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
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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.

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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!

Canadian court forces Google to remove search results worldwide, as fears of “memory hole” grow

25-Jul-14 03:09 pm EDT Leave a comment

This smacks of “common sense” approaches to the problems endemic to a “right to be forgotten” going totally unheard. Did lawyers really have to be the ones settling this issue? Perhaps this is a good referendum question in local elections coming up over the next few years in nations globally. God forbid we should leave something like this entirely up to the courts to decide.

Gigaom

A Canadian court took the unprecedented step this week of declaring global jurisdiction over Google(s goog) and forcing it to delete search results not just for “google.ca” but for “google.com” as well. The move comes as lawmakers in Europe pressure Google to censor more pages under a controversial “right-to-be-forgotten” law, and could accelerate a recent trend of disappearing online information.

In the Canadian case, Google had urged a judge in Vancouver to suspend an earlier ruling that required it to remove any search links related to an e-commerce vendor accused of selling knock-off internet equipment. That ruling, which came out in June and gave Google 14 days to remove the results, is now in force after the judge concluded that applying the worldwide ruling would not create “irreparable harm.”

The ruling already appears to be rippling beyond Canada’s borders. For instance, when I searched in the U.S. for a product called “GW-1000,” Google shows that it has censored at least four webpages:

search results missing

The “we have removed results” notice…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Canadian Federal Budget 2014: Legacy of a Finance Minister?

11-Feb-14 10:21 am EST Leave a comment
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hey’re saying this could be the final budget delivered by Canada’s Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty.  And CBC News is reporting that we should be looking for 6 key items to appear in this years’ budget.

But I’m reflecting on the budgets of years gone by under the Conservative government and where it’s left Canada in the past decade.   My comment on the story makes it clear what Flaherty’s real legacy will be:

mcshane
James in Kanata @mcshane: Bottom line, the average Canadian’s wealth has increased by 25% wince NAFTA.
~~~~~~
Bull and I will speak for the American people as well…Employers that did relocate to Mexico from the U.S. and Canada have now begun moving to even lower-wage areas such as China and Vietnam. NAFTA was supposed to “grow the economy,” all it did was increasingly benefit a smaller and smaller segment of society.

Ross Holder
@mcshane Well that doesn’t mean it didn’t grow the economy. 😉 It just means that the economy grew and served to simply widen the gap between rich and poor (i.e. profit went into the pockets of the top 5% of income earners instead of seeing every Canadian benefit). And maybe that was inevitable too; but I’d like this budget to spend more attention on managing that widening gap I mentioned between rich and poor — because this country is plenty rich enough for everyone to feel the benefit of our good fortune a lot more!

Time Magazine Person of 2013: Pope Francis I

17-Dec-13 06:18 pm EST Leave a comment

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ime Magazine couldn’t have chosen better, IMHO, for person of the year for 2013.  The pontiffs that have ascended the clergy to fulfill the tradition of being humanity’s direct channel to #God seem to have all been good men in my lifetime.  But Francis seems to stand out as one who can really bring God into the lives of the masses in a meaningful way and for a goodly number doing so with an air of humility and service that few of his fellow clergy (whatever their faith) seem able to match.  I was particularly impressed this year with his affinity for personal poverty and welcoming homosexuals into the Church he represents in a public way (and seemingly absent the theological distractions that have at least appeared to bar his predecessors from doing in like kind – and therein bringing into question their true discipleship of #Christ, in my view).

Well done, #Time!  And long-live #Pope #Francis!

Butthole(s) of the Year for 2013: The Conservative Party of Canada

17-Dec-13 05:12 am EST Leave a comment
MooreJ(Conservative)

James Moore (cutaway from Commons video), MP (Conservative), Ministry of Industry and Trade, Government of Canada.

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hether it was covering up the expenditures of its Senate appointees, hurting Canada’s standing in the international community with mid-east policy (being America’s “yes” man), glossing over cases of dirty campaigning (being found guilty of causing election irregularities through committing election fraud), to record-setting spending on personal attacks of opposition leaders, bankrupting environmental activists with legal fees over legitimate public concerns, or imposing a tyrannical regime of anti-drug paranoia in response to a legitimate, medically-prescribed treatment of mental illness, or (late, this past week) telling a reporter it was neither “the [Government of Canada]’s job” nor “[his] job to feed [his] neighbour’s child.”

Is it just me or is it starting to look like maybe — in the eyes of our nation’s leaders — that nothing is really their job until it comes time to pay themselves and their buddies with bottomless expense accounts and other rewards that prop-up their morally bankrupt ideology?

These dickheads make the spectre of Marie Antoinette look like the sugar plumb fairy!

Yes, it’s been quite a year and one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.  My only hope is that October 2015 rolls around, my fellow citizens don’t suffer another lapse in memory and stick this truly undesirable element back into power when the time comes.  Though I’m not what you’d call a traditional supporter of rightist politics, I’ve never in my life been so filled with dread and deep-seated resentment about a Canadian political party.  It actually feels like the Republicans crossed north across the 49th and picked up where George W. Bush left off.

On his apology…were it just he and were it just this one thing, I could readily accept it.  But Moore is a part of a club that demands a #MooreChristmas doctrine – and, fundamentally, a heart that’s three sizes too small.  Nothing short of resignations to accompany apology will do now.  Would that it were a world wherein such Christmas miracles happen…

The Birds Strike Back….

11-Dec-13 08:41 pm EST Leave a comment
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r perhaps “The Pork Strikes Back” would be a better title.  But whatever you call it, what self-(dis)respecting parody to Star Wars could you have without a sequel even more hilarious than the one before it?  In that spirit, here’s hoping the following brings a bit of Christmas cheer thanks to folks at Rovio:

 

Source: Angry Birds: Star Wars II–Boba’s Delivery trailer; Copyright © Rovio Entertainment Ltd., all rights reserved.

On Joining the “Pork Side”…

01-Dec-13 04:31 pm EST Leave a comment
Source: Angry Birds: Star Wars II–Join the Pork Side trailer; Copyright © Rovio Entertainment Ltd., all rights reserved.
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n celebration of the Christmas shopping season, might I share with you fine folks something I found especially entertaining this year under the heading of “game software” for the Android, iPhone and PC (which still seems to have some of the gaming audience despite devices taking over everything last year): Angry Birds.

Reminds one of the forthcoming epic movies finishing off the 9-movie Star Wars saga, now projected to open in last 2015.  But next year promises to be another blockbuster for the Star Wars franchise leading up to this next watershed event (simply titled “Episode VII” at the moment.  Stay tuned for more info about all that and more here!

Political Meddling at its Very Worst!

29-Nov-13 09:08 am EST Leave a comment
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utrage doesn’t begin to describe what I felt after hearing about the plight of this RCMP officer this morning (see below).  I hate the way the RCMP gets so easily turned into a political football — especially in cases like this.  The force was dealing with the case of this one Mountie just fine….but when he decided (with the nod from his union) to demonstrate his use of medicinally-prescribed marijuana while in-uniform, the force suddenly reacted as if mental illness wasn’t worthy of “the optics” involved!

And, of course, the Conservatives are once again turning what should be a common-sense issue into political football by seizing upon the opportunity to make some kind of ridiculous statement about their anti-drug policy (another holdover from a long, by-gone era) and making an example of this decorated officer.

 

Pot-smoking Mountie has uniform seized by RCMP (Source: CBC.ca, 28-Nov-2013)

 

Shame on Tony Clement, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for being more eager to change the channel away from the Senate scandal (just one among several) and punish a loyal public servant in the most crass and medieval manner imaginable!

More Planets Anyone?

27-Nov-13 12:34 pm EST Leave a comment

Infographic showing how the Kepler space telescope could continue searching for planets despite two busted reaction wheels. Credit: NASA Ames/W Stenzel (Read more…)

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epler may be getting set for a resurrection of its planet-finding mission in other star systems, according to Universe Today. The space telescope whose primary mission to was catalogue planets around stars in our galaxy, visible in a particular part of the night sky was abruptly cut short this past summer when two of the wheels responsible for orienting the satellite failed, leaving its attitude control system crippled along with its primary mission.  These technical issues have also left Kepler vulnerable to budget cuts in the forthcoming 2014 budget debate which has already been the subject of a high-stakes game of political brinksmanship between U.S. lawmakers who decide how much money NASA and, ultimately, Kepler get.

A view of Kepler's search area as seen from Earth. Credit: Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society

A view of Kepler’s search area as seen from Earth. Credit: Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society

Of course, while Kepler and other planet-finding missions continue with their discoveries (even if hobbled by issues of one kind or another), one question often asked about them is “where are they?”  I use a program called “Celestia” to get my answer to that question and over the past couple of years have acquired quite a bit of data pertaining to these “exoplanets” (as they’re called) and other astronomical phenomena whose coordinates and other data can be input into the application to generate a celestial map.

If you’re interested in using the data I’ve got , you can download the library from one of two sources:

SouthPark S17E04 will not be seen tonight so we can bring you…

17-Oct-13 06:57 pm EDT Leave a comment
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rom user “piccilo72” at thepiratebay.se:

 

 

"Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers" was set to air October 16, 2013.[1] South Park episodes are usually produced in only six days and delivered to Comedy Central just hours before airing. However, on October 15, 2013, South Park Studios suffered a power outage, causing the staff’s computers to go down during post-production and leaving the episode incomplete, missing its deadline for the first time in 17 seasons.[2] Series co-creator Trey Parker wrote that "it sucks to miss an air date but after all these years of tempting fate by delivering the show last minute, I guess it was bound to happen."[3] A rerun of the fifth season episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die" was shown in its place, with live tweets accompanying the broadcast.[4]

— quoted from South Park production blog; extra night-vision images of
production studio, taken the night of the outage included.

I guess the producers of South Park have never heard of backup power (a.k.a. “UPS”)?

Unbelievable!

Microsoft Buys Nokia

03-Sep-13 12:24 pm EDT 1 comment

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ust last week, following a discussion with a potential business partner, I’d found myself doing something I’ve done a few times over the course of my career — wondering whether I was making the right choice sticking with being “a Microsoft technology expert”.  Typically, such ennui occurs during downtimes for the software giant….and there have definitely been downs with the ups in the 30-year-long Microsoft saga.  But with the announcement late yesterday about the Nokia buyout, I think I may have learned to recognize such feelings as moments the really herald the coming of a big announcement or some influential development; as once more, my momentary doubts about sticking with Microsoft were immediately laid to rest.

Nokia, for its part, hasn’t been doing well in the smartphone market — not even as well as Microsoft’s own Windows Phone operating system — in an industry dominated by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.  During its now outgoing CEO’s (Stephen Elop) reign, Nokia shares dropped an extremely disappointing 85% giving pause to any notions one might have toward thinking of him a replacement for Steve Ballmer (who’s also in the midst of his own departure from Microsoft).  Nokia was already licensing Windows Phone from Microsoft so some have said not much else is likely to change at the former Finnish cellphone giant.

In the end, Elop (a Canadian) may have been partly behind an engineering of optics in league with Ballmer to succeed the latter at Microsoft.  But along with those optics will be those of a renewed momentum for the Windows Phone OS, which can only be a good thing for those of us believers in the Microsoft brand.


Story supporting links:

Harper vs. Trudeau: Pot High-perbole

31-Aug-13 05:08 pm EDT Leave a comment
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anadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a few more shots in on Liberal Party Leader and upstart threat to the nation’s highest political office Justin Trudeau late last week by complaining that Trudeau’s position on drug de-criminalization amounted to trying to force the nation’s children onto drugs.  When will the Conservatives finally realize that such nonsense is out-of-touch with average Canadians (if not average Canadian voters)?  I suppose the message might have to await the next federal election – but it’s really difficult to listen to this guy without wondering if his Machiavellian treatments of Canada’s democratic process aren’t ever going to stimulate the electorate out of its apathy just once in my lifetime to bring a sense of reason back into our political process!

Source: CBC News / CBC Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, August 29, 2013; Copyright ©MMXIII (2013) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, all rights reserved. YouTube.com edition reproduced here under “fair use” provisions of Copyright.

How A UFO Story Is “Killed” by Politicians

17-Aug-13 01:13 am EDT 1 comment
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o you ever get the feeling that the Government (either of Canada or the United States) might not be totally forthcoming on the question “has Earth been visited by an alien civilization yet?”  Well a recent event off Canada’s Atlantic coast (Newfoundland) gives some cause for you being suspicious, if it makes any difference to you.

After reading this, I checked some statistics and learned that a full 93% of respondents to one CBC poll indicated that they were sure aliens existed elsewhere in the universe and, of those, another 70%+ were confident Earth had already been visited.  (Interestingly, Stanton Friedman; a Canadian nuclear physicist who’s been on something of a UFO information crusade for the past 40+ years also made the point in a recent interview that most people believe they are in the minority believing in the existence of aliens and encounters here on Earth.)

With the recent acknowledgement of the U.S. concerning the existence of Area 51 and the discovery of planets smaller than Earth in star systems less than 500 light years away from this world — I’m starting to think a larger announcement might not be too far off in the future.  At least now there’s some reason to feel confident governments will come clean with what they know; not because of any sudden resurgence of faith in democracy by politicians or bureaucrats previously hell-bent on secrecy…but simply because they’ll have no choice.

UPDATE: Oppose the Russian Parliament’s Facist Anti-LGBT Stand!

07-Aug-13 08:51 pm EDT Leave a comment
E

arlier today I posted on the subject of the Russian Parliament’s recent anti-LGBT laws, making being gay in Russia a crime.  Although I said a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics was inappropriate, I do support making statements to the Russian Federation by other means.  To that end:

Stand Against Russia’s Brutal Crackdown on Gay Rights: Urge Winter Olympics 2014 Sponsors to Condemn Anti-Gay Laws

A boycott of products will hopefully have the effect of getting the IOC to use some of its diplomatic clout by hitting ‘em where it hurts: the pocket book! 

Register your support of this measure here.

The AppRefactory Inc. Declines to Boycott Sochi Olympics

07-Aug-13 02:44 pm EDT 2 comments

DanCardFBSochiBoycott

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eceived this above invitation to support an issue on Facebook…

At issue: The Russian Parliament (Duma) voted overwhelmingly to install a series of laws which render being gay and/or gay acts illegal within Russia.  Critics argue these laws essentially violate the UN charter on human rights and take Russia back into the worst of the dark ages with respect to homosexuality generally while tolerance and acceptance are the norms now adopted by the bulk of humanity.  Some say that as a just response to these draconian measures, the 2014 Winter Olympics should be boycotted so that Russian legislators get the message that the rest of the world won’t accept their position – especially when many of the athletes attending are themselves going to be part of the LGBT community.

The Response: While I, of course, agree with the premise that homosexuality is not an area where government control is appropriate and that, as a social issue, tolerance and acceptance are the correct norms to be defended, the Olympic Games are really supposed to be about sports.  With the considerable investment of time and money to begin the lengthy list of commitments an Olympic athlete makes in preparing for the games, a boycott (however effective at communicating a message) isn’t an appropriate response to what is really a matter for Russians to resolve within their own society.  Consequently, I will not support this boycott invitation nor any others coming my way in the months ahead, regardless of how the Russians proceed on this issue between now and the opening ceremony.

On Mentoring

20-Jul-13 03:49 pm EDT Leave a comment
Source: Dilbert.com

 

God bless Dilbert!

Categories: Entertainment Tags: , ,

Analysis of the Analysis of the…

14-Jul-13 08:26 pm EDT Leave a comment
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arren Kinsella, Sun Newspaper columnist and professional thorn in the side of whoever sits in the PMO has offered a strangely shallow analysis of the Ottawa punditry spending so much time writing about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s imminent cabinet shuffle.  Purported to be the shuffle that will “make or break” a tired, listless government with all but the likes of a rookie Leader of the Opposition (from a party rookie at being Official Opposition) and a rookie Liberal Party leader with Obama-esque expectations riding on his shoulders to restore his party to Government in the next election somehow — Kinsella complains expectations writ of this shuffle are pure fantasy, saying, “And in the specific case of the Harper government, [the shuffle] isn’t important at all,” for five big reasons:

1. Cabinet shuffles don’t change government fortunes. When a regime is drifting (as the Harper government is) or looking tired and old and near the end of their usefulness (ditto), prime ministers will shuffle their cabinets.

They do it all the time, in the faint hope that it will make them more popular, or at least less unpopular. It’s a strategy that doesn’t work.

Can you picture the aforementioned Joe Frontporch at the kitchen table, hollering: “Jane, we’re going to vote Conservative again, because there’s a new minister of Veteran’s Affairs! Hallelujah!” Sounds crazy, no? That’s because it is.

Harper & cabinet sworn in at Rideau Hall, May 18, 2011.  (Image source: Sun News, July 14, 2013.)

Well, not to defend our misguided PM — but, frankly, I have trouble thinking of him as that stupid.

He’s trying to do what CEOs and managers in business find themselves doing when fortunes begin to sag for no apparent reason.  Re-ignite past success by (perhaps) having capable people take on new challenges in a different role.   Does it work?  It can, though Kinsella might find himself mistakenly thinking he accurately diagnosed the reason because the outcome happens to be what he expected.

2. Stephen Harper is the Control-Freak-in-Chief. Never in our history has there been a prime minister so preoccupied with micromanagement and centralization. Never has there been so little delegation as there has been under Harper, who makes Orwell’s Big Brother look like a dope-smoking slacker.

For Harper and his minions in the PMO, ministers are to be controlled, not given control. With the Control-Freak-in-Chief, who is in cabinet – and who isn’t really doesn’t matter.

It may not be original, but there’s a world of insight to be had in these words.  The PMO has never been so large in all of Canadian History — as a software consultant who’s done more than his share of federal government contract work, I can tell you you need only look of the percentage of RFPs that have come out for the PMO in recent years to have a sense of this.  It’s as if the whole government had moved into the PMO, and the ministries were only used for PR!  (And this, I think, is very, very dangerous.)

But Canadians have been content to let this slide too along with everything else it seems.  The mantra “Who else can you vote for?” has become the Conservative’s sure ticket to power and since it’s that kind of slogan that can inspire the electorate, why not the political high-stakes play of a cabinet shuffle too?  Optics über alles!

3. L’etat, c’est lui. Harper isn’t just the head of the federal government, he IS the federal government. For the Conservatives, that’s been the good news: A smart, strategic leader ran the show, and helped them win power in 2006.

But, paradoxically, it’s the bad news, too. There are no viable successors waiting in the wings. And there is no minister strong enough to give cover to Harper when he stumbles, as he has indisputably in l’affaire Duffy. If you can name a dozen of his ministers and their portfolios off the top of your head, you deserve the Order of Canada.

He’s right about it being bad news — even withstanding the horrifying picture of Duffy stumbling on the minds of voters.  But amid this latest shakeup, even Harper has had trouble maintaining his balance in the corridors of power.  And the aftershocks are far from done with the RCMP investigation of the absentee PEI Senator just getting into full swing.  And a cabinet shuffle, no matter how cynical one gets about the electorate, will not erase the memory of Duffy’s fall from grace or corpulent expense spending from mind.

One also can remember recent Liberal success with “Team Chrétien”…which might well be something the country can get behind as a distinctive style difference with Harper, should Trudeau take up that approach during a forthcoming campaign.

4. A shuffle won’t change the fundamental problem. And Harper’s problem is well known and not even disputed by smart Conservatives: The governing party has lost its way. There’s no raison d’etre anymore.

There’s no mission statement. Nobody in the Conservative caucus remembers why he or she was sent to Ottawa in the first place.

A cabinet shuffle won’t change that problem, it’ll draw it into sharper focus. None of the many youngsters with “P.C.” appended to their surnames will feel powerful enough, or independent enough, to challenge the boss.

So get ready for same old, same old.

5. Nobody will notice. Forests will be felled to print opinion columns about the cosmic significance of the fashion sense of the newly minted minister of Public Safety. But Joe and Jane Frontporch won’t actually read any of those columns (which is one of the reasons broadsheet newspapers are in a spot of trouble, but that’s a lament for another day).

—— Warren Kinsella, Sun News, Jul 14, 2013

Points #4 and #5 seem to contradict each other somewhat.  But on the whole, it all relates back to point #1: cabinet shuffles don’t change election results — but that’s not what this was ever about.  It’s more internal management of PR for the Conservatives than anything.  And, yes, that’s all that this government has ever really been about.  Meaningless Law and Order measures, changing armed forces rankings, and lukewarm gun control rollbacks are the hallmark of Herper’s time in office.

In the end, that’s how history will record this period in Canadian history.  No cabinet shuffle will change that one iota.

NextEra vs. “The Little Lady”

23-Jun-13 12:06 am EDT Leave a comment
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am not usually one to find myself agreeing with Conservative mouthpieces; but Ezra Levant has done a story that really hits on a big issue in Canadian Justice.  Why is it the entity with the most money should win in our legal system?

To summarize:

“A $32 billion energy corporation has filed a massive lawsuit against an Ontario environmentalist named Esther Wrightman. It’s a SLAPP suit: Strategic litigation against public participation. It’s not really about legal arguments. It’s about crushing Wrightman with legal bills and burning up her time, so she can’t spend time campaigning against them.”

The specific issue cited in the lawsuit is apparently one of her “being in competition” somehow with NextEra as a result of her protest, which to me seems immediately frivolous.  I’d have to guess that, in the purest legal terminology this a “torte” action (but, since I’m not a lawyer, I couldn’t say for certain) and so whether one needs to bother establishing a prima facie case isn’t clear either.  But it seems there ought to be a mechanism to prevent any corporation capitalized in the tens of billions of dollars from suing a homemaker and plant nursery caretaker who’s just trying to make sure her kids are safe and imposing insurmountably high legal costs she really can’t afford even with generous, repeat donations from the public.

I wish her best of luck – but maybe this is the kind of thing that needs more scrutiny by our hard-working politicians to correct.

Senate Reform (Canada) 2013: Constitutional Crisis in the Making?

04-Jun-13 09:19 pm EDT Leave a comment
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aving one’s cake & eating it too seems to be the primary fixation of every politician ever borne these days — and in more ways than one.  From the office of Senator Mike Duffy, former CTV political affairs journalist, who’d swore he’d help Prime Minister Stephen Harper reform the Senate when he was first appointed to Justin Trudeau who see reform as absolutely essential whilst simultaneously promising, if elected, to leave constitutional reform of any kind on the back burner.  Yet both men, along with every other politician in the country appear to want what every Canadian wants: either a Senate that works or no Senate at all.

Duffy’s appointment was part of a greater plan by Stephen Harper to build what he called a “critical mass”, of like-minded Canadians who would agree to vote through the necessary legislation for a peaceful transition within the Senate at some (then) future date.  This would negate the need for another round of constitutional discord since senators would be voting within the system to either abolish or reform the upper house, depending on whatever deal could be made at that time (and whatever deal Canadians would ultimately approve of).  Harper seemed to be favouring an elected Senate; but didn’t say in the interview whether he supported the vision espoused by some of his fellow senators (eg. Sharron Carstairs of Manitoba) who’d favour a ‘Triple-E’ Senate model (elected, effective, and equal).

Whatever Harper’s ambitions, they seem to have come crashing down around his ears in the first half of 2013 with Duffy’s own behaviour triggering a near total collapse of public confidence in the Senate, which wasn’t at its highest pinnacle to begin with.  Already there are calls for constitutional-based reform which, as anyone even loosely familiar with Canadian politics can plainly see, is a minefield.  Not to mention Québec is under a separatist government at present (led by Pauline Marois); which doesn’t exactly aide the cause of reformed federalism in Canada historically.

Source: “The National”, May 16, 2003 (http://www.cbc.ca/video)

With not just apathy, but anti-Senate sentiment at such a feverish pitch, Harpers plans for the Senate are likely on the backburner for the foreseeable future.  And although Mike Duffy has survived in his Senate seat (so far), it’s doubtful he’ll be able to lead any great charge of the reformists therein anytime soon.  And so, down the drain are the hopes of Harper and by some strange coincidence those of the Canadian people where the Senate is concerned…at least until the political mood in Québec and the rest of the country become a little more certain about what course change in Canada’s upper house of sober second thought should take.

DuffyBuck

Notwithstanding a worsening of the crisis which could well lead us down the path into another hand-wringing round of constitutional frustration.

Vials of Apollo 11 moon dust found in storage – MSNBC

25-May-13 11:04 am EDT Leave a comment
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oney, where did you put that jar of lunar orthoclase I was saving?"

This is definitely not the kind of thing one would expect to get lost.  While the article claims all the vials are accounted for – I wonder whether someone might not have recorded a volume of rock "consumed" by testing and simply skimmed a little for themselves….

UPDATE: Stargate Universe Petition Needs More Support

17-May-13 11:16 pm EDT 1 comment

SG_U Petition Support.gsheet

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n May 7th, I published an article asking for your support with a petition to resurrect the Stargate Universe television series.  Support has been escalating, but too gradually.  As of tonight, the series will not get the 100,000 signatures necessary before production deadlines necessary for next season (the goal will not be achieved until March 12, 2014).

So get your signatures in ASAP!!!

Help Bring Stargate: Universe Back!

07-May-13 01:36 pm EDT 2 comments

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ring back SG:U to the Internet by signing this Netflix petition (see link). Unlike many Internet-based petitions, this one looks like it’s being taken seriously….so if you (like me) want Stargate back – access the SG:U petition on change.org and let your voice be heard!  (Do it anyway for me – ‘cuz there’s a huuuuge vacuum in sci-fi entertainment these days and it will make life suck a lot less for me and a pile of other people! )

“Austerity Measures” Philosophy Flawed, Says Political Economy Student

07-May-13 12:48 pm EDT 1 comment
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he measures that have forced people into bankruptcy all over the world have turned out to be the product of a pair of academics screwing up a spreadsheet.  No peer review – and the graduate student that brought forward the evidence proving  the premise for the changes in public policy we’ve seen are so flawed hasn’t been taken seriously.

But maybe that part of the story is still to come… Here’s hoping!

New Space Race: Pros & Cons

02-May-13 02:48 pm EDT Leave a comment
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have to disagree with myself it looks like. (Maybe that doesn’t happen often enough!) But only recently has the “big picture” being pursued by the Obama administration started to become evident. And, I hate to admit it; it might not have gone so well if details of what must surely have been a deliberate strategy been announced at the beginning: let the private sector pave the way to space exploration.

The Ross Report

What this "spurning" by NASA entailed, we’ll probably never know.  But it’s not hard to speculate that NASA might find another space race with its old cold-war adversary useful.  What’s not useful is the inevitable adversarial attitude that occurs politically being exacerbated by a new space race.  So – is a space race good or bad?

Overall, I think we should probably be spending appreciably on extraterrestrial research because, overall, there appears to be plenty of evidence that the technological advances which result invariably imrpove the condition of humanity, and our understanding of the universe.  Too often, politicians come along and dogged by those who think the world’s problems will be solved organically by kind-hearted human beings spending on feeding the poor and healing the world’s sick with the…

View original post 231 more words

Elections Canada drops plan for online voting due to cuts – Politics – CBC News

02-May-13 04:56 am EDT Leave a comment
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midst all this talk of a budget surplus of $3.1 billion (among other criticisms of a multitude of spending faux pas by Canada’s Conservative administration), somehow a pretty high-profile item can’t even earn $0.0073 billion ($7.3 million) worth of attention from the Government of Canada: online voting.

It might not sound like a big deal; but, according to Elections Canada (the regulatory authority responsible for running elections in the country), the $7.3 million shortfall means no online voting will be available to citizens sooner than the general election of 2023.  Notwithstanding the several elections irregularity issues that have erupted around the Conservatives in the past few elections, or the (arguably) excessive spending on the F-35 contract, not subject to a competitive bidding process for some reason, two Auditors General (one of whom used to be a Conservative cabinet minister herself) have found this government heavy on spending and taxing the middle and lower classes – light on audits to measure results on various programmes under Conservative stewardship.  Admittedly, I’m a bit partisan toward the Liberals (no big shock there) – but on my most objective day with the wind at my back playing the most pro-Conservative apologist I can – I couldn’t find the straws to grasp ahead of the arguments needed to explain this emerging tale of fiscal incompetence.

What ever happened to that great Canadian mythology about Conservatives being better stewards of the nation’s purse strings?  Who’d have thought I’d ever be pining for the return of the old Progressive Conservative party (the one before Preston Manning and his entourage of displaced Texans moved into 24 Sussex Dr.)?

Ontario Government Introduces Legislation to Protect Consumers from High Cellphone Bills

29-Apr-13 05:49 pm EDT Leave a comment
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rotecting consumers from outrageously high cancellation fees (to now be limited to a maximum of $50) and compulsorily requiring customer consent to change cell phone contracts are just two of the measures drafted into long-awaited legislation aimed tabled in the Ontario Legislature today.  While consumers and the industry still await a code of conduct for vendors to be brought forward by the CRTC, the minority governing Liberals argue these measures are already overdue.

More details are available here.

Dr. Dobbs: Software Development Trending to be More Complex, Not Less

28-Apr-13 01:14 pm EDT Leave a comment
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here aren’t many advantages to being on disability for the past several months – but as I’ve recovered, looking for work and taking on the challenges with possibly getting my own software projects closer to completion has caused me to reflect on how software development has changed over the course of my career.  Imagine my shock at finding out I wasn’t alone in this realization this weekend, when I ran into a Dr. Dobbs article that articulated more clearly than I ever could (available free time notwithstanding) exactly what this revolution in app development is all about.

Chart above: “Fraction of programmers (y-axis) who spend x amount of time coding in a given language in 2012.  Note the big spike on the left and the mostly sub-2% numbers for programmers coding more than 50% of the time in one language.” (Source: Dr. Dobbs Journal, 03-Apr-2013)

My lead project is actually an upgraded version of a strategy game that’s been in the public domain for quite a while; but has the simplicity necessary to effectively permit interfaces to a number of different platforms – and with them, the necessity of leveraging a number of different technologies to make building and maintenance practical.  What will this mean software development as we close on 2015 or even 2020?  Likely what’s happened before – amalgamation to facilitate the creation of single-vendor solutions so that the process is re-simplified.

But until that happens, coders like me are gonna be left to absorb multiple platforms and become jacks-of-all-trades (and hopefully not lose the mastery of some in the process).

Pick-Pocket 2.0?

28-Apr-13 12:46 pm EDT Leave a comment

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redit card fraud is about to reach new heights, according to this report by CBC.ca.  Can you say “holy crap!”?  What we need is for the phone companies to start allowing charges through to your phone bill as if the phone itself was a credit card, instead of apps like this appearing making credit fraud easier.  Card readers on smart phones are definitely not the right way to go….

Conservative Crime & Punishment Agenda Trumps Free Speech

22-Apr-13 02:26 pm EDT Leave a comment

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ews from Mexico of a Canadian woman’s 18-month (formerly indefinite) incarceration without representation by her Canadian government was only one of two items this week illustrating a long-standing pet peeve I have with the Conservatives’ crime & punishment agenda.  Now, the Conservative house-leader (in the Canadian House of Commons) has cancelled debate on a resolution that would have seen more power granted the back benches to speak on behalf of Canadians, and represent their constituents in favour of rushing through debate on a hastily-drafted anti-terrorism bill that seems little more than taking political advantage of the tragedy in Boston.

    Hopefully, my country(wo)men are getting as tired of this as I am!  (That, and the latest attack ads which put the new Liberal Party Leader, Justin Trudeau in the cross-hairs of Conservative pre-election spending.)

Mission Improbable: Analyzing Conservative Justice

22-Apr-13 01:53 pm EDT Leave a comment

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anadians seem to be having a tough time getting their consular representatives to help with problems abroad again….re-enforcing words spoken by (Canada’s) Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau at the convention last weekend.  Once again, the governing Conservatives seem to be abandoning those detained abroad to whatever injustices prevail instead of taking an interest in the outcome of cases where Canadians are detained without having the benefit of a government that will see them returned safely home; whether it be to serve time in a Canadian prison or simply to be exonerated of charges that have no merit.

In this episode of the CBC’s Fifth Estate, a woman who’d committed no crime was charged and held in a Mexican maximum security prison.  Was it her government that came to her aid?  Not bloody likely – it was the Mexican Supreme Court which finally agreed that based on numerous human rights violations during her incarceration her case should be thrown out!

Still, it was a hellish 18-month ordeal involving a heart-attack amongst other health problems resulting from a confinement that was absent a crime.  And nowhere to be seen were Canadian consular officials, perhaps presuming her guilt without so much as a review of the case (or none on record).  Or perhaps there was a review….one that had the stamp of RCMP approval on the word of a convicted felon and known liar.  Political scandal being swept under the carpet?

At least she’s home now – but the questions will, if there still is justice to be found in Canada, continue…

2 dead, 90+ injured in Boston Marathon Terror Attack

15-Apr-13 06:44 pm EDT 1 comment
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ll of Canada stands with our US brethren, once more, at this time of crisis…

Christian Science Monitor

Moon + Saturn = Awesome Pic!!!

08-Apr-13 12:43 am EDT Leave a comment
Categories: Space Exploration

Spectacular!!!

12-Feb-13 01:09 pm EST Leave a comment
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his is the kind of thing I like to see from NASA!  The caption reads ” Hollywood couldn’t have done it any better”… and I for one couldn’t agree more.

Categories: Space Exploration

CNN Embeds Overly-Harsh Critique in Unfortunate Image Caption

24-Aug-11 11:08 am EDT Leave a comment

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bviously, nobody’s perfect — and perhaps nobody is better aware of this than the editorial team with CNN.com, as an article concerning an off-course ISS resupply freighter illustrates this morning:

FunnyTypeO-NASAResupplyShipAnnotated

Naturally, comments subsequently have been less than flattering to CNN, which well into an hour following the article’s initial publication still has failed to correct the apparent mis-print…

Guess that tells us not only how carefully CNN edits its content — but how much they bother to consult their readers’ comments on the articles they publish!

Ten Years After 9/11 Bush Says “Blank Stare” Meant to “Project Calm”

29-Jul-11 03:06 am EDT 5 comments
On September 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush absorbs news of the attacks in New York for the first time.  Many have suggested he was overwhelmed into a state of indecision at the news and should have immediately excused himself from the childrens’ classroom to deal with the emerging crisis.
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s the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches, former U.S. President, George W. Bush gives an interview to the National Geographic Channel wherein he maintains his apparent “blank stare” captured on video immediately after being told of the attack on the World Trade Center was actually a deliberate effort to “project calm” amid a developing crisis.  The report of the hour-long interview by Reuters also says Bush will outline his thoughts during those first few minutes following his being told the news, and also discusses his approach toward dealing with the aftermath of the attacks in a very candid way.

According to the report, Bush brought no notes to the interview and responded to questions without apparent preparation.

If true, this piece might actually be worth watching; since one of the main issues many have had with hearing Bush in these kinds of interviews is the very scripted way he has historically responded — ever wary of the political cost of saying the wrong thing.  (And in this, of course, Bush is far from alone.)  But with the length of time that’s now past, there could be a fresh perspective on his mindset and perhaps even an answer to the question about whether he was really “frozen with indecision” immediately after being told of the first attacks in New York.

Winnipeg Jets unveil new logo

22-Jul-11 10:51 pm EDT 2 comments
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eah, I can’t claim I’m too thrilled with the new logo either.  And, as someone rightly observed, the CF-18 silhouette isn’t all that appropriate since they’re on the verge of retirement, to be replaced it seems quite certain by shiny new squadrons of expensive F-35’s (that we probably could’ve got a lot cheaper).

But it goes almost without saying that it’s a real thrill to see Winnipeg with an NHL team again.  The city didn’t feel like a real Canadian city without one.  (No denegration intended toward Québec City, which should also see the Nordiques resurrected.  And hopefully that will happen soon too!)

End of Final Shuttle Mission Yields Bitter Commentary

21-Jul-11 09:47 pm EDT 2 comments
This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background. (Courtesy: http://www.nasa.gov)
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ox News has gained plenty of notoriety for injecting inflammatory rhetoric into its news coverage in recent years, but after seeing this recent video on the heels of watching coverage of Atlantis’ return to Earth at the end of the final shuttle mission, it seems the aim here is to turn the event into yet another political football.  The claim being that, unlike Kennedy, Obama is ending manned spaceflight in the U.S. to save money.  But, as is almost always the case where Fox commentary is concerned, there’s really more to the story.

What the authors of hundreds of Twitter messages that seem to be absorbing Fox’s take have missed is that the move is part of a larger plan to share the glory of (and hopes of profit in) with commercial entities.  Already it’s hoped that by the end of 2011 and certainly during 2012, unmanned commercial flights will take on resupply missions to the space station, with manned flights by the end of 2013.  An 18-24 month pause in manned spaceflight doesn’t seem like “an end” of any sort to me…

Still, one needs to concede that were the U.S. not sinking into a financial abyss at the moment, there’d likely not be any particular will to end shuttle flights during the hand-off to commercial enterprise; regardless of the arguments about how NASA’s presence in the open market would have made commercial manned spaceflight much less viable.  But SpaceX has already demonstrated that, flying an unmanned empty capsule aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, it and other companies are today much closer to having the capability to take over from NASA because of the decision to take it to the private sector.  NASA provided funding for some of SpaceX’s efforts as it is doing for 4 other companies which stand close to getting their own spacecraft off the ground.

In fact, I’ve seen a similar move before by government agencies with respect to privatization of previous government monopolies.  At the dawn of the Internet era, there was only a single ISP in Winnipeg, Manitoba (my home city).  A fellow named Bill Reid who directed the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Computer Services department made a decision to take the Internet private.  Why wasn’t business doing this on its own?  Well MBNet (the ISP’s name) was offering dial-up access for free to students of the U of M and for an extremely low rate (base annual fee of $25 per account¹) which made private ISP service all but unviable.  But when MBNet kicked all its users off (or almost all) one fateful day, companies like Magic Online Services (later purchased by TotalNet of Montreal) stood ready that very day to offer service to the public.

At the time, there were those that saw MBNet’s move as being unfair – many were forced to make significant changes to their networking services in a very short period of time.  But at some point, stepping back was surely the right thing to do lest Winnipeg and even the province of Manitoba more generally make competition in the Internet services market a game played strictly by very large companies.  (Indeed, the market’ has largely gone that way in any event, but it’s quite possible the current situation would have been much worse.)  And I see the same being true for a much broader set of reasons where NASA is concerned.

Time will tell, of course — but at the very least Obama and the NASA administration shouldn’t be faulted for this effort.  The U.S. is experiencing a serious financial crisis and there’s little doubt even from the decision’s detractors that the private sector can ultimately do spaceflight more cost-effectively.  And at this point in history, surely that’s enough reason to make it a private concern…particularly when there exists a real possibility the U.S. won’t be able to afford manned missions on its own if steps aren’t taken to redress the crippling U.S. deficit.  Steps exactly like this one.  Indeed, one could well argue that this move will preserve manned spaceflight in the years ahead; and that not privatizing manned missions to space would threaten the continued ability of the U.S. to undertake such challenges.  Perhaps even threaten the existence of NASA as an agency of manned exploration anywhere but in historical texts.

Hopefully in the long run, those on Twitter who’ve thus far spared the time to barely read the lead into neocon-authored editorials will eventually find time to hear the full story.  Of course, there are a few other obstacles that stand in the way of that: the realization that a previous Republican administration deregulated the financial services sector and started a war with 2 countries creating a situation where decisions like this were inevitable.  And I’m not sure that message will ever get the kind of reception necessary for Twitter-bound hecklers to cease their de facto campaign of complaints re #nasa.

But the taste of the last shuttle’s return to Earth would sure be less bitter for it if they did.


¹ An original document containing MBNet’s fee structure was located while doing research from this story.  Based on my memory of extensive prior MBNet usage, I can testify its authenticity.

UPDATE: Freak Storm Smashes Tree 200m Away From Front Door!

19-Jul-11 09:31 am EDT Leave a comment
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o in the aftermath of Sunday night’s freak storm, it appears there was 1 man seriously injured after all, unfortunately.  Even so, many eye witnesses have commented it’s a miracle there weren’t more casualties.  An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour continues; but I’m not sure there’s much one can do to avoid this type of event.  A temporary stage can’t be blamed for what Environment Canada has characterized as a "downburst" — a kind of reverse tornado.

Will monitor for news on investigation in weeks ahead a report findings here.  As always, stay tuned!

“Google-“?

18-Jul-11 11:57 am EDT Leave a comment

Warning: Low Patience

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t seems even starship captains are having difficulty with the freshly-minted “Google+” these days.  And I hope Bill forgives my schadenfreude here in saying that it reassures me to know I’m not alone at least.  (I call him “Bill” ‘cuz we’re “friends” on You Tube.)

Of course, his problem is a little different from mine; whereas he was having trouble staying on Google+, despite invitation I can’t even get access in the first place.  There are two reasons for this:

  • during the “beta” phase (which with Google, as we all know, can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years as it did with GMail), there are a fixed number of users being allowed — regardless of whether you were invited, and
  • my primary account (the one that got the invite) is actually registered with Google Apps; a service for businesses which only have access to a fraction of Google’s full service offerings.

In my view, things are starting to slip a bit at Google.  It was never huge on customer service (and why should it be since the vast majority of its services are free, after all), but I can only bet the farm that the company is shooting itself in the foot handling things this way.  I keep reading reports in tech journals about how cool Google+ is, but I can’t really find out — a turn off not only for me, but the tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of others sharing my experience.

And, as for Google Apps, I actually upgraded to one of the paid business accounts and decided to terminate within the 30-day full refund period because the number of restrictions and silly rules in the service that made integration with anyone but Google virtually impossible left me wondering if their intent was to hand over the whole notion of Internet-based profit to Facebook on a gold platter.  And, again, even as a paid subscriber to Google services under Google Apps, you still don’t have full access to everything.

And now you can add Google+ to that list.

Not to say “a pox on your house”, but the rest of you who have access to Google+ can revel in your Circles, Hangouts, etc. and Spark away until your whole life’s a big, blazing inferno of Google innovation while those of us concerned with getting stuff done continue to be awestruck for a different reason watching it all on the sidelines…wondering how on Google Earth anyone could believe this company will ever be anything more than Internet ads.

In my view, Google+ isn’t a real threat to Facebook — not by a long shot.

Freak Storm Smashes Tree 200m Away From Front Door!

17-Jul-11 11:08 pm EDT 3 comments
Smartphone video shot shortly after a freak storm caused damage to Ottawa; this video was taken just outside and around my apartment where a tree in a neighbour’s front yard was splintered by heavy winds! Below, the position of the felled tree is projected on a map of the neighborhood.
Bluesfest site location (above, courtesy Google Earth); where the main stage hosting the "big name" artists was severely damaged by winds exceeding 90 km/h, according to Environment Canada (Source: CBC News)
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uite a night, here in Ottawa — and here I am again writing another blog article about what can only be described as “unusual” weather (for this city anyway). Earlier this evening I was at my usual spot, seated in front of my computer coding away when a loud “crack” could be heard outside. Unsure at first where the noise came from, smartphone cam in-hand, I walked around outside a very short distance and found myself confronted with a felled, 50+ year-old elm strewn across the road.

As is evident from the relative calm depicted in the attached video (above/right), the storm wasn’t a very lengthy event….reports elsewhere indicate that while incidents of damage were spread over a wide area, there were intense winds and lightning for only about 15 minutes. Long enough, however, to cause the main stage at Bluesfest (an annual summer music festival hosted in the city’s downtown) to be blown apart; and to cause numerous other instances of felled trees, 1 fire and numerous power outages in the suburbs.

No injuries associated with the storm have been reported as yet.

In the ensuing hours immediately following, there are reports of another system heading for the city. Additional coverage to follow as events warrant.

C# or VB.NET?

14-Jul-11 08:24 pm EDT 4 comments
Poll hosting courtesy: Polldaddy.com.
N

o matter how much time passes it seems, the question is always being asked on one project or another: is Java better than Visual Basic?  Is C# better than VB.NET?

Linked-In has been playing host to a lengthy, but at times interesting discussion on this question which seems to have an obvious, short answer.  Yet in the discussion are useful lessons for less experienced programmers that should be taken to heart…

Some highlight replies I selected from the whole thread:

Read more…

They’re at it again: Canadian Government Bending to Calls for More Expensive Internet

12-Jul-11 02:53 pm EDT Leave a comment
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in Volk!  Ein Internet!  Ein Bill: Expensive!”

A “live blog” of the hearings is displayed below:
CRTCLiveBlogSample_110712

Yes, CRTC hearings prompted by a public outcry over proposed rate hikes are being held here in Ottawa today, but it remains to be seen whether the effort will prove to be anything more than a valve to vent angst in the electorate over making Internet in Canada far more expensive than it already is. (Canada already is host to some of the highest charges for access and bandwidth anywhere in the G7!)

More to follow on this story in the days ahead….stay tuned!

South-Eastern Ontario Beset by April Tornadoes — No April Fool’s!

11-Apr-11 12:17 am EDT 4 comments

P

erhaps it’s just my being a Manitoba ex-patriot; but I was shock-stricken by what I’d initially thought a belated Twitter message from Canada’s “The Weather Network” concerning tornado watches and warnings being released by Environment Canada (the Canadian government department responsible for acting as the official weather forecaster) being issued for this very night.  So to verify, I visited the Ministry’s website and, sure enough, there’s severe risk of tornadoes turning the still frozen topsoil up into the high heavens along with anything else fixed at or near ground zero within the twister’s dreaded path:

image

The region coloured in bright red in the map of southern Ontario above denotes a region called “Barrie-Orillia-Midland”; and is so coloured to indicate a weather warning.  (Amber indicates a weather watch, while green indicates watch/warning ended.)  Source: Environment Canada, 11-Apr-2011.

So far, no reports of twisters reaching the ground or causing damage/fatality have been reported.  Should such events follow this extraordinary event, I’ll be sure to post updates to this article for reference.

It bears mentioning too that southern Ontario isn’t exactly Canada’s “tornado alley”….that would be more the case on the Canadian prairies (which I still call “home”, despite having lived in Ottawa, Ontario since summer of 2000).  Tornadoes in the summer months are a very real danger pretty much anywhere near Winnipeg — indeed the city itself if struck by tornadoes of sufficient intensity to do serious damage or pose a risk to personal safety every second or third season. (But never in April, particularly given that Winnipeg’s climate is lightly cooler than Ottawa’s or Barrie-Orillia-Midland’s

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

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

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