Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Obama post here - I did a beer post instead

Something I learned today; actually two things - one about beer and one technical

Reading the news today, I came across a story about beer on the CBC news site. I learned that Ontario as well as most other provinces in Canada have a minimum price that beer can be sold at. I thought it was a free market. In Ontario, the LCBO (liquor control board of ontario) has a "social responsibility" mandate. This is not a bad thing, just something I did not know.

Somewhere during that news reading time, I had to reset Outlook to connect through the company's VPN. This involves shutting down Outlook, checking with task manager to make sure it is really shutdown (sometime is stays running and you either kill it or reboot) and then starting Outlook again. During this I learned that I had a RichVideo Module. I did not know this.

File.net says it is 42% dangerous. It says some maleware camouflage themselves as RichVideo.exe. So I explore further.

Some user comments say that it is part of Cyberlink DVD. I have that installed on my pc and the file richvideo.exe is indeed in the right spot on my hard disk. So all is well.

I am in the 58% safe category.

And a case of 24 cannot be less that $25.60 in Ontario.

Not sure of the big picture effect that had but when the LCBO did the same thing for spirits, the tax revenues associated rose near $1 million a month.

It's hard to complain about sin taxes but those on really low incomes still smoke and still buy beer. They'll have less to spend on the basics. The LCBO "social responsibility" mandate must take care of this.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Time for a photography post

For the earlier post on the junior's game, I used a picture of my tv and my treo. It was a quickly setup mashup of hdtv and slingbox tv. I played and paused on the tv the junior's game. On my treo, I played and paused the same game at a different spot. I had my 8 year old hold up my treo in from of the tv. I snapped a couple of shots with my nikon d200 slr using my garyfong light defuser equiped nikon sb600 flash.

The clarity of the shot is amazing.

Here is a web friendly version:

Here is a crop of the smartphone screen from the same shot.

I really like where digital photography has taken us.

and here is a link 

to a large version of the image.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Technology has created opportunities

I remember noticing the number of Skype users who were online at around 3 million some years ago. Mention of the number of users became relevant when Skype was bought by Ebay. Look at the numbers today:

Skype is at over 15 million. Are they active and talking, no. But each of the 15 million Skype client's have a live connection to the Internet and the client is running on the user's PC.

World wide barriers to communication have been broken down, free or low cost is a matter of fact today.

Take a look at my LinkedIn network:

I remember watching my professional network hit 1 million. I never thought it would get there. Now it is almost 5 million and will be there this year (about 40 weeks based on the weekly growth lately).

This is a network created by people connecting to people and confirming their desire to be connected. It a self-forming network. I've used the reach out capability more than once already and there are unlimited possibilities going forward.

I use SmugMug as my photosharing site. I'm quite impressed. It has been stable and reliable. The most important feature for me when I established http://neternity.smugmug.com/ was the ability to establish unique galleries with password protection. I needed individual galleries for each of my kid's sports teams and school events. I wanted a way to share photos I took with parents, friends and family that would respect their desire for privacy on the Internet. The volume of photos put up on SmugMug varied depending on what is going on in my life and my kids lives.

Below are the summary stats from my Photo VPN (virtual private network) from December 2008:

The opportunity to share a large enough volume of photos in a low effort manner was made possible by the Internet, SmugMug, digital photograhpy and desktop computing. All told I have near 10,000 images on SmugMug using almost 27 gb of storage.
These are three examples of opportunities created by technology.
It's fun to be a technology geek and have something new coming at you all the time.
Imagine a world with little or no change.
It's a different pace than what we have today.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Minus 29 degrees celcius - Need more servers

I used to work out of a 1800's renovated log barn. I had two floors each with ~400 sq ft. It is set back from our 1906 brick farm house about 400 ft. A nice but cool walk from the house to work. I did this commute for ~5 years. This fall I decided not to heat the building over the winter. It's heated with a propane furnance. Propane almost doubled in price last year, it's better now but the heating cost was noticable last year. But I digress.

Drove the kids to school today. Oldest (still at home) walked to the bus earlier. Our driveway is 1/3 mile long. Must have been a cold walk. I found it cold driving it. Outside temperature readout on the truck said -29 celcius. Never changed from the house to school or back again. And my fingers confirmed it.

Back in the house, the thermostat read 69 degrees fahrenheit. Our new oil furnance is doing well. Our old water source heat pump could never keep up with the severe cold. We needed to supplement with a wood stove. New furnance is doing well to keep an almost 100 degree fahrenheit temperature swing going.

But I digress.

I left my old Bell Expressvu PVR back in the old office connected to my internal network via a Slingbox. The main internet router is there. I have an 80' tower there with my two wireless Internet connections - each to a different ISP. I left the heat off.
Today, I cannot watch 'The Lab with Leo Laporte' or CNN or anything. My satellite receiver has closed it self down because it is too cold. Kind of impressive actually.
Someone put together the right set of requirements for this product. Some combination of engineering, product management and quality control did the job right. I own this device outright but pay $5 a month for DishCare which means Bell fixes it if it breaks. Around the 6 year mark it died and I got a replacement. I figure at $60 a year, it will cost me $240 every 4 years for a perpetual PVR. I'm okay with that.
The correct engineering has swayed the odds from me the consumer to Bell the service provider.
The 4 year prediction could be off. Maybe so, maybe not. But the right level of engineering has provided self managing smarts to deal with the realities of it's operating environment.
Many people leave satellite receivers in their cottages with the heat off in the winter, even a small, well insulated building will consume hundreds if not thousands of heating energy with the type of winters we get here in Canada.
On a side note, I've left the building naturally ventilated during the summer and have seen the other side of the coin: the high temperature shut-off. Hopefully, I never will. Our summer's get warm and for a month or so get hot but rarely if ever does the daily peak go over 95 degrees f.
I've left my main Dell server back there too. I moved two other servers to my office in the house. No reason other than space for leaving in there. Better check on it. I know it is alive, it hosts my exchange server and I do know that my mail is working. Maybe I need more servers. More servers equals more heat.
Likely my daily dose of spam is keeping it warm though.
Update: Satellite receiver reports internal temperature at 37 degrees F at 1:45pm
Will set sleep to off once it comes back alive (if it does), no sleep should mean more heat from working components.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's a dipity-do-da-day doing the Social Media handholding circle

I've tuned up my services. I twittered about my blog. 

I've blogged about twitter.

I've linked my blog to facebook.

I've linked facebook to linkedin.

I've pulled them all into friendfeed.

I've linked picasa to smugmug.

Smugmug to blogger.

Email to Flickr.

Flickr to Blogger.

Youtube to friendfeed.

Flickr to friendfeed.

And dipity sends me a "hi, remember us" email.

So, pull in flickr, blogger, youtube, twitter and friendfeed to dipity.

Now I have feed claim soup.

But it sure is pretty. Look for yourself:

unlimited information - only 24 hours in a day

There are only 24 hours in a day. The Internet and TV offer up effectively unlimited information. Alas, people would be lucky to have 1-2 hours in a day to gather and consume it.

I find the influx of video as well as audio based information is being created with the intent to inform but rather than compete against each other which is a winnable fight, the fight is against an undefeatable opponent - time.

Why anyone or any organization would focus primarily on video as a medium to get their message/content out befuddles me. I'm not talking about entertainment. YouTubes are competing with TV. That's a whole different topic. I'm talking about news, opinions - information.

I am an avid rss feed readers. A river of information comes to me in http://google.com/reader (my preferred feed reader) from a multi-tude of sources. Some feed items are summaries, others are snippets and others are links. I link out from my feed reader if and when I want more details.

I can scan my subset of the internet in minutes to an hour or so each day depending on how much new information has been created and how much time I have. This is a highly effective method of gathering and scanning information.

Video and audio try to lock in my attention for the duration of the clip. A 20 minute scoble video clip from http://fastcompany.tv/scobleizer-tv takes 20 minutes of my attention. I might spend the time if I was interested in the topic. I won't spend 1 hour of my available time and only get three clips of information.

I want to scan, browse, learn and most importantly skip information.

The image below shows the grouping of summary and duration attention information. It doesn't read too well as a small image, double click on it to get a readable version. It tries to show that information gets lost inside it's container if there isn't enough attention time available to look at it.

The worst possible thing one can do is misread their audience. Their content needs to be matched to their intended audience. Why we are using a medium that is a mismatch with the intended audience makes no sense to me.

Get their attention, deliver the message, make the value proposition, complete the pitch.

Get the attention - if they are there, you have their attention
Deliver the message - easy if the message is short and concise and readily available (or right there as part of the attention getter)
Make the value proposition - either in the message or through follow on information (could be video, text, audio)
Complete the pitch - either in the message or in the follow on

The pitch is the purpose of putting the information out there if you have a determined audience your are pitching to. It could be to inform, it could be to reduce energy, it could be to sell - it has a purpose. The value proposition could be straight forward and might even be non-existent in a diary type of blog.

I wonder if I am missing out on information because I don't have enough attention time to give to it.

I'll never know for sure.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why does it matter ?

Why does it matter ? Not IT as in Information Technology but it as in the picture below.

It does matter.
He makes it happen.
Heads we win,
Tails we lose.

we may lose either way.

it doesn't matter.

Maybe we win.

But this time it will be different.

As a Canadian involved in International business with a major US component, the business financial climate and the overall financial climate matters. So this time, more than ever, I watch the polical goings on in the US.

Optimistically, I hope we will see some lasting changes. Some because it's time and some because it's needed.

Needless to say, there's a new sherriff in town and he has a big posse, spare horses, a lot of guns and a long rope.

Where life had no value, life has value now. The LAW has arrived.

It's gonna be a good show. Grab some popcorn, a large soda and let's settle down, cause the good parts might be coming up soon.

Don't worry CBC and CNN, we'll be here.
And you too YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7L7XsHKCVs bonus link - Neil's watching too
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looking in the rear view mirror

Ever look in the rear view mirror and do a doubletake. See something that you weren't expecting.

That was exactly the case when I saw this car from days gone by. It can't be that old. It has squared headlights. Interestingly, it seems to have no rust.

It would weigh more than a modern SUV.

It can't be a serious collector's car because we salt our roads in the winter and salt is the biggest enemy of metal car bodies. A car in this shape of the age that it is should not be used as a winter beater.

There must be a story here.

I think I saw baby stuff in the back seat stacked up to the roof. There is a story and I don't know it.
And I can't use the internet to research it.
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on podcasting and blogging

I do wish I had the time to keep up with all of the blogs, podcasts and videos that are generated on a minute by minute basis. I have a soft spot for the CBC and would like to listen more if I had the time. I've paid attention to the pod scene and interestingly, I have stayed with Juice (formerly Ipodder) and ITunes as my podcast combo of choice.

Not so with my choice of blogging software. I was turned off of Blogger with all of the disruptions they caused me with Captcha's. I switched over to Wordpress and brought BlogJet to the party. Was a good combo. Worked well.

One day I installed Picasa3. I absolutely love Picasa , right from the day I used it which was before Google bought it. It has stayed strong as my library of images has grown over the 100,000 mark which is more than I can say for other image managers.

I like to blog with pictures. Sort of like doing a talk where I'd use slides to complement my spoken word. I create an image for the occasion or choose one that I have on hand to bring a little something extra to my post. Or, I find an image that will start the blogging juices to flow.
Picasa has a BlogThis button. A nice window pops up and a primitive but useful typing area is presented.

Ease of blogging, simplicity. But I would like to center an image and not have my text do this centered formatting thing.

ps. If you are new to the CBC and/or new to Canada, check out the rss feeds at http://cbc.ca/rss and don't miss the Vinyl Cafe podcast http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/index.html?arts#vinylcafe .

One last parting comment, I use Juice to feed Itunes because ITunes has a habit of deleting old podcasts. It sees Juice podcasts as being mp3 files with a genre of Podcast. It keeps all of them around.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hockey much as we like it means winter

Hockey night in Canada, Wednesday edition. Back to watching NHL games now that the World Cup is over. And yet again, Canada has triumphed. Good finish for a good Cup. Good for Canada, good for Ottawa, good for minor hockey.

I think I'll watch any game as long as there is action. Playing tonight are Montreal and New York. Canadians against Rangers. Much of the talk is about Montreal maybe, possibly having their first penalty free game in a million years.

But hockey season means winter and winter means snow. And once again we have snow. Enough to stop the school busses from running. Kids had a snow day. Two days back to school after the Xmas break and they get a snow day. They spent it well.

More coming tonight, so I'll leave snow removal till the morning.

Much chatter on the net about consumer electronics which of course is from the annual January CES event. Given my lust for gadgets, I think that attending that conference would cause me to have way too much gadget lust. Might just put me into a gadget breakdown. Had enough excitement reading about 24x optical zoom camcorders, shirt pocket sized 30fps still cameras, made for Ipod things, netbooks, small HD video things, direct to YouTube things and blue things: ray and tooth.

And a gaggle of GPS thingies.

Was anything announced that was a game changer ? No.

We are in a repeating cycle of incremental evolution. Technology gets improved. Radical, game changing improvements take time and tend to be developed and rolled out in increments. The only time incremental technology becomes a game changer is when adoption hasn't kept pace with the incremental improvements.

Imagine keeping the same PC for 20 years. Or a digital camera for 10-15 years. Or staying at 2,400 bps dial-up for 15 years.

PC's, digital cameras and networking have all gradually improved with at least a doubling of capability every 3 to 5 years. The hype from events like CES would try to promote the next BIG thing as having arrived but history has shown that it just won't happen.

The cumulative effect of incremental evolution is substantial when looked at from a 20 year increment. From a day to day perspective, it's baby steps. A memory card video camera that is YouTube integrated is a big step from an 8mm film camera from the 60's but adding YouTube to an existing memory card video camera is interesting but should not be enough to buy a replacement camera.

Now if somebody could invent a low cost, 10 fold battery capacity increase. Imagine a gadget that didn't need a tether to an AC outlet.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year`s Post

Dick Clark is an icon. Like the Polaroid brand, he has name value. Ryan Seacrest does too. I like the way he is positioned for the future without pushing Dick Clark aside.

Name value, brand value, faces. This thinking pushes me into the Facebook / MySpace vs every other social something that is trying to ning them if you pardon the play on words. I just started using a ning site related to education. I sort of like ning. Facebook is one social thingy that I have accepted that I will have to use. MySpace I have abandoned. The education ning site has grand plans. I doubt they will get enough faces to be useful. Sadly to say, a Facebook group would likely get more faces unless a serious plan is put in place to build the community membership and to build activity (and value) within the community .

The countdown for social network sites is on. They are stacked up just like the advertising billboards at Time`s Square. I predict that some sites will live a long and properous life once they reach critical mass as it applies to the community they are trying to establish. That might be a community of 5 or 10. It might be a community of 10,000 or 100 million. If I was involved in one, I'd determine what my critical mass was and execute a plan to get me there. I've seen good idea sites start and flounder. I've also seen them grow and reach a steady state with longevity.

Is the ball dropping and is there a sense and reality of urgency for all these social thingies ?

I think yes and no. And it as usual will come down to money. If an ROI is required, there is a reality of urgency. I expect alot of good ideas will be floated, invested in and will flop. This goes along with any hype cycle. Social this and social that is at the peak of the hype cycle. This applies to social infrastructure and to social networks themselves. Technology will be rolled out. Some will fly and others will fall. Communities will be built and some will reach critical mass. Others will flounder and die off. Good technology will help form communites.

I think yes that the free for all will quickly stop and there is a reality of urgency. The ball is dropping and there is 6 to 12 months before the bottom is reached.

I think no where there is little or no investment and time can be spent to build out technology and/or 'faces'. Time is the enemy where money is involved. Time is the ally when change is involved. Migrating people from me to we needs time. A race against the money clock to establish behavioral change is a tough race to run.

In this world of islands of social technology, we need bridges, trains, buses ... anything that will join technology that people use and are comfortable with to the technologies that support communities and social interactions. New wonderful shiny things can be an impediment to creating critical mass in a social network. That is why we need to link the old with the new. We need to really look at the use cases and actors and design ways to facilitate communication and sharing.

What we have today are a bunch of shiney objects. I might pick on some of our shiney objects in the future. My favourite love/hate is twitter. But that is for another post or not.
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

TV Hockey World Cup 3G Slingbox Internet Relegation Friends Family Great Moments

One Picture, Many Words

I have one picture and it applies to many words. As the title lays them out: TV, Hockey, World Cup, 3G, Slingbox, Internet, Relegation, Friends, Family and Great Moments.

The blog post is dedicated to my brother without whom this post would not have been possible.


The background of the picture is my tv showing a paused picture from the high definition broadcast of last night's semi-final Canada vs Russia World Cup Junior Hockey game.


The game was awesome, one of the best I have seen. Brother sent me an email a few days ago and said he had ticket's for last nights' game. Want two he asked, sure I replied. Went into overtime. Canada was behind until 5 seconds left in the last period.

World Cup

Sometimes home is a great place to be. This year's Junior Hockey World Cup was hosted in Ottawa. http://www.hockeycanada.ca/index.php/ci_id/23176/la_id/1.htm gets you to a summary of over a weeks worth of games. Games were played at the Scotiabank Place where the NHL Senators play and the Ottawa Civic Center where the Ottawa 67's play.


The foreground of the picture in this post shows my Palm Windows Mobile smartphone which is playing the Canada Russia game in full motion video with sound and the ability to pause/replay the video feed. This is shown as it was used last night. Why would I need to do that ? Were we that far up in the stands that a 2 inch square screen was better than the actual ice surface in front of us ? And how was the phone able to pull in the video feed ?


At home, I have one of my two Bell Expressvu satellite receivers connected to a device called a Slingbox. It takes the video and audio signals from the satellite and sends them out over my ethernet network at home. SlingMedia provides a Windows, a Windows Mobile and a few other platforms with software that allow them to connect to the Slingbox and watch what is coming into the Slingbox.

There is also the ability to simulate the satellite remote control from the remote device. On my PC or smartphone, I can watch TV, change channels, use the PVR function to record, pause and playback just as if I was in-front of my tv at home.


With a bit of router black magic, I set my Internet router to map the Slingbox port to the router port and allow connections to my Slingbox not just from my local network but from anywhere in the world. An Internet connection is also a 3G network connection so my Smartphone can also connect to my Slingbox from anywhere it has connectivity.

Last night I had a strong signal in the Civic Center, on the 417 highway both in Ottawa and driving by the ScotiaBank Place. Did I mention that the BIG GAME was at the ScotiaBank Place ? The semi-final one where Canada played Russia. Played for the right to play in the final. Played for hopefully gold but assuredly for silver.


Brother picked us up at home at 5:15pm to take us to the game he so generously was providing us with tickets for. Kids were safe at home with the big sister ready to watch the BIG GAME on tv. Brother oh so sheepishly asked, "Did you realize that we were going to the relegation game" ?
A relegation game is one where the non-finalists play. So we went to and watched Finland play against Kazahkstan in the Civic Center.


Brother brought friend. I brought wife. Brother and I are still friends even after the unintentional switcheroo of games. All in all it turned out to be an awesome night of hockey. We were five rows up from the ice. We watched a one sided but fast paced game. We had our entire row to ourselves. No line-ups at the concession stands either.

We used my smartphone to check in on the BIG GAME. Game was going back and forth. A close match at the half way point. Our game started earlier than the BIG GAME, so we were on the highway heading home, listening to the game on the car radio and watching it on my 2 inch screen when the second intermission ended.


Idea. I called home and had the family left at home pause the game on the PVR. They waited for us to drive by the ScotiaBank Place where the BIG GAME was underway and return home. Friend and family watched the game, slightly time delayed but in real time as far as it mattered to us.

Great Moments

Canada played a close overtime period and won the game in a shoot-out. And that is the end of the story of how we enjoyed a great moment in hockey and technology.
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