Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

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August 31st, 2003

The week that was

It’s been far too long since I last updated my journal. My parents arrived on Tuesday, and I’ve been making as much time available as possible to be with them.

So far we’ve done shopping, ice cream, little Italy, Peruvian food, picked up the rental car, the beaches, brunch, and the Distillery district. They’ve also done other things while I’ve been at work, but this is my journal, so that’s the list so far.

Updates over the next week are likely to be thin on the ground as well for the same reason.

August 24th, 2003

Free TV on-line?

Greg Dyke has announced that all BBC radio and TV content will be made freely available online, a potentially very important development. While no details of how this will work have been released, it could alter the nature of TV in a fundamental way. The amount of content that will be included is truly massive if all archive material is put on-line, but even if only new programming is made available it will quickly grow to be a substantial archive. If the quality of the on-line archive is high enough (e.g. full screen DivX rather than small Real Audio) it could even become a more convenient way to watch TV than the more usual broadcast method.

Hopefully the BBC will provide encodings of their programs that are suitable for streaming, as well as higher quality ones that are suitable for downloading. They could even take the innovative step of using BitTorrent to reduce the cost of distributing their material (something I’ve written about previously).

It will also be interesting to see whether this move has much impact on DVD sales of BBC material, and whether the money received for sales to other countries will be reduced. It’s already possible for anyone in the world with an internet connection to listen to BBC radio online, and it might not be long before watching their TV output online will be possible.

August 23rd, 2003

Beware of the wait

We had lunch at the newly opened Beaver Cafe on Queen Street West today. It didn’t get off to a great start when we had to move tables because of the number of wasps that were bothering us in our original location.

The bigger problem though was the tardiness of the service. Drinks had to be ordered multiple times, and the food took nearly an hour to turn up. An hour for a meal to turn up can be acceptable under some circumstances, but when the meal consists of a toasted sandwich and some toast this seems somewhat excessive.

The food was actually very good, but having said that I wouldn’t recommend it.

August 18th, 2003

It was going to happen some time

It appears that someone has written a new worm, which removes MS Blaster (AKA Lovsan) and patches up the system, by taking advantage of the very same MS RPC vulnerability used by the original.

Network Associates has a complete description of the worm Nachi. I wonder if this is the first time someone has written a worm to patch up systems using the same vulnerability as the original worm?

August 16th, 2003

41 hours later, the power returns

It took 41 hours for our power to return, from 4:08 when the kitchen clock stopped on Thursday afternoon, to 9:04 this Saturday morning. The house is starting to cool down, all be it very slowly, as the air conditioning kicks in, and we can use our fan to help keep things bearable in the meantime. The fridge is slowly cooling down, with the freezer compartment almost below zero.

Last night we did a barbecue, using all the meat from the freezer that had thawed out over the previous night and day, supplemented with some corn on the cob. We’ve been warned to expect rolling black outs, and some of our friends have already seen the power come and go, so we’re avoiding restocking the freezer for the moment.

Hopefully we’ll keep power from now on, with life returning to normal by Monday…

August 16th, 2003

The day the lights went out (delayed post)

After an evening like this I would normally write up a journal entry, but due to the lack of power I’m instead preparing this entry offline on my laptop – for publication when the power eventually returns.

I decided that, with planes being the unreliable things that they are, I would fly down to NJ tonight (Thursday) ahead of meetings tomorrow morning. I dashed to the airport in a bit of a hurry, having spent most of the morning wrestling with patching my laptop with the latest and greatest service packs and patches.

Upon getting to the airport I joined the inevitable check-in line, which was progressing fairly smoothly. Then black smoke started to pour out of the side of the terminal building, clearly visible through the end window (the check-in desk was the last one in the hall). It was persistent and thick enough that I left my baggage and wandered across to the window where the source was visible. There was a large rusty pipe sticking out of the side of the building from which all the smoke was issuing.

For the fast thinking among those reading this, it will clear that what I was witnessing was the starting up of the emergency electricity generation system for the airport. It started with enough smoke however to prompt the lady manning the check-in desk to make a phone call, shortly followed by a brief visit by a couple of fire engines.

It was a good twenty minutes before we realised that the check-in wasn’t just slow, but actually stopped. I noticed a message board at another airline’s desk, which said, “US Immigration Computers are down”. We had to wait another 10 minuets before it was announced that not just was Toronto Airport not accepting any flights in and out due to power loss, but also New York had the same problem. I called home to find out that our apartment was also suffering from a lack of power, a rather suspicious coincidence. It was shortly after this that, enterprising and mobile equipped that most passengers are, we soon discovered that “north-east America and SE Ontario is without power”.

To cut an increasingly long story short, I eventually decided to set off back home, having to take the TTC bus because there didn’t appear to be any taxis or limos available in either departures or arrivals.

The journey home was hot, long, and crowded. At each major intersection there were police, and the odd person not in uniform who had decided to help out, directing traffic. As we got closer to downtown we started to get some information regarding this state of the subway (not running, but shuttle buses instead), and the streetcars (also not running, and no replacement services). As we passed college I saw a streetcar standing dead without power, abandoned by everyone except the driver.

During the trip I made and received many calls on my mobile, which tells you something about both the telephone and mobile networks of Toronto. It was through these calls that I learnt about just how wide spread the power outage is, and it’s fairly staggering. As soon as power is once again available I’m sure I’ll be able to see maps which demonstrate it and estimates of the number of people affected.

Upon finally getting home there was just enough light left in the day to get together our considerable collection of candles and light a few. We’ve come up to the deck, to avoid the heat now trapped in the apartment. Now that the sun has completely set we have by far the best view of the stars that we have ever, and probably will ever, see in Toronto.

August 14th, 2003

PubTal 1.2 released

I’ve uploaded PubTal 1.2. This includes a good few fixes as well as extra functionality. If you are looking for a tool to help manage a small website please check it out!

August 13th, 2003

Rolling out the carpet for PubTal

I’ve hopefully finalised version 1.2 of PubTal. I’m going to sleep on it, and if I don’t think of any crucial missing bits, I’ll upload what I have tomorrow.

I’ve also got another entry on the 1.3 wish-list: the ability to automate the uploading of modified files to an ftp site. There is a danger to adding this functionality, which is that any web content not managed through PubTal can easily get left behind, but I’m still inclined to think it will make life easier.

We are also midway through re-carpeting right now. The only good thing about this is that, by being midway, we should only have one more day of disruption.

August 11th, 2003

Tech summary

This tech summary was originally going to be included with the weekend post, but then I thought better of it.

Plugins in PubTal now work, including the Textile one I mentioned earlier. This shall ship as the demonstration plugin, and so provide both a working example and give PubTal support for Textile. My plans are to update the documentation and release version 1.2 before adding any new features. The new features under consideration, and which will probably not be in 1.2, are XHTML support and plugins for adding extra context programmatically.

Bastian Kleineidam has put together a version of SimpleTAL which includes limited support for the Zope Page Templates Internationisation standard (known as i18n). If you are looking for such support check out his page for details of what is supported, and how it works.

August 11th, 2003

Weekend summary

This weekend we had Shana’s parents brief visit us, which was also coincidently the weekend on which this years Taste of the Danforth was held. The Taste of the Danforth has grown significantly from last year, stretching an extra city block compared to last year. It also had a greater variety of food available than I remember, which is good because while Souvlaki is all well and good, it does leave something to be desired after the first mile of not seeing anything else.

This year there was a significant showing of Japanese and Indian food, along with some Tex-Mex and a handful of other categories of food. It was fairly warm out, so after a couple of hours wandering around I had caught the sun a little across the shoulders, but not so much as to be painful.

On Sunday I finally did some more skating again, along with Shana and Kelli (thanks for the lift!). The first run down the trial and back was fairly slow and painful, but after a rest I found the next trip out and back fairly good. Today I’ve got a few aches to show for it, so it must have been worth while. If I’m really good I’ll try again on Wednesday, but with re-carpeting going on that is unlikely to happen.

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Copyright 2009 Colin Stewart

Email: colin@owlfish.com