Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's Gary going to win next?

What is Gary going to win next? Probably the lottery..

This is a list of what he has won already:

  1. Trip to England
  2. Computers (note the plural)
  3. Trip to Ibiza
  4. XBox 360 HD DVD Player
  5. An automobile

At the very least, I have directly benefited from each of these prizes. Hopefully that continues in the future.

That said, I wish I could win these draws of random chance!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why see Lower Bay station when you can walk through it?

For those of you that have followed my blog, you will have seen my blog posting 'TTC service revisions allow for Lower Bay station viewing'. You can see Lower Bay station on weekends starting today, on weekends until the end of March. But what if you want a closer look at the station? Your opportunity is coming soon.

On May 26, the Lower Bay station will be part of the Toronto's annual Doors Open event for the first time. The two-day program gives visitors access to buildings that are normally closed to the public.

Doors Open project manager Jane French said that Lower Bay has been a top request for inclusion since Doors Open started nine years ago. "I've been with this program since day one, and every year when we ask people to suggest buildings to visit, the station is mentioned. It seems to be something that is part of an urban mythology."

Plans currently call for the station to be open to the public for just three hours; however, I have a feeling that won't be enough. Judging by the numbers of people who have visited my initial blog posting about Lower Bay station, I agree with Jane French when she says "I honestly believe people will be lined up around the block to say that they've been there, even if it just looks like a TTC station."

For more information, see the National Post article "Rare chances to see abandoned subway station".

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ATI Catalyst 7.2 Drivers and new TV Tuner drivers

ATI has released the Catalyst 7.2 drivers for Windows XP and Vista. For all the details, see the ATI Catalyst™ Software Suite Version 7.2 readme file.

Catalyst 7.2 introduces a brand new version of the Catalyst™ Control Center for Windows XP. The new Catalyst™ Control Center delivers a number of significant enhancements:

  • Significant performance gains; Catalyst™ Control Center start-up time has been substantially reduced, and overall responsiveness has improved.
  • Reduced system resource usage
  • New 3D preview which significantly improves the ability for users to understand the benefits of enabling the many Catalyst™ features of their ATI Radeon™ graphics accelerator
  • Increased stability
  • Native 32 and 64-bit support

Performance increases are also present for Open GL based apps under Windows Vista.

ATI has also updated its Theater 550/650 drivers for Windows XP (all variants) driver version The Vista version of this driver has not been updated yet.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Australia agrees with my incandescent bulb idea

I blogged about the possibility of banning incandescent light bulbs back in September in the blog entry 'Time to Ban Incandescent Light Bulbs?'. On that note, Australia announced today that it would ban incandescent light bulbs in a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

With this announcement, incandescent light bulbs would be phased out within three years and replaced by compact fluorescent lighting. Legislation to gradually restrict the sale of the old-style bulbs could reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012 and cut household power bills by up to 66 percent.

Australia is not the only place in the world resorting to these measures. Last month, a California assemblyman announced he would propose a bill to ban the use of incandescent bulbs in his state. And a New Jersey lawmaker has called for the state to switch to fluorescent lighting in government buildings within three years. Even Cuba's Fidel Castro launched a similar program two years ago, sending youth brigades into homes and switching out regular bulbs for energy-saving ones to help battle electrical blackouts around the island.

This might seem like a small thing to do, but every bit helps. Hopefully Canada will follow suit and phase out incandescent light bulbs as soon as possible.

Urban Planning Humour

Many times, people ask me what I do, and I tell them I am an urban planner. Puzzled by what that means, I tell them it is sort of like playing SimCity, but in real life. Unfortunately, we can't use cheat codes in real life (remember the LIM code, anyone)?

Every now and again, in real life, you run into frustrations in getting approvals for things, whether it is from the local municipality, conservation authorities, other agencies, etc. If only things were as easy as what is depicted in the below comic. I know all you other planners will get a chuckle out of this one.

Monday, February 12, 2007

DST Changes in USA/Canada... Similarities to Y2K

Remember the countdown to the Year 2000? Everyone was afraid their computers would be screwed up due to the Y2K bug where computers only used two digit representations of the year. We seem to have come out unscathed from that.

Fast forward 7 years and we now have another time/date related issue. A couple years ago, the US introduced an energy bill which changed the start and end dates for Daylight Saving Time (DST). For the most part, Canada is also adopting this change in DST. These changes, which move the start date of DST back three weeks, and the end date of DST ahead one week, will likely cause issues with any time-dependent operations that fall within this time period, including those that are stored in computers.

Microsoft has updated many of its applications to account for the new DST rules. Among these products include their Windows operating systems, Exchange Server, Outlook, Live Meeting, etc. Microsoft just released a similar update for their Windows Mobile 2003 and 5.0 devices today (PocketPC/Smartphone).

Microsoft has a 'Daylight Saving Time Help and Support Center' site that should help answer questions about what products you'll need to update.

In general, you should also be aware of any time/date dependent items that fall during the new DST affected days. This includes other computer software you may be using. If you have anything that is dependent on time (i.e. meetings, travel etc), you should check to make sure everything is literally on time. Otherwise, you might find yourself off by an hour!

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Microsoft HID update for Microsoft Wireless Desktop Hardware devices

For those of you that have Microsoft wireless desktop hardware devices such as a mouse or keyboard (in USB mode) who have had issues with screensavers not enabling, there is now an update to address this issue. My contact at Microsoft reported the following to me:

If you have your 27 Mhz wireless device connected to the system when you go to Windows Update, it will give you a HID update that corrects the problem where the screen savers don’t work with our 27 Mhz wireless products plugged in. This will fix it on both Vista and XP.

You will see this on Windows/Microsoft Update in the 'Hardware, Optional' category if you have your Microsoft 27Mhz Wireless device plugged into the USB port (27Mhz wireless devices basically mean any keyboard/mouse product that doesn't use Bluetooth). It will show up as 'HID Non-User Input Data Filter' from Microsoft.

For those of you who are wondering, the update consists of four files.

  • NuidFltr.cat
  • NuidFltr.inf
  • NuidFltr.sys (v
  • WdfCoInstaller01005.dll (v 1.5.6000.0)

Hopefully this update will fix the issues that some of you have been having.

More details about this update can be found in the resolution section of the following KB article.
The screen saver does not start after you install the Wireless Optical Desktop device (KB913405)

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How to go internet-less for a week

For those of you wondering why I haven't been online at home, while I was working an insane amount of overtime, the overriding reason was the lack of Internet at home.

For those of you who care to hear my story of woe, here it is:

As I previously wrote in a previous blog entry, 'How much is reliable Internet worth to you?', I was previously using 3web as my Internet Service Provider (ISP). As seen from that blog entry, 3web went down a few times in the Toronto area over the last two months. Gary and I were fed up with the outages and the lack of tech support, so in mid-January (January 18, 2007 to be exact), enough was enough, we were going back to Rogers. 3web couldn't discontinue service until the end of the month so we accepted that. A few days after, 3web contacted Gary and gave him credit for the downtime, so we decided to cash in on the credit for another month (i.e. until the end of February) before ditching them.

Come February 2, 2007, 3web disconnected our Internet service despite us telling them not to. Great. Not only were we not prepared for this, we also couldn't get through to them to complain. Fine. We'll get Rogers Internet again. We tried to get connected on Rogers, and Rogers gave us the runaround, saying that our area could not support their cable Internet service (gee Rogers, then please explain how I was using 3web via your infrastructure, and previous to that Rogers themselves). I suspect they were just being dumb, because Rogers really had to wait to get authorization from 3web to take back control of our line (for lack of a better word). If Rogers didn't want our money, that was ABSOLUTELY fine with us.

Gary and I quickly did some research into other Internet Service Providers. On the dslreports.com forums, we both read great things about a company called TekSavvy, a Canadian company that provides DSL-based services. We decided to sign up for their Dry Loop DSL Unlimited service (dry loop = DSL without residential telephone, as we use VOIP through Vonage). The soonest they could hook up service was Thursday, which was the norm, as they had to go through Bell Canada to setup everything that was necessary.

Fast forward to Thursday, and we had no Internet. A few calls were placed to TekSavvy who couldn't figure out why we weren't up. On Saturday, we found out why. When we cancelled Bell residential telephone service a couple of years ago, they took the liberty of unhooking our phone line completely at our demarcation point. This was OK back then because we didn't need to be connected to any telephone infrastructure. However, with a DSL-based service, you needed to be hooked up to the telephone infrastructure, and unfortunately this wasn't done. If Bell made a point of coming to our house to disconnect the telephone wires, you'd think they would have known to re-connect it. Guess not.

Now, technically, playing on the wrong side of the demarcation point (i.e. Bell's side) is suppose to be prohibited, but enough was enough. I wanted Internet back. It's a good thing that I actually know how to properly hook up this type of infrastructure*, so it was essentially as good as having a Bell truck roll come out, and viola, I now have Internet.

In the end, I have these three wonderful companies to thank for my lack of Internet for a week.

  1. 3web
  2. Rogers
  3. Bell

Thanks for absolutely nothing, and enjoy collecting NONE of my money.

* For those of you wondering, I have all the tools and knowledge that any Bell/Rogers tech would have, so I can do all your cable tv, telephone, OTA HDTV antenna and satellite installs no problem. From their drop pedestal to your actual telephone/tv/whatever unit, I can take care of it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

$25M green prize

Al Gore and Sir Richard Branson announced a $25 million US prize to a anyone that comes up with a way of extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

There's nothing better than a challenge with a financial reward at the end of it. We saw this work with the Xprize Foundation and their $10 million prize to the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period which was won by SpaceShipOne. Branson even compared this contest to a competition launched in 1675 to devise a method of estimating (the earth's) longitude accurately. It was 60 years before English clock maker John Harrison discovered an accurate method and received his prize from King George III.

This contest comes on the heels of a landmark report by the world’s leading climate scientists and government officials through the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that warned global warming will continue for centuries, creating a far different planet in 100 years.

The prize money will be awarded to anyone who develops technology capable of removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at the rate of one billion tons a year. Gore will be a member of a panel of judges that makes the award. The winner would receive $5 million once judges rule they have succeeded. The rest of the money will be paid out over a 10-year period if the judges decide the goal of removing significant amounts of greenhouses gases has been met over the long term.

Hopefully someone can solve this problem sooner than the 60 years that it took to come up with a method to estimate longitude accurately. If the abovementioned report is correct, we don't might not have that much time.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

IOC to consider allowing athlete blogs during Olympics

The International Olympic Committee announced today that it was considering allowing athletes to post blog entries on the internet during the 2008 Olympic Games.

Under Olympic rules, athletes, coaches and other team officials are barred from functioning as a "journalist or in any other media capacity'' during the games. This is meant to protect the rights of the accredited media.

"In principle", the IOC athletes' commission expressed support for blogging, but said more time was needed to study the issue. It proposed that athletes be allowed to blog, on condition they receive no payment, post their entries as a personal "diary or journal'' and do not use photos, video or audio obtained at the games.

This is another example of how blogging has become a part of mainstream media. While the television stations do a great job of bringing athletes' stories to us, the opportunity of hearing such stories from an athlete's perspective, whenever they have an opportunity to post, allows us to have more unique insights that might not otherwise be possible. In addition, blogging potentially adds a new layer of interactivity between the athlete and their audience. Even the IOC Press Commission states the following with regards to athletes and blogging:

Athlete blogs bring a more modern perspective to the global appreciation of the games, particularly for a younger audience, and enhance the universality of the games

Hopefully the IOC will endorse this proposal, as I would definitely look forward to reading more about the Olympics from an athlete's perspective.