Canada’s use of Huawei 5G would hamper its access to U.S. intelligence – U.S. official — National Post

23-Nov-19 01:40 pm EST Leave a comment

HALIFAX — The U.S. national security adviser urged Canada on Saturday not to use Huawei 5G technology, saying that doing so would put in jeopardy intelligence sharing with the United States and expose Canadians to being profiled by the Chinese government. Read More

Canada’s use of Huawei 5G would hamper its access to U.S. intelligence – U.S. official — National Post

Brexit

09-Nov-19 11:14 am EST Leave a comment

Feeling compelled, as a friend of the United Kingdom (UK, including of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England), I’ve repeatedly found myself at odds with those from the nation with whom I’d had discourse (typically via the app ‘Discord’) concerning its fate as regards its membership within the European Union (EU). I’m often told that, as a Canadian, I am unable to appreciate the particulars of life in the UK or somehow fail to appreciate its culture and history. At home, I’ve heard these same criticism from Québec separatists although I can speak french and certainly understand life here, living just a kilometer or so from the Québec border and routinely visit the province while on business or to visit friends there. I was even given the same argument by a recent movement the appeared here in the wake of the Liberal Party Justin Trudeau’s 2nd term election victory over the Conservative Party candidate Andrew Scheer called ‘Wexit’ wherein disaffected Alberta voters founded a serious movement (perhaps the first of its kind) to break away from Canada because anyone living east of Winnipeg, Manitoba paid attention to the western part of the country. Yet I spent the first 21 years of my life living in Manitoba (especially Winnipeg) and feel ‘from’ there far more than my current city ‘Ottawa’ where I now live and work. So the latter two charges from Canadian separatists seem out-of-touch with the facts of my life. And yet I’m certainly not from the UK, so could I be so far off on the subject of a break-away from the EU?

When I first looked into the rationale behind the vote to leave, I’d dismissed it as something of an anomaly in UK politics that would clear itself up quickly. To my astonishment, that didn’t happen and the extraction process merilly rolled on ahead without apparent reason. I’d heard the complaints; the EU was “dominated” by France and Germany who’d routinely “gang up” on England in votes. Money to support the EU left the UK without return or recompense of any kind. And UK sovereignty was being systematically eroded to the point where the island would end up ruled from either Paris or Berlin in short order. Yet my research kept hitting dead ends. I examined a TED Talk done in the city of Vancouver, Canada to get some additional insights from a very British person who, herself, seemed very knowledgeable on the subject — to no avail.

Caption: Carole Cadwalladr presenting Brexit research findings at TED Vancouver in June 2019

Her rational analysis seemed to lay to rest any doubt that the UK received a great deal from the EU; contributing significantly to the recovery of the Welsh economy in recent years (the region she happened to be from). She also presented credible evidence that pointed to a careful campaign of manipulation by social media agents, foreign to the UK, of UK public view citing Facebook doing all but a dry run in the UK to prepare for a similar attempt at manipulating the forthcoming electorate in the United States (US). This effort, she claimed, culminated in the election of Donald Trump and gave rise to the theory two of the world’s most powerful democracies were being attacked by totalitarian movements bent on curbing the very idea of one person, one vote.

So if it wasn’t my being a foreigner to the UK, nor did the facts seem to do much to back up the claims of the pro-Brexit camp, perhaps its departure from the EU wasn’t such a good idea after all. And then with the withdrawal of John Bercow from the speaker’s chair of the UK’s House of Commons, it starts to look as if the dispassionate review of the material I thought I’d done might have some merit. After all, wasn’t that the job of the Speaker of the House of Commons?

Caption: Days after bowing out as Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has described Brexit as Britain’s biggest mistake since the second world war. He said: ‘I think we will suffer in trade terms and suffer in terms of global standing and influence, and that seems to me to be so obvious’

Bercow (in my view one of the greatest Commons Speakers in the last 200 years!) echoes many of my views on this subject, so naturally, I think his comments above are worthy of attention before the UK makes a final decision on the subject of whether to leave the EU. Perhaps as importantly is the considered gains that will be made by the enemies of the UK and its allies should this idea actually proceed. Russia under Vladimir Putin, the US under Donald Trump and Facebook under Mark Zuckerberg all stand to gain from a UK withdrawal from the EU. And I say to my friends in the UK once more — look at yourselves not only provincially; but rather as member of the world community and understand how badly we need the UK’s contributions as a partner and ally instead of being as one relatively small, distant island nation of years gone by!

43rd Canadian Parliamentary Election: Last-Minute Considerations

17-Oct-19 12:38 pm EDT Leave a comment

I wasn’t going to comment directly on the election, fearing people drawing conclusions about my public endorsement of a political party. Those who live here in Canada are aware: we have a secret ballot.

Yet comments today from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer forced me to make a few remarks in full public view. Andrew Sheer said this morning:

  • “The Party that wins the largest number of seats is [typically] asked to form the government.”
  • “Our strategy is to [deal with the recent trend of illicit drugs being poisoned with other substances] by encouraging…people getting off drugs.”

This brings up two important issues for me which I addess below, headed separately.

(Drug) Addictions Treatment

As seems typical for right-wing governments all over the world lately; starting with the climate change approach debate and carrying on through a variety of issues involving the observations and conclusions of professionals and experts (often involving science themselves), there seems to be a collective state of denial.

Conservatives seem to delight in dredging up some minority report or singular study in the climate change debate to contest the conclusions of scientists and environmentalists studying and observing ongoing changes to our environment. This same phenomenon has now inserted itself into the Canadian election when it comes to using addictions-fighting tools like harm reduction or monitored safe-injection sites. On the subject of legalization, most experts seem to agree that the whole issue of drugs is better handled by healthcare professionals instead of police; which the Chief of Police of Winnipeg (and possibly other cities) have come out and said they’d like to just left out of.

So what we seem to have here is governance by ideology instead of practical considerations. And the trouble with that approach is, in general, you end up governing the country you wish existed instead of the one that does!

The Election Game Show

What really bugs me is such broad-spectrum fundamental ignorance about how Canada’s government is designed to work. Is Canada’s education system to fudnamentally damaged that nobody realizes that Parliament decides who the government is – as the people have voted for each member sent there to do so? There’s this absurd idea that somehow a Canadian federal election is somehow analogous o a game show where the party that wins the largest seat count automatically forms the government — effectively ignoring who everyone voted for! The party with the largest seat count certainly can form the government, if it holds the confidence of more than 50% of the elected MPs. However, Andrew Sheer would somehow have us believe that all he has to do is get the largest seat count and that’s good enough…and presumably what Canadians have had to say about the matter matters not. Only a party, in Andrew Sheer’s Canada deserves to pick the government.

Fortunately, the laws of our country don’t agree and I’d really like Canadians to try to remember that instead of waiting to find out if the big blue bar on the screen is slightly larger than the big red one on October 21st (the date selected for election day this time around).

Straw Poll: Pro-Cancel Culture?

26-Apr-19 11:52 am EDT Leave a comment

On Net.Etiquette

26-Apr-19 11:25 am EDT Leave a comment

Recently, I had another discord.gg altercation which has seen me withdraw completely from the chat service for the foreseeable future. Admittedly, I’m growing weary of the “clique” mentality that pervades the system, and in particular with the emotions of those involved somehow growing so completely out of control (from my perspective) that, initially at least, there’s little sense to be made of it. It’s not that the complaints people may have are totally without merit (although invariably they are coming from a what seems a narrowly-defined group). It’s that I can’t understand how something like an inadvertent breach of etiquette could lead to someone becoming so angry as to label another person as ‘evil’ or ‘irredeemable’ — particularly when the consequences of doing so may simply lead to others who don’t share their own extreme reaction as feeling uncomfortable or out of place. Another consequence to this are those who react this way becoming stressed out themselves, which is the last thing I want to contribute to.

I’m writing about this issue with a degree of historical perspective and as someone who finds human beings conflicted, irrational and difficult to understand in most cases. This can lead to intolerance, belligerence and worse behaviours in some; although I must make the point that this isn’t a defense of my own behaviour nor intended to characterize me as “the victim”. But a recent straw poll of those in my own life (and on social media) leads me to conclude the people generally feel that when there’s evidence someone has violated a convention or social norm they should be spoken to instead of ostracized. So why has the discord service proven to be so different for me?

Once upon a time, many years back, there was a form of what’s now considered “social media” called NNTP or network news. At the time, it was unbeknownst to myself and my first business partner posting advertisements or discourse related to one’s own business ventures was considered “poor etiquette”. So when we decided to announce our new consulting business opening up online, we were somewhat shocked at the response being almost universally negative. Here we were trying to make a valued contribution and getting effectively black-listed for going about it the wrong way. Of course nowadays, the NNTP-like service called Reddit is host to ads aplenty and the etiquette changed radically — not necessarily because people started clamouring for ads to appear at some point. Regardless of how it came to be, what once yielded hate e-mail spamming ones mailbox changed to “acceptable” behaviour.

This isn’t to say that at some future date streaming a discord server won’t go the same way. (It probably won’t, in fact.) But auto-streaming to twitch, YouTube or Mixer (or any of 50 other services) is growing in popularity and contributes value by donating content. It might not be the most popular content, but it is a form of content contributed for the general consumption of all. Add to this the streaming brokers like OBS or Mixer (I think they have a utility that streams to their online site as well as YouTube) or others providing a means of controlling how and what content is presented and you have a recipe for updates to influence what gets published; all potentially without the direct knowledge of the presenter. Or perhaps one of the hundreds of discord updates that occur every year impacts presentation in an unfamiliar or unexpected way.

And then if this scenario prevails and people’s voices were heard from a discord server in a stream without advance permission: we have an apparent breach of etiquette with evidence. It might seem perfectly legitimate to consider me guilty of surreptitiously trying to broadcast content behind the backs of those on a private server, right?

Ignoring for a moment that “secretly” trying to do anything in public online is at best contradictory and at worst outright stupid, the question persists does such a breach of etiquette warrant labelling as “irredeemable” or even being kicked out of a social group (even one online)? And without being given the opportunity to try to explain what might have happened or examine the evidence particularly when the offending party had thought he’d been given permission at one point to continue a stream with parties on the server in question present (although I’d taken such permission to apply only to one specific stream — not a carte blanche permission to stream all the content that would ever be posted)? Evidence alone as it appeared was enough all without context.

For these reasons, it is my view that discord generally needs to be taken down a notch. It simply isn’t right that people are targeted in this fashion. And I did speak with a number of others who’d either themselves experienced the “clique” mentality I’m speaking of or who had been banned from servers (thus separating them from social groups) on the basis of what may seem dubious circumstances involving many different social dynamics. But to summarize, I posit that a violation of etiquette is not just cause to start slandering or hating your fellow human beings.

Discord, for its part, may not be to blame here in any way. There are those who want to “burn the whole world down” and do nothing but cause trouble and mayhem. That’s why discord lets you ban people, fundamentally, I think. Another chat service several years ago called “IRC” seemed to not have these same problems. But if people react in a rational fashion to social challenges and use the technology in a constructive way I think discord could be a very useful and powerful tool indeed.

Right now, it just seems to promote cliques and clique behaviour. And I question who, if anyone, that’s helping.

I should at this juncture for my growing English audience (or so the analytics say) make a few quick points to address potential interest:

  • if I did a stream on the discord Elite server in question, it was more out of habit and typically with a mind to disable channel dialogue from making to the broadcast (although in 1 case I believe it was deliberate)
  • if a deliberate streaming happened, it was done under the following circumstances:
    • I thought I had permission to do so, and/or
    • I didn’t think it a serious breach of etiquette at the time for some mindless reason; and
    • I have streamed on other servers before, including my own without issue.
    • NO EFFORT was made to sneak it by without the group’s awareness (as should be evidenced by it being public, unless you truly think me THAT stupid)
  • it may also be relevant to keep in mind that discord visualizations (which until tonight I wasn’t even aware were activated) DO NOT transmit into the V/R environment without the involvement of 3rd party software, which I do not use; those who think the profile icons of users on the server should somehow have clued me into what was going on are incorrect
  • I’ve counted 3 cases total during my own investigation, thus far, where streaming occurred and these are, at the admin’s “cease and desist” request, removed. If there are still others unaccounted for, you should:
    • send a message to me using discord or, if you have it, my commander’s email address with the URL included
    • notwithstanding the above deletions, there were a total of 9 sessions auto-cast to YouTube from the date I first stated using the server, to my best recollection; most of which seemed free of offending traffic
  • I will continue investigating all content and re-post sessions thought to be free of dialogue from the discord server in question.

On my YouTube channel, there was one case where I’d mistakenly cited the availability of this server as part of a larger service offering. I’ve posted a comment to the video (with highlighted reference on the video itself using YouTube’s rather broken tools for text editing overlays) citing the reference and this correction, but I do so again here to come completely clean on the subject.

I believe it is important for all to keep in mind that each of us is human and quite fallible. Pointing out errors tactfully isn’t the problem, however. We’re all capable of mistakes and errors in judgement, both on and off discord. And as Facebook scandals continue to erupt (something that’s likely to persist for the foreseeable future), chat services like discord are likely to only increase in popularity. Hopefully, as this type of social media grows we can all adopt standards of behaviour and etiquette that will serve to keep people growing their communities instead of limiting ourselves to serving baser instincts.

Let’s try to end “cancel culture”.

Fly safe, commanders!

Lord(Marcus)British Reacts to Trium Withdrawal

04-Mar-19 04:50 pm EST Leave a comment

LordBritish can get very, very angry it seems. Far angrier than even I (and I had quite a temper growing up many years ago). And now it seems to be taking the form of trolling, lies and insults on discord.gg (and elsewhere):

And with that, LordBritish contacted CMDR Alpha Station and had me thrown out of that squadron too. CMDR Alpha apparently wasn’t interested in hearing anything from me on the subject of what got LordBritish so riled since it was he and CMDR Farmere who, last night, had apparently become telepathic and started suddenly dictating what I was thinking about them and myself. Add to this suddenly revamping what I said and perverting it into something I hadn’t said at all – when I asked permission to record the conversation for later playback, they both refused without saying why. I was only interested in a record to ensure accuracy for the 3 of us to go back to. Perhaps they thought I had other motives?

Seeing I wasn’t welcome any longer and finding no way to resolve their apparent deep-seated issues with me (which had been festering for a while I’m now told) they came onto my discord.gg channel and posted the above. When I left the LordBritish server, I had not intented to return and was on to minding my own business desiring neither further discourse with Farmere or Marcus (LordBritish). So why the fresh campaign of slander, lies and insults? Because I’d blocked both of them to concentrate on my own business I didn’t see the above text right away and it was left there probably too long.

To those who caught it, this is apparently what it was all about — my decision to depart without accepting their re-imagined view of the conversation (and it was completely re-imagined). What had started as a silly argument about the facts of my education from a pair of game players who take themselves a little too seriously ended up perverted into something it never was in the real version. Apparently, they felt because there were two of them agreeing to some new version of what I’d said somehow that made it true.

Excusing the hypocrisy at their accusations of “pretentiousness” is one thing. But clearly, they’re not leaving this alone so I offer the above explanation in hopes it (and they) will all just go away. I know what I said and how I said it. Just because there are 2 of you doesn’t mean you can edit the conversation to your preferred version and stick it on me. Tell the whole world your version if you like — mine is still the correct one and if it wasn’t you wouldn’t have been afraid of recording further conversation for the sake of reference.

I will add here I can’t stand people who talk behind each others’ backs maliciously and this coupled with the trolling mentality I’ve started to endure is surely a clue even to these people — enough’s enough! Obviously, I erred here: I shouldn’t ever have wasted the time getting to know you 2. I can’t get that time back, but I can ask you not to waste any more of my time with your lack of ability to cope with this disagreement. Let’s just go our separate ways. OK?

Frontier Dev (FDev) Discloses Elite Refinement Schedule Through 2020

01-Mar-19 09:35 pm EST 1 comment

Frontier (the software design company behind “Elite Dangerous”) released the schedule of its forthcoming development of the Elite universe this morning (EST) with the revelation there are no plans to enhance the current edition of the Milky Way galaxy further. Instead, the company reports it will be sticking to a strategy of player retention while it completes some major upgrades to the simulated environment through to the midpoint of 2020. Through 2019 there will be a gradual replacement of “Community Goals” to player missions. Though the parameters given in the release from Frontier were quite vague, there is the possibility that some of the original storylines around Raxxla (a long sought-after planet within the gameplay) might be used to aid player retention.

Initial CMDR (player) response was extraordinarily negative with one initial reaction reading as follows:


Wow. Pretty weak Frontier. The promised Premium Content delayed again. After being delayed again and again. 
Just another announcement of another coming announcement. This one in 18 months. You have really outdone yourselves this time. 

— User “Cmdr Ultra

Another writes:


The white knights are going bananas trying to explain away this. 5 years between horizons and whatever the next dlc is. There’s slow…then there’s FDev development slow.

— User “Rambojambo

But CMDR reaction wasn’t universally negative — a number lept to FDev’s defense with comments like the following:


Whilst I’m sure late-2020 will disappoint many, I’m actually very pleased that FDev have learned from the LEP-fiasco of 2018 and are being up-front with us. We may not like the news, but at least we know.

— User “PiLhEaD

Another writes:


I think you missed the part where he said that [life account] owners get the whole new content for free…

Also I got news for you: Making content, especially as big as advertised, takes time.

And it’s not like they stop making any updates until 2020.

— User “Hellfire85

It is this journalist’s own view (as a professional software developer) that really given what we’ve seen in-game so far there should be no great surprise at the time being invested toward developing new features into the game in a manner consistent with its vision. When the Elite Dangerous project first began, they could add landing on planets without atmospheres, change mission structures and make other relatively superficial changes without too much effort. Also, they were working (at least in part) on a crowd-funded budget. The gameplay that resulted from this effort was a hair’s width short of miraculous.

But now CMDRs want to land on atmosphere-ready planets with the ability to fly through gas giants if need be. That means taking into account physics and graphics the initial engine just could not provide. And the gaming universe continues to change too — we’ve got StarCitizen (very-well funded by Hollywood corporate money) and now not just cinematics but full feature-length movies to contend with. Elite Dangerous 1.0 (if I can call it that here) just wasn’t built to deal with such niggling business realities. At the very least the players will need to see Earth-type planets from orbit with 20,000 inhabitants not already inlaid with apparent civilizations on the ground. They’ll need to see at most a scant few dim lights around a stronger-lit central hub. And that kind of dynamic means getting a software architecture into place that can meet such a demand.

Not to mention all of this needs to run seamlessly on 4 or 5 major gaming platforms, including the PC and virtual reality. That’s a tall order and after all the debugs and testing (I’m told they have it, despite the obvious bugs that have recently hampered gameplay) 18 months isn’t hard to see. You can likely get a shorter deadline, but Frontier still has ownership that expects to turn a profit over the long-term. Addressing these problems with a new software architecture in itself could easily add up to the proposed timeline. And I don’t even work at Frontier and am unaware of all the technical challenges and realities the teams there need to face.

Hopefully, the existing user-base will be tolerant over this intervening period as a new platform for future growth of the environment is developed. But keep an eye on Star Citizen and Squadron 42 — they won’t be out-of-the-market forever!

AppRefactory Website Down Temporarily

31-Jan-19 11:12 am EST Leave a comment
T

he AppRefactory Inc. website is down temporarily, while some of the hosting arrangements and Microsoft Azure cloud account changes related to our recent updated service agreement (as a Microsoft Solutions Provider) are being processed.  This will likely take another week or so, but another update message will appear here when the site is back up.  And, at that time, we will also be able to act as a Microsoft Cloud Services Provider (CSP) which will be of value to existing and future customers.

Please bear with us during this outage period.

Guardian FSD Booster

01-Jul-18 07:25 am EDT Leave a comment

Elite Dangerous Servers Down (Again)

03-Jun-18 04:29 pm EDT Leave a comment

As of ~4:15 p.m. EDT / ~3:15 p.m. CDT (North America), it looks as if Elite Dangerous servers have gone down unexpectedly. Within a couple of minutes of the outage, the support site broadcast an “Issues Detected” message, but no details were immediately available.

Updates to this story as they occur…

____________________

UPDATE 04:35 p.m. EDT:

Service was restored.

FrontierStatusOK

Sol and Achenar Confirmed as Thargoid Primary Targets

19-May-18 12:05 pm EDT Leave a comment
E

agle Eye intelligence (brokered by ‘Lab 69‘ within Canonn Research has, as of this week, affirmed earlier predictions that both Sol and Achenar are the intended primary targets of recent encroachments by the hostile species into the core systems.  Both Earth and Mars in the Sol system and Conversion and Capitol in the Achenar system are next expected to receive protection from capital ships equipped with the still experimental AX-class weaponry researched by Aegis Corp. through its own research projects in the Pleiades Sectors of the Milky Way galaxy.  Aegis megaships will also likely serve as support bases into both systems when an attack looks imminent.

The full text of Eagle Eye intelligence output follows:

==+ NoSecrets v2.1.3 Log. License expires 17th Feb 3305. THANKS FOR 
UPGRADING +==
==+ [1041745480075058158] > Packet snoop established. P2P GUDP Packet 
identified. +==
==+ [1041745480075058175] > qTLS Tap OK, Auth: Mutual. Eve (v1.2.7701) is 
in the house +==
From: [Captain Rebuy (Canonn)|Canonn Institute|Col 285 Sector IX-T d3-43]
To: [Overseer Gluttony Fang (AXI)|Arc's Faith|HR 1183]
Subject: Eagle Eye Report Week 11 - 17/05/3304

Eagle Eye Report and Summary of the previous week:

For a second time both target systems were successfully defended with
LTT 8517 and Dalfur systems both having the Thargoid threat repelled. 
Well done all who took to their ships in support. Neither system are 
showing non-human signal sources at present.

Intelligence obtained from Eagle Eye this week shows the targets are 
Lalande 4141 and Lwalama, and NHSS have been detected.

Aegis Megaships were dispatched to Coquim and LHS 1453 (neither of 
which were Eagle Eye targets) and wrecked megaships were found in 
several systems nearby.

The other targets given to us by EE were decoded and have indicated a 
barnacle forest location, wrecked megaships, and an INRA base (Almeida 
in Conn).

All indications so far are that both Achenar and Sol are intended 
destinations.

--Captain Rebuy--

Report Ends…..

==+ [1041745480075058259] > qTLS Tap Dropped. Eve (v1.2.7701) has left
the building +==
==+ [1041745480075058259] > End of P2P GUDP Packet +==

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A quick review of recent achievements by CMDR Trium within the last 10 days.  Visit the VFL archive to review helmet-cam footage.

It should be noted here — despite recent comments made by figures in both the Federation and Imperial navies — no Federation or Imperial NPC navy vessels have prevailed in a Thargoid-to-capital-ship engagement.  (This includes task forces employing both the Federation’s Farragut-class carriers nor the Imperial Majestic-class battleships.)

Humanity may find itself ‘on the ropes’ if victories aren’t seen soon.  To say nothing of what might happen to our species in the event speculation about the Thargoid base structures actually turning out to be late-assembly baseships launching off of nearby planets.

One rather large outstanding question remains here: is Frontier timing the release of planet atmospheric operations to coincide with an even bigger Thargoid threat?  What about the possibility of Thargoid attacks on planet bases or (in atmospheric gameplay) population centres like cities on planets like Earth and Mars?

Further reports to follow as developments warrant.

CTV’s Power Play Decries “The Art of Apologizing”

10-May-18 06:17 pm EDT Leave a comment
P

oor Don Martin.  CTV’s host of Power Play spent his “Last Word” (if only!) decrying Justin Trudeau apologizing 5 times during his government’s term in office thus far, with a 6th apology for our nation returning Holocaust-fleeing Jews back to the Nazis during World War II.  It’s just too often, says Martin, and too well politically-timed not to be suspect.

 

don-martin

CTV’s “Power Play” Host, Don Marin

Of course, such rhetoric is absent justification for the political timing of each of the 5 preceding times.  And, no Don – don’t hasten to demonstrate your own team’s research skills as not being able to create the illusion of such.  I’m sure they’re at least as good as Trudeau’s speech-writing team, although need I enlighten you about our Prime Minister’s own ability to deliver speeches?  (Granted, Justin’s not as experienced as his father was, but he’s among the best our nation can offer at present according to my ear — and I’ve been in a public debate or two in my time too!)

 

The apologies Trudeau has given on our nation’s behalf serve a purpose.  We could follow Martin’s suggestion and say nothing to redress historical wrongdoings — the practice of Canadian governments for decades.  Perhaps nobody alive today had the experience of suffering the injustices and outright atrocities being apologized for.  But it does serve the purpose of those who are alive and still bearing the scars of such actions years later perhaps due to indirect associations of one form or another to have the Government of all Canadians (not just Liberals like Trudeau, but Conservatives like Marin too) recognize an injustice done to people and apologize.  This doesn’t somehow express the guilt and remorse of Canadians today, but it does express the guilt and remorse of the Government — even if it’s presumed that nothing of this sort could ever happen again.

Rest assured, Mr. Martin, the Government of Canada still has acts which it has to apologize for and will well into this century at the very least (perhaps with or even without the knowledge of our Prime Minister).  Human beings, so error-prone as we are; so flawed in our ability to exercise mature judgment at the best of times, are forced to learn from mistakes made.  And this Government isn’t perfect, as you rightly point out.  But it is Canadian.  It is our government.  And sometimes an apology is the proper course; however frequent it may seem to you.

Perhaps you’ll join your fellow Canadians in offering an apology or two someday.  If not for any errors in judgment you might have had, at the very least for holding a Government’s honest efforts to provide those who feel injustice some kind of recognition for their emotional traumas.  Unless of course, you believe that a television camera or very big microphone renders you incapable of error or immune from the need to offer a simple apology.

Planets With Atmospheres: Almost Available?

26-Apr-18 03:00 pm EDT Leave a comment

 

160824102150-01-new-exoplanet-0824-medium-plus-169

Frontier staff have recently been heard hinting that planet atmospheres could be gradually rolled into players’ Elite Dangerous Experience soon!

F

or me, a veteran Elite CMDR who has been playing various versions of the game since its introduction in 1983 (yes — I am that old) being able to interact with planets regardless of whether they have an atmosphere or not is simply a basic feature.  Although the initial release of Elite back in 1983 offered only single-planet star systems where the “planet” was really just a line-art circle (whose surface would result in the loss of your Cobra Mk III craft if you ran into it), Elite II and Elite II: Frontier both enabled you to take off from partially-terraformed moon Merlin in the Ross 154 star system.  There, one could see the reddish sky and the eerie gas giant Aster dominating the skyline from the tarmac of the local starport with the lights of a nearby domed city also in-view.  Elite Dangerous has taken us back in some respects to an earlier time when such extravagances as being blasted to dust for not requesting tower clearance prior to liftoff from said planet-bound starport was but a glint in David Braben’s eye.  (Braben is, of course, the mastermind behind the Elite franchise as well as the original programmer.)

CMDR ObsidianAnt who runs an extremely popular running commentary on Elite Dangerous shares with us in his latest YT-cast a preview of what might (and should) be coming throughout 2018 and perhaps 2019 by merging the view of an Asp Explorer spaceframe with a short demo of worlds created using a tool called Space Engine, available for download here.  ObsidianAnt says that Space Engine and Elite Dangerous are “two very different pieces of software” in his video, but perhaps not being a software developer himself he’s missing some background.  Whatever code is used as the basis for Space Engine, I’m extremely skeptical at the outset that the two titles (the other being Elite Dangerous) can’t be integrated.  True, there are numerous tasks associated with software integration methodology, but speaking as a systems developer (my own strength) I’ve been tasked with taking two “very different” pieces of software and experienced some degree of success in getting the job done several times in my career.  Superficially, I’m not seeing any architectural issues or other seemingly insurmountable challenges.  Frontier Developments has a very capable team of software engineers, obviously — and it would be something just short of unimaginable to say a 3rd-party product like Space Engine can’t be made to work with Elite.

Of course, one must keep in mind the console platforms which might introduce challenges I could, in fact, not imagine.  But on the PC, it’s unlikely to my mind the effects we’re seeing in Space Engine can’t be successfully migrated to Elite Dangerous.  At the very least having a perusal of the Space Engine source could cultivate stronger implementations of atmospheres on the worlds of Elite Dangerous.

If you have a different take on this subject, please chime in with a comment below.

And regardless of the timeliness of new feature intros to the game — kudos to Frontier Developments, creators of Elite Dangerous, for creating a truly immersive and enjoyable spaceflight sim.  We’re all on the edge of our seats waiting for that next “big thing” to come out….we know you won’t let us down!

Novas, Aliens and Dates — Oh My!

18-Mar-18 07:52 pm EDT Leave a comment
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MagellanicClouds

Taken from the Elite Dangerous Wiki images, here we see the LMC and SMC as they appear within the Universal Cartographics galaxy map as it appears in Elite Dangerous.

veryone has been talking about it — where are the Thargoids?  Are the Guardians still around somewhere (in hiding?), and why is the galaxy so static?  In reality, a recent Cornell University study suggests our best observations predict a rate of ~35 to ~75 novas annually.  There stands a very good chance that the Thargoid homeworld could be located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) — a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way that is quite evident in the galactic map.  One proposal for transiting human ships to the LMC could involve a megaship similar to the ICS Indra, equipped with an intergalactic hyperdrive (available only to large capital ships) and transiting docked player and NPC vessels to/from the LMC according to a schedule.  And why have we not encountered more alien civilizations yet?  Not all would need to be spacefaring after all — some could even involve the introduction of Dyson spheres or have still other motives for not exploring the surrounding galaxy very far.  Could these ideas for system-managed dynamic content be somehow integrated into the game universe created for Elite Dangerous?

 

Astronomical Events

It’s likely that stars in “the bubble” (core systems) would have to be exempted for obvious reasons.  Systems close to Sol going nova would pose a meaningful contradiction to the known history both of our own galaxy in reality and the scripted timeline for Elite (c. 2050-3404[-3410?]).  However, having a star explode in-game would not only provide a spectacular event for players to watch, it could stir things up in some areas of the galaxy — especially those with Thargoid bases or fledgling human colonies, for example.  And it would serve to add a whole new dimension to gameplay if a system like Betelgeuse had humans in it who noticed the death throes of such a huge star and had to escape either by jumping away or hitting supercruise in order to stay ahead of the large, destructive shock-wave that will surely chew up the last 2 planets in that star system.

Using Megaships to Transport CMDRs Inter-Galactically

Indra-Wells-class-Carrier

The Wells-class Carier Ship (Source: Elite Dangerous Wiki)

I doubt we’re likely to see Frontier trying to model the Andromeda Galaxy anytime soon, much less provide the capability to transfer CMDRs there.  Or anywhere else in the Local Group, for that matter.  However, the Milky Way extends a halo of disconnected (and largely dark) matter around the outer rim systems for quite some distance (~30,000 ly, I believe I’d heard) and then there’s largely empty space until the much-abbreviated halo around the LMC gets encountered at ~150,000 ly from Sol.  Although the Thargoids could originate elsewhere, it seems likely the LMC is the logical place to start looking based on how their activity has spread near to human-controlled space.  And given that large jumps have been achieved with capital ships featuring docked CMDRs in the past, one thinks it only logical to rely on the superior ability of capital megaships to spearhead such an exploration effort.

After all: one won’t win any conflict with the Thargoids simply by defending human space and hoping they go away at some future date.  What if they chose not to?

Aliens

MCQ_IA_111It is my belief that aliens are likely to be more common than simply having one species occupy all of the Milky Way galaxy at a time.  And it seems that with the ever-expanding exoplanet index revealing the likelihood of Earth-like worlds (not to mention the atmospheres of such worlds being catalogued by the James Webb Space Telescope or JWST set for launch no later than early 2019) will present us with irrefutable evidence concerning the likely existence of sentient species elsewhere in this galaxy soon.  Should not additional alien civilizations be introduced to the galaxy now — while there is still time for fantasy species to be included?

Of course, one could argue a sentient alien civilization was destroyed in the Elite timeline already with the founding of the Galactic Empire on Capital (Achenar 6D) in ~2250 CE.  This it itself could suggest others both in the Milky Way galaxy, the LMC and elsewhere beyond (though it’s not clear of what practical benefit there’d by to an attempt at contact from species too far away to be otherwise involved in the game).

The Update vs. Scheduled Events

I’d propose that adding some of the aforementioned concepts to create a more “living galaxy” could be done most simply via scheduled events that occur outside the PowerPlay update (which occurs in North America on Thursday mornings).  Players interested in using a jump to the LMC could assemble at a predetermined location (perhps a “checkpoint”?) and dock their ship prior to the announced jump time.  At the appointed time, an intergalactic hyperspace jump would occur and after a few moments cause arrival at a set of coordinates in the outer sectors of the LMC.  From here, CMDRs would disengage from the mother ship and return when the schedule announced a forcast return to the core systems in the Milky Way.  Costs would be associated with financing the jump and an early Galactic Goal might involve the creation of a starport at the arrival point in the LMC.  Here, humanity would manage its beachhead

Comments and questions on the content presented here are welcome regardless of brevity.  But my goal would to be to present the discourse to Frontier via their forms or through the public network services (Twitter, Reddit, etc.).  Thanks for your participation!

Elite Dangerous Launcher Locks Out All CMDRS!

16-Mar-18 01:39 am EDT Leave a comment

Just filed the following ticket with Frontier Store support:

I am currently having multiple problems with my Elite Horizons installer and ticketing system.  First I got the following a short while ago trying to use the launcher app:

TimeSyncErrDlg

After attempting a re-install of the launcher which also failed, I attempted to launch a support ticket.  This resulted in the following from the Frontier support website:

Invalid response from user account service

….and no matter how many times I’ve tried to access my account through changing my password on the support maintenance site, I still get the same above errors!

What is going on?  I can’t file this trouble ticket on the website — how should I proceed???

Extremely frustrated with all the errors experienced playing Elite lately,
RH
(CMDR Trium Augus)
{omitted, use:} cmdr.trium@apprefactory.ca

CMDR Trium Videos at New URL

09-Mar-18 03:37 pm EST Leave a comment
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MDR Trium’s videos are now being posted at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7ZBNd12ewr4KT74VKG06kA or http://bit.ly/CmdrTriumVFL if you’re looking for the short address.  This may change once more to a shortened YouTube URL if there’s enough traffic to qualify for a custom URL.  As for the VFL content pertaining to CMDR Trium, this new address will serve as a new permanent location so the old /apprefactory URL can be used for commercial purposes (although for the time being the @apprefactory Twitter account will still serve to provide related notices pertaining to CMDR Trium).

You can email CMDR Trium at cmdr.trium@apprefactory.ca if you have any questions or comments to share on this subject.

Exoplanet Ross 128b an Earthlike World?

06-Feb-18 04:23 pm EST Leave a comment
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erlin has just been discovered!  (For those of you who are familiar with the Elite universe….Ross 128 is the system which is host to the Merlin colony, an earth-like world which actually is a moon of the gas giant Aster in the game.)  The similarity of Merlin and this discovery might be astonishing!  I certainly hope the folks at Frontier are paying attention to this news item.

 

Artist’s conception of what the exoplanet Ross 128b might look like on the surface.  (Source: CNN.com)

 

 

Star Trek “Mirror, Mirror” Episode (original Mirror Universe episode in old series) Continued

04-Feb-18 03:57 am EST 1 comment
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n interesting take on the Star Trek (Old Series) episode “Mirror, Mirror”. It looked like a poor recreation of the original episode at first, but then took a 1960’s-style approach to continuing the story that proved interesting. Not sure, but it’s also possible the son or grandson of James Doohan (who played Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott in the original episode) starred as “Scotty” herein.

Thargoids Nearing “The Bubble”

02-Feb-18 04:05 pm EST Leave a comment

Alliance

Alliance logo

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he Thargoid invasion is proceeding nicely — if you’re a Thargoid (or perhaps Prime Minister Ed Mahon).  Unfortunately, the bulk of humanity is governed by the Federation and the Empire; leaving humanity largely vulnerable to retaliation for the rumored attempted genocide of the Thargoid species.  And now, Thargoid encroachment is moving dangerously close to human-held space.  Indeed, non-human attacks have (as of recently) now struck as close to Earth as 70ly!  And we’re not seeing much apparent attention to this emerging crisis from either of the parties who, almost certainly, caused it in the first place.  Where is the mighty Empire?  Where are the fearless soldiers of the Federation?

Starships Wanted

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Thargoid logo (proposed)

One solution that the pair of superpowers could offer are new classes of warships that would allow CMDRs to dock and allow the Empire and Federation both to project their might into areas hosting Thargoid activity — like near key installations, such as starports.  Allowing CMDRs to “park” their craft on a carrier class vessel would allow them to always organize and counter-attack in regions affected by Thargoids.  On top of which sooner or later this war will only be won by taking the fight into the territory of the enemy.  If that means using intergalactic hyperdrive technology, such an investment in larger capital ships may become necessary.  That is….if the Thargoid threat is ever to be pacified once and for all.

 

Pirates Using Thargoid Tech?

Are pirates using Thargoid tech to disrupt operations and some starports?  The possibility was raised this past week when one CMDR (name unavailable at present) proposed the notion that stolen Thargoid tech adapted for long-range energy disruption was actually responsible for all of the various starports reporting power problems.  Some groups (like the Ant Hill Mob) have taken to piracy and terrorism, leveraging the Thargoid threat as an opportunity to further the objectives of one small group at the expense of humanity!  If this proves true, I personally believe it should become a new objective to target these groups for decimation once the Thargoid threat has been resolved.  Such groups are demonstrating they are enemies of humanity as a whole, after all, through such self-serving acts!

Elite - Dangerous (CLIENT 2018-01-30_20-42-10

As of the GalNet update, 30-JAN-3304: Vonarbug Port in the Maridal system, 70ly from Earth, was facing energy disruption activity that may originate from the Thargoids.  Does this mean this station is a target for attack in the near future?

On the other hand, it is entirely possible the Thargoids themselves are responsible for this disruption.  And in either case, the Empire and the Federation need to act together now.  The nearest point where this remote disruption activity is occurring is in the Maridal system, just 70ly from Earth!

The Future of Elite Dangerous: The Great In-Game Debate

25-Jan-18 11:31 pm EST Leave a comment
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MDRs IronJaguar and SoapyKnight joined me in an unarranged VoiceComms chat session this evening to discuss wing options.

Or so I thought.  Suddenly, we were talking about VR gaming and the collective disappointment with how long new features were taking to be rolled into the Elite: Dangerous universe.  As a software developer myself, I’m acutely familiar with how it’s produced.  Prior experience with the world’s largest software production company, Microsoft, has helped that education and acquaint me with the most modern practices involved with the full software development lifecycle.  I thought I’d bring this view to a pair of gaming consumers; one from New York and another a fellow Canadian who lives relatively close, geographically (which is not a given in the world’s second-largest country).  CMDR IronJaguar, in particular, laid the heaviest expectations on Frontier (the producer of the Elite game series).  Could he be convinced to be more understanding of the issues involved in producing Elite: Dangerous?  And what about Frontier’s competitors?  Where is Star Citizen?  What about EndSpace and From Other Suns?  Could they pose a threat to Elite’s dominance in the VR flight sim market at some point?

Watch today’s gaming session here to find out!

Elite Dangerous Universe: Calendar dates?

24-Jan-18 10:39 am EST Leave a comment
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ello CMDRs!  It turns out that the date on the Elite Universe timebar (3304) is pretty close to the same day of the week we experience in 2018:

January 3304

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
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9
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18
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As you can see from the above, today ‘s date in 3304 (January 24th) falls on a Thursday, while in 2018 it is obviously a Wednesday.

Just another interesting fact about the gameplay of Elite, brought to you by CMDR Trium!

Follow the Adventures of the FNS Quantica!

22-Jan-18 01:41 pm EST Leave a comment

CMDR_Trium150

CMDR Trium Augus, January 3304

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he year is 3304 and mankind has started to explore the galaxy in earnest with tens of thousands of humans fanning out across the cosmos thanks to affordable spacecraft being made available to people from various walks of life: explorers, bounty hunters, miners, exothropoligists and many others.  Supported by other companies like Universal Cargographics, Cannon Research, the Aegis Corporation, DeLacy Spacecraft, Lakon Spaceways and many others, this intrepid group together with (the real) Frontier software development company has created an environment spanning our Milky Way galaxy, including 400+ billion unique star systems containing a smattering of eyeball-catching astronomical phenomena.  Herein, spacecraft commanders (CMDRs) complete on missions for starport or political factions, pursue community goals with galactic impact and/or further the ambitions of humanity in their own unique way, or just trade ferrying cargo from one system that’s in demand in another.  Against this background, you can follow the adventures of CMDR Trium Augus (yours truly) and watch the epic saga of those he deals with unfold.  This is just the beginning of a universe Frontier calls “Elite Dangerous” and is the brainchild of David Braben; who created an old game for 8-bit computing platforms (like the Apple //e or Commodore-64) called “Elite” back in the mid-1980s.  It is upon the legacy of the game (and its successors in the 1990s) that Elite Dangerous is built.

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Click to launch INARA Radio player – which accompanies you playing Elite Dangerous!

Ongoing coverage of the events in this make-believe universe are presented in digest form here.  But I encourage every reader to visit The AppRefactory Inc. on YouTube as soon as you’re finished with content presented here.  My story is one handled in a video presentation that gains new contributions almost daily through the winter months and weekly at other points during the year.

Hope you’ll visit us soon!

Other background info on CMDR Trium is available at the following sites:

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Other websites supporting CMDRs in the universe of Elite Dangerous:

Where there’s smoke…

22-Jan-18 09:36 am EST Leave a comment
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enying you’re guilty of something can be difficult when the rumor mill / charge keeps happening, Scott Adams reminds us in his recent blog entry.  Indeed, proving a negative is impossible and leads to what scholars refer to as argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) wherein an argument is presumed true because it has not been proven false — a logical fallacy.  Yet we fall prey to this one pretty easily and Adams cites the case of Donald Trump attempting to deny ongoing allegations of collusion with Russia during the most recent American presidential election.  But is that what’s really going on here?

President-Trump-Official-Portrait-620x620

U.S. President
Donald J. Trump

Journalism is particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon because, out of a desire to “build the story” for readers, asking questions about something that didn’t demonstrably happen repeatedly actually contributes to it.  What we all want to know simply is this: is there testable evidence that Trump colluded with Russia?  Pure and simple.  But with an ongoing investigation — about which readers will want reminders of in their sub-24-hour news cycle — updates will inevitably be desired.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to repeat the question they’ll argue to see if anything inconsistent appears to quote, though over time and with many a practiced rehearsal this is less and less likely.

Instead of the constant clamour for updates, perhaps we’d all be better off letting the investigation conclude and fill our news cycle with whatever else is going on in the world; waiting patiently until the investigation comes back with a finding of no fault or charges.  It’s Donald Trump, for goodness sake — it’s not like he’s avoiding making statements that anyone with half a brain would find morally reprehensible from one week to the next.

A Solid Programming Intro (for Beginners)

07-Dec-17 08:38 pm EST Leave a comment

 

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Microsoft Virtual Academy: Introduction to Programming with Python (#8360)
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re you new to the world of programming?  I keep telling people it’s really quite simple and if one applies themselves, it’s something everyone can get into if they’re really that interested.  And no – you don’t have to go to College/University to learn how!

So what’s a good place to get into the world of software development fast and see if it’s something that might interest you?  Recently, I decided now would be an opportune time for me to pick up yet another programming language: Python.  It’s been getting a fair bit of attention lately and can be useful I discovered when exploring the emerging world of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  In fact, I did study AI while attending a pre-law programme at the University of Manitoba many years ago.  (Will forego saying how many.)  There I was able to get into the world of AI through an unlikely major: Philosophy.  The Computer Science (Comp. Sci.) programme wasn’t offering any curriculum in the universe of AI yet and it would be a few more years before the Internet made programming attractive as a career choice for me.  But I’d already taken an Intro Comp. Sci. course with prerequisites waived by the Dean of Arts and had amassed a fair bit of technical skill through my exploration of computers as a personal interest.  I knew the opportunity to study AI wouldn’t likely come again while I was at school so I signed myself up.

What has any of this to do with Python?  Well, some feel that being a self-taught programmer puts one at a kind of disadvantage.  I feel strongly they’re wrong about that — although there is a lot of reading one needs to do to get up to speed on programming theory and data management before they can safely claim they’ve got a Comp. Sci. equivalency.  And then there’s the environment of a University that just can’t get replaced.  Even so, online study can make you a productive resource in many organizations including those that don’t offer employment to anyone missing a Comp. Sci. degree (or lacking the opportunity to get one).  I came across a curriculum in picking up Python that offers a performance transcript and even a certification for paying customers.  The curriculum itself is, however, freely available and geared toward the new programmer.

Why might an experienced programmer take this course?  As one of the instructors points out, a programming language is like a spoken language in that if one doesn’t use the skill, it can become “rusty” and eventually even require retraining.  So while tempted to dive right into Python syntax, you might find it helpful to take the two-day course or at least challenge the exams that come with it (at least the paid edition, which is reasonably priced by the vendor, Microsoft) and re-verify that you’re up to speed.

Alternatively, if you’re in a .NET Certification programme, you can find that this material will nicely compliment the other available materials out there.

This course wins a rare 5-stars from me!

Keybase Brings Free Security to Novice Users

02-Sep-17 11:59 pm EDT Leave a comment
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GP encryption is not new – quite the opposite.  But it’s always had one big advantage over its leading competitor: S/MIME.  S/MIME is used to encrypt email using certificate-based, 3rd-party authentication whereas PGP relies on dual, private/public key encryption.  And thanks both to S/MIME gaining commercial vendor support relatively early, coupled with being easier than the open-source-supported PGP (with relatively primitive tools that required some degree of technical competency to master); those wanting to encrypt email easily had to deal with investing in 3rd party certificates that could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars before the feature was available.

KeybaseThanks to Edward Snowden, we’re all now pretty-well acquainted with the notion we’ve lost privacy and will likely never get it back.  But even so, that doesn’t mean the government (or God-knows-who nowadays) ought to have carte blanche to read chats, emails or become privy to what you’re downloading via bitTorrent or what cash you’re exchanging with parties online.  (At least not until tax time.)  And a tool that works on all platforms big and small, like Keybase, is now available to assist with all of the above!

To begin, it’s best to start on a Mac or Windows environment – somewhere where the configuration utility can operate.  The system does a pretty decent job of talking one through the process of setting up one’s first PGP (security) keys and getting the app installed.  However, one improvement for the future might be getting this utility (also called a “CLI” or “command-line interface”) to work within a web browser so one can perform the entire process using a hand-held device.  Once the software is installed, one finds installed an icon in their system tray (on Windows) which will present the list of users and some very heavily shaded icons (despite) which are used to access other parts of the Keybase app.  The CLI also has its own icon deployed to the Windows ‘Start’ menu and this is where you can quickly access many of the features associated with setup.  In my case, I already had PGP keys and so using the CLI was a necessary part of the setup.  Regardless, to get acquainted with the CLI and how it works with setup, I’d begin by loading up a copy of the “new user” docs in a web browser.  Then in the CLI utility, run two commands:

First, run “keybase help” to see what commands are instantly available to you as a new, unregistered user (there are a few), and

Second,, run “keybase signup”.

Finally, I’d quickly read through the “basic docs” you have open in your browser and drill down into any areas where you have questions.  Still more questions about Keybase and maybe PGP?  I strongly advise you get a Reddit account if you’ve not already got one and access the group called r/Keybase.  You’ll find this well-trafficked!

Although the Keybase app (accessed from the system tray) links to several choice apps, PGP is extremely versatile and plug-ins exist for Microsoft Outlook 2016 (and earlier) and is used with numerous other applications.

If there is a down-side to the app, there is a concern that — since a Keybase account can be used with several keys — it could be possible for someone to associate 2 keys (which typically involve two email addresses being known) together and thereby create an identity profile on a Keybase user.  This is a security concern, although an obvious workaround would be to register PGP keys to separate Keybase accounts and thereby never expose oneself.  Keybase itself claims it never advertises personal details, but if one connects to another user (say, for secure chat) and exchanges their public key; in such a case the potential would exist for that 3rd party to disclose your email at their discretion.  (This itself isn’t a security flaw, but it is something to be mindful of when exchanging data security regardless of the means used.)

Post-Modern Electioneering: Back to the Future

09-Feb-17 08:11 am EST Leave a comment

Robyn Urback | Columnist

Robyn Urback Columnist

Written in response to CBC News: “Millennials finally fall out of love with Justin Trudeau after he abandons electoral reform: Opinion by Robyn Urback

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s a member of the vaunted (yes and cynical) Generation-X, I’ve got to just roll my eyes once more….. Millennials are doing precisely what the generations before have done as youth – not voted as a block….at least – not for long.

But if there is really a block here to be won (and – let’s be clear – there isn’t), it would be easy to take yesteryear successes and use ’em again. We need more IT staffers (like me!) to explore service industries like software development or network engineering. And offering a bit of money for vocational training here (alongside some success stories) would really go a long way toward making up for lost ground on the FPP voting fiasco. Trudeau, God bless him, should’ve known better than to try saying “well we tried, but you know in government – you can’t always do what you thought you could before being elected” routine. Even if you believe it, it’s kind of a crappy reason to go back to the public with.

The real worry I have isn’t the loss of some fictionalized Millennial solidarity. It’s the potential for cross-demographic populism and fascism to take hold in this country! And while O’Leary isn’t Trump, maybe the best we can hope for it the short term is that fascism will pass us by and that Trudeau’s over-promise, under-deliver showing so far somehow reverses itself the more experience he gets as our Prime Minister.

I’m about the same age as he is – but it’s obvious to me while he might be better at leading the country than I’d be….his father he is not. And there is plenty for him to learn yet!

Doomsday Clock: It is now 2 minutes before midnight!

30-Jan-17 07:30 am EST Leave a comment
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efore I had entered high school (back in the late 1970’s), I can remember the periodic ominous warnings of the world’s “Doomsday Clock” scientific group.  And I was greatly relieved (as I’m sure we all were) when the pressures of a looming nuclear apocalypse seemed to disappear with the collapse of communism in what is now called “The Russian Federation”.  We got all the way back to 15 minutes before midnight (or just about) and then with the rise of terrorism it started to creep back toward midnight again.

So now it almost seems shocking to hear the clock is nearly as close as it’s ever been to midnight (surpassed only by periods of extreme political tension when nuclear war between Russia and the U.S. seemed an ever-present threat)!  Last week’s article on the subject is worth a read as is taking a moment for each of us to reflect on what we can do to save our planet.  At the moment, things are looking especially apocalyptic again — climate change, the rise of fascism, threats of war on multiple fronts (as was pointed out over the weekend by the last President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev)…we need to stop allowing apathy and mediocre leadership to drive us all over a cliff.

 

 

 

Yelp E-Mails Rooking in Small Business!

18-Dec-16 10:47 am EST Leave a comment
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perating as a small business owner, on a couple of occasions in the past I’ve encountered people that are something less than honest.  This is not the norm by any means — and yet one realizes early on to keep a wary eye for those few wolves who fashion themselves guardians of the hen house, so to speak….

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A bit of research can be an eye-opener too, which is why I’m kind of kicking myself for not seeing these folks coming from a mile off: Yelp.com

 

 

I recently received a $300 advertising coupon, alike the sort I’ve received from advertisers like Google.com in the mail.  You enter a coupon code somewhere and get to try out the service.  I took advantage of such an offer from Yelp in late October of this year — only to start getting transactions mysteriously showing up on my credit card earlier this month, contrary to expectations.

I had taken advantage of the coupon at the time, which did not explicitly advertise there would be debits automatically starting once the $300 had been used up.  Nor was I able to readily determine at any point how much of the credit was used.

Finally, when a December bill appeared, I immediately contacted Yelp to cancel any advertising services that might have been procured.  I was concerned that it wasn’t generating any business for me and that they were keeping records of user credit card numbers (a practice with which I have issues for both reasons of personal security and privacy).

Contact with Staff was Terse and Unhelpful

The amount of the bill wasn’t too substantial – less than $100 in Canadian funds.  However, despite taking this as an opportunity to build a positive customer experience, they responded to my concerns as “threatening” them (when I mentioned I would be describing my interactions with customer service here on my blog) and trying to get out of paying the bill, stopping short of calling me a thief outright.  This attitude was evident despite my attempts to voice my concerns to two different parties by phone – the only emails I could receive from them seemed to be automated messages aimed at billing.

After encountering two highly confrontational staff I thought it incumbent to characterize my experience as objectively as I could for the benefit of others seeking a review of the Yelp service.

 Doesn’t Follow its Own Advice on Handling Complaints

Yelp’s own advice on the subject of end-user reviews is as follows¹:

Either way, when responding to reviews it is important to have good practices established to make sure your organization and your [customer]’s privacy are protected. In both scenarios, the goal should be to take the conversation offline and to a private channel.

It’s my considered opinion Yelp did not follow it’s own advice in my particular case, nor does it do so when it comes to the privacy of others; whether they are customers or simply users of its service(s):

  • retaining credit card information can be a license for the unscrupulous to simply debit amounts indefinitely regardless of customer intent; such as when a company doesn’t bother to take the spending intentions of customers into account and charges for services they don’t want; effectively taking a nickel-and-dime approach to earning profit rather than promoting & selling services on the strength of their own merit, and
  • allowing customer service staff to become confrontational with customers is both unnecessary and inexcusable.  Worse still, Yelp made virtually no effort to “take the conversation offline”, instead calling my intention to review my interactions with them a “threat” and insisting they’d continue with the charges.

It’s certainly accurate to say I can’t describe my own experience with Yelp as necessarily representative of those one would have with the company and it does appear many have had positive experiences with them.  However, I can equally accurately say that my experience was anything but positive from the perspective of a customer and there are many on Facebook and other alternate online sources who report difficulties as well.  I can also state with certainty that given my concerns, treated as they were, will result in my never considering business with them again in the future.

Epilogue

My experience also left me with the impression that Yelp is a company governed less by technology innovation and more by a very single-minded focus on earnings from its advertising business.  (Although it was not necessarily my intention at the outset to demand no-cost settlement of the bill they sent me, this became an issue when they declined to discuss my concerns in good faith.)  In the future, I’m likely to seek out Microsoft, Google or WordPress when considering online advertising.  Even should this prove to be more expensive, both companies seem to be paying a lot greater attention to their advertising clientele.

Follow-ups to this story may appear here, should any occur.

¹ See https://www.yelpblog.com/2016/12/experts-guide-patient-privacy-online-reviews near the subheading “Example 1” for source.

Police Requests for New Internet Powers Could Cost You Big

19-Nov-16 07:29 pm EST Leave a comment

datalegislation

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anada’s CBC (a leading media and news organization in the country) promoted a story this past week concerning a very public request to the senior politicians for greater investigative powers.  This was followed by a poll that showed a degree of support for the police requests – seemingly predicated on a desire to curb child pornography among other crimes.  While civil libertarians and technology professionals raised the alarm on hearing this request, there was only limited consideration given to the cost of granting powers of this sort to police – tied largely to the cost of potentially onerous data warehousing by ISPs.  (As a footnote here, I want to cite the case of the UK which, this past week, saw Parliament enact legislation that would be largely in-line with the kinds of legislative change the RCMP would like to see enacted here in Canada.)

“Two parliamentary committees examined this issue.  Then there was the unanimous Supreme Court [of Canada] decision.  What part of ‘unconstitutional’ doesn’t [RCMP] Commissioner Paulson understand?”

Michael Harris, iPolitics.ca, November 25, 2016

Privacy and Internet Commerce

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anadians (and people generally) can still be very reluctant to share their personal information online.  A recent website delivered by The AppRefactory — the Edgewater Tenants’ Community Website — has been off to something of a slow start with the administration fielding questions about why an end-user’s address is needed as part of the signup process.  This is done with the awareness and limited support from the property management company that acts as the landlord which has data about every tenant’s address, yet that same information is not so readily volunteered when it takes digital form.  The information in this case is used to simply verify that an end-user signup request is for a tenant as opposed to some random user from the Internet; in order to ensure that any information a tenant elects to access or share on the site is kept within the tenant community only.  As such it is a measure intended to protect tenant privacy, but there can still be reluctance about sharing it.

This is just an example of how users have adapted over the years to safeguard their privacy.  Yet now the police want measures taken by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to circumvent privacy to such a degree that they will never again be aware of who exactly has access to their information.  (We saw in another article posted this past week how police could access computer records without appropriate authorization or authority.)  And should police officers once again demonstrate how human they can be and make a mistake, suddenly the information they’ve been entrusted with is available to parties unknown.

Such cases, once known to the public (as they will tend to be, thanks to our free press), could easily put end-users further on the defensive about their information.  And, despite poll results suggesting some support for increased police powers, there remains the likelihood the average person in Canada (which, historically, tends to be a person that trusts police authority) hasn’t thought the issue through very thoroughly and certainly not technically.  The regime Canadians will be confronted with, whatever their decision about the powers police should have online, could easily be one business is less well-able to thrive in and would find it harder to operate in without being less able to solicit end-user consent and confidence meaningfully.

And they wouldn’t know it until it really was too late.

New Powers Add Onerous Burdens on All Business (Not Just ISPs)

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he legislation in the UK does not specifically distinguish nor give license to ISPs to operate or grant any special legal distinction to them apart from providers of Internet-facing services generally.  As such it would seem to stand as a matter of law that anyone providing Internet-facing services could be compelled to maintain logs concerning end-user activity.  From a technical perspective, the law wouldn’t be all that meaningful if it couldn’t extend, for example, to providers of Virtual Private Network (VPN) services which are frequently used to both secure corporate communications online as well as anonymize network access to  BitTorrent media sharing sites or “Deep Web” network traffic.

msazurelogoSo the law must apply to businesses using the Internet equally (or at least be seen to apply as such).  And how will the small business be impacted when they’re suddenly required to maintain a database documenting (as the RCMP want) up to two years of end-user activity?  One approach we could use would be to use Microsoft Azure’s service calculator to take a service that uses a very modest 5GB of data monthly to track data transfer activity for a service, numbering just 10,000 transactions.  Without any service connections, charging just for the storage of table-based data only, we get an added cost of $409.00 per month, including a $364.00 Standard Support feature on local redundancy only.  (Nothing could immediately be found on legislative requirements for backing up this data, but a vendor support feature seemed logical to imagine in this scenario.)  That’s a not-so-inconsiderable $4,900 per year and is getting pricey for the average small business.

Now if you run a big business, things get interesting: scaled up to 5TB of data and 1 million transactions, the costs at the same level of support (with local redundancy only) balloon out to $5,223.68 per month or a whopping $62,684.16 per year.

These costs are certainly something to consider when it comes to determining who is paying for all this extra monitoring.  One thing is clear, it won’t be coming out of the RCMP’s budget!

And although this is the costs according to one vendor, it is an industry leader in a space oft-credited with reducing the costs associated with maintaining large warehouses of data (a main selling point behind “the cloud” movement).  One shudders to think how much more onerous these costs could become if one is required by law to maintain hardware and software of their own, in a facility that is solely under their own control.

Final Analysis: Restrain Police Powers Online

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ith passage of the UK legislation this past week, the Government of Canada may be best-advised to stay the course for now and weigh its options again at a later date if it chooses.  While I suspect both in the wake of Brexit and their now police powers law (called the “Investigatory Powers Bill”) will lead the UK (and England in particular) into a self-made socio-economic crisis, there remains the question as to what exactly the impact of their measures will have.  The opportunity here isn’t to regulate early and hopefully stop child sexual abuse — a cause I’m very sympathetic to and have even had occasion to assist police with.  Rather, it’s to gain the wisdom about whether the impacts of these measures will simply drive it further underground or make a meaningful difference (as opposed to being an issue cited simply as a political red herring to grant powers that will be used for other purposes).  To discover whether the economic impact is too burdensome.  And to learn comprehensively if there will be the promised ‘greater good’ worthy of the limits a free and democratic society — a just society — places on itself and its citizens.

Project “ARTeRMis” Site Published

15-Nov-16 12:25 am EST Leave a comment

spedgewaterico1024

Link to “Edgewater” Tenant Site Prototype

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roperty Management Application(currently code-named Project “ARTeRMis”) moved a step closer to delivery of a much larger property management tool based on Microsoft SharePoint today with publication of one of the trial components: “Edgewater“. This component is simply an amalgamation of a number of different elements native to SharePoint, but hosted in the Office 365 environment and is setup to product test the suitability of them for inclusion in the TRM (Tenant Relationship Manager) application delivery going forward.

Artermis will ultimately be heavily dependent on Office 365, SharePoint and ASP.NET MVC when it ships; currently forecast for initial delivery sometime in 2017.

Facebook Move May Cause Greater Secrecy About Data (Ab)Use

08-Nov-16 04:04 pm EST Leave a comment
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ata use in violation of Facebook’s licensing agreement for developers has prompted the company to intervene to halt distribution of an insurance industry app that would have used end-user data (shared by consent) to track social media behaviour and qualify some for discounts on insurance rates.  Facebook claims it has a policy to prohibit such use — but the move raises questions around privacy and whether or not Facebook acted in its own interests; possibly masking a hidden intent to mentize similar apps later itself.  Regardless, one consequence is likely: nothing stops an app developer from not disclosing the true intent behind acquiring user data nor even offering a misleading or untrue rationale for data capture.  This could simply mean England’s “Admiral Insurance” is last case of this kind we hear about.

For more information, see the attached segment from Canada’s CBC News:

Motorists fined for failing to give cyclists space in Somerset blitz — Ottawa Citizen

03-Nov-16 08:58 pm EDT Leave a comment
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ow if there wasn’t a police action that was long, long overdue in the city of Ottawa – surely this had to rank high on the list of priorities…

Ottawa police handed out a dozen fines to motorists during a safety blitz in downtown Ottawa Wednesday. Seven motorists were fined for failing to keep a one-metre distance between their cars and cyclists on Somerset Street. The infraction cost each motorist a $130 fine and 2 demerit points, Ottawa police Const. Marc Soucy told the…

via Motorists fined for failing to give cyclists space in Somerset blitz — Ottawa Citizen

Fresh New Look for The AppRefactory Inc.

03-Nov-16 09:23 am EDT Leave a comment
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fter 3+ years hosted at Weebly.com, it was time to finally take The AppRefactory Inc. company website into a modern hosting environment with features and integration potential that would allow us to demonstrate, albeit in brief, what ASP.NET MVC could offer.  Dynamic product listings with breadcrumb sub-navigation, upload sections for partner contracts and résumés; and database-driven contact forms that make it easier than ever (and convenient) to stay in touch are all just the beginning.  In the days ahead we still expect to add:

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The AppRefactory Inc. website redeployment announcement graphic: http://apprefactory.ca

  • Links to customer features site (requiring login) via Office365, Visual Studio (online ed.) and SharePoint,
  • Highlights and links to ongoing software development currently being undertaken by the company,
  • Book time online with a consultant to review your software service needs or setup an in-depth remote service session online through HackHands.com,
  • Subscription for partner companies and contacts looking for email updates consultant availability and/or major site & service offering revisions, and
  • Links to WindowsStore.com and related sites for specific product integrations (Windows desktop, server and phone all to be included).

So stay tuned!  There’s much more yet to come….and you won’t want to miss any of it.

(Additional graphics related to the new website can be found on our Yelp.ca listing.)

Runtastic Workouts Live

24-Aug-16 07:57 pm EDT Leave a comment

RuntasticLive

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ou can watch me during a workout!  Yes, it’s a Runtastic.com feature….not hugely exciting, but it will put a dot on a map to indicate where I’m at in my workout and give you the chance to cheer me on (requires you authenticate with Google or Facebook, but always welcomed!).

To see if I’m working out now and, if not, still get a list of past workouts – visit my Runtastic site today!  Am hoping for another triathlon season in 2017 which is what I’m training for at present.

We’re Baaaaaack……

23-Aug-16 04:47 pm EDT Leave a comment
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ue to certain issues with the “free” WordPress/IIS host I’d previously been using on and off for the past couple of years, I’ve ended my experimental hosting experience and returned here after all.  A couple of minor articles were deleted — but nothing too critical.

So I’ll resume in the weeks ahead posting here on articles of interest mostly to me, but perhaps to some of you out there as well. 😉  Hope the summer is going well for all!

BLOG RELOCATION ANNOUNCEMENT

02-Oct-14 11:15 pm EDT Leave a comment
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ust a quick advisory to everyone concerning this blog — WE’VE MOVED!!! That’s right; as of today (October 2, 2014), The Ross Report is relocating to its new home at a new hosting provider. So don’t think for a second I’m disappearing anywhere…on the contrary. The new address is a migration off of the old wordpress.com site address because a new environment that is more in-line with the growing in-house architecture of The AppRefactory Inc. (the business I’m running) has become available. The new server also offers all the advantages that go with running one’s own WordPress.org application (PHP) server….which is to say absent all the limitations imposed on users of WordPress.com‘s space. More detailed analytics and the option to tie-into a whole bunch more apps and plug-ins are also now available and will facilitate some forthcoming development exercises in the weeks and (more accurately) months ahead.

So update your bookmarks now! The new permanent address is:

http://ross613.wp.apprefactory.ca

Look forward to seeing you there!

Why cloud computing is still a hard sell, but doesn’t have to be (Re-Blogged)

27-Sep-14 10:43 pm EDT Leave a comment
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ery candid exchange between two enterprise-tech pundits on the current state of affairs in the cloud space. Can the cloud save you money? As is so often the case, success is typically found in the execution as much as being duly responsive to customers. Commentators from Ericsson and Apcera offer perspectives on their own experience which might well be mirrored elsewhere…

Gigaom

The definitions of cloud computing have shifted a lot in the past several years, but a few things never change. Whether it’s located in an Amazon data center or a company’s own, whether it’s virtual servers or an entire platform for deploying applications, the cloud is supposed to serve many users, it’s supposed to improve flexibility and it’s supposed to save money. It all sounds great, but these guiding lights don’t always jibe with existing attitudes toward security and compliances and the systems put in place to enforce them.

On this week’s Structure Show podcast, we interviewed Derek Collision (above, left) — founder of a company called Apcera that’s all about making it easy to enforce policies while gaining the benefits of cloud computing — and Jason Hoffman (above, right) — the head of cloud computing at Ericsson (and former founder and CTO of Joyent), which just invested millions of…

View original post 588 more words

Sol 752a Published to MSLoGE

18-Sep-14 08:35 pm EDT Leave a comment

Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) within Gale Crater, Mars

Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) within Gale Crater, Mars. Image taken: September 17, 2014 (Sol 752)

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ols 751 through 753 this week promise some exciting new imagery from Curiosity.  Already published to the Google Earth archive is the latest telemetry from Sol 752 (taken yesterday) which will be used to create a further upload (I’m separating the presentations into two files for this event; one called 752a, the other, 752b).  These will illustrate further a detailed look at the geography of the region now being called simply ‘the Amargosa Valley’.

According to Curiosity Rover scientist Lauren Edgar:

“A short ~30 m drive on Sol 753 should put Curiosity in a good position at the Pahrump Hills. Sol 754 will consist of 2 hours of untargeted remote sensing, including ChemCam calibration activities to prepare for the Pahrump investigation, and a Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere.”

Edgar promises further science mission plans for the Pahrump Hills region and beyond will be known very soon.

AR CamFeeder 1.0.1 (beta) Released to UI Testing

16-Sep-14 06:07 pm EDT Leave a comment
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amFeeder, reflecting my latest work, has been deployed to the AppRefactory website.  It’s not in an ideal state just yet, but does offer the main UI to serve as the platform for future refinements of a tool that effectively replaces a much older utility that once existed for Yahoo’s application platform (which I forget the name of).  It features a simple XML file that contains data about web query strings and URLs needed to display and, eventually, capture imagery from traffic cameras anywhere in the world!  Because I live in the city of Ottawa (Canada), I’ve added a selection of cameras from this city’s own traffic monitoring service – but any camera with a web-based feed should be compatible.

AR CamFeeder screenshot (taken September 16, 2014); illustrating the auto-tiling camera feed feature.

AR CamFeeder screenshot (taken September 16, 2014); illustrating the auto-tiling camera feed feature.

Indeed, it would be particularly helpful to receive feedback from persons editing the XML file (called camopts.xml) in the application’s folder in other cities.  Currently AR CamFeeder is available only for Windows; but I expect to have a different version readied for Android smartphones in early 2015.

This was also an opportunity for a trial run using InstallShield as a package and deployment technology in concert with Microsoft Visual Studio 2013.  The Limited Edition package isn’t bad at all; offering a time-unlimited means to archive an entire windows application within a setup.exe and tailor all of the settings one used to need the Windows SDK and Orca to tweak properly (at least some of the time).  It is this setup.exe made available for download from The AppRefactory Inc. website you’ll be using to do the installation if you’d like to review the package or play around with adding your own cameras.

If you’d like to add your name to a usability testers list, get in touch with me via info@apprefactory.ca and I’ll add your name to the group list; with thanks for your assistance in advance.

To the rest: enjoy AR CamFeeder during this trial phase at no cost.  (Fear not: more features will be in the full release which, it is still hoped, will be a free download.)

Ezra’s Error

14-Sep-14 06:27 pm EDT Leave a comment
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Ezra Levant in a typical pose.

Ezra Levant in a typical pose.

bsent context, the Canadian political right has cultivated a new stereotype for itself in the last two decades.  Led astray in the wake of the Great Conservative Cataclysm (the deed of former Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney via Schreibergate), provocateur pundits like Ezra Levant have a new favourite tactic: to use character assassination and innuendo to shape political fortunes when the strength of goals and ideas can’t be found.

And in today’s Sun News’ “Straight Talk” column, a renewed drumbeat of criticism and dogma handed those of us who have a vein somewhere on our foreheads that thirsted to be-a-throbbin’.  Brought to us by way of Twitter: @SunNewsNetwork writes “Trudeau opposes revoking the citizenship of Canadians suspected of being involved in terrorism,” inviting readers to Ezra’s article and another poll that the neocons can use to erode liberties a little further, no doubt.

Funny how the right never seems particularly interested in getting at the truths comprising an issue and instead revert to wordplay masquerading as an unbiased poll (we’re supposed to ignore the leading nature of the question — after all, you don’t want to support terrorism do you?) which then somehow gets quoted in Question Period, in campaign literature or one of those helpful automated phone calls made during dinner.  The article itself turns out to be a tissue of quotes taken completely out of context; and you know there’s some constituency out there inhaling this stuff like a crack addict.  But how bad can it possibly be?  Surely there aren’t that many of ‘em out there…  Oh yah, this is the group running the government right now.

Uh oh!

Yes, there actually are enough people swallowing this stuff hook, line and sinker or people like Ezra wouldn’t have a job, and Harper wouldn’t be Prime Minister.  But Trudeau didn’t say Communist China was his favourite foreign country — it was just China, and he spent a bit of time there earlier in his life. Yes, you can favour decriminalization of drugs without advocating everyone should get high more often!  And taking quotes completely out of context and asking “Pardon?” as if it was Trudeau that didn’t make any sense instead of Ezra himself: this is just not supporting a political view centered on facts, reality or truth.

I don’t know how I will get through the next year if I have to watch the country come unravelled because Conservative politicians using vague ad hominem references, McCarthyist innuendo about views pursuing innocent political debate, or — I swear to God — one more tissue of lies published by Ezra Levant simply because he’s anxious to engage in another inflammatory, disingenuous diatribe on Liberal campaign issues (which aren’t published just yet).

Ezra, if the truth really will hurt the Liberals so much when they go public with their campaign, why are you slithering about the nether regions of what passes for Canada’s political theatre conjuring up demons?  Why not cling to whatever integrity as a journalist you have left and simply await this field day of yours, smiling patiently?  Reducing the political discourse to the degree you do really is bad for the country!

Curiosity Team Grilled on NASA’s Mars Vision

12-Sep-14 11:52 am EDT Leave a comment
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esterday, we again saw numerous spending questions about the value behind #Curiosity and other endeavours by #NASA concerning space exploration.  These were prevalent amongst the media’s questions during a Curiosity Update event sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (#JPL).

Dr. Robert Zubrin speaking at NASA in 2008.

Dr. Robert Zubrin speaking at NASA in 2008.

Earlier this month, similar frustration could be heard reverberating from the Mars Society’s Dr. Robert Zubrin, who (ensconced atop his pulpit at NASA’s Ames Research Centre) aggressively critiqued the high-profile US department for vacillating on its exploration objectives throughout the solar system.  Zubrin and others see an inefficient, navel-gazing, visionless bureaucracy requiring a refocusing of goals and research to end years of wasted money and energy spent on justifying bad programs.  Instead, what seems to be happening is the very same political institutions responsible for funding US space exploration are simply cutting an inefficient image-conscious government department without addressing the real problem behind invested dollars being well-spent.

In the meantime, corporate America (and commercial interests elsewhere) have begun to step into the sacred ground once reserved for NASA.  Cancellation of the Constellation project happened in tandem with the government refocusing its spending on backing commercial exploration, no doubt because of NASA’s inability to get the job done soon enough to put America first in a second emerging space race.  But NASA still has missions all over the solar system to manage and maintain — and its not clear where the money will come from if the larger issues affecting it aren’t addressed.

In the end, maybe a few heads have to roll.  And there will be consequences; but the only alternative is continuing to stand idly by and watch an organization that once led humanity to the surface of the moon fade from relevance entirely.

AR HelpOuts Launched!

10-Sep-14 08:07 pm EDT Leave a comment
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he AppRefactory Inc. launches its first service offering today with the debut of a partnership with Google Inc. through Google Helpouts.  This further enhances the company’s service offerings in the application maintenance and support space; but also extends its services to more generalized support of the tools and technologies it uses throughout its service delivery process.  Support is being offered through Google Helpouts for technologies and platforms like:

  • G HelpoutsLogoMicrosoft Visual Studio (all ediitions, 2005-2013)
  • Programming Language Support / Tutorials:
    • Visual C#
    • Visual Basic / VB.NET
    • Java
    • JavaScript
    • HTML
    • XML
    • SQL
    • VBScript
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Microsoft Team Foundation Server
  • Microsoft Windows / Microsoft Windows Server
  • Microsoft Office / MS Office VBA
  • Linux (Ubuntu)
  • Apache WebServer
  • Microsoft Internet Information Server
  • Microsoft Windows Communication Foundation (WCF)
  • Microsoft Windows Workflow (WF)
  • Microsoft .NET Framework
  • Web Services

…and much, much more!

Google Helpouts also offers payment features that allows either the business or individual user to use services on a demand basis easily.  And with this launch, the service is being offered, for a limited time, with a free support instance — giving potential customers an opportunity to “try-and-buy” for a fixed 20-minute session, without charges or fees applied.  (See Google Helpouts terms & conditions for more info.)

Need For Speed: Leaves Need for Time in Wake

06-Sep-14 11:01 pm EDT Leave a comment

Need For Speed advertisement released in March 2014

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got through the first half hour of #NeedForSpeed….and then had to turn it off once the inevitable accident happened; the one killing younger, inexperienced buddy pits the villain versus the hero in the storyline.  The event in question (which was big enough to rival a small asteroid hitting the surface of the Earth and bouncing back up into space) somehow left neither forensic nor any other kind of evidence and, of course, no witnesses despite there being a string of legendary secondary car accidents in the wake of the centre-stage farce.

I have a theory — call it amateur speculation if you’d like — about why this summer’s #movie season was the worst on record.  It had nothing to do with anything else going on in the world or in the #Hollywood universe.  Nor was it World Cup Soccer causing some kind of movie-fan-wallet-eating distraction.  It was simply that the big movie studios turned out total garbage this year…garbage like Need for Speed.  Spare yourself the bandwidth (to say nothing of actually visiting any of the B-list theatres still playing it); the only thing you’ll gain watching this is a desire for that time (and/or any money) back.

Handel’s Messiah: Staged Version 2013

06-Sep-14 02:18 am EDT Leave a comment
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oly Messiah, indeed!  There aren’t many articles in the Entertainment category on my blog, but I’m a fan of classical music and found this unique presentation of “Messiah” by George Frederic Handel hiding in the YouTube database.  It’s a stunning revisitation of a masterpiece by one of the world’s greatest composers.

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Handel’s “Messiah” (Staged Version), September 30, 2013 at Theater An Der Wien, Vienna, Austria

An excerpt of some of the more well-phrased reviews:

One user had commented that this treatment detracted from Handel’s work on (what seemed) quasi-religious grounds; that it “cheapen[ed] this fine work of sacred art.”  In response, a fellow enthusiastic fan of classical music wrote:

If I may politely respond.  As one who believes every word, given the source, I still applaud the message and the central theme and characters.  The music is outstanding, and while I don’t see them, the orchestra is truly outstanding in its voice.  If I were to see this as a Sacred Oratorio instead of a writer’s interpretation I could and likely would join you — as I did at first listening and watching.    Once I  realized the literary license employed, the central characters and theme and the outstanding performance, I cheered the members of the choir, soloists and the fine stagecraft — and the outstanding orchestra.  Please accept my comment with no negatives intended, and I can agree (and do agree) with you if this were meant as the original work.  The only part that “bothered” me was the failure of people to stand for the Chorus, *Hallelujah,” (Chorus, at #41 in the work), as the custom!  I have sung this as part of a choir and as a member of the choir — as choral literature it is outstanding and it is a favourite.  May I politely ask: were/are you viewing/hearing this work as the original scriptural work or as an interpretation of a funeral and the feelings thereof?  If the second, I can see from whence you come!  Know that many agree with you – but would your feelings be different if you saw this as a literary work of art instead of a “Sacred Oratorio”?  I  dare say while the music is scriptural to the letter, the message is solely and totally different, and refreshing.  I do speak from a USA point of view, so maybe I am one who “does not understand” this.  Thank you for allowing me a fairly long explanation.  I mean to support you, and at the same time cheer the work.

                                        ——Marc Barlow google logo

Among those few offering reservations about the performance:

f ALL of Handel’s Oratorios, I think the Messiah is the MOST DIFFICULT to dramatize.
Successful or not, this is a valiant attempt, and should not be thus discouraged.

                                        ——My Aw google logo

AppRefactory Inc. Website v1.0 Complete!

03-Sep-14 04:30 am EDT Leave a comment

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ebsites don’t ordinarily get version numbers; but in the case of The AppRefactory Inc. website, there may well be an exception.  Although the website was technically delivered on August 21st, some last minute technical details (including a DNS issue that needed resolving) delayed the declaration of “mission accomplished” until today.  However, we can now safely state — and unequivocally — The AppRefactory Inc. website has been officially launched.

Thunderous applause, please!

Just to quote the official announcement:

The AppRefactory Inc. has launched its website, bringing with it information about a number of its service offerings and other basic information about the company.  In addition to acting as a tool for making the general public aware about its services, the weeks and months ahead also promise the excitement of new title product launches plus its integration into other projects (already being developed) as a platform for a host of Internet-based services growing an ever-larger, steady stream of new users of every type.

Please review the content and watch for what’s coming soon or learn more about what we offer today.  And check back soon – because even more is on the way!

Next, my attention turns to uploaded the final release of AR CamFeeder which has been sitting on the backburner for the past few weeks while I got distracted by another project.  But it won’t be long before I’ll follow-up about that and the next project behind that – already all queued up.  Like the announcement says: stay tuned!

NASA/JPL’s Mars Curiosity Rover Data: Delivered to Mobile Phones

03-Sep-14 03:57 am EDT Leave a comment
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ecently, I announced the release of a personal project on my blog – the delivery of ongoing Curiosity Rover data to Windows desktops using Google Earth (in Mars data mode, sometimes referred to as ‘Google Mars’).  Now, it’s possible to deliver this same information to the Apple iPhone and Android smart phone audiences using the Google Earth app for those platoforms.  Insturctions on how to setup the Google Earth app to do that, step-by-step follow below:


How to view Curiosity Rover (MSL) Mars geodata using the Google Earth app on a SmartPhone:

Google Mars Showing Curiosity Rover data from Sol 735

Google Mars Showing Curiosity Rover data from Sol 735

  1. Load the Google Earth app
  2. Select menu icon, top right-hand corner of Google Earth UI
  3. Select ‘Settings’ from pop-up
  4. Scroll down & select ‘Databases’ from Settings menu
  5. Databases menu appears, with “Default” radio button selected.  Select menu icon, top-right-hand corner of UI.
  6. Select ‘Add’ from pop-up
  7. Enter Database URL dialogue box appears.  Enter http://khmdb.google.com/?db=mars into the dialogue’s textbox and click ‘OK’.
  8. The database address now appears beneath “Default” in the databases menu with its radio button selected (make sure).
  9. Click the ‘back/return’ button from the phone’s UI (at the bottom, in the Android version).
  10. Google Mars should now be visible.
  11. Return to the smartphone’s browser & visit the Curiosity Rover data page: http://ross613.apprefactory.ca/mars-curiosity-rover-msl-in-google-earth/.
  12. Click the entry for the current Sol & select the Google Earth app if/when prompted to select a smart phone app to load the data with.

The Google Earth app should automatically centre Google Mars on the location of the latest data summary.

Step-by-step video: here.

Canada-Wide Report on Alien Sightings “Unscientific”, Say Critics

01-Sep-14 06:28 pm EDT Leave a comment
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he CBC article begins “Do you believe”?  That’s a good question, say some critics of the report — which have been downplaying the report since its publication earlier this month (August 2014) on major Canadian news networks (via Canadian Press, which authored the original article).  Even the report’s author, Chris Rutkowski, was reported as saying his group’s work doesn’t provide absolute proof about the existence of extra-terrestrials.  Then again, how could it?  Even if beings from other worlds were a part of our daily-lives the report is weak on methodology, heavy on adjectives and absent use beyond a talisman around which advocacy groups can rally.

New report compiles 25 years of UFO sightings in Canada

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/new-report-compiles-25-years-of-ufo-sightings-in-canada-1.1961596#ixzz3C6jRFZAM

                                              — CTV News (Video)

As one who’s had this issue close to his heart all his life (out of interest in the exploration of environs beyond our own planet), I find little of interest for me other than the story of how the data was determined.  What initially caught my eye was the apparent sudden drop in the number of UFO sightings — a fact corroborated online to some degree, anecdotally.  (Perhaps this is one of the reasons the report’s data reflects a drop?)  But there’s no definition listed in the report for what the differences are between a “explained sighting”, “probable sighting”, “insufficient evidence”, or “unexplained”.  The report’s grammar seems to imply these definitions exist somewhere and are well-known; but there’s no terms of reference, footnotes or other citations of whom or what defines these beyond the group’s own apparently subjective (and unpublished/unreferenced) definitions.

And boy is it particularly interesting to see the talking heads of our modern media lap this stuff up and talk about it as if it was the latest press release from NASA!  A local radio station here in Ottawa (CFRA) actually had a segment devoted to so-called experts at one point debating the causes of the report’s monolithic and sudden drop in UFO sightings between 2012 and 2013.  The data itself was taken for granted, without so much as a breath questioning its validity.

According to Ed Barker, (Ret.) former Producer of the Manitoba Planetarium, who in his career spent years as the lead UFOlogist at the centre, says these kinds of spikes and dips in sightings data occur frequently.  “These variances in the data occur all the time”, says Barker, and one can’t get too excited about a single year-anomaly.  Certainly, CFRA’s analysis, citing the emergence of smart phone technology somehow making sightings less likely suddenly in 2012-13 seemed, to me, to be a theory without either scientific analysis or subjective arguments in support.  (Smart phones have been around considerably longer without any reflected impact on the trends cited in the report or anecdotally in reports I could find online.)

The Canadian Government hasn’t been particularly helpful in recent years, with virtually all money to even tracking airborne phenomena evaporating.  Nowadays, if a person makes a sighting report to police — say the RCMP — they actually end up simply forwarding it to Rutkowski’s group.  Even were such referrals to non-profit civilian groups the normal practice only part of the time, surely the public’s expectation would be that there’d be a few pennies to rub together in the annual budget to keep programs tracking such data afloat.

One could even think it begs the question: why would the Canadian government leave it to a group making unscientific, anecdotal publications to track such data?  Unless perhaps….that it made criticism of the whole UFO phenomenon itself so easy.  Now, questions to the government on the subject of UFOs become less-palatable for any reputable journalist.

…if you believe.

Google Earth Serves as News Platform for the NASA/JPL Curiosity Rover

29-Aug-14 11:53 pm EDT Leave a comment

MSL on Google Earth

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SL, or (simply) the “Curiosity Rover” is being watched differently today than yesterday thanks to a new tool: Google Earth.  The premiere GIS technology offering from Google is now helping NASA’s JPL answer questions about what the latest rover on the red planet is up to by displaying information about the path the rover has taken, its projected path, where it has stopped, when, for how long and it has been up to while otherwise seemingly halted.  Thus the tool is serving not only as a tracking tool, but a news platform about curiosity.

There needs to be (for now) user-led updates to a file hosted on “The Ross Report”; the personal blog of The AppRefactory Inc. President, but there’s always room for improvement.

To find out more, visit the dedicated blog page for the project here and keep checking back for updates, every Martian Sol!

NASA: ⅔ of Earth’s Ice Cap Now Gone!

28-Aug-14 08:35 am EDT Leave a comment
A

lthough headed for a low, but not the usual “record low” year of ice loss, NASA has now been able to assemble the available evidence and state definitively that our tiny, blue planet is in the final stages of losing the northern arctic ice cap completely.  A video released on Space.com this morning shows Dr. Thomas Wagner of NASA HQ, Washington, DC discussion various aspects of the NASA’s ARISE mission and the means by which the supporting data was acquired.

NASA_WagnerT

The report is of serious concern, of course.  But I find it pretty remarkable just how incredibly fast the artic ice cap has, first, disintegrated and then virtually melted away.  The only good news in the piece was that the shrinkage this year isn’t a record low….but that doesn’t mean the overall trend (being year-over-year record loss) has terminally halted.  My guess would be that it could be an indicator things might have started to slow down slightly — but it’s too little, too late as far as the arctic ice cap is concerned.

Next, I suspect we’ll be hearing about he subarctic cap disappearing completely.  And…I now wonder if any of it will be left by 2020!

A continually-run D&D campaign, since 1982.

A continually-run D&D campaign, since 1982.

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