Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Election Season

We are having an election this year, just like the Americans. I saw an interview of Stephen Spoonamore from back in 2005 on youtube and it left me disheartened about what might yet happen later this year. He basically suggests that election results can easily be fudged by whomever is able to hack into the electronic voting systems widely used today. Of course, he's completely right as well.

The ramifications are plain to see for the American contest, especially in light of the fact that the last two presidential elections were contested. But it made me think - is this also a problem we would face here in Canada? While I have not seen the touch screen voting system often criticized in America, I have seen Diebold voter card counting machines, etc. - all of which are equally non-transparent.

Why is it such a stretch for a company that builds ABM machines (such as Diebold) to apply the same standards of openness to certification? In the banking case, every part of the machine and code is scruitnized by both a third party analyst as well as a customer appointed one. No such practices are put in place for the voting machines, however.

If the Canadian election was to be stolen, that would be very bad in an ideological sense. But for the American election to be stolen, possibly again, well that would be a tragedy that has far larger ramifications for the rest of the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Woot! New Video card Installed

Once upon a time I bought a new computer. At that time, the selection of video cards was kind of sucky, so I decided to use the onboard video that came with my computer. The plan was, once a decent card arrived, I would then get it.

A lot of time passed by. Good cards came and went, I was busy rebuilding a patio, finding other ways to procrastinate. It took me over a year and a half to finally get a video card installed.
Getting the card was one thing. Getting it installed into my computer was a completely different adventure that fortunately has a happy outcome. But I was a little nervous at first. This is because like most cards these days, this one is substantially larger than any other card I had installed before. The fact is, video cards today are about 4 to 8 times larger in volume - so much so that the makers of my motherboard did not take it's size into consideration when mapping out where to put connectors.

As a result, I had to get special SATA cables that would fit underneath the video card housing and still do the job. On one end of the cable the plug is at a right angle which allows for more clearance, but also means my cable blocks the second SATA port. Luckily I only have one SATA hard drive and one SATA optical drive. I had to move my hard drive lower in order to make room for the card too.

It took me two days to get the card installed, but that was mostly because I had to run out to get the custom cables in order to do the job right. Luckily everything works and I was able to install the vista drivers with little effort (who knew!)

I booted into linux briefly and did note that my video drivers have been reset to default ones, but the install still works. Reconfiguring that will be an adventure for another day - probably soon though as I won't be able to use that OS with a resolution of only 800x600 - that would drive me nuts. But before I was to do that, I really wanted to see what my current games look like with the new card.

Wow. I now know what people with glasses feel like when they get their prescription updated and it is better. Thief 3 used to play, but I had to turn down the resolution and the people still walked in slow-motion most of the time. Now, it is as the developers intended. Test Drive Unlimited is now responsive, crisp and beautiful. Before it was so slow that I could not play it - just trying to accelerate would force the game to stutter. With the xbox controller I got from Chris last year, driving is smooth and precise, which is just what I wanted. Titan's Quest played pretty well on my onboard video but now I was able to bump up the resolution and turn on all the special effects. It just looks so much prettier now.

And of course, now I can finally try BioShock. It's one of the best from last year, which is the closest to playing a current video game that I have come yet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

IKEA Overdose

Over the past month, we have been making multiple trips to IKEA as we attempt to put some organization to our small space. We have been there so often that our routine has shifted. We rarely go through the store as IKEA intends - now, instead of going through the maze showroom like obedient customers, we usually enter through the exit, or at the very least take all the handy shortcuts they have to bypass at least part of the store. I figure doing that alone cuts out a solid half hour to hour of time for us, but even so it is rare to have a stay shorter than a full hour. I really wish IKEA was a store I could quickly drop in for a single item, but they are geared to keep you in as long as possible.

The multiple trips are in part to return merchandise that looked great on the showroom floor, but not so great in our living room. Or kitchen. Or bedroom. You get the idea. Luckily there are two locations in the Lower Mainland, as the Coquitlam guys were starting to recognize me in the returns lineup. I was the one who had the receipts and packaging all in order because I already knew what they would need for the fastest processing possible.

Our place is by no means 100% IKEA styled, but we do use a fair bit of their stuff. Especially the organization solutions, as we have limited space. But neither location is 'close' to us so I am looking forward to when IKEA trips can once again be a novelty and no longer a part of our routine.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

First signs of autumn

We all have our own ways of noticing the change in seasons. Spring can often be heralded in Canada with the start of the Tim Horton's Roll up the Rim contest, for example. Today I happened to discover another way to tell when autumn is fast approaching: emptied water features downtown. 

A lot of condos in my neighborhood have elaborate fountains. Some keep them running close to year round somehow - I'm not sure if they heat the water, or what. But there are others who for whatever reason, shut theirs down earlier in the year. 

Here in Vancouver we might get a lot of cherry blossoms in the spring (another informal signal that spring is near) but we do not get much in the way of leaves turning colour, at least not like I was used to back in Eastern Canada. What we do get though, is about 2 days of very strong wind and then the temperatures average about 10 degrees lower after that. 

Anyhow, what signals do you notice that indicate fall is 'in the air'?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Resetting Patio Tiles

Last weekend I had a setback with my patio and had to lift up the pavers I had set down, to redo the job with more care. This seems to be a trend with me and home projects. When we were in Vernon we lifted up the carpets and put in laminate flooring throughout the place. We were about half way done then when we realized we had to undo and redo the job in order to straighten out the tiles. 

I wasn't pleased then. I wasn't pleased this time either.

But I will say that having spent this weekend restarting the job, things are looking much better. Or more specifically, the tiles are more in line with each other and closer to level (but with a slight grade for rain runoff.) I didn't take a photo of my progress so far because in general things always look a lot worse than they are until the job is done. It's just how it is. Don't believe me? Take haircuts as an example. It's not quite right until the hairdresser is done.