Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ubuntu Netbook Remix: Getting the Wifi and Mic working on an HP mini 110-1118 (CA)

Ubuntu Netbook Remix works fine for this machine, except the sound drivers and wifi, but fixing them is easy:

To get the wifi working:
Update the OS, then use the Drivers control panel in the system settings panel.
There is a bug in 9.10 that prevents this from working out of the box, so you need to update the OS first.

To get the internal Mic working:
Sound works, all except for the internal Mic. A peer passed me a note he found in some forum that worked (sorry, I don't have the original attribution):

(You can install the backport module using the Synaptic package manager).
Here is the word-for-word original note I used:

Yes, that worked for me too, using the Mini 100c!
But you don't have to install the alsa sound package.
- install linux-backports-modules-alsa-karmic-generic
- reboot
- open a terminal, enter "alsamixer", press "tab", and set both internal and front mic sliders to 100%
- press "esc"??

You can now use the internal mic using whatever tool you like.

Friday, October 23, 2009

US doesn't like Canadian copyright laws.

In the Canadian Press article Canada deserves spot on U.S. naughty list due to lax copyright laws, the author suggests that the US ambassador to Canada doesn't like Canadian copyright laws, and is not shy about saying so.

It's not really a secret however. The US, driven by entertainment industry lobbyists, has been at us for years to make our system like theirs.
What they are missing however is that in Canada, there is less power in the Lobbyist camp and more power in the people. The People don't want US style copyright laws or at least don't want to be dictated to by a foreign country.

Make no mistake, our copyright laws need revision (in progress) but they need to reflect the needs and wants of the People in this country, not the US.
So, to the US ambassador, By all means tell us about your system, we'd be happy to take the ideas from it that are useful, but we'll discard the points that we, the People, don't like about it.

If you don't like it, well, we all have to suck eggs now and then.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apple OSX Security FAIL

More than once now, I've managed to get OSX to require me to log in, but allow me to access the machine behind the login prompt.

I have been unable to explicitly reproduce it at will however, and so I would like help from the people out there to determine what exactly is going on, so we can get Apple to fix the problem.

Here is what I know of the problem:
  • Happens on Leopard and Snow Leopard (I'm currently running Snow Leopard 10.6.1).
  • enable: Require password "immediately" after sleep or screen saver begins.
  • enable: Use screen saver "Word of the Day" (mine is set for 5 minutes).
  • Allow screen saver to activate and move the mouse before the the Word of the Day screen saver is fully active.
What you should get if you are able to reproduce this is that the computer pops up a dialog asking you to log in to unlock the machine, however you have mouse access to your desktop, and if you check, you will be able to change security settings as long as they don't require keyboard input. The keyboard will be captured by the login dialog.

I managed to take snapshots of the last two times this has happened on my machine, showing that i was able to access the preferences dialog (I have smuged out personal info in the images):

If you are able to reproduce this, please let me know and what you did to reproduce it, particularly is you are able to do it at will.

By all means call apple about the problem if you can reproduce it. The case number I put in is: Apple Expert Case 139146232

Update: This has been submitted to bugreport.apple.com as issue # 7318689
Update: This appears to be fixed in OSX 10.6.2 as I have not seen any further occurrence.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Google Street view in Toronto

Google street view is now live in Toronto.
Street view was delayed in Canada because our privacy laws have more depth than in the US.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Google place names in their own language

I just noticed a very cool feature Google Maps has added to their map views.

It seems the place names are now in english as well as the native language of the place.

This seems like a small thing, but gathering all that data and then rendering it for display on the map has a very cool aspect and it lets the rest of the world know that Google cares about the place you come from, even if you don't speak english there.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two incidents between cyclists and vehicles

It's heartbreaking to hear yet more incidents between cyclists and vehicles, particularly when someone dies. Both incidents lists here are reported by CP24.

First reported by CP24, is a man who died when he cut in front of a street car. They are large and can't stop on a dime. The man is reported to have " went through a red turn signal while the streetcar was proceeding through the intersection on a green light.".

The second reported by CP24, is a cyclist, specifically identified as a bike courier, who got into a fist fight with a driver. CP24 reports that the cyclist appeared to be struck by the car (obviously without much damage) and proceeded to start punching the driver through the car window. The driver was then reported to have to gotten out of the vehicle and punched the courier back.

Both incidents are disturbing and I believe the root of the problem lies with the ability to share the road, and the lack of knowledge of what is safe and reasonable to be doing on the road.

The man who died actually went through a red light right in front of a street car... there is no question that training that man to understand the rules of the road before he went out on his bike would have saved him, if he already did know the rules, he ignored them to his own final detriment. Unfortunately this is something I see happening all the time.

In the second case, I have no doubt that the bike courier felt that he had been wronged and wanted to let the driver know, but in what universe is it ok to start punching someone to get a point across? In that case, the vehicle has a licence plate for a reason and it is not safe or reasonable to start punching someone. Violence of that nature is not ok in my city.

What can be done after the fact to reduce the likelihood of those types of incidents from happening again?
  1. Make sure the drivers and cyclists are educated on how they can and should use the road. We need a better way to educate both drivers and cyclists before they get on the road.
  2. In the second case, the courier and maybe the driver should be charged with assault. Why were they not?
An accident is an accident and they can be reduced through education. Throwing punches is not accidental, it's assault and should be treated as such.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Java runs fine on Snow Leopard

Back in February I wrote a quick article that expressed my hope that Java would work properly on Snow Leopard.

After Snow Leopard was released a little while ago, my site hits skyrocketed to unprecedented levels, all from people looking for information about Java on SL. I can only assume they are all wondering if they are going to have any trouble when upgrading.

Let me assure you that in terms of Java, I have had no trouble on SL!

Just as an FYI, java -version returns:
java version
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_15-b03-219)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 14.1-b02-90, mixed mode)
... and its working just fine.

However, the pure volume of hits against my own unknown blog should also be an indicator to Apple that Java is not dead and gone as Mr. Jobs has said.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Windows Media streams on Snow Leopard

I recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to Snow Leopard along with many others.

On Leopard you used to be able to play Windows Media streams using a Microsoft plugin for QuickTime, however when I tried to fire up the CBC1 Radio steam I often listen to, I discovered it no longer works with the new QuickTime X that comes with Snow Leopard.

All is not lost however, A long time Linux app called VLC, ported to several platforms came to the rescue, once I fired it up, it worked flawlessly. In fact it's working so well I may never bother to use QuickTime for CBC1 again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bryant & Sheppard: Security video on YouTube

There is a video on YouTube of the security video captured of the Bryant / Sheppard incident.

The footage is actually posted by someone filming his television and is not very good. The poster is also obviously biased toward the Sheppard side and gets many facts wrong when he annotates the video. However it does give is an opportunity to see some of the detail ourselves.
If you want to see it, take a look now because it's actually in violation of YouTunes terms of service (for copyright violation) and may get taken down shortly.

Here is my analyses of what I can see. I'm purposely ignoring the incorrect and biased annotations in the video. Note, there are two angles captured here.

First camera angle:
Time index 0:01
- Bryant is stopped at a red light in the left most lane (the lane closest to the oncoming traffic).
Time index 0:02
- Sheppard enters frame behind Bryant.
Time index 0:04
- Byrant begines to accelerate as the light turns green.
- Sheppard has crossed the median and is passing Bryant on his left
- Sheppard has covered approximately 10 meters in 2 seconds (about 18kmh)
Time index 0:05
- Sheppard enters Bryant's peripheral vision
- Bryant begins to break suddenly as Sheppard starts to cut in front of him.
Time index 0:06
- Bryant's car has stopped again.
- Sheppard has pulled to the right, cutting in front of Bryant.
Time index 0:07
- For some reason, Sheppard stops in front of Bryant at the green light. He does not appear to be turning left because he is not signalling a turn and would also be out of frame in the intersection.
Time index 0:10
- Sheppard is still sitting at the green light, and turns around to say something to Bryant.
* assumption: they are yelling at each other.
Time index 0:11
- Bryant jerks forward, and closes on Sheppard's back tire. Sheppard does not move and it doesn't appear that Bryant hits Sheppard's back tire as there is no movement from the bike or Sheppard, which there would be if he had been hit even a small amount.
Time index 0:12
- First car going east bound (opposite direction) is seen at bottom right of frame. This supports the time index and Bryant's first aborted movement based on how long it takes a car to move through an intersection.
- Sheppard gets off his bike, leaving it in the intersection.
Time index 0:15
- Sheppard has walked back and is parallel to Bryant's hood (just past the headlights).
* opinion: I can't see it well, but it looks like Sheppard hits the car with something.
Time index 0:17
- Bryant attempts to extricate himself and begins to accelerate. We can see from another video appended to this video (but from another angle) that he turns the car to the right in order to go around the bicycle on the road.
- We see Sheppard "move" here, but we can't see why. He is ether pushed aside by the car or is jumping on the hood which he then falls off of.

Second camera angle:
Time index 0:19
- Bryant attempts to extricate himself by moving through the intersection, but hits the bicycle which is on the road in front of his bumper where he can't see it.
Time index 0:20
- Bryant stops his car again.
- Sheppard is still on his left, standing on the median.
Time index 0:24
- Bryant backs up to clear the bicycle.
Time index 0:27
- Bryant turns to the right to go around the bicycle on the road.
Time index 0:28
- It's hard to see and i can't be sure, but it looks as if Sheppard moves toward the car as it goes by in the right hand lane (implying that he is still standing).

At this point the the security camera footage ends. Sheppards death is actually later and is not covered by this footage. It is reported that Sheppard then chased after Bryant's car and somehow hung on to the drivers side.

In my opinion based on what I can see in the video, Bryant could not see the bicycle in the road when he hit it and it was likely because Sheppard was angry over his bike being damaged by the car (the bike he left laying in the road in front of Bryant's bumper) that he chased after Bryant.
Bryant may have been able to see the bike and ran it over on purpose, but we can't actually tell from this video. It's more likely that in his haste to get away from the situation and because he couldn't see it, he forgot that Sheppard had left it there. No driver wants their car damaged and running over a bike is likely to do damage.
We can also tell that Sheppard was not on the bike when it was first hit by the car.

It's pretty clear that Sheppard was the aggressor here, there is no doubt about it.

It bothers me that some folks feel a need to bend visual evidence to fit their political agenda in such blatant and obvious ways. In fact it's those folks screaming about murder that have prompted me to write anything about this at all.

I want to ensure that bikes can use the roads safely. I demand it because my children will eventually be using them. Automatically blaming Bryant for this tragedy does not help make the roads safer and in fact is detrimental to doing so.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Darcy Sheppard may have caused his own death

Some new details have come to light in the Bryant / Sheppard altercation.
It's looking to me as if Sheppard caused his own death. The Star reports:

"According to witnesses, Bryant cut the argument short by pulling away. As he headed westbound on Bloor St., Sheppard chased the car on foot. He grabbed hold of the vehicle on the driver's side. It's not clear if he was trying to get into the car, get at the driver or merely prevent him from leaving."

"Within seconds, the westbound car had crossed over into the eastbound lanes of Bloor St. Construction workers laying pipe on the stretch of road gaped as the car swerved toward them. It was dark. Many couldn't see Sheppard clinging to the vehicle. All of them said they could hear Bryant screaming."

"The car was riding right up against the sidewalk where there were trees and posts and newspaper boxes. The tires were screeching," said witness Josh Harlan.

Those quotes are not the entire article and I left parts out (please read it yourself for the other details). However they are very telling in terms seeing what happened.
  • Sheppard was clearly the aggressor, chasing down the vehicle and grabbing onto the drivers side.
  • The vehicle moved into the oncoming lane, which in North America is the side the driver sits on, and the side that Sheppard was hanging onto.
  • Shepard didn't let go of the vehicle until objects on the side of the road knocked him off.
So essentially as Bryant pulled away from the light, Sheppard ran after the vehicle and grabbed into the drivers side (the convertible's top was down). It is entirely possible that Sheppard grabbed the steering wheel of the vehicle, however until we are able to read the court documents or review the video ourselves, we don't know that. We do know that he latched onto the drivers side though, and any interference with the driver on the left side of the vehicle, would cause the driver to move away from the source of that interference and would have caused the vehicle to swerve to the left (the natural instinct of a human is to push away from something), crossing into the oncoming traffic, and eventually hitting the curb on the other side of the road.

I suspect that the angry cyclists congregating downtown may end up eating crow.
Although I do not feel that anyone deserves to die in such a way, it bothers me that the cyclist can do no wrong in the eyes of other cyclists.

Apple Trademarked Glossy Chat Bubbles?

I just read this article on TechCrunch:

You have got to be kidding... there is absolutely prior art here, I've been seeing them in in apps for years before apple released the iPhone that contains them.

This style and format belongs to other developers, some of which are under open license. There have been people doing the same thing as themes in apps for so long that I don't know how apple can get away with it.

Apple is really starting to bug me with this hocus-pocus they keep spouting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Michael Bryant & Darcy Sheppard: Fight or Flight Reflex?

There is no doubt that the death of Darcy Sheppard was an unnecessary tragedy. It's also a tragedy that Michael Bryant now has to bare the consequences of the altercation between the two.

It will be interesting to see the rest of the facts and the outcome of the case, here are a few links that I'm getting my current info from.
Now there is not much information available, however we do have a few facts:
  1. The cyclist attached himself (grabbed on) to the vehicle.
  2. He was pulled or dragged or otherwise moved 100 meters down the road.
  3. The whole altercation spanned only 1 minute.
  4. The passenger in the vehicle called police during the incident.
  5. The driver (Bryant) accelerated after Sheppard grabbed on to the vehicle.
  6. Sheppard had dealings with police officers earlier in the day.
Based on those facts and without much else available yet, a couple of things strike me.
  1. Sheppard must have been being aggressive and/or violent earlier in the day if the police were called to remove him from a location.
  2. Sheppard demonstrated aggressiveness again when he grabbed onto Bryants vehicle during the incident.
  3. Bryants unnamed passenger felt threatened enough to call the police.
  4. Bryant showed a lack of judgement when he accelerated his vehicle down the street.
  5. In order for the bike to strike the car, Sheppard would have had to have run into the vehicle. If the opposite had happened (car striking cyclist), the weight and momentum of the vehicle would likely not have left him standing so that he could grab onto the vehicle.
All of us who drive and ride bicycles have had words with others using the roads. However its pretty clear that Sheppard was being aggressive and violent. Bryant may have also been aggressive, however it's clear the passenger felt threatened.

I'm not sure if I had been the driver, I would have done anything different than Bryant did. Imagine your in a convertible an aggressive and violet man grabs onto your car... what do you do?

Would you feel threatened enough for your fight or flight reflex to kick in?

The lives of both families will be severely impacted because of "stupidness" on the part of both Bryant and Sheppard. However I'm not sure this could have happened any other way. When physical contact starts between two opposing aggressors, one will get hurt... maybe not always dead but certainly someone is going to feel it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

About time someone stepped up

I've been more and more concerned in recent years as hardware and software publishers begin to add "features" to the products I use, that allow them access to those same products without my consent.

I think its high time that someone did, and I hope that other manufactures take note.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Jamming cell phones in schools won't solve the problem

An article in the Des Moines Register says that the school board in Iowa is considering jamming cell phone signals in their schools.

Not that people are actually allowed to do that for a whole host of reasons, however there are still a lot of people that think its a good idea, citing the fact that they managed to get through school without using a cell phone.

However, most of them miss the point. The fact is that our culture is changing and mobile communication devices are becoming an extension of our daily lives. Blocking those devices from working is not solving any problem.

What the schools should be doing is teaching the kids how to get on in the world they live in, which includes proper etiquette on the use of mobile technology.

Think about it, its no different than talking in class when you are supposed to be listening. There are protocols that the teachers go through, there are reasonable rules for the students and there are consequences for ignoring them... so why would a cell phone be any different?

It seems to me that there are a lot of people who are unable to adjust to rapidly changing culture, as there has always been.

Maybe the educators need to be educated.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Internet Explorer 6 - FAIL!

Today I am once again attempting to work around one of IE6's many issues.

I started wondering just how much money Microsoft has cost the world by trying to reinvent web standards as they saw fit back in 2001. Now there is no way that I can know exact numbers, but let's give this a shot with some reasonable values.

  • IE6 has been around for about 8 years I think.
  • Assume 6 hours a month dealing with IE issues
  • Assume 6 million web/application developers (this number is likely much to small considering how many sites are up on the net)
  • Assume an average developer's time is worth $30/hour (the range will vary from somewhat lower to a lot higher).

6 hours * 12 month * 8 years * 6000000 devs * $30
= $103,680,000,000.00

In other words, Microsoft has cost the world ~$103.5 billion, just because they wanted to do things their own way.

Delenda est IE6!

... and now, back to sorting out yet another IE6 feature...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Invasion of my Pockets

This month, Amazon remotely deleted electronic books from their customers Kindels. They then apologized profusely, saying it would never happen again.

They are not the only one with that sort of power. Apple has the same ability to delete applications it doesn't like from your iPhone.

Now I don't know about you, but it looks to me as if many companies are putting in those same features that we demanded they not put in over the last several years. Only they are doing it in a way that already exists when you purchase the product. If any software company put such a feature in, we would call it an invasion of privacy.

Apple says they are unlikely to use the feature and Amazon has claimed that they will never do it again, so why dont they just remove the feature now and be done with it?

I think the real issue here is why are we allowing them to get away with putting it in, in the first place?

I think we can expect to see more and more of this sort of thing, until nobody knows there was a time when it was against the law in most countries.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A product worth playing with

Every once in a while, I find a product that grabs my attention.

The Game Crafter is one of those. I love the concept... not only is it something that might actually work as a "social product", but I can see it being something I can do with my children on a rainy afternoon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Open Source Business Model

I love this concept.

There is much value in what you can find and get for free online today, just about anything you need is available.
I new business startup accelerator called Lead To Win is using transparent and open methods and materials to help startups get rolling, and it seems to be working as they are doing it again.

See this great article from a real writer: Lead to Win: An Open source Business Accelerator

As someone who loves the startup world, and being an engineer myself, business know-how and experience is something I always struggle with. An accelerator that focuses on the business side of things is sorely needed for people like myself.

They are not the first exactly, something similar was originally tried by Omazo Ventures however they were not as open and never generated the critical-mass support in the community required to move forward (they are now a little more traditional).

I think this deserves a bit more exploration and I wonder what it would take to expand this to other cities.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rocket War - For Tradition and Fun...

I have got to see this first hand some day.
Here is some more information on The Rocket War.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Toronto Strike

Looks like not many in the twitter sphere have much sympathy for the city workers union (CUPE Local 4160).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I just started reading Little Brother (written by Cory Doctorow) which is about the control and abuse of information by your government. John Baichtal called Little Brother a "Manual for our Kids to Save the Future" in his review on Wired: GeekDad.

I found it Ironic this morning while reading the various news sources I parse every morning to find this little gem the UK Guardian: 
ISPs to record all emails and calls
I keep wondering now if people are just blind to the probable abuse of this new regulation. I have no doubt that the people putting it in place have nothing but the best intentions (what is they say about the road to Hell?) but once in place it can not easily be removed again and it would be very easy for any unscrupulous person or organization to use the information against a population.

This has happened before and usually people are not happy with the outcome.
I fear for my children's future.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sometimes I am amazed at what kinds of things come out of the US

Sometimes I can't believe I'm seeing what I do coming out of the US in media.
Not that Canada has any fewer buffoons, but we usually don't let them have their own show (unless you count Ed's Night Party, which some of us will).

For Canadians watching, be prepared to be insulted. 

For americans who don't know any better, understand that these people get just about every statement wrong if not completely inappropriate and insulting.

At first I thought this was some sort of comedy show, but then I began to wonder if they actually were the ignorant buffoons they make them selves sound like.

I'm told by the way that this is some sort of Fox program, so I can't say I'm surprised about the quality.

If your so inclined, you can complain to: redeye@foxnews.com.
ED: Since writing this post, I've learned that an apology was forthcoming. It seems a bit lame but then what can you expect from these clowns?

When Canadians take shots at the US, we do it under the guise of Comedy... and funny it is. Let me leave you with a few good ones to bring your blood pressure down.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Java on Snow Leopard. We'll see...

According to this article:
Why you will upgrade to OS X Snow Leopard
Apple is preparing to release its new version of OS X (The operating system run on Macs).

I'm looking forward to seeing it, however being a developer who mostly works in Java and seeing that Apple has a decidedly poor attitude when it comes to Java, I'm very concerned that I will not be able to use the new OS or buy a new Mac for the two years it will take them to update the Java virtual machine for the operating system.

If we're lucky the old JVM will work just as well and we won't have a problem, however I am not confident that they will give it any priority.
This is unfortunate because all the best Java developers I know are now running Macs.

If they just don't do it and I have to update my machine (as a professional tool, I tend to replace my hardware every 1 to 2 years), I just might end up running Linux or FreeBSD instead.

I'd make a plea for Apple to pay attention to their consumers, but they usually don't and I doubt they would listen to me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Steve Jobs is an idiot

Yes, I said "Steve Jobs is an Idiot" or he at least gets his advice from idiots. Although he might have a passion for creating good products, he doesn't know squat about what is really going on out in the world.

I feel I can say this now because I'm a Mac user. I work as a developer and I do all my work on a Mac (along with all the other hardcore developers I know, I switched to a Mac when Vista came out).

He keeps doing and saying things that indicate he is not in touch with reality. 

One of the things that bothered me was how much the iPhone was crippled on purpose, however I can sort of understand because some of it has business value for Apple (they want you to use their services over others).

However other things are not only a pain, but just plain wrong. For instance, this quote:

Java’s not worth building in [to the phone]. Nobody uses Java anymore. It’s this big heavyweight ball and chain.
Ref: Ultimate iPhone FAQs List, Part 2

Now that's just plain ignorant. A quick search for data shows that in 2005, 70% of wireless applications used it and it is estimated to drive about $100 Billion worth of business annually. 4.5 million developers were working with java in 2005 and there are over 4 billion devices using it all over the planet [1][2].

Now I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like "Nobody uses Java anymore" to me. just about any other phone you buy has it included.

What makes this even worse is that the iPhone actually uses a cool ARM processor with Java built right into the hardware!  [3]

Lets not forget the one button mouse that Jobs insists makes everyone life easier. Not a single Mac user I know uses a One Button Mouse from Apple... I say again, Not. A. Single. One. (not that you don't exist, I just don't know who you are). In fact, Apple's mouse actually does have two buttons[4] but it's a terrible design and is hardly worth the money (yes, I've used one)... but it does look nice I suppose.

I could extend this article on and on -- get into the fact that my Macbook has a new PCMCIA port that nobody uses and no SD Card reader for use with every other device on the planet.

So, why this rant? Why does Jobs (or his advisors) attitude bother me so much?

Because I really do like the hardware, and they do include some very useful innovations. The touch pad alone on my Macbook Pro was worth the switch.
I want to use Apple hardware and even software but I want them not to tell me how to use it, and make choices about what they think I should be doing.

Their attitude is worse than Microsoft's and unlike Microsoft, they don't seem to care what their consumers think.