Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Firefox 2.0 Review

I just downloaded Firefox 2.0. It doesn't support display: inline-block yet. I'm disappointed. (However, it does have a built-in spell checker, which is the sole reason I spelled 'disappointed' properly.)

The War in Iraq

I saw this the other day. All I have to say is: Wow. That's not much of an endorsement for Bush.

Well, it's not like people didn't know. Almost half of all Americans knew. (But, then almost half of Americans didn't feel the need to avenge daddy.)

How much longer do we have?

Monday, October 23, 2006

They Can't Do That On Television!

I'm watching an old episode of You Can't Do That On Television. It's the Popularity episode from 1982. Christine 'Moose' McGlade said "I don't know" and didn't get slimed!

For those who don't know, on You Can't Do That On Television if you ever say "water" or "wet" you suddenly find yourself doused in water from above. If you ever say "I don't know" you get slimed. But it didn't happen this time.

You can download the episode at Barth's Burgery.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wake Up! It's Time To Go To Bed!

What's the deal with circadian rythms?

This is how it works: The circadian rhythm is your daily bodily cycle, from the latin "circa" and "dies" for "around the day." It's controlled by your body temperature. When your temperature rises you wake up and become more alert. When your temperature lowers, you get sleepy.

When you wake up in the morning your temperature rises. It continues to rise until afternoon. Then it drops a bit. That's the afternoon lull you feel. It rises again into the evening. Then it falls, you get sleepy and go to bed.

The circadian rhythm and be somewhat manipulated by your behavior. Taking a hot bath warms you up, then your body says "Hey, I'm too hot. I need to cool down." You cool down, and get sleepy. If you take a cold shower the opposite happens.

Another thing is your diet. If you eat carbohydrates then your brain releases a chemical called sarotonin. That makes you sleepy. You can minimize the afternoon lull by avoiding carbs at lunch.

But what I want to know is why is my afternoon lull ten times worse than at night? I try to avoid carbs at lunch, but I'm not very good at it. After lunch my lull is usually pretty strong. In the afternoon I have slept through a jackhammer being operated downstairs. I can sleep upright in a chair. I have slept through an air-horn being blown mere feet away from me. I can sleep in bright lights, in heat, cold, anything it seems. Coffee or Pepsi sometimes help, but not always.

At night I need everything to be dark and quiet in order to get any sleep at all. Someone else's music, a bit of talking, the TV, someone walking around above me, the pulsating light on my laptop battery, anything keeps me awake.

I'd sure like to reverse that. I'd like to go to bed and immediately fall asleep at night, and last quiet easily through the afternoon without the aid of substances.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Brave New World Wide Web (Part II)


Now that Internet Explorer 7 has been released I'm excited, right?

One thing I didn't count on was that it's not available for Windows 2000, which is what we use at work. We should be getting XP soon.

Anyway, you can download it here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Some Folks Have All The Luck

This morning I printed out my final lab reports, put them in an envelope and sent them to Athabasca University. That's the official end to the labs. I sent the lab kit back yesterday.

I am happy to report I have walked away with all of my fingers intact, my eye brows are both there, and the McQueen's house suffered no damage.

A house out in Vankleek Hill wasn't so lucky. I don't think they've found the cause. Some have speculated a natural gas leak, or a meth. lab. I suspect it was some poor kid who's university canceled a chemistry course, and had to take it by correspondence through Athabasca. He wasn't as lucky as I with his labs.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It Sure didn't Take Long, Did It?

Well, gang, it sure didn't take long. IE 7 has been out for less than 24 hours, and the first security hole has been found.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Firefox 2.0

Soon Firefox 2.0 will be released. Oddly enough, I'm not as excited about this as I am about IE 7. For such an anti-Microsoft guy, you'd think it would be the opposite, wouldn't you?

Well, the reason is this: I'm not excited as a user. I'm excited as a developer. IE 7 means I can stop using so many freaking hacks. Writing for IE 6 and for the standards is like writing for two separate standards.

Firefox already has good compliance. I would like to see greater compliance. There are a few things Firefox doesn't support. I'd like to see that more than new add-ons.

But that's just me.

A Brave New World Wide Web

Apparently Internet Explorer 7.0 comes out today, October 18. (I'm writing this on the 17th.) And I, for one, can't wait.

With it's increased standards compliance I can start to forget about developing for v6. True, at work I'll have to still develop for v6 until we adopt v7, which at the government rate will be about 2008. (We'll be upgrading to XP soon.)

IE7 also has tabbed browsing. I've heard it isn't implemented as well as it is in Firefox or Opera. In Firefox I group related bookmarks into a bookmark folder, then "Open In Tabs." For example, I have a bookmark folder called "Blogs" where I have all my blogs bookmarked. Then everyday, instead of manually opening each blog, I open the Blog bookmark folder, and at the bottom is an option "Open In Tabs" which I click. Then All the blogs open in the same browser in a different tab. I then read through them all, pressing ctrl+w to close the tab when I'm done with it. It makes for much nicer browsing experience. You should try it if you haven't yet.

Apparently security has really been increased for this next release. This is great news. Let me explain why.

You know all that spam you get every day? I've got news for you: some of that spam is there because some of your friends use Internet Explorer. IE can download malicious code without you even knowing about it, scan your address book and/or hard drive for email addresses. It then sends spam to those address. But it alters the From field in the email so you have no way of knowing that it came from your friend. (This method uses something called Active-X, something IE uses, but not Firefox, Opera, Camino, Konquror, Safari, etc.)

So, this brings IE to the point where Firefox was a couple years ago. A point of usability. This is odd. Microsoft is usually the first to come out with new and innovative ideas. They are the bleeding edge of technology.

Now I have to wonder how I feel about this. See, when Microsoft releases a piece of junk, then that can sometimes serve to drive people to find a good alternative. That's partly why IE no longer has > 90% market share. People have simply found that other browsers are better.

When Microsoft comes out with something that's not bad then people have much less reason to look around. This helps to secure their monopoly. (Now, I don't call IE 7 "good" because, as I said, it will be usable, as opposed to "good." It's just not bad. IE 6 is just plain bad.)

Microsoft, over the past couple of years or so, has started to learn that they're not the only people around. Open Source software poses a threat. Google poses a threat. Apple poses a threat, whether they realize it or not. (Don't believe me? Get a time machine. Go back 3 years and walk through a university campus. How many Macs do you see? Very few. Then come back to the present and walk through the same campus. Now how many do you see? Many more.)

Now, this new idea of playing friendly may be their way of getting people to hate them less so they can hold their monopoly longer, and therefore more strongly, then they can go back to their old monopolistic tricks.

I would like to see a world where data storage is open, and perhaps some interfaces are proprietary. For example, HTML is an open standard, but IE, which interprets HTML, is proprietary. OpenDoc Format is open. Word, OpenOffice, KOffice, etc. may be proprietary.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister, Dot)

Doesn't it seem strange to you that Yakko and Dot Warner have American accents, but the middle child, Wakko, has a Liverpool accent?

I could never figure that out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Change is a Four Letter Word

It's funny how the meanings of words change over time.

"Nine-Eleven" used to refer to a Porsche.

"Bad" first meant "bad", then it meant "good". I'm not sure what it means now.

"Wicked" used to mean "evil" then it meant "awesome!"

Pimp used to refer to one who made a living off the sex-trade of others. Now it's a verb meaning to supe-up, upgrade, accessorize. You know, like Pimp My Ride, Pimp That Snack, Pimp My Com .com, Pimp MySpace, Pimp My Church, and for you Mac lovers: Pimp My Safari.

Just do a Google search for "Pimp my" and you'll get a ton of results that have nothing to do with prostitution.

A few weeks ago I was in CompuSmart killing time. This young woman walks in and starts looking at the Macs. I'm an unofficial Apple salesman, so I walk up to her and ask if she's thinking about getting one. She tells me her current Windows box is having trouble with "a rather cantankerous wireless network" and is getting old and may need replacing. So I launch into my sales routine where I start extolling the virtues of Macs.

As I'm showing her some of the stuff they can do, a CompuSmart salesman walks up and asks if he can help. This rather proper young woman says "Oh, he's just pimping your products."

On the flip side, "Ass" used to be a donkey. (There's a Christmas carol that has that word in it and I have to fight back laughter every time I sing it in church.) Apparently some of our swear words used to be clean words, like @#$@, and ^&#$.

Can you think of any other words that have changed meanings over the years?

You Can't Legislate Morality

One of the advantages to going to school for ten years is that you learn a lot of stuff. One of the advantages to going to university, as opposed to college, is that you learn lots of stuff that has nothing to do with your major. Some people really don't want to learn anything except their area of concentration. Electives are mere annoyances in their "education." Whereas I've always enjoyed my electives. Often times, more so than my concentration subjects.

As a result, I've taken a number of law classes in university. I think it's fair to say that I know more about Canadian law that your average Joe. (I'm no lawyer, nor do I know very many specifics. I mostly know how it works. I don't know a lot, but your average Joe knows very little. One guy kept trying to convince we don't have the right to remain silent when arrested in Canada. We certainly do. It's in the consitituion and case law (Ibrahim v. The King.))

There are two theories of law that I'm aware of: positive law and natural law. The natural law theory says that laws come from a sense of right and wrong that we all inherently have. Positive law theory says that something is law because the powers-that-be said so; made law to keep order, not because it's right or morally superior.

Law, as a whole, is a combination of the two. Some laws are obviously positive law, like driving on the right side of the road instead of the left. Driving on the right side is not morally superior to driving on the left. We need to have a side, the actual side is arbitrary, but in Canada we drive on the right. If everyone obeys that law then order is kept.

But where people, mostly Christians, get confused when dealing with law is they assume that laws that have a moral component come from the natural law as opposed to positive law. Take killing. Murder is wrong, and murder happens to be against the law. But (and this is the sixty four thousand dollar question) is murder against the law because it's wrong, or because without it on the books chaos would erupt?

Imagine a society where murder was not illegal, but was still understood by most to be wrong. Or, where it is illegal, but not enforced by the state. Person A murders Person B for whatever reason. It may be justifiable, it may not. It probably is justifiable in the eyes of Person A, but probably not to Person B's son, Person C. Person C then goes and administers justice and kills Person A. Justice has been done, right? Well, not in the eyes of Person D, Person A's son, who administers justice on Person C. And it goes on and on.

Eventually what will happen is that revenge-for-hire businesses pop up; officially or unofficially (like the mafia). Now you have two groups administering justice; the state for all official crimes, and the other groups for the unofficial crimes, like murder. But the unofficial groups are unofficial and can't be controlled. The government can be voted out, or revolted against. It seems inevitable that the unofficial groups would come into conflict with each other.

What we end up with is chaos. It's the same thing for other natural law things like stealing, raping, etc.

But, as long as you make those things illegal and enforce those laws then you can have some semblance of order.

The sooner you realize this, the sooner Canadian law, indeed most constitutional laws, make more sense. When it comes to the same-sex marriage debate, sure you may say it's a wrong life style, and shouldn't have been made legal; Canada shouldn't be condoning, much less celebrating immoral life-styles. But what does morality have to do with the law?

There are a few laws left on the books that seem to have roots in morality rather than order-keeping. The one the comes to mind are the euthenasia laws. If I were a betting man I'd be willing to bet my entire student loan that the euthenasia laws will be struck down in my life time.

Can anyone else think of any laws that exist purely for morality reasons?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You Know You Have a Problem When You Postpone A Trip To The Emergency Room For A Sports Game

The other day I heard the following conversation:

Person 1: Have you been watching the games lately?

Person 2: Yeah.

Person 1: Are you a Team A fan?

Person 2: Oh no! I hate Team A! I'm a Team B fan. Always have been.

To you sports fans, that may seem like a normal conversation, but to a non-sports fan, like myself, it seemed funny. I wanted to add to it at that point:

Me: Yeah, me too. I really hate Team A! That lousy bunch of jerks! After what they did to me and my family! I'll never forgive them!

One of my favorite exchanges is in a movie called "A Bronx Tale." It takes place in between Sonny and "C". Sonny, a neighbourhood tough mafia-esque type is teaching C (a nine year old boy) some life lessons. Sonny asks about C's fascination with Mickey Mantle. The year was 1960. One hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money.

Sonny: What are you, a Yankee Fan?

C: Yeah.

Sonny: So you must be pretty upset after the Yankees lost.

C: Bill Mazeroski, I hate him. He made Mickey Mantle cry. The papers said the Mick cried.

Sonny: Mickey Mantle? Is that what you're upset about? Mickey Mantle makes $100 000/year. How much does your father make?

C: I don't know.

Sonny: You don't know. If your father can't pay the rent, go ask Mickey Mantle. See what he tells you. Mickey Mantle don't care about you, so why should you care about him? Nobody cares.

C - as the narrator: "From that day on, I never felt the same way about the Yankees again."

While that may not be that actual reason I don't care about sports, it certainly validates my feelings - or lack thereof.

From an outsider's perspective, sports fans can seem a little obsessive. In psychology when one thinks one has a problem, like the OC disorder the question that's asked to find out if it's at a problematic stage is "Does it interfere with normal day-to-day living?" I'd say when you postpone a trip to the emergency room because the game is still on, you have a problem.

I could write for pages and pages on it, but since Ottawa is a big sports city, especially hockey, I'm afraid I might make too many people irate. And the last thing you want is people with problematic psychological disordes being really angry with you.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Some People Need A Hobby

Now, I'm all for giving to those that which is due them, and protecting creators of creative work from others hijacking their work and calling it their own. I'm glad we have copyright, and other IP laws protecting creators.

But, I think that we have gone too far. By "we", of course, I mean lawyers and corporate types. Most notably the RIAA who have taken to suing their customers. I think they're just upset that someone has moved their cheese. Instead of asking themselves "Okay, our key demographic has taken to downloading music instead of buying it; how can we make money from this?" they've just started suing. Suing nine year old girls, and 89 near old grandmothers at that.

All that has really achieved is now people (like myself) are boycotting the RIAA. I still buy indie CDs, but RIAA stuff? Hardly. (Thankfully, my favorite recording band is on an independant label.)

But, at least I can see where the RIAA is coming from. But there's a few things that are just plain stupid.

The Author's Guild is suing Google for making books searchable. (Yet some publishers are thanking Google for increasing book sales because the books are searchable.)

And the whole shutting down guitar chord/lyrics site? The idea is that if you want the sheet music or lyrics, go out and buy the book (if you can find where to buy it). So if you're getting the chords/lyrics from the internet, then if you couldn't get them there you'd buy them, right?

In many cases: wrong!

Most of the time I'll listen to the freaking song to get the lyrics.! The chords are slightly harder to get. It requires a musical ear. But not a great one. Anyone who plays guitar knows that most songs are based on 1 4 5, with a few 2m and 6m thrown in for good measure. (If you don't understand what that means, don't worry about it: guitarists do. If you're a guitarist and you don't understand it, then see the previous sentence.) Furthermore, chord progressions aren't copyrightable. Melodys are, and so are lyrics. But, really, how much money are the music books publishers loosing because of these sites? I don't really know, but I can't see it being very much.

They lose money if people who normaly would buy the books now aren't because of these sites. I'm sure a great number of these site users (including myself) wouldn't buy the books if these sites weren't available. So, how much of my money are they loosing? $0.00. But that's just a round figure.

And Christian music makes the whole thing even more ridiculous! For the uninitiated, churches usually buy something called a CCLI license. That allows them to play a whole long list of songs at their church events. So, if I go to Joe's Christian Chord Site and view the lyrics and chords to the latest hit worship song, assuming Joe doesn't have a CCLI license for the music on his site, then that's illegal. If I print a song off, that's illegal. But, if I take that print-out, and play it at Church next Sunday morning, then suddenly it becomes all nice and legal.

Can anyone explain the rationale to me? (I don't mean the legal mumbo-jumbo), but the actual reason. "Because that's the law" is not a reason. Tell me why it should be the law. Show me how the artist is benefiting from that structure, or how they would be harmed without it.

Again, I'm not talking about Intellectual Property protection laws as a whole. Just some of the fine-point-nit-pickiness of them.

However, I must admit that I am guilty of a few things. I have bought over 200 CDs. I also own a number of music books (mostly for church). But I will tell you one thing, if God suddenly gifts me with the ability to write music, any worship music I write, especially if it becomes a hit, will be released under some kind of creative commons licence. And any music I write, worship or secular, I will allow to be on as many lyric/chord sites as site-owners wish. I think I'd be more frustrated with seeing my music on sites with the wrong lyrics or chords, rather than them being on the site in the first place.

But that's just me.