western electric marbling

accidental marbling found in injection-moulded recycled plastic microphone cup in a 1984 Western Electric 2702 (Princess) telephone handset

Too many QR Codes

I have, of late, been rather more attached to QR Codes than might be healthy. I’ve been trying all sorts of sizes and input data, printing them, and seeing what camera phones can scan them. I tried three different devices to scan the codes:

  • iPhone 4s – 8 MP, running either i-nigma (free) or Denso Wave’s own QRdeCODE ($2). QRdeCODE is better, but then, it should be, since it was created by the developer of the QR Code standard.
  • Nexus 7 – 1.2 MP, running Google Goggles.
  • Nokia X2-01Catherine‘s new(ish) phone, which I can’t believe only has a 0.3 MP VGA camera on it. Still, it worked for a small range of codes.

QR Code readability is defined by the module size; that is, the number of device pixels (screen or print) that represent a single QR Code pixel. Denso Wave recommends that each module is made up of 4 or more dots. I was amazed that the iPhone could read images with a module size of 1 from the screen, like this one:


On this laptop, one pixel is about 0.24 mm. The other cameras didn’t fare so well on reading from the screen:

  • iPhone 4s – Min module size: 1-2 pixels (0.24-0.48 mm/module)
  • Nexus 7 – Min module size: 2-3 pixels (0.48-0.72 mm/module)
  • Nokia X2-01 – Min module size: 3-4 pixels (0.72-0.96 mm/module)

So I guess for screen scanning, Denso Wave’s recommendation of 4 pixels/module will pretty much work everywhere.

I then generated and printed a bunch of codes on a laser printer, and scanned them. The results were surprisingly similar:

  • iPhone 4s – Min module size: 3-4 dots (0.25-0.34 mm/module)
  • Nexus 7 – Min module size: 4-5 dots (0.34-0.42 mm/module)
  • Nokia X2-01 – Min module size: 8-9 dots (0.68-0.76 mm/module)

A test print on an inkjet resulted in far less impressive results. I reckon you need to make the module size around 25% bigger on an inkjet than a laser, perhaps because the inkjet is less crisp.

I have to admit I went a bit nuts with QR Codes. I made a Vcard: my vcard

(and while I was at it, I created a new field for ham radio operators: X-CALLSIGN. Why not?). I even encoded some locations in QR Codes.

Just to show you what qrencode can do, here’s a favourite piece of little prose:



Paul Hart just released Your cellphone’s virtual receptionist – Ringthink. It’s rather clever. Voice recognition is a bit messed up with my thick n’ heavy accent, but it’s not bad.

(and if anyone says that Google Voice does this, well, it does – but not in Canada.)

adding long distance codes to Apple’s Address Book

This is very North America-centric, but then, so is long distance dialling madness. If your phone isn’t correctly syncing the phone numbers because you haven’t put in country codes, try Apple – Support – Discussions – Adding 1 to all phone numbers in ….

I changed the “1” in the code to “+1” so all my numbers are international by default.

the undying love of a spammer

New job, so new phone. Within minutes of turning it on, I get text message spam. I get two every day, at just after 6am and 6pm. They’re all from the one number — 647 238 9575 — and they’re all from someone who (purportedly) loves me very much, and wants me back in their life. Knowing me, it’s understandable, but I know spam scam when I see it.

good, not quite great

I accidentally dropped and broke my car mp3 player, so had to come up with another music solution. I caved and bought an iTrip for my iPod Nano. It sounds pretty good.

What’s good about it is that it allows you to charge your iPod from a standard USB Mini-B. What’s not so good is that it doesn’t have full USB pass-through, so you can’t sync your iPod, and have to stick with that stupid dock cable.

(and don’t get me started on the really annoying connector on my work cell phone …)

hiding from The Weed Man

their 1-800 number calls about 5 times a night with no message. I call ’em right back (hey, it’s their dime) and just let the phone sit for 5-10 minutes. In between the Your call is important to uss, there’s the occasional “Hello? … Hello?”. I’m yet to formulate an evil plan (scream? giggle maniacally? play banjo? all three?), but I see a Weed Man truck prowling the neighbourhood. I think they’re on to me …

I’m learning a lot about Jessica

Someone on the GO train is talking very loudly at their phone. It sounds like there’s a disciplinary hearing perhaps involving the caller, and/or a Jessica and an Elaine. There are a Steve and a Val involved somehow, and the loud talker is discouraged. There are appeals and continuances, and Acts (non-biblical) are being cited. It’s all very interesting, in the way that spectacularly dull things are. I can’t wait to get off the train to MAKE IT ALL STOP – gahh!

hpshopping.ca really hates French people

hpshopping.ca really doesn’t like Francophones. If you go to the section for the HP Compaq dx2200 series, you’ll see the following:
$589 for an english machine, $9999 for a french machineYup, the French version’s nearly 17x the price of the English one.

Danish Modern in Ringkøbing

I’m currently checked into a hotel which reeks of 70s Danish modern — blonde wood, bare brick, smoked glass surfaces — and, like many places in Denmark, cigarette smoke. Being in the presence of an authentic Beocom phone makes up for it though:

Beocom Phone

Also, there’s a cute little wind farm outside; a few Vestas V27s (or smaller) on lattice towers at 56° 7′ 22.11″ N, 8° 13′ 48.94″ E:
Little wind farm near Ringkøbing, Denmark

don’t mess with my childhood

Why is the Canadian release of The Magic Roundabout called Doogal? Surely everyone knows he’s Dougal (unless you know him as the francophone Pollux)? Sheesh.

It’ll suck. Since there’s no Eric Thompson, and no mention of sugar cubes for recreational purposes, it’ll be v.poor.

my letter to etymotic

To: Etymotic Research Inc. Customer Support

I recently placed an order with you for accessories for my Isolator ER-6i headphones. I was very disappointed when UPS added an additional brokerage charge of approximately US$27 (plus taxes and duties) to the order. Since the value of the the order was only $43, your courier’s brokerage charge was almost two-thirds the value of the goods ordered.

Please consider using another courier for Canadian orders. USPS/Canada Post’s brokerage charges are much smaller, of the order of $5.

I would also like to note that none of your agents in Toronto seems able to stock these spares. I visited all three of the dealers mentioned on your website:

  • Long & McQuade had no stock, and didn’t seem particularly keen on ordering any for me.
  • Carbon Computers, though very helpful, only had eartips for the ER-6, and didn’t know that they wouldn’t work with the ER-6i.
  • CPUsed sold me an incomplete bag of ER6-14 eartips; only 6 tips for the full price of 10. When they weren’t assuring me that they’d work with the ER-6i, they were trying to sell me a set of Shure E2C headphones, which they said were better.

Up until now, I have been widely recommending your products. Until I know that you’re serious about supporting your Canadian customers, however, I cannot recommend your products to anyone in this country.

why does etymotic hate its canadian customers?

Etymotic — makers of otherwise fine headphones — must really hate its Canadian customers. Not merely do the local suppliers not stock replacement eartips, but getting them shipped from the US incurs UPS‘s unbelievable brokerage charge, which approaches the value of the parts you’re ordering.

A more coherent posting will come later when the old strongly-worded letter of complaint goes out.

first day new job

I had a good day. There was a lot of administrivia, setting up e-mail accounts, form filling, and learning about the network, but that’s all once off. The afternoon was mostly spent fighting with my new BlackBerry (a 7130e, you nerds), which works as a very nice phone, but the e-mail isn’t set up.

My cube has a view, and the transit is great. I’m happy.

ex dexit, or trying to be

Coo, was I really all fired up about Dexit, like I appear to have been in January 2004? ‘Cos, basically, Dexit sucks.

The coffee place I get my morning fix got rid of its unreliable Dexit machine when it changed hands. So I’ve got nearly $70 sitting on the useless Dexit tag, doing nothing.

Today I called for a refund, and discovered that Dexit won’t refund your balance. I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I’d known there’d be this in the ultra-sneaky Dexit user agreement (PDF):

Only in the event of your death (and upon receipt of such documents as Dexit reasonably requires in such circumstances as to whom is entitled to your estate funds), or Dexit closing your Dexit Account without cause, will the remaining funds in your Dexit Account be repaid to you. “Cause” will include any violation of this Agreement, any fraud or attempted fraud, any other operation of the Dexit Account or use of a Dexit Tag in an unsatisfactory manner, or non-use of your Dexit Account for over three (3) years.

So, do I hafta kill myself to get my money back?

Oh, and Dexit’s phone support staff are untruthful. I needed to speak to a supervisor. They promised one would call before 8pm this evening. It’s 9:55 now, and I’ve heard nothing.

most. annoying. spamfilter. EVAH!

Remote-MTA: dns; mail.haldimandcounty.on.ca (
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 Spam filtering has blocked this message. The recipient will receive a summary of all blocked messages tomorrow morning and will be able to “whitelist” non-spam e-mails. If your message is of an urgent nature and cannot wait till tomorrow, please contact the recipient by phone. Thank you.

hung up, hanging on the line

On hold with Bell Mobility technical support regarding cell modem connectivity problems. Just as the tech person gets through, we get hung up on. I’m not going on hold again.

phones in receivership

Plaintive GO Train phone

GO Transit —FYI
Pay phones on trains are out of service
We have just been notified that the company which provides the pay phones on board our trains has gone into receivership.
These phones are now out of service until further notice.
We regret the inconvenience.
June 24, 2005

So I guess nobody called after all.