Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Top 100 "Beta" Websites

If you'd like to see some really advanced websites then click here for a list of the top 100 "Beta" sites.

Pocket Pollster 1.0 Alpha - Early Reports

I'm starting to get feedback about the Alpha version of Pocket Pollster that I released. Here's one such report from a tester in Las Vegas:

Hi Robert,

I tested yesterday under the following parameters:

* Windows XP Professional With SP2
* With the .Net Framework 1.1 installed
* ActiveSync 3.8
* Pocket PC 2002 ( Toshiba e 755 and 750)

The test result was : Excellent

Comments : The procedures were very easy going with no need for troubleshooting . I will make some tests tonight on different machines and operating systems.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pocket Pollster 1.0 Alpha Is Done!!!

I just sent out the initial e-mail to 10 Alpha Testers around the world a few minutes ago! This is but one milestone in my professional career but is a significant one representing over one year of my life!

If you own a Pocket PC or know someone who does then please don't hesitate to direct them here. I'd love to get some more people trying out the software!!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Does Rhetoric Now Reign Supreme?

rhetoric - clever language which sounds good but is not sincere or has no real meaning

I just finished watching Network, a 1976 dark comedy about television. It emphasized the point that TV news networks don't so much care about truth, but rather are just concerned about ratings. Sure it stretched reality somewhat, but there are certainly a lot of parallels with today's version of "journalism".

I'm convinced that special interest groups have picked up on this fact and realized that they can justify any cause, no matter how wrong, as long as they get a bunch of people out protesting and spewing a lot of rhetoric around.

Case in point are the Immigration Deportation Protests taking place throughout Canada this weekend. You can read more about them here. Here's a key quote:
“The Harper-style immigration policies are ... intolerable,” said Sima Zerehi, a spokeswoman for No One is Illegal Toronto. “We want Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper to end these practices. We want an immediate moratorium on deportations and an immediate regularization program that meets everybody’s needs.”

In a nutshell, what these protesters are saying is that the Canadian government has no right to enforce the law, no right to enforce its borders, and no right to expel anyone who shows up in Canada, no matter how unsatisfactory they are to immigrate here. And right at their heels, supporting them 100%, were Liberal and NDP members of parliament.

I can't believe that I'm the only one who sees how incredibly wrong this protest is. Yet if I were to debate any of these protesters, I'd be called a racist in less than 30 seconds.

My father was an immigrant from Germany who came to Canada legally. I have many East Indian and Chinese friends whose parents came here legally. I have Mexican friends who I helped come here legally. In recent months, through Digital Divide, I've had the great pleasure to meet immigrants who have moved here from every continent on the planet; each of them coming here legally. I've reminded some of them on more than one occasion, when they differentiated themselves from Canadians born here, that they're just as much a Canadian as I am.

The fact is, I support immigration very much. Canada does not have the birth rate to maintain our population. With the growing percentage of elderly people, we're already facing a crisis, with many fewer tax-paying workers to support them. But my country has EVERY RIGHT to decide who gets in and who doesn't. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous. For political parties to support this illegal cause is just downright sick. And when the multicultural (read "race") card starts getting played against the government, I get very, very angry. So, I believe, will people in the vast majority of political ridings in this country too.

But will the concept of right & wrong ever enter the minds of the TV media who plays up this story? Not in the least, because it's all about ratings.

It Takes All Kinds!

As many of you know, I started an organization called BC Digital Divide. Here's a brief description of what we do:

The focus of our organization is on helping people bridge the proverbial "digital divide". Our mission is to provide less fortunate people with a computer, as well as to provide the children in these homes with outstanding educational and vocational opportunities that they would not normally have access to.

Though all the computer equipment is provided at no cost to those receiving it, please understand that many hours of work are donated by volunteers to make available computers that are in perfect running order. Those volunteering their time and those donating the equipment are doing so on the implicit trust that the designated recipients truly can't afford to buy a computer on their own.

We encourage you to think very carefully about this before you apply. For there are truly needy people out there who do need our help.

The second and third paragraphs are our only checks to try to ensure that only needy people get computers from us. We simply didn't want to start examining tax returns or anything of the sort, like some people suggested we should. Having personally been in the homes of many recipients, it's clear that most people respect this and only apply if their need is real.

I just heard from one of our volunteers about someone who was anything but in need. He pulled up in a brand new BMW SUV to claim his computer. Our volunteer was stunned but gave him the computer anyway, not wanting to be judgemental. I'm not sure I would have been so obliging. In fact, I plan to get this person's contact info and firmly request that they either return the computer or make a $500 donation to a local charity. They probably won't do either but at least they'll know that their dishonourable actions haven't gone unnoticed.

Indeed, such events do irk me but thankfully this kind of thing only happens once in a blue moon!

The Next Step Forward in Online Mapping

I've been using Google Maps for some time but read an article which said that Yahoo Maps had leapfrogged ahead. So I decided to give it a try.

There are definitely some subtle but important improvements. The real-time drag & drop scrolling is much better. Google used to be the king in this area but it has really slowed down over time. There's now a significant lag time, perhaps because of its popularity - too many users hitting the servers at once.

Yahoo has introduced a live traffic feature in some cities, offering very detailed reports seemingly direct from the computers of the police! This would be useful for commuters about to venture out or drivers with mobile computers in their cars. The technology behind all this merging of data is actually quite straightforward but the politics behind gathering all of the disparate data is what has taken so long to make happen.

In the future, I look forward to real-time video streaming from highway cameras direct to the mobile computers in the cars!!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kool Music for Kool Kids

A friend of mine in Chicago introduced me to KCRW. It's a community service of Santa Monica College in Los Angeles. They offer a wide variety of really great online music that you can listen to 24/7.

KCRW - What All The Kool Kids Are Listening To!

The Internet: A Wild & Wonderful Place!

If you're a fan of 'Lost' then you may have learned about this fake website that is connected to the show: Apparently it's full of clues connected to the show. They now also have a fake jobs posting site:

This represents a brilliant marketing campaign that supports the show and may be the future of TV as we know it.

P.S. The next time that someone shares a factoid with you and claims it's true "because they read it on the Internet", be very, very skeptical!!!

Mother's Day Photo

Here's a photo taken on Mother's Day by my friend, Fraser, from Saskatoon. It shows yours truly beside my mom and mon amie, Laurence.

Hopefully An End To Street Racers in Canada

Today Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new legislation that will outlaw street racing.

This afternoon CKNW radio host, Jon McComb, interviewed someone who was actually vehmently against this legislation. Yes, against it!

Here's the e-mail I sent to him after the interview:

It's rare that I feel so outraged that I want to throw something at the radio but that happened this afternoon during your interview with car race enthusiast, Jason Louie. My jaw virtually hit the floor when he said that Stephen Harper had no evidence to suggest that the #1 perpetrators of street racing were young men with fast cars. Oh sure, most of us have long suspected that these street racers were predominantly little old ladies from Kerrisdale who, for a little excitement, had heisted the sports cars of their grandsons! Give me a break!!

Either Mr. Louie has been kicked off every debate team he's ever been on, or he really needs new script writers to give him something with even a tiny sliver of credibility. His ridiculous assertion that Harper ought not dare bring in this common-sense policy without first engaging in endless studies is laughable. Yet sadly, countless past governments have listened to drivel just like this, in a pathetic pursuit to get more votes from one demographic group or another.

It's long overdue that all of our governments get away from the milquetoast, focus-group based policies of the past and instead take definitive steps to clean up some obvious problems in our society. They will anger some and offend others but they will clearly be respected by most.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Caledonia Explodes into Violence

Violence erupted in rural Caledonia, Ontario yesterday. You can read more about this here.

This recent flare-up should be a vivid wake-up call to all Canadians that our nice, safe society is something none of us should take for granted.

In fact, the society we live in is but a thin veneer over top of a lawless anarchy like Haiti and Afghanistan. We live like we do because from the early days of our nation, a well understood set of laws were set in place and most everyone adhered to them. Those who chose not to were arrested and removed from our society. This is a simple social contract that everyone understands.

When a group of people are allowed to disobey the laws of the land then anarchy amongst everyone else is soon to result. It's shocking that our current set of weak-kneed politicians don't have enough of a backbone to understand this reality with crystal clarity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Evolution of Dance

If you'd like to see 25 years of music videos in about 6 minutes then you need to watch this. It's hilarious! Note to my friend, Ed, who sent it to me: I don't look like nor dance like this guy whatsoever!!!

Beautiful Vancouver Sunset

There's a mining convention in town that I've been attending. The city is experiencing some absolutely amazing weather and the result is just knocking the socks off of the visitors from all over the world. Here are a couple of shots taken the other evening.

The Complete Hypocrisy about Kyoto

Canada's new Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, is getting grilled by the party of hypocrisy, the Liberals. Under the recent 12 year Liberal reign, Canada never came close to meeting our emission targets. Yet now these underachievers are blaming the new party, just 100 days into their reign, of not living up to the Kyoto agreement. Pathetic.

The truth is that Canadians would have to dramatically change the way they live their lives if there was any hope of Kyoto being met. No one else on the face of the earth is prepared to make such changes, so why should we? Yet there are those Liberals, claiming we should. The sad thing is that such words do appeal to their base - people who clearly find "logic" and "facts" too great an impediment to their thinking, so they never bother using them.

With a minority government currently in power, there will almost surely be another federal election sometime next year. At that time, Canadians will have an important decision to make: Do we return to the old days of rarely to never walking our talk, or do we actually grow up and start accepting some small degree of accountability and responsibility?

Sadly, I fear that most will opt for the easy route.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day Brunch

I took my mom out for brunch at the Granville Island Hotel. Joining us was our lovely friend, Laurence, who has recently moved to Vancouver from Down Under.

The spread they put on was quite decadent. In addition to the regular breakfast fare (eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes), there was also an unlimited amount of : prawns, oysters, cheese, strawberries in chocolate, delicious desserts, and much, much more.

We were all quite stuffed by the end of the meal!

Quote from My Mom

"A woman is like a tea bag. You cannot tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."

Hey, it's Mother's Day. I had to post it!!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Important Marketing Messages

I was watching Episode 13 of American Inventor and heard judge, Doug Hall, mention that every marketing message needs to answer 3 Questions:

  • Why should I care?
  • What's in it for me?
  • Why should I believe you?
As an engineer, it's always a challenge for me to write good marketing copy. So I'm going to post these up in large print above my desk and let them sink into my brain!

Armenian Genocide

A friend of mine sent me something today that I feel compelled to post on here:

I feel a little weird writing this, I don't think I've ever sent out a mass email before and those who know me probably think of me more of a reactionary than an activist. With that said, Turkey's recent decision to pull it's ambassadors from Canada and France has pissed me off enough to write this. Some of you know a great deal of the Armenian Genocide, others probably only have a rudimentary grasp of what happened to 1.5 million Armenians in the early part of the 20th century. In a nutshell the Ottoman Empire organized a hugely successful ethnic cleansing of their Armenian population. I won't go into detail here but I would urge you to read up on the subject and learn about it. Turkey never acknowledged what happened and is active to this day in covering up the facts. Recently, when Stephen Harper's government recognized the Genocide, Turkey promptly removed its ambassador to protest the decision. Last year Turkey's best known novelist, Orhan Pamuk, stood trial for treason. His crime was daring to mentioning the genocide in a article he had written. Thankfully the charges were dropped in January. This is not an uncommon occurence as many writers and publishers have been imprisoned for writing on the subject.

Imagine graduating high school or even University with little or no knowledge of the Jewish holocaust; the idea is unthinkable but that is exactly what has happened to the Armenians. I urge you to learn more about the subject, consider boycotting Turkish products and vacations. If you agree with the sentiment of my letter, I would also urge you to forward it to as many people as possible.

Thanks and sorry for the lenghty rant.

Joseph Sevan Stewart

I must confess that I was completely unaware of this horrendous event. You can read more about it here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Perfect Example of What's Wrong With Our Society

A group of men are suing the Anaheim Angels baseball team because of a Mother's Day giveaway of team paraphernalia. Only mothers (women over the age of 18) can receive one. These men should be castrated IMHO. You can read the full story here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Hypocrisy of the Far Left

The other day I heard a fascinating discussion on a Canadian radio programme. The host introduced the segment by saying: "How come a certain class of folk - actors & others - are fully behind committing American, British, and Canadian military power to Darfur, but are not crazy about commiting it to Afghanistan and are vehemently opposed to committing it to Iraq?"

His guest, David Frum, responded brilliantly, in a subtle sarcastic tone: "It's obviously completely different. In Darfur you have violent, murderous jihadists murdering innocent people. Whereas in Iraq you have violent, murderous jihadists murdering innocent people."

I would truly love for someone to explain to me what is the difference between Darfur and Iraq?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New PocketPollster Website

I spent the day revamping It took a long time to get the wording right, especially on the Screenshots page. Then I decided to add a simple, albeit formal menu to the top and make all pages look relatively similar.

It's deliberately not overly fancy because I plan to entirely replace this simple HTML site with an based version. This will then mean that all components of PocketPollster will be written in That means that much of the functionality of the future site will be powered by code libraries I've written for the Windows and Pocket PC applications, which are already built. The idea of having one set of software code across many platforms is a very powerful concept that was a mere pipe dream for developers even just a few years ago.

On a practical level this will allow me to provide a fully functioning demo on the website of what it'll be like to use Pocket Pollster on a mobile device like a Pocket PC or a SmartPhone. Furthermore, next year I plan to have a web-based version of the entire desktop software component. This means that people will be able to create new polls via the website rather than having to first download and install the desktop software. Mobile users will then be able to send their captured data back to a central SQL Server database rather than onto a local desktop computer. And as new data is coming in, any authorized user in the world will be able to review it in real-time. Powerful, powerful stuff, but one step at a time.

Please know that I'm now looking for "Alpha Testers" of the software. If you know any avid Pocket PC users who would like a free copy of what I think is some pretty cool software then please direct them to the Pocket Pollster website!

Crime and No Punishment

My favourite eastern Canadian talk radio show host, Roy Green, just posted this. Here's an excerpt:

What the hell is wrong?

Why are children as young as 12 being charged with murder?

Why are teens willing to carry weapons and use deadly force in a physical confrontation?

What metamorphosis has taken place since my youth in the 60's?

We've clearly passed the tipping point in terms of self-responsibility and general accountability. Whether 'Johnny' is a child, a teenager, or an adult, society has clearly said that he is not responsible for his own actions ... no matter what he does. While many people have an ingrained conscience that prevents them from acting in a similar atrocious manner, unfortunately a large minority do not. Change must come from the top but unfortunately our weak-kneed politicians and judges do not have the stomach to do what's right and necessary.

Online Puzzles

Looking for a new way to spend time on the Internet? Then check out this site. Fantastic Fun!!!
Disclosure: This site was referred to me by DGNYHK.

Monday, May 08, 2006

An Ancient Relic

I just received a call from a gentleman who wanted to donate a Commodore Amiga to BC Digital Divide. This is an ancient computer, circa 1985!

I told him that we couldn't accept it because it was too old. He seemed to ignore me and kept going on that he had all the software for it. In a slightly louder voice I pointed out just how old this computer was and added that he should hang onto it, as it'll probably be worth something as a collector's item one day! He seemed to hear that and concluded the call.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Lots of Flowers for Download

The past few months I've taken, what I think, are some pretty nice photos of assorted flowers. So I decided to update a Zip file I've long maintained that keeps my best flower photos. You can download it here. All of the photos are in their original hi-res format, which is more than sufficient to print enlargements from. It contains 13 photos and is 22MB in size.

Cloudy Saturday

Friday, May 05, 2006

Sunny Friday

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Inspiring Discussion

This morning I finally had the opportunity to meet in person one of my personal local heroes. His name is David Berner and he's a well known radio talk-show host here in Vancouver. Simply put, David has an innate skill for great conversation. Unlike too many on the airwaves, he actually engages in a real discussion with whom he's talking, not just a series of prepared questions & statements.

We met at a local coffeeshop and sat outside, enjoying the gorgeous weather, and watching the pretty ladies stroll by. I received an education on the not-so-public side of the broadcast industry. Let's just say it ain't pretty.

There are currently only 3 talk radio stations in Vancouver and much of the programming on each of them comes from elsewhere. With the Olympics now less than 4 years away, Vancouver is entering a critical time in our city's evolution. Yet there's a dearth of open public discussion going on. The Internet is slowly changing all that but nothing beats local talk radio for bringing together many voices from all around the community.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Good Day for BC Digital Divide!

I spent the second of two days tutoring kids & their parents in the use of computers at Britannia Elementary School. I wasn't happy with several of the computers that had been delivered by us previously so our lead tech, Bruce, came by after work and provided six of these beautiful Pentium 3 - 650MHz computers, all of which had recently been donated by Pivotal Software. The families were very pleased, as was I. Thank you, Bruce, you made us all look great!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Annabelle R.I.P.

Annabelle Jensen was one of my favourite dogs in the whole wide world. She was wonderful and fun and silly and always energetic. But recently she suddenly stopped eating. When the vet opened her up in surgery, it was discovered that an 8" x 8" tumour had grown inside her and was spreading. So my friend, Sharon, had the vet take her out of her misery. Only 9, a very young age for a dog. I'm so sorry for Sharon. She lost her other dog, Lucy, a few years ago. It truly is like losing a family member.

Why Fine-Tuning Software Can Be So Time Consuming

Most people who have never been directly involved in the creation of software have no appreciation for or idea why it [often] takes so long to build. An example just came up that I thought I'd share. Pictured on the left is the Question panel in the Desktop component of my forthcoming software, Pocket Pollster.

Each button represents a question. If you wish to examine Question #2 then just click on the "2" button. Originally the panel underneath these buttons was a consistent light blue. But I found an easy way to replace every such panel with a gradient panel instead. With these panels, the colour at the top is different from the colour at the bottom, much like the sky during a sunset.

The order of buttons can be changed by the user by simply dragging & dropping. This is common practice in most newer Windows software. To give the user a visual clue about where the new position of the question will be, I had the software draw a small black line between buttons. When the user moved away from that position (though still in dragging mode) the line would be erased by simply drawing another line over top of it. This new line would have the same colour as the panel, thus giving the illusion that the black line was being erased.

This graphical effect worked great! But then when I switched over to a gradient panel I discovered that the black line was not disappearing. The reason was that the colour of the panel was not consistent and thus the little trick I had employed no longer worked.

After some research and some help from a kind fellow on one of the MSDN forums, I finally discovered how to produce the effect again. Rather than drawing another line on top of the black line, I instead got the software to refresh (redraw) the section of the panel where the previous black line was drawn. This effectively erased it, and the desired effect was restored once again!

But I had no idea how to do this and so it took several hours of research and a little trial and error to get it to work. Multiply this by 100 or 1,000 and you begin to understand why software takes a long time to get perfect.

Spontaneous Remission

A friend & colleague of mine has started a blog about fighting disease without drugs. You can read it here. I'm very new to much of what she's saying but I have an open mind. She makes some very interesting points!