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Really? What year is this??

Also, Netscape?!

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I’d just like to point out this is the city that is home to Google, Velo-city, University of Waterloo, Hyperdrive startup accelerator, BlackBerry, …

We can do better, Waterloo.

All that, for this.

Interview on NPR with John C. Inglis of the NSA:

While Inglis conceded in his NPR interview that at most one terrorist attack might have been foiled by NSA’s bulk collection of all American phone data – a case in San Diego that involved a money transfer from four men to al-Shabaab in Somalia – he described it as an “insurance policy” against future acts of terrorism.

(Source)

Emphasis mine.

Quality Control

I saw a feel-good Amtrak post come up on the /newest section of Hacker News the other day which covered the new single-level long distance Amtrak cars being produced in the US. The first thing I saw when watching the video was the flag of The Netherlands painted across each of them.

I love trains and I hate to bash or bring negative attention to anything to do with rail. But, I feel that at least someone should point out this mistake.

My Car Makes a Nice Office But…

While I wait patiently for Canada to adopt a comprehensive high-speed rail line and commuter service, the next best thing is a car for working on the go. Though I’m the primary driver these days, there have been times when I’ve been the passenger. I write this now from a very comfortable position next to Exhibition Park in Guelph. I’m doing work on the laptop in the passenger seat (using a 3G USB adapter from Wind mobile).

Rail is my favourite mode of transport because:

  1. You face people. Seats are positioned in a way that fosters communication, unlike cars, in which everyone faces the same direction and it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) for people sitting less than a metre away in the back seat to hear conversation in the front seat.
  2. Free Wifi.
  3. Work while you travel. When you’re driving, you can’t do anything but drive. It’s dead time; a complete waste of human existence. If you travel by rail, you can accomplish work, read, think, relax, read.
  4. It’s fast. Even current rail service in Canada, specifically between Guelph and Toronto, isn’t that bad in terms of speed. My GPS reported that we reached 140km/h at one point. With some proper funding and planning, that could be the average speed, not the top speed.
  5. It’s safe. Rail is a very safe method of travel, especially compared to the car.
  6. You can pee. Every car has a washroom built right in. You don’t have to stop transport to pee.

Still, for times when I need a third place and cafes are closed, I use my car. It’s a 2001 Chrysler 300m. Here are a few things that could have been done better.

  1. Built-in inverter. My car has two access points to DC electricity: One in the front and one in the centre console. It uses the traditional cigarette lighter type adapter, to which I plug in an inverter which gives me AC electricity for my laptop.  (An even better solution would be to buy laptops that include a DC plug as well as an AC plug so I could just plug straight into DC since that’s what laptops use natively).
  2. Auxiliary input for the car stereo. I won a free car stereo and had the installers provide access to an AUX IN jack so I could plug my laptop audio in but it would be awesome if this came included out of the box. I have all of my mp3s, oggs, and music modules on my laptop.
  3. DC Access point for the back seat. Currently there is no way to access DC power in the back seat except through the centre console, which, when left open, is uncomfortable for the driver.
  4. Better fuel economy. While I’d love to have a fully electric car (such as the Ford Focus Electric), I realize that in 2001 the technology wasn’t close to being ready. My car gets an average of 11L/100KM in town and 7L/100KM highway. It would have been nice to have the ability to switch the engine between performance mode and economy mode whilst in the city.

Spending Less Time At Facebook These Days

Facebook has recently changed the way it handles my news feed. Because of this, it’s likely that I’ll be reading it less and keeping it around just to post things and check up on to make sure I haven’t missed a message.

Here’s why: I don’t equate friendship with following.

When I’m your friend, I want to keep in touch, maybe hang out, and share something with you directly. I don’t want to see your thought stream.

Don’t take it personally because it isn’t personal. When I read stuff online, it’s usually news. I want to learn something new about the fields in which I am excited, not in which you are excited. If it’s not news, it’s an editorial on said fields. If it’s not an editorial, it’s a tweet from someone who might be generating the previous two examples.

I had spent the last 6-12 months whittling down my Facebook news feed to weed out most people’s/most page’s posts from showing up.  The little down arrow icon with the “Hide all from xyz” was my best friend.

Then, a week or so ago, all those settings got wiped in favour of a new “acquaintences” system where you specifically select which group you want to read from.

Here’s why it doesn’t work: I have no clue what people are going to say before they say it, so I have no idea who I would like to follow. But, once they’ve said it, I sure as hell know who I would like to unsubscribe from.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be their friend, it just means I don’t want to mix their stuff in with mine is all.

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Awesome Vegetarian Restaurants in Downtown Toronto

Staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto for the last week with my girlfriend Amy has opened us to a ton of new, fantastic vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Google has helped us find them all, but I wanted to take a second to put together a small list in case you’re downtown Toronto for a while and are looking for great places to eat.

I’ll separate them by category.

Pizza

Pizzaiolo
http://www.pizzaiolo.ca/
There are probably 15 to 20 of these around Toronto, but the one we went to was just a few doors down from our hotel on Yonge St. It was amazing. In fact, it was so amazing, we ordered pizzas there two days in a row. They have a ton of vegetarian and vegan choices and each are made fresh right in front of you. It’s amazing.

Take-Away and Fast Food

Urban Herbivore
http://www.torontoeatoncentre.com/EN/Directory/Stores/Pages/UrbanHerbivore_F018.aspx
Like most food places in Toronto, there are a few locations. The one we went to was in the Eaton Centre, and it was fantastic. I ate the BBQ Tofu sandwich and loved it even though I’m not normally a huge fan of tofu. It was quick and cheap. Like all great vegetarian food, if you didn’t know it was vegetarian you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Sit Down

Fresh Toronto Vegetarian FoodFresh
http://www.freshrestaurants.ca/our_history.asp
Fresh was, without a doubt, our favourite. It’s got great style, it’s busy, it’s fast, and the food tastes fantastic. Amy loved it so much she bought one of the recipe books they offer on sale.

King’s Cafe (Kensington Market)
http://www.kingscafe.com/
This is the sister restaurant to our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Guelph, Zen Garden. Great food and amazing Lychee Black tea.

Project Natal + OpenSim = Heaven? Getting there!

Microsoft unveiled their new Xbox 360 controller, or, lack-of-controller today at E3. Yes, I’m referring to Project Natal.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, you obviously don’t have a Twitter account. All of the videos I’ve seen thus far are pre-recorded, but if this thing works as good as they make it look, we are all in for a treat. Check it out:

Looks pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

I have a few questions, which I’m sure you all do as well. Mine are

  1. Will the sensor be a USB device?
  2. If so, has anyone hacked their own drivers yet? :)
  3. How long until someone uses it in a virtual world, like OpenSim?

Combine this with a projection-cube-room like this one, a treadmill floor so you can actually walk, and you’ve got yourself a holodeck, son.

Whatever happened to Virtual Reality?

Am I the only late-20-something that’s sorely disappointed that Virtual Reality has basically dropped off the face of the planet?

When I was young, Virtual Reality was supposed to be the “next big thing.” And for a while, it was. I played Dactyl Nightmare with the best of them on a Virtuality machine in a mall in Port Huron and anxiously awaited any tidbit of news to come from Atari about their Jaguar 3D headset.

Then, all of a sudden, VR disappeared.

I think it’s because of the Virtual Boy. I really liked that system, but I guess at the time it made a bunch of people sick and companies got scared to try it again.

Here’s what I want:

  1. A lightweight, high-resolution, full-vision 3D display headset with built-in (at least Stereo) sound. If it needs to take advantage of dual-header DVI graphics cards, so be it.
  2. Two Nintendo PowerGlove-ish devices that let me manipulate objects in 3D.

Can you do it for cheap?

Does anyone know of a high-quality headset like the one described above? Let me know in the comments!

As far as the gloves… I was thinking about getting 10 Nintendo Wii controllers and removing and then mounting the IR units on the tips of my fingers. Take advantage of the many open-source Wii controller drivers around the net to build a PC joystick driver that can work in engines like Torque.

I often fool around with 3D tools like blender and Torque Construction Set. I get frustrated at the interface with my computer. Not only is any size screen too small, a mouse and a flat 2D display just can’t manipulate the objects fast enough. I want to use my hands, damnit!

Just think of how cool it would be to wave your hand and have a forest grow behind it or earth raise into a mountain. The Matrix, here we come!

So I typed ABBA into Last.fm and I was lost for hours…

… in the seemingly un-ending list of great disco / 70s pop songs. If you dislike ABBA, you’ll dislike this post. But, for me, there’s some ethereal quality about late 70s, early 80s pop songs. It was before I was born, so I have no experience with it, but for years I’ve listened to this stuff. It almost seems like the world was coming out of some sort of turtlenecked, bell-bottomed dream-world. Some of these really do deserve a remix. Anyway, enjoy the vids!

Baccara – Cara Mia

Agnetha – Can’t Shake Loose


(totally in need of a remix)

ABBA – I am the City

Baccara – Yes sir I can Boogie