Sunday, July 31, 2011

Printed Aircraft?

The world's first printed aircraft has flown. No, it was not a paper aeroplane. Using an industrial 3D printer, some engineers manufactured the complete airframe of a UAV.

I wonder if how long before someone tries this on a hobbyist 3D printer. The future of small scale manufacturing is already here and it can only get better, cheaper, and easier. Looking around the EOS website, the P 730 mentioned in the article is already a previous generation model.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Politicians Are Stupid

If encryption were to be banned, wouldn't that kill e-commerce dead in its tracks? Would anyone be willing transmit their credit card information of a public network in the clear? Well, I suppose a few uninformed folks might do it once. I doubt they would do it a second time, after their information has been abused by some nefarious types.

And yet Pakistani government seems intent on banning encryption so that they can more easily snoop Internet traffic. What they apparently fail to realize is that this allows everyone to snoop the Internet traffic. Politicians are really stupid aren't they?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The New Dictators

The new totalitarian regimes (or wannabes) do not use jack boots to step on their citizens. That's so last century. The modern dictators (or wannabes) pass laws which require the corporations to do the dirty work for the government. The U.S. government is definitely a wannabe (totalitarians in training, if you like). They have just passed such a law which uses the old child pornography bogey man again. The Canadian government is also a wannabe and is desperate to catch up with our neighbours. Our version of this law is expected in the fall. All hail to the new dictators!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I have lost more than an inch from my waist. (Sorry, 2.5 centimeters just doesn't sound right.) I lost around 6, maybe 7, pounds, which is not that much really. Losing inches is a better gauge of improvement.

The main reason is regular, albeit fairly moderate exercise. I'm not dieting but I am eating less due to being on a budget. The snacks were the first to go. I miss my snacks. ;_;

Still, I'm way too stressed to really feel the benefits of this. In fact, the exercise may be the only thing that is preventing me from becoming a total basket case.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feast Or Famine

My life as a peculiarity that I call feast or famine mode. There's either too much or too little of everything. Too much work or too little work. Too much fun or too little fun. Get the idea?

Now the last few months have been period of way too little of everything. So, once once things start improving, my expectation is I will be have way too much of everything. Work, fun, everything. And there are hints the reversal has already started. Oh, joy!

One thing I have never figured out is: do I bring this cycle upon myself by my choices and actions? Or is it the Universe having a bit of fun with me?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Herd Instinct

Google's new policy of requiring real names in profiles clearly shows what direction Google is headed. While it is still possible to use a fake name (it's not like Google is demanding to see your ID. Yet.), the new policy is a problem for people who have legitimate reasons to use an obviously invalid name.

So, will this new policy slow down the migration to Google+? Of course not. The success of Facebook has already proven that people are willing to give up their privacy to be where everyone else is hanging out. Call it herd instinct.

For those that do not follow the herd, I provide a list of all distributed social network systems currently under development. For future reference.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Accessing a Windows system from Linux via the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is easier than it sounds, thanks to rdesktop. Today I had to reconfigure a reinstalled VMWare Server running on a Windows Server 2008 host and rdesktop made the job painless. That was a definite bonus considering this was the first time I needed to access a remote Windows system from Linux. Windows always makes me apprehensive: too many bad memories.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

F1 Germany 2011

It was yet another great race that was completely unpredictable until the last few laps. Are we becoming spoiled by all this great action? ^_^

It started with an incredible qualifying lap from Webber which put him on poll ahead of Hamilton, but converting poll into a win remains a problem for Webber.

For the first time this season Vettel was not on the front row, which was big surprise. He was unable find a good set up, but both Redbull's struggled on race day, with Webber and Vettel only finishing third and fourth respectively. Vettel also made his first unforced error of the season when he drifted onto the damp grass and spun. Vettel had an uncharacteristically bad weekend.

Hamilton truly earned the win with terrific manoeuvres on Webber and Alonso, and some great heads up strategy by the team. It was expected that the medium compound prime tire would be very slow. McLaren were the first to notice that the cars on a two stop strategy were going very well on the prime tire. The team switched Hamilton onto the primes long before the other the front runners.

It was the kind of race where you had to get everything just right: car setup, start, strategy, pit stops, and a great drive. Miss one and victory was impossible. Note I did not mention poll position. ^_^

McLaren and Ferrari definitely had the upper hand in the race but once again it was difficult to draw conclusions. Was it the unusually cool temperatures that hurt Redbull more than the others? Or was it due to actual McLaren and Ferrari improvements. Neither team admitted to bring any major upgrades, but then they never reveal everything. We won't know for sure how much they have improved until we have a race with ideal conditions.

Alonso pointed out in the post race interviews that, if Vettel keeps finishing fourth or higher, he has the drivers' championship in the bag. It will take the combined efforts of Webber and both drivers from Ferrari and McLaren, to all finish ahead of Vettel in order to starve him of points. Of course, implicit in Alonso's comment was that he would be the winner in every case. Never let it be said that F1 drivers are not motivated by self interest. ^_^

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Big Surprise

I had a great time at the BBQ today: first to arrive and the last to leave! Yay! The young'uns can't handle it any more. ^_^ They were all gone by 9:30 while I chatted with my sister and brother-in-law until 11. What ever happened to the days when we went until 2am? (Yeah, I know. We are getting older.)

A late afternoon shower sent everyone indoors but it lasted less than half an hour, and cooled things down a little. My sister's air conditioner had failed so it was better outside anyway.

A few members of the extended family actually showed up this year so there was over 20 twenty people at one point. Sadly I was the only one representing the Low-Shang side of the family, thanks to my other sister being MIA, and one of my nephews (unintentionally) not getting the invite.

The big surprise is that I am going to be a great-granduncle. I suddenly feel very, very old. ^_^

Friday, July 22, 2011

All Fired Up

I'm all fired up (figuratively, but in this heat almost literally! ^_^) for the family BBQ tomorrow. There is rain forecast for tonight but it is supposed to clear by morning. Forecasts, pfft! We shall see. (We need rain; it's been the driest July on record so far.)

I already know one person won't be at the BBQ. It is always in July so I don't understand how my sister Jean managed to schedule something else. Ah well, we'll fun without her anyway. Loser! *Blows raspberry.* ^_^

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is NASA Still Relevant?

Well, that's that. The shuttle program is no more. More importantly, NASA is now without any functional launch vehicle capable of achieving orbit. NASA will rely on the Russians to get U.S. astronauts to the ISS. There is a certain irony in this. NASA will also use the capabilities of private companies once these system are mature enough. NASA's own launch system is still being studied. I have doubts that even this scaled back system will never be built, given how easily the U.S. government cuts NASA's budget. The U.S. seems determined to make itself irrelevant in future space exploration.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Any Crash You Walk Away From

During the recent Flying Legends air show at Duxford, England, one pilot got it horribly wrong during a formation flying manoeuvre, and collided with the formation leader. But what follows is some of the best flying I have ever seen, as both pilots regained enough control to save themselves, with the total loss of only one aircraft. Here is the story and video at More video from different angles is here and here. The destroyed aircraft was one fine looking machine. It's a great loss, but the old saying, "Any crash you walk away from...," is always true.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Imagine an actual working, jet powered Batmobile like the version in the 1989 Batman movie. Why imagine? Why not build it? This article has photos and a few technical details. Here are a few videos (which are kind of short, though). The best part is that the car is street legal!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hangout? Apparently Not.

I was hoping to try Google Hangout with a small group of people (four or five) this evening. What do you know? Nobody showed. Sigh. Some friends I got. Mutter. Mutter.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunny And Hot!

It was a scorcher in Toronto today with a high of 35° at Pearson Airport. And that was real temperature! With the humidity, it was supposed to feel like 42°. I almost skipped going out for my run but a breeze (albeit a warm one) actually made conditions more tolerable than the numbers suggested. Hot but not muggy. The annual family BBQ is next Saturday. The forecast is sunny and hot. Here's hoping that holds up!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trick Question

TekSavvy posted their interim rates for ADSL2+ service this week. The rates themselves are reasonable but the $99 activation fee is a shock. The fee applies even if you are already a TekSavvy customer!

As usual, it's Bell's fault. They asked for the fee in the interim tariff and the CRTC approved it. For this fee, you get two Bell service calls. One connects you up to the remote DSLAM. The other installs a dedicated jack for the service. Stated this way, the fee sounds reasonable. And, Bell is on the hook for any wiring faults.

All very reasonable, until you discover the fee is about three times what Bell charges its own customers for the same services. So, does this look like a competitive market to anyone? (By the way, that was the trick question.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Not Counting Chickens

There are interesting developments afoot. I won't say more now, in case this goes nowhere (not count chickens, yada, yada) but keeping fingers and toes crossed, on both sides. ^_^

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Low Brow Humour

Warning! Low brow hot gas humour ahead!

F1 manages a collective fart. Oh, what a relief it is.

The off-throttle blown diffuser bruhaha is settled and the rules have reverted to that the European Grand Prix, accept the teams may not change engine maps between qualifying and the race. The technology will be banned in 2012, which is basically what the FIA should have done in the first place. Sometimes, I think they pretend to make mistakes like this on purpose, just for the publicity.

Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? ^_^

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vettel On Top Gear

This video of Sebastian Vettel on Top Gear reveals a few things about his character. He is a genuine nice guy. He has a good sense of humour. He does not take himself too seriously.

The video also reveals what is important to Vettel. The presenter draws attention to it, even though it is so obvious. More than anything else, the video shows why he is a worthy World Champion, and explains why he is so well liked by fans, and everyone in the F1 paddock.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Unexpected English Lesson

In an on-line environment, it is easy to forget that you may be conversing with a non-English speaking person. However, if you are not careful, you may unexpectedly find yourself giving an English lesson. In a recent conversation, I used the word "exotic" without thinking and suddenly found myself having to define it. After explaining what it meant in the context the conversation, I offered examples of other uses. I really should have stopped before I got to "exotic dancer". ^_^

Monday, July 11, 2011

F1 Britain 2011

I keep thinking F1 can't get any better this season, but it continues to prove me wrong. Silverstone delivered some brilliant racing in the changing conditions.

The first few laps were tricky on a half wet and half dry track. After it dried enough for slicks, things got very interesting. Passing (and there was lots of it!) required venturing off the safe, dry racing line. Several drivers attempted some supremely brave overtakes. Sometimes it was pure poetry; sometimes it was a smash up derby. All this action culminated in a classic final lap, with Webber chasing Vettel for second place, and Hamilton banging wheels with Massa over fourth place, right into the last corner. It was fantastic, absolutely incredible! ^_^

But F1 would not be F1 without some controversy.

Although team orders are legal now, it is still an ugly subject. I have no problem with Redbull instructing Webber to maintain position, as that is their perogative as a team. However, I feel a driver has the right to ignore the orders, just as Webber did, because the driver also has a responsibility to himself to maximize his championship points whenever possible. If drivers are totally subservient to team orders, what is the point of the drivers' championship? Why not just return to the pre-F1 days when there was only a constructors' trophy?

What really bugs me is that, with such a healthy points lead, Redbull could comfortably have let Vettel and Webber race each other. If they crash, they crash. That's racing.

The bigger controversy was the driver-off-throttle-but-computer-on-throttle-blown-diffuser. @_@ Never mind. I'll just call it the thingamajig. It's all about hot exhaust gases (and almost as stinky as other tail pipe emissions).

Typically, the FIA changes the rules after the end of a season. For some reason, they decided to ban thingamajigs mid-season this time. It was a huge mistake. The technical issues are very complex because of how different engine manufacturers use the drive-by-wire throttle. Although the thingamajig was banned for this race, I am still not sure about the rest of the season.

So what effect did the ban have on track? McLaren depended heavily on the thingamajig and appeared to suffer a huge loss of performance in qualifying, but their race pace was much better. Result: inconclusive.

Ferrari do not use the thingamajig and appeared to benefit (they won), but maybe it was their upgrades that made the difference. Result: inconclusive.

Redbull also depended on the thingamjig and should have lost performance, but they still locked out the front row in qualifying, and still finished second and third, which was more the result of bad pit stops than anything else. Result: inconclusive.

So, it seems that all the fuss over hot exhaust gases produced... nothing, except more hot air. I love Formula 1! ^_^

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Image Problem

TTC staff are not doing much to improve their image. It started with this last year. Last week this happened. And now this story has surfaced. Is it getting worse, or was it always just this bad, but it just never became public? To me, these are just warning signs of deeper problems in city.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

NAT Is Not Security

At best, Network Address Translation is security by obscurity. In other words, NAT is not security. Where did this idea come from? Even worse, it comes up regularly when discussing IPv6, which does not have NAT, a condition that that is seen as a huge negative of IPv6.

Of course, a properly configured stateful firewall will have exactly the same effect as NAT. I suppose the problem is the "properly configured" part. People expect things to just work without requiring any knowledge or skills.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google+ First Impressions

Google+ made a good first impression. It was definitely better than some of the other alpha release social networking systems I have tried recently. Usability was very good. The were a few quirks (such as posts not sorting properly), but crashes or outrageous memory consumption were not evident.

The four initial circles (groups in plain English), Family, Friends, Acquaintances, and Following, offers enough control to differentiate contacts based on how well you know someone. It is easy to create new circles but I have not figured out if you can make a private circle yet.

Of course, I am talking about privacy between users: Google sees and knows all. Only time will tell if they are any better than Facebook in terms of user privacy.

The Hangout voice/video chat feature is very cool and surprised me by working out of the box on Debian sid. Hangout could easily replace Skype but that depends on convincing my family to switch, which would not be so easy. D&D geeks are going to love the group chat capabilities of Hangout although I cannot say how well that works, since I only tried a simple one-on-one chat. And the mind boggles at the more, er, promiscuous possibilities of Hangout. ^_^

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tabloid Press

How much lower will the tabloid press sink? And no, I don't think they've reached the bottom yet. Not even close. The problem is that people continue to buy the crap they publish. As long as there's money to be made, the tabloids will continue their race to the bottom. You can bet the other tabloids are playing the same dirty tricks. News of the World (could a name be any less fitting?) were just unlucky enough to be caught.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Authors (especially would-be authors) who self-publish may be the first artists to fully realized the potential of the Internet.

It makes sense for a few reasons. Writing is a solitary art-form. Authors are writing on computers anyway. Internet access is (almost) unbiquitous. Publishing text on-line has no special requirements (just start a blog). There are no barriers to an aspiring author.

If self-publishing takes off, readers will be the ultimate winners. They get to try before they buy and will have more choices, instead of the ones the gatekeeper publishers consider sales worthy.

Here is a short but growing list of some early adventurers into the world of self-publishing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Merlin Engine

A few days ago, I mentioned Bud Wolfe, the U.S. pilot who crashed in Southern Ireland while flying for the RAF. Several pieces of Wolfe's Spitfire have been excavated from the peat bog in which has rested since 1941. The most impressive find so far has been the Merlin engine, which is damaged but largely intact. And no, it is too badly damaged to ever run again.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Paying The Price

Today, I paid the price for being a lazy bum on the weekend, as I had to catch up on all the things that I should have done. In other words, I worked harder after goofing off, which is pretty normal after coming back from a vacation, even if it was only three days. It is one reality of working life that applies to employed and self-employed alike. Actually, I think it is worse for self-employed, but obviously I am biased.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Plans? What Plans?

Well, that's that for the 2011 Canada Day holiday weekend. I ended up sleeping in everyday which killed most of my plans for the weekend. Never underestimate my capacity of being lazy. ^_^

Saturday, July 2, 2011

WRC Greece 2011

It has been two years since the WRC circus last visited Greece. It is a classic event on the WRC calender and is traditionally a car breaker, although it has become much tamer in recent years according to the old hands. Still, the rough roads of the Acropolis Rally are unforgiving of mistakes. Just ask Loeb who in 2009, had the biggest crash of his career in Greece.

This year's rally was exciting but road position tactics over shadowed the action. On day one, Petter Solberg went on a tear and thanks to the others slowing down for tactics, he had a 50s lead at the end of the day. While that sounds like a lot, he became the road sweeper on day two and it only took a few stages before he was passed. Solberg did not help his cause by missing a junction, which cost him 8s, but mostly he lost the lead due to being first on the road.

With road position being so critical, there was little doubt that Ogier and Loeb, who were first and second, would again play tactics on the day two's final stage, a rare night run. What surprised me was that the Citroen team allowed Ogier to slow and fall back into second. Loeb is the championship leader so I expected the team to support him. The decision obviously frustrated Loeb as well, but apparently the team has internal rules about who gets to choose the road order.

Being first on the road is a huge liability at most gravel events, which is why everyone uses tactics to manipulated their road position. Next year the FIA is changing the road order rules at gravel rallies which hopefully will eliminate these kinds of shenanigans.

Chris Patterson, Petter Solberg's very experienced co-driver, got lost in the pace notes on day two's night stage. It can happen to the best of them but I wonder if part of the problem is that night stages are very rare in WRC these days. Maybe the skills are not being used often enough to keep them sharp.

It is great news that Rally Monte Carlo returns next year as the traditional season opener. Hope Monte Carlo gets snow next Winter!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Importance Of A

"Today, Canada is gross."

"Today, Canada is a gross."

See how important that "a" is? Of course, a true Canadian would say, "Today, Canada is a gross, eh."

For any non-Canadians who may be wondering what I am blathering about: Canada is 144 years old. Which is a gross. Just be careful with those a's, eh.