Friday, June 19, 2009

Liberal Party of Canada disregards Spam ettiquete

I was shocked, moments ago, when I received an e-mail from Gosia Radaczynska, from the office of the Leader of the Opposition. Some time ago, I submitted some feedback on a Liberal-party run suggestion board. I specifically chose (as I always do) not to be included on any mailing lists. While I support the cause, I was shocked to see that there was no way to unsubscribe to this unsolicited e-mail. I suppose this is just a sign of things to come, really. I try to stay away from politics in anything more than an intellectual capacity, but this is unreal. If you're going to promote net neutrality, at least do it without giving the appearance of a spammer! I have attached a copy of the e-mail, pasted in it's entirety, from my g-mail account. There was also a youtube link at the end!

Liberals support Net Neutrality - Les libéraux appuient la neutralité de l'Internet


Une version en français suit.

Dear Aaron,

Yesterday in the House of Commons, Marc Garneau, the Liberal Industry, Science and Technology Critic, spoke in support of Net Neutrality: “In a free and open democracy in the 21st century, in an innovative and progressive economy, no tool is more paramount than the Internet. The Internet is the backbone of today’s flow of free ideas and sharing”.

It is via the Internet, on our platform, that you provided us with your opinion on Net Neutrality and Broadband infrastructure. The Liberal party takes all policy matters seriously your enthusiasm, input and thoughtful comments prompted serious research and consultation on this issue.

[watch a video of Marc Garneau speaking in favour of Net Neutrality in the House of Commons]

The Liberal Party of Canada supports the principles of Net Neutrality, specifically that Internet traffic management should not be permitted for anti-competitive behaviour, nor should it target specific websites, users or legitimate business applications. The Liberal Party will also continue to ensure internet management does not infringe on Canadians’ privacy rights.

Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal party of Canada want a new kind of politics, one where we can discuss issues in a productive fashion. When Marc Garneau stood up to ask the question in the House of Commons, he didn’t get an answer, he didn’t even get a sense of what the Minister thought on the subject.

Your participation in this forum proved that Canadians want a new type of politics. The Liberal Party stands for this new politics, a politics of inclusion, open debate, and solid action on issues that matter to you most.

Together we’ve taken an important first step and now we ask you to join us in making Net Neutrality a reality in Canada by learning more about the Liberal Party and helping support Liberal values and policies.

Visit the get involved section of and join the thousands of Canadians who stand for a new politics.

Kindest regards,

Gosia Radaczynska

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition


Cher Aaron,

Hier, à la Chambre des communes, Marc Garneau, le porte-parole libéral responsable des sciences et technologies, a appuyé la neutralité de l’Internet : « Au sein d’une démocratie libre et ouverte du XXIe siècle, dans une économie novatrice et progressiste, aucun outil n’est plus essentiel que l’Internet. L’Internet est de nos jours le pilier du libre échange des idées. »

C’est grâce à l’Internet, par l’intermédiaire de notre plateau de, que vous nous avez donné votre opinion sur la neutralité de l’Internet et des infrastructures à large bande. Le Parti libéral prend au sérieux toutes les questions de politique. Votre enthousiasme, vos contributions et vos commentaires réfléchis ont contribué à des recherches et à des consultations importantes sur cette question.

[Regardez la vidéo de Marc Garneau appuyant la neutralité de l’Internet à la Chambre des communes]

Le Parti libéral du Canada est favorable aux principes de la neutralité de l’Internet, particulièrement au fait que la gestion des communications électroniques ne devrait ni favoriser des pratiques anticoncurrentielles, ni cibler certains sites Web, utilisateurs ou applications logicielles légales. Le Parti libéral continuera également de veiller à ce que la gestion de l’Internet ne menace pas les droits relatifs à la protection des renseignements personnels au Canada.

Michael Ignatieff et le Parti libéral du Canada veulent une nouvelle façon de faire de la politique, une façon de faire qui nous permette de discuter de questions de manière productive. Lorsque Marc Garneau a pris la parole à la Chambre pour poser une question, il n’a pas reçu de réponse. Il n’a même pas eu une petite idée de ce que le ministre pensait à ce sujet.

Votre participation à cette tribune prouve que les Canadiens veulent une nouvelle façon de faire les choses. Le Parti libéral du Canada milite pour cela, pour une politique d’inclusion, pour des débats ouverts et pour des mesures concrètes sur les questions qui sont les plus importantes pour vous.

Ensemble, nous avons franchi un pas important et maintenant, nous vous demandons de vous joindre à nous pour veiller à ce que la neutralité de l’Internet devienne une réalité au Canada. Pour cela, nous vous invitons à en apprendre davantage au sujet du Parti libéral et à appuyer les valeurs et les orientations libérales.

Visitez la section Impliquez-vous du site et joignez-vous aux milliers de Canadiens qui militent pour une nouvelle façon de faire la politique.

Bien cordialement,

Gosia Radaczynska

Bureau du chef de l’Opposition officielle

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cheesecake Cupcakes

I made some delicious cheescake cupcakes that were simple and inexpensive. I'll list the recipe I made up here:

1 stick Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 c Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 egg
1 c Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 c butter or margarine, melted
Your choice of topping
Muffin Cups

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
2. Mix melted butter or margarine and graham crumbs with a fork until well mixed. The mixture should stick together.
3. Place muffin cups in to a muffin tray. Fill the bottom of each cup with a small amount of the graham crumb mixture, about 1/8" (1/3 cm).
4. In a medium bowl, mix sugar and cream cheese with an electric mixer on low speed until well mixed, approximately 1 minute
5. Add vanilla extract and egg and mix on low speed until well mixed.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, approximately 3/4" (2 cm). Try to leave about 1/3 of the depth of the cup (or more) empty for the topping.
7. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until the cakes have a rounded top.
8. Allow cakes to cool for approximately 1 hour at room temperature.
9. Add your favourite topping* and enjoy!

*My topping of choice was actually Cherry Jell-O. Most people like small berries, such as cherries and blueberries. These can be purchased in a can at most grocery stores. If you want to make jell-o filling, just prepare the jell-o according to the package directions, and when partially firm, transfer the jell-o topping to the top of the cooled cups. Refrigerate until the jell-o has completely set and enjoy!

This recipe should yield approximately 12 small cheescupcakes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to clean your keyboard

So you've decided to clean your keyboard. Whatever the reason (maybe a stuck key got you killed in your favourite game), you need to use a very methodical approach to complete this task.

Before I begin, I should mention that keyboards are a very inexpensive commodity. If you have a cheap keyboard it may be a better idea to just go out and buy a new one, rather than spending all the time on cleaning the one you've got. But that all depends on how much your time is worth to you. An experienced cleaner can get the job done fairly quickly, but a thorough job by a first-timer may take up to an hour.

So to begin, here is what you will need:

1. A flat-headed screwdriver (or some other implement to remove the keys)
2. A bowl of warm, soapy water
3. Q-Tips. A lot of them.
4. A small device to clean out crevasses. I used a plastic toothpick.
5. An absorbent cloth. I used a chamwow, but paper towel works just as well.

So to begin, take careful note of the layout of your keyboard. PC Guide has an excellent write-up with pictures of several keyboard layouts here.

Make sure that your keyboard is not plugged in while you do this - water and electronics do not mix. If you have a USB keyboard you don't have to turn your computer off. If you have a PS/2 keyboard, or an even older AT Keyboard, you will have to shut down your computer before you can start using the keyboard again after you are done.

Next, we need to remove the keys. I usually start with the large keys (i.e. the space bar, CTRL, ALT, Enter, Backspace, etc.) and then worry about the smaller ones later. When removing these larger keys, take special note of how they are connected to the keyboard. Many keyboards use special connectors to help keep them in place and maintain the ability to use them regardless of where on the key they connect. This will become very important when you put the keyboard back together.

Once you have all the keys removed, place them in the warm, soapy water. This will allow them to clean off while you focus on the real dirty work - underneath the keys.

Use Q-Tips to clean out the area around the keys. I like to dip a q-tip in the water and then run it between the key wells. Repeat this until you have removed the majority of the grime that has built up.

Next you need to focus on the harder areas. Many keyboards have small crevasses in which grime builds up very quickly. Use something small to make sure that these areas are cleaned out well, and follow up with a brush of a Q-Tip to make sure the job is done.

After we have the main area of the keyboard clean we need to focus on the holes that the keys go into. I recommend not using any water for this part, as the key holes do go down into the electronics of the keyboard. For particularly bad messes, though, it is acceptable to use a small amount of water on the Q-Tip.

Make sure to get all of the holes cleaned out. Wipe everything dry with another Q-Tip (make sure it's a clean one!). Once this is done it is time to start putting everything back together. Are you glad you took note of your keyboard layout now?

Before putting the keys back where they belong, take a moment to dry them off. Make sure that there is no gunk built up on the sides of the keys, and check underneath to ensure that there is nothing there either. Then, carefully, replace the large keys first. This will give you a better framework to work with when connecting all the other keys as well. As mentioned before, this can be tricky, so take your time. Make sure that you get the keys connected up the same way they were before you started. Once you have all the special keys in place, go ahead and start putting the rest of the keys in. Once all of the keys are back on, you can go ahead and reconnect your keyboard. Test it out in your favourite word processor (mine is Notepad) to make sure that your keys are all in the correct spot and have an appropriate amount of bounce to them.

There you go, you're done! That was easy, wasn't it?

Of course, if this doesn't help you (too much Pepsi in the keyboard perhaps?) you can always go to the nearest computer store and purchase a new keyboard. You won't pay more than $20 for a standard 104-key Windows keyboard, which should satisfy all the needs of any computer user. Extra buttons may seem like a nice feature but they are completely superfluous.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So I decided to install Presto My PC on my wife's laptop to see how it worked. She has an Acer Extensa 4420 running Windows Vista. One of her biggest complaints is that it takes forever to start up. Presto promises very quick boot times.

I was impressed with the ease of install. It took less than five minutes to install (the installer works from within Windows XP or Vista), and the next time I started the laptop the Windows Boot Loader asked me which OS to start. I selected Presto, and Bam! I was in. After a couple of quick changes to the network settings (I use manual IP, it's configured for DHCP by default). It automatically picked up both the wireless and wired network cards, something that impressed me greatly.

I was up and online in under a minute the first time, and under 30 seconds from no power to firefox running on the second boot. I was very impressed.


I wanted to try to connect the laptop to our windows-based server. I found no way to do this. I tried manually installing Samba using the command line (I had to use ALT-F2 to run xterm, there is no icon to launch it), and I was able to install this, and a number of other packages using apt-get. I even installed Synaptic to make it even easier to select and install packages. The problem, though, is that the kernel is built to load quickly, so they do not include cifs support, which is required to mount samba shares.

Now, I have absolutely zero experience with the kernel. This became very frustrating very quickly. I am going to try to find a way to add cifs support to the kernel, but honestly I think that Presto should look at making cifs a part of their system. The only file system that is supported is NTFS. I am sure this is part of the reason that boot times are so quick, but I would be more than willing to sacrifice a few seconds of my time with the promise of being able to connect to my Windows shares.

I guess I'm going to have to learn how to work with the kernel :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I forgot about my blog

It was to my surprise that I found I had a blog. I posted my first (and only) post over a year ago. So, the question begs asking, do I really need a blog? Does anyone really need a blog? What the heck is a blog, anyhow?

Well, I don't think I need a blog, but that doesn't mean I don't want one. It's an excellent forum to express one's opinions on a variety of topics.

My first post was a commentary on market forces. It seems to me that we are currently in what analysts are calling a recession. As far as I am concerned, this is the optimum time to invest. When you (or your wife, as the case may be) go shopping, you want to get the best value for your money. So what do you do? You look for sales. Well, right now, most stocks are on sale. It strikes me that this means that we should be looking for value and buying. That being said, certain companies that may have previously been considered safe havens are no longer in that category. Each investor needs to look at the risks and benefits of each stock. The auto industry seems to be unsafe, as they have not adapted to the demands of consumers. The recording industry is in a similar boat. What we need to look for is companies that are able to quickly adapt to change and keep up with the demands of their customers.

I work in the outsourcing industry. I will not say which company, as we are currently in a blackout period while we announce our financial results, but it strikes me that this is the way to go as far as investments are concerned. Outsourcers have to constantly adapt not only to the demands of their customers, but also the demands of their customers' customers. Also, this is a growth industry. As businesses look to cut costs they will increase the amount of work they outsource, moving from internal support to less expensive external support. This may or may not include offshore solutions. So if you are looking for a solid investment vehicle, look for companies that have operations on multiple continents and provide services that are not going to go away. Demand may weaken, but everyone needs front-line agents to handle customer inquiries and support. The other nice thing about the outsourcing industry is that they generally have a broad spectrum of clients. If one client drops out, they are usually able to find more to fill the gap. This prevents the need for restructuring costs (i.e. severance, etc.), and allows organisations to dynamically adapt to the conditions of the market.

During boom times we see companies looking to maximise profits and become more appealing to investors. This leads to outsourcing. During bust times (i.e. now) companies look to cut costs to keep up with the cost of doing business. This also leads to outsourcing.

In short, outsourcers are a solid investment at any time. Given the current economic conditions, and the fact that stock prices are all depressed (on sale, remember?), this is the optimum time to buy in to an outsourcing company.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bear Markets

For my first Blog post, I have to respond to the comments that the stock markets are entering "Bear Territory". I was watching CNN the other day and they were talking about the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq entering bear territory, and I couldn't help but cringe. There should be no such thing as a bear market at this point. We understand the mechanics of the stock market, and have had many years to figure things out.

First of all, people associate bear markets with recession. Recession is caused by lower national spending. Lower spending is associated with higher saving. So, if we are saving this money, where is it going? Certainly not into...say...the stock market? Even if individuals stop investing in the stock market, the big players (banks, trusts, etc.) are certainly investing their money in the markets. So to say that a recession and a bear market go together is incorrect. If anything, a recession should trigger a bull market, as people invest (or save) their money instead of spending it.

Next I would like to talk about what a bear market entails. Lower stock prices (particularly the index funds) lead people to think that the bear is in the house. The way I see it, lower stock prices mean that it is time to invest! This is when the stocks are on sale, to take a term from retail. If you had a choice of buying a thousand shares of a solid company (think blue-chip) at $100 a share or at $85 a share, what would you pick? As an investor, one should look at the bear market as an opportunity. Stocks almost always recover (barring bad management), so why not throw some more money into the pot when the stocks are cheap? If I go to buy a car, I look at a number of factors - price, functionality, features, safetey, etc. Why not apply the same formula to the stock market? Price should not be the main concern - the management and potential of the company should dictate one's investments. If a company has a solid product line and excellent management, they will be able to weather almost anything that comes along. Even a recession.

Thirdly, I would like to talk about stock market returns. One can not look at the stock market as a way to make a quick buck. I remember back when I was in high school all the talk was about Bre-X. Everywhere I turned, people were talking about this hot stock. Well, I warned them. I said don't invest in companies that have high market valuations. Well, look what happened. A lot of people lost their shirts in the Bre-X scandal. They bought when the stock was very high (one of my friends purchased shares when they were over $200/share), and a lot of people lost everything. The smart thing to do would have been to invest in a company that had an under-market valuation. At approximately the same time I started following the shares of Corel Corp. They were hovering around $2-3/share. At the time of writing, they are at $8.77/share. This is significant return (300% in 10 years). They peaked in 1999 around $60/share. So, who is the smart investor there? Look at a company's history, their potential, and their products to make a decision - not CNN's news feed. I believe it was my father who told me "If a company is in the news, it's too late to invest". What a great rule of thumb. Do your research and you will do well. Invest based on news stories and you will always be behind those who do their research.

Finally, and back to the point of bear markets, one has to look at the performance of their own portfolio. If your portfolio is being outperformed by the index funds, you may want to diversify. If you invest heavily in one or two sectors, you leave yourself open to failure. If you diversify your portfolio, you will be able to have gains and losses that yield you a net gain across the board, even if one or two sectors start to fall. A good example of this is the tech sector. Does anyone else remember the tech bubble? Does anyone remember when it burst? I do. A lot of people lost a lot of money because they were invested heavily in tech stocks. Everyone was talking about when the bubble would burst, but nobody wanted to get out. Everyone was buying, and when we finally realised as a society that these companies were not producing any revenue, everyone sold at the same time - the bubble burst. The smart thing to do would be to invest elsewhere - resources, for example, and when the bubble did burst, be there to happily pick up the stocks of the companies that were actually solid investments from the start - at bargain basement prices.

So, in conclusion, a bear market is really just a clearance sale for stocks. It's a time to invest, not a time to sell. It may be a time to shift your investments around to create a well-balanced portfolio. The real key though is not to sell when the markets are down. If you can't afford to invest more, keep what you've got. Over any given 30 year period, the stock market has ALWAYS outperformed any other investment vehicle, including real estate, treasury bills, GICs, and bonds. People who look at stocks as a get-rich-quick scheme are missing the point. The stock market is an investment. So invest. Don't try to get rich off of one big hit, plan for the long term and buy stocks that have low market valuation and high potential.