third-party anti-virus programs to manage things such as removing suspicious files.

VITAL STATISTICS

- Windows Vista Home Basic: Upgrade: $129; full: $259

- Windows Vista Home Premium: Upgrade: $179; full: $299

- Windows Vista Business: Upgrade: $249; full: $379

- Windows Vista Ultimate: Upgrade: $299; full: $499

- Recommended for home consumers: Vista Home Premium

- Recommended for business: Vista Ultimate

WHAT’S COOL IN VISTA

- The user accounts have better and easy-to-set permission settings for other family members who can log on the same PC with their own user name and password and personalize their Windows. It includes effective and easy-to-use parental controls for program, time and website restrictions as well as an activity report.

- With all due respect to the Vista team, the OS feels closer to a Mac running OS X with similar but improved features, like the liberal use of search bars. You can find anything on your computer by simply starting to type in the search bar and watching the shrinking selection files narrow down to exactly what you want. It even finds pictures based on the make and model of your digital camera. But it goes further, using similar search bars in Vista programs like the Control Panel to help you adjust settings and use the built-in features.

- There are snazzy-looking desktop graphics — you can switch to classic mode if your productivity slows down — but it feels like you are starting computing all over again.

- Windows Photo Gallery works well, with organizing and labelling features for digital photos and videos and basic but adequate editing tools including red-eye fix. You can enlarge thumbnails to any size or see instant blow-ups as you pass the cursor over them.

- Windows DVD Maker is great for slapping together your media on a DVD disk with professional effects.

- Microsoft’s new Internet Explorer 7, also available in Windows XP, is more stealthy in Vista’s secure world. Microsoft’s inclusion of competitors’ search programs, like Google, was a welcome move.

- Little things are appealing, such as the ability to copy the same file in a folder twice with the option of automatically renaming the new one.

- Doing techie stuff, like networking computers at home, is much improved with more help about why something is not working.

- Windows Mobility Centre is a simple-but-effective panel for controlling battery-saving modes, wireless communication and synchronization on laptops.

- Invisible to you, Vista tracks your PC’s status and health, information that can be used by Microsoft’s new subscription Windows Live OneCare and competitive programs.

- Vista can display the sidebar or receive e-mails on a secondary small LCD screen on the front of laptops while they are in standby mode.

I have been running Vista on desktops and laptops for the past few months, including the final version sent to me three weeks ago. Despite attempts to download errant files, including incompatible drivers for older hardware, Vista ran stable.

I like it, especially when I switch back to my regular, very lived-in and bland-looking Windows XP world that has grown as messy as my garage. But the security features are alone worth the price.

WHAT ISN’T COOL

- Unlike less intruding Macs, Vista still overwhelms with pop-ups on what it’s doing, like when plugging in a USB stick or establishing a network connection.

- Windows Media Player rips CD music to its own WMA and competing MP3 format, but Movie Maker still sticks to its own WMV video format, ignoring other popular standards many digital cameras use.

- Vista features are laid out differently, so there is a learning curve, even for experienced users.

WHAT TO DO

If you are happy with Windows XP, and have already gathered tools and features similar to what Vista comes with, there is no rush.

“Vista is a big change for users and manufacturers alike,” said Cedric Tetzel, London Drugs Computer Merchandise Manager.

“There will be some available at launch, but a lot more are scheduled for the 60- to 90-day period after launch.”

Tetzel strongly recommends customers take time to understand the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the Vista versions.

Microsoft says Windows XP will be around for a while with full support.

If you choose to install Vista in your older PC, it will transfer your older settings and files. You can also transfer settings from your old PC to a new Vista one.

Microsoft, heeding customer protests, has lifted its planned “one transfer only” policy to letting you uninstall and re-install Vista on newer PCs as many times as you want. It won’t take long to see how tough Vista really is when it leaves the millions of testers it got cosy with in the past few years and comes out in the real world.

The “wow” in the Microsoft marketing logo might become an “ouch.” But then there’s Microsoft’s now customary “service pack one” for Vista that we can look forward to — already planned for before year’s end.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

 

Westin Bayshore goes on the block

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

It’s part of a five-property group up for sale

Bruce Constantineau
Sun

Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina has been put up for sale in the strongest Canadian hotel market in a decade.

The venerable 511-room property is one of five Canadian Westin-branded hotels listed for sale for a reported collective price of about $750 million. The other hotels are in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which operates the Westin brand, would not confirm the hotels are for sale but Toronto real estate broker CB Richard Ellis has produced a marketing brochure for the properties.

The 47-year-old Westin Bayshore completed a $51-million renovation in 2000, unveiling renovated rooms, a new lobby, the largest hotel ballroom in Vancouver and about 48,000 square feet of meeting space.

A group consisting of Starwood Capital, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board and the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec acquired the five Westin properties in 2005.

Starwood Canada representative Cynthia Bond said the company won’t comment on market “speculation.”

“But regardless of the hotel ownership, Westin will definitely fly its flag in key Canadian cities as long-term management contracts are in place,” she said.

A 2007 Colliers International Hotels report said the demand for Canadian hotel properties “skyrocketed” last year and should continue to soar in 2007.

The report said a rebounding hotel market has attracted several new potential buyers in Canada — including pension funds, private equity firms, hedge funds and hotel real estate investment trusts.

The total value of Canadian hotel sales rose from $1.7 billion in 2005 to $2.95 billion last year, while the total number of transactions increased from 104 to 141. The value of downtown Vancouver hotel properties increased by an estimated 18.2 per cent last year and is forecast to rise by another 20.7 per cent in 2007.

“We’re definitely in for another hot year in transactions,” Colliers International Hotels senior vice-president Tom Andrews said in an interview. “There’s just so much capital in the market and so many new investors, especially in the West.”

He noted while hotel values have soared, the prices are still just 50 to 75 per cent of the cost of building them from scratch in a market like Vancouver, where land and labour costs continue to rise.

He said downtown Vancouver will get about 1,000 new hotel rooms over the next two years but expects they will be easily absorbed into the market as the tourism industry rebounds and the Vancouver convention centre expansion attracts more business. New downtown hotel properties will include the Fairmont Pacific Rim near Canada Place, the Shangri-La near Georgia and Thurlow streets and a Kor Hotel Group property on Melville Street..

Another major Canadian hotel sale could take place this year if the Lalji family of Vancouver proceeds with plans to sell five hotels for $300 million to $400 million. The five-property package includes three Toronto hotels, one Ottawa property and the 440-room Best Western Richmond.

Canadian Hotel Income Properties REIT president Ed Pitoniak said the Vancouver-based 32-hotel chain looks at the current hot market as a “mixed blessing.” He noted CHIP REIT units trade close to an all-time high now and the company generated a total return of 35.5 per cent last year.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

 

Muted response to Vista launch

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

software: Analysts now expect many companies, consumers to adopt wait-and-see stance

Jim Jamieson
Province

Microsoft Corp. launched its long-awaited Vista operating system this morning, but don’t expect to see consumers lining up to buy like they did with previous versions.

The new software, combined with the same-day global launch of Microsoft’s new Office suite, makes this the most significant technology moment for the Redmond, Wash., company in 12 years since the launch of Windows 95.

“We’ve been getting orders on the web, but there will be no midnight madness for us,” said Cedric Tetzel of London Drugs.

“But the Premium version of Vista will make a lot of noise in the marketplace.”

Microsoft hasn’t helped itself with numerous delays in the launch, choosing to bring out the final product with four different versions: Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate.

To solve some of the confusion, Microsoft offers a downloadable tool through its website (www.microsoft.com) that will analyze your PC and tell you if it has the power and hardware to run the new software.

If your machine is more than a year old, it’s probably not worth the bother.

As well, London Drugs and Future Shop offer free consultations for those who are considering the upgrade or buying a new computer, with Vista pre-loaded.

Although advance reviews have been positive, analysts expect many companies and consumers to adopt a wait-and-see stance before abandoning Windows XP and taking the leap of faith to Vista.

David Milman, CEO of U.S.-based technical-support company Rescuecom, said he advises both businesses and consumers to hold off upgrading to Vista for at least six months.

“The odds that Windows Vista comes out and is going to work perfectly with the different drivers and different software and hardware manufacturers and that people have enough RAM and processor speed is somewhere between zero and none,” he said.

“This is hype to make this transition. Vista is a fantastic operating system, a great step forward, but there’s no reason on Day 1 to drop XP.”

Microsoft will support XP — with security updates and a free tech support — until 2009. It will offer security updates with for-pay tech support for XP for a further five years, to 2014.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

“Sansa 6″ Portable Video Media player can store 33 hours of video or 2,000 songs or thousands of photos

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Jim Jamieson
Province

What is it? Sansa View portable media player

Price: $299 US, but expect discounting

Why you need it: Videos on a small screen are cool.

Why you don’t: Eight gigabytes just doesn’t cut it for a video player and battery life could be better.

Our rating: 3 mice

SanDisk Corporation has had a short but impressive history in the audio/video portable-player space. The Milpitas, Calif., technology company is much better known as the world’s largest supplier of flash memory storage cards.

But about three years ago SanDisk saw that the future of the MP3 player was flash memory-based storage. So, although the company had no experience in the audio/video world, it jumped into the market with both feet.

The result has been highly successful, with a steam of credible products that have put price-point pressure on competitors.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, SanDisk launched the Sansa View, which it bills as its first widescreen media player. The slim (78.5mm x 123mm x 16.9mm) View features a

10-centimetre screen and also an integrated speaker.

The Sansa View offers just eight gigabytes of storage, although it can be augmented through SD and SDHC cards.

The company claims it can store up to 33 video hours, 2,000 songs or thousands of photos.

The device also features audio and video output to display content to a TV screen.

A plus is the Lithium-ion battery — which will provide four hours of video playback or 10 hours of audio playback — is removeable, so you can replace it yourself.

The Sansa View should be available in Canadian electronic stores by this spring.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

Smart – new 90 unit, 9 storey development by Concord at 100 blk. Powell

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Busby staff knew Smart buy when they designed one

Chantal Eustace
Sun

Peter Busby knows good design — and, he hopes, a good deal. When Smart, which he designed, went on sale last weekend, he was among nine members of his architectural practice who bought an apartment there.

“This has never happened in 23 years of running this business — we’ve never had buy-ins like that,” he says of the contribution of buyers from Busby, Perkins and Will to the sale, in less than five hours, of all the Smart apartments.

Design, location and “four-years-ago” prices all contributed to the spirited acceptance by the market, David Negrin of Concord Pacific says.

“Your access-ways are on the exterior which leaves more space inside which creates a bigger unit,” he says. “Also, [there are] lots of courtyards because people who live downtown want to feel like they can just walk outside and use the courtyards so they’re not contained in their suites.”

The mixed neighbourhood has everything close at hand from shops to restaurants to galleries, Negrin says.

“It’s downtown living and that’s sustainable living. You can walk everywhere. You don’t need your car,” says Negrin.

The prices were a function of when Concord Pacific purchased the empty lot at the eastern edge of Gastown about six years ago.

“You’re getting prices that were really about four years ago in the market,” Negrin says.

Because “livability” was a driving force behind Smart, Negrin says, all involved tried to make most of the residences larger than 600 sq. ft.

Busby said a completely new approach — opposite from a typical Concord property on False Creek — was needed for the design. After all, the location, lower price point and the assumed buyers were completely different.

“There is no view. There is no park. There is no water. So we said ‘well what can we create that’s nice to look at?’ So the building has circulation on the outside and the spaces look inside,” Busby says of the south-facing homes built around the courtyard where gardens and shrubs will be planted.

“Streets are noisy. There’s lots of nightlife so by turning the building inside, to be introspective, we control all that … There’s a bunch of new ideas.”

The buyers Concord thought might be interested in Smart don’t mind if conventions are broken, Busby says.

“The [buyers are] the urban brave — the people who are not afraid to live downtown,” Busby says. “They’re edgy kinds of people. So we didn’t want to give them conventional planning.”

A “flow-through” plan allows light and air to travel from the exterior entranceways to the windows facing the central courtyard. Inside, clouded glass door panels slide, meaning the living space is flexible too.

“We wanted a big open plan. Even your bedroom, you have big sliding doors. So when it’s open, it makes the space seem higher and wider and that’s important,” Negrin says.

Space makes a big difference in the lives of the homeowners, he says: “You don’t feel crammed in little rooms.”

Inside, discerning home owners will find modern interiors with bamboo-patterned laminate flooring throughout.

In the kitchens, white cabinets and an “earth-wash” laminate countertop keep things simple and clean-looking, says Negrin. This can be upgraded to Avonite and under-cabinet lights can be added.

In the bathroom, things are distinctly turned out with a custom vanity with a “rattan” pattern. An over-basin, vessel sink and ceramic wall tile reflect light. All suites come with a soaker tub and shower combination.

Negrin says people who buy downtown care about style.

“There are two types of purchasers that buy here. One are here to settle here. The others are here for their first investment. When their family grows bigger, they’ll move,” says Negrin. “You want something that you’ll be able to get your value from.”

While he’s pleased with the design of the building and the reaction he’s got from buyers, the project cost a lot more to build than Concorde Pacific expected.

“We learned that a smaller building is more expensive to build,” says Negrin. “It’s an expensive building. When you build less square-footage your building costs go up.”

He says they also learned about the merits of using exterior space to their advantage and about building in the city’s heritage neighbourhood.

Gastown, also known as the “birthplace of Vancouver” is named after “Gassy Jack” Deighton, a saloon keeper who was good at spinning a yarn. The area’s come a long way since the late 1860s. With its cobbled streets, the area has always lured tourists and trendy shops and galleries. Now it is one of the last frontiers for downtown housing opportunities.

Down the street from Smart, Bryan Adam’s Warehouse Studio — the oldest brick building in Vancouver — stands as a musical landmark, where musicians like Elton John and Sarah McLachlan have created albums. Further down Powell Street is Richard Kidd, the glass cave of hipster style. Across the street from Smart, Four Sisters co-operative provides affordable housing.

Building in Gastown involves challenges though, says Negrin.

“There’s a heritage committee and you have to meet the heritage committee guidelines,” says Negrin.

“They want the building to look like the older buildings but have a modern image to it.”

On the city’s online documents, the heritage committee commented favourably on Smart’s use of new building materials and the red-painted concrete facade. The city’s design panel agreed this was a “good-looking building” but stressed the need for light to the courtyard in the design and expressed concern over the street-level’s retail frontage before approving the plans.

“The key to this site was getting light to the interior courtyards,” says Negrin. “These are see-through units, which was really important.”

Cornices had to run horizontally and vertically to fit in with the area. Negrin says: “In Gastown you get a very vertical and horizontal web.”

From an architectural perspective, the project was exciting to work on because of the location and the heritage requirements, says Busby.

“This is totally different. It’s a bit of an experiment for Concord I think,” says Busby. “When they came along with this project, we got very excited about it. We see it as a prototype for future buildings. Mid-rise buildings are the future of the city. We’re built out downtown.”

They had to work with the scale of the street and the look of the area, while keeping in mind what new homebuyers are looking for.

“We put a lot of brain power into it and came up with a very interesting solutions,” says Busby, describing how floor-to-ceiling windows open thanks to Juliet balconies. The process was “productive” and fun, Busby says.

And while Smart stands out from the old facade of its neighbours, Negrin says, modern, high-quality material like concrete and stone will help the new building grow old gracefully: “When you compare it to other architecture in Gastown — it’s a modern, historical design.”

Now that’s smart.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Inexpensive way to start shooting digital

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Sun

1 Canon A460 five-megapixel digital camera, $230.

Aimed squarely at first-timers in the digital camera space (although you wouldn’t think there would be any of those left), the A460 is certainly an inexpensive way to get started shooting those snaps. It features 4x optical zoom, and a two-inch LCD screen. It also has an optical viewfinder, and offers compatibility with MMC, SD and SDHC memory cards. It features Canon’s smart autofocus system, and its iSAPS intelligent scene analysis so you hardly have to do anything but push the button.

2 Kodak EasyShare EX011 Digital Picture frame, $350.

Here’s a way to get those computer-stored digital photos in front of friends and family at last. This 10-inch model (there are smaller ones in the same family of frames) allows you to send via WiFi both images to its screen and music to its speakers, to give a continuous slide show of the latest and greatest of your photos for anyone who is interested. There are optional faceplates available, so you can customize them according to the decor of your home.

3 LG SMB-007 Super Multi Blue HD-DVD player, $1,500, available in the first quarter of 2007.

In case you’ve been hesitating about getting a new high-definition DVD player because there are two formats — Blu-Ray and HD-DVD — LG has come to your rescue with this about-to-be-launched unit that plays both formats. And it comes at a price that won’t make you feel like a wild-spending idiot after the format wars have ended. In Canada, it will be carried on the shelves at Future Shop.

4 Other World Computing ModBook, Mac Tablet computer, starts at $2,200 US.

Okay, so the tablet computer has been a relative marketing failure, with the device catching on largely in niche markets — mostly for business users who need such a handy device for note-taking and form-filling through handwriting software. But there has been a small outcry in consumerland for one based on the excellent MacBook computers. The price includes that of the MacBook, which is then modified by OWC. The ModBook won a best-of-show award from MacWorld Expo at the recent event in San Francisco.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Rogers rumoured in talks over iPhone

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Peter Wilson
Sun

Is Rogers Wireless on the verge of signing an iPhone deal with Apple to make the innovative new phone available in Canada?

Well, if you believe the blogosphere — and when has that ever been wrong? — the negotiations are underway and an announcement would seem to be imminent.

On Friday, super-popular tech blog Gizmodo (www.gizmodo.com) reported the contents of an e-mail sent out by a Rogers call centre that said, in part:

“Rogers is actively working with Apple to launch the iPhone in Canada as soon as possible and will be the exclusive provider of the iPhone in Canada.”

Toronto-based Rogers vice-president for communications Taanta Gupta confirmed that the call centre did indeed send the e-mail in answer to inquiries, but that it was now being revised.

“The ‘actively working with’ and ‘soon to launch’ was not language that was approved because, in fact, we are not in a position to make such statements,” Gupta said in an e-mail to The Vancouver Sun.

While all inquiries to Rogers about the iPhone are greeted with the response that the company doesn’t comment on unannounced products, officials there still point to the fact that the iPhone operates on a GSM network, and that Rogers is the only operator to have such a network in Canada.

While the iPhone is launching in the United States this summer, there is usually a several-month gap before the appearance of wireless phones in Canada.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007