Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fireworks and flags ...

I'm not typically a very patriotic person. I like my country all right, but as I've said elsewhere, I tend to view myself as a citizen of the planet, not any specific part of it. Regardless, I can't help enjoy the sight of the Canadian Maple Leaf, especially in interesting photography.

I took this shot in 2002, during the Calgary Stampede Fireworks. Special thanks goes to my good friend Nancy, whose deck served as the composition point. I took dozens of shots on this night, and several others that year, from roughly the same spot.

I ended up with more colourful shots, more active shots, perhaps even more interesting shots ... I've posted 2 others I really like from that year's fireworks at my Flickr page as well. I suppose what I love about this one is the juxtaposition with the flag. The long exposure needed for the fireworks arc usually produces a blurred image of something like a flapping flag, so this crisp, clear flag beside a nice fireworks burst was remarkable, I thought.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Interesting perspective ...

Originally uploaded by planet_kasuppke.
... I found this shot browsing Flickr today. I love architecture, and I love interesting composition in photography, and this definately fits both bills. I think Flickr browsing may become a new addiction, lol ... there are some amazing photos there.

Attacking Iran: Are they Nuts?????

Attacking Iran: Are they nuts? If the U.S. attacked Iran, the consequences would be catastrophic -- including a possible American retreat under fire in Iraq
By Joe Conason

This is from today's Salon. Joe Conason is a solid writer, and while anyone with partisan issues will likely dismiss his work as that of a 'Liberal' the fact is, like Republicans such as William Buckley, Conason thinks deeply about the issues he writes about. He does extensive research, and has a solid grasp of history. He does tend to write from a liberal perspective, just as Buckley does from a Conservative perspective, but like Buckley, he gets to that perspective through fact, logic, and solid reasoning.

This piece on Iran is an excellent example. He does a very good job of explaining the issues involved with an attack on Iran, and as many people did before the attack on Iraq, he details several of the specific problems to be faced by US troops given an attack at this time.

Opinion like this NEEDS to be listened to now. If the Bush administration had listened to people in the know in advance of Iraq, they would have gone in with more troops (as initially recommended by Generals on the ground and vetoed by the admin), they would have expected a period of resistance after the initial "shock and awe" campaign was over, and they would have had more of a plan to deal with the reconstruction efforts and the predictable (and predicted) insurgency that developed. In short, Iraq today would look VERY different if Bush had paid attention to people like Conason in planning for Iraq.

And so, I hope they listen now, in planning for Iran. Its clear that people who predicted it wasn't going to be a cakewalk were right. In Iran, people who are predicting that a few bunker busters would 'nuke' Iran into compliance are simply ignorant of the reality of Iran, the reality of Iranian national pride, the reality of religious fervour. The truth is, Iran will be a longer, harder job than Iraq is ... given how much worse Iraq turned out than the initial predictions (remember, Rumsfeld said in 2003 that the war would be measured in days, weeks, or possibly months ... certainly not years), I hope the administration actually pays attention to its planners in this case.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Another reason The Hour is the best hour of news on TV

George Stroumboulopoulos looks at the world from a completely different perspective than anyone else in the media, at least that I've seen. Its not that he is without perspective or agenda ... in fact, he seems to have a strong agenda. Its that his agenda seems completely different than anyone else, not just in quantity, but in the actual KIND of things he advocates.

tonight's lead story was a perfect example. Toronto mounted an effort to census the homeless population in the city, and George led off the show with a report on last nights efforts. But he chose to do by actually finding and interviewing an "urban camper," a guy named Dave. Fascinating bit of journalism, and Dave provided a perspective that, ironically, has always been missing from the homeless debate ... the perspective of the homeless themselves, lol.

Thats just one example ... the reason its an excellent show is that it looks at issues from a perspective that no one else has, or does, or even cares to a lot of times. He's definitely worth a watch ...

I've seen email scams before ...

... but I LOVE this picture, lol. This fellow has gone to a great deal of trouble over this, lol, and the ironic thing about it is, having spent 5 years in Nigeria, it could ALL be true. There could very well have been a government contract that gets paid out in a trunk full of cash to someone who died ... thats the irony of 419 in Nigeria (for the record, 419 is a slang term used in Lagos for fraud, and is also the number of the criminal code section covering it for Nigeria).

This is the most elaborate one I've seen, by far, lol. I've been personally contacted, and the guy also sent me a scanned 'certificate' from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, along with this picture, lol. Maybe I should give the guy an address ... that WOULD be a cool trunk to see on my doorstep, LMAO. See the text of his message with the pic below ... anyone have an address they wanna take the chance with????? LMFAO

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Greg Bond < >
Date: Apr 20, 2006 10:04 AM
Subject: Important Notice

Dear Elron Steele,

I have arranged with our governmental courier service to deliver the
funds($12.5m) in a suitcase to you in Canada through a diplomat means.

The Funds($12.5m) has been arranged in the suitcase for delivery at your
door step. Please confirm the address of your chioce, your phone# to enable
the diplamats contact you once they arrive Canada.

Below is the attachment of the truck box containing the funds .

Thanks for your co-operation
Barrister Greg Bond

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Slackware ... a blast from the past ...

I was probably one of the original Linux adopters. I came across my first flavour of Linux in 1995, while working in Lagos, Nigeria. I was working as a UNIX system administrator for large-scale SGI and IBM servers in the oil and gas industry, and at the time, the only UNIX-like systems that were available for PC's were BSD-style UNIX's. While these provided a good UNIX system for a PC, there were significant ease of use issues, coupled with problems of incompatible hardware and limited functionality for the sorts of work that PC might have done before (like normal office stuff).

Linux was a huge step in this market, probably moreso than modern folks realize. It provided a fairly stable installation process that worked most of the time, and it included support for a lot of existing hardware. It was still a hugely primitive system that required a lot of configuration to get any use from it ... but it was stable UNIX that installed relatively easily.

Slackware was what I chose at the time, because they had a convenient floppy disk distribution system, useful for someone with no CD player or burner (yes, it was THAT primitive, LOL). Although my first install of Slackware was on less then 30 floppies, with drivers for new hardware, and additional programs, install sets soon swelled to 60 or more disks, LOL.

I'm happy to say today's process is a bit more streamlined, LOL. Everything fits onto 2 CD's now (which, for the record, using 1.44mb floppies is ... about 903 disks, LOL) and the process was reduced from 4 hours to about 45 minutes, LOL. Its happily up and running on my laptop now, and I'll probably change my desktop from Redhat Fedora to Slackware sometime this week.

This is completely a geek post ... most readers won't have a clue what I am talking about in most cases here, LOL. But its kinda kool to go back to my roots ... but I must say that Slackware 2006 is a damn sight easier to work with than Slackware 1995, LOL.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Microsoft, market share, and innovation ...

Microsoft: Don't sell PCs without operating systems
Graeme Wearden
April 07, 2006, 11:25 BST

This story came to my attention through a post in New-Continuum a week or so ago. Its interesting for few reasons, but certainly not because its an unusual business practice for Microsoft. They have always pushed hard for OEM installs and licensing that made installation of other products difficult. This direct threat to customers and distributors is somewhat new, but even that isn't without precedent, lol.

The main argument (or at least the one with some semblance of reality to it, lol) is that selling PC's with no operating system installed provides opportunities for people to install pirated versions of MS software. Even if this is true, its hard to see how its the responsibility of PC sellers to deal with MS's piracy problems. If pirated software was the ONLY option on a machine with no OS installed, or even the most likely one, then I could see a concerted industry effort. But any good PC seller knows there are people like me out there, people who hate having to wipe out a perfectly good Windows installation so they can properly partition their new machines to dual-boot or triple-boot multiple legal operating systems.

This is not an unusual tactic for MS, really. A look through their legal history shows them walking a fine line between exploitive and criminal manipulation, and keen business acumen. They've really walked that line since the begining.

In the beginning, there was XENIX. Microsoft's first major public operating system release was not any form of DOS, nor was it anything written by a Microsoft employee. Microsoft was founded on the success of Altair BASIC, a programming language/environment invented by Bill Gates in university in 1976, but its first major OS product was a UNIX variant purchased from AT&T named XENIX. One of Microsoft's most recognizable software names started as a XENIX program ... MS Word began life as Multi-Tool Word for XENIX.

The real break for Microsoft came from IBM. They were developing a new personal computer using the 8086 chipset, and an operating system by Digital Equipment Corp called CP/M-86. The problem was, CP/M was very expensive, and in something of a Machiavellian move, IBM contracted an early Microsoft to reverse engineer a cheap version of CP/M.

And so PC-DOS was born, a Pinto ($40-ish) alternative to the Cadillac CP/M-86 ($240-ish). Of course, in what has become a classic case of knifing someone in the back while their attention is one wielding their own knife, Gates was busy developing his own version for 'clone' hardware, released 9 months after the first PC-DOS version, called MS-DOS. Version 2 of each system was reversed, with MS-DOS 2.0 coming out before PC-DOS 2.0. In essence, Microsoft gave IBM the OS they needed to stab Digital over the licensing of CP/M, while quietly sliding the knife into IBM's ribs as they developed and marketed MS-DOS for non-IBM hardware.

Still, from 1975, when Bill wrote Altair BASIC, through the mid-1980's , very little innovation was happening at Microsoft, really. There was a lot of buying, and reverse-engineering, and double-engineering going on, but not a lot of actual innovation. As 1983 and 1984 rolled around, the market success of DOS (which literally stands for Disk Operating System, BTW) and the 'PC' architecture was clear, but so was the success of clone hardware makers, at the expense of IBM's more expensive, albeit better made, systems.

In many ways, 1984 changed the personal computer industry forever. It is the year when the 'modern' era began with the introduction of the Apple Macintosh. Not only was their ad campaign revolutionary (and still, some 22 years later, worth a look), but the Mac set the standard for OS and hardware design, doing things that were truly revolutionary in a desktop machine.

From the beginning, Microsoft has been more about buying and borrowing other technology, than about creating their own. Their 'questionable' business practices go back as far as reverse engineering CP/M, a CLEAR violation of the very DMCA they so vigorously support today, lol, and the high-pressure marketing tactics go back at least as far as the release of MS-DOS beside PC-DOS in 1982.

Nothing in the new article really surprised me. The only thing that continues to surprise me is the Microsoft can maintain market share on mediocre innovation. I suppose that's business however, lol.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Free Trade - Free Movement

[[Update May 21, 2006 ... Check out my new blog address at WordPress (]]

Last week, on one of his 'Closer' segments for the Hour (I think it was Thursday), George Stroumboulopoulos talked about the new ID cards being implemented for cross-border travel between Canada and the US. He mentioned how its important to control borders and have tight, strong security, and essentially, he seemed to throw his support behind the new ID Cards, and rigorous border controls that tightly monitor who comes in and out.

I think having a passport, or some form of travel document is a necessary evil in the modern world. Its important to know who we are when we travel. But as he was talking about controls at the US border, it struck me that one of the things that was so liberating about my trip to Europe last summer was being able to travel around essentially without restriction.

Canada and the US supposedly have an 'undefended' border, and for many years, we've touted the friendly 'drivers license' relationship we have with each other's citizens. None of that prepared me for the ease and fluidity of moving between countries in Europe. I didn't think about Visas or destinations a single time, and had I chosen to stay in Western Europe, I might not have even known I was changing countries. When I drove from Frankfurt to London and back in 1997, the only border controls I encountered were at the Chunnel on the way to London, and at Dover Ferry on the way back to Frankfurt.

Because I chose to go to the Czech Republic, and then on to Poland, my overnight train rides were interrupted by border guards. But I barely remember the experiences, doing nothing more than show my passport to a guard through a train car door. I went from Munich to Prague, then Prague to Warsaw, and back to Munich again, easier than many Canadians can travel to the US. It was certainly easier than traveling to Mexico or other countries in the Americas.

There were many things about the logistics of that trip to comment on ... the incredible passenger rail service in Europe is certainly one ... but ease of travel between countries is certainly worth writing home about, on a trip to Europe. I think we in North America need to learn something from the European Union, and its satellite countries.

We talk a lot about free trade in North America, the free movement of goods and production in the Americas, and that's ONE of the things the EU is about. But North Americans only take it half way. Like I said in my recent bit quoting David Frum and the Wall Street Journal, with free trade comes free labour as well ... the EU recognizes that, but we seem to want to stick our heads in the sand.

There are many reasons to embrace more free movement of people around the world, and especially within contiguous geographic regions. Economics and tourism are only two reasons, and more become apparent as the policy is implemented on the ground. I do know that one of the joys of my trip through Eastern Europe last year was simply how easy it was to get from one place to the next. We could learn from that, IMO.