Thursday, June 30, 2011


Well, we are halfway through the year and the high hopes I had for turning things around this year have not been realized. If the rest of the year continues in the same manner, this will be my worst year ever. Much, much worse than last year. I've done everything I could think of to drum up some new projects, but I'm now getting the message, "Eject! Eject! Eject!" Porkins went out in a blaze of glory. Ivanona only got a few bruises. Think I'll follow the B5 character instead. Only problem is, life doesn't have an ejection seat. ;_;

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Unusual War Story

War stories can be strange. This one is about a World War II American POW named Bud Wolfe who was held in... Southern Ireland! At the time Southern Ireland (now the Republic of Ireland) was neutral and interned any German or Allied servicemen who accidentally landed within their borders. Read about Wolfe here. It is quite an unusual war story. The best part is that he escaped but his superiors sent him back!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


So Google is taking another stab at social networking, with Google+. My first thought was, does it have a federation protocol? Frankly, without federation, Google+ is so... last decade.

Of course, expecting federation in a Google product is kind of ridiculous. Federation gets in the way of what Google does best: mine data. Enabling a distributed system would not be in Google's best interest.

Which is unfortunate because it means Google has lost the perfect opportunity to create a next generation social networking system. Instead, they gave us Facebook with round corners and bevelled edges.

Monday, June 27, 2011

F1 Europe 2011

The Valencia track has never produced exciting racing and this one was no exception. During the early stages of the race, Vettel, Webber, Alonso were close to each other, which offered tantalizing possibilities of good racing to come, but that never materialized. There was some action lower down the field but nothing at the sharp end of the racing order. Thanks to the Pirelli tires, DRS, and Kers, the race was better than previous years but it was not a barn burner by any stretch.

In fact, it was very much a return to regularly scheduled programming as Vettel and Redbull dominated both qualifying and race day. Vettel's win looked quite serene. Second place was like a win for Ferrari who were reasonably competitive but were still not capable of challenging Redbull for a win. Webber had a good race, but lost the chance for a second place finish when he changed to the prime tire too early, and then had to nurse an ailing gearbox to the finish. Mclaren was way off the pace and were quite disappointing with Hamilton and Button finishing fourth and sixth respectively.

The next few races are critical for Ferrari and McLaren if they have any hope of challenging Redbull this season. Both teams must deliver upgrades that will enable their drivers to race for wins, because second or worse is not going to be enough any more. The season is not lost yet but the point where conceding this season and focusing on next year's car is not far away.

I am still hopeful that Webber can challenge Vettel but it depends on Webber getting a better feel for the Pirelli tires. Webber has acknowleged that this is one reason he has been out performed by Vettel this season, even though they are driving identical cars.

The bottom line is someone needs to start chipping away Vettel's points lead. And soon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Fish Stinks

The Canadian Broadcast Act exists to protect the Canadian broadcast industry (Bell, Rogers, Quebecor, et al) which is why the CRTC treats non-broadcast entities, such as consumer groups, like they do not matter. Those same companies are also the largest Canadian ISPs, who appear to be perfectly OK with the government's upcoming lawful access legislation.

Now ask yourself, why would the government change the Broadcast Act (or Telecommunications Act) to improve consumer choice or to enforce net neutrality, when the companies covered by those laws are happy to do the government's dirty work by spying on Canadians? The fish stinks from the head down.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beware Of Backlash

Meanwhile, the Netherlands is going in the opposite direction to everyone else by becoming the first nation to pass an Internet neutrality law. It started when the ISPs tried to filter access to filter Internet access, which triggered a public backlash.

The Dutch ISPs must not have as much clout with the government their US or Canadian counterparts. As this Techdirt article notes, it is hard to imagine a law like this being passed in the US or Canada without getting watered down to nothing by the telco lobbyists.

However, the fact that the law in the Netherlands came about because of a public backlash, is a warning to ISPs everywhere of what can happen if you push the users too far.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Internet Censorship

It looks like the Australian government is trying to censor the Internet. Again! The largest ISPs are on board this time so I wonder what they got in return. Were they not opposed the last time?

The really sad part is that I can see this happening in Canada. We have just been lucky to avoid it. The Conservative Party has quite a few Reform Party crackpots left from when the parties merged and they would be the ones to contemplated censoring the Internet, "for the good of the people".

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stop Online Spying

Even though the Conservative government delayed its lawful access legislation until the Fall, it is a dangerous idea that would turn Canada into a surveillance state. Lets try to nip this in the bud before it goes too far. Please sign the petition if you are a Canadian. Unfortunately, with a majority government, it will be easy for them to ignore a petition unless it has a significant number of signatures. Get the word out to as many people as you can.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika

Do not be fooled by the cute, happy characters in the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika promotional image. The story is dark and oppressive, and is definitely not intended for kids.

An emotionless alien race discovered that emotions are a huge source of energy, with the darkest emotions being the most powerful. These dark emotions occur in strange entities called "witches" that prey on an unsuspecting population. When a witch is destroyed, it leaves behind a "grieve seed", which contains the energy.

An alien, Kyuubee, recruits young teenage girls (which is quite disturbing all by itself) who are granted one wish in exchange for becoming a mahou shoujo (magical girl) with the power to fight the witches. The girl is given a small gem which is supposed to be the source of her power. The gem accumulates impurities which can be transferred to a grieve seed, before Kyuubee, er, "eats" it, which is how the aliens collect the energy. Don't ask; it is never explained.

The story follows Kyuubee's attempts to recruit the title character, Kaname Madoka, while a time travelling mahou shoujo, Akemi Homura, desperately tries to convince Madoka not to accept. It quickly becomes clear that Homura knows much more than she is telling.

Wishes always have unexpected consequences and in this story there are two huge ones. What exactly happens when one is changed into a magic girl? Where do the witches come from? Knowing the answers to those questions, no person would accept the deal.

Which is why Kyuubee lies by omission, unless asked a direct question. Its answers are often cruel and heartless because, as an emotionless alien, Kyuubee has no understanding of humans at all. Kyuubee may be a cuddly looking creature but it is definitely on my list of least likeable anime characters.

Given the nature of the series, a happy ending was never an option, but it was reasonably satisfying nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Real Experience

Now that I'm actually using Django on a real project, albeit a non-paying one, I'm finally getting some useful experience with the framework. It is always the case that, until you use the tools in anger on a project, the knowledge gained is not very deep. I quickly abandoned any pretence that my previous playing around with Django was worth anything, and went back to first principles. It should be worth the trouble later.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Remember The Chroot

Today I forgot that Postfix runs in a chroot by default on Debian. If you change files like /etc/resolv.conf or /etc/hosts, it has no effect on Postfix, unless you refresh the corresponding files in the chroot. Wasted quite a few minutes before the clue bat descended and gave me bruised ego. Stopping and starting Postfix (with postfix stop and postfix start respectively) provided the clue as the start command helpfully reminds you that the chroot is out of date.

It's good thing that this was on my own server so there was no customer watching me chase a problem caused by forgetfulness. Must be getting old. ^_^

Sunday, June 19, 2011

This Should Never Work

PhpGedView seems to have a problem with invalid arguments being passed to the database. I have found three of these already but only one was reported by someone else, which is a little troubling. I much prefer it when lots of people are seeing the same bugs as me. I mean, using a string against an integer database column should never work, should it?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Was It Worth The Effort?

Was it really worth all the considerable effort that went into developing KDE, GNOME, and the other less well known desktops environments?

Considering that Linux desktop usage has grown very slowly despite all the desktop environments becoming reasonably useable, it does seem likely that it is not the DE that is the problem. No matter how good the Linux desktop becomes, they are never going to be as familiar as Windows.

There are probably more people using Linux on mobile devices (without even realizing it) than there are Linux desktop users. Which only strengthens the question: why waste valuable developer resources on desktop environments?

Since I don't use any desktop environment, you may take my opinion with a liberal amount of salt.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Behind The Times

I got a call from my oldest customer (15+ years!) today. No, it wasn't about work unfortunately. I had made suggestion on her LinkedIn profile which prompted her to see how I was doing. It definitely wasn't a cheerful conversation. Business is very bad for a lot of people.

But that's not what this post is about. We also talked about using social networking as a marketing tool. Of all the people I have worked with in the industrial automation business, she is the only one on LinkedIn. Think about that for a second. Now, if I say that most people in the automation business are hopelessly behind the times, do you think that is a total exaggeration?

(And yes, I'm well aware that I would probably find more of them on Facebook but I have to overcome the Facebook-creeps-me-out factor before I can sign up there.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011


IBM is 100 years old if you include the time when it was called the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. The named changed to IBM in 1924. Here is an interesting video that IBM made to celebrate the centennial. It is a little sad though because the company clearly isn't run with the same entrepreneurial spirit of its early years. These days share price matters more than being an innovator.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Faster Wholesale DSL

It looks like the wholesale ISPs are a little closer to getting faster DSL speeds now that the CRTC has ordered the ILECs to post interim tariffs. The tariffs will likely not be competitive but it was the only way to overcome the incumbent's stonewalling according TekSavvy's CEO, Rocky Gaudrault, who, I should add, is supposed to be on sabbatical and should not really be paying attention these matters. ^_^

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

F1 Canada 2011

It is a testament to the talent in Formula 1 that, even after a deathly dull two hour rain delay, it still produced what was easily the most exciting race of the season to date.

Button's win was a thing of beauty. He had been through the pit lane six times for five stops stops and one penalty. One of those stops put him in last place. His speed in the last few laps, on a drying track, was just stunning.

Button is known to be a very precise driver which enabled him to avoid the damp patches and go faster and faster each lap. He pushed Vettel very hard until the latter went off the racing line and almost spun. It's the first time this season Vettel has actually been pressured into making a mistake.

Granted, it was a small one. Vettel still finished second. He and Redbull still have a commanding lead in the points. However, it reminds us that there are better drivers than Vettel. What the other drivers lack is a car that can compete with the Redbull under normal conditions. Lets not kid ourselves: the rain definitely played a part in the outcome this time.

If Ferrari or McLaren can get ahead in the development race, Vettel and Redbull's lead in the points will not last long.

Monday, June 13, 2011

No More Industrial Automation

I am declaring the industrial automation side of my business is dead. It has been true for a while now but it is time to make it official. All of my contacts in the industry have gone silent and without them I have no way forward. There were some memorable projects but it is time to move on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I've been playing with cocos2d, a game framework built on top of pyglet, the pure Python OpenGL interface. The cocos2d tile map engine supports hex grids, which is the feature that interests me the most. Hex map libraries for computer games are not very common. But it is just my luck that the test/demo for that feature does not seem to work. It was quite a let down. I'm deciding whether to waste any more time on this.

cocos2d has been ported to the iPhone, and there are two Android (1, 2) versions in the works. It is a little annoying that the Python version is only 0.4, even though it was first, while the iPhone version is already at 1.0. Damn those appealing big markets. ^_^

Saturday, June 11, 2011

WRC Argentina 2011

Rally Argentina was a story of changing fortunes, which were occasionally self inflicted.

Loeb was first on the road, which was bad enough, but he accidentally arrived at the afternoon check-in too early and was given a one minute time penalty. At the end of day one, Loeb had dropped to fifth place, which was not too bad in itself, except he was now 1m30s behind the leader. A win was long shot. Or was it?

This year the rally was a mixed surface event with about 5% of the distance run on paved roads using the gravel tires and set up. Even Loeb, who is a sealed surface master, complained that the paved sections were too fast for the setup. But Hirvonen, who never does well on seal surfaces, was unable to cope and ended day one in fourth, 43s off the leader. The mixed surfaces really hurt Hirvonen's chance for a win.

Latvala started day one in fourth but finished in the lead, taking full advantage of his road position, as driver's ahead of him cleaned the road. Petter Solberg, who started fifth, also made hay and ended day one in second place, with a win being a strong possibility.

Both Latvala and Solberg would have reversal of fortune on day two. Latvala managed to maintain his lead despite being first on the road but a suspension failure forced him to retire. Ogier passed Solberg to take second place early on day two, but Solberg was always within striking distance. After Latvala retired, Solberg was back in second and a win again became a possibility. Then, on the last stage of day two, Solberg's power steering broke. Petter never hides his emotions but it's rare to see him that angry. The guy has attrocious luck.

Day three started with Ogier leading Hirvonen and Loeb. But with Hirvonen 43s behind, Ogier was almost assured of the win. Almost. On the first stage of day three, an error in Ogier's pace notes caused him to cut a corner that he should not have. He clipped something which flipped the car into a roll. Although the car was badly damaged, he continued the rally. He even maintained his lead although it was greatly reduced, and victory was no longer assured.

And the benefactor of Ogier's misfortune was... Loeb! He had passed Hirvonen on the first stage of day three and had now been handed a chance for a win. Despite Ogier's reduced pace, the following stages were very short and Loeb would not gain the lead, and the win, until final stage. Talk about a reversal of fortune.

What a dramatic rally that was. Each day had a surprising turn of events and the winner was only decided in the last stage. It doesn't get any better that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gilles Villeneuve

It was thirty years ago that Gilles Villeneuve drove his last Canadian Grand Prix. In 1982 he would be killed in a horrific qualifying accident at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Villeneuve was a gifted driver. He was renowned for his ability to carry a poorly handling car (Gilles called the 1981 Ferrari 126C a "big red Cadillac"). His car control was unparalleled, possibly because in his early career he raced snowmobiles where controlling a sideways slide was essential. He would have been world champion if his F1 career had not been cut short.

I highly recommend the biography written by Gerald Donaldson. It is not a rose coloured view of Villeneuve's life. The Villeneuve Museum in Berthierville, Quebec, looks worth a visit someday. Here are some photos taken inside the museum.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Doctor Who Series 6

Woo hoo! Now that's how you write a cliffhanger for a mid-season break. This season of Doctor Who has been one most enjoyable ever. There's not a single bad episode in the lot. I can't wait for the conclusion in September, but at least we know who River Song is, which concludes what must be the longest story arc in Doctor Who history.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

FIA Embarrasses Itself

I was surprised when the FIA restored the Bahrain Grand Prix onto the calender. The political situation in the country is anything but stable. It is just not making the headlines.

An even bigger surprise was that the FIA did it without consulting the teams, which goes against its own sporting code. Apparently, even the Ferrari team boss, Stefano Domenicali, who sits on the FIA world council, voted to restore the race. Why would they make such a glaring mistake?

Perhaps the "mistake" was intentional. The world council knew that the teams would protest and, given the decision was invalid, would be under no obligation to compete in the event. Effectively, the race has been removed from the calender but the FIA can still say to the Bahraini race organizers, "Hey, we tried."

Of course, if it was intentional, it was an embarrassingly ham-fisted plan. What were they thinking?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Apple Copying Now?

Judging by the comments about how much Apple's iOS 5 copies from others, I assume that this is unusual. If that is the case, then I have to wonder what has changed. My theory is that, because Job's has been on sick leave, he effectively is no longer running Apple. However, I don't follow what Apple does all that closely so I am just blowing smoke. Hopefully, the more knowledgeable Apple pundits will have a better explanation.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lost Train Stations

This BlogTO post reminds us that there was a time when train travel was the norm in Toronto. But, as the photo of Moore Park Station shows, even in 1909 some of the rail lines had already falled into disuse. What's with the turrets? Don Station has one too; maybe it was the same architect.

Of the stations from the early 1900s, Don Station is one of only two that were saved. It has been restored at the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre (the web site could use an update). The other station is the North Toronto CPR Station which is now an LCBO outlet and is the largest liquor store in Canada.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


The folks at CERN have trapped anti-hydrogen for a whopping 16 minutes and change. The mind boggles. We are finally moving in the twenty-first century. Read the whole story here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Toaru Majutsu no Index II

The second season of Toaru Majutsu no Index is for the most part a build-up for an ongoing story. Season two ends abruptly so there is little doubt another season is planned. Whether it gets made is another matter.

Season two focuses on Kamijou Touma's encounters with the Catholic Church, which is not portrayed in a flattering way. To put it bluntly, they are a bunch of anti-science lunatics and thugs. Other Churches in the series, such as the Church of England, are moderate by comparison, although not above devious acts. In case you think this is a statement against religion, the leaders of Academy City, the supposed centre of scientific study, are no paragons of virtue either, as they are clearly manipulating Touma.

Touma, whose bad luck always puts him in the wrong place anyway, upsets a number of the Catholic Church's dastardly plans. Seeking revenge, the Church accelerates its plans against Academy City itself which is the natural enemy of the science hating Catholic Church. The Church launches two attacks which are both thwarted, but such openly hostile action is effectively a declaration of war between the Catholic Church and Academy City.

And just as it starts to get really interesting, that, annoyingly, is where season two ends! It's a great set up for the action to come; hopefully the story will be continued.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Internet Access Is A Human Right

The United Nations released a report (PDF) which recognizes that Internet access has become an essential component for freedom of speech and should be considered a human right. The report is critical of ACTA, notice-and-take-down laws that are easily abused, and three strikes laws which cut off Internet access over mere accusations of copyright infringement.

While a U.N. report is not going to sway politicians in the countries where such laws already exist, it is important that the U.N. recognises that these are actually human rights violations. It is completely ridiculous that basic rights are being eroded for the sake of protecting intellectual property.

More in depth analysis can be found here, here, and here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Django Again

I am playing with Django again after a very long absence. Needless to say, I'm a little bit rusty beyond the basics, especially since I never really considered myself a Django expert to begin with. Hopefully, it won't take me too long to get back up to speed. The little grey cells are not as young as they use to be, you know. ^_^

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I am spending way too much time on marketing these days. It has to be done but it is definitely not the most interesting part of being self employed. Plus, it seems to give me a headache.