The Cyborg’s Windmill

Steve Mann's Wind Turbine
We spent the day helping wearable computing guru Steve Mann put a wind turbine on top of his Existential Technologies Research Lab (a.k.a. 330 Dundas St. West), smack-dab downtown in Toronto.

We installed a True North Power Lakota turbine. We had David Cooke and Doug of TNP guiding us, and the installation went without a hitch.

The picture above links to more pictures of the day’s activities. There are also Steve Mann’s Urbine pictures (and, if you really want bigger versions of my pictures, they are on scruss at eyetap).

bunny

tiny_bunny.jpg
We found a baby bunny by the side of the road. He seems a bit stunned, but otherwise okay.

Zoë has veterinarian training, so she’s looking after him.

He fits in the palm of your hand, and is unbearably cute.

Here’s a better picture (thumbnail links to larger image):

Dave’s picture of the bunny

Both pictures by Dave.

Temporary hearing impairment for pleasure

(or, life without midrange)

The Apples in Stereo rocked The Horseshoe last night; Robert, Hilarie, John and Eric always give a great show, and they gave everything they had last night. It was especially cool, as Hilarie had just played a set as guitarist for her other band, High Water Marks.

Is it me, but on HWM’s song “Good I Feel Bad” do they really sing “She always keeps me open source”?

CD Thinning annoyances

Don’t you hate it when you have two copies of a CD, prune your CD collection, then discover that you’ve got rid of both copies?

I’ve found I’ve done that with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan — even if it has the most cringe-making liner notes ever published.

Fortran has no STDERR

I suspect it’s comp.lang.fortran‘s second most frequently-asked question, but the language has no concept of stderr, the POSIX error output stream. Or at least, there’s no standard IO unit attached to stderr, if it’s defined at all.

Since writing to stderr is my usual debug message method, this is going to be a slog …

Was there something in the water?

mandlsmb.jpg
Just found one of my old Fortran-77 fractal programs, output of which is shown above. Reminds me of the days I used to consume (and ocasionally write for) Fractal Report avidly.

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, 2004


Hardly the perfect weather for it, but I did my best for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. Photo above links to my gallery of today’s efforts.

I think I’ll be using Ilford Delta 3200 again. I love the soft grain you get in Microphen.

so it might not look much to you …

mapedit10x10.png
Being able to see this represents quite a bit of work on my part. It’s the output from WAsP‘s map editor, reprsenting some terrain roughness data exported from Surfer.

The original data set looks a bit like this:

gridvalues.png

It’s a grid of values. Unfortunately, WAsP wants the boundaries, and it took me a while to work out a (rather inefficient) algorithm to find them.

Now I have to go off and recode this in Fortran 90. I’m glad that the Intel Fortran Compiler for Linux is available free.

HSBC must really hate Linux

HSBC Canada Bank discriminates against Linux users. On April 18th, they “upgraded” their online banking facilities. Before this, they were slightly clunky, but worked just fine on almost any browser and computer I’d care to try.

Since Sunday, though, this is what I get when I try to access my bank details using Mozilla 1.6 on any of my Linux boxes:

To access internet banking, please use:
* Internet Explorer version 5.0 or above; or
o Netscape Communicator version 4.72 or above (version 6.x currently not supported)

So I mail them about this, and get this reply:

We apologize for the inconvenience; however effective April 18, 2004, when we launched our Personal Internet Banking update, the browsers that our Internet Banking will support are as follows: Internet Explorer 5.5 and up, Netscape 6.2.1 or 7.1.

I dutifully install Netscape 7.1 on my notebook, and what do I get?

To access internet banking, please use:
* Internet Explorer version 5.0 or above; or
o Netscape Communicator version 4.72 or above (version 6.x currently not supported)

And this is with the real bloated-as-life Netscape 7.1
[Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.4) Gecko/20030624 Netscape/7.1 ] browser.

Things got really weird when I tried Mozilla 1.6
[Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.6) Gecko/20040113] under Windows 2000 — and it worked just fine.

My usual browser identifies itself as [Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.6) Gecko/20040406]. Looking at HSBC’s browser-sniffing code (eww!) I find that it’s looking for Windows or Mac more than it cares about the actual browser.

I’d best go tell Evan, who maintains the very useful Banks ‘n’ Browsers page, that HSBC must really hate Linux. They really don’t need to give me yet another reason to switch banks.

An apt captcha

apt_captcha.jpg
How apt that, in order to join have_moicy (the Holy Modal Rounders discussion list), I got the above captcha.

Oh, and did I say that we really enjoyed hearing Chris Smither play at Hugh’s Room last Friday?

wireless dilemma

Okay, so I’ve got two wireless cardbus cards — an SMC 2435W and a D-Link DWL-650+. Both use the same chipset. Which to keep?

Yes, this evening saw Stewart wandering about his street in Scarborough seeing where each card gave out. I got some strange looks.

I think the D-Link card has the edge in range, being able to connect from across the street. It was a bit more expensive, and it has a bulkier aerial. The SMC is more svelte, and was less than half the price. I’d probably recommend both cards, if you can handle the hassle of building the acx100 driver.

I should really test their battery drain. I have a felling that the D-Link’s a bit of a hog, as my battery is dropping quite fast.

okay, so maybe it wasn’t so bad

So ufile.ca did actually work for us, but only under Mozilla on Catherine’s eMac. The process was actually quite painless, and their user interface is nice — if if works with your browser.

It’s strange that they claim that their system works with Linux, yet got into such a terrible mess with me.

Anyway, that’s our taxes filed. I’ll try not to spend all of my refund in the one shop.

happy computer = happy stewart

After only weeks of messing about with this ThinkPad, I’ve finally got the D-Link DWL-650+ wireless card working. So I’m enjoying the luxury of composing this entry unplugged, emerging some Gentoo packages, and listening to MC Honky. The joys of new computing facility are always short lived; it’s like the first and only time you go “Wow!” at how fast your new computer is. After that, it’s just how fast a computer should be.

(Talking of “wow”, the speakers on this T21 are just the perfect sound and separation to listen to lofi. The playlist has just skipped to Neutral Milk Hotel, and Jeff Mangum has just hollered I Love You, Jesus Christ like to raise my nape hairs.)

Anyway, I got the DWL-650+ working by following the instructions all the way through. Radical, no?

I also had to do some rescue work on the T21, as I’d accidentally found a way to bork /sbin/init (to none Unix types: about the same as deleting some choice DLLs in the System directory) by giving Gentoo a USE flag suggested by emerge -p -v baselayout. How was I supposed to know that the relatively innocuous build option is a special low level guaranteed-not-to-actually-build-this-don’t-even-think-of-using-this option.

With Holland, 1945 wailing out of the tiny tinny speakers, I can retire to bed happy.

u-don’t-file.ca

udontfile2003.png
ufile.ca is seriously broken under Mozilla 1.6. I’ve wasted the last hour or so trying to stop their weird menus from overlapping. Online tax filing’s supposed to be quick, isn’t it? I wonder if I can charge the time I’ve wasted (at my usual contractor rate) to them?

them vertical-axis thingies

Popular Science readers: Please note that I have nothing to do with these companies, and so I can’t send you information about them. Please visit their websites instead.

Windside: http://www.windside.com (Finland) and Windaus Energy: http://windausenergy.com (Canada; site doesn’t render properly in Mozilla): both with near-identical twisted-savonius designs. Oh yeah, and a nice line in carping at the rest of the wind energy industry: There are no flying ice blocks, leaking oil or cutting blades. (Windaus); Most turbines don`t simply work. There is one turbine, which works. (Windside).

It should be pointed out that Savonius designs, being drag devices, are much less efficient than standard three-bladed horizontal-axis machines, which use lift. If you need a design without guywires, take a look at the Proven Energy machine. It’s very solid, and Scottish, too.

One has to wonder about lone voices in the wilderness. Once they start to drown each other out, it gets hard to tell which are the real deal, and which are not.
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