o canada Wind Things

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: (Finland) and Windaus Energy: (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.

computers suck General

Getting my fortran head together

It’s very strange to be getting back into a language as different to Perl as it is possible to be. I’m fairly conversant with the weird bits of Perl — map, grep, hash usage, objects — but Fortran has a completely different toolkit

That’s not to say it’s a bad toolkit, just very different, F’rinstance, trying to find all the distinct values in an array. In Perl, you just walk through a hash, parallel to the array, incrementing each key for every value found. In Fortran — well, it’s a different story.

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something

What I sound like

My voice is now on the GMU Accent Archive. Yeah, I really sound like this, minus the earth loop hum, of course.

Oh, and my first day at my new job was great.

choons o canada

Slower, and of Montreal

Bit of a compendium today:

Chris Coole, while trying to teach me to play “Shady Grove” on the banjo, told me about The Amazing Slow Downer. This allows you to slow down CDs or music files without changing pitch, so you can work out how it’s played.

This is Windows and Mac only, but I found SndStretch for XMMS. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t sound as good (sounds slightly like it’s played through a hoover hose) as TASD, but it’s free.

While I was at Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (I contract for them), I found a Montreal-style bagel bakery. It’s on Bayview a couple of blocks south of Eglinton. They are great bagels; wood-fired, with a sweet crust. Maybe not quite as good as the tiny, rock-hard Polish bagels I got in Glasgow, but miles ahead of anything else in Toronto.

Speaking of Montreal, of Montreal‘s new album Satanic Panic in the Attic is great. Think “Wilson & Barrett make psych-disco”, and you’re about there.

Oh, and I start a new job tomorrow. Wish me luck …

General sheesh!

small fame in the globe and mail

So I got printed in this week’s Globe & Mail Challenge, where one had to devise a brief joke that begins in the traditional way with someone or something going into a bar. Here’s my entry:

A gerund goes into a bar, and the bartender says, “What are you, drinking?”

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something

radio silence

Breaking radio silence to say that I’ve finally got a semblance of Gentoo running on the ThinkPad. I’ve had more fun.

Gnome installation is currently broken under Gentoo. That stalled it for a couple of days, at least.

o canada Wind Things

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 …

computers suck sheesh!

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”, 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.

computers suck

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.

computers suck

even cooler, simpler stuff

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 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.

o canada

first groundhog

We saw the first groundhog of the year at Warden Station this morning.

computers suck

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

computers suck General

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.

goatee-stroking musing, or something o canada

Improving America’s Electrical Efficiency at a stroke

Electrical switch manufacturer Leviton should change their name to Turnitoff.

computers suck Wind Things

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.


worst earworm ever

No, not Badger Badger Badger, but The Flying Pickets’ acappella cover of Yazoo’s “Only You”. Argh.

goatee-stroking musing, or something

oddly disturbing

go to, then “Movies”, then “Pee Pee”.

goatee-stroking musing, or something Wind Things

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.

goatee-stroking musing, or something

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.