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April 30, 2004

GRR MSIE GRR

I mostly ignore any sites that don't work in Firefox. Actually, I hardly ever notice any. However, I simply had to be able to update my address information with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency before today's tax filing deadline. I ended up installing Netscape 4.8 to do that, but first I actually tried MSIE 6.

Now, I don't blame MS that it didn't work as intended, because I know my OS is 6 years old and I've even got that stripped way down with no Internet Explorer (none at all), lots of stuff removed and using the Win95 Explorer shell. Still, when I uninstalled MSIE6 it was really annoying to have to run AdAware and find new spyware type things on my machine! An Alexa registry key, a newdotnet folder. I guess I haven't been running AdAware often enough to notice if it's really MSIE's fault, but that's also kind of my point. I simply don't need to run AdAware most of the time. For the couple of hours MSIE was installed, I basically went only to microsoft.com, java.com (to update the JVM) and the Canadian government netfile site. Yet somehow, I managed to get a little bit of cruft.

Ok, well, after thinking about it, I guess there are a few other possible explanations as for how those things got there. However, I think I can say with confidence that none of them include my normal web browser.

I guess I should start evangelizing Firefox at work. Twice this week I heard different people at the office cursing MSIE and associated annoyances like popups.

Springtime!

The weather forecast keeping being revised upwards: now today's high is predicted to reach 24 C (I would guess that would be about now, and oops, I just checked current conditions and whaddyaknow? 25 C).

April 29, 2004

US Casualties in Iraq

Tomorrow night ABC's Nightline will broadcast the names and pictures of America casualties due to hostilities in Iraq. In response, one company that owns eight ABC stations has ordered its stations to not air the show.

A show that solely consists of the names and pictures of dead soldiers seems on the surface like a condemnation of the use of military force. Aside from the unusually blantant display of corporate bias in the media, to me this highlights an interesting dilemma. On one hand, media presence in conflict worldwide has seemed to foster a growing abhorrance in the developed world for 'friendly' casualties in any military action. This strains the world communities' already weak position in dealing with peace-keeping and intervention in human rights crises. I think it is a negative trend, and we should oppose it. On the other hand, the specific intervention of the US in Iraq has seemed poorly managed, burdened by leadership that appears at times deceptive and with suspicious motives. So major media shining a light there would seem to be a good thing.

As I said: a dilemma.

Patriotic Fervor

I'm really proud to be a Canadian. No particular reason for saying so.

Oh, and in unrelated news, the latest revision of tomorrow's forcast is calling for sunny and 21 C. Woot!

A Canadian General's Perspective

Last night I had a really good gig. I was system tech for a PA and light rig for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. The call was short and the main A/V contractor Advanced Systems ran all the equipment. They were just subcontracting the stage lighting and PA to us, so I just had to make sure the system was set up and operating properly and nothing went wrong. That wasn't the only reason it was a good show, though.

The Halifax Chamber had as their guest speaker Lieut. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, who is the retired head of the Canadian forces, and was in charge of the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda in the early 1990s. The Halifax Chamber publication Business Voice published an excerpt from his book in the April issue. Last night he touched on some of that, and used his experiences in Rwanda to talk about how the social, human rights and conflict resolution difficulties worldwide have changed in the last 15 to 20 years. He drew on that to talk about leadership in general. It was very interesting to hear the perspective of somebody who had witnessed such horrible events - genocide unmatched in the last 50 years going back to the Holocaust.

April 27, 2004

Home for a day

Last Sunday I visited St. John's. The occasion was mom's visit on her way back to Qatar from a conference in the USA. I went out to lunch with mom, nan, pop, Christiane, Andrew, Rich and Danielle. I went out for coffee with Steve Clarke, then caught the evening service at Bethesda. After church, I went out to Pizza Delight, with the family and about a dozen of the old LYM leadership crew. After that, I went to Pradeep Bobby's apartment to catch the end of the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game, and visit with some of the young adult/chi alpha crowd. It was great to see everybody again.

Thanks, Dad, for flying me home for the visit - I had a great time.

New software tidbits

Thanks to an ask Slashdot about the 10 applications people install first after reinstalling their OS, I now have a handy list of interesting programs that I would like to try sometime. Some of them I'd already heard of but perhaps forgotten, and others I never knew existed.

Here's the list:

  • Nmap - network monitoring tool
  • UltraVNC - remote control a Windows computer over any TCP/IP connection.
  • WinPT - encryption software
  • Azureus - java bittorrent client
  • SciTE - text editor
  • Steam - game-maker Valve Software's online software updating program (supposed you can download Half Life as a free promo for installing Steam)
  • Celestia - 3D space simulator
  • Miranda - multi-network IM client
  • Trillian - multi-network IM client
  • Slowview - media player
  • VLC - media viewer
  • Irfanview - media player
  • FileZilla - FTP client
  • EditPlus - text editor (cost $25)

Of course, the discussion brought up lots of really cool software that I already use. Even though I don't habitually reinstall my OS like some people apparently do, here's my top 10:

  1. OpenOffice.org
  2. Thunderbird
  3. Firefox
  4. Adobe Acrobat Reader
  5. PDFcreator
  6. PuTTY
  7. 7Zip (for some reason the main website at http://www.7-zip.org/ was unavailable when I wrote this entry).
  8. DScaler - for my TV tuner card
  9. GVim
  10. CDex

Fast cars and beautiful gearboxes

Just now I read the HowStuffWorks article on the Bugatti Veyron works. That lead me to the article on sequential gearboxes, and then, just to get some background, the articles on clutches and manual transmissions. Maybe I'm a geek (or maybe I just don't want to do my taxes).

Aside: I probably should feel like more of a dork than I do for continually reposting stories I see on slashdot.

April 20, 2004

Mozilla madness

I haven't done much for the mozilla project lately except read the blogs of those involved and generally spectate. So, today I decided to install the chatzilla IRC client for mozilla/firefox (took about 10 seconds) and join bugday.

I've only been at it for a few minutes, and I've already resolved three old bugs (they described problems that no longer exist).

April 19, 2004

Harddrive repartitioning madness

(This one's going to be boring, so go ahead and skip it...)

Since I upgraded to my current PC configuration about three years ago, I've had a 30GB HD split into two 10 GB partitions with 10 GB left over. I've disliked this almost from the beginning, but never got around to fixing it, and I sure wasn't going to shell out money for Partition Magic (I have legitimate reasons for not simply reinstalling my OS).

Yesterday, I finally fixed the problem and repartitioned by drive into one 30GB partition, without having to backup my data to CD or reinstall Windows, thanks to a linux boot CD and GNU's partition editor, parted.

When I decided to finally fix this long-standing annoyance, I looked around on the net for partitioning software. Free was an important criterion to me, and I couldn't find anyhing than ran on Win98 in my brief searches. I did, however, find parted. The program can create, move, resize and delete partitions and it works with many, many different filesystems, including FAT32, which I'm using. It only runs under linux, but it is available on a bootable floppy disk image with a bare bones linux kernel. I downloaded the image and found floppy image, a free windows app to copy images to floppies, but for some reason the disk wouldn't boot.

Back to the drawing board, I did a little more searching and came up with the System Rescue CD, which is a bootable linux system on a CD ISO image, that comes with a raft of linux-based filesystem utilities, including the aforementioned parted.

Well, finally, I was in business. The CD booted fine, and I was ready for some repartitioning madness. At first, I used Qtparted, which is a graphical partition editor, based in part on code from parted. However, Qtparted wasn't willing to shrink my extended DOS partition the way I needed it done, so I was left with the bare, command-line-only parted. Turns out, that was all I ever needed. It did everything I needed without a hitch. First, I slightly shrunk my second partition so that it was smaller than the free space on the disk. Then I moved it from the middle to the end of the disk. Next, I shrunk the extended partition from the last two thirds of the disk, to the last one third. Then I extended the first (primary DOS) partition to include two-thirds of the disk. At this point, I booted Windows, to manually copy all my data out of the second partition back into the newly enlargened first partition. One the second partition was empty, I was back into parted to delete that partition, and resize the first partition to use the whole disk.

The step of moving my second partition took a while, as you might expect, to copy all of the data, cluster by cluster, to the end of the disk. The two large resize operations on the first partition also took a while, which I expect was due to reworking the file system on the partition to include all of the new space, which probably meant formatting the new space. As a matter of fact, this was my only complaint with parted - once the resize operation was underway, it gave some feedback about moving data, but after that it appeared to hang (I assume this was when it was updating the partition's filesystem, and possibly formatting the new space) and didn't give any indication of what was happening for about 20 minutes.

All in all, I'm a happy customer. While I was at it, I repartitioned my old 4 gig drive into one partition, making use of some unpartitioned space on that drive.

I'm also confident now, that if I wanted to create some space on my drive to try a linux distro, once 2.6 kernels become more widely available, it will be easy with the System Rescue CD and parted.

April 14, 2004

Plymouth-Dakar Challenge 2005

From metafilter, the Plymouth-Dakar Challenge 2005. If I lived in the UK, this sounds like it would be quite an adventure. The route looks really interesting.

Reality TV?

Here's an account of a reality TV show moving in upstairs, and how the reality differed from the reality TV show. The article was written by the downstairs neighbor of one of the apartment in The Apprentice's apartment renovating and rental show.

The whole thing is interesting, but the juicy bit's about 3/4 of the way through the article:

The tenant who rented the apartment on the show had already rented the place before the show taped, at a lower price. For being on the show, she received $2000 in new furniture and the no-cost renovations. The landlord got some unspecified compensation and the downstairs neighbors a couple of $100 gift certificates for the disturbance during the 48 hours of renovating and shooting. The final rent agreed to on air seems to have been purely fiction, so obviously, the results of the entire episode were essentially scripted.

Yeah, ok, I know you're not all shocked.

April 13, 2004

Personal email storage

I've always wanted to be able to organize all of my archived email in a more flexible system than the hierarchical folders that most mail clients use by default. A few days ago I mentioned a system called EVM, which is a potential solution. I may make the effort to try it out, but in the meantime, I'm finally looking around to see if other similar solutions are already out there.

What I really want is to be able to assign multiple categories to an arbitrary email message, and then be able to browse my archived (sent and received) email by those categories. I would probably want default categories based on sender or recipient, as well as custom, subject-based categories. For example, I would like to be able to browse all messages related to project X, regardless of who sent them, but also be able to browse all messages from Joe. A message sent by Joe regarding project X should be visible in both lists, but I don't want to have to manually save a copy of that email in multiple folders. I am assuming that the simplest solution would be to store all of the email in a big pile of some sort, and have a mechanism for searching that pile and assigning categories based on the search results. I think this is somewhat similar to what Google is doing with their new email service, though the first example of this idea that I'm aware of comes from the virtual folders (or saved searches) ideas that I think was pioneered in KMail.

Either there really aren't solutions out there, or else this is a harder item to search for than I'm used to. When I first saw EVM, I did a few brief google searches and then I skimmed through dmoz.org and sourceforge to see if I could find anything. Today, I did some more intensive google searching and I'm still having a hard time finding anything relevant. Searching for 'virtual folders email' actually turns up some interesting stuff, and I'm reminded about OASF's Chandler
but that isn't ready for prime time.

If anybody out there knows of some cool email software, let me know!

April 12, 2004

PC Stability

I think I've finally fixed the subtle, but persistent stability problems I've had with my computer since I upgraded to an Athlon XP 1600+ a few years ago.

I'm not surprised that under heavy load (for instance, playing Quake III) my computer would occasionally lock up hard. When I upgraded, it was a DIY job from my previous Celeron 333 system, and I didn't know about (let alone follow) AMD's system builder's guidelines.

At first I thought it was thermally related, because taking the cover off and pointing a big fan at the machine would reduce the occurance of the lockups. Eventually I bought the front and back case fans that I should have had from the beginning. By that time, however, the generic 300w PS that came with the case was having issues. I considered replacing it, but I had a perfectly good (and expensive) silent 250w supply that I bought for the old machine just before the upgrade, that had been sitting unused ever since. So, I put the 250w supply in there and hoped for the best. The system still ran, and I rarely did CPU intensive stuff like playing Q3A, but the symptoms got slightly worse, if anything.

This weekend I finally decided the problem was likely inadequate power for the motherboard. I had been a little concerned about that since I put the 250w supply in, but I'd been unwilling to spend the money on a new PSU and too busy with other things to worry about it. A little hunting on the net told me that a local computer store Cellar Computers (that I've noticed before to have good prices and decent service) had Enermax quiet PSUs. A web review convinced me that Enermax PSUs are extremely well built, and the Cellar price was as cheap as the few other online Canadian retailers I checked, without the shipping hassle. So, I layed out my $75 (hst included) and picked up a 350w model that should be more than adequate for my system, with a little room for future expansion.

Since I installed the Enermax on Saturday, I've had several one-hour sessions of Quake III without a hitch.

Now to replace that annoyingly noisy CPU cooler with a Zalman flower cooler...

April 09, 2004

Return trip from Cleveland

(Written Sunday April 4)

The trip is almost over. I'll be back in Canada in a few hours, but while I'm
here at Cleveland airport, I have a little time to write a little about the last
few days.

(pictures follow)


Despite the delays and complications with the building contractors, we finished
pretty much all of the technical systems last night at Grace CMA. We spent the
last few hours last night chasing one stupid wiring fault in the intercom
system, and a small glitch in the video distribution, but in the end we left
with everything completed. Steve, Brian and Jacob fly out at various times
later today, so they're at Grace now, about to start the second service of the
morning. I'll spend most of the day travelling, so it's a good thing that I
didn't finish the book I've been reading.

On Thursday we had probably the most interesting lunch of the trip. We went to
a Japanese restaurant called Daisin Steakhouse or something like that. They had
section of tables with a grill at your table. A chef comes to your table and
cooks your hibachi meal in front of you. It was pretty good food and great
entertainment.

Going back in time a little farther, I didn't get a chance to post any pictures
from last Monday's excursion to Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky, so
here's an outside shot.

It's hard to get an ideal of the scale here, but the overhang with the pillars
on the right of the main building is the covered driveway. I was told that at
one point during construction there were eight semi trailers in there, and they
were absolutely dwarfed. The circular section is the five-story main sanctuary.
The wing behind the covered driveway and the main sanctuary is the foyer. I
could fit my entire church in Newfoundland into that foyer, and have quite a
bit of room to spare.

Well, I'm tired of typing, so I'm going to go and play a game or read, or fill
out those stupid information cards for the flight, or something.

April 08, 2004

Interesting perspective on Marriage

I saw the latest Psychology Today on the newsrack at Chapters this week. The cover article on marriage looked interesting, so I read it. It turned out to be quite interesting, so I looked up the online version so that I could post it. Titled Great Expectations, it discusses how our culture's emphasis on the search for a perfect soul mate may contribute to many people missing happiness and contentment in marriage in search of an unattainable goal.

(In case that link goes away sometime in the future, I have a personal copy of the article, that I won't post for copyright reasons, but which I would be happy to loan to anybody who contacts me)

April 06, 2004

For Jon and Andrew

I thought you guys might enjoy this (via metafilter). See also the original site - if it's not completely slashdotted.

Email Database

Now this is what I've been wanting for ages! A Thunderbird extension to store email in a database! I admit, I've never really looked to see if something similar was already out there, and the requirements for EVM may prevent me from trying it for a while, but it's an idea who's time is longer overdue!

Update: oops. It's a Mozilla Mail extention. I hope somebody picks it up and continues developing it.

April 05, 2004

Home Safely

Sorry, mom. I meant to post this last night, but I was lazy and didn't do much after I got home.

However, I am home safely, despite the fog delays at Halifax airport. It is kind of ironic, since I spent a bit of time in Toronto learning how to get my checked bags put on hold so that I could be placed on standby for an earlier flight. I was supposed to fly at 3:15, but I got on the 1:30 flight. Because of the fog, the 1:30 flight circled Halifax for 30 minutes, and then finally landed in Saint John, NB. We waited on the ground, in the airplane, since the Saint John airport is small and didn't have the capacity to easily re-check us all through security, nor handle the baggage containers from our aircraft. The pilot wanted to be able to quickly take off when the weather in Halifax cleared. We finally arrived at 7:33, but the later flight that I was supposed to be on had delayed in Toronto, and then landed without diverting to another airport - 7 minutes earlier.

I have some pictures to post and a few blog entried that I wrote on my laptop while travelling, but right now, I'm just going to lounge around the house a little more.

April 03, 2004

Psychics, 'Cold Reading' and Felt-needs in Religion

Last week I saw an interesting article on cold reading and how people can be manipulated into thinking another person has psychic powers (I think via metafilter.com). It reminded me a little too much of the many 'faith-healers' and charismatic preachers that I've seen in Christian circles.


I believe in the supernatural, but I always feel uneasy when I hear or see that type of thing being done in a church service. In any given room with several hundred people, a preacher 'sensing' that somebody has back trouble, or a heart problem doesn't prove divine inspiration - it's just playing the odds!

Anyway, here's another article debunking psychics, fortune-telling and the like. Perhaps some of that stuff is really evil supernatural forces at work to confuse people, but I think a healthy dose of skepticism will serve anybody well, including a Christian.

I'm also reminded about Glen Miller's discussion of felt needs in his thoughts on the relevance of Christianity today. Glen postulates that for a belief system to be relevant, it must meet our felt needs (it must have some effect on our life, or else it isn't relevent) and it must also meet our truth needs (if it only makes use feel good, but isn't logically consistent or sensical, then we're setting ourselves up for ultimate disappointment).

I see astrology, psychics, tarot readings, and to some extent the over-enthusiastic faith-healers and spiritual gurus in some Christian circles as dead-end appeals to felt-needs only. Unfortunately, so many people are not sensitive enough, soon enough to truth-needs to look past the showmanship and see the emptiness in these things.