June 2003

Monday, June 30, 2003

Recent Palm and gadget links [ 3:09 PM ]

Cory Doctorow rips T-Mobile a new one over its decision to remove games from its Sidekicks remotely. The Palm Tungsten W, once the most expensive handheld in the Palm Solutions Group’s lineup, has been reduced from US$549 to US$419. And the AlphaSmart Dana, a sort of mini-laptop that runs the Palm OS, now comes in a wireless version.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

New Blogger RSS feed error [ 2:52 PM ]

Switching to the new Blogger system (“Dano”) has broken entry links in RSS feeds. You will not be able to click from an RSS newsreader to the weblog until this is resolved. The culprit is the fact that on several of my blogs — this one, The Map Room and OARA — I use PHP includes to publish my blogs; the new Blogger system links directly to the include, rather than the main page, which causes an error. I’ll try to get this fixed quickly.

Crazy driver wreaks havoc in Ottawa (updated) [ 12:33 PM ]

An astonishing car chase across Ottawa yesterday (Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun). An apparently drunk driver reportedly stole a car yesterday afternoon at St. Laurent Shopping Centre, drove it through Vanier, where he was involved in a hit-and-run, and then downtown, where he smacked into a bus on Wellington Street, then pulled a U-turn, drove the wrong way down Metcalfe Street and hit three more cars before being apprehended on foot.

Florence was in the middle of the downtown fracas, but managed to avoid being plowed into or run over:

I was heading west on Wellington, and had just gone by the East Block on Parliament Hill. An old car passed me on the right. It seemed like the driver was in a hurry. That in itself is not unusual around here. I noticed the right side of the vehicle seemed to be damaged. Things went so fast I didn't have time to think about it though. Seconds later, he zipped over to the left at high speed as there were a few tour buses parked in the right lane, probably barely missing the car it had just passed (traffic was pretty heavy). Next thing I know, he had pulled a U-turn and was driving on the sidewalk (across from the Infocentre). A few pedestrians tried to stop him, but he was pretty wild. (They wanted to stop him, without being run over.) He turned right on Metcalfe, going against traffic. It looked like he shaved against the side of a mini-van. Then I lost sight of him.
Traffic was at a standstill on Wellington, going west. A few of us pulled a U-turn to start moving again. I turned onto Elgin, then Queen Street. Bad idea. I was diverted back onto Metcalfe. The RCMP was blocking access to Queen Street. The guy in question had turned onto Queen, and promptly smashed into cars parked on the right hand side of the street. Back on Wellington, where traffic was moving again, I found out the guy had smashed into the left rear-end of a mini-bus (airport shuttle style), as deep as the back left wheel (pretty deep in my opinion).
I shiver at the thought I could have been hit by the car right on Wellington, or even in Vanier where I was a few minutes earlier. Thank god, I brought my first Vrtucar rental back in one piece (and on time, despite the delay).


Friday, June 27, 2003

Shawville [ 10:40 AM ]

There may be employment opportunities for Jen in Shawville, which would involve us relocating to a rural area approximately 60 km west of Aylmer. At this point it’s only a possibility, but you know how I like to prepare for every eventuality. That preparation will involve thoroughly investigating the web sites of the MRC de Pontiac and the local English newspaper, The Equity. Employment opportunities for me in the area are unknown, but if these sites are any indication, they may be in desperate need of a decent web designer.

Jan Harder bigot watch, part 3 [ 8:12 AM ]

Some Barrhaven teens echo Coun. Harder’s statement that non-whites from outside Barrhaven are causing trouble, but the police say that the crime rate simply doesn’t bear that out: “[the] main complaints from the community remain the youths in Barrhaven” (my emphasis). I frankly don’t consider these kids to be a reliable source: blaming Somali kids from outside the neighbourhood is just too convenient — gossip, scapegoating, urban legendry or a bit of them all. If they’re the sole basis for Coun. Harder’s boneheaded public statement last week, then she’s a dolt for accepting their statements at face value (see previous entry).

More eggs [ 7:39 AM ]

The incubator is set to burst: three gopher snake eggs joined the two clutches of corn snake eggs and ball python eggs this morning. They were laid last night but I held off until I was sure that the mother had finished laying (see previous entry).

Dano time zone reset and the Blogger timestamp bug [ 6:42 AM ]

Note to Blogger users: If your blog has just been switched over to Dano and you’re encountering timestamp problems, check your settings. Your blog’s time zone may have reset itself to Pacific Time. Happened to The Map Room earlier this week before I caught it — I was going nuts trying to figure out why everything was posting three hours into the past. The persistent-but-inconsistent timestamp took over when I tried to change that timestamp, though.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

The Iraqi Information Minister resurfaces [ 5:10 PM ]

Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf showed up on a couple of Arabic news networks; it turns out his hair is white under that beret.

Update 6/27 8:35 AM: More from the BBC and the Globe and Mail.

Jan Harder bigot watch, part 2 [ 11:49 AM ]

At a reportedly tense and charged meeting of the City of Ottawa’s equity and diversity advisory committee, a motion was passed calling for Jan Harder to retract her comments about “non-whites” (see previous entry). I wish I could get some more information about the meeting: it sounds positively ugly. But then these sorts of remarks drag all sorts of lower primates out of the woodwork.

Update 1:36 PM: According to the Ottawa Sun, Harder has no plans to withdraw her comments.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Cronaca [ 12:32 PM ]

Jennifer writes in to point me to a new blog. “Oi Crowe — you seen the blog at www.cronaca.com yet? Just discovered it today and am finding it rather gripping (there's a whiff of Indiana Jones about it...).” Indeed, the subject matter is heavy on archaeology, but has links to other interesting stuff — history, science, academia — and also a little politics. Worth bringing to your attention.

New Blogger Timestamp Bug [ 10:28 AM ]

Note to Richard: I know all about the annoying New Blogger date/time bug, where Blogger timestamps your post 12 or 24 hours into the future, which means it doesn’t publish it. The workaround, if you’re using Blogger Pro, is to go into Post Options and manually change the date, after previewing or re-editing the post. It’s not pretty but it will work, most of the time.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Nature Conservancy of Canada [ 12:22 PM ]

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Globe and Mail about the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It’s as good an introduction as any to the organization and its activities — namely, protecting critical habitat by buying up the land.

Unh! [ 12:18 PM ]

Last night, one of those clowns on #mefi posted The Unh! Project: A Collection of Guttural Moans from Comics — comedy in the vein of Lileks’s Gallery of Regrettable Food.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Councillor Jan Harder, racist bigot [ 11:26 AM ]

Sometimes a city is blessed with a politician who, even though you may not agree with their politics, brings so much distinction, dignity and decency to the position that we’re proud to have them. For Ottawans, this is not one of those times.

Councillor Jan Harder blamed recent events in Barrhaven, a newish surburb in southwest Nepean, on “non-whites com[ing] into our community looking to cause trouble” — as though Barrhaven was a Rhodesian enclave, a gated community designed to keep offending darkies out. As though non-white criminals were an order of magnitude worse than white criminals. She has been castigated for her comments, and rightly so: they reveal her to be a nasty, narrow-minded little racist, an embarrassment to our community and to our species. The sooner this bigot is driven from public sight, the better. Hate charges may be pending.

Harder advocating a midnight curfew for under-16s isn’t much better — from a civil rights perspective, it‘s as odious as a curfew for immigrants, or natives, or Jews. As though no crime was committed by 17-year-olds at 9 PM. But under the law, it’s the only means available: under 16s, after midnight. Youth curfews are ineffectual, but they’re popular with suburban mavens who obsess about somebody else’s kids and “these immigrants” who are taking over their neighbourhoods.

She’s revealed herself for who she is. Let’s get rid of her.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Compensation for SARS and everything else [ 9:39 AM ]

Circulean posts on a subject I was discussing with my brother last night: to what extent, and at what point, are provinces (or industries) entitled to compensation for disasters? The article points out, rightly, that SARS isn’t a natural disaster. But it is an emergency, and, to the casual observer, some additional funds seem necessary. But, as the article asks, what’s the money for?

[Is the province] planning to reimburse small business owners for the lost tourism dollars? Are they planning to give nurses danger pay, or raises? Are they planning to spend the money to improve the health care system's infrastructure such that these kinds of situations are more easily dealt with in the future? Or are they planning to invite the Rolling Stones to play a hundred free shows, hold a week-long subsidized party on Yonge Street, and print a million shiny brochures with pictures of mask-free Torontonians smiling in the sunshine? Because, while that might really give the economy a shot in the arm, it's sort of failing to address the actual problem.

Using relief money to pay for additional expenses incurred by the health care system is one thing; using it to compensate the tourist industry, which is taking a hit because people are staying away because they’re afraid of SARS, seems a little too tertiary to be credible.

(Meanwhile, last weekend I noted at several stores the prominent display of mosquito netting at the general store in Kaladar labelled with "WEST NILE", and, at the pet store in Peterborough, a notice over the rosy reds, which are sold as feeder fish, saying that these fish ate mosquito larvae — WEST NILE. If people suffer economically from a public health crisis, it seems to me that they can try to profit from it, too.)

At some point the people asking for compensation are going to have to justify why they need Somebody Else’s Money (that’s what tax dollars are, after all — my lack of god, I’m sounding so conservative). If it’s a matter of personal or economic survival, that’s one thing. If it’s a matter of partial or total income replacement so that no financial penalty is incurred, that’s another.

Then there’s that other favourite shibboleth of the right wing: personal responsibility. If it is determined that the single instance of mad cow in Alberta can be attributed to standard practices of the beef industry — or if the industry’s practices would have opened cattle to this risk, regardless of whether the origin of this cow’s illness can be ascertained — then I’d be much less willing to compensate them than if they took every precaution against it and got nailed anyway.

As a corollary to that, people who work in industries that are sensitive to spikes and troughs should know better — that means tourism, agriculture and the fisheries, for example. It’s not reasonable to ask for compensation simply because circumstances have meant a bad year. Terrorism, SARS and other risks should be factored into the tourism industry’s business plan. Expect droughts if you farm. Plan for the worst case. Now, if SARS and terrorism, for example, hit you in the same year, that might be more than you can reasonably be expected to have planned for; then we can start talking about a bailout or support.

But, it seems to me, any amount of public funds being used to support an industry must be an exceptional, extreme case, in order to avoid the precedent of every region and industry whining when someone else gets money — which we’re already seeing, of course.

Of course, I’m talking theory only, like any good pundit; applying these prognostications in the real world is something else entirely. Can’t help you there.

Use Salling Clicker to reboot your computer [ 9:21 AM ]

It might not be a good idea to leave Salling Clicker running when you yank out your USB Bluetooth adapter. Normally I turn Clicker off when I’m not using it, but lately I’ve been leaving it running for some reason. (My Bluetooth habits have been modified somewhat by the arrival of the Palm Bluetooth card: the phone is now set to "On" rather than "Automatic", for the Palm’s sake, which also means that it pairs up automatically when Clicker is running. And so on.) Here are the steps I take to lock up my computer:

  1. Leave Clicker running.
  2. Remove the Bluetooth adapter. At this point the Bluetooth menu item continues to show it as on rather than unavailable. Also, plugging the Bluetooth adapter back in doesn’t seem to make any difference at this point.
  3. Close the computer’s lid or otherwise put it to sleep.
  4. Note that the pulsating light, which indicates sleep mode, does not come on.
  5. Open up the computer, watch the screen come back on, and notice that you have no keyboard or mouse control.
  6. Reboot. Watch the grey Apple icon for ten minutes while your computer runs fsck behind the scenes.
  7. Grumble.

I’ll have to see whether this is documented; this is only an educated guess based on observation. In the meantime, note to self: don’t unplug the Bluetooth adapter without shutting Clicker off first!

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The Iraqi Information Minister on Slashdot [ 10:03 AM ]

Some joker has signed up at Slashdot with the user name Mohammed Al-Sahaf and is posting comments in the former Iraqi Information Minister's inestimable style. These posts are the funniest thing I have ever seen! They're sometimes magnificently apropos to the topic and the poster has absolutely nailed Al-Sahaf's voice.

Handspring Treo 600 [ 8:40 AM ]

Handspring has announced the Treo 600, a hybrid PDA/mobile phone (in GSM and CDMA versions) that runs Palm OS 5.2 and has 32 MB of RAM, a 160 x 160 colour screen, an SD slot, and a built-in VGA camera. It's smaller than previous Treos and abandons the flip-cover design. See coverage at Brighthand, CNet, Mobitopia, Palm Infocenter and Wired. The geeks at Palm Infocenter are already complaining about the screen resolution. On such a small screen, there is such a thing as too many dots per inch, guys, and besides, how long do you want the battery to last?

Update 4:50 PM: Video from CNet; a good, in-depth article from TreoCentral.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Blogger's bugs [ 11:15 PM ]

Blogger's new system has been really buggy lately. Right now, all my new blogs under the new system -- I have six of them, including the sideblogs and the new Ringneck Diary -- appear as Blogger Basic blogs without any entries. I'm a paying Blogger Pro customer. I assume that they haven't lost any data (read: they better not have). (Update 6/18 8:28 AM: The new blogs are back up and running!)

Another frequent, though less critical error is that the date/time stamp is frequently 12 to 24 hours ahead, which means that the current post, whatever it is, won't be published. Forcing the date/time manually as a workaround usually does the trick.

These sorts of things would be less annoying if their error reporting system wasn't so abysmal. Aside from the fact that I can't so much as log into it via Safari, it's a lamentable fact that issues reported through that system go far too long without being reviewed. It's probably significant that only the issues listed as affecting Blogger Pro as a product have been reviewed; I've got stuff nearly a month old that is listed as miscellaneous and that hasn't so much as been looked at.

Even an issue I submitted with the title "Blogger Control issues go unreviewed for too long" has gone unreviewed for over nine days. In that submission, I wrote:

I wish someone would review and resolve the issues I submit through Blogger Control. They usually go days without anyone being assigned to look at them. I find this unacceptable, particularly as a paying Blogger Pro customer. There are plenty of things going wrong lately and, to outside observers, it looks like you're doing a crummy job at not only fixing them, but letting people know that you're on the job and trying your best to do something about them. An error reporting system that appears to show that no one is listening doesn't help your image.

It's a pity that the bugs are so prevalent recently; Blogger has usually worked well enough for me in the past. Were it not for the fact that I have so many blogs and better things to do with my time than fart around with Movable Type, I'd be hard pressed to stay with Blogger Pro.

Photo and video tips from Derrick Story [ 10:39 PM ]

Derrick Story has been on a tear at the O'Reilly Network lately. First there's his Top Ten Digital Video Tips, which provides some basic information useful for anyone starting out with a DV camera (the kind of advice that I wish Mr. Lion would take time off from his right-wing fulmination and Lileks-fellating and get off his duff and finish, except that his stuff is considerably more advanced). Next up, an article about managing large libraries in iPhoto -- in a nutshell, burn archives to CD or (better) DVD.

Ask Steve Jobs what he thinks -- come on, I dare you [ 10:33 PM ]

When you ask Steve Jobs for advice, be careful what you wish for, as this excerpt from a forthcoming book on the Segway reveals. Kamen and company asked Jobs and Amazon head Jeff Bezos for advice. They, um, got it. Or, as Ceej puts it, it's "Jobs putting on his usual show: he's an asshole and he's right and you had better listen to him." If you've read The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, you'll know what that means. (via Slashdot)

More snake eggs [ 12:41 PM ]

Pretzel, our normal corn snake, had 13 eggs waiting for us when we got back on Sunday night, which are now sitting warm and toasty in our incubator. She laid 13 and 10 eggs last year (in two clutches), and 14 eggs the year before that. She mated with a different male -- Trouser -- this time, so we'll see if that has any impact on her babies' propensity to eat.

The female gopher snake shed over the weekend, which was presumably the pre-egg-laying shed that occurs 7-10 days before deposition, but she doesn't look particularly gravid -- either she simply isn't, or her eggs aren't taking up very much room. She laid four eggs last year, of which only one hatched, so it wouldn't be a surprise if her clutch was small. (see previous entry)

Weekend update; Ringneck Diary (updated) [ 10:52 AM ]

Playing catchup after last weekend's trip to Jeff and Jenny's place south of Orillia, where we helped with projects around their property, frolicked in their pool, and generally enjoyed ourselves. On the way there on Friday, we stopped at a pet store in Peterborough, which had some Southern Ring-necked Snakes (Diadophis punctatus punctatus). We talked about it over the weekend and, on the way back on Sunday, we picked up four of them to split among myself and Jennifer, Florence, and Jeff and Jenny. Because this is the most challenging species I've yet worked with, I've decided to document my experiences with them. Ergo, Ringneck Diary.

Update 6:33 PM: BJ's journal entries for the weekend are available online. I didn't know Jeff got it in the eye after we left.

Landlords want rent control back [ 8:31 AM ]

It sounds counterintuitive, but some landlords want to go back to the days of rent control, according to Murray Campbell, writing in yesterday's Globe and Mail. The argument against rent control is that it discourages the construction of new units and contributes to shortages in rental housing. Since Ontario's Conservative government partially removed rent control five years ago -- rent increases are controlled so long as you live in the unit, but can rise any amount between tenants -- vacancies have, in fact, increased. But the problem for landlords is that the rental market has become more competitive.

Landlords accustomed to a vacancy rate near zero are having to spruce up their buildings, advertise vacancies, pay attention to their tenants and even -- gasp! -- offer discounts.
All this costs money, of course, and this is making some landlords wistful for the days when they could raise rents because tenants had very little choice about where to live. . . .
"Queueing is wonderful for certain landlords: You don't have to do any work; you don't have to appease your tenants; you don't have to spend on advertising," Mr. Brescia said. "It's been a challenge for certain people to attract tenants in this market. They don't have any skill set in being nice to people."

I can think of a few landlords to whom this might apply. If removing rent control does in fact increase vacancies over the long run (though it was pretty tight in Toronto and Ottawa for a while, and rents skyrocketed), it's probably healthier for all concerned: anything that discourages psycho landlords can't be anything but good.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Surrey School Board ignores Supreme Court [ 8:33 AM ]

Surely there must be some legal implications for the Surrey School Board's decision to ban books portraying gay families because of poor grammar and continuity (!), after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last December that they didn't have the right to ban them on religious grounds. And Hitler didn't like Mendelssohn on purely musicological grounds. I mean, school board trustees aren't exactly known for their brilliance, but how stupid do they think the rest of us are? Please, someone tell me they can be cited for contempt.

Palm Bluetooth card: first impressions [ 7:59 AM ]

Yesterday afternoon, UPS delivered the Palm Bluetooth card I won on eBay over the weekend (see previous entry). Setup was somewhat more difficult than I had expected -- Apple's Bluetooth implementation really, really spoils you. I installed the drivers and software from the CD, then downloaded the updates from Palm's web site. All told, it took three syncs to get everything installed, but the updates did make pairing with my Ericsson T39m phone considerably easier.

Some rambling first impressions:

  • The Palm-to-phone connection seemed flakier at the outset; I had difficulties connecting to send SMS. But it worked without incident later on.
  • Palm's SMS implementation is not instant messaging per se. Unlike Apple's Address Book SMS, which pops up the message on your computer screen the moment a message arrives on your phone, you have to download the messages from your phone -- it's very much like downloading e-mail. I presume this has positive benefits in terms of minimizing Bluetooth connection time.
  • The SMS app queries your address book and only lists mobile numbers, which is handy -- on the Mac, you can send an SMS to any phone number in your address book, which isn't likely to work with landlines. One less thing to think about.
  • SMS is pretty good with the thumbboard accessory.
  • BlueBoard and BlueChat seem to be useless without another Bluetooth-equipped Palm nearby. Network effect at its best -- these apps look like they were built with corporate use in mind.
  • Dialing from the Palm is almost as easy as dialing from the Mac, and much easier than looking up the number on the phone.
  • I've paired up the Palm and the Mac, but I'm not sure what to do with it. The AppleScripts posted by TechnoHappyMeal here, which automate the process of setting up a Bluetooth Internet share (see previous entry) seem to have made a connection, but that's about it -- maybe I need better apps on the Palm? Trying to stop the connection pretty much hosed my computer; I had to restart (the stop sharing script froze, and then I had all sorts of problems with the Finder and Classic).
  • Haven't set up GPRS yet. Must talk to Rogers.

So, not quite everything I'd hoped for so far, but the critical stuff -- SMS and phone book integration -- is there. GPRS is probably next, because I'm much more comfortable with the idea of using the data-frugal Palm on a pay-per-kilobyte network than the built-for-highspeed OS X. Bluetooth Internet sharing would be nice, but not the end of the world if I can't have it -- it'd be better in the long run to get an 802.11b SD card anyway (they're due in the fall).

Thursday, June 12, 2003

The best security: refusing all logins (updated) [ 9:40 PM ]

Earlier this week, I installed Apple's Security Update 2003-06-09 and found, upon restarting, that I couldn't log into my own computer. A mad panic and my first call to AppleCare ensued. The problem it turns out, is that clicking the "Login" button after selecting your username and entering your password doesn't work any more: it rejects all passwords, even the correct one. The workaround, AppleCare told me, is to press Return instead. Turns out I'm not the only one to have that happen. Dear Apple: Jen would prefer it if there weren't too many more like that; she says I'm hell to live with when my computer locks me out!

Update 6/16: Apple has documented the issue and has posted a version 2.0 of the Security Update that addresses it (via MacNN, MacMinute)

Extra scenes for The Two Towers [ 2:15 PM ]

Extra scenes for the longer DVD version of The Two Towers focus on the relationship among Boromir, Denethor and Faramir. (via Slashdot)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Happiness is a crowded incubator [ 10:43 PM ]

Twenty snake eggs are now residing in the incubator; none of them are mine. Andrew dropped off nine ball python eggs last Saturday and Florence dropped off 11 corn snake eggs this evening. As for my own snakes, Pretzel is on the verge of laying her clutch, and the gopher snake can't be very far behind. And after that, there will likely be another corn snake clutch and, if all goes well, a black pine snake clutch. This will make for a very crowded incubator this year. (It's the fault of the python eggs; they're huge!)

Jen's wish list [ 2:39 PM ]

Jen now has a wish list at Amazon.ca. She has a birthday coming up, you know. Heh.

School day for snakes [ 2:37 PM ]

Visited Jen's school this morning, where we put on a snake show for her classes. As is often the case when snakes are involved, the kids -- Grade 7 and 8 -- were uncharacteristically well behaved, and only a few per class were truly nervous about their presence. The highlight had to have been at the Centre of Excellence -- the euphemistically named centre for kids with learning or behavioural challenges and the like -- where Lucifer, my great big honking Black Pine Snake, took a great big dump on me (and the floor). Snake poo grosses kids out, but then kids really enjoy being grossed out. Much as they'd hate to admit it.

I think I can handle kids that age; bodes well for me if I decide to do snake shows on a quasi-regular basis.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

International Plep Day [ 5:54 PM ]

The McWetlog celebrates International Plep Day. You should too. Reading Plep every day is good for you. (via Languagehat and MetaFilter)

Monday, June 09, 2003

Upgrading my aging PDA [ 5:09 PM ]

My attention has been returning to PDAs lately. Since my state of penury precludes buying a nice shiny Tungsten T at the moment, I've been looking at ways to make the best use of what I have -- viz., my beat-up, nearly two-year-old Palm m505.

I'm a little out of practice in terms of looking for software -- lots of attention given to OS 5 stuff out there, but lots of stuff still runs on OS 4 or even earlier -- but hope to get back up to speed there. (Is it just my impression, or is there a lot less freeware out there than there used to be?)

I'll have to upgrade the OS to 4.1 at some point, but since the upgrader isn't supported by OS X (see previous entry), I'll probably do it via Jen's computer -- while syncing multiple computers isn't possible when you use iSync, I believe that's insofar as the data synced (to-do items, address book, calendar) is concerned, and that I can run installations from another computer if necessary.

Looking into additional hardware yielded some unexpected treats. The local Bureau en Gros had discounted the Targus ThumbPad from its original price of around C$70 to C$6.97 -- i.e., a ninety per cent discount. It had previously been listed at C$40, a price I had been prepared to pay, but this made it a no-brainer. At around the same time, I discovered that Palm Bluetooth SDIO cards were selling for far less than list on eBay, and promptly bid on and won one -- I ended up paying around C$90 after shipping, whereas they sell in Canadian electronics stores for between C$220-250. A good deal all round: $300 in hardware for less than $100. The thumbboard works well -- look for my review on Amazon in a couple of days -- and the Bluetooth card is en route.

In related news, it looks like my m505's cradle is shot; I cannot sync and the power light does not turn on when I attach the handheld. I was worried that installing the thumbboard's driver somehow interfered with the handheld's ability to recognize a cradle, but I've used Jennifer's cradle and my cable -- even syncing with the latter -- and all is well, so the cradle must be at fault. I'm annoyed at Palm about this because I sent away for a replacement cradle (under Palm's USB-related cradle exchange) a year ago and never received it; my spam from Palm just seemed to go up. All the more reason not to grease their palms (sorry) with my money at the moment. Pity that theirs are the best out there right now.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Recent site updates [ 6:11 PM ]

Recent updates include complete revisions to the About, Contact, and Reptiles sections, the beginnings of a new Hire section dedicated to getting me some gainful employment, and a new Amazon book links system that uses a cookie, based on your selection, to forward you to Amazon.ca or to Amazon.com (I get referral fees either way if you buy something). And I'm about halfway through changes to this weblog: sideblogs for Mac and Palm/gadget content are up, as is a current reading list, and some style refinements. And there's a new, simple front page, too.

Still to come: finishing up the Hire section and the changes to this weblog, photo galleries for the Reptiles section, and a complete overhaul of the Trails section (finishing the photo galleries there wouldn't be a bad idea either). The Writing section needs a new front end, and I'm sure I'll find some parts of the pages listed there that need refining, too.

Web sites are a time sink, let me tell you.

Give it to usss! We wants it! [ 5:44 PM ]

Also via Brian, in case you missed this year's MTV Movie Awards, here's Gollum accepting the award for Best Virtual Performance (8.2 MB QuickTime file). Do not drink carbonated beverages while watching it.

Update: Slashdotted, so good luck trying to download it!

Finding Nemo [ 5:35 PM ]

We saw Finding Nemo yesterday; beautifully done, with lots of funny touches, which is what you'd expect from Pixar.

Brian has a point about the plot, in that it seems to bounce from one disaster to the next and -- in the update at the bottom -- points out that the movie is just too dark and scary for kids. I was at the 2:40 PM showing, which was chock-a-block with the little angel-voiced motormouths, one of which, right in front of me, was bawling just before the end of the movie. This is a much more intense film than anything Pixar has ever done before -- quite entertaining, but on a different level, with a melancholy edge that hasn't been seen before. (Not necessarily a bad thing for Pixar to extend its emotional range -- it can't be Randy Newman-scored buddy pictures forever.)

Grinding Nemo: all drains lead to the sea, except for the chemicals and rotating knives.

Bluetooth Bug Fix [ 5:33 PM ]

The Bluetooth 1.2.1 update (previously linked on the Mac sideblog) also seems to have fixed the bug I mentioned previously, where Bluetooth is off coming out of sleep mode and cannot be turned back on without unplugging and replugging the dongle. (Still can't switch Bluetooth on and off from the menu bar, though.) Typically Apple to fix a bug without announcing it.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Pixar films [ 9:35 AM ]

I haven't even seen Finding Nemo yet -- though that's planned for this weekend -- but already there's considerable buzz over Pixar's next release, The Incredibles. It's directed by Brad Bird, whose last film was the fantastic Iron Giant. (see MetaFilter)

Site changes [ 9:04 AM ]

Changes are afoot on this site, but I'm going to hold off announcing them until everything is in place (at least on a section-by-section basis). Pardon the dust. In the meantime, take a good look at the sidebar of this weblog, where many of the renovations are taking place. Still some work to do there, though.

The Guardian on Garter Snakes [ 9:02 AM ]

The Guardian has a piece on the Manitoba snake dens. I haven't been there in over twenty-three years; the sooner I return, the better. (via Wes)

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Alternative lawns [ 11:16 AM ]

The Globe and Mail has an article on alternative lawns that require less work and cost to maintain and, more significantly in the context of banned lawn-care chemicals, no herbicides. I remember seeing a xeroscaped lawn in Edmonton; it was essentially a rock garden with close-growing plants. And it's all much more interesting than a monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass (which is, incidentally, an introduced species and not from Kentucky). (via Richard)

No Apple tablet: "People want keyboards" [ 10:56 AM ]

In an interview at D: All Things Digital, Steve Jobs rules out an Apple-branded tablet. "It turns out people want keyboards. . . . We look at the tablet and we think it's going to fail" (via Ernie the Attorney).

When you consider that PDA manufacturers have been switching from handwriting recognition systems to thumbboards -- Handspring's Treos, Palm's Tungsten C and W, Sony's TG, NX and NV-series Cli�s -- Jobs is probably on the money. Tablet PCs may well be behind the curve. Personally, I prefer handwriting recognition to thumbboards, because a thumbboard inevitably feels awkward compared to my 100 words-per-minute typing speed, but it's increasingly apparent that I'm in the minority.