Return of the Job Search

Guess I'm going into another long-haul job search. Luckily it seems like for the last month every Monday I've had an interview. Tonight is no exception as I apply to one of the most respected agencies in the federal government. That's all I should say for now.

Outside of the main job search my volunteer activities have gotten even easier as club members and corporate users seem to be more comfortable with the systems I've implemented. I hope everyone took a leap from the "I suck" state of mind to the "I rock" group. Learning about a new CMS can be difficult, luckily you only have to learn the basics once.

I'll be learning more about amateur radio tonight on the local repeater.

Welland: Robin Williamson - Green Party 2011

The most exciting part of the Green platform in Niagara is increased support for public transit including rail service. As you may know I have a weak spot for bringing passenger rail service back to the city where rail and water meet.

Passenger rail service is one of the top issues for South Niagara. The ride between the closest rail station and Niagara College is similar to going from Toronto's Union Station to York University, and the only direct option is by cab.

I'd like to see if he breaks from the pro-legalization party line. The support for smoking and marijuana is one of the controversial elements of the Green party platform that I think is misguided. Drugs and drug related crime in Niagara are a problem, and legalization near the border will only hurt local businesses that are still recovering from cross-border business problems related to new security procedures.

The original Robin Williamson article has been replaced with this hands-off interpretation.

Email: Not available

Change of Season

As the first quarter of 2011 ends there are new challenges emerging. I will have to start planning my time very carefully again in order to meet all of the demands of the different groups that I help. New work, an election, the ITU in Zurich, the convention in May are among the major events coming up soon.

Cleaning up is part of the spring changes, and I've been tossing around some new ideas for upgrades to the zen alliance systems, reducing the power consumption even more by swapping over to a RISC based server. It's not set in stone yet and I will need to make sure all of the existing server software has a compatible equivalent on the new system. It looks very promising, and would bring the server size down four fold. Tiny, efficient, good.

In other news, I may also be helping with the Welland Dragon Boat Festival beyond the website if that becomes a priority. In fact the entire Welland Heritage group is about to undergo some serious changes and improvements for the summer of 2011. Getting new and important information online about those changes will be necessary. I'm looking forward to the events.

First Post from the Tablet

After working on some of the tablet 'hacks' it is good to be using it easily and effectively. Some grip tape solved most of the ergonomic issues, and using a littie paddig on the back made it even easier.

The camera can take photos and record video now that the microsd has been installed. The speed class for the microsd makes a huge difference, especially when apps are installed to the device.

The bookstore, called Laputa, has good integration with project gutenberg. PG has all of the classics availabe free of charge. Unfortunately the PG books do not have covers, and are packkaged with cryptic sequential filenames. Laputa allows users to select covers from your own pictures. Problem solved.

Since the last post some new software has been added. Tiger emulators, soundboards, Pulse newsreader, GPS software, and a couple of other productivity tools.

Android Tablet from Sinoey

--- Don't Buy from Sinoey, They Lie About Products ---

Just the other day the tablets came in from Sinoey, an online merchant on DHGate (DunHuang HeGuang, which is like eBay). There is plenty of good news about the delivery, the product, and of course working with the new tablets.

The package got to Canada very quickly. Everything came in safely in a box that was perfectly fitted to the tablets and their keyboard cases. I wasn't sure about Sinoey at first because they misrepresented their product in its title on DHGate. They say it does Flash 10.1 and then placed a disclaimer in the article that it doesn't, what they promise is that in early March they will send a new ROM for the tablets. I will add another article, with a link here, near the end of march that completes the 'Flash Saga'.

The tablets work with the free apps on the android market. I'd like to buy some commercial apps although they are not available. This means an application like XConnect is doomed to be stuck in trial mode. Apps are great. Angry Birds seems to be a big hit, although I'm pretty sure I remember playing the game in 1999 and it featured Dogbert slinging peasants (Called Elbonan Airlines, this was part of Dilberts Desktop Games).

It's not all games, the tablet has incredible integration with email and other services. Which is deserving of its own separate article, it's that good.

There are some problems. The most noticeable problem about the tablets is that they are not laptops and they are not cell phones. Too heavy to hold and no spine for it to hold itself up. The kickstand on the keyboard case helps when it is on a flat surface. There doesn't seem to be a good way to hold it on the couch without doing something wrong ergonomically. Maybe there is some sort of trick or posture to assume when using the tablet, but for now it is destined to deliver hand cramps. (I know that in the near future this evaluation may really date the article as everyone figures out the perfect way to use a tablet, this is currently an issue.)

Update: After waiting for the Flash 10.1 support they had promised they responded saying that they could not deliver. Although they responded 'the final falsh upgrade will be completely ready in April.' If they deliver I'll remove the update, but since you're reading this they couldn't deliver the tablets that do work.

New Humour

The online humour is largely becoming the mainstream. One event that seems to confirm this to me is the new online show "Sheen's Korner". The show itself is filled with would be memes, and even though it seems forced it reminds me of the last time a celebrity turned to the Internet to save their career. The Tom Green Show was (and may still be) online and gradually saw web culture flood in. The meme best used on Tom Green was the "I herd you liek mudkips" meme where channers would call his show and ask if he liked mudkips.

Why is this important? Because as Internet memes enter the mainstream they will be duplicated and owned by traditional commercial media. People create and communicate new ideas, and the companies they work for turn ideas into money. This includes ideas that were once considered offensive (kittens), and others that are derived from how we interact with new technology.

It goes far beyond sex jokes and toilet humour, new rules govern communication when people are online. One of those rules is "Rule 34" which has never failed to amuse or disgust depending on the source material. It may seem unstoppable, but the only way to prevent seeing something bad is to prevent yourself from seeing. No amount of 'eye-bleach' can undo what a person just witnessed online. It is the modern freak show, situated in your living room.

There may be new forms of humour entering the mainstream, and while people test the limits others will be watching to see what works best. As a final thought I should remind all of the jokers online that The Internet is Serious Business. srsly.

Henniges Welland Plant Closing

Henniges Welland Plant Closing

This is an important update. The Henniges Automotive Plant in Welland is closing. I'm almost speechless because this is another plant closure so close to a federal election. Last time around my dad lost his job at John Deere, this time the countdown is on for my mother. This will make both of them out of work, with outstanding disabilites, and few skills to reenter the modern workforce.

The last two times the Welland plant was in trouble a new investor or owner appeared. Once General Tire, then GenCorp, then GDX Automotive, and most recently Henniges. Cerberus Capital Management bought out GDX in the same way they did Chrysler in the last decade.

In the 80s the success of the Welland plant led to workers lending their strength to the union, especially during the 1983 strike. Today the workers are old, the result of layoffs in a seniority system. The workers are quiet except for a few who are told to shut up (at least during the union meetings) if they want to work the last couple months. The plant has been defeated. The factory will close.

When GenCorp was considering closure (rumours) some of the workers considered taking their protest across the border to their Michigan HQ. There were some plans that would only end in being deported from the United States. That spirit could return, but the Henniges HQ appears to be in Europe... nobody has money to go to Europe.

The blame isn't pointed only at Henniges. The Auto Industry has failed a new generation. Very few of the employees (adult) children have bought a new car. Some have never owned a car at all. Even I thought about getting a vehicle. Here are the figures: Used van $6000, Insurance $4000/Year (Van, -25, Clean Record), and Gas was $1.30/Litre in September 2005. Those numbers never left my mind.

Hopefully the plant can be saved, along with its existing employees by some other rubber products manufacturer. Solar panels for water, Rubber shells for Electronics, Building Materials, or something I never imagined. They used to make magnets and hockey pucks. Maybe its time to diversify before killing a community.

On a personal note: My immediate family relies on income from there. This is bad and this time my mother will be out of work at Henniges, or as she calls it "Heninges".

I make less than a quarter of what my parents made just five years ago. I cannot cover their debts and bankruptcy means they would lose nearly everything they worked for and enjoyed. Losing a $58,000 house, when I hear about people buying $750,000 townhouses in Toronto's Battery Park.

I wish there was some type of insurance against this. EI isn't working for many of the older John Deere employees. CPP doesn't help unless you are 65+ years old. Family, as I mentioned, isn't faring much better. Protect people from companies marching around with the "It's not personal, it's just business" mantra. To a business it's just business, and to a person it is personal. Things just got 'personal'.

Update (June 2011): Henniges has been hiring some younger temporary workers, in many cases these hires are related to other Henniges employees. Seems like a good way to boost production and give the families a chance to transition with moderate financial security.

Is Kurtis a Hacker?

I've been asked this question and each time I'm not sure what the right answer is. I know more about computers and digital security than the average user (that I know), and I have a strong DIY mentality when it comes to information. On the flip side I need to work on my soldering skills, and I've never used my skills for evil (that I know). So I'm going to be diplomatic about the answer.

If your idea of a hacker is the greasy guy that changes peoples grades and performs illegal fund transfers from international banks - then I am not a hacker. In fact to demonstrate I've added an older picture of myself at the Computer Science Club office to this post. I'm not greasy and I could care less about banking. (Reminder to impressionable readers, banking is good and safe in Canada. Even when it is not safe it is insured. Use banks, don't abuse them.)

If your idea of a hacker is someone that looks at the building blocks of technology and is able to deconstruct and usually reconstruct that technology then count me in. Someone that can scan and access encrypted wireless networks, that I can do, just not for you. Someone that is involved with the HAM radio community and sends signals using PSK31, sounds close. The guy with no computer problems, I am not - every day I discover new problems and I solve them. I am a hacker, I don't wear hats, your computer is slow, and you should be using better software.

Hope that answers the question.

Three Years of

It has been three years (approx.) since I started as it is today. In this time there have been many changes and plenty of distractions. In celebration of the advances made since 2008 I've included a perspective on the past. When the website started it was used in the campaign to become president of the Brock University Students' Union, I was the Director of Communications for the Computer Science Club at Brock University, and there were little to no pictures to be found (due to the fact that it was a server I built and bandwidth overages in 2007 meant that your internet access would be shut down.

These days things are better, faster, and easier. Drupal has been there for all of the websites that I work with on a regular basis. Graduated from University, ran in a municipal election, got more involved in the open-source community, then came the bills. This website has been more useful to people looking to save money on bills than it has been for people looking for personal updates. The Google Analytics report highlights what people are looking for, and I attempt to deliver.

Hopefully things go as smoothly online over the next three years as the last three.

Train Yourself to Fail (Successfully)

Failure can be devastating, and I'm not going to pull out that 'everything is going to be alright' mantra. What I'm talking about is when you choose failure rather than it choosing you. Some simple examples include playing board games - once you know you cannot win and you have the opportunity to influence the outcome of the game use that to your advantage.

When playing monopoly it is one of my favourite sub-games - the 'takeover'. Start a bidding war for your most prized properties and watch the competition level rise. Of course you will not be able to play anymore once you've been bought out, but you will have your hopes in another player.

The same selfless motivations drive parents and individuals interested in making their communities better. Make it safer, more affordable, easier to stay, easier to leave. I describe this to most people as 'real freedom', when you have nothing to worry about except which pair of socks to wear or what to put on your food. You have the freedom to leave a job amicably and find another one within a week (which we don't right now - people are taking financial burden too seriously). If it's not a perfect world find the one major problem and dedicate yourself to that. With enough people on the same fail train the momentum could carry a community to 'success town'.

Have a contingency plan. Do some risk management. Measure yourself and compare to your goal. There are a lot of ways to prepare for failure, but only one way to be sure. Stop.


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