kurtismccartney's blog

Jobs in Niagara (Welland) - The Problem

This rant span off of my previous post about writers block:

What exists in the Niagara job market is lacklustre and without a deeper sense of need. Retail, telemarketing, farm work (chicken-catching), and other underpaid low skill, high turnover work. None of these jobs can individually off enough hours, although all of these jobs issue ultimatums to employees that they should be their primary workplace.

Telemarketing is not going to save our city. We need people to take plentiful raw materials and fashion them into useful products. The recycling centre does that, turning waste into compost. In Niagara we have: household waste, tires, freshwater, steel industry waste, and the infrastructure to import resources from other provinces or states in bulk for a lower cost. The trouble is that the city has to meet the needs of its undereducated majority - the ones that do not have an entrepreneurial flair, or technological background (I imply REAL technology like metallurgy, engineering, and whatnot). These are the opportunities that the city should support.

I do not want to put the environmental movement or the support for the needy into crisis, but some of the advocates in Niagara oppose first and look into the missed opportunities later. The general distrust for business was earned with our time spent while Union Carbide was in operation. These polluters closed their doors and the warnings came true - the jobs disappeared and never came back.

I have appreciated how it kept more families together, but I'd rather see people choose to be familial rather than be forced to out of need. Until I find it easier to be a poor entrepreneur or find meaningful employment I will be among the underemployed in Niagara. Underemployed people don't show up as statistics on Canadian unemployment because we haven't lost a job. If you know of a list for people like me, let me know.

Christmas Writers Block

It is the cold dark time of the year that ambition is low, unfortunately it also overlaps with a period of celebration that keeps me on the run. Typically I cannot find anything to write about, but this year following the example of many of my favourite web comics I will be writing about writers block. It is a loop into itself, a real paradox because if it is real this article wouldn't really exist.

I've spent most of the year writing about cycling, politics, linux, consumerism, and all sorts of artisan activities, frustrations, and congratulations. This was the year I became useless, by dispelling all of my public responsibilities associated with the University. Afterward I supposed that work would be found, but what exists in Niagara is lacklustre and without a deeper sense of need. Retail, telemarketing, farm work (chicken-catching), and other underpaid low skill, high turnover work.

It could really get someone down, but instead I'll opt for the usual - the familiar. By repeating the same tasks each year they take meaning in the form of tradition. So lets continue to observe a tradition of... some... I dunno writers block in the winter? Yea. We could all use more of writers block.

Callsign Assigned - VE3OGG

I have received my callsign from Industry Canada, it is simple and easy to remember if you are into the OSS scene - VE3OGG. Understandably, I must take this moment to disclaim myself from using this callsign as a user name in places like Slashdot or pretty much anywhere except on the radio or through official KurtisMcCartney/HAM Radio correspondences.

I've included a longer profile and my interests to the QRZ HAM Radio Operator Database. The QRZ database offers listing to its users and interoperability with many of the open-source applications that I use. Receive a callsign? Right-click and "Check QRZ" and the information is visible in your communications field. It reduces the need to swap between the operations panel and a browser window.

Callsigns are strange, a centralized identification system with tight limits and unexplained restrictions. I had an interesting shortlist, which if current callsign databases didn't exist would have meant failure. All of the best names are taken, even on the VA3 second name set. So in my case it isn't unacceptable to be reduced to a file format. OGG - Vorbis, Theora, or any other future variation.

I'll be looking forward to sending out a message in the new year.

Adrian Chojnicki's Dog Lost and Stolen

Some of you may know my sister and her boyfriend, for those who do not his name is Adrian Chojnicki. Adrian comes from an Italian family that lives next to the Welland canal, and from that house on the outskirts of town he lost his dog. As most dog owners with playful or energetic dogs know this can be a difficult reality to avoid. So they set out to find him, and they did so well into the night. After an unsuccessful search they returned home and called the local SPCA and Humane Society from the next couple of towns.

This search would progress for months, with he and his family going out to these facilities to look for the dog. They checked online and made nearly every logical effort to find their dog that ran off into the patchwork of fields and roads between Welland and Niagara Falls. He may have been lost forever, and as winter neared that seemed more possible until...

Adrian found Chaz (the dog) on the Niagara Falls Humane Society website. An immediate sense of relief came, though it wouldn't last for long. After contacting the NFHS about the posting the humane society delivered the news that Chaz had been adopted out. Shock and disbelief, how could such an error occur- ok, truthfully we have all heard a story about Humane Societies having errors or failing to identify dogs without markings or microchips. But Chaz was marked, and he would have definitely fit the description on the day one of the Chojnickis went to the shelter and Chaz was there - but trust in the reassurance that no dog fitting the description was their greatest error.

Knowing that their dog was filed as adopted it was a battle for the Chojnicki family to get the contact info for the new owner. The Humane Society has opted to distance itself from the situation, although this action could implicate them in the theft. They know and chose not to contact the family that took the dog.

Information about the family that took the dog can be found in this article: http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2218284 and it includes a video. The video makes it even worse for Adrian, who not only lost his dog but now sees this child who has been taught by his parents about "finders, keepers" in a very bad way. Typically adults can admit their error, but this child's father is using his sons 2 month bond with the dog to prevent it from returning to its friend, master, and legal owner. What is worse is that this man ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Niagara Falls - and may run again. This connection may be the reason the Niagara Regional police has chosen not to assist in the recovery of Chaz for the Chojnicki's - who considered taking the dog back without the police but ultimately know that two wrongs do not make a right.

The Niagara Regional Police are in a bit of a pinch as we have blurred the role of dogs in society. Are they property or are they part of the family (as persons)? The correct answer is - it doesn't matter. If Chaz is property then the dog has been illegally granted to the other family and must be returned to the Chojnicki's at a penalty to the humane society. If Chaz is a part of the family as a person then the other family must prove that Chaz was mistreated, which he was not, in order to remove him from his original family.

This is something important to me, not because I know Adrian or the dog but because it reflects a disrespect for personal property and the law. It is a basic part of any non-corrupt human civilization to protect property rights. If I find a car can I tow it at random to a junk yard and wait a month or so then allow them to get rid of it? What if I am the junk yard operator? What happens if I am the one that acquired the stolen car? It is theft, and the unwillingness to return it at any level should be punishable by law. The tow driver will use discretion, the junk yard will only accept vehicles from their owners or as scrap (not really a car anymore), and the people getting the car will look into the credibility of the vendor and accept their loss as a way to avoid being arrested, sued in small claims, or both.

I feel worst for Chaz, or as he apparently being tormented as "Vincent" now. We wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for his spirit of adventure, or physical power. But maybe in this new house he will finally have his spirit beaten, his sense of adventure broken, and his memories lost. Then again, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Plan Ahead - Canadian City Without Cell Phones

I've lived in this era between the near non-existence of cellular phones and today where nearly all of the people I know would be lost without them. It is this ubiquitous acceptance that I take issue with, where it is somehow unacceptable to plan ahead about the when and wheres for actual human interaction. The same argument can be technologically applied to GPS mapping devices, as they cripple what has been a necessary ability to understand how to plan when travelling.

I cannot dream of stopping the spread of potentially useful technologies, what I do encourage is for people to develop new social norms to reduce the number of small conflicts surrounding miscommunication with these technologies. For people that use GPS devices, please add the co-ordinates to an address to avoid ending up at 23 Main St. in the next city over or 87 James St. East rather than 87 James St. West because an inferior device cannot distinguish locations. Humans can distinguish between good and bad information.

The telephone has created problems for my social life among over-anxious, paranoid, albeit kind friends. After planning some events and celebrations with proper invitations that are received by e-mail, actual mail, or are hand delivered people have actually called the day of the event and said they cannot make it. Its understandable when a personal or family emergency occurs, but when the excuse it "It looks cloudy outside, it might rain" or similar phrases I am irritated. As though what I have planned is not without a backup plan, or in the worst of cases where there is NO RAIN. We have a technology that reliably terminates social behavior that people pay attention to, but few of these people will use a technology like weather radar to notice that there is nothing.

When and where, this combination is the key to actual human socialization. I've played online games, they don't beat shared experiences in person - but they do reduce the social obligations of living in a civilized society. No shower, no problem. It is the next step up from the antisocial elements brought in by the telephones. Now we can play these games on the go and be callous and smelly among strangers while seeming civilized around people that we actually see as people. Dehumanizing strangers, is arguably the one thing about mobile technology that people have began to do. I've been ignored while asking for the time, like a house cat, by a person holding a cell phone clicking away at a noisy game. While the person is likely wondering "why doesn't he just check his own cell phone", I experience the indifference this person has built up to people that are not themselves - and when it comes to human behavior when people do that a dehumanization begins.

In order to continue with good planning, showing respect and civilized behavior, having actual friends or in the least decent acquaintances I would like to hear about Canadian cities without cell phones or the establishment of a quiet zone where people do not use cell phones or other radio transmitters and if we can exist with our other amazing technologies without radio. An empire of wire would likely result, but there it the distinct possibility services like healthcare, policing, and infrastructure maintenance could learn an important lesson about planning.

HAM Radio Licensed - December 10th 2009

I have completed the test from Industry Canada to become a licensed HAM radio operator. This is another milestone in my effort to learn new and useful skills. As mentioned back in October, I have also participated in the ARES Simulated Emergency Test and may be gradually migrate to work with GWEN - an HF band variant of ARES.

I'm not asking everyone to be a HAM operator, and I can say from what I've seen it is not cheap. However this kind of operation is where the average citizen can innovate and adapt without waiting for large corporate vendors to develop a technology. It reminds me about the open-source movement and the amazing capacity for error and focus on user interests.

I will be at the NPARC Big Event, helping and scanning through the inventory of amazing components. It is a great event to ask vendors and fellow HAMs about new trends and missed opportunities.

You can find more information at:
Radio Amateurs of Canada - http://www.rac.ca
ARES - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_Radio_Emergency_Service

Image icon VE3OGG.png6.53 KB

Arrow Project - eBike Conversion in Niagara

During the summer I had continued work on my bicycle, looking to increase its range and usability by adding an electric motor. Unfortunately this failed, and I set the project aside and disassembled all of the parts. This disassembly is where I pull the Arrow reference from, alluding to the scrapped Avro Arrow project that could have given Canada a technical superiority among western air forces. There was a flaw though, and it came from the energy source - which on my bike is the battery.

After working with a merchant to receive a motor, controller, and the rest of a kit (except the battery) we determined that if I were to order I should go for the limit. At that voltage though it would require multiple 12v batteries, and since I was using some sealed lead acid ones that I already owned I thought it would be simple. The following problems arose:

First, after the bike and kit were merged the likely battery mounting points wouldn't work because of the awkward shape of the frame on the bike. This was ignored until that point, but I believed a solution would come and I continued with testing.

Second, while testing I discovered the HUGE flaw in my judgement. I matched the voltage, but didn't match the amperage. This meant that I could twist the throttle a little but it would cut out and stop. The batteries were 7amp and the motor was rated for 20amp. I tried some 12amp batteries I had, and luckily they worked to nearly full throttle.

Third, After having to switch to 12amp batteries a saddle style container was able to hold the batteries, but this greatly increased the weight. At the time it just negatively hit performance, but then in the fall of 2009 Ontario regulations regarding eBikes were amended to include a weight limit. I was over the Ontario weight limit, but it didn't matter because the range was tiny with such huge batteries.

After all of that I scrapped the project, reset the configuration on the bike, and packed away the motor kit. Although other battery technologies that are lighter exist it is unlikely that my current budget could work to acquire one. I have looked at upcoming technologies, especially news about the Samsung/Bosch partnership, although their technologies will take years to come to market.

If anyone knows how to max out a 12v 7amp battery to appx. 36v 20amp using transformers then please let me know. I have looked into it, but my skills are lacking. That is a very dangerous upconversion for a lead acid battery, and I like my limbs.

Ad Blocking at the DNS Level (for Dumb Routers)

Original Ad Blocking Post for modern routers: http://www.kurtismccartney.com/adblockhost

After posting an article about Ad-Blocking at the router level I was contacted by a reader about the new Google DNS and if an individual could establish their own Ad-Blocking DNS. The idea should have merit since the host names are being filtered in my solution through what is essentially the outbound DNS query system. Rather than letting the router "ask" what IP address the domain is at it prejudges that you should probably loopback ( rather than connect.

A DNS Could easily be an ad-blocking system, however my experiences with the Yahoo! infested OpenDNS made me hesitant to trust another DNS project. I have since tried a couple of other DNS services and read up on the subject to see how it could positively and negatively effect a user. One consistency came up about scale, that big players could improve performance and typically added redirects in their own interests and that smaller players lacked the scale to perform widespread service discovery.

More about the little guys. As I have been informed if a DNS cannot find a domain (linking its IP address) it has two options dump the request or bump it up to a higher level. Some of the highest level DNS servers are not available to the public to reduce strain and spread the DNS system. This system should be widespread even if it hurts performance because it protects stability. If one nameserver or datacentre is destroyed or disabled the network amends its connection practices avoiding a dead zone. This is all hierarchical though from the perspective of a single name server, it has a number of DNS servers it can defer to and possibly some DNS send queries to it when they fail. The one below that DNS technically can be a superior for the first DNS' superior. This creates a loop, which gets us nowhere and is actually the foundation of the next important element.

Regional DNS - if the DNS is in s loop to other nameservers this helps because we can shorten and categorize domains regionally. If I started a DNS, I probably wouldn't need to hold addresses for Japanese or German domains and the same would go for peers in those countries. If I sent unknown queries to either of them and they did the same in propagation each regional NS would be lighter and faster. That is until we encounter large scale national or global interest websites. These include the likes of Google and Wikipedia. Now we encounter a new problem.

International Transmissions - believe it or not it takes time for data to be transmitted long distances. Global sites like Google can mirror their servers to multiple near-identical data-centres in multiple continents or countries and with regional DNS a user will be linked to their local information outpost. However we typically don't do that - there is one Google.com and people like me in Canada get redirected to Google.ca which is supposed to deliver better performance and in years past was typically a disappointment missing out on new features that the bloggers from the USA would speak about. The solution Wikipedia uses is more elegant, since they can break it down into macro languages, where fortunately Canada is treated at equal. The one downside is that they do not spell Centre or Colour properly, although that has been incredibly useful for picking out the students plagiarizing or using the wrong kind of spell check dictionary.

AD-BLOCKING - DNS servers add resilience to the Internet and they rely on each other for support. To have one Ad-Blocking introduces the potential for corruption which may not be a good choice. I might join your Neopets* and Facebook* Blocking DNS in order to see my girlfriend more often.

* Not that these sites are bad, I've known people who disappear for days because they were busy online.

Mars Underwater

Recently I've been hit with a creative streak. Much like when I thought up AridAria the tale about a scarab like creature solving the waste and energy problems of the world in one shot this new line of thought has some serious science fiction backbone.

Basically it is Mars Underwater - a city that has been built jointly by military and corporate players while the majority of the people of earth are not actively scanning Mars. In this story, unlike the other, I apparently have a role as a general. Later on I discover that being a "general" actually refers to general purpose personnel within the city.

The city is mostly underwater, and it appears as though a giant wind-field known as a windsphere shields the city from the water - and it is very loud. If it wasn't scary enough with the limited space within the windsphere add on top of that a potential disaster scenario.

Since thinking of Mars Underwater originally I decided to hit the internet to see if anyone else had similar thoughts. Apparently it is not too uncommon. One fellow even mentions the role of a city underwater as a way to shield us from radiation and temperature shifts during a planetary reclamation effort. Unfortunately I don't think that plan called for the windsphere.

That should be enough for now, although this was the second vision I had about being conscripted into an advanced military program. The first time I nearly escaped a training facility, which apparently qualified me for additional standing in the corps. Conscripted being the most important term in that statement.

AdBlocking with DDWRT and Fixing the Internet

In December 2009 I made the choice to move away from browser level adblocking into system and router level filtering. This article explains the technical details of my conversion as well as how I chose to deal with problems as they occurred.

Update: Since the command keeps on disappearing from different sites here is my backup.

logger WAN UP Script Executing
sleep 5
test -s /tmp/dlhosts
if [ $? == 1 ] ; then
echo -e "#!/bin/sh\nwget -O - http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.txt | grep | tr -d '\015\032' | sed -e '2,\$s/' -e 's/[[:space:]]*#.*$//' > /etc/hosts\nlogger DOWNLOADED http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.txt\nkillall -1 dnsmasq" > /tmp/dlhosts
chmod 777 /tmp/dlhosts
cru a Gethosts "45 23 * * 5 /tmp/dlhosts"

First I sought out a solution for adblocking My Chrome install, another Firefox/Ubuntu install, and my brother Ky Gratton's Internet Explorer/Windows XP and 7 installs without causing a small war. Originally the house was content with using Firefox/AdBlockPlus, while Ky received a full dose of ads by his own choice.

Unfortunately as I migrate to a new platform and my brother considers migrating entirely to Windows 7 the advertising issue has come up again. Of course, as I already implied the router based filter is preferable but not without some concern. This solution effects all users of my network, wired or wireless but users like my brother may not be easily convinced this is an acceptable idea because it IS censorship by a higher level operator. Even though this operator is me, and I only intend to censor advertisements the point is valid. I will have to convince users on my network how this is a good idea and how it can be monitored as a free and open act.

First I contended that blocking ads would reduce unnecessary bandwidth consumption without negatively effecting quality of service. Quality of service comes first, because otherwise I would have to block all non-text works to conserve bandwidth. Concerns about business models do not immediately effect users on my network, if your favourite site operates only on ad revenue and I have chosen to block ads on MY network is that wrong? Not entirely, after all I do not receive a cut of their ad revenue and I wouldn't want it - just likem public libraries I believe users should influence Internet content providers to make the information free and subsidize the distribution of the content on networks - a public Internet option that is not unlike public healthcare or libraries. I could probably write a very long essay about the importance of sharing useful information and how the useless plays a role in our lives as well. Recreation like gaming typically has a business model that collects money from consumers not advertisers. If demand permits going both ways then solutions like RuneScape have appeared. When I mentioned RuneScape, it clicked - Ads or payment, but we live in a world where organizations like PBS/NPR/CBC/BBC would keep the necessary free and ambitious users would offer competitive entertainment solutions.

So I went to work activating the DD-WRT script found here:
This script goes in (Adminsistration>Commands>PASTE IT>Save for Start-up) and then you are nearly done.
Just reboot your router and it will automatically activate the script on reboot. This uses a blocklist that is frequently updated, but it updates itself from the script.

New Problem 1 - With AdBlocking the tough part is finding a list that suits your browsing habits, as some configurations blocked key features on sites like digg.com*. (*Please note that Digg.com may be mixing their stylesheet with their ads to prevent AdBlocking, if you are serious about free media use another social media site. I will be using m.digg.com until they fix their main page stylesheet for use with http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.txt a popular list for preventing ads from eating away my download cap)


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