Monday, April 30, 2007

Anyone interested in forming a Ride for Heart group?

As many of you know from my blog postings, I participated in the Ride for Heart event in Toronto last year (see previous pictures/blog entry here). It is not everyday you get a chance to ride on the Don Valley Parkway/Gardiner Expressway and the money that is raised goes toward the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I enjoyed the event a lot, and as such, I plan on participating again.

The Ride for Heart will take place this year on Sunday, June 3rd. There are cycling and rollerblading options to choose from, with several distance options to choose from as shown below:

I plan on doing the 50 km cycling route again. My goal is to improve upon my 1h 57m time last year to around the 1h 45 to 50m mark.

That said, I'm hoping to form a group of people to ride this event. We only need five people minimum to register as a group. I have included the rate fees below.

If you are interested in forming a group, let me know, and I'll take care of the rest. As a group, we do not have to all do the same distance (some may choose to do 25 km, others may choose the 50 km, the most ambitious will do the 75 km). Once we form a team, I'd be happy to lead some training rides through some of Toronto's extensive Bike Trail system.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hawk-Eye to be used at Wimbledon

The Hawk-Eye replay system, which has been used at the US Open and Australian Open, amongst other tournaments, will be used at Wimbledon this year. I'm pleasantly surprised by this development, as I would have thought that Wimbledon would be the last to embrace this technology. Hawk-Eye will be available on Centre Court and Court 1, while the existing Cyclops technology will be moved to Courts 2, 14 and 18. Cyclops, which has been used at Wimbledon since 1980, is a system of infrared beams which helps determine if serves are in or out.

I suppose now was a perfect time as any to add Hawk-Eye onto Centre Court, especially in light of the need to integrate video screens into the statium. Because of the redevelopment of Centre Court, the task of fitting the video screens onto this court is made much less difficult.

The current Centre Court redevelopment, announced in 2004 as the latest chapter of Wimbledon's Long Term Plan, features a retractable roof, as well as increased seating capacity. Since it was unfeasible to do all this in one year, development was phased in the following manner:

April 2006• New Museum opened
July 2006 onwards• Demolition of East Stand and offices
• Removal of existing roof
• Piling and construction of new East Stand frame and floors
2007 Championships• No roof
• Extra six rows of terracing completed
• Centre Court Debenture facilities relocated
July 2007 onwards to include 2008 Championships• East Stand building finished and useable for 2008 Championships
• New fixed roof in place
• Centre Court Debenture Rooms reconstructed
July 2008 onwards• Completion of moving roof trusses
• Erection and completion of moving roof
• Fit fabric covering to sliding roof
• Commissioning and testing of roof and environment of Centre Court
• Hard landscaping, including Tea Lawn
• Construction of new Gatehouses at Gates 4 and 5
2009 Championships• All works finished and ready

Most notably, one will notice that there is no roof on Centre Court during this year's Championships. For all intents and purposes, Centre Court will be 'naked'. It will be a unique sight, as Centre Court has always had some type of roof during its entire 85 years of existence. In 2008, the new fixed roof (the non-moving part of the retractable roof) will be in place, and by 2009, the roof will be complete with its retractable section. The days of rain cancelling a day of play at Wimbledon will soon be a thing of the past!

The above changes to Centre Court will be accompanied by changes on the grounds. A new Court No. 2 will also be built in time for 2009. Dubbed "the graveyard of champions", the intimate show court will be moved from its current spot near Centre Court to the back of the grounds, where the current Court No. 13 is located. A new Court No. 3 will eventually be built at the current Court No. 2 location, with Courts 4-11 realigned to allow for wider walkways.

While Wimbledon and the Championships remain seeped in tradition, it is nice to see that they are expanding and enhancing their grounds with a view for the future.

For more information about the Wimbledon's Centre Court redevelopment, take a look at 'The Long Term Plan'. New grounds expansion can be found at the press release 'Go-Ahead for New No.2 Court'. Additional information about Hawk-eye can be found at my previous blog postings 'Technology in Tennis: Hawk-eye','Hawk-eye use at the Australian Open' and 'Hawk-eye Technology and Grass Tennis Courts'.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista

Microsoft release the April 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista earlier today. This update contains several improvements, and it resolves several issues. This cumulative update is intended for computers that are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.

Issues that are resolved by this update
The April 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista resolves the following issues:

  • The video may appear to freeze when the movie begins in some DVDs.
  • When you rotate a picture during a slide show in Windows Media Center, the wrong photo may be rotated.
  • The cover art for recorded TV movies may not appear in the DVD library view.
  • When you delete a picture in Windows Media Center, you may receive an error message that resembles the following:
    The Url contains one or more invalid characters.
  • When you try to play a DVD by using Autoplay, you may receive an error message that resembles the following:
    Tuner not installed

Improvements that are in this update
The update also provides the following improvements:

  • Online Media support has been added for Windows Media Center on 64-bit versions of Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.
  • Video Playlist support has been added for Windows Media Center Extenders.
  • Improvements have been made to Online Media caching.

I'm also told that this update includes support for nested playlists on Extenders for both audio and video.

Information for Windows Media Center Extenders
Windows Media Center Extenders, such as the Microsoft Xbox 360, use network ports to communicate over the network to computers that are running Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate. This cumulative update contains updates to Media Center programs that may have been previously configured as "approved" or "allowed" by a third-party firewall. If you use a third-party firewall, you may have to manually update your firewall to let the new versions of these programs access the ports. If you do not perform these firewall updates, you may experience failures when you try to connect the Windows Media Center Extender to the Media Center computer.

This update also includes:

  • 929011 Windows Media Center does not correctly configure a combo TV tuner that supports both ATSC and NTSC signals on a Windows Vista-based computer
  • 932753 When you resize the Windows Media Center window in Windows Vista, video playback may stop

To obtain the April 2007 Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista, you can download it from the Microsoft Windows Update Web site (listed as an "important update"or from the Windows Download Center.

Here are the direct links to the downloads from the Windows Download Center:

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Interested in Volunteering at the Tennis Tournament in Toronto?

As many of you may know, I have been a long time volunteer at the tennis tournament that is held in Toronto. Every year, either the men or women come to Toronto (we alternate with Montreal) for their Tennis Masters Series/Tier I Tournament. This year, the women are in Toronto for the Rogers Cup presented by American Express.

Every year, Tennis Canada relies on the services of over 950 volunteers to ensure the smooth running of this world class tournament. These volunteers bring their skills, experience and passion to fill a wide range of important roles such as acting as ballcrew, hosting VIPs, driving players around the city among others.

While many volunteers (like me) return year after year, Tennis Canada is always looking for new volunteers to help out at the tournament. Here is a list of volunteer positions that are available, as well as a brief description of what the position entails:

Accreditation Responsible for preparing accreditation on a user-friendly system
CateringResponsible for delivering catering supplies throughout the site
Centre Court ControlResponsible for verifying tickets and directing people to their seats
Computer ServicesResponsible for ensuring tournament computers in key areas are in proper working order
Greeters: Responsible for welcoming volunteers to the tournament and overseeing the shuttle bus system
Guest Information: Volunteers provide various tournament information to the public
Magazine SalesResponsible for selling and distributing tournament commemorative magazine
MediaResponsibilities include photocopying press releases, researching information from various web
Outside Courts and Pass ControlResponsibilities include verifying credentials for access into restricted areas and helping with crowd control at Court #1 and Court #2
PromotionsVolunteers interact with spectators on behalf of sponsors. They operate contests, special events and give-aways.
Public First AidProvide First Aid Services to spectators and volunteers. Must be a Paramedic or R.N.
Ticket TakersResponsible for making sure that no one with incorrect tickets or passes is allowed onto the grounds
Tournament OfficeThe centre of communications for the tournament. Volunteers provide pertinent information to the public, volunteers and tournament personnel.
TransportationResponsible for driving the players, officials and VIPs around the city, generally between the airport, the hotels and tournament site. (Minimum age is 25)
UniformsVolunteers co-ordinate and distribute tournament uniforms to volunteers and other tournament personnel. Please Note: Volunteers on this committee volunteer for one week 4-6 weeks prior to the tournament date.
VIP ServicesResponsible for hosting VIPs in the Centre of Excellence
VolleysThe on-site volunteer restaurant. Volunteers are responsible for hosting and overseeing the restaurant during meal times by keeping it clean and well stocked.

If you have not volunteered at the tennis tournament before and it is somethng you might be interested in, Tennis Canada is holding two volunteer fairs at the Rexall Centre (1 Shoreham Dr, Toronto, ON) on the following dates:

  • Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

At these volunteer fairs, you will have a chance to find out more details about volunteering at Tennis Canada, specifics involved in each committee, etc. Various Tennis Canada staff and committee heads will be present to interview potential volunteer candidates (I'll be there to interview those that are interested in the Transportation Committe).

If you have any questions about volunteering at this great event, please visit the 2007 Rogers Cup Volunteer program page. If that page doesn't answer your questions, feel free to e-mail the Tennis Canada volunteer co-ordinator at If you have questions specific to my committee (Transportation), feel free to e-mail me at

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ontario to ban incandescent light bulbs by 2012

In a joint announcement, Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten and Energy Minister Dwight Duncan announced yesterday that the province would become the first major jurisdiction in North America to ban conventional incandescent bulbs and other inefficient lighting technologies by 2012. This move is aimed at reducing Ontario's energy consumption in addition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

This ban will make it illegal for retailers to sell ban will make it illegal for retailers to sell the incandescent bulbs, but homeowners and businesses won't be penalized for using them.

This ban is something that I've talked about in previous blog entries, 'Time to Ban Incandescent Light Bulbs?' and 'Australia agrees with my incandescent bulb idea'. It is about time that something like this is implemented even though I would have liked to have seen the implementation date come sooner. While I expect to see resistance to this at first, I think acceptance of this will be swift.

In many ways, this ban is similar to how the Montreal Protocol was implemented, where ozone zone depleting substances were phased out over a period of time. There was initial resistance to the Montreal Protocol, but once it was implemented, it has, as Kofi Annan has been quoted as saying, to be "Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date...".

For more information about this issue, see the following articles 'Future is dim for light bulb' or 'Ban the bulb? What kind of bright idea is that?' give a great account of the issues at hand.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ATI Catalyst 7.4 Drivers

ATI has released the Catalyst 7.4 drivers for Windows XP and Vista. For all the details, see the ATI Catalyst Software Suite Version 7.4 readme file.

New features in this release include:

This release of Catalyst introduces the Avivo Video Converter for the Vista (32-bit) operating system. The Avivo Video Converter is a tool that provides a quick and easy way of converting videos from one format to another. The Avivo Video Converter found within the Catalyst Control Center accepts a wide variety of file formats as a source, and outputs to file formats such as MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4/DivX, WMA, H.264/AVC and more.

Performance Increases
OpenGL performance under the Microsoft Vista operating system improves for all Radeon X1000 series of products, in both single card and hardware CrossFire configurations. Typical Improvements of 15% or more can be seen in games such as Doom 3, Quake 4 and Prey, with enthusiast class of products seeing improvements of 30% or more.

Media Center specific fixes include:

  • Attempting to run TV in the Windows Vista media center no longer results in the operating system rebooting. Further details can be found in topic number 737-26748
  • Choppy playback of media previews and captured files is no longer noticed in the media center and movie maker after applying WMP 11 update. This issue may also be experienced under the Windows Vista operating system. Further details can be found in topic number 737-25807

Here are download links, please pick the appropriate operating system:

Catalyst 7.4 does not support Radeon X1600 Pro with HDMI, please continue to use Catalyst 7.3.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Want to beta test the next version of Media Center?

Microsoft is soliciting beta testers for the next version of Media Center. If you are interested in beta testing this product, please fill in the survey at the following site.

If you do not have a profile, you'll have to create one prior to filling in the survey.

Microsoft only have so many beta spots available, and they will need a diverse group of testers from across the US and from other supported countries. You'll only be contacted by Microsoft if you're chosen, and we will choose people by May 31.

Also, the survey is deliberately broad, so it is not a good idea to assume that features that are alluded to in the survey will make up part of the final product.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Class Action for Canadian Dell Inspiron Owners

Tiff passed along this link to me.

If you are a Canadian with a Dell Inspiron with the following model number (1100, 1150, 5100, 5150 or 5160), more details are available from this PDF file published by Rochon Genova LLP.

The claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleges that Dell was negligent in the design of the notebooks, and that Dell knew or ought to have known of the inherent defects in the notebooks' design but nevertheless sold, marketed and distributed the computers in Canada. As alleged in the claim, the fundamental problem with the Dell Inspiron Computers involves design defects that make the computers susceptible to overheating and premature motherboard failure. The failures involving these Dell notebooks often occur just outside of the standard one-year warranty period.

If you know anyone else affected by this issue, please let them know so that they can contact Rochon Genova LLP to get on the mailing list for this class action.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring Update (2007) for Xbox 360: New Video Features

Microsoft announced features that are upcoming in the Spring Update (2007) for the Xbox 360. While there is a big push for integration of Windows Live Messenger technology on the Xbox 360, there are also a few new video features that should make people happy.

Excerpts of the announced features pertaining to video include:

  • H.264 video support: Up to 10 Mbps, Baseline, Main, and High (up to level 4.1) Profiles with 2 channel AAC LC and Main Profiles.
  • Added MPEG-4 Part 2 video support: Up to 5 Mbps, Simple Profile with 2 channel AAC LC and Main Profiles.
  • Video trick modes are enabled for content that is being progressively downloaded from Video Marketplace.
  • Support for streaming WM-DRM protected content from a PC
  • Show folder hierarchy for video content played from all devices.
  • Bookmarks are stored for each video that the user plays remembering the users last location in the file as well as the aspect ratio that the user choose for that file.
  • Video trick modes (fast forward, rewind, chapter skip) can now be used while downloading Video Marketplace content.
  • Skip forward and backward functionality has been improved to skip to the next or previous chapter. Each video is divided into 10 “chapters” allowing you to quickly skip around video content.
  • The information bar that is turned on via the On Screen Display (OSD) now shows you exactly where you are in the playback of the video file. In addition it will also show for Video Marketplace content how much of the file has been downloaded and where the “chapters” exist in the file.
  • Windows Media protected content (WM-DRM) can now be streamed from the PC to the console. If the WM-DRM license is missing or corrupted then a specific error message is displayed to the user. Bookmarking is also stored for protected content.

Perhaps the most important items are the first two items. This should allow people to play their divx/xvid videos on their Xbox 360s without having to set up a transcoding solution.

It is important to note that these features will only be included in the dashboard (i.e. the Media blade for many of these features) and not the Media Center Extender, which is a different set of functionality. But perhaps now that a lot of this legwork has been done, we may see the fruits of this labour on the Media Center side in the future.

The Spring Update (2007) for the Xbox 360 will be available beginning the week of May 7, 2007.

Note: I've been informed that xvid/divx are MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile, which is different than Simple Profile or Main Profile. In addition, it does not appear as though the above update will also support AVI containers, only MPEG containers seem likely to be supported, so direct playback of your xvid/divx files is not in the cards yet.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tennis Legends Event at the Rogers Cup Announcement

Earlier this afternoon, details of the Tennis Legends event to be held at this year's Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto was announced at a press conference at the Rogers Centre's Hard Rock Cafe. This event, which is being presented by Acura, will feature four tennis legends, including John McEnroe, Anna Kournikova, Jim Courier and Carling Bassett-Seguso. Scheduled for Opening Night (Monday, August 11, 2007), this event will feature a one-on-one competitive match between John McEnroe and Jim Courier as well as a mixed doubles match with all four participants.

Karl Hale, the tournament director, and Jim Courier were present at the press conference to introduce the event and take questions. It was also announced that Acura is a new platinum level sponsor for the tennis tournament. I guess this answers the question of what cars the players will be driven around in for this year.

This event will be just one of the many events that will take place at the Rogers Cup, presented by American Express, bringing the top women's tennis players to Toronto, one of 10 Tier I tournaments on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

The Tennis Legends event will be held on Monday, August 13, 2007 , while the Rogers Cup will run between August 11-19, 2007.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Microsoft Hotfix Request Web Submission Form

Based on KB935195 - Submit an online request to obtain a Microsoft hotfix, there is now a Hotfix Request Web Submission Form for those of you who need a Microsoft hotfix (especially one that is not publicly released), but do not want to make a phone call to Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS).

What is a hotfix?
A Hotfix is a single package that includes one or more files that is used to address a very specific customer problem with a product. A supported Hotfix is now available from Microsoft, but it is only intended to correct the problem that is described in the previous mentioned article. Only apply it to systems that are experiencing this specific problem. This Hotfix may receive additional testing. Therefore, if you are not severely affected by this problem, we recommend that you wait for the next service pack that contains this Hotfix.

Warning: These Hotfixes have not gone through full Microsoft regression testing. Specifically, these Hotfixes have had targeted testing which does not include testing in combination with other Hotfixes. You are encouraged to only install the specific Hotfixes needed to address the problem you have. Please carefully review the associated KB article for each Hotfix you install to verify that this is the fix you need and that there are no known compatibility or installation issues. NOTE: If additional troubleshooting or issues arise, you may need to create a separate service request. The usual support costs will apply to additional support questions and issues that do not qualify for the specific update in question.

To obtain a Hotfix, please submit your request via this form to Microsoft Online Customer Service and Support – you should expect to receive a download link via email from Microsoft within 8 business hours.

This is currently only available in English, so if you cannot read and/or reply in English, you'll need to call Microsoft PSS. If this online request form for hotfixes proves to be successful, I can definitely see this being expanded to serve other languages as the need arises.

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