29 June 2008

Computer Security -- Avast!

A short while ago my subscription for Trend Microsystem's antivirus software was expiring, and I decided to try something new (and free!). Well, after some research at CNET downloads I decided to try Avast -- a free, no limitation antivirus - antimalware program compatible with Vista.

It's working quite well. The boot up scan takes a while, but I turned that off after the first time. With the normal scan, using the most thorough setting, scanning my computer takes several hours -- overnight, even; but it doesn't take many resources so it can run in the background.

Avast detected 5 trojans (in Outlook) that Trend Microsytems missed completely.

I'd say that so far the only drawback of Avast is that you can't do any scheduled scans. Still, for competent, free, non-limited antivirus software with auto-updating, I'm willing to scan manually.

Hmm... this post was originally supposed to be only on Avast, but what the heck. Since I'm here, a slight alteration of the post title... there we go... and... tadah! Computer Security -- Avast!

Anywhoo, regarding security software I'm of the mind that you can be very good at one thing, but not good at everything eg. Jack-of-all-Trades but Master of None. To that end, I prefer to have a single program for antivirus, antimalware, and firewall, respectively. So in addition to Avast I have Webroot Spysweeper and ZoneAlarm's free firewall.

ZoneAlarm is simply the best firewall program that I've ever used. The software will notify you if any non-approved programs are trying to access the internet, and vice versa.

Webroot Spysweeper... I almost decided to try something else when it was time to renew the subscription. It works well, but while it's updating it's pretty much a big pain to use the computer. It hogs A LOT of system resources. A LOT. Did I say A LOT? Yes indeedy. Webroot Spysweeper uses A LOT of system resources while updating. A LOT. I would appreciate it very very very very greatly if in the future they allowed users to schedule when to update. Pssst, hear that, Webroot?

Blogshares Annual Report

For those unfamiliar with Blogshares, at its most basic it's an online investment game where blogs take on the role of stocks.

As you might have guessed, when I started Blogshares this blog was valued at $1000 - 3000. Somewhere around there, anyways. Needless to say it was a blog only Blogshares beginners would have cared about. I haven't logged in for about a year.

Anywhoo, on a whim I checked out my blog on Blogshares, and imagine my surprise when it's value is now $237,126.61!? What the heck? I don't understand it -- I don't have extremely high-value incoming links, so how did this happen?

To make things even more confusing, my share price is $131.26, compared to Stargazer's Garage's (valuation $201,027.97) $33.27 per share. Eh? Why is his share price 25% of mine, when his blog's value is 85%? Not only that, but Stargazer's Garage has only 6000 shares issued, and I have 11,000.

And that's not all. 7-52 Daily Photo is valued at $49,324.64, but has a share price of $497.37! Though in a way this makes more sense, as only 5000 shares have been issued.

Odd indeed. Oh well, I guess I'll see how it's doing next year.... :o)

27 June 2008

Bottle or tap?

Bottled water is another example of ad dollars at work, convincing consumers to spend their money on something frivolous, and in this case something harmful to the environment and with a negligible health benefit.

"Critics of the [bottled water] industry say advertising by bottled water companies gives consumers the impression the product is safer and healthier than Canadian tap water, even though municipal water is more stringently tested. In Canada, local water supplies are inspected every day, whereas bottled-water plants are inspected at three-year intervals." -- cbc.ca

Bold is mine.

An incredible 80% of plastic water bottles end up being incinerated of sent to landfills (cbc.ca).

Anywhoo, follow the link for additional information. The article reports on a study, Against the flow: Which households drink bottled water? looking at bottled water consumption across Canada, considering factors such as income, education, and age.

If you'd rather not follow the link, then here's a summary:
  • Lower income (< $40k) households drink less bottled water than higher income (> $91k) -- makes sense, bottled water isn't free.
  • Only 17% of seniors reported drinking mostly bottled water at home.
  • In high income (> $91k) households with a high school diploma or less, 44% primarily drank bottled water.
  • In high income (> $91k) households with "some post-secondary education", 38% primarily drank bottled water.
  • Only 29% of high income (> $91k) households having at least one member with a university degree drank bottled water.
The rest of the article briefly goes though the environmental issues and bottled water consumption stats -- 188.8 billion litres in 2007, worldwide.

Wangos. I need a drink.

Star Trek: TNG -- Chain of Command

Here's another Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, one of many, I liked. Add it to the list.

The TNG episode is Chain of Command (a two-parter). Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is captured and tortured by the Cardassians.

A few key moments stick out for me. The first, I liked Captain Jellico (played by Ronny Cox). Jellico did things differently, but he was competent and knew what he was doing. He got no respect. For shame, Riker!

The second needs a little background. Picard's torturer tries to break Picard by making Picard say there are five lights, when in reality there are only four. This goes on for days (weeks?) and finally Picard is at his limit, exhausted and in pain. Mr. Torture asks Picard again how many lights he sees and this time Picard is silent... will he or won't he? Suffocating tension. Just as Picard is going to speak, another Cardassian barges in the room, demanding Picard's release (as part of a peace/cease-fire agreement arranged by Jellico). Picard turns to Mr. Torturer and hoarsly shouts, "There are... FOUR... lights!". Powerful.

The third and last scene made me sit up and say, "Wow." Picard is back in command of Enterprise, talking privately to Counselor Troi about his ordeal. He reminds Troi of the whole "how many lights" thing, and Troi responds, to paraphrase, "But, you didn't break, you said there were four lights."

Picard: "Yes, but standing there... I actually saw... five lights." Fade-to-black. Wow. Wow again. Despite not being a movie, this one is being tagged as a "Movie Moment".

24 June 2008

Send your name to the moon

You have until this Friday, the 27th June, to sign up and send your name with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The LRO's mission is to map the moon's surface for resources and future landing sites.

Anywhoo, the names (a million so far!) will be placed on a microchip and installed on the LRO, traveling to the moon. After signing up you're given a chance to print out a certificate. Neato!

I'm already signed up. And Picard, too!

Economic Stimulus

I was getting a little anxious, but the other day I finally received a cheque from the Internal Revenue Service as a part of the $64 billion Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 pushed through by the United States Congress in February 2008.

As the name suggests, the cheques were sent in the hope that consumers would spend it, thereby stimulating the economy and avert/alleviate a recession. When this Act was initially passed, I was glad to get some of my money back but doubtful that the stimulus would do as intended. Back in February I guess the economic gloom wasn't yet so dark as it is presently, nevertheless, I couldn't imagine there being enough spendthrifts to affect the economy. Surely the majority of consumers wouldn't follow the example of record deficits and debts of the US government. There are bills to pay, after all.

I have no idea if the stimulus worked, works, or will work as designed -- I'll leave that up to the economists; this is all just a round about way for me to say that back in February I did intend to spend my $600, probably to subsidize a flat-screen television. But, now? No way, no how. At least, not in a way that I think would accomplish what the Act intended.

My cheque is going to pay for gas. My cheque is going into my bank account, from which it will be used to pay off my credit cards, with which I purchase gasoline. Assuming prices stay the same (psyche!) I calculate $600 will pay for 3-months of gas. Frightening.

Half a tank of gasoline can cost me $40-50. That's half. That only lasts me a week.

I never thought I'd say this, but purchasing a motorcycle or scooter is getting more appealing by the day. The thing is, buying one would set me back several thousand dollars at least (not even including all the other associated costs), so it would be some time before I recouped the cost in gas savings. The other thing is, I doubt gas prices will drop, and the sooner I started, the sooner I'd recoup the cost and the more money I'd save.


21 June 2008

Get Smart

I think I'm officially done with my personal ban on seeing a movie on its opening weekend. Today, and the past couple features, I went to the earliest matinee and there were tops 30 people. Joy.

Anywhoo, this morning I saw Get Smart, starring Steve Carell and Ann Hathway, who both had wonderful performances. I enjoyed watching the original television series, Get Smart, starring the late Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, so while I was looking forward to seeing this movie I still had low expectations.

Why, low? I was uncertain of how the television series would translate to film, and prior to this movie I had never watched either Carell or Hathaway in a feature film. Sure, I'd seen bits and clips, heard reviews and such, and as such I wasn't sure I'd like them. Well, my concerns were groundless. Get Smart is a great movie that I recommend to everyone.

I don't remember ever laughing so hard at a movie, ever. Now, it wasn't a non-stop laugh riot, but there was one scene where I was busting a gut, and there were numerous others that had me laughing, too. I thought the action sequences were fine. Don't expect anything deep plot-wise or character-wise. Get Smart is a funny, light summer movie well worth my money.

Minor spoilers may follow:

The movie made appropriate homage to the television series -- it included exactly what I'd expected to see: the shoe phone, cone of silence, a turn of phrase ("Oh, Max") and more. Carell's version of Agent 86 Maxwell Smart is an updated and altered version of Adams'. Carell's 86 is a new, but mostly competent agent put in funny situations, rather than an inept, incredibly lucky one -- which is how I remember the television series. Carell does a wonderful job, as does Hathaway as the straight-man (straight-woman?) in Agent 99.

Part of why I enjoyed this movie is the on-screen chemistry between Carell and Hathaway. I'm not talking romantically -- though there's a pinch of that, too -- but that they played well off one another on screen.

On the minus ledger? There was one brief bit that fell flat. I think it was supposed to be funny but I'm not completely certain. Hey, I enjoy a good Bush-Cheney joke as much as the next Democrat, but if this was one it flew miles above my head. Whooooosh....

As an aside, I was also reminded that some people see a movie simply because of a particular actor or actress, rather than the movie per se. During the credits, there was a dedication to the late Don Adams and I heard the couple seated behind me wondering who he was.

Speaking of credits, there's nothing special at the end of the roll, so if you're not inclined it's safe to skip it.

Just how good is this movie? It's so good that I hope they produce a sequel -- I'd definitely pay to see that.

This movie missed a perfect rating, "by this much". :o)

Get Smart gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.

13 June 2008

Keith Olbermann comments on John McCain

Nice. Keith Olbermann takes issue with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain's callousness and mutually exclusive statements. Watch both parts if you haven't seen it, yet.

Countdown special comment Part I

Countdown special commment Part II

12 June 2008

Forever a Canuck

Trevor Linden officially announced his retirement after 19 years in the National Hockey League. Linden spent all but three of those seasons as a Vancouver Canuck, returning to the Canucks in 2001.

Here are some numbers on Linden (taken from canucks.com):
  • 1st - Round draft pick of the Canucks in 1988 (2nd overall)
  • 95 - Points in 118 playoff games as a Canuck (34 goals, 61 assists)
  • 41 - Career game-winning goals
  • 318 - Career goals as a Canuck in the regular season
  • 415 - Career assists as a Canuck.
  • 733 - Career points as a Canuck for Trevor Linden
  • 867 - Career NHL points for Linden (375-492-867)
  • 1,382 - Career NHL games
At 21, Linden was named the Canucks captain, at the time the youngest captain in the NHL. He kept the "C" for 7 years until The Midiot and Keenan arrived. Linden then played for the Canadiens, Islanders and Capitals before returning to Vancouver in 2001.

In 1994 Linden led the Canucks all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers, carrying the Canucks on his back in game seven, scoring 2 goals in a 3-2 loss. This was the Canucks' 2nd (the 1st was in 1982) trip to the Finals, and to date its last. I was glued to the television for the entire playoff run, and to this day I detest anyone on that 1994 Ranger team.

Captain Canuck is the franchise all-time leader in games played (1140), assists (415) and is second in goals (318) and points (733). Trevor Linden's 118 games, 34 goals, 61 assists and 95 points in the playoffs are all franchise records.

Linden contributed both on and off the ice. He helped raise money for Canuck Place, BC Children’s Hospital, Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. Cancer Foundation, Camp Goodtimes, Ronald McDonald House of B.C., Kids Help Phone, the Michael Cuccione Foundation, and many other charities in BC, helping to raise millions of dollars for those in need.

In recognition of Linden's contributions to the community he was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1997, given annually to the "NHL player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution in his community". In 2008 Linden received the NHL Foundation Player Award, awarded annually to the NHL player "who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community".

Linden was an NHL Players Association player representative since 1990, and the NHLPA President for 8 years (1998-2006).

I've probably said this before, but Trevor Linden is my all-time favourite NHL player. His stats and on-ice skill never matched the greats - though they're nothing to sneeze at - and I don't think he'll make the Hockey Hall of Fame (though I wish he does), but his heart, drive and determination were second to none.

After game 6 of the 1994 Finals against the New York Rangers, the game the Canucks won 4-1, and a game The Midiot cheap-shotted Linden as he was crawling to the bench from an earlier hit by Graves, in the immortal words of play-by-play announcer Jim Robson:

"There is going to be that seventh game. We'll hope they can patch Linden up and get him in that one. He will play, you know he'll play! He'd play on crutches! He will play, and he'll play at Madison Square Gardens on Tuesday night! The game is over!"

That iconic pic above is from that game 6, a bloody, exhausted Linden hugging goalie Kirk McLean.

If you haven't guessed by now, Linden is the only NHL player I'm emotionally attached to. :o)

If Trevor Linden's #16 isn't retired (it would be only the 2nd officially retired jersey in Canucks history, up in the rafters with Stan Smyl's #12), then I'll grab my fork and torch and march up to Orca Bay and demand they do so. Well, I'll send a mean e-mail, at least. :o) No Canuck deserves such recognition more than Trevor Linden.

Best of luck in all your future endeavors, Trevor, and thanks for the memories....

08 June 2008

French Open

Amazing. Rafael Nadal just clobbered Roger Federer (6-1, 6-3, 6-0) in this year's French Open. This is Nadal's 4th consecutive French Open title, tieing Bjorn Borg's record. Nadal finished the major without dropping a single set. The last time this happened was back in the '70s, with... you guessed it, Bjorn Borg.


05 June 2008

Big Brother is watching

By tracking mobile phone use, a recent study suggests that humans are creatures of habit and rarely travel more than a few miles from home (Mobile phones expose human habits; Study secretly tracks cell phone use outside US).

This would have been an interesting, benign study if it weren't for the fact that the study authors didn't obtain consent from the 100k people they tracked. The authors violated the privacy of 100k individuals. They already had their mobile numbers -- they could have requested consent, but they did not.

The authors acknowledge their own concerns regarding privacy but instead of taking their study proposal to a recognized ethics board they declined, merely because it wasn't required of a physics experiment.

Nonconsensual tracking is illegal in the USA. I imagine the authors chose their victims from a country with no such prohibition. Nevertheless, my mobile itself and my use of it is private, not public, and I definitely would not want to be tracked without my knowledge and consent regardless of its legality.

Big Brother is watching, but it's not the government, it's the scientists. :o(

04 June 2008


It turned out to be nay. A Saturday forecast of thunderstorms, errands, gasoline prices, and general all round laziness contributed to the outcome.

Site Visitors in May 2008

The top 5 visitors in May '08 listed by country:

1) United States,
2) Canada,
3) Netherlands,
4) an European country,
5) Great Britain.

Full list of visitors in May 2008.

Site visitors in previous months.