Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Who at CTU is looking at the hourlies?

I woke in a sweat last night worried that no one at CTU Los Angeles is reviewing the hourlies.

What if the LAPD has important information for CTU -- say, that one of their radio cars isn't responding and is currently parked outside a natural gas facility?

That new Homeland Security woman in charge of CTU Los Angeles needs to assign someone to the hourlies. Edgar used to glance at that pile of CDs on his desk from time to time. Now no one is doing it. Bad things always happen when people forget about or don't have time for the hourlies. I understand the importance of opening sockets and synchronizing databases with Division. But don't ignore the hourlies.

Oh, Edgar. We hardly knew you.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Must-have software for your Windows computer

Friends sometimes ask me what software they should install on their PC.

Below is a list of what I use to secure my computer (anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware), to add functionality (file-renamer, erasers...), and to feel like I'm with it (bitttorent, picture viewer, music tagger...).

I didn't add any video editing software suggestions yet. And I'm sure there are great free programs I didn't include. So, be sure to visit http://www.lifehacker.com/software/ for more suggestions.

Anyway, here is my list of must-have software. Most of it is free.


Anti-virus

There are some free anti-virus software around. But I use Norton Anti Virus Corporate Edition. It is lightweight and it's from Symantec, which is a leader in anti-virus stuff.


Firewall
Again, there probably some free ones around. But Zone Alarm is what I use. I got it because I read great reviews about its ease of use. If you use the Microsoft fireware included in XP, that's a good choice too. But that one only blocks attacks from the outside. Zone Alarm blocks information from leaving your computer. So, if you naively install (let into your computer) some evil software, the Microsoft firewall won't stop sensitive info on your computer from being sent back to the evil doers, for instance.



Free anti-spyware / malware

All the products listed in this category are free and they all work together nicely. Experts agree that no one anti-spyware program finds all problems. So, install all of these and do scans at least once a month. Or, if possible, let some of them run in the background to stop spyware before it does any damage.

Windows Defender (requires valid copy of Windows)
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/default.mspx

Spybot Search & Destroy
http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html

Eweido Anti-Malware
http://www.ewido.net

Spyware Blaster
http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html

Ad-Aware
http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware

Hijack This
http://hijackthis.de



Utilities
This software isn't required. But I like the ones listed below because they save time.

Eraser
- Delete files from your hard drive
- Installs to context menu
- Right-click file and select Erase
- Erases all free space on your hard drive
http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/download.php

Better File Rename
- Batch renames files in folder by date, etc.
http://www.publicspace.net/windows/BetterFileRename

Tree Size
- View how many megs are in your folders and all its sub-folders
http://www.download.com/3000-2248-10008952.html

WinRAR
- Faster way to unzip ZIP, RAR and a dozen other compressed formats
- Installs to context menu
- Simply right-click ZIP file and select "Extract to [foldername]"
http://www.download.com/3000-2248-10008952.html

ISO Buster
- Open ISO files
http://www.isobuster.com


Other useful free software
This software is really not vital. But I recommend these too.

Firefox
- Web browser

Picasa
- Photo directory and editor
- Free from Google
http://picasa.google.com/

µTorrent
- Very lightweight bittorent software
- Doesn't hog system resources like others
http://www.utorrent.com

Exact Audio Copy
- Copy CD music to your hard drive
- Top-rated extractor
http://www.exactaudiocopy.de

Audacity
- Edit audio files
http://audacity.sourceforge.net

Music Brainz
- Automatically adds or fixes the meta tag information for your entire mp3 collection
http://musicbrainz.org


Those are my choices. For more choices, visit http://www.lifehacker.com/software/.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My question airs on CTV News Ask Us segment

I have seen many news stories about the Alberta government's incredible revenues. But no reporter had explained exactly how Alberta was getting rich from the oil. After all, it is Shell and the other oil companies that are doing all the work to extract the stuff.

So I sent my question to CTV National News for their Ask Us segment on Friday nights.

You'll note that I didn't use my real name. I used a French name, which I figured would guarantee the question would be answered on air because it would show that CTV has a broad viewership in all parts of country.

("Hey, French guys in Quebec watch our show. Wicked! Let's go to Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant for some fine Toronto cooking and celebrate after the show.")

Anyway, the family name I chose was that on my grade 2 teacher, Mlle Marielle Rondeau.

This was my question:
News reports state that the Alberta government enjoys record budgetary surpluses because of the oil boom. But the government doesn't extract and sell the oil themselves. So, specifically, how is the government getting more revenues?
I was half asleep last night when I saw the teaser for the Ask Us segment. Sandy Rinaldo said they were going to answer a question after the break about Alberta oil revenues! That must be my question.

So, I got the VHS VCR ready (sorry, no PVR yet) and taped it. You can see the video here.


My question to Ask Us


P.S. A year ago, I sent a question to Ask Us about the dyes Lloyd Robertson uses in his hair. That question never aired.


UPDATE:
On June 8, 2006, YouTube removed the video (linked from this page) on request from CTV News. I guess that explains what Lloyd Robertson is doing at the end of the newscast when he turns to the computer on his desk and starts typing. He's monitoring my blog for CTV videos. Damn, he's a sly old man!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Messing with my shows: part 1


Blogger My Wrath sent me a copy of the reply he received from CTV in response to a compaint about program substitutions , which is the act of blocking viewers from seeing the local ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox broadcast of some show and overriding that channel with the CTV or Global broadcast -- provided the show is "comparable and broadcast simultaneously."

The CRTC forces television service providers (cable and satellite companies) to do this. Their rationale is the following: If Canadians could choose to watch 24 on Fox or on Global TV, many would chose to watch it on Fox. As a result, less Canadians would be watching the Canadian ads on the Canadian networks, which means less monies for Canadian networks. So the CRTC forces television service providers to do dumb program substitutions.

(Most Canadians clue into the issue of program substitution during the Super Bowl. Program substitution is why we are not able to watch the talked-about American commercials during the game.)

Because program substitutions are done my humans, mistakes are made and our enjoyment is diminished. Like on December 4, 2005 in Toronto when the guy at Look TV (television service provider) decided that he'd put CTV's broadcast of Cold Case on the CBS channel at 8pm. The problem was that CBS was still showing an episode of 60 Minutes (which started later because of a football or basketball game).

My Wrath complained to CTV, who blamed Look TV. CTV was the one that requested the "program substitution" for that hour, but it claims that Look TV was ultimately responsible.

So, he complained to Look TV, which blamed CTV. In fact, Look TV said that "substitutions are pre-programmed in our servers and can only be turned off if we receive a warning from the CRTC not to proceed with the substitution." As My Wrath explains in his letter, 60 Minutes almost always starts late and never ends at exactly 8pm, which is something one would know if one has watched that show even once in the last 30 years. (Note to Look TV: Your product is television shows, so you might want to familiarize yourself with the product.)

Tomorrow I'll write about another way Canadian networks/cable companies/CRTC screw up our television-watching experience.

In the mean time, here are links to forms/info to complain to our television cartel in Canada:

Friday, March 17, 2006

Habs fans sing O Canada

The last time I saw a live sports event, the Expos lost their final game at Olympic Stadium to the Florida Marlins on September 29, 2004. There was a big crowd and people were sad and angry the team was moving to Washington, DC.

The week before, spectators at the Bell Centre booed the American national anthem loudly. This was during a period of dumb anti-Americanism. It made news around North America. So, as the sad/angry Expo fans stood for the national anthems before the final game, I was nervous.

The Star Spangled Banner was first and the boos started immediately. Then something amazing happened. The rest of the crowd tried to drown out the boos with clapping. It worked. People didn't stop booing, but at least we were challenging their buffoonery.

Like I said, last night's hockey game (Carolina 5, Habs 1) was the first sports event I'd seen since that last Expos game. This time, the crowd did not boo the American anthem. But even more amazingly, the crowd sung O Canada. Loudly. I was there during the 1991 Canada Cup game at the Forum and it wasn't sung as loudly as it was last night.

I wonder if anyone has ever tracked public support for secession with the signing (or not) of O Canada before Habs games. If last night was an indicator, the good side will win again.



Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Escalator stopped, no problem

An upward escalator I was standing on this afternoon at the metro stopped suddenly. It turns out one does not fly through the air. The forward momentum was minimal and I wasn't holding the railing.

To give you an idea of how little I moved, imagine Commander Riker standing next to his chair on the bridge as the ship jostles around slightly. Have you imagined that? (Nerd.) Well, it was less intense than that. Now go get a girlfriend.

I wanted to add a photo of Riker below to enhance this pretty sucky post. I couldn't find one showing Riker standing at his chair during an attack. But I did find this gem. (Feel free to make jokes in the comments below.)


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Desktop Earth

I tend to use a plain blue desktop background on my XP computer so as not to waste RAM. But I'll make an exception for this neat, updating desktop background image of Earth.


The desktop image is updated every five minutes (you can set the update frequency) so you can see where the sun is rising (or setting) at that exact moment. Or you can center the image on your timezone.

Download

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dear Bill, please write to me

I was researching how much signed letters from celebrities are fetching on Ebay. I discovered a handwritten letter from President Bill Clinton (circa 1995) starts at $25,000 and could sell for as much as $50,000 or more.

This is what a $25,000 letter looks like


I have a note from President Jimmy Carter (circa 2004). It's not on White House letterhead. And it's only a few words. I wonder how much I could get for it.

Is this what a $10 letter looks like?



Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Katharine and Catherine

The Jaded Journalist guy at the American Idol website solved the mystery of whom Katharine McPhee looks like.

The answer: Catherine Zeta-Jones

Now I can go back to thinking about how neat it would be if Frisco also returned to GH and him, Luke and Scorpio did some cool WSB secret agent stuff.


Katharine and Catherine


UPDATE: Upon further reflection, it's possible that Katharine McPhee also reminds me of a girl in, say, my grade 3 class on whom I had a crush. Gotta think about this some more...

Habs trade Theodore to Avs

José Theodore is off to Colorado, assuring the Avalanche at least three the Stanley Cups in the next five years. I guess the Habs were happy to be rid of him and his off-ice legal problems. I hope the Habs backup goalie is the real deal.

Canada beats US at baseball tournament

It wasn't the championship game, but a Canadian team made up of mostly minor leaguers beat the US team today at the World Baseball Classic in Arizona. The final championship game is on March 20.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Am I the only one who thought Crash was terrible?

I often see these awful public service announcements (PSAs) on television produced by high school students. You know the ones. Bad video. Bad sound. Monotone acting.

When I watched Crash (2004) a few months, I thought I was watching one of those high school PSAs. Some of the acting was very good. But much of it sucked. Or maybe it wasn't the acting that was bad, but the ridiculous things the actors were forced to say.

Like a high school production, the script was overdone. Sure everyone's a little bit racist. In real life, race is not on everyone's mind 24/7. But in Crash, race was all anyone talked about. Unrealistic and dumb.

So when Billy Bush told me a few weeks ago that Crash was nominated for Best Picture, I was stunned. When I heard Nicholson announce it last night as the winner, I though Jack had played a trick on everyone. No, by the rood, not so. It's true.

I decided to review the last 20 years of Best Picture nominees to determine what percent of the time I agreed with the Best Picture decision. Here's the result:
  • Agree: 7
  • Disagree: 7
  • Not sure/didn't see: 6
I should point out that some of my disagreements are minor. For instance, I enjoyed Driving Miss Daisy, the 1989 winner for Best Picture. However, I liked Dead Poets Society more. So, that's a minor disagreement. Same with 1999 winner American Beauty. Fine film, but I though Cider House Rules was better.

But this Crash business is different. It shouldn't have been on the same list as the other films.

UPDATE: I wasn't the only one who hated it. Read this excellent blurb about Crash's suckiness:
For those who haven’t seen it, or for those who have seen it and are simply a little slow, Crash is a cheesy, ham-fisted melodrama that makes Peter Jackson look like Wim Wenders. It’s bloated, predictable, filled with flat characters, and unpleasant to watch. It’s a tale about racism that never stops reminding you in bright colors and monosyllabic words and arbitrary plot points that you are watching a movie about racism, and it’s your duty to be moved by the film. If not, you don’t understand it. It’s a movie for people who don’t understand enough about movies to pick a good one from a fake one; it’s the cinematic equivalent of Ayn Rand, a film for posers and wannabes and that guy in your philosophy class who thinks he’s on the ball but pronounces the first “s” in “Descartes.”

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Katharine McPhee: American Idol 2006

I'm hoping someone can help me figure out what other celebrity the lovely American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee reminds me of.

My pick for American Idol

Maybe, Norah Jones? Even more so because McPhee sounds so much like Jones. Maybe a bit of Valerie Bertinelli. But I think there is someone else. I can't figure out who? Please use the comment box below to help me.

P.S. To avoid problems at home, here is a photo of my wife's favourite Idol this year, Chris Daughtry.

My wife's pick for American Idol

Anatevka, Japan

From the never-thought-I'd-see-this file, here's a few minutes from the Japanese stage production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Enjoy AYD'S

You may remember those unfortunately-named appetite-suppressant chocolate chews of the late 1970s/early 1980s. But do you remember the actual television commercial?

"Why take diet pills when you can enjoy AYD'S?"

View the AYD'S TV ad.

Live action Simpsons opening sequence

I don't know why, how, who or when. But the what is that some folks in the UK have successfully reproduced the opening sequence of The Simpsons.

I think the only thing missing is Maggie noticeably turning the fake car wheel and the pan across the entire Springfield cast of characters before the driveway scene.

Anyway, pretty amazing effort.
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