Thursday, March 31, 2011

iPad vs. Playbook Debate Revisited

Back in October, you may recall a rather avid Blackberry fan writing an article called “Comparing Apples to Berries: 4 Reasons Why I Pick the PlayBook”. Still a self-proclaimed “crackberry”, I am just as thrilled now as I was then about the arrival of Blackberry’s PlayBook.

I believe the debate needs to be revisited with the arrival of the next generation of the iPad, the infamous iPad2. I will give credit to the iPad2’s sleek new package (it is 117g lighter than the first generation model) and exclusive “limited availability” marketing (the iPad2 could not be pre-ordered before its release date, making the average consumer want it that much more). However, when it comes down to the new generation’s specs, not much has changed.


My argument for Flash still stands. The iPad2 does not support it and Playbook does. Not supporting flash will weaken video experience for iPad users and provides a space for other tablets such as the PlayBook and Android tablets to capitalize on.

Video Conferencing

In terms of video-conferencing, the iPad added an additional camera so iPad users can now use FaceTime calling software just like PlayBook users (I knew that was coming!). However, according to many online reviews the rear-facing camera on the iPad2 is of low quality and the images are rather grainy, jerky and distorted.

Battery Performance

An area where the iPad2 has improved is in the battery life and internet performance. Apparently the iPad2 has an average battery life of 10 hours, with many online reviews claiming that the battery life lasts in excess of 15 hours. The iPad2 ships with iOS 4.3, which allows users to stream music and video flawlessy using AirPlay and remotely locate devices using MobileMe.


The iPad2 doesn’t offer any particular upgrades that will not work on the original iPad – unless you are looking for video conferencing capabilities. However, I will say the growth potential of the iPad2 is tremendous if application developers jump on the bandwagon – an area where the PlayBook has been having trouble.

The Verdict

Overall, the PlayBook is enterprise focused – and the iPad2 still appears to more be consumer focused; leaving both to target different markets. My verdict? I’ll still be lining up with all the other “crackberries” to purchase my PlayBook – but I know it’s not for everyone. Evaluate your own needs and purchase what device will suit your lifestyle best.

Related Articles

Comparing Apples to Berries: 4 Reasons Why I Pick the PlayBook
Steve, Mark and Jim: Who's Made 2010's Nice List?
Who Do You Love? BlackBerry Torch or iPhone?
Love What You Do

Written By

Michelle De Rubeis ,Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions Ltd.

Monday, March 28, 2011

WordPress Theme Smackdown: Free, Premium or Custom

We're migrating our corporate website to WordPress. After a year of searching for the perfect WordPress theme to style our site I've decided to get a custom theme developed. It wasn't an easy decision. My original intention and true wish is to do the whole thing myself. Now I see that DIY could stall the project forever. It's time to reach out and get some help.

Static Version of
I created the current version of our website over a year ago. Since then I've done everything in my power to make it look and act like a dynamic WordPress site. I added Twitter widgets, a blog and hooked our site up with an RSS feed and social media. This keeps our content fresh and pushed our Google page rank up a notch. But now it's time for the real deal.

The illusion.
I believed that if I found the right WordPress theme it would just be a simple matter of plugging in our content. Then Presto! I'd have a dynamic WordPress site at my command. I wrote 10 Reasons I Jumped on the WordPress Bandwagon to share this magic solution.

Reality Check.
Turns out isn't that easy. I've dressed up our content with a series of themes. I gave Elegant themes a whirl. I tried the Thesis framework on for size. I read every roundup of theme reviews that I could find. But I now I have to face reality. I'm never going to find the perfect off-the-shelf theme for our site.

The Smackdown.
Here's the smackdown part of this article. AKA my humbling journey from free themes, to premium themes, to frameworks, to hiring a custom theme developer.

Free Themes
    The BlueBubble Theme Template
  • The Good: They're free! They're part of the beautiful sharing opensource WordPress community. I used the free BlueBubble theme for my e-learning course Build an e-resume portfolio site with WordPress. If you want a personal blog or e-resume/portfolio site, then a free theme might be the perfect solution for you.
  • The Bad: It's free so you can't expect the same level of support that you would receive with a premium theme. Plus the developer may abandon the theme and stop updating it for new releases of WordPress.
  •  The Ugly: Free themes can hide malicious code so be careful. It's best to get your free themes from the Free Themes Directory.
Premium Themes
  • The Good: You get a professionally designed template for an extremely reasonable cost. Here are a few premium theme solutions that I recommend: Elegant themes and Woo Themes. But there are hundreds of great premium theme sources.
  • The Bad: I'm often attracted to premium themes with beautiful photographs. But when I add my own content the theme suddenly looks plain and cookie-cutter. If you have your own beautiful photos or artwork, this won't be a problem for you.
  • The Ugly: If you use a popular theme then thousands of sites out there will look like yours. Unless you have enough programming and design skills to customize the theme.

Theme Frameworks
A theme framework is designed to be a flexible foundation for faster WordPress development. 

Stafflink Styled with Thesis Folio

I tried the Thesis theme framework along with the Thesisfolio skin. People liked the look of our site dressed up with Thesisfolio. But when we compared the job list, the blog and landing page of our current site side by side with Thesisfolio, the consensus was that our old site was more friendly, approachable and engaging.

Someday I aspire to have our site running on a framework. But right now I need to expedite this project so it's time to hire a pro.

Custom Theme
  • The Promise: Experienced web developers design an original theme to showcase your business. You get a unique online identity for your business and expert support for migration and SEO.
  • Our Choice: We've hired a local Toronto company to develop a custom WordPress theme for us. We'll see how it works out in a month or so when the project is complete.
  • The Risk: Having a custom theme designed is expensive but after of year of unsuccessfully seeking a DIY solution, I think it's worth it. The biggest issue for me is that I'm not doing this development myself. But so far Will Webb, the owner of IMG, is responsive to my questions and I'm hopeful that his team will produce a beautiful site for us. And when it's all finished this baby will be mine.

Who wins the Smackdown? Free, Premium or Custom
It all depends on the purpose of your site, and your level of design and technical skills. For Stafflink, custom theme development is the winner today. But this story isn't over.

Enough about me already.
What's your take on this whole thing?
Do you think I made the right decision to hire a custom theme developer?
What WordPress themes do you recommend?
What's your favourite framework?

Related Links:
10 Reasons I Jumped on the WordPress Bandwagon
Build an e-Resume Portfolio Site with WordPress
WordPress Theme Framework Comparison
WordPress Free Themes Directory

Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.


Thursday, March 10, 2011 A New Destination for Affordable Technology Training

Wow! My new e-learning course just went public and here I am sitting on a GoTrain in a freezing rainstorm waiting for people to sign up. I have other things to work on but this course is top-of-mind.

The journey began last October when I received a personal email from SitePoint. Yes Sitepoint! (I'm a huge fan.) It's normal for me to receive newsletters from SitePoint but this was different. Shayne Tilley had a question for me: “Would you like to create your own online course -- just like a SitePoint one?”

The Mothership Calls.
I've been fascinated with e-learning forever. Now I was being invited to create a course by one of my all-time favorite web portals. There was only one possible answer - YES!

My Favorite Courses
I've taken many Sitepoint courses and they were all excellent:
Now these courses are available on And anyone can join in.

This was my chance.
But what to teach? I own an IT staffing agency and I've blogged about the benefits of having an online resume/portfolio website. That seemed a natural place to start. I immediately flipped back a pitch back to Shane: I would teach people how to create an e-resume portfolio website with WordPress.

A Big e-Learning Party and Everyone is Welcome
The best part is that my course is part of a new online training initiative called Learnable where anyone can make a course or take a course. It’s like a big e-learning party. A YouTube for online training. Everyone is welcome to participate. Check it out at

Try My Course for Free
Learnable priced my course at $14.95, but they’ve given me 25 free links to distribute however I like. If you’re interested in taking “Build an e-Resume Portfolio Website with WordPress”, then comment on this blog and ask me for a free link. If I have any left I will be thrilled to send you one!

Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.