vista blahs

January 30, 2007 under Vista, Windows

Windows Vista was released at midnight today. Woohoo?Microsoft Windows Vista logo

I played with Vista while it was in beta. I liked it and thought that Microsoft added a few nifty things. However, I was bummed that WinFS was dropped from the feature list. A few other planned features were canned as well so that Vista would ship on time. This didn’t bother me all that much. But within the past couple of days, a few facts give me cause for concern:

For my home computers, I think I’m done with Windows. I’ve given this some thought and I think I can do it with little transition pain. Now I won’t be replacing my PC hardware with Macs anytime soon, since I don’t have that kind of money…not yet, anyway. 😉 I think Ubuntu is well on its way to becoming the primary operating system on my home computers. I already use it in a virtual machine, so I’m comfortable with it. Compared to other Linux distros that I’ve used in the past, it’s by far the most usable. There really isn’t anything that I’d be missing.

Web Browser
I’ve been using Firefox on Windows for 3+ years and I’d continue to do so on Ubuntu.

Email
A dedicated email client is not something that I need since I use Gmail, which is browser-based.

Instant Messaging
Like Firefox, I’ve already been using the browser-based Meebo. And there is a Linux version of Skype.

Fun dynamic scripting languages
Python, Ruby, PHP and Perl are all available to Linux.

Word processor and spreadsheet
I mostly use Google Docs and Spreadsheets now, but OpenOffice does have a Linux version too.

Media and iPod sync-ing
Rhythmbox will do the trick.

For work and skill development, I’ll still need Visual Studio, SQL Server and IIS. That can be taken care of by creating a Windows virtual machine in VMWare Server.

Games would be the only drawback to going all-Linux all of the time. Mind you, I don’t play as many games as I used to. So if I ever start jonesin’ for some gaming, I could always create a small Windows XP partition and dual-boot. I think I’d rather have a Wii anyway.

As soon as a get a home storage solution, I think that’s when I’ll switch. I really can’t find any compelling reasons to keep running Windows.

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diebold-ly slow

January 26, 2007 under banking, Diebold, TD Canada Trust

Diebold is known as the voting machine company that caused a lot of commotion in the US during the November elections of 2006. Their Diebold Election Systems division caused quite the ruckus, as evidenced here, here and here. It’s quite apparent that they were the template for the crooked voting machine developer, Delacroy, in Man Of The Year…which wasn’t a comedy, BTW, even though the trailers may have led you to believe otherwise. Recently, the ease at which their voting machines can be broken into has been made public.

Voting technology is not my focus – not right now, anyway. I’ve noticed that many TD branches in the K-Dub area have replaced their NCR bank machines with new ones from Diebold, specifically the Opteva 560. The Opteva ABMs are very attractive compared to the older NCR models; the screen resolutions are greater, and LEDs light up to prompt you at the card and envelope slots.

Yet there’s one thing I noticed about these new machines from Diebold that concerns me. They are slooooow! I first detected a noticeable lag between a key press and the recognition of said key press when entering my PIN. Perhaps the keys are a little stiff and need to be “broken in”? Moving from screen-to-screen is also lethargic. Looking at the specs, this machine runs a Pentium 4 or Celeron CPU on Windows XPe – I doubt that it runs full-blown Windows XP. At any rate, I’m curious to know why these new ABMs are so sluggish. Does Diebold’s system use a stateless connection to the database instead of a persistent one? Has anybody else noticed the snail’s pace of these machines or is it just me?

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wii need to re-reducate KDND about osmosis

January 23, 2007 under osmosis, physiology

By now, you must have heard about the woman, named Jennifer Strange, who died while participating in a radio contest in Sacramento, California called “Hold Your Wee For a Wii” in which contestants have to drink a lot of water without going to the bathroom. The contestant that lasts the longest wins a Nintendo Wii. If you haven’t heard of this, read the recap.

Audio from the day of contest is available. Click the play button below to hear it.

Notice how the station’s DJs seem to be the only ones who doubt that drinking excessive amounts of water is dangerous. Jennifer questions if it’s dangerous and a caller asked the same questions. The DJs shrug it off and even say something as stupid as “we’re 98 percent water”.

What gets me is that nobody from the radio station seems to have a clue about how the human body (or life in general) works. I question whether the station, KDND, has any employees that know what osmosis is. Perhaps the people that work at KDND are the same type of people that say ever-so witty things like “I learn by osmosis”. Clever.

I know that we covered this in grade 10 Biology, but I swear that we touched upon it in grade 9 Science, too…maybe even in grade 8. All living things are made up of cells. There are plenty types of cells; skin cells, bone cells, blood cells, root cells (in plants) and so on. Most of these cells contain various components like a nucleus and mitochondria, but that’s not important right now. Inside a cell is water, nutrients and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.

And now for the almighty definition that should be regurgitated on a test…osmosis is the passage of water from a region of high water concentration through a semi-permeable membrane to a region of low water concentration. In the case of human cells, the “semi-permeable” membrane are the walls of the cells. Now, if there is a lower concentration of water outside of the cell, the cell will lose water by osmosis, and at that point you’re on the road to dehydration so drink something that isn’t a diuretic. If there are equal concentrations of water inside and outside of the cell, nothing will happen. Ready? If there is a higher concentration of water outside of the cell, perhaps because you’re drinking an insane amount of water, the cell will gain water by osmosis. If the cell keeps gaining water, it will swell and eventually burst. This happens in cases of water intoxication. Your body’s electrolytes become diluted, cells swell with water, you get a headache and nausea and can possibly die. It’s not brain surgery…it’s physiology! It really makes you question the education the contest’s organizers received.

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iPod buying power

January 19, 2007 under Apple, Canada, Money

apple iPod Nano
It’s Friday, so let’s enjoy a laugh followed by a “huh?”. The Commonwealth Bank, a large Australian bank, has used the 2nd-gen iPod Nano as a measure of currency buying power. Using a consumer product to measure a country’s buying power seems strange, but C|Net reports that this is the case.

The Commonwealth Bank has determined that it’s very costly to purchase a Nano in Brazil, but it’s much more affordable (comparatively) here in Canada than anywhere else in the world. Here’s the breakdown from weakest purchasing power to strongest:

  1. Brazil $327.71
  2. India $222.27
  3. Sweden $213.03
  4. Denmark $208.25
  5. Belgium $205.81
  6. France $205.80
  7. Finland $205.80
  8. Ireland $205.79
  9. UK $195.04
  10. Austria $192.86
  11. Netherlands $192.86
  12. Spain $192.86
  13. Italy $192.86
  14. Germany $192.46
  15. China $179.84
  16. South Korea $176.17
  17. Switzerland $175.59
  18. New Zealand $172.53
  19. Australia $172.36
  20. Taiwan $164.88
  21. Singapore $161.25
  22. Mexico $154.46
  23. U.S. $149.00
  24. Japan $147.63
  25. Hong Kong $147.35
  26. Canada $144.20

So while this might show how one country’s currency is undervalued against another country’s currency, it probably doesn’t take into account any special pricing that Apple may set for each different country. So what should we get out of this? Along with a high quality of life, standard of living and quality beer, does Canada also enjoy the strongest purchasing power in the world? Or does Apple just really love the Great White North? Either way, I hope the same holds true for Samsung and Panasonic‘s line of LCD and plasma HDTVs? 😉

Apparently The Economist did a similar comparison of buying power using McDonald’s Big Macs 20 years ago.

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five things you didn't know about me

January 17, 2007 under Five Things

I’m a lemming. The “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me” meme is a fashionable kind of blog post lately (is it ever really not fashionable?), so I’ll indulge.

  1. I’ve never had a cavity.
  2. When I was twelve years old, I beat the NES port of Lifeforce after a mere 30 minutes had elapsed since I purchased it and brought it home…without the infamous U-U-D-D-L-R-L-R-B-A-START Konami cheat code.
  3. I have no slapshot. Wrist shot? Check. Snap shot? Check – it’s quite good, I must say. Acceptable backhand shot? Check. But an intimidating slapshot is something that I’ve never had and likely never will.
  4. I like Rush.
  5. I suck at arithmetic. You’d think that having a degree in Computer Science, which requires many math courses like Calculus, Discrete Math and Linear Algebra would mean that I’m a human calculator. I’m not, and far from it. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in my head is a chore. You don’t want me to figure out the price of a discounted item in a store if a calculator isn’t nearby. I can help you with permutation sets, but don’t ask me off the cuff at a restaurant to figure out what to leave for a tip.

Now you’re in the know. It’s customary to tag 5 other bloggers to post a “Five Things” entry of their own, but I won’t inflict that on anyone 😉

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yesterday's events in the land of mobile phones

January 10, 2007 under Apple, iPhone

Here’s how things unfolded yesterday…

First, Apple announced their long-awaited cell phone at CES today.

Then, the iPhone’s page on the Apple site went live.

Finally, this happened:

Apple's stock vs RIM, Palm, Nokia and Motorola on January 9, 2007

It’s funny what a sexy PowerPoint presentation can do, isn’t it? Later on, Engadget uncovered what the iPhone is really capable of. It turns out that it’s not a smart phone, per se. The only way new software can be installed on the iPhone is if Apple puts it there, and there’s no connectivity to enterprise messaging like Exchange or Notes. It’s a shame that 3rd party developers can’t create any apps that could be installed on the iPhone. The iPhone apparently runs Mac OS X (in some form or fashion) and there are plenty of Mac OS X programmers around now. It seems like a very tap-able resource. Also, let’s not forge the potential slough of new Mac OS X developers that could arise. So why did RIM‘s and Palm‘s stocks take such a hit yesterday? Enterprise customers (you know, the ones with budgets) will have no use for Apple’s pricey phone. The iPhone is another geek chic item that will likely find a home on the hips of trendy urbanites with $500 to burn. It sure does demo nicely, though.

Let’s not forget, however, that Linksys owns the real iPhone 🙂

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a new home storage candidate?

January 9, 2007 under home storage, NAS, Windows Home Server

At this year’s CES, Microsoft announced that by sometime in the summer, Windows Home Server devices will be made available. You can find a video that gives an overview of Windows Home Server on Channel 10. Windows Home Server is a headless device with a client and web browser interface that functions similar to a NAS device. There is no actual RAID controller in a WHS, but RAID-like functionality apparently exists via simple data mirroring. Additional storage may be added via internal (ATA/SATA) or external hard drives (USB/Firewire). Thankfully, Microsoft opted to use SMB for file-sharing, so Linux and Mac clients can access data on a Windows Home Server. All of this is compelling to me and adds another home storage device that I must take into consideration.

To recap, here are the offerings I’m currently investigating:

Infrant ReadyNAS NV+

Buffalo TeraStation

Now I must consider Windows Home Server as well as a mystery NAS device Linksys announced at this year’s CES. So far, I’m leaning toward Infrant’s offering because I like the sound of their X-RAID functionality. Anybody out there able to help me in my decision?

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my reading trends

January 6, 2007 under Google, RSS

When I fired up Google Reader this morning, I noticed an alert to let me know that Google Trends can now report on my feed subscriptions.

Trends in my Google Reader

I’m curious to know if a click-through is measured as a “read”. Or is the simple task of scrolling through items in Google Reader, which automatically marks them as read for you as they leave your screen, the sole way to track what you’ve read? Social news sites like digg and Reddit are apparently high on my list. Their feeds typically contain a lot of new items throughout any given day, and most of the time contain only a story’s headline with very little actual content, requiring me to click-through to get to the actual content. I wouldn’t say I actually read too many of them. In the case of say, digg, I click-through to read maybe 2 or 3 a day after skipping the deluge of “Steve Jobs is teh awesome!!!” and “Bush does something stupid again” types of items. Contrast that with items from Coding Horror, The Daily WTF or Life Hacker. I actually read those feeds’ items in their entirety in Google Reader. I don’t have to click through anything; all of the content is right there. Which brings me to a pet peeve…I hate when feeds force you to click-through to read an entire item by including only a sentence or two in their feed. Arg! Lame! Now my train of thought has been derailed. Where was I? Oh yeah. If the trends keep up the way that Google Trends reports them, I’ll be sporting a black mock turtle neck sweater and five o’clock shadow in no time 🙂

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chrena? nope. dris? nah. doesn't work.

January 3, 2007 under Banished Words List, LSSU

My alma mater, LSSU, has released their annual list of banished words – words and phrases that have been deemed meaningless and overused in the past year.

http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php

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elegence in application deployment

January 2, 2007 under Google, Internet, Software

Last week, it was reported that approximately 60 GMail users had all of their email accidentally deleted (Dena and I weren’t affected, thank goodness). Then no more than 24 hours ago, a vulnerability was discovered in that a malicious website can swipe your email address from a cookie if you’re logged into GMail at the same time; making it easy for spammers to nab your email address, should you dare visit their nefarious site. Then as of a few hours ago, users’ GMail contact lists could be retrieved by malicious websites via the JSON API.

Now I don’t want to comment on where Google is in the right or wrong and how their luck has taken a down-turn, since other bloggers have and will continue to do so. Although, I am a bit perplexed as to why Google didn’t have backups for those deleted emails. I’ve read that Google has rolled their own file system and that it’s apparently amazing, but I’m not sure any file system is rock solid enough to forgo disaster recovery plans for mission-critical applications and data.

At any rate, what I’d like to focus on are the two vulnerabilities, both of which have been fixed. Since Gmail is a web application, any update that Google makes to Gmail is automatically available to all users. Nobody has to go to the store to purchase new software, or download any patches or service packs. All users are using the latest version, complete with fixes for known problems. Also, it should be noted that the vulnerabilities were corrected in less than 24 hours since they were publicly announced.

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