Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ATI Catalyst 7.1 drivers for Vista (x86 and x64)

Just an FYI

ATI has released the Catalyst 7.1 drivers for Windows Vista. For all the details, see the ATI Catalyst™ Software Suite Version 7.1 Featuring the Windows Vista Display Driver readme file.

Here are links to the drivers

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Microsoft Launch Event in Toronto

You're Invited....

...To celebrate the global consumer availability of Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system at Microsoft Canada's Digital Ice House.

See how the latest hot devices running Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office release heat up a cool house.

Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate.

Watch ice sculptors at work on carvings.
Visit www.microsoft.ca/wow

Where: Yonge & Dundas Square, downtown Toronto
When: Tuesday, January 30th to Saturday, February 3rd - 10am - 7pm, daily
What: Tour our 1800-square foot ice house - you'll experience all the coolest comforts of home complete with Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office System.

I'll be there in the Ask the Experts area, so come by and say hello on Saturday. For those of you that want to meet my brother, Gary, he'll be there on Tuesday and Thursday.

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T2/T1 changeover? What will be done?

A Toronto Star writer did a short simple story on some of the things that will happen as a result of the closing of Terminal 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport and the opening of the new Pier F at Terminal 1.

The following is just a short list of things that need to be considered:

  • IT equipment
  • Baggage Handling
  • Signage
  • Roads and Bus Routes
  • Ground Equipment
  • Parking

This really reminds me of what happened in Hong Kong when the changeover between their old international airport (Kai Tak Airport) and their new international airport (Chek Lap Kok Airport or more commonly known as Hong Kong International Airport). This was actually highlighted in an Extreme Engineering tv show episode. Not only did they show the construction of the airport and its associated infrastructure, but they also highlighted the logistics involved in the changeover. All this happened in the early morning of July 6, 1998 when all the essential airport supplies and vehicles that were left at the old airport for operation (some of the non-essential ones had already been transported to the new airport) were transported to the new airport with a single massive move, after the last plane touched down at Kai Tak at 1:28 am, and before the first plane arrived at 6:25 am.. The new airport wasn't even operational when that first plane scheduled to land departed from New York City.

Thankfully, the scale of the move at Pearson doesn't remotely come close to what occured in Hong Kong, but nevertheless, lets hope everything goes smoothly.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Goodbye Terminal 2

In just about 24 hours and a few minutes from now, Terminal 2 of Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto will be closed forever.

I'm glad that when I head down to Seattle this coming March, I won't have to go through that antiquated terminal. I'm even more glad we have one less terminal to deal with when dealing with player pickups for the tennis tournament.

Replacing Terminal 2 is the new international pier at the new Terminal 1. I was lucky enough to have checked out the facilities at the test runs that were conducted late last year/early this year.

I'll get another chance to see how well the new terminal copes in real life crush conditions on the Friday just before the start of March Break. It is then we'll see whether all this constant construction, and obscene airport improvement fees that get tacked on to all airplane tickets was worth it.

For more information, check out these two Toronto Star articles, here and here.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Things that make me shake my head while I am driving

Every day, I drive to and from work. Driving 50 km to and from work along the 401 and 410, you observe many things that make you shake your head. Here are two of them:

  1. People coming to a dead stop when there are no cars in front of them
  2. People driving in reverse on the highway

Sometimes, I can't believe that people are willing to do these two unsafe things on the highway. How stupid, selfish, and inconsiderate of the safety of both their selves and of others when they do this, just to save a bit of time. In almost all cases I've seen, the above two acts occur when a driver has missed a lane change to get to or avoid a highway exit.

Is your life and time worth so little to you that you'd risk getting killed? I don't know about you, but if I missed an exit, or was in a lane to an exit that I didn't intend to get off at, I'd just keep going and find a safe way to resume driving on my route toward my destination (whether it is getting off the highway and getting back on it, or driving to the next exit and circling around). People who come to a dead stop in order to try to get back into a lane of free flowing traffic deserve to get rear-ended; people who drive in reverse on a highway ought to be hit by no less than four cars. I wish it wouldn't have to come to this for some people to get it through their heads, but sometimes, stupidity is overwhelming.

Use common sense out on the roads. It's better to be a few minutes late than to do something unsafe and cause an accident.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Does sprawl make us fat?

From the popular site, Boing Boing, they summarize a journal article that just recently came out asking whether or not "sprawl make us fat".

A community's so-called network efficiency influences its walkability. In an efficient network, such as in the grid-like neighborhood at left, pedestrians can walk relatively directly between any two points. The maze of cul-de-sacs at right forms an inefficient network.

The study showed that people who lived in a compact, mixed-use community (similar to one shown on the left side of the picture) weighed on average about 10 pounds less than someone who lived in a subdivision composed of nothing but homes (shown on the right side of the picture). Why? People are more willing to walk in compact mixed-use communities. This result should not be too surprising and it has been corroborated in other similar studies.

This result does lead to other important questions. If these subdivisions with nothing but houses and curvilinear and lollipop streets contribute to a reduced level of physical activity, there is ultimately a cost associated with the increased health problems that are going to arise. Who should pay for these increased health costs? The developers? The people who choose to live in these type of communities? People who live in compact, mixed-use communities who have the potential of living a more active lifestyle? What do you think?

To read more about this, visit the Science News website, and the associated article "Weighing In on City Planning".

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Blog Layout Update

For those of you that are wondering, it looks like this new version of Blogger didn't like my old template. This template will have to do for now.

If anybody has suggestions as to sites where I can get templates updated for the new version of Blogger, I'd very much appreciate it.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Urban Planners: #5 on list of top 10 jobs for 2007

There's nothing like a bit of validation of your career via the Internet to start your day. Ben passed along this link to the 10 hot jobs for 2007.

The 10 hot jobs for 2007 are as follows:

  1. Experience designer
  2. Medical researcher
  3. Web designer
  4. Security systems engineer
  5. Urban planners
  6. MIA (Looks like they forgot to list this one)
  7. Talent agents
  8. Buyers and purchasing agents
  9. Art directors
  10. News analysts, reporters and bloggers

For the urban planner entry, the following is stated about the urban planning field:

From the Hong Kong International Airport Residential Tower to suburban "McMansion" sprawl, individuals in residential planning and development can expect a lot of work in the coming year. Urban Planners must meet the demand for real estate that's both decadent and practical. Prefab one-level homes engineered for the aging baby boomer population are changing the face of suburban America, and boosting the demand for urban planners.

On that note, remember one of the New Year's Resolution that I made public on my blog? I took care of that pretty quickly. I start work at an urban planning firm this Monday for the next six months. Definitely looking forward to it.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Vista Media Center Online Media enabled for US Market

Sean Alexander reports that the Online Media components of Vista's Media Center should be enabled now for those of you in the US (it doesn't seem to be working in Canada yet).

Next time you start up Media Center, the Online Media strip should automatically refresh with the new content (it may take a few minutes). Additional partners will be filtering in shortly.

This follows the launch of the Media Center SportsLounge portal during CES. Windows Media Center SportsLounge, a partnership between Microsoft and FOXSports.com, aims to change the way you watch and interact with the world of televised sports within the Media Center interface within the United States and Canada markets. For more information about the SportsLounge features, see the Media Center SportsLounge site.

Update - Jan 17, 2007: Online Media is working on my computer now (I'm in Canada)

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hawk-eye use at the Australian Open

The Australian Open just started, kicking off the first of Tennis' Grand Slam tournaments for 2007. It is also the second Grand Slam tournament to use Hawk-eye replay/challenge technology (something I talked about in a blog posting a few months ago, Technology in Tennis: Hawk-eye), after its first use at the 2006 US Open, along with other US Open Series tournaments.

Since the US Open is unique in that it actually uses a tiebreaker in the final set of play (i.e. the 3rd set of a best of three sets match, or the 5th set of a best of five sets match), the rules for using the Hawk-eye replay/challenge system in the final set of matches had to be modified for the Australian Open and presumably other Grand Slam tournaments, should they choose to use Hawk-eye. Once the score is six games all in the final set, the "challenge counter" will reset so that the players have another two challenges each for the next six games regardless of any of their previous queries. I haven't heard anything about the French Open or Wimbledon using Hawk-eye, so it'd be interesting to know if Hawk-eye operations is technically possible on their surfaces, and whether the go-ahead would be given for its use.

It is too bad that Hawk-eye is only available on the main stadium at the Australian Open (Rod Laver Arena). It is not available on the second stadium court (Vodafone Arena). This is unlike the US Open which had the Hawk-eye system in place at both Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums. I wonder why the second stadium court doesn't have Hawk-eye. Is it a matter of money? Or perhaps they don't have the video screens inside the stadium? It'd be interesting to find out the answer to this.

You can see summary statistics on the player challenge system by visiting the Australian Open's Video Line Calling web page. Who will have the highest percentage of successful challenges at the end of this Australian Open?

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How much is reliable Internet worth to you?

We use 3web as our Internet Provider. Their Gold Cable package offers speeds of 6 Mbps download, 800 Kbps upload at a cost of $29.99. Rogers on the other hand offers an identical speed package (Extreme) at a cost of $51.95.

It is known that Rogers and 3web share certain infrastructure in the Toronto area, so in theory, service levels should be identical. Given this information, it would seem to be a no-brainer that one would go with 3web and save $20 per month.

How is 3web able to offer such savings? In addition to sharing certain infrastructure, 3web also does not have as great a customer support presense compared to Rogers. It is harder to get in touch with technical support, and they are not open 24 hours. From my prespective, as long as the connection is up, I don't particularly need any other help, so again, saving $20 a month would be the logical choice.

This weekend, 3web suffered an outage that left many consumers without internet for an extended amount of time (down for up to 3 days). Based on dslreports.com forum postings here, here and here, it would seem that Rogers botched a route, and they did not (care to) take action on it for three days.

I wonder if this is a ploy by Rogers to try to convince 3web cable users to switch back. It is rather stressful to not have Internet access for 3 days. Who do we blame here? 3web or Rogers? 3web for not delivering a service that I have paid for, or Rogers for essentially screwing 3web by not fixing the issue? DSL isn't really a good choice where I live, so is it worth it for me to switch back to Rogers to pay $20 extra a month to ensure that my Internet doesn't go down for three days (something that shouldn't happen anyways)?

What do you think?

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Snow brings out the worst in drivers (Cars are not toboggans)

Toronto had its first real snowstorm last night/this morning. As usual, there were many accidents, as people weren't driving appropriately for the conditions.

One act of stupidity that observed was at a hill in a public park near my house. A couple of people didn't have toboggans, so they used the next best thing, at least according to them. They used their cars, one of them was a BMW X5 SUV, while the other was some little coupe. It looks like that they drove to the top of the hill, accelerated a bit to get the car going, and then let gravity do the rest of the work. I shock my head at the pure stupidity of this, and on my way home, I saw the cops questioning these participants.

Snow makes people do stupid things in their cars, but this one is definitely a new one for me. How I wish I had my camera with me...

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ATI Driver Updates - Catalyst 7.1 and Theater 550/660 drivers

ATI released updated drivers for its Radeon 9500 and higher video cards and tv tuner cards based on the Theater 550/660 chipset.

For those of you using Windows XP Media Center 2005, these drivers should be useful to you.

Direct links to the download pages are available here.

One Media Center specific fix in this Catalyst release is the following:

MCE no longer fails when scanning channels or when switching from digital channels to analog.

Additional information can be found at the Catalyst 7.1 release notes.

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Unscheduled Programming Changes in Media Center

On Wednesday, January 10, 2007, President Bush is scheduled to address the US public in order to highlight the US Plan for Iraq. With this broadcast scheduled to occur at 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (6:00 pm PST), there will be some programs that will start (and consequently end) later than their scheduled times.

For those of you that have scheduled recordings based on the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) in Media Center, it is likely that this presidential address will mean that some shows will start at a later time. This means that the scheduled end times for shows after 9:00 may not reflect the actual end time. If the address is 15 minutes long, then the show will likely end 15 minutes later.

How can you work around this to ensure that you do not miss any of your tv shows?

Individual Programs

For television shows that are set to record as individual programs (i.e. not part of a series), you can change the stop time of the program in its record settings. To access this, go to the specific program in question from the Scheduled Recordings screen within My TV. Next, click the "Record Settings" button for this program. From there, you will see an item called "Stop:" where you can set the end time of the recording. Set it forward to a sufficiently safe time. In my example below, I have set Deal or No Deal to stop recording 15 minutes past is regularly scheduled time.

Series Recordings

For television shows that are set to record as a series recording, you actually have to change the settings for the whole series. In order to do this, first, goto the specific program in question from the Scheduled Recordings screen within My TV. Next, click the "Record Settings" button for this program. Then, click on the "Settings for the entire series" button. From here, the instructions are similar to individual, where you go to the "Stop:" item, and adjust the end time. Here are some screen shots showing how I changed my series recording of Criminal Minds to record 15 minutes longer. You'll need to change this back to its regular setting after this day is out, otherwise, later recordings will also be similarly affected by the scheduled end time adjustment.

These screen shots are from Media Center 2005, but the instructions are the same for Vista's version of Media Center. Hopefully this is useful for those who will be affected by this unscheduled programming change.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

B.C. Place Roof Collapse

The roof of the B.C. Place collapsed earlier this afternoon. For those of you that don't know, the B.C. Place is an air-supported domed stadium located in Vancouver, Canada. This stadium is home to the B.C. Lions football team, and is often used for concerts, trade shows, etc. It is also scheduled to play a major role in the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver, as it is where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held.

Hopefully, they will be able to fix this roof, as I wouldn't expect the interior of the stadium to be designed to be exposed to the elements.

On a personal note, I am glad that the roof of the Rogers Centre is not air-supported as there is an extensive steel support structure in place. But it does make you wonder. As some of you know, I have done work up on the roof of the Rogers Centre. I would be dead meat if the roof collapsed and I happened to be up there.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Packaging excess courtesy of Best Buy

I ordered a Nintendo Wii from Best Buy Canada for one of my friends last week. This order finally arrived today.

As many people know, the Nintendo Wii box is pretty small, as it measures 37.5 x 10.5 x 24.5 cm (that's approximately 15 x 4.5 x 10 inches for those that don't understand metric).

The packaging that Best Buy used to ship the product to me was a box that was 63 x 43 x 32 cm (approx. 25 x 17 x 13 in) along with a lot of packing paper.

Was it really necessary to ship this product in such a ridiculously large box? Surely Best Buy has smaller, more appropriately sized boxes in which to ship orders. Such a large box would be more difficult and therefore more expensive for Best Buy to ship via Canada Post. Why couldn't they just put 5 Nintendo Wii systems in the box for me? They could have, as demonstrated by my quick and dirty Photoshop job.

Best Buy's shipping rate for this Nintendo Wii was $12.99. Perhaps Best Buy thought they were giving me additional value for my money. At this point, I think I would rather send them a bill for making me go through having to properly dispose of this waste.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Response to a CAA statement in the article 'Toll fees for 407 climbing again in 2007'

To the editor

In response to the article ‘Toll fees for the 407 climbing again in 2007’ (Toronto Star, Saturday December 30, 2006, B1), it is typical to see the CAA complain about the toll increase by claiming that motorists have ‘such a huge tax burden borne on themselves right now as it is’. Irrespective of how I feel about the 407 toll fee increase, this is just another example of the CAA being completely out of touch with the true costs of automobile usage. While most people realize the immediate financial implications of operating a car, there are unseen social and environmental considerations that have financial costs that motorists simply are not paying their fair share of. Perhaps the CAA thinks that motorists are already paying for the true costs of automobile use and these additional charges are truly a ‘tax burden’. Or maybe, they have made this claim so many times, that they actually believe it to be true.

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Windows Live for TV Beta

From the LiveSide, a product called Windows Live for TV is about to enter beta testing stage.

Windows Live for TV Beta is a rich, graphically-driven interface designed for people who use Windows Live Spaces and Messenger and Live Call on large-screen monitors and TVs.

Among the expected features in this product include:

  • Browse millions of Spaces in rich 3D graphics with new Gallery views and full keyword search
  • Find out what your friends have been doing and saying on Windows Live Spaces
  • Have real-time text and voice conversations*
  • Call your friends' mobile or landline telephones by signing up with Verizon Web Calling to make affordable domestic and international calls**
  • Easily navigate with yout mouse, keyboard or a TV remote (remote navigation requires Microsoft Media Center Remote and IR)
  • Make free PC-to-PC calls to other Windows Live Messenger users.

*Both parties must have compatible webcams, microphones, and speakers
**Requires voice calling in Windows Live Messenger Client

This beta is in limited release, so you must request access to the trial group. Prior to accessing the beta, you'll need to ensure that your computer meets the following requirements:

  • Minimum 800 MHz processor
  • Minimum 1 GIG of RAM
  • 30 MB of hard disk space to install the application
  • 15 MB to of hard disk space to run the application
  • DirectX9-class GPU that supports:
    • A WDDM driver
    • Pixel Shader 2.0 in the hardware
    • 32 bits per pixel
  • Microsoft Media Center remote and IR adapter
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6 SP1 or later must be installed, although it does not need to be your default browser.
  • A speaker and headphone for PC-to-PC phone and video calling
  • A Web cam for PC-to-PC video calling
  • Optional: TV output capability required for TV display render

This product should fill a niche that was created with the removal of inbox Messenger functionality from Vista's Media Center. To learn more information about the Windows Live for TV and to apply for the beta, please visit the Windows Live for TV Beta homepage. You can also find more information at the Official Windows Live for TV team blog.

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