10 November 2010

MS Word 2007

I've discovered something fairly annoying with Microsoft Word 2007.  In the past I'd used an earlier Word version to create and update webpages on my website.  Well, this was the first time since upgrading to Word 2007 that I tried to update a webpage and it was a disaster. 

I deleted one bullet point, added another.  Uploaded files, and... eh?!  Entire blocks of text were shifted from the middle of the page to the very top.  Eh!?

I repaired one hyperlink to a subheading on the same webpage, and... entirely new hyperlinks were created in entire subsections on the webpage.  Eh?!  Instead of a single word being hyperlinked the entire sentence/paragraph magically became a massive hyperlink.  Other hyperlinks were changed to link to something I didn't link them to.  Eh!?

The most puzzling thing is all this unwanted and magical editing that was occurring wasn't visible in Microsoft Word, just in my browser.  Opening the page's htm file in Word was fine.  Text okay, hyperlinks okay in Word.  But once I uploaded the updated files and opened the page in a browser the page had turned into the frustrating monstrosity I described above.

So... if anyone is wondering about the recent paucity of updates to my R32 Gallery site it's because I currently lack the time and patience to figure out what the heck is happening, why it is happening, and how to fix it.

30 October 2010

Sunoco -- I Thought I Knew You

I don't normally go to Sunoco to fill up my R32 (it's been several months) but today I stopped at one that's very conveniently located.  To my surprise I couldn't find any Ultra 94.  I walked around to look at the other pumps but, no... no more Ultra 94.  A worker stepped outside to see if I needed help, but unfortunately the language barrier was such that I gave up on obtaining an answer to what had happened to the Ultra 94.

I was going to settle for Premium 91... but then I realized that this location no longer accepted payment at the pump.  Not so convenient for a gas station with a sign that says "Convenience Store", eh?

Anywhoo, these two strikes put me in a state of minor pique -- Sunoco was no longer Sunoco -- I  promptly decided I didn't really need to get any gas then and there, and at that location. 

It was only afterward that I wondered whether the lack of Ultra 94 gasoline was specific to that Sunoco location, or a signal of things to come associated with the merger of Sunoco and Petro-Canada.

25 October 2010

PS3: F1 2010 Update

Update to an earlier post about F1 2010 for the PS3.  I don't know if it can be called a proper bug since it appears to be an AI issue, but it's definitely something that's aggravating.

I've observed consistently that although I'm the first to pit, the crew member with the lollipop is too slow and/or conservative.  I'm inevitably left waiting, pit stop complete, for several seconds as 3-4 cars pass me on the pit lane before the lollipop guy releases me. The only time this doesn't happen is when I'm the only car pitting that lap.

I hope this is something that can and will be patched.

28 September 2010

Two Spaces after a Full Stop

One of the things that bothers me whenever I read and/or edit a manuscript, or any text at all, is when the author doesn't use two spaces after a full stop, or end of a sentence.  That goes for colons, too.  When did the standard change to a single space?  Why?

Hmm... now that I think about it, maybe I was taught to put two spaces after full stops and colons in typing class.  Typing was an elective in high school, so perhaps most students weren't taught the correct spacing.  Then when word processing software became more mainstream in school the sheer number of students using single spacing became the norm.  Sad, if true.

I think Microsoft Word would do the world -- okay, me -- a lot of good if they made a tool/option to automatically add two spaces after each full stop in a document. Perhaps in the grammar checker or something.

27 September 2010

PS3: F1 2010

Despite my initial plan to delay purchasing F1 2010 for the PS3 I ended up buying it the day after it was released.  The previews and early reviews were reasonable, and I had always wanted a decent Formula One game.

I hope F1 2010 sells well in North America, though I get the impression that stores don't expect it to.  The Best Buy location I went to told me they only received six copies.  Six copies on the day of release.  I don't know how that compares to other new releases, but to me that sounds like Best Buy doesn't expect very much demand.   A shame, really, because I think F1 2010 is pretty good and worth its price.

I've been playing career mode on the easiest setting, though when I get more races under my belt I might try turning off some of the driving aids.  In career mode you start off as a new F1 driver for one of the three new F1 teams in 2010, and can last for up to 7 seasons, which is quite a lot if you play the full race weekend (3 practice sessions, 3 qualifying sessions, race day) for all 19 races per season, and especially if you drive the full-length race.

Practice sessions are quite useful for familiarizing yourself with the track and testing different vehicle set-ups, if you want.  The number of changes you can make in regards to set-up is quite daunting, but the game does offer a couple "quick" set-ups you can use.

The short term objective is to out perform your team mate and take his position as number one driver.  Different teams have different objectives.  A team like Ferrari, for example, has much different expectations than a team like Virgin Racing.  As your career progresses, you may receive contract offers from other teams.

Anywhoo, back to the racing.  I liked it a lot.  As I said, I haven't tried turning off any driving aids, yet, but I was surprised by how much time I spent driving in practice sessions.  It's all too easy to get sucked in by "just one more lap" in order to improve your time.   Sometimes I was only able to stop because I didn't want to wear down my limited number of engines (according to official F1 regulations, you only get 8 engines per season).

The sense of speed and driving feels very good, and the graphics are amazing.  I had one qualifying session in the rain and it looked spectacular.  I have a simple two speaker set up and it still sounds great.  You can distinguish between engine sounds in front or from the car approaching behind you.

Off the track you deal with the occasional media interview.  It's neat and immerses you in the life of a F1 driver, but it's still relatively simplistic.  You have three possible answers for each question, and it's fairly obvious which choices would make your team happy, or not.

Random thoughts:
  • On the track the only voice you hear is that of your race engineer, as he comments on tire/engine temperature, or what other racers are doing, when to pit.  I like it.  Having television commentary would be distracting.
  • If something catastrophic (or not) happens on track, you have a limited number of chances to have a "do over", resuming play from shortly before your spin-out or what ever.  Of course, you can always restart an entire session from the beginning, but if you've already played 40+ laps in a 49-lap race that may not be your first choice.
  • The sound set up options was a little odd.  In the manual it describes a "two speaker" setting, but in-game the only option I had was "headphones"-- which still sounds great coming out of my two speakers, but still... odd.
  • The driving HUD could use some improvement.  It displays drivers' lap times, but equally useful, or even more so, would be how many seconds behind or ahead you are in relation to the drivers around you.  It's distracting trying to chase down the position ahead of you when you don't know how many seconds ahead he is, or how many seconds the driver immediately behind you is.
  • Your race engineer isn't perfect.  In the beginning he would always say my team mate was faster so I should check his set-up.  First, the engineer would say this even when it wasn't true.  Second, as far as I can find there is no way to see what your team mate's set-up actually is.
  • In the paddock you can see how fast you and other drivers are lapping through each sector of the track.  However, it only shows the times from the most current/recent lap.   This is annoying because I can never see my time for the 3rd sector because, of course, on my most recent lap I have to pit to enter the paddock, which is prior to finishing the 3rd sector.  So all I see for sector 3 is a blank space and there's no way to determine how it compares to other drivers' sector 3, or how much time I'm losing/gaining there.
  • Another curious thing.  I was able to change my car set-up after final qualification and before the race -- something I'd always thought against official F1 rules.  I wonder if the non-player teams are able to do the same, because if not then that may explain why I suddenly had a competitive car on race day (I was able to change from a wet set-up during final qualification to a dry set-up for the race).
  • I wonder if the game deliberately makes your team mate a poor driver to make it easier for the player.  So far my team mate has consistently been near or at the bottom of the time sheets.  Perhaps it's just the nature of the driver/team I'm currently on, or that I'm playing the easy setting.

22 September 2010

A Tale of Two Idiots

Two unrelated pedestrians, separated by seconds, jay-walking at one of the busiest downtown intersections in the middle of rush hour, brazenly ignoring the honking vehicles.  The second pedestrian even crossed the intersection diagonally.

Made me wish Stephen King's Christine was around to help demonstrate natural selection.  I jest, of course, but wow.  Someday those two are going to get themselves run over, and you know what?  The only sympathy I'll feel is for the unfortunate driver.

20 September 2010

Something Odd

There was an article in a local paper about the tragic death of a young man.  One paragraph in the article immediately struck me as odd.

"The pedestrian has been identified, but his family has requested to not release his name. Friends have identified the man killed by a train early Sunday as Brendan Swanson." -- thespec.com

Perhaps odd isn't the most accurate description, but these two sentences definitely felt dichotomous or incongruous.

For now, ignore the question of whether the identity of this particular individual was of sufficient newsworthiness that the release of his name overrode his family's request for anonymity.  Why even mention that the family had requested to not release his name if in the following sentence you identify him by name?

It feels like the author is flaunting the fact that he has ignored the family's wishes.  That probably wasn't the author's intention, but that was the impression I had while reading it.  Maybe I'm thinking too much.

Still, it's... odd.

17 September 2010

Garmin GPS: nüvi Battery PCB Recall

I was concerned when I read that Garmin is recalling certain Garmin GPS models (nüvi 200W, 250W, 260W, 7xx, 7xxT) because of battery over-heating posing a fire hazard, as I purchased a 755T a couple years ago.  Fortunately, when I visited the Garmin website directly I learned that only those models falling within a certain date range were actually affected.

Here's what Garmin had to say on their website:

Garmin is voluntarily recalling certain nüvi devices that contain a specific battery that was manufactured by the battery supplier within a limited date code range. Garmin has identified potential overheating issues when certain batteries manufactured by the third-party battery supplier within a limited date code range are used in certain Garmin nüvi models with a specific printed circuit board (PCB) design. It appears that the interaction of these factors can, in rare circumstances, increase the possibility of overheating, which may lead to a fire hazard. Although there have been no injuries or significant property damage caused by this issue, Garmin is taking this action out of an abundance of caution.

The recalled devices include a small subset of the following nüvi model numbers:

  • nüvi 200W, 250W, & 260W
  • nüvi 7xx (where xx is a two-digit number)
Conveniently, Garmin lets you check whether a specific unit is affected by the recall by checking the unit's serial number.

Luckily mine is fine... at least in regards to posing a fire hazard -- I've posted previously about some of the issues I've had with my Garmin  nüvi 755T.

15 September 2010

PS3: NHL 11

I'm still debating whether NHL 11 for the PS3 is worth purchasing.  So far NHL 11 is
definitely an improvement over NHL 10, but is it enough of an improvement to merit its
price?  In my case, I'd have to say "yes", but not by much.

NHL 11 addresses and fixes some issues I've mentioned before that irritated me with NHL
10.  I've only started NHL 11, recently, so it's still wait and see for some longer term
issues, but here's what has been immediately noticeable (to me) in NHL 11, both good and
bad, compared to NHL 10.
  • The garish, colour-blind and ugly upgrade equipment is gone in NHL 11.  You can still earn and use boosts to your player's attributes, but the terribly awful-looking equipment in NHL 10 is no where to be found in NHL 11, thank the hockey gods.
  • It remains to be seen whether NHL 11 fixed the bug where unlocked attribute boosts spontaneously re-locked.  This next point requires some context.  One of the selling points EA Sports has been pushing strongly, to convince NHL 10 owners that it's still worth purchasing NHL 11, is a new physics engine.  I won't get in to too much detail here other than to say that it does make the game look more interesting and realistic, perhaps most noticeable with body checks.  My issue is that it feels like EA Sports has fell a little too much in love with it.  What do I mean?  Well, during stops in play the game plays short video replays of recent on ice action.  Theoretically this is a good idea, though even in NHL 10 the game often didn't show the play I actually wanted to see.  In NHL 11 it's even worse.  NHL 11 just loooves to replay body checks.  Goalie just make a save that necessitated a face-off?  Forget replaying that.  Replay a body check.
    • Also on the naughty list:  home goalie make a spectacular glove save?  Instead of playing that, let's see a video of the other goalie drinking out of his water bottle.
  • NHL 11 has shortened the video where you watch your player skate on to the ice prior to the start of each game.  I miss the longer version in NHL 10.  If you didn't want to watch it you could end it at any time by pressing a button so I'm not sure why they decided to short change it.
  • NHL 11 has stopped providing the seating capacity and name of the arena prior to each game.  Not a biggie, but something I appreciated in NHL 10.
  • I've just started a career as a goalie in Be a Pro mode and I'm already wondering what the GM AI has been smoking.  After a 4-0 record in the pre-season, with a save percentage of 0.947, 2 SO, and a 0.500 GAA, what does the GM say to McLean?  "The only reason you're not going down to the AHL is because you were drafted 9th overall".  Eh?
  • It's early days in the season, but I'm already worried McLean's Wild won't even make the playoffs.  Why?  Because to date the Wild have never managed to win a game McLean did not start, and the Wild coach insists on giving Backstrom, who has yet to win a game and has much poorer stats than McLean (in NHL11, obviously), the majority of starts.
UPDATE 2:  Over-reaction over.  With calm, clear mind, I realized my issue with the inability to turn off the auto-save feature is easily solved.  Start with two game saves pre-draft.  Take saved game #1 through the draft.  If I get drafted by one of my unacceptable teams, then quit the game and load saved game #2.  Save over saved game #1.  Then take saved game #1 through the draft again.  Repeat as necessary.

This way saved game #2 is always maintained at the pre-draft point.  Once I load saved game #2, it's critical to remember to save over saved game #1 before going through the draft.  Else the auto-save will re-write over #2 and I'd no longer have a save point prior to the draft.

UPDATE: I've just discovered what I think is a major disappointment with NHL11.  Unlike NHL10, in NHL11 apparently there's no way to turn off the auto-save feature.  Majorly frustrating.  In my futile search for method to turn it off, I read in some forums that EA Sports did this to prevent cheating of some kind for online play.  I never play online so I can't confirm it, but it sounds reasonable.

Unfortunately, this inability to turn auto-save off is a source of major irritation for someone like me who doesn't play online.  I would like the ability to re-do drafts in Be a Pro mode just in case my player gets drafted by a team I out right refuse to play for.  The way NHL11 is set up now, any save game prior to the draft is automatically overwritten with post-draft data.  Ugh.  I really do not want to have to play through the Memorial Cup tournament over and over again just because I get drafted by one of the handful of NHL teams I dislike.  Which just happened, now.  Ugh. 

I'm going to put NHL11 back on the shelf until I recover from the frustration.  What a waste of my time.

15 August 2010

Star Wars Blue-Ray Announced

Good news, bad news from /Film.  George Lucas announced all six Star Wars movies will be released in a blue-ray box set in Fall 2011.

My first thought:  No way in heck am I going to spend my money on the prequels, even if they are bundled with the original trilogy.  If I'm willing to wait for The Matrix to come out on blue-ray by itself and not bundled in a trilogy, I can wait for the original Star Wars movies. 

My second thought:  I still won't spend my money on anything except the original theatrical releases of Episodes IV - VI.  No special editions.  Heck, I'd even buy unremastered, VCR-quality original versions on blue-ray. No extras required.

Hear that, Mr. Lucas?  I bet you'd make even more wads of cash if you release the original theatrical release versions, too.  I'm patient.  I'm hoping your plan is to make all the money you can with selling the prequels and special editions before offering the original release versions, and make even more gazillions.

07 August 2010

Garmin Nuvi 755T

I purchased a Garmin Nuvi 755T two or three years ago and for the most part I've been fairly satisfied.  I even bought a life-time map subscription for it, though recently I've been wondering if that may have been a mistake.  Why is that?  Read on!

First, I have to say that 90-95% of the time the 755T does what I want a portable GPS to do... give me driving directions.  I forget whether the 755T has additional features like playing music or showing pictures, features I could care less about.  I picked up the 755T because it came with both Canada and U.S.A. maps, had a decent screen size (at the time) and had reasonably positive reviews.

Unfortunately, the map updates haven't been entirely successful.  I say that because I know of three different big-chain, international retail store locations in my area that the 755T places on the wrong side of the street.  This despite updating my maps less than a month ago and the locations being there for years.  I know a Sony Style location where my GPS takes me to the completely wrong exit with no Sony Style in sight.  No shopping mall, either.

All of the above I can live with.  What now has me doubting the longevity of the Garmin Nuvi 755T are two incidences which I describe as epic fails.  Actually, perhaps I should say three instances, though the third may be partly my fault, too.

  1. Last year sometime I was in Niagara Falls, NY little more than one hour drive from my home in the Land of Tim Hortons.  The 755T had been completely successful guiding me there.  The EPIC FAIL occurred when I tried to get the 755T to guide me back home.  The route calculation stopped at 99% and no further.  I turned the GPS off, waited a couple minutes, turned it back on, and it still wouldn't work, still stuck at 99%.  In disbelief I repeated this process with no improvement in outcome.  It was quite a quandary.  Since I'd followed the GPS directions to get there I hadn't paid particular attention to the roads I'd taken, making back-tracking problematic.  Anywhoo, to cut this particular story short, I eventually managed to find my way back, though along a different and longer route than I'd hoped.  Once I got home I was so frustrated I ignored the 755T for a while, and when there was a firmware update the 755T worked again, so I thought the problem solved.  Not quite.
  2. Fast forward many months and full moons.  My 755T FAILED AGAIN in the exact same city.  I was once again in Niagara Falls, NY, and once again when trying to get directions home the 755T route calculation stuck at 99%.  AGAIN.  Something very strange is happening with Niagara Falls, NY.  I purchased the 755T when I was still living in the U.S.A. and it worked (except for a time in the dead of night somewhere in PA where I lost all satellite signal for a critical 5 minutes or so, sending me off in the completely wrong direction).  So... something odd with Niagara Falls, NY.  This incident wasn't quite so stressful because I had a clearer memory of how to get back to Whirlpool Bridge.  This time I managed to "recover" my GPS while on the QEW.  Simply powering off, waiting a couple minutes, powering on again still didn't work.  Here's what did work for me:  My GPS was powered up and plugged in to the 12V outlet.  I pulled out the 12V adapter and let the GPS shut itself off automatically after the 30 second countdown.  I left it off for at least 10 minutes.  I turned it back on and the 755T was back to normal, no longer stuck at 99% and I could now successfully get new directions.
  3. This last incident I'm going to relate was partially my fault.  I was on the U.S.A. side of Niagara Falls.  I was 10 minutes away from Whirlpool Bridge, my preferred border crossing.  I asked the 755T for directions to the bridge and was on my way.  This is where blame rests partially on me.  I glanced at the "time to destination" on my GPS and saw "10" so I thought, good, it's correct.  I should have looked more closely but I was on the road for about 20 minutes before I realized the indicator was saying ten HOURS and not ten minutes.  Eh?  What had happened was that the 755T was guiding me to the Canadian side of Whirlpool Bridge without actually taking me across Whirlpool Bridge.  Mind boggling.  As far as I could gather in my stressed out state, it was taking me far, far, far north to cross the border, then all the way back south to reach the Canadian side of Whirlpool Bridge.  Turning off the 'avoid toll roads' feature didn't do anything.  No amount of swearing and re-routing fixed the problem.  Nowadays I have two addresses programmed in for Whirlpool Bridge -- one for the Canadian side and one for the U.S.A. side.  If I'm in NY going to Canada I get directions using the latter, if I'm in Canada heading to the U.S.A I have the 755T use the former address.
  4. Oh, yeah.  I updated maps plus firmware several days ago.  Yesterday, in the midst of a single trip the 755T asked me to input my PIN... TWICE.  What's even more odd is that the audio directions apparently still worked; it was just the map/picture that was kaput until I re-input my PIN.  Not the most convenient thing to do while driving at highway speeds.
The 755T works adequately in the Land of Tim Hortons and Toronto,  It worked fine in the Washington DC beltway and surrounding environs.  It worked fine for two round-trips driving from DC to Canada, but as I said something strange is going on with Niagara Falls, NY.  All of this has made me start wondering whether I should get a new portable GPS, and if so whether getting another Garmin (but different model) would just be asking for trouble.

30 July 2010

Gas at the Pump, or Not

There's something odd happening with some gasoline stations.  I think it has to do with the pump pressure detector/setting, whatever it is that detects a full tank and makes the nozzle "click" and stop pumping gas.  I've discovered that with certain gas stations the nozzle "clicks" even though I know the tank isn't full.

Example.  I was at a Sunoco with about 1/5 left in the tank.  The first "click" happened after 2 gallons.  A full tank is 14-15 gallons.  From 2 gallons on filling up was torture.  Every couple seconds another click.  It didn't matter how much pressure I applied.  Click click click click....  I took the nozzle out and put it back in again.  Click click click click click click....  More pressure on the lever, click click click click....  Less pressure, click click click click....

At least for Sunoco this only happens at certain locations, and some worse than others.  I completely refuse to go to any Petro Canada these days because this problem happens to me at all their locations in the Land of Tim Hortons.

I lived in the U.S.A. for several years, and this only happened to me at one particular Shell station and at Sunoco a time or two.  In the Land of Tim Hortons I've found one Shell station where this problem never happens.  So I don't believe it's a problem caused by how I pump gas.  It's not rocket science.  At least, I hope not.

10 July 2010

Windows 7: Let There Be Sound

A week or so ago I finally got around to clean-installing Windows 7 on to my desktop.  It was fairly painless and seemed to install quicker than previous O/S installations.

All was fine for about a week when my audio abruptly died.  In the morning it was working fine before I shut down my computer.  That evening when I turned on my PC there was no more sound.

This was especially strange since literally nothing had been done between the time I turned the PC off and when I turned it back on to hear only silence.  No plugging or unplugging stuff at all.

Hovering the mouse over the speaker/volume icon on the taskbar gave me the message "No Audio Output device is installed".  My PC came with an Avermedia M780 PCIe NTSC/ATSC Combo sound card and according to both the manufacturer website and Windows Update I had the latest drivers installed (ver; date 11JUN2009).  Device Manager said "This device is working properly".

The audio-out/headphone jack wouldn't work, either.

The Windows 7 Playing Audio troubleshooting wizard couldn't identify the problem.  All my web searches basically ended up talking about Windows 7 compatibility and installing the latest driver -- nothing that solved the sound of silence emanating from my PC.

I checked my PC speakers on my Netbook and they worked fine.

I thought perhaps the sound card drivers had been corrupted or something, so I installed an older driver version (which still didn't work), then re-installed the updated drivers.  Reboot.  Nothing.

So... instead of wasting any more time I went to Best Buy to buy the cheapest PCI sound card I could find compatible with my computer and Windows 7.

Opened CPU, 1 minute.  Bemoaned the fact I didn't have an empty PCI slot, 5 seconds.  Wondered what the cable that was attached to the Avermedia sound card was for, 10 seconds.  Removed telephone/fax PCI card, 1 minute.  Installed new sound card, 20 seconds.  Reassembled CPU and reattached plethora of cables, 30 seconds.  Turned on computer, installed drivers from CD, rebooted, 5 minutes.

Sound, sweet sound.

Anywhoo, my Avermedia card is still installed so if I ever get bored maybe I'll continue trying to figure out how to fix it, or perhaps Windows Update will come out with new drivers in the future.  For now, though, I'll let it be.

01 July 2010

Happy Canada Day: Pay More Taxes

I wonder if whoever decided to start the HST (in BC and Ontario) on Canada Day noticed the incongruity.  Here we are, celebrating Canada's 143rd birthday by paying more taxes.  Happy, happy day.

28 June 2010

The Best Way to Lose Weight

Recently I've re-started exercising regularly to return to a healthier weight.  I've found that the best motivational tool to avoid eating or snacking too much is to weigh myself every day.  Eating that muffin or chowing down on free food at a seminar is suddenly much less appealing when I wonder how much  it would set me back in terms of re-gaining weight I'd worked hard to lose. Is that extra slice really worth wasting the week's effort I spent to lose x kg?

27 June 2010


I watched Appaloosa, the other day, staring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Despite renting Appaloosa with reasonable expectations this film was even better.

Appaloosa is a classic Western about two long-time friends and law-men for hire, hired to clean up a town after its marshal was killed while trying to arrest a couple murderers.  Mortensen and Harris play the two main characters and they both performed very well.

I liked this film enough that I'm even considering actually buying Appaloosa for my collection.  My only question right now is whether the character played by Renee Zellweger will survive multiple viewings, given how unappealing I found the character to be.

I give Appaloosa 4 out 5 stars.

Beware of Idiots

What is it with Bay Street North?  Several days ago I watched in shock as someone drove a full-sized scooter pas me on the same sidewalk where I was hit by a cyclist.  He must have been going at least 40 km/h.  Apparently he decided that since he wanted to travel in the opposite direction of the one-way traffic that he'd just use the sidewalk, instead.  Not just an idiot, but a dangerous one.

20 June 2010

HP ePrint Web-Connected Printers and Yahoo

If I ever had the thought that sometime in the future I'd consider purchasing a "web-connected" printer (where users can print documents remotely by sending an e-mail directly to a specific printer) reading this article just killed it.
Hewlett-Packard plans to use Yahoo's advertising network in a pilot program that will deliver targeted advertisements for content printed with its latest line of Web-connected printers. [...]

The company also sees a potential for localized, targeted advertising to go along with the content. While testing its ePrint Web-connected printers, HP ran two trials where consumers received content from a U.S. national music magazine and major U.S. newspaper along with advertisements, said Stephen Nigro, senior vice president in HP's Imaging and Printing Group.

"What we discovered is that people were not bothered by it [an advertisement]," Nigro said. "Part of it I think our belief is you're used to it. You're used to seeing things with ads." [...] -- computerworld

Yes, I'm used to seeing ads.  I also see people spit in public (a disgusting habit) -- that doesn't mean I wouldn't be bothered by them doing it in the privacy of my own home.

While the analogy might not be quite so dire, the threat of all the spam and phishing e-mails I currently receive in my Inbox being directly printed on my printer using my paper and my toner (which isn't cheap!) disgusts me to no end. 

Crazy People

A top public university in Bangladesh has closed indefinitely after students clashed over whether to cancel classes to watch the World Cup. [...]

The decision was made late Saturday after at least five students were injured in violence between two groups of students.

One group demanded an early summer vacation so they could watch football on television without any tension. They asked other students not to attend classes or take tests and locked the university's main gate, prompting clashes with senior students who wanted classes to continue.

No date has been set for when the university will reopen.[...] cbc.ca

The fanatical football fans get their way, after all.  Ugh.

It's fine if some students want to prioritize watching football over their studies, but you can't get more selfish and egotistical than the students who decided to impose their will on others who didn't place football over education or were able to accomplish both.

Life isn't perfect.  That's life.  Accept it and deal with it -- preferably without making life worse for everyone else.

11 June 2010

Global Excavation and Demolition: Dangerous Demolition in Vancouver

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Dangerous Vancouver Demolition on YouTube

YouTube videos showing the walls of a Vancouver building under demolition being knocked into a city street with pedestrians and cars nearby are raising questions about the demolition company's safety procedures.

The demolition incident occurred on the southeast corner of Hornby Street and Helmcken Street around 5:15 p.m. PT on Thursday.

Two videos of the demolition were posted on YouTube Thursday. One shows an excavator knocking over part of a two-storey concrete wall of the building, pushing it past the fence erected around the demolition site. The wall debris is seen narrowly missing at least one pedestrian and a car on the street.

A second video appears to show the excavator knocking a second wall into the street a short time later, taking a lamp post down with it.

The demolition was being conducted by Global Excavation and Demolition.

The company was not commenting on the incidents, except to say that all the safety measures were in place and that at the end of the day, it was a good news story because nobody was hurt. --cbc.ca

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I sincerely hope the police or whoever is responsible for regulating demolition companies take a good, long, close look at these videos and Global Excavation and Demolition.

The demolition company even had the gall to say that this is a good news story because no one was hurt. No one was hurt despite Global Excavation and Demolition. I hope the driver of the black sedan gets them to pay for damages and any loss in resale value.

03 June 2010

RFID Credit Cards

I've never been a fan of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on things potentially used for fraud and identity theft, like passports, official ID cards, and now credit cards. Articles like the one linked below describing how easy it is to read RFID information, and that many RFID tags aren't even encrypted, do nothing to instill confidence.

RFID smart cards

New credit cards pose security problem

Hacker shows CBC how to crack 'contactless' MasterCard

Most newly issued credit cards pose major fraud and privacy concerns because of how they're designed to be scanned through the air, some cyber-security experts warn. [...]

"What people don't understand is the credit-card industry isn't trying to make cards secure," Holman said. "They just have a risk-management problem where they try to control the amount of fraud on their system." -- cbc.ca

15 May 2010

SilverCity Ancaster: How Not to Run a Cinema

My movie-going experience with Iron Man 2 is the impetus for this particular post regarding SilverCity Ancaster:

  • I was happy the clean-up crew, upon seeing I was watching the credits, waited until the end of the movie before starting to clean up.
  • I was NOT happy to have to listen to the 4-5 people of the clean-up crew chat away as the credits rolled and the final scene played.
  • I wish the SilverCity Ancaster management didn't feel the need to put the showtimes so close to one another. What do I mean? I left immediately after the final scene and I still met customers for the next showtime walking into the room and taking their seats.
  • These may be minor issues, but nevertheless SilverCity Ancaster is no longer my cinema of choice.

Iron Man 2

I watched Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr., today, and it was better than I had hoped.

One of my fears with superhero sequels is the seemingly irresistible need film makers have to stuff ever more bad guys in the same 2-hour slot -- though perhaps the earlier Batman and latest Spiderman movie series are unduly influencing my memories. I just think stuffing a film with more antagonists just risks short-changing the characters I went to the cinema to see. There's limited screen time, and obviously the more villain origin stories you need to show, the less time you have for everyone else, especially the protagonists. I watched Batman Returns to see Bruce Wayne, not Catwoman or Penguin. Likewise, I watched Spider-man 3 to see Peter Parker, not Goblin, Venom or Sandman. One major villain that's competent and interesting is much better than having to divide screen time among two or three.

Whew. Finally got that off my chest. Anywhoo, prior to watching Iron Man 2 I had feared director Jon Favreau may have succumbed to excess-villain-itis, or its variant too-many-new-characters-with-origin-stories-itis, but my fears turned out to be needless. You could say Iron Man 2 had two villains, but appropriately Favreau only spent origin-story time on the competent one.

I don't want to spoil anything too much, so here's just some random thoughts and comments. Spoilers may follow, though I'll try to keep them few and minor.

  • 20 minutes of previews!? Ugh.
  • There were roughly 25-30 people in the first Saturday matinee on the second weekend of Iron Man 2.
  • I thought it apt that Formula One's Monaco race is the same weekend I watched Iron Man 2.
  • I can understand why Stark wanted Rhodes to take a suit, but isn't he afraid the U.S. military will be able to reverse engineer the technology?
  • The climactic battle was a little anti-climactic. There was good build up, but in the end there was too much flying around and not enough brawling.
  • Isn't Nick Fury supposed to have a cigar? What about stubble?
  • If you don't want Stark reading about the "Avengers Initiative", then don't leave a folder labeled, "Avengers Initiative", sitting out in the open while you make Stark wait. What kind of security is that?
  • These days, I wonder why anyone bothers leaving before the credits finish rolling. Especially given the track record with Iron Man. I was the only one who stayed and hence was able to see the final scene.
  • For my thoughts about watching a movie at SilverCity Ancaster.

I think the first Iron Man is the superior movie, but Iron Man 2 still gets 4 out of 5 stars.

10 May 2010

Swagger Wagon

Minivans have never been cooler:

05 May 2010

Original Star Wars Trilogy Told in 2 Minutes using Lego

This stop-motion Lego animation is pretty impressive. It recaps the original (and best) Star Wars trilogy.

01 May 2010


I watched Gunless, starring Paul Gross, and it was worth the trip to the cinema.

The set-up: Gross stars as an American gunman in the Wild West who finds himself in a small Canadian town. He calls out the town's blacksmith for a showdown only to discover that the only gun in town (besides his) is a decrepit thing in major need of repair. Refusing to shoot an unarmed man, Gross decides to repair it himself, but first needs to convince the gun's owner to give it to him -- which Gross does by agreeing to build her a windmill.

Paul Gross is pretty much the only reason I watched Gunless and he doesn't disappoint. Gross handles the comedic aspects quite well. Don't expect thigh-slapping, rib-cracking humour, but on the other hand I don't remember any jokes falling flat -- smiles and chuckles were the norm.

I'd describe this film as typically Canadian comedy and the better for it.

Random thoughts:

  • My favourite character in Gunless, besides Gross, would have to be RCMP Corporal Kent, played by Dustin Milligan. The character was endearing and I wished there had been more scenes with him.
  • As a bonus, Gunless was filmed in Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia.
  • Graham Greene shows up in a couple scenes.
  • I prefer nearly empty theaters, but it doesn't bode well that there were only 10 people in a matinee showing on opening weekend for Gunless. A shame.
  • For stomach-aching laughter stay for some of the bloopers during the credits.

Gunless gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.

30 April 2010

HST in Ontario

I had a brief scare today when I glimpsed an article saying the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario kicks in tomorrow, 1 May 2010.

Fortunately, I was mistaken -- the article was talking about how consumers can avoid the provincial portion of the HST for some services by pre-paying prior to 1 May 2010.

Ontario's cash-grab is still slated for 1 July 2010. Whew. Small favours, eh?

One of the more ludicrous arguments I've heard in favour of the HST is that the billions of dollars businesses will save will be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices. Call me cynical, but I marvel at the amount of pixie dust I'd have to inhale to believe that.

If the past decade and more has shown me anything, it's that the trickle-down theory of wealth is a semi-trailer load of insert-scatological-epithet-here for the vast majority of consumers.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer -- an overworked phrase, but it's overworked because it's still true.

Perhaps politicians should give the trickle-up theory a turn. It couldn't do much worse.

21 April 2010

I Don't Think This Means What You Think it Means

I was browsing the news on cbc.ca when I discovered yet another example of what I consider to be imprecise, contradictory, and lazy use of language.

I've boldfaced the part I find irritating in the quote below:

Youth unemployment skyrockets: OECD

Youth unemployment has been steadily rising and is expected to remain in the high double digits until the end of 2011, the OECD says.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a report Wednesday that predicts unemployment among youths — which the group describes as non-students between the ages of 15 and 25 — is on track to remain close to 20 per cent across Europe well into 2011. [...] cbc.ca

Perhaps it's just me, but when someone says, "high double digits", I think in the 80 to 90 range. I'm too picky? I'll take any number that's closer to being triple digits than a single digit... which 20 is clearly not. It's not even close.

17 April 2010

Sherlock Holmes

I missed out seeing Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr., in the cinema, but recently it came out on BD so I rented it.

I liked it. I thought all the actors were good, funny scenes were funny, story was good, and action scenes were enjoyable.

I've read all the Sherlock Holmes novels, but that was more than a decade ago so many details are hazy. This current theatrical version of Holmes wasn't what I imagined while reading the books but that didn't detract from the movie. It was an interpretation of Holmes that I enjoyed watching. The story was new and didn't simply follow one of the novels.

Random thoughts:
  • Part of me was glad I had rented Sherlock Holmes rather than seeing it in the cinema because it afforded me the ability to rewind. There were several bits of dialogue that I wasn't able to catch the first time. The British accents were by no means thick but at times the dialogue went by too quickly for my ears.
  • Background special effects were acceptable but not great. A lot of the time in the big panoramic shots the background didn't quite gel with the action/foreground so that it was obvious the background was fake or had been green-screened.
  • I liked Jude Law as Dr. Watson. I thought he and Downey worked well together.
  • The funniest scene of the movie was in the denouement.
While there was no real cliff-hanger, Sherlock Holmes did set itself up for possible sequels. I liked this movie well enough that I hope they do make a sequel and if so I'd definitely make a greater effort to see it in the cinema.

I give Sherlock Holmes 3.5 out of 5 stars.

14 April 2010

ZoneAlarm Firewall Hangs Firefox

This is a follow-up to my previous post Firefox versus Chrome.

For the longest time I've been having problems with Firefox hanging, frequently. More often than not, actually. Firefox would suddenly and without warning be unable to access the internet. IE and other programs would be fine so I knew it wasn't a connection problem. I could close all the Firefox windows but the Firefox process would still run -- unable to be shut down even via Task Manager -- and hence prevent restarting Firefox. The only solution was to restart my computer. Irritating.

Anywhoo, to avoid repeating myself further I'll cut this short and get to the point.

It appears that Firefox hanging was caused by some interference with ZoneAlarm basic (free) firewall on my desktop at home. Perhaps ZoneAlarm conflicts with a Firefox add-on rather than Firefox per se, but since I only install add-ons I really want (ie. noscript, adblock plus) I didn't bother testing it by uninstalling them one at a time.

So despite my long time use and admiration for the effectiveness of ZoneAlarm firewall (and as Firefox is the only browser with all the features I want) I went the other direction and uninstalled ZoneAlarm, even going so far as to replace my free ZoneAlarm with (gasp!) a retail firewall that actually cost me money.

The fact that I was willing to give up a perfectly good free firewall for a paid version from another developer is a testament to just how much I've grown to appreciate the privacy controls and noscript add-on available with Firefox that are unavailable in other browsers like Chrome.

Having said that, I might not have jumped off the ZoneAlarm firewall bandwagon if I hadn't found an equally effective replacement, free or not.

13 April 2010

The International

I recently rented The International, starring Clive Owen. Owen portrays an Interpol agent trying to take down an international banking institution suspected of dealing in weapons.

The International is an action movie and over all I enjoyed it. I've only seen Clive Owen in a few things, but what I have seen of his work I've admired. Actually, the first time I saw Owen was in a video game for the PC -- a spin-off of the Wing Commander series called Privateer or the like.

The action scenes were enjoyable -- important for an action movie -- and as I indicated above Owen did well in his role.

One puzzling thing in the movie, though, had to do with a dead bird. I don't think it will really spoil anything, so I'll just say I got the implication that the bad guys killed the bird but I don't understand why they did so. It sort of revealed their presence to an already paranoid Owen. If it was accidental, then what caused the avian's demise? Odd.

In the blue-ray version they included a deleted scene with Owen's daughter -- the daughter character was completely absent in the final version of the movie. It makes me wonder whether the actress still gets paid (probably), whether it's appropriate for her to include The International on her curriculum vitae (probably), or whether she was listed in the credits? I forgot to check the latter by the time the credits rolled around. Oh, well.

Anywhoo, The International deserves 3.5 out of 5 stars (I originally was going to give The International 3 stars, but as I enjoyed it more than The Hurt Locker I bumped it up to 3.5).

The Hurt Locker

I rented The Hurt Locker recently, and I thought it was a good, but not great, movie.

The Hurt Locker was a character study more than anything else. The movie felt very static with no real plot and no character development.

Many scenes were interesting, but others I found pointedly unbelievable; the latter surely a detriment for a supposedly realistic portrayal of soldiers in Iraq. I thought it absurd that a 3-man bomb squad would be left with no support in the midst of hostile territory on a regular basis.

Who knows, maybe it really does happen that way and I'm ignorant of some tactical or strategic benefit to doing so. Regardless, until I learn otherwise I'm attributing it to artistic license.

I give The Hurt Locker 3 out of 5 stars.

01 April 2010

Bicycle + Trailer + Me = Ouch

On the walk home, today, I was hit by a bicycle trailer -- one of those chariot thingies pulled by a bicycle that sit a baby or toddler inside. Luckily no one was seriously injured, though the toddler was definitely crying up a storm.

I'm not sure what the cyclist was thinking. First, he was riding on the sidewalk, coming towards me. Second, he was traveling at a fairly good clip despite heading up hill. Third, that sidewalk is narrow. There's barely enough room for two pedestrians to pass, let alone a bicycle pulling a trailer. On one side there's a low retaining wall, the other is busy traffic where merely sticking an elbow out over the road brings fear of getting hit by a car mirror.

Anywhoo, I stopped, the cyclist didn't. He inched too close to his right and the chariot's wheel bounced off the retaining wall, the impact tipping the entire chariot on its opposite side where it promptly slammed in to my shins.

I couldn't help but think, as the cyclist quickly righted himself and sped away, that if the cyclist is going to ride like that then his helpless passenger deserves to wear a helmet, too.

12 March 2010

My Credit Card Cancelled

Earlier today I was surprised to receive an automated telephone call informing me my credit card had been cancelled due to potential fraud.

When I later phoned customer service I was informed that one of the stores I shopped at had been hacked; as a precaution my credit card was cancelled even though there didn't appear to be any fraudulent charges.

My only worry right now is that some of my bills are paid via automatic charges to my now cancelled credit card. I hope I receive my new card before any of those bills come due.

I also wish they would tell me which store had been hacked. I asked, but apparently that information is considered confidential. Go figure. I guess they're worried that if customers were told then vendors would be less likely to report problems such as this for fear of losing business.

Today's incident felt slightly surreal through out because just this morning I read an article on cbc.ca regarding the vast majority of retailers failing to wipe debit card, credit card, and PIN numbers from their point-of-sale terminals, as they are supposed to do.

Thieves skim customer data from debit terminals

Merchants not vigilant about wiping point-of-sale machines clean

"[...] Thieves are accessing personal financial information using the old-fashioned smash-and-grab method, but what they're grabbing are point-of-sale terminals, not merchandise.

CBC-TV's Marketplace has learned that many retailers are not helping the situation because they leave valuable information on the terminals where customers swipe their debit and credit cards when paying for purchases instead of wiping the data each night as they're supposed to.

It's the equivalent of leaving the store vault open and full of cash, except the cash is credit and debit card data, said RCMP Det. John Koppes of Abbotsford, B.C., who is the Mounties' computer crime specialist. [...]" --Read more at cbc.ca

03 March 2010

This is Just Wrong

Hep C sufferers endangering health to get treatment

B.C., Ont. won't cover antiviral drugs without liver damage, so patients binge drink

Health-care workers who treat hepatitis C are raising the alarm about patients who are binge drinking and taking dangerous herbal concoctions to try to inflame their own livers in a desperate bid to get provincial governments to pay for their medication.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/03/02/bc-hepcbinging.html#ixzz0h9zosnHT

Firefox versus Chrome

Mozilla Firefox has been my browser of choice for many years, now. Unfortunately, consistent and frequent hanging issues in the past couple years have made me wish for another alternative to Internet Explorer.

I recently tested Google Chrome and liked it, but a couple issues make me reluctant (at least for now) to completely switch over.

First, Firefox offers better control over cookies. In comparison, Chrome's cookie controls are too all or none in nature. Second and more importantly, I've grown accustomed to the Firefox add-on NoScript. It's amazing how well it cleans up webpages of all the stuff I have no interest in seeing -- or if I do, then it's quick and simple to remedy. Chrome, as far as I can determine, doesn't have an extension of similar utility not because no one has produced one but because Chrome's design and/or infrastructure doesn't make such an extension possible.

Oh well. Back to my hanging Firefox, rebooting, hanging Firefox, rebooting... ad nauseum.

14 January 2010

Formatting a Large HDD to FAT32

When I used to format HDDs or USB drives I never really thought about the different options available, like NTFS, FAT or FAT32. As long as it worked, right? And they all did.

Though there have been times when a USB drive wasn't recognized for no discernible reason, I attributed these instances to cheap USB drives. It wasn't until recently when my PS3 wouldn't recognize a USB drive that I gained enough motivation to investigate.

Turns out the PS3 will only recognize FAT32-formatted disks. It also turns out that FAT32 is format that's pretty much universally recognized by various O/S.

Unfortunately, while Windows Vista will recognize HDDs of any size formatted as FAT32, Vista itself will not -- by design -- format anything larger than 32GB as FAT32. Eh?

I think that deserves another, emphatic eh?! Especially as HDDs these days are much, much, much larger than 32GB, and I don't really want to partition a 1-2TB HDD 30-60 times.

FAT32 does have limitations, however, which is at least in part why Microsoft prefers formatting HDDs via NTFS. FAT32 is only useful for up to 2TB, I gather, and individual files can't be larger than 4GB.

I hope there are other technical issues that contributed to Microsoft's decision to not allow formatting anything larger than 32GB in FAT32, though frankly I can't be bothered to find out if there are.

All I wanted to do was format a 500GB external HDD via FAT32.

The first potential solution I found was appealing and simple. In Vista, open the DOS/command window as an adminstrator, format /FS:FAT32 x: Although this appeared to work at first ultimately an error message came up stating the drive was too big.

The second and successful solution I discovered was utilizing a little FAT32 format routine (free!) from Ridgecrop Consultants Ltd.. A simple matter of putting the exe file on my computer and running it (fat32format x:) from the command/DOS window allowed me to format my 500GB as FAT32 in a single partition.

Anywhoo, apparently I can now hook up my FAT32-formatted external 500GB HDD to my PS3 via USB for increased storage space, or do a complete backup of my PS3 should I so desire.

Oh yeah, I'm sure everyone is already aware of this but, in the interest of preventing a nasty surprise, I feel compelled to unnecessarily remind anyone reading this post that formatting a disk will wipe the HDD clean of any data or files. Backup as appropriate.

08 January 2010

Hamilton's Misnomer?

When I moved to the Land of Tim Hortons I found it somewhat confusing, direction wise.

The place I'm looking for is on the mountain? What mountain? I don't see a mountain.

I learned that Hamilton is typically divided in two, "The mountain" and downtown. The latter is next to Lake Ontario with the former adjacent to the south. Perhaps it's because I grew up in B.C. with the Rocky Mountains, but there's no way no how I'm ever going to call Hamilton's mountain "The mountain."

Of course the Rockies are geological youths, and not all mountains appear like the Rockies. Still, "The mountain" at best is a plateau. There's an escarpment, and then it's flat. F-L-A-T.

Perhaps at one time it was a real mountain and 90% of it was carved off for city development and expansion. I don't know. But as only a recent resident of the Land of Tim Hortons I'd feel silly describing it as one.