Monday, July 30, 2012

The first PC I ever used

This is what computers looked like when I first started using them. I was in the military at the time and computers were so expensive that we didn't all have one in our offices. Only the officers had their own box and the rest of us in my unit (about a few dozen of us) had to make do sharing the half dozen or so computers that were in the 'computer resource centre'. There were people who started using these things for anything and everything and many who wanted nothing to do with the computer.

I belonged to the former group.

I remember the controversy that erupted when supervisors started using the computer to write personnel assessments (using Word Perfect). They didn't realize that although they were saving their documents to floppy disks, the temporary files that WP created were saved on the hard drive and anyone who knew anything about computers had unencumbered access to those files. I bought my first PC, a clone built on an Intel 386DX-33, not long after. The rest is history.

Network refresher

So here's a little story of a technological mystery regarding a home network. As you may or may not have heard me blog before, I have a home network that is bridged to a Sonos wireless music system. Besides being able to play my entire music collection through this system, a part of which is connected to my stereo (great for parties), I also have a portable (ghetto blaster-sized) Sonos device that I can take around the property anywhere I want, to listen to my music. Better still, I can use either the Sonos software on my computer, my Sonos iPhone app, or my iPad app to control the playback of my music. This system was working flawlessly, then about a month ago, I went to use my iPhone to control my Sonos portable device out on my deck and it couldn't seem to connect to my device. Neither could my iPad.

I tried connecting with the Sonos software on my computer and everything was fine. So I assumed there was something wrong with the Sonos app loaded on my phone and my iPad. I tried updating the app but it didn't make any difference. No matter what I tried, it did not work. So I had to sit back and think for a moment. Like a good troubleshooter, I know that when something goes wrong, the cause is usually related to something that has been changed.

So I thought for a while, pondering what had changed. The only thing I could think of that got changed was my wireless setup. I had replaced my old wireless access point with a wireless router with better security. Then it dawned on me. My Sonos bridge and all the Sonos devices that were connected to it were on one network. The reason why my computer could communicate with these devices is because it was also on that same network. But thanks to my new wireless router, my iPhone and iPad were now on a different network. With the old wireless access point, everything was on the same network. If you're not sure what I mean, my main router that has everything connected to it except my phone and iPad has an IP address of My wireless router has an IP address of

My Sonos controller software expects to see the devices it is controlling on the same network. So the only solution was to make my wireless router the only router in my home network. Which put everything on the network. That solved the problem.

What is interesting about this particular situation, is that although it would be rare for a home to have two routers on the same home network, it's not impossible. If you happened to have a strictly wired router before, and you needed to add wireless capability to your network, you might not be savvy enough to know that all you need is a wireless access point and you might be tempted to buy a wireless router. In which case if you expected all of your devices to be able to communicate with each other, they won't necessarily.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Things I learned this week 29 July

  • There is a Hello Kitty spa in Dubai.
  • In 1900 only 64 out of 100,000 people died of cancer, in 2010 that number was 186.
  • Visicalc was the first spreadsheet program, developed in 1979. It was only made for the Apple II at first, but was ported to the IBM PC by 1981. Other spreadsheet programs to come were Lotus 123 (1983), which pretty much killed Visicalc, and Microsoft Excel (1985).
  • Due to Texel's geographical position north of Holland, the tidal wave system and the strong winds, an estimated two tons of flotsam and jetsam wash up on its beach each day.
  • If you store bed linen sets inside one of their own pillowcases, there will be no more hunting for a matched set.
  • In 1937, Kraft introduced Kraft Dinner in the US and Canada. The timing of the launch had much to do with its success. During World War II, rationing of milk and dairy and a reliance on meatless entrees, created a captive market.
  • Pulling a Facebook Fairy: Getting caught online while playing hooky from work.
  • An old rule of thumb, that occasionally receives some attention, is the notion that for every $10,000 (per year) in salary sought, it will take one month to find a new job. 
  • Foods that help you sleep: bananas; protein; almonds; milk; cherries; decaf green tea; oatmeal. Don't eat high fat; drink alcohol or caffeine.
  • 20,000 year old pottery has been found in a cave in China.
  • Neilsen doesn't report online TV show watching, not even on legit sites like Hulu (in the US). Dumb.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Illegal garden

Isn't it disgusting that in some parts of North America, having a beautiful garden like this in your front yard is illegal?

In this case, the city is Drummondville, Quebec. I am in no way against Quebec by the way (having be born and raised there). In fact, there are plenty of other cities in North America that are just as ridiculous about having a food-producing garden in the front yard.

It all boils down to status quo.

[Update] Drummondville has reconsidered their position after international attention and a petition against the law. They now intend to make this type of garden legal in 2013.

I suddenly have a craving... but not for gum

It's funny how certain advertising campaigns can get in your head. In this case, the campaign is somewhat effective except that it doesn't achieve necessarily the intended result. I'm talking about the Excel gum characters.

When Darlene and I were in a store the other day, I pointed out the Excel gum display and the cute characters that make up part of their current ad campaign. Donut, coffee, garlic and onion. Darlene said the pink character couldn't be a donut. She said there's no such thing as donut-breath. I agreed with her premise, but insisted it is a donut. It can't be anything else.

It turns out I was right. Darlene said it's too bad that they chose the characters they did because she said it doesn't make her want to buy Excel gum. It makes her want a donut and a coffee. I agree.


Cute little short about a bird trying to build a nest.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chemical party

Elements at a party. Some elements just don't attract other elements. Nerds.....

Carbon is played by a black person. Is that sexist? Elementist?

The Grover handstand

Sure, it's cliché, but Olivia loves knocking him down.

Car2Go! Now in Calgary!

Car sharing on a relatively large scale has finally come to Calgary through an established company called Car2Go. There have been a few people who have blasted the $65 per day fee as outrageous. But one has to consider that the fee structure of $0.35 per minute to a maximum of $13 per hour (and a limit of 200km per share) is designed to motivate members to re-tool their driving habits to strive for shorter, more efficient, multiple destination car trips. The longer you have the car, the more it costs. So efficiency and planning are key.

I took a look at their service area (where you can go to find cars) and there are several just a few blocks away. I live just outside the 'home area'. A feature I like is that you can maximize your likelihood of getting a car by planning trips in advance and booking car share sessions online.

Car2Go is powered by gasoline Smart cars. Your fee covers the use of the car, gas, insurance, parking and maintenance. Disciplined users can save a fortune in transportation costs compared to the permanent ownership of a car. Especially for downtown core dwellers, this is an idea whose time has come.

Now if only they had a few pickup trucks or wagons for trips to IKEA........

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Music is contingent"

A wonderful article by Cory Doctorow that sheds some light on why people don't give a crap anymore about the entertainment industry's woes and most importantly, why they're not really woes anyway.


"Meanwhile, the recording industry has always had a well-deserved reputation for corruption and maltreatment of artists. From the recurring payola scandals that crop up every decade or so to the never-ending stream of stories about the bad deal musicians get, the industry has never been able to credibly claim that buying artists’ creations from their labels will end up enriching the artists themselves. No fan cares much about the commercial fortunes of labels themselves – if we care about anyone, it’s the musicians. When you learn that – to pick just one example – the labels only recently ended the practice of running secret ‘‘third-shift’’ pressings in the dead of night, CDs that were not on the books and that were sold without generating royalties for the artists, it’s hard to credit the idea that taking music without paying for it always harms the artists. Incidentally, the thing that stopped third-shift pressings wasn’t ethics or artists’ rights movements – it was the provision in Sarbanes-Oxley that made executives personally, criminally liable for balance-sheet frauds."

Little Free Libraries

One of the coolest community pay-it-forward services I've come across is Little Free Libraries. The idea is that volunteers become stewards and build a tiny library on their property, somewhere the public can access it. It basically looks like a giant bird house, but with a door and books inside. You bring some books you've finished reading to leave behind and help yourself to what's there.

What a brilliant, selfless, community thing to do. They're a big hit in the US. We happen to have 2 in Calgary. I think that number could go up.

So, how does this work exactly?

"Do they pay you extra to do this?"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Window Pain

Another Simon's Cat video.

This time, Simon just can't get the window cleaned.

If William Shakespeare had written the Hokey-Pokey

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

        -- by "William Shakespeare"

From the Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit "instructions" for something (anything), but written in the style of a famous person. Written by Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls, Maryland

This map shows where there is universal health care

Things I learned this week 20 Jul

  • In Busan, S.Korea, The Puppy Cafe, has twenty dogs of all species, age and size. People enter the cafe for $7.20 and get a free coffee and get to play with the dogs.
  • As of June 2012, we are aware of 786 planets in the near universe.
  • The Moscow subway has around 500 homeless dogs. Not feral, they live in packs, but the leader is the smartest one. The cutest members beg for food and the stealthier dogs sneak up behind people with food and then bark, spooking the person to drop their food. The dogs are well fed. Many dogs have learned the subway system enough to get around.
  • The best way to kill Nigerian scammers' plans is to engage them. They know only the most gullible will answer, so if we all began engaging them via email, they'd waste too much time identifying the real gullible people. 
  • Broad Sustainable Building, an innovative Chinese architectural firm, are planning to build the world's tallest building (220 storeys), the Sky City Tower in Changsha, Hunan. In 90 days.
  • A dip in file-sharing after a UK court order requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to block The Pirate Bay was short-lived. Just one week after British ISPs put required measures in place to prevent customers from accessing the site, ISPs said that file-sharing activity has returned to pre-block levels. 
  • Studio act Flash and The Pan were the duo of George Young and Harry Vanda (formerly of the Easybeats). George produced his younger brothers Angus and Malcom Young - of AC/DC.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Curiosity will be a 7 minute stress-fest

The way they engineered the next Mars rover to land on Mars. It's insane, but cool. I hope it works.

August 6 is the scheduled date. Curiosity is designed to cruise Mars for at least 687 of our days. I wonder if like the unexpected longevity of the earlier rovers, that means it'll probably run 50 years on the planet.

Grover just hangin'

The Grover poses continue. This time, I decided to hang him off of a marionette string. It took a few days before Darlene noticed. In fact, it was Olivia that noticed and mentioned it to Darlene. Her words were "He did it to make you laugh Nan."

Fly boy

This is a photo of my late father-in-law, Nick Mulikow. It was taken at CFB Chatham, NB on 7 July 1952.

Darlene got some of her dad's negatives after his passing and got a few prints made from them. This picture is 60 years old. The negative was bigger than an iPhone.

Monday, July 16, 2012


What an incredible collection of time lapse photography of nothing but - you guessed it - skies. Absolutely breathtaking and made even more emotional (for me) with the addition of such a great piece of music as the soundtrack (On the Beautiful Blue Danube). Such great choreography too. A massive piece of work. Why can't theatres play stuff like this on the big screen before a movie screening instead of the advertising and other claptrap they project?

Roomba revisited

Almost 6 years ago, I bought a Roomba robot vacuum. It lasted 19 days before I returned it. Well, not one to give up forever on technology, I figured enough time had passed to give the little dickens another chance. Enter the Roomba model 780 - their top of the line model.

The Roomba has seen some improvements over the years. You can schedule it now. It has the ability to detect really dirty floors and keep going over those spots until they're spotless. The dust bin is bigger and a Hepa filter is included. The battery is more efficient too. So how did it fare?

Well, we set it loose in our master bedroom and it cleaned that sucker spic and span. It's really difficult to get under the bed and Roomba has no trouble at all. It seems that iRobot did a much better job putting the robot together, as the brush system is quite easy to disassemble for proper cleaning and it comes with awesome brush cleaning tools. The device came with a complete set of spare brushes and filters too. I have found so far through trial and error that Roomba does much better if you restrict it to one room or area at a time. It does operate best if you remove all clutter and get cables off the floor, but it does have anti-tangle capabilities in case you forgot to lift a wire off the floor.

This new Roomba has a spot cleaning feature that will clean a spill within a 3 foot circle. It also has a remote.

P.S.: Olivia (our grand-daughter) is enamoured with robots thanks partly to the movie Wall-E. So when she spotted me a couple of weeks back dutifully working on the little robot (cleaning it's brushes), she asked what I was doing. When I told her I was fixing my little vacuuming robot, she said (with wide-eyed amazement) "You're fixing a robot?!" When I answered in the affirmative, my already hero status was instantly elevated to super-hero status in her eyes.

THE short bus

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fun with iPhone picture editing

I finally decided to give colorsplash a try. It allows you to edit a picture on your iPhone to allow colour only in the area you select in a photo. You can zoom in a lot, so accuracy is easy to achieve.

Here is my first attempt, using Olivia with a clown nose.

Things I learned this week 14 Jul

  • Deadbeat employers who don't pay their employees are being outed on Alberta's government web site.
  • Despite a wing span typically less than 10 centimetres, Monarch butterflies commute from their wintering grounds west of Mexico City north to Canada and the US, a journey that takes three generations. The monarchs that return south are the grandchildren of the ones that left Mexico. 
  • Workers at the Dutch offices of DSM, a chemical company, found USB sticks in the company parking lot. They were loaded with malware set to autorun in company computers and harvest employee login credentials. Someone dropped the keys trying to trick employees into getting them into the company.
  • 1990 - mobile phone users 23 million to 5.4 billion; Internet users has 10 million. 2010 - mobile phone users 5.4 billion; Internet users 2 billion.
  • Harper won his majority with 6,848 votes - the difference between a Conservative candidate getting elected and the second place candidate in the 14 closest races that the Conservatives won. 
  • Mitt Romney in 2008: "I'm a moderate, I'm for gay rights, I'm for a woman's right to choose." and "I like mandates." How his words have changed eh? 
  • If you took away all the space between the parts of the atoms and the space between the atoms themselves that make up the Empire State building, you'd have a clump of dense mass the size of a grain of rice.

Dear women

There's a very good reason why it seems that men will wait a long time before they answer a question posed by a woman -  in particular, a woman they're in a relationship with.

It's called an ad hoc risk assessment. Don't laugh. The wrong answer can ruin your whole day.

Canadian graffiti

Let me chuck this out there

There's been a lot of discussion in the last few years every time the Calgary Stampede runs.  The discussion has to do with the humane-ness of running events like the chuck wagon races.  The main reason we are discussing this is because there are accidents and horses are dying.

I wish there was a simple answer to this issue, but there isn't.  One of the biggest problems that we have in our society, is that once we have justified doing something, and especially if we turn it into a tradition, it's like trying to move mountains if anyone comes along and suggests that we need to change.

I can't exactly explain why, but I seem to have a problem when people say "but these animals were bred to run, so let them do what they were bred to do".  The question I have is why are we breeding animals to do our bidding?  It's just my opinion, but I have a problem with breeding animals for a specific purpose other than the practical things in life like doing work or the providing food.  Now I know that sounds hypocritical, but there you have it.  I don't have a problem with animals being bred for food or to perform work, but I do have a problem with them being bred just for our entertainment, especially if there's a chance it could result in their death.  I also have a problem intrinsically with pets being bred, especially when the breeding results in genetic anomalies that lead to high incidence of disease and early death.  Even if I could get my head around the idea of breeding horses to run, there are people who say that race horses can only run competitively for short while before they are no longer competitive. Once these horses have reached this stage, I'm told the only solution is to put them down (and get turned into food). There are people who would suggest that horses that are no longer suitable for thoroughbred racing are still suitable for sports like chuck wagon races.  These people say that all these horses want to do is run. I say fine, let them run. Let them run free. Is running around in a circle what they really want to do? I don't know.

Now I've heard some people say things like "there is a risk in living for all creatures".  Or things like "we don't take cars off the road even though thousands of people die in them". This is true, but the difference is that people who drive cars do so as part of a conscious choice.  Drivers and passengers of vehicles choose their fate.  Horses and other animals do not.  I think this is the important difference. Yes, animals may be bred for our entertainment and sport.  But they don't get lined up when their six months old and get asked "so - who wants to race and possibly a risk their life?" Animals are a slave to our whims and that's why I believe we have a responsibility to look out for their best interests.  Right now, it appears that we're only looking out for our own.

Granted, I'm operating from a very specific bias.  I don't own a horse. I don't race horses. I don't bet on race horses. I've never worked on a ranch. I've never even ridden a horse. So maybe, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.  Everything I am saying is just my perception of the situation.  It doesn't mean that I am right. By all means, chuck in your two cents.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trek... a nice hommage

An animated alternate opening sequence as an homage to the original Star Trek series.

I thought it was nicely done.

Describing something normal so that it sounds weird - take three

There are these things that we sometimes own that are so much a part of us that we give them more attention than they often deserve. We adorn them with fancy accessories and clean them like it was an obsession. In some cases, the accessories are worth more than the object itself. When we use them they somehow change our personality, they're like emotion amplifiers. When we're mad, we'll yell at other people and give them the finger. When we're happy, we'll sing really loud and look like a real fool. Many people find it very difficult to live life without them. We dig some of the deepest holes in the ground to make sure that we can use these things with the gunk that comes out of the hole. Some folks suggest that owners of these things deserve special treatment compared to other people and that everything should revolve around those who own them. People will fight over who gets to sit in a certain seat. We have to learn how to use them properly, but it seems that most owners forget the rules pretty fast. I'm talking of course about the car.

Grover poses again - all hugs

After having his way with kitty, it seems there's no love lost between the two of them. I think Olivia approved of this pose.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Great lip sync

"I Put a Spell on You" is a 1956 song written by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, whose recording was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Hawkins had originally intended to record the tune as a refined love song, a blues ballad. He reported, however, that the producer "brought in ribs and chicken and got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death". The song became a quick success, despite being banned by some stores and radio stations.

Here's a really amazing lip sync video of the song by Jimmy Slonina.

Message to web site operators:

Stop configuring your margins so that when someone clicks on an empty space in the margin, they are essentially clicking on an ad further up or down the page. Just stop it. It's dirty pool and it motivates me to stop visiting your site. And then blog about it.

That is all.

Return dead AND alive...

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Things I learned this week 7 Jul

  • The white mask that Michael Myers wears in the Halloween movie franchise? It was in fact a William Shatner Mask spray painted white.
  • The plague that decimated Europe in the middle ages is still around. A man from Oregon got it after being bit by a stray cat that had been in contact with infected mice. Infected fleas are the modern carrier.
  • Canada Border Services Agency was installing HD cameras with mics with the capability to eavesdrop on citizens travelling through airports and at border crossings, for the purpose of recording conversations. That just got put on hold pending a privacy assessment, which should have been done before this project even started.
  • Honda will be the first car company to recycle rare earth metals from its hybrid batteries.
  • Apple store employees use an iPhone app to ensure that each MacBook screen is opened to exactly 70 degrees. This is to encourage customers to adjust the screen to their ideal viewing angle - in other words, to touch the computer.
  • Europe's highest court recently ruled that workers who get sick while on paid vacation...get to take another vacation.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has made an official declaration: “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.” What? No mermaids?

The Practical Lexicon podcast - episode 9

Better late than never, in this episode Bernie and I discuss the (already passed) Copyright modernization Bill (C-11).

Even though we talk about what you might do to prevent this Bill from passing, the sentiments and suggestions are still valid, because this Bill can be repealed or modified in the future by another party.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Grover poses 2

I've been hearing a lot of feedback from friends about the little game Darlene and I have going about posing Grover around the house.

Here's another pose for your enjoyment. I'm not sure what he's doing with the cat, but he sure seems to be enjoying himself.

Kinda has that 'Stampede' feel to it, don't it?

It's a trap

Maybe some facts about drugs for a change?

OK, let's see if this piques your interest:

The former drug czar of the UK who was fired because he 'refused to support the government's science-free position on the dangers of marijuana' is putting out a book called 'Drugs without the Hot Air'.

In it, he talks about the irrationality of our present drug policy and the hypocrisy of allowing tobacco and alcohol to be legal while banning other drugs.

Read a preview of the book here.

Is it any wonder Danes are happier?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Things I learned this week 2 Jul

  • There are only 500 music composers in the world that actually make a living from composing for games/films/media.
  • Most of the people you hear on the radio today aren't actually live.
  • That Long Island Iced Tea the bar charged you $10 for? It costs them $0.51
  • The only difference between Angus and regular beef is the fat content. Angus has more fat in it therefore "more tender.
  • There is more dried onion content in Taco Bell meat than meat. In fact the meat content is 5%. Of the meat.....
  • All keys to Chevy police cars are the same key, unless the department has a custom key made.
  • Tesla Motors just began shipping its next electric car on the 23rd of June. This car is the Model S, a four door sedan.
  • New Zealand's high court ruled that the raid on Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's Auckland mansion was illegal.
  • Canada's dollar Loonie coin is 25 years old.

What an Extravaganza

Back in December I mentioned a guy from Canada who had auditioned for and won a part in a Queen tribute band that was put together by Roger Taylor and Brian May. That band started touring North America in May and they finally made their way to Calgary last night. And we got to see them. Queen Extravaganza are 9 artists, four of whom are from Canada.

I was a bit nervous about the concert, having seen Queen myself in 1979. But these kids rocked the house. Marc Martel's vocals were spot on. Having four vocalists (plus the singing musicians) enabled them to duplicate the complex harmonies on stage that even Queen couldn't do live. The musicians were indescribable too. It was amazing. When 'Somebody to Love' started, I got chills. Here was the set list:

  1. "We Will Rock You (Fast)"
  2. "Tie Your Mother Down"
  3. "Now I’m Here"
  4. "Killer Queen"
  5. "Love Of My Life"
  6. "I Want It All"
  7. "Bicycle Race"
  8. "I Want To Break Free"
  9. "March Of The Black Queen"
  10. "Dragon Attack"
  11. "You Take My Breath Away"
  12. "Save Me"
  13. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
  14. "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon"
  15. "I'm In Love With My Car"
  16. "Bohemian Rhapsody"
  17. "One Vision"
  18. "A Kind Of Magic"
  19. "Don't Stop Me Now"
  20. "Under Pressure"
  21. "Who Wants To Live Forever"
  22. "Another One Bites The Dust"
  23. "You’re My Best Friend"
  24. "Seven Seas Of Rhye"
  25. "Drum Solo"
  26. "Stone Cold Crazy"
  27. "In The Lap Of The Gods"
  28. "In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited"
  29. "Radio GaGa"
  30. "Fat Bottomed Girls"
  31. "Somebody To Love"
  32. "We Will Rock You"
  33. "We Are The Champions"