Monday, May 31, 2010

F1 Turkey 2010

It was an exciting race. The Mclarens were clearly much closer to the Redbulls in the race compared to qualifying. Hamilton pushed Webber quite hard until the pit stops. Redbull reacted quickly when Hamilton pitted, but he had a problem in the stop so Webber easily held on to the lead. Vettel later passed Hamilton in the pits which setup another possible Redbull one-two finish.

That is, until Vettel decided to pass Webber and it ended in tears. The general opinion seems to be that Vettel turned into Webber unnecessarily. Webber could definitely have given Vettel a little more room, but Vettel was never in any danger of being forced of the road. They hadn't reached the breaking point for the corner yet, so Vettel had time to make a different choice. The collision took Vettel out of the race and dropped Webber back to third, leaving Mclaren with a potential one-two finish.

But then Button saw an opportunity and decided to have a go at Hamilton. Fortunately, this one ended much less dramatically, but it was great wheel-to-wheel fight which lasted four corners. There was even some contact, which was heart stopping after the incident between the Redbulls, but Hamilton won the fight fairly. The reason this did not end in tears was that Hamilton and Button gave each other just that little bit more room, which is very important in a twitchy F1 car.

I throughly enjoyed this race which once again demonstrated that passing is key for exciting racing.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Family Visits

Marie, my sister in England, finally got Skype but only because my brother John, who was visiting the UK, set it up for her. It would never have happened otherwise. Marie was the only one without Skype so it's great to have everyone connected.

John and his wife Lorraine will be visiting Canada next and are arriving tomorrow. Then in a few days John, Lorraine, my sister Pat, and brother-in-law John (we have more ^_^), will leave for an extended road trip lasting most of June.

There's just one question: how do retirees afford such a trip? The answer is that you can't take it with you. ^_^

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Household Debt

There are increasing concerns about household debt in Canada. There's a saying, "When you point a finger, there's three fingers pointing back at your." The banks, via their analysts and economist, are figuratively pointing the finger at the consumers for borrowing more than they can afford. Um, sorry, but who exactly is lending consumers more than they can afford? It wouldn't by any chance be... the banks, would it?

Here's an idea, if someone is living beyond their means, the banks should stop giving them credit. But that would never happen, because while the banks metaphorically wring their hands over the problem, they are raking in the interest from the balances on all those credit cards and making record profits.

And perhaps, if the other corporations sold their goods at less profit and paid their employees better wages, consumers would be able pay cash for things again. But corporation exist solely to make profit and nothing else, they won't do anything either. Meanwhile everyone will continue to point at the consumer as the who is the problem. Bad, bad consumer!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Little ISP That Could

The survival of all small, independent ISPs is at stake and they all know it. Bell has been slowly eroding any competitive advantage that the small ISPs may have had with tariffs such as usage based billing. The small ISPs are fighting back and somehow my ISP, TekSavvy, finds itself leading the charge.

Don't believe me? The CRTC will hold hearings that will examine allowing independent ISPs to co-locate DSLAMs in the central offices. And right there, presenting second only after Bell, is TekSavvy. CEO Rocky Rocky Gaudrault explains why. They indeed are the little ISP that could.

There's no guarantees that the CRTC will allow co-location. If anything, recent decisions would seem to indicate favouring the ILECs. However, the folks at TekSavvy seem rather confident about success and have already announced plans for how they intend to raise money for the DSLAMs with a $2 increase for basic DSL service.

I actually don't have problem with the price increase but it is an inefficient manner in which to build infrastructure. The ILECs didn't have to do it this way. When they were starting out, they got plenty of government support, which is how public infrastructure should be built.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Above Dunkirk

No 19 Squadron saw combat for the first while patrolling above the Dunkirk evacuation. The squadron log entry is very matter of fact but the squadron did quite well considering that they were heavily out numbered. However, under those conditions, casualties were almost assured and they lost two pilots in their first action, including the Squadron Leader. I wonder how much that weighed on the minds on the remaining pilots when they flew an undermanned second patrol later the same day. The following day they flew three patrols. That's already pushing the pilots quite hard and it was early days yet.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sore Winner

The only thing worse than a sore loser, is a sore winner. Bell got everything it wanted in usage based billing. The only requirement was that they had to downgrade their grandfathered unlimited subscribers to UBB before it would take effect on the wholesale ISPs. Instead of getting on with satisfying the requirement, Bell complains about it to the CRTC. Considering how long it takes for the CRTC to decide anything, Bell's complaint only serves to delay UBB even further. How dumb is that?

Bell's submission is about more than UBB, though. The wholesale ISPs finally have access to the cable companies networks. The wholesalers have found a loophole that allow them to offer unlimited accounts over cable. Er, wait, unlimited is back again? Since Bell wants to eliminate unlimited accounts from its competitors, this latest development must have caused some serious cursing over at Bell. Even worse, some wholesale ISPs are offering 10Mb/s unlimited accounts on the cable networks, at least double the speed they can offer with DSL.

Oh, I'm going to enjoy watching Bell squirm for a while. ^_^

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Off The Shelf

An off-the-shelf single board computer that I use frequently, is preinstalled with Linux 2.4 and Debian sarge. Yes, that's quite old, but it is actually a good thing since a new board is drop in replacement. Well, it's a good thing unless you are trying to do strange stuff, like I usually do.

The Python 2.3 was the default on Debian sarge. Sadly, modern tools like distribute and virtualenv do not work well with such an ancient version of Python, even though I can't find anything that says 2.3 is not supported. I'm having enough trouble that I've given up on using 2.3.

Fortunately, the Debian sarge archive is still around so I'm going to install Python 2.4 to see if that helps. The main drawback is I'll lose the drop in replacement factor, but I need to get this working.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Holiday Weekend

It was not much of a holiday weekend for me. I had to catch up on the coding for one of my projects. I only achieved about half the goals which isn't that great, but I suppose it could be worse. Of course the weather just had to be unusually warm for a Victoria Day weekend all because I had to work. ^_^

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Lewis Hamilton was charged under an anti-hoon law for doing a burnout in his road car when he left the track after the Australian Grand Prix qualifying session. Hoon?

Trust those Aussies to come up with words the rest of us have never heard before. I thought it might be a contraction of Hooligan since Australians have a penchant for shortened words, but Wikipedia doesn't mention this possibility. Google wasn't any help either.

If you are going to invent new words, at least have the foresight to record their etymology. Especially if you are going to charge well known race car drivers under a law named after your invented words. I mean, really. ^_^

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chromium And Ad Blocking

Advertisement blocking in Chromium isn't as effective as it is in Firefox because extensions can't prevent the browser from downloading and displaying the advert. The best an extension can do, is remove the avert after it has been rendered, which means in the worst case, you will see the ad briefly. While this is better than nothing, it hardly qualifies as blocking the advertisement. For one thing, fetching the advert is sometimes the slowest component when downloading a page. There are other reasons for running ad blockers other than simply hiding them. The Chromium extension API is still new so hopefully this limitation will be removed sometime in the future.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tegami Bachi

Tegami Bachi takes place in a very strange world known as Amberground. It has no sun but there is a geostationary artificial light source above the capital, which means that it is darker further away from the capital. The capital is a mysterious place that is never seen in the series.

Amberground is mostly a wilderness that is dotted with communities that somehow eek out an existence with so little light. The only communications between the communities is via a hand delivered postal system that is run by the Tegami Bachi (Letter Bees). Unsurprisingly, many people have some animosity toward the capital, and the Letter Bees take the brunt of it as the only public representatives the government. Why the government shields itself behind postmen is another mystery.

The wilderness is a dangerous place inhabited by by powerful bug like monsters. The postmen have a technique which uses their life force, that is able to kill the creatures. The ability depends on a gem stone which is embedded in a weapon that focuses the attack. Why only the Letter Bees have this ability, is never explained.

Each Bee has an companion called a dingo which is usually an animal but not always. The main character, Lag Seeing, has a dingo, Niche, that looks a little girl but seriously is not even close. Niche is described several times as "a child of Maka" but who or what exactly a Maka is, is yet another mystery.

The story revolves around Lag searching for clues about another Bee, Gauche Suede, who has disappeared. Gauche delivered a very young Lag to his grandmother, and is the reason Lag became a Bee. Most of the series develops the characters and background, and we only find what happened to Gauche in the final episode, which actually raises many more questions than it answers. Yes, it's another mystery.

There's a very good reason why the series ends with so many unexplained mysteries. There's a second season. ^_^

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Internet Age

In the Internet age, why is the most successful Internet business model, one that was created over 200 hundred years ago? Google, Facebook, MySpace, and soon Twitter, all depend on advertising. The Internet age does add a few bonuses, though. It's much easier to keep track people who view your adds. Advertisers can even get the names of the people who view the ads.

Er, wait, that's doesn't sound right. Unfortunately, it has already happened. Sharing subscriber information with advertisers is nothing new (e.g., Airmiles), but there was a line which nobody dared to cross. The Internet age is an advertisers' wet dream and some have decided that anything goes. Unless you get caught.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yet Another Codec

Google announced that it would open the VP8 codec as the WebM project. VP8 is reputed to be as good as H.264 for video quality. The real surprise is that so many web browser vendors, including Microsoft, have pledged support for WebM. The only exception was Apple who has invested heavily in H.264 and likely wouldn't want abandon it so easily.

I must be getting jaded. After reading about the announcement, my first thought was, "Oh great! Yet another codec!"

Python Programming Toolbox

At this month's PyGTA meeting, we discussed what's in people's Python programming toolboxes. One surprise was that more than half the group did not use an IDE for development. Another surprise was that almost half the group used vim, making it the most common editor. It was a small group though so I wouldn't read too much into that statistic.

I found that my toolbox was not as full featured as some of the others. For example, I don't use tools to generate documentation from the code, whereas this seemed to be a common practice among the other programmers. It was an interesting discussion and I picked up a few ideas that might be worth exploring to see if they fit with my programing style.

Monday, May 17, 2010

F1 2010 Monaco

Another dominating display by Redbull and Mark Webber who had back to back polls and wins. Webber's qualifying lap was a massive .3 seconds faster than Kubica, who beat Vettel into the second grid slot. Kubica and Renault's performance was quite surprising as they beat all the main contenders, except Redbull. The other teams should be a getting a little worried. Redbull's car is good on any kind of circuit and they have two drivers who are capable of winning the championship.

Webber lead the race from start to finish despite four safety cars wiping out the gap he had built up. Vettel passed Kubica in the first corner to take second, place but was never able to close on Webber. In fact, Vettel came under pressure from Kubica later in the race. Vettel must be wondering what went wrong while Webber now has a psychological advantage of his team mate. Should be interesting to see how Vettel fights back in the next race.

Alonso destroyed his car in Saturday morning practice and it could not be rebuilt in time for qualifying. As a result Alonso started form the pit lane and had to duel with all the drivers from the slower teams as he charged through the field. Alonso quickly found out that most of them were not going to jump out the way. It was reasonable as they were fighting for position, but Alonso was definitely losing his cool. Watching Di Grassi throw his Virgin Racing car around in front of Alonso was both scary and impressive.

Schumacher got a six place penalty for passing Alonso while under the safety car on last lap. The wording of that rule is very bad which is likely what caused the different interpretation between the teams.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Laser

50 years ago the first working laser was developed and the military have been of dreaming of laser weapons ever since. While most of the experimental weapons have been duds, and even though there have been some interesting successes like the THEL, they are still a very long way from a battle field ready blaster. And when the generals do eventually get their practical laser weapons, I'm sure someone will want to attached them to some sharks. ^_^

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The Chromium browser finally entered Debian sid a few days ago and I've been using it as my primary browser. So far I have no major complaints. Chromium feels faster than Google Chrome for some reason, although I suspect it is just just my imagination as I haven't use Google Chrome all that much. The one thing that I am not imagining, is how ridiculously faster Chromium is than Firefox 3.5.

Chromium has a built in flash player which is enabled with command line switch. The flash player is the only thing that causes Chromium to use a lot of CPU. Since the flash player is still quite new, I'll avoid making any judgements. Poking fun at flash performance is all too easy any way.

I installed some basic extensions, an advert blocker and a flash blocker. There's no extension similar to Firefox's NoScript yet so I've disabled javascript and only enable it for specific sites. This works well for now, but doesn't have the fine control of NoScript, so you can't block specific scripts on a site. It's all or nothing.

A couple of web sites that I use, require a personal certificate for indentification. Chromium currently does not provide a user interface to manage certificates on Linux. You need to use a install a separate command line utility that is detailed here.

After using Firefox for so long, it feels a little strange to be switching browsers. The folks at Mozilla re fighting back so it we'll definitely have another browser war. For now, I'll stick with Chromium.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Amiga Kills A Troll

This Groklaw story of how a demonstration of an Amiga helped to win a patent infringement suit against Redhat, will warm the hearts of all Amiga enthusiasts everywhere. The Amiga wasn't the only prior art in this case, but I wonder how many other software patents the Amiga might invalidate. This also serves a reminder of how flawed the concept of a software patent is. Any company that depends on them to protect it's core business, is taking a huge risk. Of course, the loser in this suit was just a patent troll, so nothing of value was lost.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How To Shoot Your Foot

Politicians shoot themselves in the proverbial foot so easily that it must be natural skill. The Auditor General wants to audit the spending of the MPs and they say no. Wow! If there's a better way to make themselves look worse in the eyes of the public, I can't think of one. It gets even better. The MPs unanimously said no to the audit. Double wow! Imagine what could be accomplished if they could agree on really important matters, not just hiding their expenses.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WRC 2010 New Zealand

This was one hell of a rally! The action starts on day one when Loeb makes one of his rare mistakes on SS4. The backend got away from him a right hand corner and he slid sideways into the the end of a bridge barrier, which destroyed the driver side door. When Loebs gets it wrong, it goes wrong in a big way! He managed to limp back to service but lost well over a minute, trying to close "the shit door" as he put it. Loeb jokingly added that it was all a tactic for better road position on day two.

Those words were not so funny on day two. Loeb delivered a master class in rally driving as he used his road position to claw back almost all the lost time. He finished day two in second only 5 seconds behind Ogier. It was a spectacular drive with perfect road position for day three. Loeb looked set to take the win again.

Oh, but day three was to be a very different day. First Ogier spun and handed the lead to Loeb. Then Loeb uncharacteristically made a second error for the rally! A Loeb victory looked unlikely as Ogier was once again in the lead. Then Ogier made yet another error, and suddenly a Loeb win was once again a possibility. Then, almost unbelievably, Loeb made a third mistake and crashed! For Loeb to make three mistakes in a rally is so inconceivable, that I almost fell out of my chair because I was laughing so hard! Mark this rally in the history books folks.

Loeb got going again after the crash and was handed third by Petter Solberg. He had the scent of a win in the air and went all out on day three, only to crash out in spectacular fashion on the final stage. Sadly, Petter Solberg's bad luck continues but he was really trying hard for that win.

So, after all that action on day three, the winner is the one driver who had a completely unremarkable rally: Latvala. He had not a single incident, not even a stage win, throughout the entire rally. That's quite an achievement and shows how much Latvala has improved. And considering Ogier's performance, it's clear we are going to see a lot more of the younger drivers this season.


At this month's GTALUG meeting, Madison Kelly gave a talk on clustering. This topic is very broad so she immediately narrowed it down to high availability clustering. Madison learned clustering from the school of hard knocks as the saying goes, which made the talk much more interesting as she shared her experiences.

While I'm not deeply interested in the subject, I enjoyed the talk. However, Madison had way too much material for a two hour presentation. As a result we missed seeing a demonstration of a cluster in action, which was disappointing. Hopefully, we'll have her back sometime for for a show and tell.

Monday, May 10, 2010

F1 Spain 2010

Redbull completely dominated both in qualifying and in the race. Webber edged Vettel for the poll. Webber critically stayed in front of Vettel through the first corner and avoided the same situation from Malaysia. After that, Webber cruised to his first win of the season. The Redbull remains fragile with Vettel having a brake problem which prevented a one-two finish, but he still managed to nurse the car to the finish for a well deserved third.

Even though there were a few fights for position all through the field, overall the race was quite boring. I was hoping the fight between Button and Schumacher would be epic, but Button gave Schumacher way too much respect. Button had the faster car but Schumacher's experience made up the difference easily. And of course, passing is the number one problem in F1, which didn't help Button's efforts.

The teams brought a lot of upgrades as expected for the first race back in Europe, but not all of it worked. Unfortunately, Redbull's improvements did work, which made them look even stronger. Not being allowed to test anything except on race weekend is going to play a role this season as there still four contenders vying for the constructors' title.

Ferrari had their own version of the F-duct. It gives a massive 9 km/h advantage in straight line speed over the Redbull, so there's no doubt that the F-duct is effective. However, watching Alonso drive with one hand while activating the system was a little worrying. Alonso is more than capable of handling it of course, but it just increases the chance of a mistake. There's talk of banning F-ducts next year.

The best moment in the whole race was Alonso being told on the radio that Schumacher was holding up the field. Now there's something you don't hear everyday! Surprisingly, Schumacher was quicker than Rosberg which led to speculation that he is being sidelined at Mercedes in favour of Schumacher. I hope that is not the case, as it is a waste of a talented young driver, which would be a real shame.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Long Memories

Since 1985 the Dutch have held a parade for the Canadian veterans who helped liberate the Netherlands 65 years ago. Unfortunately, this year's parade will be the last, as many of the veterans are no longer able to make the trip. But it does seems that the Dutch have long memories. More importantly, they are making sure the next generation understands what happened so long ago. I wonder why there are not similar efforts here in Canada?

Saturday, May 8, 2010


May 8 is VE-Day and marks the end of the Second World War in Europe. The CBC reported on the remembrance ceremonies in Ottawa. The BBC also had good coverage of ceremonies in the UK, and reported that UK and other Western European soldiers, were joining the march in Red Square for the first time. The timed they are a-changing indeed! I'm glad to see this coverage, but of all the mainstream media that I follow, the CBC and BBC were the only ones to even mention VE-Day at all. How quickly we forget.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sora No Woto

The first thing you notice in Sora no Woto is the amazing background artwork. The creators of the series used a real life setting for the fictional city of Seize, the story's location. The story, in contrast to the beautiful setting, is actually quite dark. When the story opens, there is a tentative ceasefire in a war that has devastated most of the world and killed all sea life. This is serious post-apocalypse stuff.

The lead character, Sorami Kanata, wants to play the trumpet so she joins the army as bugler. The fact that buglers are still required for battlefield signalling is an interesting anachronism. Long distance communication is a rotary dial telephone. In fact, there very few electronic devices used at all. An "old era" is mentioned a few times, which had much more advanced technology. This gives the hint that war may have lasted a very long time before the devastation was unleashed, possibly as an act of desperation. Some of this is confirmed later in the story, but it's never explained in detail.

Sora no Woto means "sound of the sky" and it refers to one particular tune that reverberates throughout the series: Amazing Grace. This old hymn has become almost cliche through over use, but in this series it is definitely used appropriately, given the context of the story and characters. The tune is well known to both sides in the war which plays an important role in maintaining the ceasefire at the end of the story.

Sora no Woto is an excellent sci-fi anime series and is worth checking if you get the chance.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Argh! UBB Approved!

This is turning into a really depressing week. Yesterday, it was the Canadian DMCA bill. Today, the CRTC approved usage based billing (UBB). Bell shoots and scores again!

UBB won't kick in immediately. It becomes active 60 days after Bell informs the CRTC in writing that it has eliminated all its customers on grandfathered unlimited accounts. But that won't be very difficult. Bell can just switch people without so much as a by-your-leave.

Once UBB takes effect, there is a cap of 60GB per month. The overage fee is wopping $1.75 per Gigabyte, up to maximum $22.50. There's a secondary cap of 300GB with a fee of $0.75 per Gigabyte. I used 95GB in April so my Internet bill would have been around $56 plus taxes. April was unusual though. March was 66GB which is around $44. Wow, that's suddenly one very expensive 3Mb/s DSL connection!

The throttle is supposed to go away once the UBB comes into effect, since the UBB is supposed to curtail the dastardly bandwidth hogs. I fully expect Bell to find some reason to keep the throttle in place, probably using the unchanged usage as an excuse. With the CRTC in their back pocket, they know they can get away with anything. This is turning into a very depressing week.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Fix Is In

Oh, this is so typical of those bloody politicians! The copyright consultation last year was a pointless waste of time. The final decision on the future of copyright in Canada was made by... the Prime Minister! But wait! It gets worse!

It looks very likely that we will end up with a Canadian version of the DMCA, because the PM sided with James Moore, who seems to have forgotten he is the Canadian Heritage Minister. Last year he appeared to be on the same page as Industry Minister Clement, but not any more. The fix is in and it looks like the lobbyists from the (U.S.) entertainment industry got to Moore.

How bad will the Bill be? Will Canada have a three-strikes law? We wait with bated breath.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Broadband Promises

So Ignatieff, our wannabe Prime Minister, is promising broadband for the whole country. Sounds great! Er, wait, he is only aiming for 1.5Mb/s! How did we suddenly return to 1998? Since new infrastructure will be needed in rural areas to support broadband, you might as well use the latest technology. Then there is the question of who is going build the infrastructure. If the the incumbents (Bell, Rogers, etc.) are left to themselves, they won't spend more than is necessary to meet the minimum speed, with no room for future growth. I get the feeling that Ignatieff hasn't put much thought into this, which makes it difficult to take seriously.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Early Electronics Hobbyists

After reading this Ars Technica article, I wondered if any of Bernsback's electronics publications influenced my dad's interest radio electronics, a hobby that he had already given up before I was even born. I don't know when he started the hobby so it's hard to say if he might seen any of the Gernsback magazines.

While they were undoubtedly influentially in the U.S., South Africa was more likely to receive British publications, assuming there were any. My Google-fu hasn't turned up anything yet, but I find it hard to believe there weren't any British radio electronics magazines. Funny how an article can trigger a whole line of research, and waste a lot more time than it took to read the article. ^_^

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Is Real

Here is an article in the Toronto Star about Canadian troops "IED hunting" in Afghanistan. I especially liked the disparaging comments about The Hurt Locker which in typical Hollywood fashion gets it all wrong. But the eyes of the soldier in the picture is worth a 1000 words. The man isn't very old, probably in his early twenties, but his eyes are much older. Tells you everything you need to know about what these guys are experiencing over there. This is real, not some Hollywood fantasy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What Next?

Uh, oh! It's been confirmed that polar bears are breeding with grizzly bears now. What's next? Cats breeding with dogs? ^_^

Seriously though, we are seeing evolution at work. As the polar bear's natural habitat shrinks, they will move into areas where they will have to compete for resources. That competition will require adaptation. One adaptation might be new species suited to the new conditions. Isn't nature wonderful?

Some species won't adapt fast enough and will die out. Humans will be among of those. Our reproduction is too restricted for evolution to save us. Our intelligence will allow us to hang on for quite some time but if our habitat changes too severely, we don't stand a chance.