Pat's Log
Sun, 25 Dec 2005

Christmas and Celestia 1.4.0
20051224 Ah, Christmas: that time of year where we spend money on others to get them stuff we think they need while they do the same in return and invariably no one gets what they want. Except this year. I got exactly I was hoping to get and then more.

First of all, I got people things that I thought would be useful but not consumable, personal but also shareable. So, I got the Muppets Season One DVD set for my sister, the Settlers of Catan board game for my brother, a nice stainless-steel salt shaker and pepper grinder set for my mother, and a Kill-A-Watt power meter for my father. All of these things can be used by the whole family, and the first two are especially fun for everyone.

In return, I got Sensodyne toothpaste from my sister (hey, she's eight!), a bottle of scotch from my brother (interesting, since he's thirteen), and a wonderful 153-piece socket set from my parents.

I haven't felt this good about gift exchange in quite a while, probably because for the first time in several years, I neither gave nor received junk. More importantly, the mood was good, everyone happy. We watched a number of Muppets episodes, played Settlers, and generally had a good evening.

All of this fun is somewhat offset by the release of Celestia 1.4.0. The last few days have been stressful. First, ensuring synchronization of four people in multiple timezones the week before Christmas proved futile, and even led to a few false releases. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that there has not been a release for 16 months. But I was adamant that 1.4.0 be a Christmas present for our thousands of users. Without the need for details, it can be said that the release was definitely bumpy, but still a positive first experience for me. The Christmas release also let me be witty and poetic with the release eMail:

Just in time for testing new video cards that magically appeared under people's Christmas trees, a new release of Celestia is sure to please.

I am so looking forward to the week off.

[] | posted @ 04:53 | link
Tue, 20 Dec 2005

Working Around ATI's Bugs
I'm celebrating. After months of living with a bug in ATI's drivers triggered by Celestia's OpenGL 2.0 render path, I've finally found a work-around. Not having the source or any way to debug GLSL that is compiled and then executed by the ATI binary, the only option was to fiddle with the GLSL code. After several iterations of setting the texture red, green, or blue based on an if statement that could confirm the state of a value, I was no closer to getting it. Also, when the problematic line:

gl_FragColor = color * diff + color.a * spec;
... was broken into two lines...
gl_FragColor = color * diff gl_FragColor += color.a * spec;
... and still crashed. But when either of the lines was run on its own (changing '+=' to '='), it ran just fine. The solution in the end came as a complete accident. The line became:
gl_FragColor = color * diff + float(color.a) * spec;
BINGO. This worked. Which is strange, since color is a vec4 is a (float, float, float, float), as defined in the GLSL Specification:

vec4: a four component floating-point vector

Definitely a bug in the ATI binary. The GLSL compiler was not catching it, because the code was right. However, whatever was executing the compiler's output was certainly misinterpreting. For now, I'm celebrating. But eventually, I'll raise a little hell.

[] | posted @ 04:57 | link
Mon, 19 Dec 2005

GLSL and Silly Brothers
This weekend started without any plans whatsoever. Still, ever-so-suprisingly, the time managed to fill up.

Shortly before the weekend, I wrote a one-line plugin to this blog that handles code sections and quotes better. Before, I had been using a combination of UL and BLOCKQUOTE tags. Now, I wrote a regular expression that parses a bb-code-like syntax for the relevant blocks and substitues them with something easily stylable. I also modified all the entries to follow that. Over Christmas, I hope to redo the stylesheet altogether. The current one is a lame modification of the default Blosxom look. I can do better.

My brother did something silly on Friday. He was to call my grandparents in Poland and tell them what he would like from them for Christmas. He spent 15 minutes talking. My mom called back later to see if they got the gist of it. They said he never called. Adam spent 15 minutes talking to a complete stranger thinking it was his grandmother. Apparently, the woman just kept telling him to talk louder. Wrong grandma. Oh, well!

With no other plans for the weekend, I figured tackling a known ATI crasher in Celestia would be a good thing. gdb shows that the crash is deep within the binary ATI drivers, only occurs when in the vicinity of Earth, and only with the OpenGL 2.0 render path. While a long shot, the goal was to analyze and poke at the GLSL code until it stopped crashing. Eventually, I tracked it back to a vec4's alpha element, which worked great if I explicitly set it to something less than 1.0 before using it. I guess it's being set to a bad value somewhere. I sent in the bug, hopefully someone more knowledgable can actually figure it out.

Finally, I took care of my Christmas shopping all in one blow. I'm happy with the types of things I got my family. Useful, not garbage, not terribly overdone. From the heart. I wrapped them up and put them under the tree. People can shake and try to figure out what they are at their leisure: being the bastard I am, I didn't put the "To" labels on them!

[] | posted @ 04:51 | link
Wed, 14 Dec 2005

Linus Flipped Out
Linus Torvalds flipped out at Gnome today. What started as one little post accumulated, as it seems these things always do, to something that hit Slashdot and all the other high-readership sites.

It came from nowhere: a discussion was started on OSDL's Desktop Architects mailing list, where a member posted a question about features that are (not) implemented GNOME's print dialog. Then Torvalds went off on tangents about "fucking idiot" users and GNOME's window manager. It became a flame about the meaning of the word "usability" (I think!).

Kamil summed it up very nicely:

linus: you pansy-ass mofo's. i don't use gnome because i don't like using software that was written by guys with little dicks.

gnome devs: i think you're missing the point here. this discussion isn't about big penises. it's about making a penis that will fit all holes.

A rather humourous Slashdot comment:

Torvalds farts. Slashdot reports.

So the zealots had a day in the park. In the meantime, all the GNOME and KDE developers seemed to be laughing about this. Unfortunately, this affects my opinion of Linus negatively, especially considering how absolutely unfriendly the kernel is to non-developers.

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Mon, 12 Dec 2005

Blog Comment
I've never been inclined to have blog with a commenting system. In many ways, I think that such a system encourages silly and meaningless comments. When people want to comment on something they see here, they send me an eMail. I've gotten some very good comments over the time this thing has existed, including one just last week:

Subject: Hi, your blog is amazing....

Hi , was taking a break from writing a lab report on IC opamp fabrication, and googled onto your blog. Thought I'd drop you an email coz i was totally impressd by it. I'm doing an engineering degree, electronics. You've definitely given me loads to think about.

Good luck in future.


That message about encouraging Joe really ended up encouraging me.

[] | posted @ 04:56 | link
Sun, 11 Dec 2005

Casserole Entry
It's been an interesting week. Work felt productive. I got a new LCD screen, which makes me enjoy it a whole lot more. Additionally, a new batch of rack equipment came in, and setting that up always excites me.

I spent some time this week getting my new Celestia/GTK to work under Windows. I tried at first creating a Visual Studio project, but gave up after about two hours of messing around adding library paths and so on. The interface is not intuitive, the options are well-hidden, though the help system is quite thorough. The debugger is also handier than I anticipated.

Switching to the command-line and writing a NMAKEfile for my new section of the tree took far less time and did everything I wanted. A few minutes in the handy debugger caught a couple of things that running under Linux never did, namely a number of char arrays that were too small for their contents. In the end, the program works nicely, looking and feeling just like it does under Linux:


Speaking of compiling, here's a funny GCC error message encountered while fixing up some Xandros software for 64 bits:

ISO C++ says that `QCharRef QString::operator[](int)' and `operator[]' are ambiguous even though the worst conversion from the former is better than the worst conversion for the latter.

It took a few cross-eyed iterations to get the jist of what that means...

What spare time there was this week was spent reading about autopackage. The developer's guide and tutorial on their site covers interesting issues around binary relocation and portability.

I spent some time today producing an autopackage for Celestia. While I don't intend to check the modified code into CVS, providing an autopackage is not a bad thing. The current revision still needs some work; it would be good to make it load Lua if present, and possibly link small libraries like gtkglext in statically. Then, the only external dependencies would be libGL and GTK+ itself. Most computers running linux should have both.

I took my little sister to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this afternoon. I liked it more than the last one (new director, and it shows), though I really miss Richard Harris as Dumbledore. The movies just aren't the same without him. But I was surprised to see the new Doctor Who as the bad guy!

[] | posted @ 06:24 | link
Tue, 06 Dec 2005

Two-and-a-Half Weeks
20051205 The Celestia GTK+ front-end was in need of rewrite. He is a completely true quote by Celestia developer Fridger Schrempp:

Comparing the GNOME and notably the KDE flavors to the GTK version for Linux, I think it is fair to insist that the difference is still /VERY/ large. It is simply much more "than just a little bit of work" to get the gtk version to the same standards.

So, I took the challenge that was laid before me.

Having started the re-write three Thursdays ago, and having spent on average five hours per day working on it, it is safe to say that I was happy to check it into CVS this evening.

Here is the basic ChangeLog:

Major Changes:

  • Split source into multiple files
  • Performance: removed repeated calls to resync preferences
  • Redesigned the interface to use GtkActions and GtkUIManager
  • Added preference saving to file
  • Commented heavily

Minor Changes:

  • New about dialog
  • Made non-modal: GoTo, View Options, Tour Guide, Browsers, EclipseFinder
  • Changed a few calls to standard C to allow for Windows building
  • Star Browser now uses greek letters in names
  • Added tab-completion support on overlay entry
  • Replaced deprecated GtkOptionMenu with GtkComboBox in Set Time window
  • New GTK save/open dialog
  • Moved the License dialog from Help menu to new About box
  • Added "Copy" and "Open" URL functions
  • Galaxy Brightness preferences saved
  • Updated GConf schema/settings
  • Added command line options
  • Fixed automake bug where GConf schema would always install

Essentially a complete re-write. Now, on to other projects?

[] | posted @ 04:45 | link
Sat, 26 Nov 2005

Totally Awesome
20051126 Tonight was the much anticipated U2 concert. As expected from previous experience, it was a spiritual experience. The way the group interacts with the audience makes it so. Just seeing every one of the 18000 seats of the Corel Centre occupied is enough to set the atmosphere. Seeing a fantastic performance drives everyone wild. Except for the drummer, all of the members were completely mobile, with wireless instrument transmitters and mics. The things this allows for with an oval stage makes the performance unique. The lighting was even more revolutionary than during the Elevation Tour. Words cannot quite describe this experience.

After the concert I went to the Honest Lawyer to celebrate Ring Day with the current batch of recipients. It was good to see everyone again and catch up.

I'm still hacking on Celestia's GTK front-end. It's nearing completion. Last night I ripped out the old menu system and replaced it with more modern GtkActions. The job is only half-done, but after that is completed and a few more bugs are closed, things are cleaned up, it will be good for release. There is no doubt that it is cleaner and easier to maintain now.

At work I'm flying through things with remarkable success. The company is growing. For the moment, things are positive.

[] | posted @ 08:12 | link
Thu, 17 Nov 2005

Morning-After Pill
I need one of these "morning-after" pills. Yesterday was the most productive day I've had in months. At work, it was productivity straight through the day, and as soon as I got home, more of the same. I eventually pried myself away from the computer at 3. This morning, I feel like crap.

The evening was spent refactoring Celestia code from a monolithic file of many KLOCs to smaller, more manageable files. The way a multi-source-file program is usually structured is largely lost on GTK Celestia, because it's written in ways most GTK programmers are taught to avoid. Splitting it up has definitely highlighted these areas, so I'll be fixing them in due time. For now, they are just worked around. I also learned a lot about how static functions work in a multi-file program: they don't. In the end, the code was compiling, but didn't link since all of these files were put into a new "gtk" subdirectory. The Makefile will have to be modified to be able to resolve all of the symbols from other subdirectories.

[] | posted @ 14:03 | link
Thu, 10 Nov 2005

Typical Shipment from Sun?
20051110 Going back to work on Tuesday, after being very sick, I was greeted by a large shipment. I was expecting a 1U SunFire X2100, but not a delivery on a wooden skid!

This machine was terribly over-packaged. The large white box on the top that could easily fit three of my laptops had but one laptop-style CD drive in it. The slightly smaller box on top of it had a single power cord. Every additional component came with a disposable static strap.

Additionally, the package was covered in YOW, and further browsing of the papers shows that it was air-shipped from Markham. Bizarre for such a short distance. I wonder if it would have been air-shipped to Toronto?

The real surprise came when I first pressed the power button. I immediately jumped back as the loudest sound I've ever heard from a computer came from this one. It would put a typical shop vacuum to shame. It was many times louder than my favourite "Tyan Sever." It eventually eased the fans back a little, and a setting in the BIOS setup allowed for them to be quieted further. But at every reboot it still blasts those fans like there's no tomorrow.

Nonetheless, the machine is well-built. The chassis design is good. The SATA drive trays are very nice, as the drives plug directly into the chassis rather than through an intermediate tray connector. There is no crazy purple sculpture on the front. It is a nice 1U unit.

If this is the future of Sun, cheaper and more utilitarian-looking, I'm all for it.

[] | posted @ 18:00 | link
Tue, 08 Nov 2005

20051107 Things were going so well. I was getting so much done. And then, out of the blue, I became violently ill last Thursday. Nothing specifically wrong, except I have spent the last five days coughing uncontrollably for no reason. It's very exhaustive. It broke my voice. It made me have bloodshot eyes yesterday. Made my right eye swell itself shut.

The only nice thing about being sick is that I managed to watch every episode of firefly there is. I'm amazed I didn't know about this show when it was on. Totally cowboys-in-space, very fun. It also set the record straight: these guys did Steadicam, zoom, and "handheld CG cam" before the new Battlestar Galactica existed. Too bad it got canceled.

Before I got sick, I did my presentation at OCLUG about Xbox Linux. It was well received. Once again I thought I might have too much time, and once again I went over my prediction by about a half-hour.

[] | posted @ 03:36 | link
Tue, 01 Nov 2005

Yesterday I attended one day of the UbuntuBelowZero conference in Montreal: "Ubuntu Love Day."

Canonical employees work from home, and they meet up for one or (in this case) two weeks in a different location around the world twice per year. The first day was the most community-oriented, and the attendance was well over 100 people. It was packed.

Interesting Highlights:

Installer: In the next version they will supercede the Debian installer. The liveCD will boot as it normally boots into the desktop, and there will be an "Install" icon on the desktop, with a graphical wizard. It will allow for a much simpler interface than the current Debian Installer, including something that works like gParted.

kubuntu: The KDE-based Ubuntu is headed up by Jonathan Riddell. He makes it a point to backport latest patches to keep their KDE fresh. Their main difference to other KDE distros is that they build the GStreamer backend into the multimedia applications as the default.

edubuntu: A really neat implementation of the Linux Terminal Server Project. I witnessed very, very fast booting on the thin clients.

Translations and LaunchPad: With their big "LaunchPad" project, the Ubuntu guys are trying to revolutionize how translations are done. Basically, when all of their default packages are built, all of the .po files are moved to a few big "core translations" packages. The LaunchPad already lets people translate strings online, and the translations package can be updated frequently without bumping binary packages. Another big goal of Launchpad is that it will aggregate all of the various Bugzillas out there so that bugs can be found quickly, duplicates thrown out, and patches not left unnoticed.

Obligatory Funny Quote: Jeff Waugh: "Ubuntu: ancient african word that means 'I'm sick of compiling Gentoo.'"

[] | posted @ 04:58 | link
Sun, 30 Oct 2005

Celestia + GTK + WindowsXP = Pure Crackery
20051030 To end the month with a bit of a bang, I set my project for today (well, yesterday, I guess) to port Celestia's GTK+ UI to native Windows. After all, both GAIM and The Gimp have done it, and I knew that GTK's OpenGL widget, gtkglext, has been ported, though I didn't know how well it worked.

After a half day of messing around with trying to make it work under MinGW32 (after a full day of getting all the GTK+ libraries to work correctly), I decided that the Unix Makefiles were just far too centered around X and Mesa to be useful for this test. Instead, I decided to give Microsoft Visual Studio .NET a try, with the GladeWin32 libraries and development headers. These were very easy to install. Compiling even vanilla Windows Celestia proved a little more tricky.

Changing the Makefiles to work with the GTK files was pretty much the other half of the day. The code itself only needed a one function change (that will work under Linux as well), one define (which will be fixed in the Makefile eventually), a couple of locales lines temporarily commented out, and a dummy WinMain() that just calls main(). I even left the Win32 resources compiling in, giving me the pretty icon built into the binary. The biggest addition looks like this:

int APIENTRY WinMain(HINSTANCE hInstance, HINSTANCE hPrevInstance, LPSTR lpCmdLine, int nCmdShow) { return main(__argc, __argv); }

Considering that there was some talk in the past of unifying some of Celestia's GUIs, GTK might be a viable option. By this time next year, this same trick should work on MacOS, which would cover all of the platforms. There is also no reason why this GTK Celestia can't reuse the existing Windows Registry functions for settings. I thought that there might be some limitations to the OpenGL capabilities, but all of my card's shaders are recognized and the rendering is surprisingly fast, with no apparent FPS penalty.

GTK+ has come a long way.

[] | posted @ 04:50 | link
Mon, 24 Oct 2005

The History of Star Trek Stages
20051023 After exactly six months of hard work, I am launching the site devoted to what is my largest non-academic research project ever. Having started on April 23rd, it is pure coincidence that the work is done today, exactly half of a year later.

The site is devoted to the history of the Paramount Studios stages as they concern Star Trek. The series of shows have occupied the soundstages on the Hollywood lot for many, many years. For the first time in many years, no stage of the lot is occupied by Trek. Still, there is a rich history behind so many of the stages. It's neat having the plans, seeing how shots are planned, sets reused, etc.

The site has been added to the Filmography section of my page. It looks like crap in IE, though try as I might, I couldn't fix it. IE is just too damned broken. Instead, when I detect IE used on the main page, I put up a big red DIV-box informing them their browser is broken and to get FireFox (it looks great in Opera and kHTML-browsers as well). But, unlike the numerous IE-only sites out there, I don't actually restrict any content based on their browser.

Working on this site has been a good experience. It makes me realize just how many books on the subject I own. Being able to write about them was surprisingly easy. I really enjoy set planning and design.

[] | posted @ 03:32 | link
Sun, 23 Oct 2005

20051022 After a few years of molding, damaging, casting, sanding, researching, and painting, I finally finished my communicator badge replica. This is the one they've been using on Star Trek since 1994 with the movie Generations. The project started as an exercise in resin casting skills, based on a commbadge toy I acquired years ago. This one is painted just like the ones on the show, and I'm quite happy with how it turned out. Goes well with the phaser. I wrote a page about it in the Models section of my site. Maybe now I can get back to models in a scale other than 1-to-1?

Today was spent sleeping and working on the car. The driver-side constant velocity joint's rubber boot decided to disintigrate and I got a replacement part earlier this week. However, undoing rusty bolts in and around the wheel wells always takes time. In the end, I got everything out of the way and am stuck trying to get the end of the transaxle out of the transmission. A mechanic is coming by Monday morning and hopefully he can get it out, if I can't get it done myself tomorrow.

[] | posted @ 03:42 | link
Sat, 22 Oct 2005

A Whole Week
20051021 This week just flew right by. I spent some time considering why I take the time to attach a photo to most entries here. Is it for a lack of online album? To show off? Sometimes. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it's usually because it helps reflect on the subject of the photograph and write around it. Without the context of the photograph, entries would just probably be a plain summary of who-what-where-when-how. The image adds a theme. And so...

After a week of high wind and rain, yesterday was mild, had a remarkable sunset. It also happened to be my turn to take Luna out for a walk. We went to the pond, where there were literally a hundred geese off in the distance, going about their evening business. I like how the silhouette turned out, with light streaming through the fur. The fall colours have come and gone very quickly due to the wind and rain.

Also, last night I took on another project. It's a rather large PHP project. Seeing as I expect it will take about 100 hours, it's questionable whether it is the right decision. I am, after all, just getting settled into the forty hour work week. The real motivation is keeping my skills alive. Without university, keeping current with things beyond work is tricky. The question then becomes: what skills is it worth maintaining?

I just typed the following line and it made me giggle:

emerge -fu world

[] | posted @ 03:47 | link
Sat, 15 Oct 2005

Lousy Day
I had a lousy day today. Most of it was caused by how yesterday's events played out. I had gotten a KDE mailing list eMail forwarded to me at work, written by an attendee from their kamp to Gnome Summit. It was thoroughly negative. I mentioned it in the Gnome IRC channel and people didn't know what I was talking about, so I let people in on what was in it. Only later did I discover that it was from a very private KDE mailing list, without public subscriptions or archives. This morning I was "approached" by one of the KDE people demanding I tell them who leaked the information or have that person mail them an apology. That obviously placed me in a very tough situation, given the company structure. The eMail does not even contain any sensitive information, just a misguided summary of the events plus a few comments.

I acted in anger yesterday; anger that the guy I was talking to over beer and who seemed to be content with the Summit could write such things. This anger overcame my normally careful judgment to check the source of the eMail. This entire business left me a little shaky. I am upset.

Later I got my first pay cheque. I wish I had a third-person recording of my expression. My eyes must have widened beyond their normal limits when I read the line "Tax: 480.91". Yikes! I'm not used to seeing that kind of number there!

In more positive news, I got full Gnome Bugzilla access yesterday. This lets me close, reassign, and do everything else with bugs. I immediately set out to close bugs in f-spot and Muine. I'm also motivated to write patches to fix several bugs I've noticed.

[] | posted @ 03:58 | link
Wed, 12 Oct 2005

Gnome Summit 2005
20051011 Rather than spending Thanksgiving with family, I once again went off to Boston for the Gnome Summit at MIT.

The drive south was terrible, with heavy rain the entire way. In Vermont and New Hampshire, there was fresh pavement that was very slick and was not properly designed for drainage. Going over 80 km/h, the car would hydroplane immediately. It took over nine hours to get there. At one point I noticed my small finger was numb: clenching the steering wheel strongly had cut off the blood past my engineering ring. I was very fortunate with one thing: I had applied Rain-X to the windshield for the first time ever the week before leaving. I hardly used my wipers at all -- that stuff is amazing.

The first day of the summit revealed a much larger crowd than what I expected; perhaps twice as many as last year. It seems as though the other half showed up from Europe. Nevertheless, the day was a little slow for me. I left in the afternoon to do some planned shopping. I hoped it would take an hour or so, but with Boston being the way it is, it took almost three hours. But I got my paint.

On the second and third days I was much more involved, but I never got to any serious hacking. I was simply too tired after the busy first week of work. I had some excellent discussions. I would like to get involved with f-spot and the bug squad. Talking with Larry Ewing, f-spot's author, was motivating. I met Jeff Waugh for the first time and he's quite a character. The rest of the Boston crew were great, as usual.

In general, this year had less groundbreaking new technological ideas. From my point of view, the conference was largely about testing, usability, and visual appearance. Of particular interest to me were the BetterDesktop and Tango Project talks. Both focused on the thought to user experience that other open-source projects lack. The optimization presentations were also amazing -- a tool like Sun's dtrace could go very, very far on Linux. I also got to play with a Nokia 770 PDA. What can I say?: "Very cool" comes to mind. The screen on that thing simply blows the highly-acclaimed PSP's screen away.

The drive back was uneventful, though I realized soon after leaving Boston that I took zero photos during the event. So, I took a photo of that one-and-only metric sign in Vermont, since I keep talking about it.

Luna turns two today! Woof!

[] | posted @ 03:38 | link
Thu, 06 Oct 2005

Presentations and Life
20051005 I presented Gnome 2.12 and Celestia at the OCLUG meeting last night. Both of the presentations went really well. In fact, I don't recall any OCLUG meeting with a reponse as positive as the one I got. The turnout was good: I estimate 30-40 people. The Gnome 2.12 presentation ended up being almost twice as long as I had planned: people kept on asking questions, including some surprisingly good ones. The Celestia presentation was very well received, with lots of "oohs" and "ahs". I did the presentation in the order of simplest to most complex features, starting with just browsing Earth, then moving around the solar system, then going out really far, then constellations and labels, then an increase in resolution and zooming in to within a very near distance of spacecraft. At first, I left it just in the opening view while giving an overview, and I got the impression that people thought it was just a spherical Google Maps. But people really seemed to like it once I started moving things. I spent a total of 80 minutes talking.

Work is going well, I am really getting into the nine-to-five schedule. Despite the fact that this week is insanely busy both in and out of work, I am enjoying it.

Over the last few days I have been doing heavy planning for going to the Boston Gnome Summit this weekend. I found a hotel at a decent price just 30 minutes from MIT. Should be fun!

[] | posted @ 03:45 | link
Mon, 03 Oct 2005

Phaser Complete
20051002 It is October already. Amazing.

Tomorrow I will begin my full-time employment at Xandros. That means having to get up at a decent time and getting back into a routine. It is the "getting up at a decent time" part that will cause problems.

For my last day of freedom, I decided I must finish the phaser. After all, it's been over nine months since I bought it for myself for doing well first semester last year. Also, the days are getting shorter and less suitable for spray painting. On the subject of spray paint, this weekend I had to redo the paint three times because it did not look good. However, time and perseverance paid off, and now I have a near-perfect prop. I added it to the models section of my site,

I caught a bit of The 4400 while channel-flipping on a Simpsons commercial break. It caught my attention because it was filmed at UBC, in the area of the Rose Gardens and Chan Centre, just like BSG. All of these Vancouver locations catch my attention (ding!). I vote that the Canadian movie industry move to Ottawa for new locations.

[] | posted @ 02:41 | link
Wed, 28 Sep 2005

Gainfully Employed
20050927 The contract is signed. I start working full-time on Monday. I get decent pay, excellent benefits, and copious amounts of vacation time. The work is relatively exciting (though I probably won't say so a few weeks into the job). I'm looking forward to getting into the nine-to-five habit, as it will regulate my lifestyle a whole lot more than unemployment, or even more, the unpredictable time requirements of school.

I've also decided that the Dupli-Color is as good, or better, than the Plastikote, if only because of availability. So I went ahead and painted the main body of the phaser. It's amazing how a little bit of spray paint can transform dull Krylon Grey Primer into something that looks high-tech. The colour of this paint and the way this paint reflects light are beautiful. I should have the prop done some time this weekend.

[] | posted @ 02:43 | link
Tue, 27 Sep 2005

My New Friend: Mr. Dell MacCrack
20050926 I finally got to installing the "modified" x86 OSX on an old laptop hard drive. I slapped it into my Dell and it actually booted! Very bizarre having MacOS natively on something not Apple.

Most things seem to work: network is fine, USB is flaky, some video glitches exist, and there are stability issues with some programs. Wireless does not work (as expected), but I was surprised that the volume buttons did. Very good, considering it's not the hardware it was designed for. I'm also quite impressed with the speed.

Nevertheless, I will stick with Linux, which is still more useful to me on the laptop (I like my wireless). It was, however, a worthwhile experiment.

[] | posted @ 03:08 | link
Mon, 26 Sep 2005

The Weekend...
The weekend was completely relaxing and uneventful. It started with the latest Battlestar Galactica. The guest was Michelle Forbes, previously Ro Laren on The Next Generation. I was right, Number Six did have a "new look" in this show, all beaten up. Ron Moore is a the cliffhanger artist: the cliffhanger is intense, even for his style, and will have to last until January. In his podcast about the episode, he ends by saying smugly: "and that's how you do a cliffhanger, boys and girls."

I spent a great deal of time searching for phaser-paint this week. The original props on the show were done with a Plastikote shade that is rare in the States, and non-existant in Canada. Today, the search concluded, when I confirmed that the Dupli-Color bought at Canadian Tire last week is actually the correct match.

Lastly, I started thinking about adding DBus support to wpa_supplicant. If this could be done before the Gnome Summit maybe a NetworkManager hacking session could be provoked.

[] | posted @ 03:40 | link
Mon, 19 Sep 2005

New Site
20050918-2 Last night's BSG goodness motivated me to finally finish the site I set out to make when planning the Vancouver trip earlier this summer.

The new site, titled Battlestar Galactica - Season 1 Locations Guide, is a compilation of all of the locations I managed to find from the first season, along with links to their positions in Google Maps for satellite view. It's a fun read for any BSG fan, and already has reviews such as "neat," "cool," "nice," and "that's pretty sweet."

Adding this page to my site has necessitated the addition of a new area, which I've named Filmography. At some point in the near future (hopefully), it will also have the results from all of the work I've put in on a Star Trek history page.

It's good to scratch projects off of the list.

Winning some awards in CAPCON last week has also encouraged me to get going on the Enterprise-D, my oldest unbuilt model Trek model. I spent some cash and got a bunch of accurizing and lighting parts from Don Matthys. Should be one hell of a model when finished, though I'm still not looking forward to drilling the other half of the windows out, nor filling them in with smelly resin. Other than masking all of those windows for painting, the rest should be fun...

[] | posted @ 02:34 | link
Sun, 18 Sep 2005

Flight of the Phoenix
20050918 Flight of the Phoenix/Blackbird, the BSG episode whose Act Four I saw being filmed at Vancouver Film Studios, finally aired this week. The episode was every bit as good as I expected it to be, though besides changing the Phoenix to the Blackbird (same reasons as Firefox?), the Fourth (last) Act differed somewhat in order from the script I have.


  • First shot of finished ship (with panels)
  • Starbuck launches, disappears, found
  • Christening with President (cuts only to signing)
  • People congratulate Helo
  • Roslin and Adama talk about Sharon
  • Tyrol sees Sharon, no talk


  • First shot of finished ship (with panels)
  • Christening with President (cuts to signing and Doc Cottle looking over Roslin's medical file, "she has guts")
  • Roslin and Adama talk about Sharon
  • Starbuck launches, disappears, found
  • People congratulate Helo
  • Tyrol sees Sharon, there is talk
  • Deck cleared after party, Tyrol satisfied

The major difference is that the christening and flight switched order. They also cut the Chief's talk with Sharon and his state of satisfaction, perhaps they moved it to the next episode.

Another change is that Number Six was completely cut from the episode. Originally she was over Baltar's shoulder when he, Adama, and Gaeta are discussing killing the Cylon virus. On the bright side, Six is on the call sheet for after-wrap wardrobe fitting and make-up tests. Perhaps she will have a new look in the next episode?

An interesting observation is that throughout the show, the actors use slightly different wording than what is written. This sort of improvisation indicates more leeway for the actors than on some other shows.

This whole opportunity with being able to see an episode on paper, being filmed, and the final product has me feeling satisfied with the whole experience. I wish I could work in production on a show of this quality; I simply have no idea where to start. I also wish I could thank the kind person who let me on the set that day. In front of me there is a whole sheetful of phone numbers and contact information, but I do not consider it wise to abuse it just to say give my regards; it would be sort of contradictive.

[] | posted @ 06:15 | link
Fri, 16 Sep 2005

And So Freedom Comes To An End
This summer has been amazing. I've traveled all over this great country of ours, saw the sights, heard the sounds, smelled the smells. Now it is time for reality to kick in. I've been offered a position at Xandros taking on a very large project. It will, no doubt, be tedious and nerve-racking. But it should pay handsomely, allow me to get on with life.

Tomorrow is Battlestar Galactica's season 2, episode 9, Flight of the Phoenix. That's the episode I saw being filmed while on the set. I am really looking forward to it, maybe even following along in parts of the script, if they haven't been cut.

As an afterthought, maybe there is still time for a quick trip to Europe before settling in at work?

[] | posted @ 03:49 | link
Tue, 13 Sep 2005

Test Driving
Now that school has started and there is free time, it's time to test the newest and greatest road machines. I took my Mommy along so that I wouldn't do anything stupid like accidentally buying one.

Nissan Murano: I started with this one because my Mom's been dreaming about it for a while. Sure, it looks cute, but for an engine over 200hp it really doesn't drive well at all; the acceleration is pitiful. A neat feature it has is a continuous transmission. There are no "gears."

Toyota Prius: This car was chosen for its technical innovation. Indeed, the hybrid technology it uses makes for a great ride. It is the only car I've ever seen that has larger gas usage on highway than in city conditions. It's really neat how the motor turns itself off often for a very quiet ride. It's neat how they reuse inertia expended upon brakes to charge the system. It's awesome how they have a big fat power button in the car. I would recommend this car to anyone and everyone. However, I am looking for something with a clutch for now.

Mazda 3: I have a 1994 Mazda Protege. I love it. This new car is even sweeter, the price is right, it drives beautifully on all counts, and it has a clutch. My only disappointment is that the rear seats no longer fold down flat: not so great for sleeping.

BMW 325: This is the extreme end of my list. I went to the BMW dealership and they treated me much better than the others. I took over an hour of the dealer's time, and he explained everything. The features in the 2006 line is astonishing. Things I would never think of, technology that other makers haven't though of either. They've made it significantly more efficient. However, I don't like the new stylings very much; they redesigned the interior such that the window controls had to be moved from the middle console onto the door like every other car. Driving it, on the other hand: WOAH. The sales agent also let me go down the road behind the airport and even encouraged me to do some really fast turns, donuts, and "test" the acceleration to my desire. There is hardly a part in that car where they didn't pose the question: "how can we make this part better than the other car designers?" This vehicle is definitely on the top of my list, more than ever.

I think this testing gave me a better appreciation for new cars and their associated technologies. In the end, I will probably settle on one of the latter two. The driving differences between the Mazda and BMW are actually less significant than I imagined. But the BMW is the most refined vehicle I have ever driven.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Sun, 11 Sep 2005

CAPCON and Car Chase
20050911 I spent most of yesterday at the Nepean Sportsplex for CAPCON. There were thousands of models throughout 69 categories, though only six were science fiction. Nonetheless, the category I submitted my two models to, Science Fiction - Space Vehicles, was packed with about 15 models. There were some absolutely amazing build-ups. Some of the non-science-fiction stuff was even more impressively done; a well-built and -weathered tank gets my attention as much as an equivalent TIE Fighter.

With all the amazing models, I was happy to win Third Place in my category for the Shuttlecraft Galileo, especially considering the skill level of some of the other contestants I got to know. I was rather shocked when the same model got the "Best of" award in Sci-Fi. More surprise came when I got back to pick up the model and found an invitation card: FineScale Modeler wanted my model photographed for their magazine. It was good to win on my first show ever. It was also good to talk to other modelers, share ideas, and have those "yeah, well in that episode..."-type discussions. Next time I'll have to come up with an even nicer model.

On the way home, I picked up Markus and Nathan to play some hardcore board games at Raf's. Markus seems to like to invent new ways of not boring himself every time we drive somewhere. This time, as it was dark outside, he decided to take flash photography of other drivers as we passed by. One guy (and his girlfriend) in a silver Civic got very angry and started tailgating up the Kanata hill. I swerved and took the March offramp hoping he would give it up. He followed and went ahead a little. I thought maybe I could still lose him by taking a sudden right onto March. He managed to follow. I went fast and zig-zagged through traffic down March, and took a sudden right at Herzberg. He followed, though with some distance. The light at Carling was red, and the only car in sight was directly across, waiting for the light to change. I stopped (more-or-less), turned right, looked in my mirrors, and saw the Civic hadn't rounded the corner yet. A sudden U-turn would lose him after he rounded the corner, I thought. However, unlike me, the idiot didn't at all slow down rounding the corner, and as I was at 45-degrees in the turn, I saw him coming up fast in my peripheral vision, followed by seemingly-endless screeching (I was just waiting for the BAM). It never came, though he was momentarily dazed. The light was just changing at this point, and I ran through it before it changed for the aforementioned bystander. Civic was forced to stop. Turned left down Richardson, and parked in the ex-Nortel parking lot, thinking he would go by. Unfortunately, I did it right under a light, and he spotted me, though he had to take the next exit into the lot. This gave me time to exit via my exit, turn right on March, and lose him through the Home-Hardware parking lot. This was all very dangerous, but very exhilarating. The nerve someone would have to chase us like that for a simple photo? Maybe he was just trying to be macho for his girl? As Nathan pointed out: now his ego's broken and he ain't gettin' any.

Today was the last day of EngFrosh 2005. The boat race had both the fastest and slowest designs I've ever seen. Good times...

[] | posted @ 19:55 | link
Sat, 10 Sep 2005

School Has Started...
20050909 ... and for the first time in my life, I don't have to care about it. The thing is, I do care about it. It was always nice to go back and share stories, get back into a routine, and so on. This is also the first year in many that I am not participating in EngFrosh. Unrelated: the photo is a tiny frog sitting on my hand, from last week's excursion to Luskville.

Yesterday, after talking with my grandparents on the phone for over an hour, I thought it might be nice to write a letter; not much else to do, after all. It explains my "B. Eng" status, as they are quite confused, since the word "Engineer" in Polish is an education level, where "Engineer" is to "Masters" as "Bachelor" is to the same. The letter explains these things nicely, with the kind of historical sidenotes they often place in their letters to me. I also thought I'd go buy The Sting soundtrack in CD format; it's my grandfather's favourite, and he is quite excited about the portable CD player I got him a few years back. I wish it were a simpler matter to meet up with them, I truly do.

Also yesterday, I dropped in on the EngFrosh movie night. I found it hard to stay away. Meeting up with people I hadn't seen in four months or longer (those last few weeks of university were insanely busy) was necessary. EngFrosh seems to be going well, despite a little setback a few days ago. It is my intention to drop in during boat building as well as the boat race itself. Feels strange being on the outside.

Spent the evening getting ready for tomorrow's model show. I have to wake up early in the morning and get to the Sportsplex. I am interested to see how I do as a participant of one of the country's biggest model contests.

Last, but not least, there is a good chance my vacation will soon be over as of this upcoming Wednesday. As unfortunate as it is, it will allow me to get on with life. Interestingly, a full-time occupation begins the week after frosh week. Maybe things do not change?

[] | posted @ 03:55 | link
Tue, 06 Sep 2005

Algonquin Park
This weekend's trip was to Algonquin Park, Whitefish Lake to be precise. Despite forecasts of potential rain from the remnants of Hurricane Katrina, two-dozen-or-so Polish families still decided the trip would be fun. I've never been to the park before, and thought it was, as advertised, a perfect example of the Ontario forest. Activities included canoeing/kayaking, volleyball, and drinking beer. Volleyball was much more fun than I ever remember it being; maybe I should get into it more. While this is a yearly tradition, I have never gone; I feel compelled to go from now on.

The rest of this Labour Day weekend was spent bugtracking before the upcoming Gnome 2.12 release. I found some interesting ones between Gnome and Cairo and the latest snapshot. I also discovered one with Gstreamer and All of them seem to be based on the latest RC, so they are not considered Gnome showstoppers. Surprisingly, bouncing between the projects is easy when you know enough people.

[] | posted @ 03:40 | link
Fri, 02 Sep 2005


This week's trip was a visit to Justin's house in Waterloo. I got there Monday evening and left Thursday morning. The first order of business was to go out drinking (of course).

Tuesday, we took Justin's new inflatable boat out for a spin. The whole day was spent tinkering with the motor. By the end of the day, it was finally running properly. Right about then, an awesome sunset illuminated the entire lake in bright orange-pink.

Wednesday's plan was to do Justin's business rounds with him, the main meeting being at a media company to create a new promotional video. All the driving would give us time to catch up. For about ten minutes down highway 407, an OPP cruiser was following the car, making us both rather uneasy. Eventually he did pull us over, noting that the license sticker was expired and the insurance was no better. I learned that this results in a court visit that in turn results (most likely) in a five thousand dollar fine. Driving the car anywhere was completely out of the question. However, the officer was very kind, and dropped us off at the closest exit, which coincidentally was right in front of ATI headquarters. I decided to use this opportunity to meet the Linux driver team, whom I previously met online and at OLS. I was told they are interested in getting involved in making certain that any hardware-accelerated goodies the GTK and Gnome projects start using in the near future work as well as they should using their drivers. The arrangement would be just like it is when I find an issue in the way Celestia runs on their drivers. We continued chatting while waiting for a taxi to arrive to take us to the (very patient) media company. While the day did not go smoothly, it was definitely eventful.

The way back was a convenient way for Markus to get back from Milton to Ottawa, so he accompanied me back. The entire trip was just over 1100km. I discovered that my car is significantly more efficient at 115km/h than at 125km/h. The slower speed allowed me to travel from Milton to my house starting at a full 45L tank and ending a millimeter below the half-mark; and that's with Markus and the entire contents of his bedroom!

It is hard to believe that it is September already.

[] | posted @ 03:37 | link
Sun, 28 Aug 2005

How To Piss Pat Off
20050827 The following is a step-by-step guide to the correct way to piss me off, if you're a thirteen-year-old boy:

  1. Wake up before nine on a Saturday.
  2. Start an argument with your younger sister.
  3. Start laughing and jumping up and down hysterically. Make sure you run up and down the stairs and make as many unusual noises as possible.
  4. Ignore cease and decist shouts from your recently awakened older brother.
  5. Continue for 15 minutes.
  6. When said brother comes after you with rage in his eyes, lock yourself in your room.

Naturally, this causes me to knock furiously on the door -- perhaps a little too hard. On the bright side, he loses his lock; actually, his whole door. We get to split the cost on a new door.

The funny thing out of this is that we all got grounded. When I thought this over, I started laughing hysterically myself... grounded. My hand went through a door! And I'm grounded! And I'm laughing! What a day!

On a completely unrelated note, this is what running too many BitTorrent sessions on a NetWinder can do:

22:29:06 up 7 days, 13:21, 10 users, load average: 8.87, 7.82, 6.63

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Fri, 26 Aug 2005

20050825 Having not blogged in a while, things on the list to write about have accumulated.

The washroom renovations are all done except for finding and installing a new lighting fixture. I like the one that is there now (generic 8-bulb washroom fixture) but everyone else wants something more extravagant. Anyway, the floor looks good, the new paint on everything does wonders, and having the toilet back where it belongs is great.

A few days this week have been devoted to actually learning some OpenGL first-hand. I decided to do the tutorials at They're simple, overdocumented, and generally get the point across. Even though I'm only on Lesson #8, I can now appreciate what everyone's been telling me is the natural order of OpenGL functions. They are certainly intuitive, even if writing useful code is complex.

Celestia has sparked interest again, as in trying the latest Gnome LiveCD, a repackaged Ubuntu Live, it became clear that Ubuntu has done a great job of packaging Celestia and putting it in their package manager. I feel some need to develop it again. I'm starting by refactoring the >4000 line gtkmain.cpp into many little files. I've also started making artwork that could become the art for the Gnome LiveCD. It's not terribly inspired at the moment, so I will give it time to sink in. Either way, it's the best LiveCD I've encountered to date.

Shooting is fun! After a recent discussion at Tim Horton's about an acquaintance getting his BB gun from the States taken away at the border, it was time to look up if my own Crosman revolver is still legal under current laws. Yes, with a legal limit of 495ft/s, my 300ft/s gun most certainly is. So I went out to shoot it. Target: Tim Horton's can @ 15m. Fun times.

Finally, today marks the fifth anniversary of mine and Markus' partnership, We haven't had any cashflow in three years, but it's still nice to recognize simpler times...

[] | posted @ 03:56 | link
Sun, 21 Aug 2005

The Rest of the Trip
20050820-1 (this will be in lab report format minus personal pronouns).

Yesterday marked my arrival back to Ottawa after a very packed, busy trip. The best part about traveling must be returning home. I didn't have any time to keep up the travel log, but some of the interesting items will be mentioned.

First off, there are two things that I loved about the coastal provinces:

  1. My cell phone worked everywhere. Much better than 5 minutes out of Kanata.
  2. A sky so not light polluted that you can see the most intricate features of the milky way. Amazingly beautiful.

Day three in New Brunswick was the Acadian festival in Caraquet. Loud and proud, the festival was bustling. While they did not turn me into an Acadian music fan, the local band playing, called 1755, put on a good show. Their fiddler was very talented. Their drummer was also interesting: at one point everyone left the stage in the middle of a song and he continued it with a nine-minute solo. Everyone came back for the last four-or-so bars.

The following morning, the real sight-seeing started. I rented a car in Miramichi and took it on a 36-hour trip through New Brunswick to P.E.I., then down to Halifax in Nova Scotia, stopping every now and then along the way. Confederation bridge is more imposing than expected.

Figure 1: The New Brunswick end of the Confederation Bridge.

Prince Edward Island was astonishing, with its red sand against lush grass. Since I didn't have too much time before sunset, I made the most driving around the island parks and countryside. There were many panoramic views that would be ideal for paintings. Charlottetown itself was not nearly as interesting.

Having left Charlottetown after 10pm, I arrived in Halifax at almost 3. I decided to scout out what I wanted to see while there was less traffic. The way the city is organized (or not), that took nearly an hour. Sleeping in the car was uncomfortable. Toyota Echoes are not recommended for sleeping.

That following day involved much walking around the city. The day began with a visit to the Maritime Museum, which included an enjoyable tour of the C.S.S. Acadia, a ship of the same vintage as the Titanic. They did a great job preserving it, and even have a cat on board, though they call him the "Senior Pest Officer." After the museum, I went on the obligatory Alexander Keith's Brewery tour. It wasn't what I expected, though it was undeniably fun, and included sampling of several of their brews I did not know existed. The last big attraction was the Halifax Citadel, where I caught a tour as well.

Halifax was departed at around 6pm, the goal being to get to Moncton before sun-down. Shortly after leaving the city, the largest rainbow I've ever seen appeared over the highway. At the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border, I had to stop to get a photo of this neat wires-everywhere setup:

Figure 2: CBC Transmitting Station at NB-NS border.

Moncton did not seem terribly interesting, but I stopped at the famous Pour House to try some blueberry ale and get some food. I also bought a six-pack of the ale. I was back in Pointe-Sapin shortly after midnight, very sore from all of the walking around Halifax. But wait, there is more...

Five hours later (just past 0500), Peter and I woke up to go lobster fishing with a local group of fishermen. Even in my tiredness it was a good time. The captain of the boat was a prankster and he brought up one of his buddies' lobster cages and filled it to the brim with sea urchins. It was good to get fresh air before the long ride back home.

The ride home was fairly good. I finally got to go on a train. It was an overnight ride, but in my excitement, I didn't get much sleep. That made for three sleepless nights.

The conclusion of the experiment is that the east coast is not, in fact, like the west. However, I did see one Lamborghini.

What's wrong with Ottawa? Where are the Lamborghinis?

[] | posted @ 02:38 | link
Mon, 15 Aug 2005

East Coast - Day 2
20050814 This was Day #2 in Pointe-Sapin. The day started off with mass at the local church. Then, halfway through the morning, it felt like beer time. But then there's that whole beer-before-noon thing. Moreover, I have a personal rule that says you actually have to do something useful to deserve a beer. So, said I, "I will mow the lawn." I expected this to be exhausting, considering the size of the lawn. Then I got given the keys to a lawn tractor. Rather than exhausting, it was fun. After that, I had beer anyway.

The afternoon was spent walking a few kilometres along the beach as well as planning exactly what the remainder of my trip will entail. Even got some croquet in there.

Excerpt of an interesting (paraphrased) discussion prior to arriving here:

  • Kyle: Don't expect the East to be the same as the West.
  • Pat: You're right. I saw four Lamborghinis on the West Coast. I expect to see at least 8 in the East.
  • Charles: If by Lamborghinis you mean rusted-out K-cars...

[] | posted @ 03:08 | link
Fri, 12 Aug 2005

From Coast to Coast
20050811 Next destination: New Brunswick. Having been to the west coast, now it's time for the east. Alas, sunset-over-the-ocean photos will be impossible. Sunrise, however, could be spectacular... if I get up early enough. I don't know exactly what to expect, but there will be many hours in the car to figure that out. While far less planned than the west coast trip, doing this on-the-fly should prove to be fun.

In ongoing open-source news, Gnome 2.12 beta 2 has just been released. This news, as I have finally gotten beta 1 working more-or-less correctly. The screenshot is of my first attempt to run it: there was some buggy code that Cairo managed to trigger. In general, this next release is far slower on my laptop, mostly because of GTK using Cairo. Cairo is functional, but it is rather sluggish at the moment. I hope it is optimized before the final release.

The floor was finished this afternoon, as I applied grout between the tiles. It turned out fairly well, a very educational project. Now, to start packing...

[] | posted @ 03:36 | link
Tue, 09 Aug 2005

Busy Week
20050808 The vacationing spirit has finally worn off a little and I decided to do some work around the house. What started out last week as fixing a crack in the bathroom door and then repainting it has turned into a full-fledged reworking of said bathroom. Along the way, I also started reading the new Harry Potter book.

Basically, the washroom, after fifteen years of constant use, has definitely succumbed to serious wear and tear. Major damage includes water damage on the wall and ceiling drywall from a roof leak a few years back. Minor damage includes a well-worn a lifted vinyl floor. The wall has been ripped and patched up. I painted the ceiling today. The walls will be painted when the floor is done and the borders are re-applied.

The floor initiative is a much more interesting experience, as I'm approaching it from learn-as-you-go method. Based on what I had heard about other houses, I'm surprised how easily the vinyl came off; easier than many price tags. The subflooring cement was messy, though the resulting orange floor is nice and level, yet allows for some surface movement. We bought tiles and a tile cutter today. It went terribly until we realized that we were using the wrong blade and the laser guide was majorly out of calibration. Then it went well, but it was getting dark. The remainder of the evening was spent cutting 12x12 inch newpaper pieces and figuring out how to cut the more complex tile shapes. That's what I'll be doing all of tomorrow.

It's remarkable how refreshing a little project like this is.

On a sidenote, this week's Battlestar Galactica was awesome. The Old Man is back on his feet as things get worse and worse for everyone. My only concern is that while they've upped the drama and the tension quite a bit this season, they really shouldn't try to push it further. There is such a thing as overdoing it, and many shows have been hurt by something overdone. The occasional high-tension episode is great, but it would suck if the show fell into something overdone like the two-parter habit that bit Voyager in the behind.

[] | posted @ 03:50 | link
Mon, 01 Aug 2005

Hamilton, Ontario

Peter took me on a trip to Hamilton today. The goal was to visit HMCS Toronto, which was docked there this weekend. Recently, the HMCS Haida was moved from Toronto to Hamilton as well, and the two ships were right next to each other. Walking around both vessels, a very stark contrast becomes apparent, simply due to the fifty year age gap between the two. While the Toronto is clearly superior in every possible way, Haida has "character" that no modern military vessel could possibly match.

Hungry stomachs protesting, we set out to explore Hamilton to find food. At this point, it is worth mentioning that Hamilton is a very strange place. This photo should explain better than words ever could:


That was one of the relatively few buildings that actually had windows and not particle board covers. The city was practically deserted. After looking around for a pub for approximately 20 minutes, I asked a local for a pub. Until I mentioned that we were looking for an "Irish pub" that has both food and beer, he assumed Peter and I were together, and was leading us to the local queer bar.

In conclusion, Hamilton was ugly, devoid of life, not friendly to tourists, and just plain weird. It is on my do-not-approach list.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Tue, 26 Jul 2005

Recuperating from OLS
This year's DesktopCon and Linux Symposium was as I expected it to be; no big surprises. Today, I finally got to recover from the lack of sleep and generally busy schedule. While it is pointless to write the details of the past week, there were several interesting people and events that stood out. Writing about one of each will suffice.

An interesting event was my presentation of Celestia. There was a fairly low turnout (understandable, as I only posted it the day before). One of the people who attended was Jim Gettys, who was interesting to have because he used to work in astonomy. He made suggestions of contacts of his who might not be aware of Celestia, but who might be willing to help and beneficial to the project.

An interesting person I met was none other than Bill Huey, whom I know from the old days of the vMac project. While he was trying to sort out where he remembers my name from I became aware of his memorable personality. It was amazing meeting someone I've known for eight years for the first time. He's certainly a fun person to be around, so we went on a tour of Ottawa, which he seemed to like. We got to the airport too late and he missed his plane, which he did not seem to like.

In conclusion, while I did not learn or do as much as last year, I put in a lot of talking time with both familiar and new people. I had a good time in doing so. I believe it will be a good year for Linux software.

[] | posted @ 03:49 | link
Thu, 14 Jul 2005

Bye Bye BC
20050714 I'm writing this at 40955ft over the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. Literally the middle of nowhere. The ground here is super-flat. WestJet's satellite TV is awesome. I get to watch Space and use my laptop at the same time. It's actually more comfortable with both screens than it is on my own couch.

This morning I got a tour of the Orpheus theatre. This was the location of the very artistic scene with Baltar and Number Six in the final minutes of the first season. Speaking of Galactica, I've been stopping by the studio almost daily to see what they're up to. I didn't get any more stage access, but I did get more of a feel for how they do a show. If I can get any time off next summer, maybe I'll apply to be an extra on the show. I certainly wouldn't mind going back to Vancouver for a few days.

Over the last week or so I've been helping out my godfather around the house and with garage work. I've picked up a number of skills in the process. Joseph is a man of many skills and I'm happy to have worked with him. It's also remarkable how not-rusty cars are under the hood. I wish Ottawa would start using calcium magnesium acetate.

Also these last few days I've been living as a Vancouver local. During the first part of my stay I needed a map to get around. At this point, I feel totally at home in "Van City." Aside from London (England), it's the only city I could possible call home. I'm going to miss it. Ottawa seems less interesting. Hopefully, OLS, coming up shortly, will change that.

[] | posted @ 03:21 | link
Fri, 08 Jul 2005

Battlestar Galactica
20050707 I can't believe I managed to pull it off, but I just got back from the high point of this trip: sitting in during filming of BSG.

It was a long shot, considering my previous experiences with the Vancouver Film Studios, but I showed up today with a drink I bought at the Costco across the street, and just stood in front of the gate by Studio G. There were extras in Galactica uniforms having a smoke break, and dinner was being served. Chief Tyrol showed up with a book. About 5 minutes in, a lady came to ask me who I was, and if I needed in. She termed me "a fan" and continued about her business. Then a security guard came. I thought he was going to kick me out, but he just asked what was being filmed, out of his own curiosity. After that, my drink finished so I went to get a refill at Costco, and came back. Another 15 minutes in, the actors and crew were all looking at me wondering who I was. Eventually, an extra pointed me out more directly, and the same lady came up to have a chat with me. I told her I'm crazy about the show, and that there's zero chance of me getting an official way in, so I was just standing around until someone like her came around. She asked me if I was certifiably crazy, in that if she were to let me in, if I would start screaming during a take or something. She seemed surprised that I managed to find that they were filming there. Then, whether I was armed. I just gave her my Swiss Army knife and my backpack, and she let me in! She told me to tell anyone who asks that I'm a friend of hers. I was astonished this worked out!

I walked into Studio G next to the fighter cockpit and turned left. My friend got me the day's Call Sheet, which happened to have all of the script they were filming today. The episode is Flight of the Phoenix. As I was there, they filmed two scenes on the Hangar set, one of which was simply a fly-by of reactions of the crew to a speech, which, I believe (from the script), was given by the President. It was actually read out by a film crew member (probably the line producer). The stage was filled with a light fog. During the filming of this, I was in a chair right beside to Colonel Tigh, as he wasn't in the scene. He looked fatigued, so I didn't bug him. According to the call sheet, he had been there 10 hours already. Directly in front of me were two monitors, showing what each of the two cameras was filming. They use two cameras to save time. This is the same thing Enterprise did in the last season.

On the way in and out, I walked by the full-scale build-up of the Phoenix itself, and it is quite imposing. It also has a nice name written on it, but there will be no spoilers here!

An interesting observervation was the number of laptops. There were far more than I expected, probably to pass the time between takes. All Apple.

All in all, this was just an over-the-top experience.

[] | posted @ 07:16 | link
Thu, 07 Jul 2005

So Close
20050706 I'm settling into the area, helping out around the house and what-not. I can even drive some places without a map. Over the last couple of days I did dishes, laundry, and helped in renovations by removing wallpaper. I feel I owe some labour for letting me stay for free and drive around at will.

This afternoon, I went to the final BSG location. The theatre Baltar goes to at the end of the last episode of season 1 is actually the Vancouver Orpheum. However, it is normally closed and I could not get in.

Later, I went back to Vancouver Film Studios to see if some crew member wouldn't let me in. I managed to track BSG to Studio G ("G for Galactica!"), because they left a big door open. Through the door I could easily make out a Viper and a greenscreen. Looking further into the left, I could see the Hangar Deck set.

I almost got in. One crew member saw me standing around and said that if it were wrap time, he would take me on a little tour. But it wasn't.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Tue, 05 Jul 2005

British Columbia - Day 8
20050704-1 Today was Markus' last day, marking the end of the vacation per se. We started off in Queen Elizabeth Park, where the Bloedel Conservatory was used in Galactica's movie episode in the creepy scene with the little girl who dies while playing with her doll. Outside, there were nice botanical gardens, bridges, waterfalls.

Our next stop was the Vancouver Art Gallery. I didn't like it very much. Maybe I just didn't get it.

Finally, before taking Markus to the airport, we got a tour of TRIUMF, where my godfather works. This lab has the largest cyclotron on the planet. The whole campus is massive. All of the equipment there was very impressive. Radiation tags are cool.

After Markus left, I drove to the Vancouver Film Studios. The security guard would not let me in, he said to call and see if they do tours. So I did, and they do not. Apparently, the studio is much less hands-on than Paramount, and leaves everything up to the individual productions. In this case, Battlestar Galactica will be very hard to reach.

An interesting sign at the main gate to the studio...


... which led to a lot of cars on the streets around there with these:


To top the day off, I went "home", and my godfather let me drive his latest toy: a black BMW 328i. This one is quite a bit nicer than his other one: it's newer and standard.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Sat, 02 Jul 2005

British Columbia - Day 5
20050701 After a day like yesterday, today was all relaxation. We stayed the night at Whistler because the hotel room was decently priced. Getting up in the morning took some effort, given the state of my back. We stopped for breakfast in a little diner just south of Squamish. There was an older, abandoned-looking tug at the inlet just across the highway.

When we got back to Vancouver, my godfather's daughter, Kasia, picked us up. She drove the BMW very fast. It was fun. I finally got to see their house in Delta, which has a unique open stairwell, indoor spa, and a kitchen my mom would kill for. There are a couple of cats, and a dog. Unfortunately, the house has to go up for sale soon, so there are things all over the place and little renovations happening. Since Kasia is really the only person living here, there is plenty of sleeping room.

Kasia took is out for Canada Day festivities to an East-coast-style pub downtown. After a few beers I wanted a Bloody Mary. Of course, they didn't have tomato juice. At this point, I left the bar, went two blocks over to the corner store, bought a 2L can of the stuff, went back to the bar, plopped the can on the counter, and ordered a Bloody Mary. Then another. And another. For a little while, my back pain went away...

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Fri, 01 Jul 2005

British Columbia - Day 4
20050630 A day to remember; the day I nearly got myself killed.

We got up nice and early in an attempt to play catch-up for lost time from yesterday. The day started with a canoe trip between two lakes. The river was narrow and windy, and initially not terribly interesting. Then, a several glacial runs merged in. The water from them was extremely frigid and had a distinctive milky appearance. Of course, the water also sped up. When we got to the destination lake (Green Lake), the view was remarkable; a huge lake surrounded by mountains. This was the good part of the day.

Late afternoon was spent downhill mountain biking. We rented really expensive mountain bikes that put the Ottawa definition to complete shame. They had a full suspension, heavy frame, and best of all, disc brakes. My test was to take it over a curb. I felt nothing... totally smooth.

We bought lift passes and took the bikes up. This is where the day started getting crappy. A quarter of the way down my first run, the front tire blew. I had to walk this heavy bike all the way down, losing precious time. I got another bike, and went up. The ride down was awesome, like skiing but more fun, with mud and all.

For the last run, I thought I could go beyond the green and blue, and try a black diamond (A-line). At the start of the run they had a test jump to show what could be expected. I had absolutely no problem with the test. So, I started going down. On the first real jump, however, things went very badly. I flipped 180 degrees and landed flat on my back on sharp rocks. I was rather afraid, seeing as I couldn't move for a few seconds. This was right under the lift, and as I lay there, some guy going up asked if he should get help. My response was: "I really don't know yet!" With extreme pain, I got up and took the rest of the run really slowly. I was extremely lucky; that was a narrow-miss spinal. My helmet gained a couple of deep scars. My back is one gigantic scratch. I can hardly walk. But the damage is all muscular, no bones.

We went to a nice restaurant afterwards, right next to the mountain, called the GLC. There was a live band. Some of the best nachos I've ever had.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Thu, 30 Jun 2005

British Columbia - Day 3
20050629 The plan today was to rent a car and get up to Whistler early enough to do something. We rented from Enterprise, who didn't have any Cavalier/Sunfire-sized vehicles left. So they gave is a Buick LeSabre instead. Nice car, but it's a boat.

On the way up (which was slow, because they're redoing all the highways for the Olympics), we stopped at Shannon Falls and a climbing mountain known as The Chief. The falls were not unlike other waterfalls, just surrounded with much bigger trees. When we got to The Chief, at first, we could not spot any climbers. Then we did. Apparently, the rock face is much larger than expected, and the people were but the tiniest dots of colour.

A few kilometers up the road, we picked up a hitch hiker. She had lived in Whistler for the last few years. This was very covenient, because during the rest of the trip up she was telling us all about interesting things to do, and decently priced places to stay.

Unfortunately, things were already closing up when we got there, at 3pm. Still, we spent the day outdoors and came up with a busy schedule for day two of Whistler.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Wed, 29 Jun 2005

British Columbia - Day 2
20050628-1 Today was the first full day on the town. To get around, we decided to rent bikes and explore downtown and Stanley Park. I was a little annoyed that it is actually law to wear a helmet here. So I didn't.

Vancouver is a really nice city, with amazing buildings and lots of green space. On our way to Stanley Park we biked through Canada Place (home of Expo 1986), and the boat docks next to it. It seemed like a nice place for a 360-degree panorama:


The trail around Stanley Park was really nice too. I saw the largest trees I've ever seen in my life, and apparently these were not particularly large. The cool breeze and around-20-degree weather were extremely refreshing.

On the way back from Stanley Park, we came around the Vancouver Public Library, another location Galactica used. The building is much larger than I expected. It was neat to see why they used a wide lens in the show: there really isn't much room around the building, and they cleverly had to hide the signs of the shops on the ground floor.

After seeing other places downtown, we decided over a live Jazz dinner that it would be great to go somewhere more wild...

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Tue, 28 Jun 2005

British Columbia - Day 1
20050627 Welcome to the trip. It was an early morning, what with the flight departing at 07:00. We actually left for the airport at a quarter to five, because Markus' sister was catching a plane that left an hour before ours. There was a stop-over in Calgary, and then a short flight to Vancouver, where the cloud ceiling was low, and I saw nothing until 15 seconds before touch-down.

The most remarkable thing about the flight was when we entered US airspace for a short period. The captain came on with the new rules. One of them was that you are not allowed to stand for extended periods of time. I stood up to go to the washroom, and while waiting was asked to sit down. That's effective terrorism-fighting.

Before leaving home, I took screen captures of anything outdoors in Battlestar Galactica. I wanted to to a scavenger hunt looking for the locations they shot in. Continuing along: when we arrived, my godfather ("Joe"), picked us up. He had to go back to work on his particle-accelerator, but he let us out at UBC. To my complete astonishment, within the first 20 minutes of walking around campus, we had discovered all of their locations at UBC. They are the library, rose gardens, and arts theatre. I think I'll make a web page devoted to screen-shot vs. pat-shot. The arts centre was actually being used for another show when we were there. UBC's campus has to be the nicest university setting I have ever encountered.

While on campus, we climbed down the 304 stairs to Wreck Beach. It was kinda rainy, so no one was there. However, it felt fantastic to be by the ocean. Very fresh, salty air. The temperature was a nice 19 degrees, which is a good 20 degrees cooler than Ottawa!

While at UBC's library, we booked an awesome hotel suite downtown. It wasn't cheap, but it was well worth it (cherrywood furniture, anyone?). Joe drove us there when he finished work.

The day was completed by buying a map, going out for dinner, and walking down along the coastline. Of course, there was filming for a movie being done there too.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Sun, 26 Jun 2005

Looking Into The Bottle
20050625 I am thoroughly "under the influence." The photo was taken looking into the bottleneck of the first beer; a Żywiec, the first of many. Tonight was the summer BBQ my parents tend to do, bringing together many family friends. My mom made it a point to toast graduation several times, and I came out with a bottle of champagne, bottle of wine, and some spending money as a result.

The girl from the last entry came to visit during this extravaganza (Ex*trav`a*gan"za, n. 3. a lavish or spectacular show or event, or presentation;). I didn't manage to talk much, Paulina disappeared very suddenly for a previous engagement. Didn't even get a chance to wish her a fair summer. I should stop thinking about this, she has a boyfriend back home.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Sat, 25 Jun 2005

San Andreas 100%
So, after 79:40 real-time hours of the latest GTA, the game is 100% complete. You get a really nice Harrier work-alike at the Johnson House when you finish. I also found a jet the size of a 737 you can fly. It's huge. There are many interesting vehicles in the game.

Two days ago I led an absolutely gorgeous (visiting) Polish girl around town. She didn't seem to find anything particularly interesting and refused me buying her anything. I felt stupid drinking a Crown Float alone. In a final attempt, I stopped at Andrew Haydon Park on the way back. She was absolutely ecstatic about the wildlife there, especially the chipmunks. Those don't exist in Eastern Europe. There was also a pack of something between a groundhog and a muskrat that a man fed with peanuts and petted daily. They were very domesticized, and rather adorable. Point is, when all else fails, go for cute little animals.

Other than that, I've spent the last few days cleaning up and getting ready for the Vancouver trip. I figure the next week will be full of TravelBlog.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Sat, 18 Jun 2005

Convocation Ceremony
20050617 Today was the moment eagerly awaited by many. The Convocation Ceremony marked the end of my time as Bachelor of Engineering at Carleton. Carleton seems to have been a good choice.

While most seemed to find the ceremony very boring (I can understand why), I didn't. When treated as the last time everyone is in a group it took on a much more sentimental feeling. I savoured it. My only real gripe was the weather, the ceremony had to be in the fieldhouse (though they did an amazing job at perking it up). Also, that our Chancellor, Marc Garneau, didn't give one of his memorable speeches.

My diploma claims I graduated with distinction. That's good. I am, however, disappointed with the quality of the diploma itself. The signatures on it look like they were scanned at a whopping 100dpi. That, and I was hoping it would be in Latin. So, we've gone from leather to paper, fine manuscript ink to low-resolution toner, a strong baccalaureus to a meager bachelor; what will be the next step in diploma degradation?

One last thought is the lack of hats. I was expecting the usual sharp-cornered headpiece. Since it was not given, I bought a tassel because it will look good hanging off of the diploma frame.

My parents took me out to The Mill for a post-graduation dinner. They teased me about how my first "real-world" decision regarding the venue is simple, yet I could not make up my mind.

Time to move on with life. I updated my .signature file to say "B. Eng., Computer Systems." I have a feeling that the next four months or so of my life will be eventful, involving many changes.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Fri, 17 Jun 2005

San Andreas Planes
20050616 With many more hours of playing, I am now allowed to fly airplanes in San Andreas. The coolest addition to the game is something akin to a LearJet. It flies extremely fast. Another addition to the engine is the ability to ditch planes and jump with a parachute. Whereas in previous games jumping from any height would take at most 50% of your health, now you realistically die unless you open the parachute at a reasonable altitude. Flying this thing over military no-fly areas ("Area 53") is fun as well, because you get jetfighters after you.

In making room to on my WinXP partition to create the next batch of family DVDs, I came to realize how excessive IE is with its cache:

1.3G ./Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5/4LYRGXM3 1.4G ./Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5/KDY78H2V 4.5M ./Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5/ODARSD2F 2.6G ./Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5 2.6G ./Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files

As far as I know, I didn't even download that much with Exploder.

Convocation is coming up in 15 hours!

[] | posted @ 04:36 | link
Tue, 14 Jun 2005

San Andreas
About this time last week, I got the PC version of the latest chapter of Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas. The game is superb: the map is gigantic, the story line is long. The game draws me in, though the content is admittedly much more "adult" than before. In some ways, that makes it less fun. Regardless, it's kept me busy for many hours each day.

Today, I finally took a break from the game. I got a few hours of family photo and video work in, as well as booking my plane ticket to Vancouver. I'll be leaving on June 27th. The flight is booked with WestJet, and I am impressed with the ease of booking as well as the price. The same flight with Air Canada is almost twice the cost. Their site, however, is strangely perky in places:


This weekend marked a year since my car suffered its accident. I'm not happy that I still haven't completely fixed it. Whenever the weather gets less hot and humid, if it ever does, more time will be devoted to that.

[] | posted @ 03:50 | link
Tue, 07 Jun 2005

Oodles o' Noodles
20050606 Grandmother and sister left to Poland today. Before she left, I made certain that my grandmother taught me how to make her most excellent noodles. Turns out it's much simpler than I thought. Anyway, each of the noodles in the photo is kneaded and hand-cut by me. It makes for a much more interesting dish when the noodles aren't a perfectly uniform shape like those that are mass produced.

In significant other news, Debian released Sarge and Apple went Intel. Everyone's predicting "hell freezing over." I'm curious to see what Debian's future will bring, but I am not thrilled with Apple's decision. I will be impressed if they manage to produce a box, as integrated as their PPC machines, on x86 hardware and make it relatively non-finnicky. It's never been done. I predict the first few generations of Intel Apples will have problems.

[] | posted @ 03:55 | link
Mon, 06 Jun 2005

20050605 Today, I concluded the Ottawa Open House by visiting the Nortel Carling Campus and the Diefenbunker. Nortel's changed very little in the four years since I've set foot in the building. However, the Diefenbunker has changed significantly.

The Diefenbunker is a Cold War bunker built by the Diefenbaker administration in the late fifties. It is a 100,000 square foot, four storey, underground structure. Last time I was there was a couple of years after DND pulled out of there (in 1995) and took everything-and-the-kitchen sink with them. Literally.

Now, seven years later, the volunteers have done a fantastic job of recreating the rooms as they were. Many of the items came from other bunkers, such as the one in Alberta that was demolished over the last few years. Now, all but the Carp site have been sealed or destroyed. A neat thing they did was to devote some of the rooms to more museum-like displays. For example, one of the rooms is dedicated to the government's basement bomb shelter guide (including a full-size mock-up), and another to all the other bunkers across the country.

In that last room, there was the full history of the bunkers in Ottawa. At first, there were to be 15(!!!) in the region. Then they scaled back to a realistic three. They actually started building the second one, and the location of the square hole has recently been declassified. It is just West of Burritt's Rapids, at the end of Dwyer Hill Road. The protrusion at the North is likely the excavation ramp. Although the Google map for that area sucks, I did get better photos from my other (high- and low-altitude aerial) sources:


I am very excited by how the Diefenbunker project has evolved, especially since it's all volunteer-run. At least, it does not have the kind of funding that a real museum has. As such, I am going to look into helping out around there. As they restore areas of the bunker, they are putting in all sorts of old electronic devices, many of which still work, or need some servicing. That feels like a worthwhile use of my spare time.

[] | posted @ 03:46 | link
Sun, 05 Jun 2005

Ottawa Open House
20050604 Today, Ottawa had its annual Open House. For the event, local buildings that one is not likely to visit are encouraged to open their doors up and do tours.

The tours I went on today were the Lemieux Island water plant, the National Research Centre, and the old downtown train station, amongst others.

Lemieux Island was very nice for a water plant. It's finished quite ornately in marble. A neat thing they do is that they leave samples of past technology around. So, there were filter controls from the 1920s, 1970s, and late 1990s, still standing where they originally were. Now, the controls are all in a single workstation and many of the tasks are automated. They had the most informative display I saw all day.

The NRC appeared to be a very nice place to work at. Its long, straight hallways had a very cool quality to them (pictured). On either side of the hall there were state-of-the-art laboratories with nifty equipment.

The train station was a remarkable building. I can see now why there was all the fuss to keep it around. The main hall is very eloquent, coffered ceiling and all. It's the best example of Beaux-arts architecture in the city.

Last but not least, a really funny sign at the door to the main conference chamber at the NRC:


[] | posted @ 03:16 | link
Wed, 01 Jun 2005

The Shuttlecraft Galileo
20050531 Six years in the making, and finally completed, the Galileo shuttlecraft model now awaits a spot. Somewhere. The important thing is that the end-of-month deadline was met.

I spent several hours today putting finishing touches on the model, then another two or so photographing it in front of my 2m-long piece of black felt and writing about it. I placed it with the others in the Models section of my web site. I also submitted it to a few of the popular model sites. Perhaps it should be entered into the local IPMS convention in September.

I suspect I will be spending a good deal of time in the next few days cleaning up the work area. There is such a mess that I have to tip-toe in and the chair I sit on cannot move. Little bits of shrapnel all around stick to everything.

[] | posted @ 03:41 | link
Tue, 31 May 2005

How Not To Rush A Model
My plans to finish the Galileo shuttle model before the end of May are still on track, despite two very serious setbacks over the last two days.

The first involves applying a dullcote over top of Future Floor Finish. It's my first time playing with Future, and it takes longer to completely dry than expected. In this case, applying the dullcote caused the whole finish to crack, creating "trees" all over the place. That took a few hours to fix.

The second setback was much more serious. In an attempt to fix the dullcote, I wetsanded the most heavily affected areas, which are those over the massive decals supplied with the kit. Bad idea: dullcote saturates with water, decals saturate with water, decals expand and unstick. Only one large decal was strongly affected by this, but it still took over three hours to fix. I had to carefully cut parts out of the decal and recreate them using paint applied with a very fine brush. Then, the dullcote had to be carefully matted back on top. There are still some scars from this and they will stay to remind me never to screw up like this again.

On the bright side, I constructed the rear support leg out of brass and it turned out extremely well. Photos coming soon.

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Mon, 23 May 2005

Movie, Movie, Model
20050523 The weekend started off on Friday with Star Ward Episode III (funded by Xandros). I liked it. Particularly, the opening sequence, a several-minute-long rendered shot following two fighters, was excellent. Also, the final moments of the Anakin-ObiWan battle were well done. The dark aspect of the movie really set this one apart from the last two, in a good way.

Movie number two was Hackers. I cannot believe I went 10 years without seeing this. Very funny. I now get all the references I've heard over the years about "hacking the gibson." The part that made me laugh the most was when they were showing off the "P6" laptop and were drooling over PCI. It was all so godawfully bad.

The highlight of the last week or so must be the progress I've made on the Galileo shuttle model. I have work-in-progress photos of it going back to 1999, and it's been collecting dust on my bench for a long time. The procrastination point was always the interior. However, because the sides have warped from sitting around so long, that problem was solved; no more interior. Instead, I put in a reinforcement structure. It's been primed, further refined. I'm waiting for a warmer day so that I can do another coat of primer. The goal is to finish the model before the month is out. Then I can start a more exciting ship.

[] | posted @ 05:41 | link
Mon, 16 May 2005

Friday demanded exercise. So, seeing as I needed a new stabilizer bolt (just like May 31st last year), I got on my bike and decided to bike to Carling Motors. Five kilometers in, my rear wheel got wobbly. At first, I thought the wheel had shifted, but when it got worse, I got off and noticed that my tire had actually split in several places and tube was sticking out. Not a good way to start a trip.

Not willing to give up, I stopped at a friend's house along the way and asked for duct tape. He brought out that, and fabric tape, which is even better. We released some pressure on the tube, wrapped the fabric tape tightly around the wheel (through the spokes), then covered that off with duct tape. After that, the trip had 29km left in it, and the tape patches held fantastically.

I recently tried something new. I poured some Baileys into my pocket flask and ordered a large ice-cap at Tim Hortons. I proceeded to drink about a centimeter of the slush, then poured in the contents of the flask and gave it a good mix. In terms of good alcoholic beverages, this could definitely be a winner.

While yesterday was a day of relaxation, today required attendance to church. My sister had her first communion at St. Isidore's. I don't go to church much, and when I do it's almost always the Polish church downtown. It always strikes me how much less formal the English churches tend to be. The whole atmosphere of the mass at English churches is more light hearted and less serious-feeling. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I'll take the pipe organ to the guitars. The quote of the day comes from the priest himself: "What this church needs is more people who are on fire." Context or no context, that sentence stuck.

The big event of the weekend has to be the finale of Enterprise. Did it live up to my expectations? Not quite. Did it disappoint? Not quite. I liked the Next Generation nostalgia, but I felt the Enterprise plot was a little weak. This seems to be the general reaction in all the reviews I read. At the same time, a lot of people seem disappointed by Riker looking at Archer's career to help decisions. They say there is no connection between the two. At first I would agree, as perhaps it was not made completely clear, but this comment really cleared it up:

A laughable review...
I just watched the episode. Riker's decision is supposed to parallel Trip's decision, not Archer's. That massive misunderstanding on your behalf completely voids your review. Get it?

Picard ~ Riker
Archer ~ Trip

Hence the final scene with Trip and Riker.

It was also nice seeing the CG Enterprise-D. Last time we saw a CG Galaxy class starship was in DS9 in the big space battles where they had to keep the vertex count and texture resolution low. The end result was a ship that looked worse than the physical model used during Next Generation. Now, they had a significantly better version of it. The last scene ("These are the voyages...") was perfect.

Wow, this one wins for length.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Fri, 13 May 2005

Free But Keeping Busy
20050512 I meant to post this image Tuesday evening, but wasn't in a writing mood. Tuesday afternoon I decided to challenge myself and see how quickly I could put together a mechanism to take digital photos remotely with my old camera. In this case, I wanted it to be on my RC boat. Turns out it can be done in roughly an hour, using a servo, some 14-gauge wire, and a few blocks of wood.

I have been hacking on Evince lately, trying to get document properties to show up in Nautilus. I have Nautilus behaving properly, showing a tab for PDFs and anything I want in the tab. However, Evince's structure is not sufficient for this because everything is contained in the main binary. So, to make this work, things need to be more compartmentalized; importing the whole binary into the library for Nautilus extension is not right.

Finally, I did some follow-up research on the Enigma, and the sign in the museum was correct. Polish mathematicians had previously cracked the commercial, 3-rotor Enigma. The Brits took this work and extended it to the 5-rotor version, thus cracking it.

[] | posted @ 03:51 | link
Mon, 09 May 2005

Mother's Day
20050508 Today was Mother's Day. I did the usual bit with roses and more-thoughtful-than-average behaviour.

Part of this involved going to see the Tulips around Dow's Lake. As usual around this time they were in full blossom and drew large crowds from all over the world. Of particular note were these bright orange ones. I can't say I've ever seen orange tulips before.

Later, we went to the newly-opened Canadian War Museum. I had been there yesterday for the first time, but I thought the rest of the family might like to see it. The place has some really interesting architecture, and I like how it doesn't completely focus on national military history. Most national war museums would do this. This museum includes more bits from around the world than most. I was quite satisfied with this, my father was not. He's ready to go complain about how they got several facts wrong, including a label that implies the Enigma machine was cracked by the British. It was cracked in Poland by Polish people. Therefore, it was not cracked by the British. Still, the museum is quite unique and worth the visit.

I just made myself a good alcoholic lemonade.

  • One lemon, squeezed.
  • Four teaspoons of sugar.
  • Liberal amounts of rum.
  • Top off the 50cL glass with water.
  • Two icecubes.

[] | posted @ 03:55 | link
Tue, 03 May 2005

New Rims
20050502 Next item on the agenda: new tires for the previously acquired rims. I had my doubts when I got these rims because of their apparent condition: they were very dirty, had a few nicks and scratches, had all of the middle covers broken, and were of a different size than stock rims. Still, the price was right.

Today, I bit the bullet and had them done anyway. I am actually extremely impressed with the results. They were cleaned back in the fall, which helped their general appearance greatly. The tires now hide a lot of the scratches along the rims. The wheels look just fine without the center pieces. The higher width-to-height ratio feels excellent when driving. They also look far better with tires and on the car than I predicted.

Two marks that I have been holding my breath on are finally in. I got a B+ in DSP and an A+ on the final-year project. Certainly far off from the F's that were circulating in the back my cerebral cortex. Tonight, I celebrate.

[] | posted @ 00:02 | link
Mon, 02 May 2005

Enterprise Model
20050501 The next item on my to-do list was to finish my brother's Polar Lights Enterprise kit. So I did. It involved a glosscote, decals, and a dullcote on the engineering hull. I am not terribly pleased with how the decals applied, they left more silvering than I had hoped. Anyway, I was never a terribly huge fan of the original Enterprise, and now I don't have to build and light my larger version of it. I'm putting photos up in the Models section of my site. Then, I can get back to the Enterprise-D, as well as numerous other projects.

Tonight was the 350th Simpsons episode. I really feel they should have canned Simpsons rather than Futurama...

[] | posted @ 03:49 | link
Sat, 30 Apr 2005

Caution: Microcontroller In Use
20050429-1 I like my car's CD player. Panasonic makes good car audio electronics. However, in the current generation of CD players there is one very strange oversight. There are two perfectly good RCA input plugs on the back. The catch is that they do not show up as a source. Why? Because they are the CD changer input. Otherwise, there is nothing special about them. They only work when there is a CD changer plugged into the DIN-8 plug next to them.

20050429-2 Therefore, the task is clearly to fool the head unit into thinking there is a CD changer present. I managed to find an excellent source for doing this with PIC controllers, but I thought it would be nice to implement on Atmel. So, I more or less translated his code. I was surprised that it worked on the first try, especially since timing appears important, and I did have to rescale all of the routines to run on a different chip at a different clock speed. Nevertheless, it worked.

I added a nice 1337 message to the display and I considered sensing whether there was input on the input line before showing the source in the menu, but decided it was quite a bit more work to do it safely. As it turns out, the Panasonic system is very flexible. My initial worries about hitting the 8μs clock proved to be unfounded, since only after getting the whole thing working did I realize that my DIVBY8 fuse was on... the entire thing worked just fine at one-eighth the intended speed!

Tonight's Enterprise, In The Mirror, Darkly, Part II, was fantastic. Many plot twists and excellent Trek nostalgia. I'm also fairly certain that the last two episodes were the most sexually explicit Trek ever. While not quite as provocative as the Dax/Kira lesbian relationship in DS9's mirror universe, the sheer volume of the scenes pushed boundaries. It was also interesting because much of the episode was on a replica of the original TOS Enterprise, where Kirk "befriended" many women. Seeing these scenes now, with little or no censorship, certainly contrasts 1960's to the 2000's. Unfortunately, only three episodes of the show remain. That should be the end of Star Trek for a long time.

[] | posted @ 03:58 | link
Thu, 28 Apr 2005

My last exam ever (I type that with caution) was yesterday. I was extremely sick and fading in and out while writing it. It was still easy. In fact, aside from DSP, all of my exams in this round were straightforward. DSP does worry me, however. When I get that mark, and it's a pass, a very large weight will be lifted from my shoulders.

For now, I'm sort of enjoying freedom, except that I'm sick and sore. There is some poetic element to the fact that the group I belonged to for Frosh Week was called Freedom. Now, almost four years later, it is over. I picked up my grad photo along with the Class of 2005 composite yesterday. It's rather amazing how many people on there I don't know. It would have been nice to at least know more people by name.

One way or another, it's over, and I'm looking forward to the summer break I have set aside, devoid of school or work. I have trips to plan. I have many projects to get caught up on. I expect this blog to be filled with new material as things come to fruition.

[] | posted @ 18:20 | link
Tue, 19 Apr 2005

20050418 After a near-all-nighter, today I wrote what I expect to be the hardest exam of this semester, DSP. The following Matlab expression just about sums it up:

[x,w]=freqz([1 1 1 1 1 1],[1],[-pi:0.01:pi]); plot(w,abs(x));

In the end, I spent all three hours writing. After leaving the exam, I realize that I don't really know what I wrote. I hope it's enough to pass.

Upon scooting back to my car, I saw the by-law officer punching in a ticket for parking too long. I managed to persuade him not to give me the ticket. With luck like that, maybe I did okay on the exam?

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Thu, 14 Apr 2005

New Toy!
20050413 I woke up this morning and decided I want an portable solid-state media machine ("MP3 Player"). I got an iriver iFP-795, 512M capacity. I was initially dismayed that it didn't seem to do usb-mass-storage, but thanks to its re-flashable EEPROM, finding a UMS-enabled firmware was not too hard. Unfortunately, UMS seems to limit it to USB1.1 speeds, but it is still a good trade-off. It is a very good unit considering its price. It even comes with three accessories for carrying it!

While at the F-shop, I also picked up Star Trek: First Contact; definitely in my top-5 list and it was a decent price.

I really should be studying more...

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Mon, 11 Apr 2005

Are We There Yet?
The past week and a half or so was spent finishing up anything that needed finishing, particularly the 4th-year report. Now that is all over and all I have left to look forward to are exams. All in all, everyone seems to be under far less stress than usual. Not stressing over exams is a two-edged sword.

Not being particularly keen to study just yet, I downloaded and actually bought Escape Velocity: Nova. After the many, many hours of entertainment Ambrosia Software has provided me over the better part of the last decade, I felt it was only right. The whole weekend was dedicated to that game.

In usual spring routine, I started helping out with the Association for Bright Children class where we teach how to build r-c board made of balsa to a classroom full of little people. This year was the smoothest first class ever. We were actually a little overwhelmed by how smooth everything went.

Finally, I am no longer All I can say is "wow." I went from 35-50 messages per day to an average of 6. There was even a 24-hour period that was completely mail-less. I had no idea I was that unpopular.

[] | posted @ 03:54 | link
Sun, 03 Apr 2005

A Unique Insight Into Drunken Pat...

...Pope John Paul II just died. I don't understand the overall commotion. The man lived a very long, very full life. It was his time, and any human should be happy leading as complete a life as he.

I had my birthday get-together tonight. In attendance were Markus, Raf, and Phil. We seem to get together for drinking a lot. Much wine and beer was "processed." We decided it would be fun to play board games all night. It was fun all around. I think we knew that we were sufficiently drunk when we started discussing "cheese." I am rather glad I cannot experience that "cheese" stuff. "Enough said." For whatever reason, this "cheese" stuff cracked me up tonight.

I am currently returning to work writing the group telecomm project, as well as the Xbox project. There is no cheese there either. May the project be as cohesive as his blog entry...

[] | posted @ 06:06 | link
Tue, 29 Mar 2005

Yet Another Birthday
I'm 23. I had a good time with dinner at Red Lobster and then music and drinking at Zaphod's.

As the final five days of class draw to a close, it is amazing how much work there is to complete between now and (approximately) then. I spent the whole weekend working on my Xbox project report. Much procrastination when into that, and I'm not completely satisfied with the state of the current draft. It lacks cohesion and a few sections. It is also pretty sad that the appendices are longer than the rest of the report. I will have to fix this. However, using more advanced features of LaTeX, it looks great.

Throughout the process of procrastination, I discovered Epiar, an open-source game based heavily on Escape Velocity. It currently lacks story-line missions, but otherwise flying and fighting are similar, though distinct from EV. I hope to get involved with this project, perhaps in writing the story and missions.

My other major procrastination point was Sierra game MIDIs. I had the sudden urge to learn how to play Girl in the Tower from KQ6. When I printed out the music, it was very hard to play, being inconsistent in notes being represented interchangeably as sharps and flats. But I am crazy, so I decided to re-write it by hand, but I couldn't quite figure out the actual relative lengths of the notes from the MIDI file. This is because my printout didn't actually show the length of notes, only their relative separations. If there was a quarter note with an eighth half way through, both would show up as eighth notes, even though the first note is actually twice the length. After giving up, I just typed "girl in the tower sheet music" and sure enough, the original composer of the music, Mark Seibert, had simplified sheet music on his site. Now I have a timing reference. I also found Squirrel With The Power, a fun little remix of the original tune.

All in all, a productive, if not for school, weekend.

[] | posted @ 20:50 | link
Sat, 19 Mar 2005

Iron Ring
20050318 At long last, after four years of intensive education, I was deemed worthy of receiving the mark of the engineer, the Iron Ring. The entire day was centered around this highly secretive ceremony. There was much drinking, remembering the past, colleagues who did not make it, and meeting those who have graduated in recent years who have gone on to the routine of endless daily work.

The ring, now stainless steel in favour of wrought iron, represents the ideals and ethics of engineering. I feel the years of hard work much more complete with it than I could with any diploma. I also felt closer to my whole graduating class than ever before. It may be surprising, but that's what happens when you focus your goals on achieving that one thing. I feel I have not been as forthcoming socially as in the last few years, mostly because of increasing business, but I got the impression today that people understood all of that.

It was a good day. I am ready for the much anticipated "home stretch."

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Fri, 18 Mar 2005

Poster Fair
xbox/20050317 The project poster fair was on Monday. I decided that it would represent the deadline for all of the aspects that were on the to-do list in the presentation.

As such, over the two weeks preceding the poster fair, I invested a total of about 60 hours of time. While not by any means technically advanced, the power control unit represented a lot of that time, and it certainly represented many hours of learning Atmel microcontroller technology and how to actually design simple circuits with transistors. Looking back, it seems completely straightforward, but there was some resistance in moving from lecture-hall theory to actual design.

The poster show went well, the demo mostly worked. Of course, not when the professor came to see it. Report-writing is slated to start any day now. I seem to be well-off in terms of quantity of content. The quality is also present, but it could still use some polish. An end is in sight.

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:55 | link
Thu, 10 Mar 2005

20050309 I haven't drawn anything meaningful on paper in at least four years. So, when the opportunity came about to draw a building in renaissance style for Art History class, I took my time. Though the day was extremely busy, I managed to fit in 2.5 hours of drawing. The drawing pictures a residential building combined of four or so buildings designed by Palladio. Only after the assignment was submitted did I notice a few perspective errors and missing lines, but the experience was still refreshing. I should draw more often.

[] | posted @ 04:45 | link
Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Microcontroller Success
After staying up half of the night, the program for the Atmel microcontroller power control unit was deemed satisfactory. Then I spent half of today ironing out glitches inherent to moving from the test chip to the real one (they are different models). After all of that, it only took 15 minutes to build a breadboard prototype of the final circuit. Though the prototype is designed to work on only 5V, it should not take long to modify it to handle 12V and build the final unit.

These past three days have been extremely educational.

[/xbox] | posted @ 03:11 | link
Sun, 06 Mar 2005

Critical Mass
xbox/20050305 As the project deadline quickly approaches, I have been spending considerable time putting my ideas into motion.

Last week I decided that the power control unit, while simple, would benefit from being microcontrolled. I have spent a good portion of this week researching the options, and concluded that the Atmel Tiny series is perfect for this and other applications. It is amazingly versatile, simple to program, and conveniently has an on-chip clock (other chips need an external crystal). After programming, literally all that is needed is Vcc, Vss, and any inputs/outputs. Having spent over 20 hours so far practicing writing software for it, I am completely inpressed with this chip. The software will be simple to write, and the hardware will hopefully be easy to design.

Additionally, some time this week was spent creating the GTK theme for DashUI. A reference engine, HighContrast, is being used. The goal will be to thicken up borders so that they are several pixels thick, and possibly modifying the colour scheme so it is not as high contrast as it was originally designed to be. This still needs work.

Lastly, library research was performed to obtain research about ergonomics of vehicle multimedia hardware and its interaction with humans. Two excellent books were found: Automotive Ergonomics and Human Factors in Driving, Seating, & Vision. These books contain invaluable information and considerations regarding revolutionary human interaction mechanisms, as well as numerous related safety studies.

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Fri, 04 Mar 2005

That Was Then, This Is Now.
20050303 I had my grad photo taken this week, and the proofs were made available today. I decided to compare this graduation photo to that of high school. It is remarkable what four years of stress can do to a person. I decidedly prefer the high school photo. Receding hairline, cheek bags, and eye circles all contribute, also the more dramatic lighting of the high school photo makes it the winner. However, it is possible the real print of university photo will be more decent and have better contrast than the proofs.

Last night I accidentally lost all of my Mozilla settings while deleting ".mozilla" in the wrong directory. As such, it seems to be a good time to switch to Firefox and Thunderbird. Both of these programs are in many ways more refined than old Moz, but there are several things that bug me:

  • Slower starting new mail, opening new browser, etc. That's a result of separating programs.
  • Lack of "Open in new tab" option on links in eMails. The programs don't seem to be able to invoke actions in each other.
  • I keep hitting Ctrl-N in Thunderbird and getting a new mail message instead of a browser window. Key consistency is important.
  • EnigMail seems to be missing from Thunderbird. Will have to hunt down.
Only 14 days until Ring Day. I'll make it. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Sat, 26 Feb 2005

Reading Week
20050225 Reading week is mostly over, unfortunately. As always, it feels as though much less was accomplished than should have been. I've done a fair deal of school work, and I've made some progress on the car project, but it seems rather insignificant with all that is left. Most of the week was actually spent moving 8mm tapes to DVD, with proper editing and chapter setting. I have to say, the picture quality of the old Sony 8mm is quite superior to the new JVC DV, though the DV-cam does allow for very good live transcoding to a computer. Using the 8mm via S-Video to DV-cam to PC via FireWire, the results are far superior to all the capture cards I've seen.

I normally don't post Windows screenshots, but this one is pretty good. I normally consider it quite crucial that the operating system knows how much of a basic resource it has access to.

Today's Air Farce had a good quote: "An Amsterdam university has discovered that yawning can be considered an invitation to having sex. Now, that's pretty good. But it's even easier to wait until they're asleep."

I'm starting to get a little worried about where the car project is going, whether I have enough material to write a report about, whether what I consider project material actually is, etcetera. What worries me more is that it doesn't feel like the usual procrastination.

[] | posted @ 04:54 | link

Project Progress and Setbacks
xbox/20050225 This reading week was to be used for completing several key phases in the Dashbox project.

An initial goal of the project was to produce a plugin or some sort of application that could communicate over OBD-II to the vehicle's CPU and extract meaningful statistics about its usage. While this is an attainable goal, my vehicle is a year too old and only contains a non-standardized OBD-I interface. This means that custom hardware would have to be built to communicate over the interface, and it would be useless to others. Therefore, this component of the project report will be more of a research area. In searching for relevant information, I came across a professor at who is currently doing a project with his students whereby a USB OBD-II interface communicated via a kernel module. Also, has OBD-II tools, without a GUI. These tools would be a good candidate for existing serial port hardware.

Progress has been made on another component of the project, the relay-mouse status sensor. This plan has been modified to use a USB mouse, as it makes more sense then using a serial-USB dongle. The daemon is nearing completion, with the ability to execute and terminate programs based on button status. There is no fancy IPC, though such a facility could be implemented to communicate with the DashUI element. I cannot see any use for this, however. The software and hardware should be completed shortly.

Two software elements that should be examined over the next week or so are the high-contrast/visibility GTK theme, and the project web page. As more and more content is added, it would be good to house it somewhere. A web page could also focus the work in these final stages. There is little over a month left to complete the whole project!

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:41 | link
Mon, 21 Feb 2005

Week of Hell
20050221 Last week is the week known as Week of Hell, in that everything is due and all midterms pile up upon one-another. This week is break time, and next week is essentially more of the same, since there is nothing due and midterms are over for the time being. I am slowly recovering after last week's barbaric schedule.

Battlestar Galactica continues to impress. However, this week's episode showed a scene from Cylon Occupied Caprica, where a Scotiabank logo stood out at me, even though the clip was only a few seconds long. Further digging indicated it was just a completely unmodified photo of Vancouver. I'm surprised they didn't take the logo out.

Plans for this week include major catching-up on 4th year project goals. The draft of the final report is due in a matter of weeks, so I really should be nearing completion. There is also a large pile of groupwork to do. I just hope everything goes well during the remaining five-or-so weeks of university classes. There are many loose ends to tie up.

[] | posted @ 19:16 | link
Sat, 12 Feb 2005

Yey For Physics!
20050212 Today, completely out of the blue, I decided to hook up the old record player to play The Sting album. After setting the thing up, I lied down on the floor in front of it, and was completely absorbed by patterns that flew by on the rim of turntable itself. I remember being completely mesmerized by the effect of orange light on this pattern since my first memories.

This time, I noticed some reference to 50 and 60Hz frequencies on the source of the light. It took a good five minutes to figure it out, but, based on a simple demo from Grade 12 Physics where a strobe was used to "stop" spinning things, I figured this was the same thing. Sure enough, closer inspection revealed that the light is not from an incadescent source, but rather a Neon tube flashing at that annoying 60Hz that hurts my eyes. It took a few minutes to figure out what actually controls the strobing so that it can be slowed to a stop: the fine pitch control. So, with a 60Hz electrical system and a 33 RPM record, the third band has to remain motionless when at the correct speed for the correct pitch.

I suppose I could have just asked my father about this and would surely have gotten a satisfactory answer. As a kid, I always figured this was just a decoration, much like the digital spectrum displays on modern amplifiers. It was fun to solve this twenty year mystery all by myself.

[] | posted @ 05:30 | link
Mon, 07 Feb 2005

Fog in February?
20050206 In continuation of crazy winter weather, the drive back from the yearly R/C boat meet at the pool in Perth involved navigating some very thick fog. Most of the way was as pictured, though about 2 kilometres from home I had to slow down very suddenly because I couldn't see more than 3 metres past my hood, nor either side of the road, or even the salt-dried median line. Fog in February! That's a first!

Today, I did decals on the Polar Lights Enterprise kit. Unfortunately, they did not turn out as well as expected. Apparently, more glosscoat was needed, to make the surface smoother. As it is, the decal film silvered quite a bit. I've never done a model with so many decals, so this is definitely a learning experience. It still looks decent.

I also watched last night's Battlestar Galactica episode. That show is truly amazing. Their well-written scripts along with exceptional acting, and intentionally Steadicam-less shots with computer graphics to match are fresh. I would expect no less from the developer of the series, Ronald Moore, the same man who made Deep Space Nine a great show.

Speaking of Star Trek, it is finally official that Enterprise is being canceled. If this had been late September 2001, I would have dismissed the show as a complete fluke. While genuinely drawn in by the initial first-season teaser, featuring Superman by Five for Fighting, I thought the prequel idea was terrible. The show didn't even have "Star Trek" in its title. After three-and-a-half years, the show is starting to get good. All modern Treks have gotten good somewhere between seasons 3 and 4, Enterprise being no exception. But, at 1.6 MUSD per episode, no one wants to foot the bill. Now, assuming standard production schedules are followed, the sets should be torn down in March. Sound stages that have been exclusively Trek since 1978/79 will be cleared, and that will probably be the end of Star Trek.

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Sat, 05 Feb 2005

A Mild February
20050204 After a very cold January that created erratic weather across the entire continent, February has come in unusually warmly. Normally the coldest month of the year, the weather over the past few days has been hovering around the freezing point. If not for the giant snowpile (where all City of Ottawa snow ends up), this photo could just as well have been taken in July. There is even a hint of haze in the air, which is very unusual for winter.

This school week has felt very productive. In Monday's DSP class I had to create the tune Country Gardens using nothing but sinusoids in Matlab. The requirements were that the sound be attenuated so that there is some flavour to the melody. So, things like attack and echo were implemented. It is good to understand how these things work. Next week marks the start of midterm season.

Quite possibly the funniest thing I saw this week was at the Unicentre convenience store, where shelves were stocked such that tampons were right next to Fisherman's Friend mints. I wonder if that was on purpose.

[] | posted @ 04:55 | link
Sun, 30 Jan 2005

One Year
20050129 This past week marks one year of this weblog. While it is truly remarkable how quickly time appears to pass, looking over all of the text and images accumulated over this last year shows me that the year was much more than the blink of an eye. I am particularly happy that almost every entry has a photo, as it really helps find specific events or thoughts that the words only help describe. I shall continue this trend. At 124 entries over the year, with 93 images, the average is approximately one every three days, with exactly 75% containing a picture. My grandfather maintains a log of events as a memory aid. In time, this should fulfill that function and exceed it. I see this database of entries as more of a time capsule.

This last week of school has been fairly hectic, with this upcoming week promising more of the same. During DSP class, the professor mentioned a very interesting point: apparently, the human eye samples on average at 28 times per second. I never occurred that eyes could process information in a discrete fashion.

As of this morning, a part of the enamel on one of my molars has fallen off, right at the gumline. The hole it left feels enormous, but the tongue exaggerates, as usual. Besides being disconcerting to my ever-curious tongue, what is now exposed is extremely sensitive; even carefully applied Sensodyne causes pain. I blame the dental hygienist, who during last week's cleaning worked the enamel loose. Damned densits. Now I have to visit them again to patch this up.

My brother's Enterprise model is progressing well. Today, the basecoats of paint were applied. Pictured is the stand, which was painted black and stippled with copper. I think it created a very nice finish. I'm doing this whole buildup with my brother as a present for his upcoming birthday (nothing is worth more to me than my time, he knows that), because I intend to move out soon and want to spend some quality time with him, and because it's a good diversion from schoolwork. I estimate completion next weekend or the weekend after that.

I replaced the motherboard in the laptop with the newly-purchased unit. Although the new board is the same part number and revision, the laptop now thinks it is a Latitude D600 instead of an Inspiron 600m and refuses to let me reflash it as such. Not a big problem. It is nice that all of the plugs are stiffer, buttons are less worn, and the unit as a whole is more rigid since its screws were all tightened. And, of course, the display is clear, which was good for the 4th year project presentation a few days ago.

[] | posted @ 04:57 | link
Mon, 24 Jan 2005

A Possible Interface
xbox/20050123 When this project began, there was a fairly clear vision of what the interface to the car computer could look like. Seeing as the presentation is coming up this week, I felt it was high time to put the idea into a format where it can be shared with others. This touch-screen would stow-away in the slot designed for optional cd-changer units, and would slide out like a drawer, then hinge down so that it could be easily usable from the front seats.

While I had initially intended to build this unit into a car, I am having difficulty locating a reasonably-priced touch-screen that has a diagonal of 6 inches or less. The units I found generally tend to be for medical equipment or factory equipment purposes, and as such, are far more expensive than common sense would indicate. Understandable, seeing as the general consumer would not find such equipment very useful.

The difficulty in obtaining a screen coupled with the Xbox's green-tint VGA output are making the unit look less and less appealing for car-pc purposes. The initial benefits of low cost (~$200), good durability (designed to be handled by children), and fairly low power requirements (~100W) seem to be offset by minor annoyances that make it impractical to build a fully-functional in-dash unit. The very cold weather of this January has not been helpful either. Would it even be safe to spin up a hard drive at -30°C temperatures?Would the electronics be able to handle the condensation that would follow shortly thereafter?

For the project, it should be possible to work without actually building the computer in. For the poster-fair/demo I have come up with a simple method of exporting the display to a touch-screen laptop that should show how things are to work. This model may even be considered as an alternative to VGA output, using a PDA mounted on the dash to interact with the car computer. Still, I was hoping to have a fully-functional car computer in the end.

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:07 | link
Fri, 21 Jan 2005

Earth Continues to Revolve
20050120 Indeed, Planet Earth continues its constant cycle of change. Last week the temperature was over freezing point, and everything was a slushy mess. This week, with windchill, the temperature is less than -40°C, with everything frozen beyond the ability of salt to melt, and the smokestacks on buildings downtown seem to have plumes that extend several hundred metres. At the same time, the days are getting longer and causing spectacular reflections from the glass buildings around the time I wait for the bus to take me home at night.

Many of my recent online purchases have come in. Two days ago, my hundred-pack of white LEDs arrived. Yesterday, my self-indulgent phaser kit has arrived. This unit is mastered from the same molds that they used on Voyager, and the quality is certainly not lacking. Unfortunately, that incurred $63 dollars of border fees. Today, my Badger airbrush compressor arrived, also from the States. With this, another $23 of border fees. Finally, today, my new laptop motherboard came in. This one had no border fees.

There are two things that are a complete mystery to me, having dealt with 4 packages over the last few days:

  1. Taxes: Why am I charged tax on a used item? Moreover, why am I paying tax to the Canadian Government on used items I purchased from the States? Should I not be paying the taxes to the U.S.? It seems strange that I'm paying for used items purchased over the border when I don't have to pay them on my motherboard, purchased in-province, where the tax would have some meaningful representation.
  2. The post office usually delivers mail to a community box down the road from my house. However, when parcels come in, they come up to the door and leave a note on the door to pick up the package at the post office. If they already come to the door to leave the note, would it hurt to ring the doorbell and actually deliver the item?

All of this buying has taken a much larger toll on my credit card than expected. This is the first time I have to do creative things to ensure payment can be covered. I had no idea one can have negative credit...

Finally, school is starting to ramp up again. Next week promises to be interesting, with several assignments and 4th-year-project oral presentations. The end is starting to become clear. In just over two months I will be scrambling to hand in final papers and whatnot. Then, I shall be free.

[] | posted @ 04:53 | link
Sat, 15 Jan 2005

Expensive Times
The past several weeks have proven to be unpleasantly expensive and plagued with misfortune.

The first event of annoyance is that my car failed the mandatory emissions testing requirements, as I wrote about earlier. A possible cause was the catalytic converter, so 250 bucks was put toward a new one. However, the mechanic said the old one looked clean. A retest failed again, even with the new catalytic converter and premium gas. So, another 200 was expended to have the emission mechanic look more closely into it. In the end, the only apparent symptom is that it actually passes when the engine is cool (just started) and fails when it is hot. This is opposite of most cars, so a cooling problem may be the issue. Still, only a conditional pass was allowed, so the issue has to be re-examined next year. And it was expensive.

Next, last Saturday morning, I was woken at 0830, which is at least 3 hours too early for a Saturday. There were several centimeters of water in the basement; the hot water heater had blown up and was spewing water everywhere. I blocked off the heater and spent the rest of the day draining the water, cutting up old carpet, and generally cleaning up old junk. Luckily, the water did not get to the computer room. A new heater was installed promptly by the gas company.

The final bit of unpleasantness comes from my concern over my laptop still not being acknowledged. I was told the Dell repair people would give me a call once they knew what to do. They did not. When I called them, it was the same 900 dollar speech that the parts department gave be. They would not fix it under warranty, so I told them to fuck off and send it back. I bought the replacement motherboard on eBay for $340. Still don't have the laptop back, though.

[20050115] The week was not all bad. Kyle set up a for fun, so this thing is finally syndicated somewhere. I doubt a lot of people read it, but I still felt like creating a "hacker-head". They are meant to look silly, so I figured the clichéd sunglass theme would work.

Also, my brother bought a Polar Lights TOS Enterprise model. I've been putting it together with him today. It certainly is a well-designed kit. In fact, he is doing most of the work, and it works well enough that I don't think he will lose interest before we get to things like proper painting. He may have himself a very nicely built model in the end, by mostly his own doing. That would be an accomplishment for a first model.

[] | posted @ 18:56 | link
Tue, 11 Jan 2005

DashUI Progress
Tonight was dedicated to adding configuration file parsing to DashUI. I decided to use the standard IniFile format, as it's easy to understand and easy to parse.

The C parser is about one hunded lines in length, and handles comments, whitespace, any field order, and the various data types that would be found in a configuration file.

The format is extremely simple, For example, to embed the xlogo program:

# This example swallows the xlogo program [X Logo] program = "xlogo" window = "xlogo" icon = "applet3-48.png" resize = 1

However, the main problem with the approach to DashUI is that it still requires a window title to swallow any application. This is problematic for some programs because of either synchronization, or unpredictable window titles. That should be the next problem to solve.

[/xbox] | posted @ 06:03 | link
Thu, 06 Jan 2005

The Home Stretch
20050105 Today was the first day of classes in this semester, my last semester. Some would call this the home stretch. One would think I could see the light at the end of the tunnel by now, but I cannot. I simply assume the cables lead somewhere.

Already I have a problem with the software engineering class this semester. Then again, I would have a problem with any class that forces UML-RT (better than plain UML!) using Rational Rose RT, Powerpoint, and eMail only accepted from the cruddy Carleton Connect system. The plus side is that RR is supposed to output C++ rather than Java, which is all we've been using lately. I nearly burst out laughing when someone a few rows back, upon hearing this, commented with disgust: "but C++ sucks!"

In the end, all of the things on the to-do list for the break happened. My last item, cleaning up my old AMD K7/700 and converting it to a RAID machine for permanent storage just got finished a few minutes ago. The second hard drive I was using worked perfectly until about five minutes after I copied the last file from it prior to making it part of the disk array. Good timing, though it took me hours to realize that the fault was with the disk, rather than a mistake of my own.

Another unfortunate event is that my car failed the mandatory emissions test. It passed with a huge margin on all tests except the part where they test the parts-per-million concentration of NO. The maximum allowed is 526, while the car was putting out 890. This is surprising, since at the last test, the number was in the 300 range. Possible causes are timing issues or a faulty catalytic converter. It's too bad they make us do the tests in the winter when the junkyard is a most unpleasant place.

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link

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