Friday, September 30, 2005

Blog Spam

Seriously, what's the deal with all these spam comments? I mean, who's fooled by them? Does anyone actually make money off of them? Or do they just live to be annoying?

Well, fuckers, bring it! You just keep on posting your spamtatsic little comments, and I'll just keep on nuking them as fast as you do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pride and Hope

Ever since the CBC lockout started, I've been pretty out of it when it comes to current events. I rarely listen to the radio these days, and I never watch TV news. Pretty much all I know is what I read in the free papers and on the Net.

So, yesterday, I was totally oblivious to Micaelle Jean's investiture as Governor General of Canada. But this morning, as I walked past the newspaper boxes on my way to the subway, I couldn't help but notice the pictures and headlines. Writers from the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and, yes, even the National Post seemed to be falling over themselves to heap praise on the new vice-regent.

Huh? What happened to the hasty appointment, the lack of background checks, the ties to Quebec sovereigntists and the FLQ? I picked up a copy of the Globe to find out more.

Here's what happened: Canada got to see and hear Michaelle Jean.

Now we understand what Paul Martin must have seen when he first met her, immediately deciding that she should be Governor General. I wonder if he's been laughing to himself a lot over the past few weeks, as an anglophone press that clearly knew nothing of the woman questioned her allegiance to Canada.

In her installation speech yesterday, Mme. Jean answered their concerns beautifully, and went far beyond:

The time of the "two solitudes" that for too long described the character of this country is past. The narrow notion of "every person for himself" does not belong in today’s world, which demands that we learn to see beyond our wounds, beyond our differences for the good of all. Quite the contrary: we must eliminate the spectre of all the solitudes and promote solidarity among all the citizens who make up the Canada of today. As well, we must make good use of our prosperity and our influence wherever the hope that we represent offers the world an extra measure of harmony.

And that is how I am determined that the position I occupy as of today will be more than ever a place where citizens' words will be heard, where the values of respect, tolerance, and sharing that are so essential to me and to all Canadians, will prevail. Those values, which are paramount for me, are linked inextricably with the Canada I love.

Canada is known for its values: freedom, tolerance, respect, and generosity. It's on those values that we've built our remarkable society, and it's in those values that we will find our better future. The soveriegnty movement isn't just misguided -- it's irrelevant.

And, on the subject of the future, this:

Most of all, I want our young people to be our standard-bearers. I want them to dip into the enormous treasure trove that is Canada. I am the mother of a little girl whose story opened my eyes to certain very harsh realities that we must not ignore. My daughter, Marie-Éden, has changed my life. She has taught me that while all children are born equal, they don’t all have the same opportunities to flourish. This is as true for children here as it is for children in the third world...

Nothing in today’s society is more disgraceful than the marginalization of some young people who are driven to isolation and despair. We must not tolerate such disparities. After all, our young people are helping to redefine the great family we all belong to, in a world that is less and less impermeable, more and more open. They are the promise of our future and we have a duty to encourage them to join us in this reinvention of the world.

In every photo, Jean is stunning, with her warm smile radiating youthful vitality. It's a marked contrast to the series of old, white men who held the post before Jean and her predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson. She is dignified and glamourous, yet comes across as authentic and relatable. She's an truly an exciting personality in political climate that seems nasty, disconnected and irrelevant.

As John Ibbitson gushed in the Globe, "but here is this beautiful young Canadian of Haitian birth, with a smile that makes you catch your breath, with bemused older husband by her side, and a daughter who literally personifies our future, and you look at them and think: Yes, this is our great achievement, this is the Canada that Canada wants to be."

As for me, I'm proud. Proud that Michaelle Jean has chosen this country to live in, and of the words she choses to describe it. Proud that this country recognized this woman and lifted her to one of its highest offices. And today, I'm hopeful for its future.

Oops! We did it again!

It seems that Kevin and I are getting more media attention than Britney lately. Now we just need our "We are the Canadian Dream" T-shirts.

Here we are, last Friday at 5ive:

The photo is from AT Productions, who were presenting Bitch Slap Friday, and promoting Feast, on October 9.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

It's here...

I'm just heading downstairs to get it!

...Sorry, that was really sad. My intent was to create about 10 minutes' worth of curiousity and anticipation as I went downstairs to get "it" and plugged it in, and then to write an entry on "it", explaining what "it" was.

Of course, work had me tied down on Thursday until I left for swing in the evening, and I worked late again on Friday, and then I was barely in on the weekend, and well, now it's now.

Anyhow, "it" is my new monitor. I'm quite excited because it's, finally, an LCD, and I'm fairly convinced that it's years of staring at a cathode ray tube that has made me as blind as I am. Ever since I started using a laptop at work, my vision has been degrading at a far less alarming rate. So, after a further two years of intending to buy myself an LCD for home use, I have.

The other thing is, it's really pretty.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Ubuntu - Humanity to Others

So, I warned you that you'd have to deal with the odd geek-oriented post from time to time, didn't I? Well, it's time.

As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, my desktop PC died right before my trip to New York. There was a bad storm, the power briefly cut out, causing the machine to reboot, and it never came back up after that. Basically, it would just hang at different points during the boot. Rather than spend ages picking through that 6-year-old kludge clone, trying to determine which parts were fried, I decided to just cut my losses and move on.

So, I grabbed Mythy (my MythTV-based homebrew PVR), deciding that it would make a nice, new(er) desktop. This leaves me without a PVR or DVD player for now, but that can be remedied in the future. I bought a new, bigger hard drive, and set about installing an operating system.

Of course, that operating system would be a GNU/Linux distribution. I've been using Debian for over 5 years now (and other distributions for at least a couple before that), and I have grown utterly accustomed to understanding how the system works, to running for months without rebooting, and to having every kind of application I could ever want at my fingertips, for free.

But lately, I've been hearing so much about Ubuntu that I decided I'd give it a try this time. Ubuntu is a Debian-derived distribution that's meant to be more user-friendly. Not that it's the first, mind you. Other Debian-based distributions, like Xandros, Linspire, and Mepis, have tried to fill this niche, but they've never been hugely popular. In my opinion, their focus hasn't been correct. They've been too concerned with prettifying the desktop and supplying do-it-all configuration tools, and, in the process, have sacrificed the distributed cohesion that is embodied in Debian's elegant architecture.

I've believed, for quite some time now, that Debian would most benefit from having someone smooth over it's long release cycle, and that's exactly what Ubuntu does: every six months, it provides a stable release containing a subset of packages from Debian Unstable that have been frozen and tested. Some new software has been added to Ubuntu before making it into Debian, like the X.Org implementation of the X Window System. As the system has matured, there has been increasing divergence from Debian, which has been the subject of much controversy and of some efforts to address the issue. Hopefully, the two projects' developers will be able to keep the differences to a minimum. That would surely benefit all.

So, the big question: how is it?


The install is slick, simple, and complete. It autodetects hardware, it suggests a partitioning scheme (and provides remarkable control if you want to tweak it yourself, even handling LVM configurations), it asks a minimum of questions, and it's fast. There's no flashy GUI, as Debian-Installer is used to provide all this nice functionality, with a simple, character-mode interface. I strongly believe that just the video mode has no effect on the ease or difficulty of an installation. It's the information presented and the questions asked that make a difference.

Ubuntu installs a much larger base set of packages than Debian, in order to provide a complete desktop out of the box. However, for security's sake, it doesn't install any servers. The desktop is a slick, well configured GNOME 2.10 (KDE fans would probably prefer Kubuntu).

For the most part, things just work, with no additional effort. My sound card, a Sound Blaster Audigy2, was detected and ALSA was configured appropriately. I was briefly stymied by the fact that it defaulted to optical output, leaving my little old analog speakers silent. A bit of Googling led me to look through the mixer settings until I found the right switch.

On plugging in my camera for the first time, it was automatically mounted, with an icon appearing on my desktop for it, and a dialog popped up asking if I wanted to import the photos into my photo album.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with the initial graphics configuration. It rightly detected that I have an NVIDIA graphics adapter, and so it configured X to use the open source nv driver. That failed to give me a resolution above 640x480, which isn't so much fun. Had it simply opted for the vesa driver, things would have worked fine. Fortunately, Ubuntu packages the proprietary nvidia driver, so properly fixing the situation was easy.

I think that these kinds of problems are inevitable when you're trying to support the huge collection of random PC hardware that's out there. Fortunately, Ubuntu's not just a pretty face. It's pretty under the hood, too: consistent and relatively easy to understand. So, when things do go wrong, it's much easier to fix than most other "user-friendly" distributions.

Ubuntu's rapidly growing user community has been contributing excellent documentation, too. The Unofficial Ubuntu Guide is simply brilliant: it helped me out with my X driver problem, and also showed me the simplest ways to install all those handy proprietary programs and plug-ins like Java 5.0, Flash, and Acrobat Reader. It even covered the often tricky issue of multimedia codecs and DVD playback.

By default, apt, the Debian package management tool, is well configured. The sources.list contains entries for local mirrors of the two supported Ubuntu repositories (Main and Restricted) and, importantly, the coresponding security repositories. A third Ubuntu repository, Universe, includes almost every package from Debian Unstable that isn't officially supported in Ubuntu, rebuilt to have all of the right dependencies for the distribution. It can be addded to the mix simply by uncommenting two clearly marked lines. I also found that it was easy to automatically build packages right out of Debian, myself.

There's one other particular quirk in Ubuntu that has received a fair amunt of attention: root login is disabled. Instead, sudo is used to allow the first user to execute commands as root, using only his own password for authentication. This approach works very well. The user doesn't have to remember a second password, and is strongly discouraged from using root unnecessarily. This compares very favourably to Linspire's Windows-like approach, in which the root account is used for everything. It's still smooth and unobtrusive, with all the GUI administrative tools that require root priviledges using gksudo to autheneticate on launch. Still, I quickly found myself missing su, as I occasionally want to run multiple commands as root, with proper command compleition. In such cases, "sudo -s -H" does the trick, and be aliased to "su".

So far, my day-to-day use has been uneventful (that's a good thing). I've been using applications like Firefox, Evolution, GAIM, Rhythmbox and GnuCash without any problems.

Ubuntu is an African word meaning "humanity to others" or "I am what I am because of who we all are." It's a beautiful sentiment and an apt name for such a community-driven free software project.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Go Melissa!

Tonight's the final episode of Canadian Idol. If Melissa doesn't win, I'll be crushed.

There have been some decidedly bad choices in the past. Remember in season one, when Toya and Audrey didn't even make the top 3, and then Ryan Malcolm won? Hmm...whatever happened to him, anyway?

Still, even the horny 15-year old girls shouldn't screw this one up. Rex is simply a piss poor singer. And he's not even good looking! What do they see in him?

Kevin and I voted for Melissa 20 times last night. If that's not enough, what is?


I've finally finished posting my photos from New York and Beachfest. Hopefully, you've already noticed that little My Photos link on the right, which will take you there.

I had taken something like 400 photos. So, it took quite a bit of time to wade through them all, and I ended up discarding about two thirds. Such is the benefit and the curse of digital photography. Too often, I'll even take two or more photos of exactly the same thing, framed exactly the same way, and decide later which is the keeper.

The other delay was trying to upload them all to Yahoo! Photos. I've been uploading them at full quality, which takes so long, but you can only view them at 480x360. And you have to do the uploading 10 at a time with a standard HTML form, or use their IE plug-in to drag and drop a whole album at one. I was happy to discover they'd added a Mozilla/Firefox version, but I don't think it's quite fully baked yet, as it actually garbled a good number of the photos I was trying to upload.

There must be something better for photo hosting out there. I've heard many good things about Flickr. Their free account only allows 20 megs of uploads per month, which wouldn't suffice, but maybe I should just suck it up and pay.

I can't help but notice how many of my photos are scenery. I still find it quite difficult to take pictures of people sometimes. It seems so intrusive, even though I usually enjoy it when other people photograph me. I guess I figure that others aren't quite so vain.

Friday, September 09, 2005


On Monday, I went to Beachfest, a free, all-day concert at Sunnyside Park, and got to enjoy performances by Sarah Slean, K-OS, Steven Page, David Usher, and Kathleen Edwards (other artists performed, but we wandered off during their sets).

For me, the highlight was definitely Sarah Slean. Some artists are just captivating, and she's one such artist. Her melodies, her lyrics, her delivery, her was just her and a piano, and that's part of what made it so striking.

What I wouldn't give to be able to start with a blank piece of paper, and create a song out of nowhere. Or to sit down at a piano, and make that song real, with heart, hands, and voice. It's so powerful. I envy it.

We consider people who run businesses and governments to be powerful. Why? They don't even create anything.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Advice for Kelly

A few days ago, I saw a bit of one of the many reruns of the VMA's on MTV (apparently, they program their specials the same way as MuchMusic). I caught Kelly Clarkson performing "Since U Been Gone" and...oh my! I don't think she sang a single right note. What would Simon say?

Here's some free advice, Kelly: you may figure yourself a rock chick now. You might be incredibly cute, and you might even be glistening from the fake rain they're pouring on you. Your song might have been the most fun release all year. But, get real -- you launched your career on American Idol! If you don't sing well, I won't love you.