Cathkin gets a wind farm

A Glasgow housing scheme could become the site of the UK’s first community-owned urban wind farm, reports the BBC.

This is rather cool. Cathkin Braes is a windy place. Castlemilk needs money. Everyone’s happy.

Except, of course, for the dismal anti-windfarm people, Views of Scotland, who the BBC have to quote in order to appear fair and balanced. How can people who claim to be so concerned be so uninformed? F’rinstance, this from SWiM’s Bob Graham, in an anti-wind petition to the Scottish Parliament: Turbines from the current generation have a mean output of 2MW. However, because of their inefficiency and the random nature of the wind, no turbine has produced more than 27 per cent of its production capacity. That equates to just 0.25MW.

Notwithstanding that 27% of 2MW is 560kW, we can manage better capacity factors than that here in Toronto. Maybe I’ll phone Bob Graham every time we’re over his so-called production limit …

Seemingly innocuous comment spam

In the last 12 hours or so, I’ve been getting a new kind of comment spam on this blog. The text is fairly harmless: “very interesting article”, or “if you are using Linux or unix you can take a look at sourceforge.net”, but the link goes off to one of those pharmacy sites, or to russian car registration people.

Yes, I can run MT-Blacklist manually on them, and they are a bit lower key than the older style ones, but they’re still very annoying.

the tyranny of configure

I’m building Gentoo Linux on my laptop. Every little package that wants to build goes off and calls a configure script, as built by gnu autoconf. Every one checks the presence of features by compiling a little test program.

This gets slow. Quite why a system can’t cache autoconf results, and tell configure that it has this, that and the other. My computers seem to spend half their time somewhere in a configure script (serves me right for using Gentoo), but there has to be a better way than the status quo.

even cooler, simpler stuff

t21.jpg
Yes, it’s just a generic-looking KDE desktop (you’ll probably have to sleect the thumbnail to see the full-size image). But this was from an IBM T21 laptop I bought from Laptop Closeout.com today. I plugged the network cable into my router, stuck the USB key in the back, and booted from an old (3.2) Knoppix CD. You can see it found both the network connection, and the USB key. Oh, and it can play MP3s too.

No configuration was done. I just booted, and this is what I got.

SanDisk Cruzer + Gentoo

Sandisk Cruzer 256MB USB key

I love it when stuff just works. Plug it in, check dmesg to see what it says:

hub.c: new USB device 00:02.2-1.1, assigned address 7
scsi3 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
  Vendor: Generic   Model: STORAGE DEVICE    Rev: 1.02
  Type:   Direct-Access                      ANSI SCSI revision: 02
Attached scsi removable disk sdb at scsi3, channel 0, id 0, lun 0
SCSI device sdb: 512000 512-byte hdwr sectors (262 MB)
sdb: Write Protect is off
 /dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0: p1
WARNING: USB Mass Storage data integrity not assured
USB Mass Storage device found at 7

So we know from the /dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0: p1
line that the filesystem is at
/dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0/part1. Create your
mountpoint as root: mkdir -m777 /mnt/cruzer, then edit
/etc/fstab, and add:

/dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0/part1 /mnt/cruzer vfat noauto,user 0 0

Any user can mount the device with mount /mnt/cruzer,
and next time Nautilus starts up, the device can be mounted from the
desktop. Easy!

The hardest part was opening the packaging, but you know what I
have to say about SanDisk packaging
 …

the nearly-new immigrants

Two years ago today, Catherine and I were huddled somewhat apprehensively in the immigration lobby of Toronto’s Pearson airport. After a couple of hours of waiting, paperwork and customs clearance (and several “Welcome to Canada!”s), we stepped out into the evening sleet, and headed straight for a Holiday Inn to crash.

We’ve done okay. There have been difficult times, but on the whole, we’re glad we came.

Sustainable Energy Fair

I survived the University of Toronto First Sustainable Energy Fair. The weather was pretty grim, despite the cold and the rain. Maybe some of the solar cooking events didn’t happen, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of all involved.

There was a good crowd, and I talked myself hoarse on the WindShare stand. There were some interesting people there, including the irrepressible Tom Karmo, and UofT‘s own cyborg, Steve Mann. And yes, I am really responsible for getting Winton Dahlström into wind energy; mea maxima culpa.

I have pictures of the sustainable energy fair here.

an ending and a hangover

It’s my last day in this job. My head feels several sizes too small after last night’s leaving do.

My desk is almost clear. Much fresh-roasted coffee has been drunk. I have unsubscribed from mailing lists. My cron jobs have been stopped. Mail aliases will soon be changed. And so it goes.

Another Man’s Poison

There are a few bookshops that I cannot help but buy something when I go in. Another Man’s Poison, at 29 McCaul St (tel: 416 593 6451) is one. I didn’t need to buy another typography book, but they’re such nice people, they have very neat junk all over the place, and have books that no-one else would carry, I just kind of had to.

lyrical donuts, apologies to Basho

In Old Scarborough,
We have a new donut shop.
A new Scarborough!

Yes, the Coffee Time donut shop just north of us on Eglinton East opened today. I usually rage and fulminate over the opening of yet another fast food store, but this one has a bit of history.

A couple of years back, the building was there, but clearly had never been used. There were new, but dusty work surfaces, and unused chairs stacked up inside. There was a city work permit stuck to the window which would indicate that it had been built in 2000. Here is how it looked last summer:

abandoned coffee time
(please ignore weird pinhole dreamscape)

Late last year, the place started to get vandalized, with a few broken windows. These were quickly repaired, and then work started on the drive-thru. For the last couple of weeks, it has looked finished, and last night the lights were on, and people were inside.

I went in this morning, and was one of their first customers. No-one quite knew where everything was, and the till wasn’t charging tax correctly, but I wish them success. I bought a dozen donuts for the office, and they were good.

Update, 2017: The store lasted a little under a year, then was boarded up. While it occasionally had some nice murals on it, it was never used again. It was finally demolished in early 2017 as part of the Eglinton Crosstown construction.

Tablet Fame

It seems that the Sunday Herald — one of Scotland’s better broadsheet newspapers — has picked up on my Scots tablet recipe. In an article called 100 Things To Do In Scotland Before You Die, they cite http://purl.oclc.org/NET/scruss/scots_tablet

Part of the 100 Things To Do In Scotland … article is online, but omits Aunt Celie’s recipe. Oh well.

Thanks to David Marsh and former Collins colleague Jennifer Baird, who both spotted this.

signs of spring in scarborough

Fresh diggings around the groundhog hole at Warden Station. I haven’t seen the woodchuck yet, but it’s warm enough for it to be out.

Goodbye, Cecilia

cecilia zhang poster
I really wish this weren’t true: Police confirmed Sunday that the human remains found in a wooded ravine west of Toronto are those of nine-year-old Cecilia Zhang, who went missing last October.

Anyone who has been in Toronto since last October can’t have missed the news about Cecilia’s abduction. And until today, I think everyone had a wee bit of hope left.

the CMYK inkjet scam

I have an Epson C80 inkjet printer. I bought it because it takes separate cyan, magenta, yellow and black cartridges. That way — I thought — if one of the colours went out, I would only have to change the colour in question.

I installed my fourth set of colour cartridges today. Every time I have replaced them, all the colours have run out at once. Don’t you find that strange? Am I the perfectly average printer user who uses exactly the colour balance that Epson came up with in the lab to ensure identical cartridge life? I don’t think so.

Rather, it wouldn’t surprise me that the printer was set to ask for all the colour cartridges to be replaced when one of them was empty. A couple of them did seem quite heavy, as if there was still some ink in them. Hmm.

But since the cartridges died printing out my Canadian Business Number registration, I can expense future consumables against my tax …

Sustainable Energy Fair at University of Toronto on April 1st!

I will be there, on a rather small WindShare stand. Here’s the full blurb:

Where you can you eat a free veggie burger, meet the student,
academic and industrial leaders of the sustainable energy
revolution, and win cool prizes for guessing your environmental
footprint?

Only at U of T’s First Annual Sustainable Energy Fair, which is
happening on April 1st, from 10am to 4pm, just south of front
campus at the intersection of King’s College Circle and King’s
College Road!

Companies representing every major sustainable energy related
industry – wind, solar, geothermal, biofuel, and hydrogen – as well
as representatives of community power co-ops, will have booths at
the fair. U of T research projects related to sustainable energy
will be on display, and student groups concerned with these issues
such as Engineers without Borders, the Energy Sustainability
Community, Science for Peace, the Blue Sky Solar Racing Team, and
the Hydrogen Fueling Station Design Team will host exhibits.

In addition to this, there will be free food cooked on a solar
powered barbeque, informative contests, construction activities
(building mini-turbines and assembling a hydrogen fuel cell model
car), and prizes (CFL bulbs, low, flow showerheads, fair trade
coffee and chocolate).

Come on out, join the fun and learn more about the future of
energy!

For more information, please visit us at:
http://www.ele.utoronto.ca/gradunion/sefair/

Yes, I used to have an M5-designed recumbent bicycle

Speedliner BlueGlide
Perusing the logs, I find that IP address 195.188.41.154 was searching for info on M5 recumbent bikes. Yes, I had a Speedliner BlueGlide, which was a budget version of the M5 26/20.

A fun, fast bike, which I probably sold for too little. Oh well. I do kind of miss it.

Scotland wasn’t ready for it, though; on different occasions, I was spat on, and another time had “Your bike’s pure gay, mister!” yelled after me. And no, that last one wasn’t a compliment.

It was always interesting gauging the response of groups of teens to it. There would always be a brief pause, then one of the teens would utter either a strongly positive or negative statement. Within seconds, the entire group would be repeating it. Who says that people don’t display pack behaviour?