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Welcome to Walter Moore Canada's Blog. These comments are strictly opinion. You can disagree!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

USA Dollar Needs to Go Down

I bet there are a lot of you that think there is no way the USA dollar should go down any further. Matter of fact you probably think it is too low. WELL IT DOES NEED TO GO DOWN!

The USA dollar has been inflated for years which wasn't a problem during the tech' hay days. Then everyone was reducing costs dramatically but the field is relatively level again. Everyone has cut cost through technology, there isn't much left to benefit from.

So now it often gets down  to cost of labor. If the USA dollar is high the labor cost is high and companies move elsewhere. If it is low costs are lower and companies hire in the USA. Pretty simple. It also applies to all the products USA exports & imports... A lower USA dollar makes imports(stuff USA buys from others) more expensive and exports(stuff USA sells to others) cheaper. This inherently creates jobs and fuels the economy.

If the USA dollar stays up USA business can't sell their products to others and others can dump their products on the USA market very cheaply making it even more difficult for USA to grow.
Is this a perfect solution... Absolutely not. This means a lot of people have net-net less buying power. However, it would drive business in the USA.

It is obvious to me that the USA government wants the dollar to stay low. They could easily step in and stabilize it but they choose not too. On the other hand they want a controlled reduction not a free fall. You can see this in the USA government moves and in reverse for the Canadian and other governments(warn against gaining to quickly).

If the USA government was smart they were buying other currencies to assist in devaluing the dollar. Then later when the dollar gets really low, pay off all the debts(they are all in USA dollars), then buy back the dollar by selling the other currencies they bought previously and drive the dollar back up. That would be a very sneaky move that would gain them a lot of money and may even bring them out of the currently inevitable financial collapse.

Again these are my rants, you can have your own ;)

Obama - 1st Year From a Canadian's Perspective

Originally published on 2009-12-07
I am amazed at how quickly Americans have forgotten where they were when Obama took office just 11 months ago. The republicans had put the country to the brink of collapse( I blame them most because they are the ones put in place to ensure everyone else doesn’t do what they did). The USA was crashing taking the rest of the developed world with it. The potential for all banks crashing if something wasn’t done was almost 100%. If the banks crashed everything else would go with it. USA money would be worthless and unemployment could easily hit 75%++. Some countries had already taken over their banks due to the spin-off of the USA crash. To top it off the weak car companies were finally forced to bankruptcy looking like that sector was going to be destroyed which would take the USA in to a depression situation for sure. Of course there are the miscellaneous things like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Health Care, Unemployment.. the list goes on.
The final piece that I wish wasn’t there but do have to recognize is he is black. This undoubtedly has and will create difficulties within his own country. On the other hand I think it helps him in International issues.
This is the toughest position a US president has ever walked into by far in my opinion. As “a world leader” this US president has a responsiblity to think of more than his own country(although USA is his priority). Especially with whole countries like Iceland going bankrupt due to investments in USA. Previous presidents could say screw everyone else, he can’t.
So now you can remember SOME of the mess let’s look at where USA is 11 months later… The banks are making money and paying back their loans(made money on that one), the car companies went through orderly bankruptcies and came out leaner and meaner(might get money back), the unemployment appears to be peaking at 10.2%(no where near 75), AIG’s possible impact has been dramatically reduced(they alone were going to make everything collapse), housing market is stabilizing in some markets(at least not free-falling), the dollar has depreciated enough to start making USA exports competitive(was way over valued to make US products competitive) and possibly reduce cost of payment of debt. unfortunately (or fortunately – sell more USA products), imported products cost more.
That alone would be enough for most countries to praise the president. But Obama has done this while dealing with Health Care, Iraq and all the other issues noted above. The guy has been in power for 11 months and accomplished more than virtually any other president in their entire tenure. Cut the guy some slack. USA is lucky it is not in a depression and to avert a depression and start coming out of the crash within 11 months is awesome.
Are things perfect? Absolutely not. USA has just averted probably it’s worst crisis to date and all some are saying is “ARE WE THERE YET?”.  USA is not going to fully recover for years(if ever) but maybe you should be thankful that you are not where you were going to be if republicans were still in power.
Why not try asking some of the republicans why they didn’t do anything before? It was obvious to all of us, why didn’t they see and address the problem? They took the easy way out because they wanted votes, that’s why. Anyone with any legal/accounting background could see big problems coming. I am quite sure there were some staff in the offices telling them what they were putting in place was crazy. However, they got a lot of votes by implementing ways for people to buy houses they could not afford. There are a lot of people who were fine in their old house but were told they could sell their house and get bigger/better so they did, only to find they lost the house because they could not afford the upkeep of the new house.
I hope Obama moves to Canada after serving the USA and runs for Prime Minister. Many Canadians I know(including me) would vote for him.
My personal opinion on the reasons for the crash are multi-folded.
  • I think the car companies were a problem that was going to happen anyway…Just happened sooner with the crash. 
  • The US government created ways for people that could NOT AFFORD a home to get one, then instead of realizing the problems actually added more ways people could get homes they couldn’t afford.
  • The real estate system for figuring out ways that people who could not possibly afford the house could buy it(knowing full well people would be kicked out of their house later). 
  • The stock market packaged up these obvious bad debts and promoted them as safe and backed by the government(sort of) so they could sell them.
  • The ratings agencies rated these junk assets way above their true value.  
  • Everyone for assuming the price of real estate would never go down.
  • People bought homes they knew they could not afford. Real Estate system played their dreams perfectly.
  • Everyone else(like me) sat around and let them do it!!!!! WE KNEW BETTER!!!
There are a lot of pieces to this problem that didn’t occur in other countries, but they still crashed.  Mostly because of investments directly or indirectly in USA and USA’s sudden drop in purchasing their goods… countries like Iceland,China, Europe, Australia and especially Canada(85% exports go to USA). Countries that emulated some or all of the US model for real estate really got hit and they can’t afford or get a trillion dollar loan.
How many of you knew that something had to give when they came out with sub-prime and other loan options. Sure prices of houses were going up but that was an unrealistic supply/demand issue driven by the ability of those that could not afford houses to buy a house. The whole market was a farce. Without the artificial housing there is no need to build/sell all the products related to housing(a lot).  However, how many thought it would get as bad as it did? I didn’t… I thought it would be more localized to the USA and not as bad as things were at the worst times.

Cleanups - GlenCairn

In October 2008 I decided to take it upon myself to clean up a local community park I frequent. More specifically I decided to clean up the approximately 10 acres that most people use(park is over 100 acres). In this area many people partied and there were bottle caps, cigarette buts. more than 3 cases of beer bottles, cans and the normal junk you find floating around parks. This is a summary of my year of cleaning…
<=Some of the garbage picked up in the fall.
I cleaned the park once in the fall of most large garbage on land. Then came back in the spring to find just about as much garbage as in the fall. I then picked up all the large garbage again. This included some funky stuff like Kotex, condoms, bicycle, tires, boxes full of garbage and used diapers. I picked up all the large garbage on land but there was a lot of small garbage(like beer caps) still on th ground. This major cleanup ended with 6 large green garbage bags plus at least 20 small grocery bags full of garbage. Since I was driving my motorcycle I had no way of removing the garbage from the park so I stacked it all in one location figuring someone would arrange to pick it up. After 6 weeks I found out the official park reps, notified them and they finally arranged to have it removed about a week later. It felt really good to see the park much cleaner.
 More garbage collected.
Now I really got motivated… I decided to pick up every stick of garbage I could find. Over the summer I scowered the park for anything that looked like “non-natural” items and removed them. By August the park was spotless. Even the cigarette butts were al picked up. I started noticing that other people were picking up garbage as well and putting it with the stuff I picked up. Even better was there was dramatically less garbage being dropped. Don’t get me wrong there were some jerks still around(see below) but the majority of people were very good. The park had no garbage cans so I asked the reps to install one to reduce garbage. They agreed and put 2 large oil drum cans in place and chained them to a tree to stop theft. Things were great for a while until someone broke the chain and stole one of the cans. I informed reps but nothing was done(I even got attitude from one rep saying that garbage cans should not be there and what did I want her to do). This really upset me. It wasn’t like I wasn’t trying to help. So, I sat back and waited for what I knew would happen… Sure enough in about 2 weeks someone(I presume kids) tipped the remaining can over(now over half full of garbage others and I collected) and rolled it across the property into the river. In the process all the garbage fell out of the can onto the property(nice straight line at first). Needless to say I was not happy. I went back to the reps(the same one with attitude), informed her of the issue and requested the garbage be cleaned up. I was not going to do this primarily because this should never have happened if the rep would have acted in the first place. After 2 weeks someone finally came and picked up the mess and removed the garbage can. During this time I had not done any cleaning so I had to do another round of cleaning to return the park to pristine condition.
<= This picture shows SOME of the tires that were removed.
More pictures of other tires below. While cleaning up the land I noted there seemed to be a lot of tires in the river but decided to wait until the water got warmer to look at removing these. This was the biggest mess I found. In a 300 meter distance of river there were 17 car/truck tires(plus the 2 tires on land). I could not believe there were so many tires in such a short distance of water.
This picture shows some of the stuff taken from the river.
When I got around to the tires 3 guys on ATV’s helped by removing 3 of the tires at first. That meant I had a pile of 5 tires waiting to be picked up(2 from land). While waiting fo someone to pickup the tires some kids had a party and sure enough the tires were thrown into the woods and one ended up back in the water. The next day I went to the park and again I was not too happy. I found booze bottles and garbage everywhere. However at least someone had a garbage bag which was full of bottles, etc. A woman with her son were there looking for items he had lost while attending the party. I informed her of the situation but apparently her son was not involved. However, to my surprise a few days later I found the tires all picked up and piled again(plus 2 other tires were picked up). I like to think it was the son who came and cleaned up. I do not think he was the one making the mess but it was nice to think he cleaned it up. Now I finally got to the river. In addition to the tires there was a huge shovel(like one from construction trucks-not a hand shovel), bricks, bottles, cans and a few other trinkets. In one afternoon I took out all the rest of the tires and garbage, stacked them up ready for pickup and informed the reps. Also noted that it was important to remove them before some other kids decide to thow them back in the river. Two weeks later the tires were picked up.
So at this point(around August) I had cleaned up the river and land and everything was great(or so I thought). Sure enough I come back to the park and find an entire pick-up truck load of garbage dumped in the park(left picture). At least it was piled in one spot. Lot’s of boxes, a toilet, pipes, kids toys, binders, bottles, cans, etc. Again I was upset and went through the garbage to see if there was anything to identify the culprit. It appears they were very carefull not to leave any identifying papers. Given the amount of garbage I thought for sure I would find something. Contacted the reps again(must be getting sick of me by now) and requested it be cleaned up. While waiting for cleanup I noted several people had looked through the garbage looking for any identification so I know others were not happy about this either. The garbage was picked up and last I saw the park was clean again. At least no one threw more tires and garbage in the river.
I am in Florida now so I won’t know how the park is fairing until next spring. Hopefully it will be cleaner than last year ;) One thing this has confirmed to me is that people will keep things much cleaner if it is already clean. I definitely noticed the difference once the park was cleaned.
One of the prime reasons I wrote this is to motive others to do something. Sure there are headaches and often you feel like “why me” but the feeling of accomplishment and giving back to the community far out ways the problems. Will I do it again…. YOU BET! I am looking at doing the same thing in this and other parks for next year. So get out there and help clean up an area that you frequent. Forget about “others”. Sure they made the mess. One thought that really helped me stick to it was thinking about the number of times I dropped garbage(accidentally or not) plus the times I was not aware I dropped garbage. Let’s not forget I smoked as well. I thought this is making up for some of the mess I personally have created(others cleaned up after me). I am quite sure you can think back at times when you weren’t perfect. Especially when you were younger… Ever smash bottles with rocks?


Published 2003-03-31

Just ranting about escalation….
The objective of escalation is to bring something into higher priority and focus resources. In small business escalation is not usually an issue, there are usually only a few people to inform and everyone knows everybody. In enterprise class systems escalation becomes much more complex. Escalation is usually associated with problems but not necessarily(you can escalate good news). There are 2 sides… the escalator(person escalating a problem) and escalatee(person problem is being escalated to for investigation). 
When talking about problem escalation I find many enterprises lacking. Some have done wonderful jobs but most need work. Many shops have binders with contact lists, memos and hand written notes. Half the time is spent contacting the wrong people and often required contacts are never made. Other shops have rigid rules for escalation that often create excessive escalation. One shop I worked for used memos that would say something like…
If you have problems…
    Call 416-999-2222 Sun-Thu between 11pm-7am. No more than 4 rings!
    Call 705-555-1212 on the weekend
    Call 416-555-2244 at all other times.
I am unavailable Mon-Fri from 6-7pm, I will call you back after 7pm if paged.    

That was just the first level support contact, then you had to contact business and suppliers that each had their own escalation… And people were wondering why escalation took 90+ minutes at times.
Escalation needs clear guidelines – Rules are inherently inflexible and escalation requires extreme flexibility. Even if your internal escalation is rigid you have no control over external escalation.
Escalation Intervals – How long do you wait for support to call back? How long do you give first level support before escalating to second level? You need an escalation matrix that considers priority and impact. Example: Critical problems need faster escalation than others.
Does the problem need escalation? Some businesses escalate everything immediately. Although this may sound good it easily creates problems. An impact assessment should be completed before escalation is implemented. Perhaps the problem can wait to avoid costs like over-time. Others only escalate when everything crashes around them.
Once it is determined a problem should be escalated the escalation process should have structure to provide 1st, 2nd,3rd… level contacts for customer, internal support and suppliers but allow flexibility to “skip levels” as needed. Often internal support escalation is handled correctly but the ball is dropped when contacting customers and suppliers. How many times have you missed informing the right people? The escalation process must ensure ALL related contacts are informed.
Don’t call Jim “because he knows the solution”. Call the appropriate support and inform them that Jim has the solution. This ensures that bugs are worked out quickly… no one wants to be called at 3am. Another common problem for effective escalation. If you call Jim and bypass the escalation process the real issue of having the wrong contact never gets addressed. Next week(or day) Jim will get called again. Jim is probably not going to be very happy. Escalators must follow escalation as defined to ensure bugs in the process are addressed.
Escalation process should allow a flexible contact solution. Requiring specific contact types(like pager) are limiting and should be avoided. The contact person should have the ability to maintain how they are to be contacted(home,pager,cell…) but the process should not attempt to support memos like noted above.  Since contacts have the ability to maintain their contact details they assume the responsibility for the information.
Escalation requires constant reviewing to ensure the appropriate contacts are defined. Some companies think that once their escalation is defined they are done. Wrong! Escalation constantly needs fine tuning. I have seen many great systems fail because the data became outdated. A distributed ownership model is critical to a successful implementation. Contacts own their personal information, management owns the resources. Each is responsible to ensure their data is accurate.
Escalation requires ownership/responsibility. One of the most frequent problems I have seen is the lack of ownership when problems arise. A clear path to ownership must be maintained. Owners are responsible for the resource, they didn’t buy it! Ownership ensures at least someone is prioritizing the issue… they may not be the ones to do the work.
Escalation process must be accessible from various platforms(mainframe, PC, server, PDA…). No use having a great system that escalators can’t access. In addition it needs an API to integrate with standard business management tools like problem management.
I can go on and on about this subject… I think you get the idea so I will stop now.


Updated 2009-11-25
Most development software now codes XHTML compliant tags. There are many smart phones that require XHTML to display properly. Welcome to the XML world. Was it really that bad? Now get ready for CSS3 and DHTML5.0.

Published 2003-03-31

XHTML is the evolution of HTML. The concept is simple… Make HTML documents into an XML compliant document.
Why should I convert?
XHTML is the “new” HTML and many new devices require compliance. XHTML applies strict rules which enforces standards. XHTML can be used as XML. The only choice you have is when… this is inevitable.
Why not?
If you only intend to support PC type platforms with standard browsers there is no value in converting. Every page in your site will have to be converted with no visible improvements… How do you justify the costs. You may be able to wait until your web development tool automatically generates XHTML compliant code. If you do not intend to support PDA/Phones there is no reason to convert.
Virtually all web tools at the moment write standard HTML. After converting documents all future HTML edits will have to be reviewed for XHTML compliance manually until your tools write XHTML. In XHTML ALL tags must have a closing tag(
must have
). In XHTML tags that do not have closing tags must end with a “/” symbol(
must be
). This includes meta tags as well..
Even if you are diligent and always provide closing tags in your HTML you will have to do many adjustments. All tables must have a TBODY tag. All tags and properties must be in lowercase. Inline CSS & Script encapsulated in comments must be in a CDATA block. These are just some of the more common issues. If you use strict XHTML, style properties only exist in CSS and will require even more adjustments. I recommend you review W3C standards for XHTML at http://www.w3c.org/
How to Convert
There is a lot more than most people think to convert DHTML to XHTML but I have found some good cheats…
There are several tools out there that will automatically convert DHTML to XHTML. I strongly recommend you use these rather than manually adjusting your HTML. You can convert the core site pages immediately then convert the rest as time permits. For tools you can use http://cgi.w3.org/cgi-bin/tidy that provides an online solution or you can download WebMatrix from http://www.asp.net/. I think Tidy provides the best implementation. There is a version of Tidy you can download and run from your PC… look on W3C site.
No matter what you decide, start writing all new documents with XHTML standards. It will save you having to re-write them later. That said you might notice this document is NOT XHTML compliant. I intend to convert  the entire demo site at one time so I am waiting till then… ;-)

The Environment

Updated 2009-11-25
The problem is still the same, we are just 6 years later. The effects of global warming are escalating and various environmental issues are getting larger. Species extinction i at the highest rate ever. Even the frogs and bees are dying. Things are not looking good. All our alarms are ringing yet we are still debating the issues. Maybe we are wrong and global warming is not an issue but the mass extinctions, disappearance of the ice caps,  and record-breaking extreme weather around the world doesn’t point that way. Our planet is in trouble and we need to take care of it NOW not next decade. We can’t even get our government to agree to reduce emissions so it is unlikely we can rely on them. Greenpeace’s militant actions are starting to look like a necessary evil to get any attention from governments. 

Published 2003-03-10

The environment should be the number one priority of every human. Without our environment we die, simple. You would think that business would focus on this and be more environmentally friendly. After all, the decisions are being made by people. So why does business continue to create products and packaging that are so environmentally unfriendly? Simple, money!
Money seems to cloud our vision. We know numerous things that are bad for our environment but we still use them. We knew when they were first created there would be future problems. Take cars, styrofoam cups, and virtually all packaging. I can’t call this a lack of vision since from the beginning we new these would create problems. It is greed that has motivated our decisions. The usage of environmentally unfriendly products saves money. Maybe less product is damaged or spoiled but it is a cost decision. I don’t think larger issues like environmental impact even come into the equation. Business is slowly changing but the real problem creators have put their spin doctors on the case and have twisted reality so the public doesn’t know what is real. 
As long as consumers buy the product business will make it. However, with multiple companies making virtually every product the consumer has much more power. What products you buy makes more difference than you think. If you buy environmentally friendly products that use minimum packaging business will make the change or go bankrupt. Either way we all win.
The 3 R’s
Why is it everyone seems to have forgotten about 2 of these. Everyone knows “Recycle” but what about “Reduce” and “Reuse”? There is a much larger bang for the buck with either of them. Remember when most liquids came in reusable bottles? Remember when people were buying fuel-efficient cars and driving less? Remember rationing in wars? My parents seem to be the last generation that recognize the importance of reducing and reusing. Current marketing promotes single use, disposable products with no regard for environmental impacts.
It’s weird that product packaging accounts for more garbage than the actual products. Unfortunately packaging is almost exclusively a consumer problem. We demand the pretty package, every cookie be individually wrapped and other stupid things. If everyone bought items that were not packaged(like bulk food) business would adjust. Since packaging costs money most businesses would love to avoid it. Unfortunately as long as packaging sells business has no choice. Standardizing which packing material can be used and how needs to have more practical implementations.
Human Waste
A great natural resource going to waste. On top of that we are removing the best natural filters available… bogs and marshes. Using marshes to purify the water and create top quality soil has been demonstrated to exceed expectations so why aren’t we doing it? Even the modern toilet is a poor method for handling this resource. Contaminating gallons of water to dispose of what should be considered a valuable resource is not feasible. Even worse we use clean fresh water instead of recycled water.
Is there anyone that thinks there is an unlimited supply of fresh water anymore? So why do people act as if there is. We water our lawns, flush toilets & clean our walks with fresh tap water. We pour all types of toxic cleaning solutions into water, dump oils and other contaminants, and more or less use waterways as garbage dumps. Toxic solutions have been found in virtually all underground water sources. Perhaps the oceans are showing the impacts we have seen in Canadian lakes due to things like acid rain. There are now many lakes in Canada that have no fish or other living animals due to this pollution. If so we can only expect there to be less fish available.
Cradle To Grave
This concept is long overdue. It is simple… You make it, your responsible for the environmental impact throughout the life of the product. Including impact to manufacture, use and dispose of the product. When a product comes to market it is assessed for environmental impact and charges are applied to cover these hidden costs society currently pays. Products are continually reviewed for impacts and charges are adjusted accordingly. Companies that create unique problems must provide solutions BEFORE the product can be released for sale. This transfers responsibility from society to the rightful owners. Furthermore it would reflect a more accurate “true cost” of a product.
We can no longer dump garbage somewhere else. I hope we have learned that everything happens in our backyard. The problem can be created on the other side of the world but we still feel the effects. This is a global problem that requires ground roots implementation. No one government or business is going to make a change but millions of us screaming in politicians ears can get some action. The longer we wait the harsher the impacts will be.
We have the ability to eliminate garbage and clean the air, water and land. Now we need the commitment.

Power Solutions

Updated 2009-11-25
Well oil went to just under $150 which really makes the original publication even more relative. Even now oil is around $80 which is 8 times as much as it was in 2003 when I originally posted on this issue. This is one of my pet peeves. We can do something, it  is simple if the political will was really there. You just subsidise the good with taxes on the bad. It is amazing how money seems to suddenly find a way to make things work. We have subsidized the bad for far to long. Let’s try something different and promote the good for a change.
I am embarrassed by the Canadian record on environment and wildlife. The reality is most Canadians don’t know what large corporations are doing to the lands. properties are clear-cut just to a point where you can’t see it from the road. Many companies work away from the public so we are not aware of the damage being done. Once we find out the company simply moves to another country and leaves the mess for us to clean up($$$). We need the agencies that are supposed to protect these things to have the power and ability to enforce the rules. It seems virtually all these agencies have been destroyed either by no budget or no enforcement power. The people in these roles are trying but there is only so much they can do until the government motivation clearly shows them that they have the power, money and backing when push comes to shove. Like many other governments ours seem to talk the talk but is barely crawling let alone walking. Things like the tar sands are not helping things. Sure jobs are made but at what cost. Companies have to be held accountable for the damages their products create. We really need a “cradle to grave” solution so companies that cause the most damage pay the most. 

Published 2003-03-10
It’s funny to think that numerous cultures, hundreds of years ago had better power solutions than we have now.
First off, we have more available power than we need in the foreseeable future. All we have to do is look outside the oil/nuclear box for far superior solutions. Once governments around the world subsidize clean, renewable sources instead of oil/nuclear the advances will be far beyond any of our expectations.
The biggest problem I see in providing clean, renewable sources of power is governments lack of commitment. Sure they all talk environment but then subsidize the large corporations creating dirty, non-renewable sources of power. In Ontario, Canada the provincial government subsidizes Hydro… Technically they don’t… They tell Hydro what the rates will be to the consumer and if Hydro over spends it can borrow the money from the government. This has been going on for over 30 years and now Hydro owes our government billions and is forced into charging $0.043 per KWH for the next 5 years. Far less than the “cost” of the power and it’s distribution. How can renewable sources compete.
Furthermore, infrastructure has to be put in place to promote better solutions. Perhaps a surcharge for non-renewable, dirty fuel that directly passes to discounts for renewable, clean sources. The only way to succeed is to make the old ways expensive and the new ways profitable. Only then will society change in mass numbers. We could also expect more investment would create cheaper methods of harnessing power. Thus creating an increasing demand for cleaner power.
The key to future success for any society will be their ability to create infinitely renewable environmentally neutral power sources. Societies that base their power solutions on oil, nuclear or plant sources will eventually fail. Societies that generate more power than they use will become much more powerful in the near term future.
Given what we already know about future power requirements wind, solar, water and lightning are going to be in demand. Once electric cars become more popular these renewable sources may become a necessity.
With Canada’s resources we should be one of the largest power generators in the world. We have large space to put up wind and solar farms, huge water sources, geo-thermal sources and of course then there is lightning. I would like to see us provide enough power for the world. If it were possible to get all the world governments together just think of the solutions… Desserts, mountains and oceans would become huge power generating locations.  
We have everything we need to provide unlimited clean, renewable power. Now we just need the political motivation. Countries like Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden are leading the way. As a Canadian I am embarrassed at our lack of commitment. I would easily pay double the cost if it ensured future generations had clean renewable power sources. It will never be cheap but sometimes you have to consider more than money. I do not want future generations paying for our lack of foresight. In this case even the stupidest person can see clean renewable sources are the way to go.
Internal combustion engines must die. Inherently they “burn” fuel and create emissions. Even solutions like fuel cells may increase precipitation as they emit water droplets. There is little need to use “burning” solutions given all the available options. They have demonstrated long-term unacceptable impacts on our environment. 
Below are several power sources and my simplistic assessment of each.
Oil/Natural Gas Sources
Sucks up valuable natural resources, creates an environmental nightmare and there is a dwindling supply. Is there anyone that thinks this is a long-term viable solution any more? I certainly do not! The recent mess where oil has gone from $10-$40 only emphasizes how little supply is really available. To rely on this power solution will only ensure a collapse of a society… Just a matter of when. A transition away from this form of power must be immediate. Dwindling supplies will only increase the cost unless alternatives are found.
Nuclear Sources
What are you crazy??? They have demonstrated their impacts already… Just waiting for the next disaster. 
Plant Sources
To burn plants for fuel does not make sense. They can be used for much more productive uses. “Burning” for power will create problems even if it is as slow as global warming and should be avoided where possible. Besides we need these sources to enrich our current soil without chemicals.
Geo-Thermal Sources
Taking heat generated from the ground is a great power source as long as we only take heat from the first 1km or less of earth. If we start going deeper for thermal sources I have concerns about eventually lowering the earth’s core or creating a man-made catastrophe. Countries like Iceland where this source of power is everywhere are showing us how to benefit. They have so much extra heat they heat roads and sidewalks in cities. No one has a hot water heater in their house, hot water comes direct from city water. They also use it to generate electrical power. Unfortunately not many countries have the abundance that Iceland has but this concept can be applied in every country.
Wind Sources
The next 3 of these were used thousands of years ago to harness power but somehow we got sold on the “cheaper” bang for the buck in oil. Wind is infinitely renewable and has no known environmental impact. It does have some draw backs… You need wind to generate power, the current wind mill is not pretty and consumes real estate. I have often wondered why no one has created a fan similar to venting fans you see on house roofs. It would seem to be a more effective solution to catch cross flowing winds. Used with solar or water sources makes a complete solution. 
Solar Sources
Solar is infinitely renewable and has no known environmental impact. It does have one draw back… You need sun. As technology improves this solution will certainly become common place. Used with wind or water sources makes a complete solution. 
Water Sources
Water is infinitely renewable and has no known environmental impact. It does have one draw back… You need constant flowing water. The problem is not in the power source but our implementations to harness it. Large power plants like Niagra Falls and super damns should be a thing of the past. They were implemented so only certain people would control power. We need to integrate into the environment to obtain our needs, use the natural flow of water, not force it. As technology improves this solution will certainly become common place. Good water flow can make a complete solution by itself.
Lightning Sources
The power of lightning is awesome. Working on ways to harness this power would seem to be a worthwhile adventure. Creating a world net that draws power from lightning could in itself provide all the power the world needs in the foreseeable future. This has the potential that usage of power is promoted rather than conservation(at least for a while ;-) ). Only concern is that we might draw too much electricity and somehow our planet becomes negatively charged.

Which Browser to Use?

Updated 2010-01-21
Well things have really changed but then again it has been 7+ years since my last update ;) . The desktop has a smaller market share. With 3G/4G finally getting rolled out smart phones are quickly becoming the surfing method of choice. Everyone uses the custom browser that their smart phone comes with. On the desktop there are now 5 main competitors(what a change from the 1-Microsoft-in 2002). In my opinion... 

  1. Chrome is best for personal use.
  2.  Safari is best for developers/designers and people that want the absolute best graphics(more failures than Chrome in my experience).
  3. Firefox is a close 3rd.
  4. Opera has some interesting otions(like voice)
  5. Have to wait for IE9 to see if it is going to catch up with the rest;)
What’s next? Who knows on this one. I would expect that voice will finally start to gain ground but people won't adopt technology that doesn't work near 100%. For sure CSS3 will be widely supported since virtually all browsers(even IE9) support at least 95% of the standard. Standards are really starting to win because of the number of vendors. Now that is a surprise... Usually standards are the first thing to get sacrificed in competition but in this case all the vendors have committed to them so it is difficult to back out and the group force everyone else to support the standards.
Updated 2002-12-17
Most Netscape(NN) supporters have not backed version 6 thus NN is stuck at version 4 and has fallen out of favor. Meanwhile IE has now gobbled up 80%++ browser share. Wireless devices are rapidly taking market share from both browsers but these devices aren’t ready to be smart clients yet. They are advancing quickly however and are great where screen space is not important.  There is no doubt the “browser” issue has now become even more complex with many new devices supporting only XHTML, WML or proprietary languages.  NN is now relegated to the “Other browser” category for most sites that attempt to support multiple browsers… You know, basic web site with no advanced features… Like this site. Future updates will probably deal more with wireless devices like phones and PDA’s than NN. At less than 10%(for all versions) NN is no longer worth supporting a customized site.

Updated 2000-09-02

A new Netscape is in town. It is going to shake things up a bit. It might even take some market share away from IE(not much). Anyone that hates Microsoft will for sure use the new version. But much more important is that developers embrace Netscape’s guts to really attempt to support W3C/ECMA standards. I have updated this site and know both IE and NN6 enjoy the same experience. Let’s not kid ourselves. IE is still a better browser but Netscape V6 is a real step forward. I want to ensure that IE isn’t the only browser in town. I just don’t want to write 2 sites to support each browser.

Updated 2000-03-26

Well IE 5.0 has been released(with patches) but where is Netscape(NN)? Since AOL took over the browser it has gone to never-never land. Comparisons between the two browsers shows NN is starting to fall behind Opera(browser) in standards support. When looking at DHTML or CSS Netscape falls way short of meeting the standards. The object model is much more difficult and limited. The browser crashes repeatedly and I even found a JavaScript bug that corrupts Netscape. That’s right, you would have to re-install to get it to work again. It looks like AOL purchased the browser to ensure it gets buried…..But I could be wrong. Around 75% of traffic seems to be using IE4.0 or better at this time…..My how things change…..Just not as fast as I would like.

Updated 1999-02-25

Both Netscape and Microsoft say they will support the W3C DHTML spec. Ya, right… Anyway, IE 5.0 Beta has been exceptionally stable. Matter of fact it has been more stable than IE 4.01. I really like the auto-fill capabilities but from a user perspective that is about all you notice. It does load certain pages faster if they are built for IE 5.0. For some quirky reason I have to start it twice before the browser will display on one of my systems. Once it goes to a full release I would get a copy, but wait till then.
As for Netscape….I have not tried the 5.0 version so I can’t comment.

Updated 1998-08-23
Microsoft has all but closed the doors on Netscape. It is no longer a question of which is better. IE4.0 comes with Windows 98 and is integrated into the system. Businesses will use IE because it will require less administration and integrates into IIS servers easily. Critical mass has built up on the client base for IE. Soon Microsoft may have to support Netscape like Apple just to ensure they don’t get those nasty law suites. It would be strategically sound for Microsoft to throw away a few mil. As for the active desktop you can install it but make sure you do not select the option to show window contents while dragging. This option only creates a lot of overhead for your system and no real gain.

Updated 1997-11-01 originally published 1997-09-25

With IE4.0 released and NN4.03 you can upgrade both but do not install the Active Desktop(IE4). Both are as stable as previous versions(yes, they still crash). The advances made with DHTML take browsing to a new level and are definitely worth the upgrade. Even if you surf strictly for content you get advantages. The ability to hide and display content dynamically in itself gives great advantages.
Both browsers support Cascading Style Sheets(finally) and DHTML expands CSS capabilities. The differences between browsers referencing CSS will probably be resolved with a little from both sides(not exclusively one side). JavaScript has become the standard scripting language and with DHTML extensions is going to create havoc on Java’s future. Many things you just can’t do with JAVA can be done easily with DHTML. Securing scripts from the client is still a major stumbling block for scripting languages(You can’t stop clients from stealing code). Layer technology will not likely survive standards committees. VBscript will not survive as a client scripting language unless Netscape® adopts it or Microsoft® create a free plug-in(to bad). Netscape®has new life(for now). NN4.03 is not as good as IE4.0 but is very close. It has a prettier interface than IE4.0. This has become more a personal choice than ever.
Actually, the browser war is over, Netscape® just doesn’t know it yet;)
There are really only two browsers, Netscape® Navigator(NN) and Microsoft®Internet Explorer(IE). I know about Lycos, Mosaic, etc. but they are so limited in usage that it is hard to count them. At this moment use BOTH(Netscape® and Microsoft®)! But use V3.*, neither has a stable V4 yet. I suspect that IE4 will be stable but let’s wait till October 1st and see.
If you have to choose I would recommend Microsoft®’s Internet Explorer(particularly on Windows95/NT). Microsoft® has the standards, the money, and a free browser. Not to mention I personally think the capabilities are far superior to Netscape®. By no means is Microsoft® perfect. I have several issues with things they do(you might see a few on different pages), but they have the best browser.
Netscape® makes a very good browser. They used to be first by a long shot. Now they are a close second. IE Version 4 will shut the door but it will take years to take effect. Remember….this is today, tomorrow an even better browser could pop-up(but would it be good enough to buy it?). IBM® will probably buy Netscape®’s browser before Netscape® gives up(they need A browser for junk OS/2).
As a technician I cheer for Netscape®’s cause but as a business owner I buy Microsoft®.

Domain Registrars

Updated 2009-11-25
I am still with Domainsatcost.ca but Registryfly.com had to stop registering domains. They were doing something that was not allowed but never affected me. Moved the COM sites to Domainsatcost.ca.

Published 2002-11-12
Picking a good Domain Registrar(DR) is more important than you might think. I mean what do they do? They register your domain name right? That used to be the case but things have changed in the past few years.
What you are about to read is my personal experiences with 3 different DR’s. Specifically www.DomainsatCost.cawww.registryfly.com, andwww.networksolutions.com (now owned by Verisign).
After 2 years of using DomainsAtCost.ca(not .com) I would definitely rate this the best DR out there for .CA domains. Their price can’t be beat but there is much more. Their service is excellent. The website is fast and easy to navigate(It could bet even faster and more efficient with a few minor performance tweaks). The site is great for managing multiple domain names at once. They make the process as painless as possible. In addition they provide what I consider an invaluable FREE redirect service that can redirect to a folder in a website (critical for multiple domains and only one website). They also provide the best search engine for common Domain Names I have found. It includes a “similar” name list on each search. Just the search engine is worth checking out their site. I highly recommend them. The only negative comments I can say is that their price on US domain names is a higher than their US competition($14.95) and for some reason more than DomainsAtCost.com (but still a good price) and email response on weekends could be improved(maybe it has, rarely need email). Compared to other Canadian DR’s DomainsAtCost.ca has no competition.
This company just keeps getting better and offering more services. I first used their service 2 years ago. They are great for general use except for .CA domains. Register with them and you may not need any other service providers. They provide many FREE services at a very cheap price but again it is service that is important. Everything works through the website and is fast and fairly easy to navigate. The problem with navigation is they have so many options(not a bad thing). For $8.99us per year you can have your domain registered, have email, and a very simple website. Now that is tough to beat. They have lot’s of other FREE options with registration. They do not offer .CA domain registration unfortunately. I prefer DomainsAtCost.ca but this company is a close second. If I needed more of their free services I think they would be #1… tough call.
You knew there was going to be an exception…
Originally I started with NetworkSolutions(NS) back in 1995 when I registered my first domain. They were the only DR available. It was simple to register because my web service provider did it for me. The cost… $70 per year, services, absolutely none. You would think paying such a premium would get you top service… HA!!! Here is my 7 year nightmare… There was no problem until I changed email addresses several years after registering. That is when I actually had to get involved… Since I no longer had my old email ID(dropped acount 6+ months before) it was virtually impossible to communicate with NS to renew my domain. At that time they did not accept anything unless it was from email. Go to their website and forms were very complex and almost impossible to find the right form. Navigation was one of the worst I have seen. It took 6 months to finally get my email changed with more back-and-forth than I care to remember. After that I moved… another nightmare trying to get my information changed… another 4 months… Their price has always been among the highest (until recently they were $30 per year…now $15.00/year-if you register for 2 years). A year ago I finally got fed up and went to change DR’s before I had to renew. After 2 months of messing around the domain was expiring and I had to renew with NS. This year I decided to get a jump on transferring. I started on September 27th(renewal is April 2003) … Good thing… I am still screwing around with the new “Verisign” to get this accomplished. I have requested it be transferred 3 times now and it still hasn’t happened. Each time the whole process works except the confirmation email from NS(now Verisign)… I even get email stating the request was rejected because I did not confirm the request. Each time the response I got when I contacted Verisign was “try again”… On the 3rd attempt I wasn’t going to wait around for it to be rejected… Requested transfer yesterday everything proceeding like other times… no response from NS by 9am today… I called them and someone(David) actually looked into it… “for some reason” they can’t see where they are sending the confirmation message. They should be able to… they just can’t… appears to be sending it to a blank email address?? Good someone actually looked at this AFTER my 3rd attempt. When I called Verisign I did note that it was quick to reach someone and David was very polite and responded to my issues as best he could. I was informed the account would be moved within 2 days. If this doesn’t get done you know I am not going to be very happy and this article will be updated for your reference. Just a thought for you…. 100 domains here= $7,000/year… 100 domains registerfly.com = $899/year
Hopefully Verisign can salvage the client base from NS. It will be a difficult challenge given the abuse NS’s customers have had to endure. Verisign will have to adjust very quickly and add a lot of options and I’m not sure they are prepared for the scope. Verisign is a big company and this integrates well with their other services to provide complete end-to-end solutions. Please note that Verisign has inherited a mess, they did not create it!
There are many good DR’s for US domains now, not so many for .CA domains. You no longer have to accept poor service and high costs. Shop around, the difference can be extreme. I have seen registration charges as high as $100 recently.
So like I said… 
Picking a good Domain Registrar is more important than you might think

At time of publishing the only relationship I have with any of these companies is as a customer. The comments here are my personal experiences with 3 companies, you may have a totally different relationship with any or all of them. Due to experiences with NetworkSolutions I spent countless hours reviewing many DR’s before deciding. I think my choices have worked out well. There are DR’s that are a few dollars cheaper but guaranteed good service is worth more than $2 per year.
Like always, these are my opinions…. I could be wrong.

Spam Email... Enough Already

Updated 2009-11-25
This is not a big issue any more. Most email is filtered for spam at various levels and there is much less spam getting to my Inbox. However I know they are still sending it and clogging up the networks.

Published 2002-09-24

Enough already. This is killing the only valuable part of the Internet that is left for the public.
I was noticing even with all my efforts to block spam email I still get around 30 every day. In case you didn’t know spam email is unsolicited email. Like online junk mail but worse. If you combine the viruses with the spam I wonder why anyone uses email anymore. I admit I have more than one e-mail address so the numbers I am about to give you may be a little high…
I was wondering how much junk mail was being passed around so I did a little analysis on my own email accounts. Here is what I found…
With all filtering on I get an average of 30 spam email and 3 valid email per day. This works out to better than 90% of all email is spam. Pretty bad you think?… Just wait…
I then turned off all my filters for one day and checked…WOW!!!
I had 273 spam email and 3 valid email in 24 hours. This works out to 98.9% spam email and only 1.1% valid email!… and it is getting worse not better.
If you’re wondering where all the bandwidth is going this might be a good place to look.
If there were any place I wish hackers paid attention to it would these sites. I would love to see a concerted effort by hacking groups to totally trash spammers. Wouldn’t it be great to send all the spam mail from one spammer to another spammer, and so on….
Some good ISP’s are putting in spam filters and at least they help dramatically reduce the problem. Perhaps they could join together on this issue and share their spammer lists. Quite often the ISP is hosting a spammer and they are not aware. Any assistance they can provide is greatly appreciated.
Maybe like several other people I know we should just use the phone. At least it doesn’t spam us much. If the Internet was here first spending $0.10 or less a minute to talk on a phone would certainly be the rage. Just think, in one minute you could communicate several minutes of typing and have real-time response. No typing, no waiting for responses, no spam. Wow, why didn’t somebody think of this before?

HTML Email

Updated 2009-11-25
Outlook and other mail programs have implemented most of what I previously recommended and the new spam/junk filters really help out. However, I would still view email in plain text because some junk still gets through.

Updated 2002-01-07
There is a way to at least stop HTML email from attacking you. See Secure Emailunder the How To Demos for details and instructions. The instructions protect you from all the viruses I have seen being generated by this HTML email… without having virus protection software.

Published 2001-02-24

This stuff really sucks! It is so intrusive and there is no way to turn it off in Microsoft Outlook. Before you had to worry about attachments in your email… now you have to worry about your email. Companies are sending their website to you. With non-HTML email you were safe(except attachments)… with HTML email anybody can tell if email was sent  to a valid email address, whether you read the email and they can get your IP address. Just about everything they could detect in the browser. All very easily. They can even use ActiveX, Java and JavaScript to extend what they can do. With this information they know who you are and can then track your movement in the site and relate that to you specifically. THIS IS NOT GOOD!
I find that 95% of my HTML email is some form of junk mail. How many people do you talk to that use HTML instead of simple text for email? Other than business ads not many?
SPAM networks can use HTML email to confirm email addresses are valid much easier. Once your email ID is on their network(and validated) you will see even more junk mail.
It was headache enough with attachments and all the SPAM you had to wade through… now you have to worry about what that SPAM email is doing.

How do you stop it?

I haven’t figured out a way yet. Anybody got any ideas. It should be simple for Microsoft to put one of the filter options as “content type” for message rules. Then we could do this easily. Until then I create new rules and keep trashing stuff.
On a side note all this HTML email is making it difficult for companies that don’t SPAM you. Now I have to compete with people that intrude on your life with this HTML email as well as other web sites.
Do us all a favor and yell at Microsoft. This is something that can easily be fixed.

Netscape V6... Now Firefox

Updated 2009-11-25
Netscape died/transitioned to Firefox and has now taken around 40-45% of desktop browser market. Firefox is fast to load pages and more standards compliant than Microsoft and it is free. Advances in technology and surprisingly the adoption of .NET for a development platform has actually helped Firefox’s adoption. This is because .NET attempts to adjust for the various other browsers on the market automatically. Keep going Firefox ;)
Update 2002-01-07
Well it has been over a year and most sites do not support it. Even fewer users are switching to it. I have abandoned supporting it here as well. This is not good. I would like it to succeed now that they seem to have their heads on straight even though as a developer it creates a lot of headache for me. 
Update 2001-02-15
Oh, Oh…. Final version has been out a while now… Many sites are not supporting it. This is not good. It looks a lot better, and really does support W3C/ECMA as much as you can expect. Is it because everyone is used to working with the previous crap they don’t want to change? Come on people, if you ever wanted Netscape to succeed now is the time to back them up!
As a developer I would like to have only one browser… simplifies things. As a user I want choice. It may be I just don’t like a particular company. Whatever, I want to choose. Besides I want to make sure people who use systems other than Windows** can still use the Internet.
Published 2000-09-02
Netscape Navigator Version6(NN6) Preview 2 is out. What an improvement… and this is still beta. The browser fails less often. It has a smaller footprint(size), is faster and more efficient. My hat is off to Netscape. They realized they made several key mistakes with NN4 and have done an about-face. Ever since NN3 I have not supported Netscape. They continually created their own proprietary tags that made no sense. A prime example of this was the LAYER tag. At that time I realized they did not have the expertise to create a top-notch standard. They were too busy trying to keep up with IE. Things got thrown in that would have never have passed cooler heads.
Netscape thought they could tell everyone else what to do(sound familiar). They thought everyone would follow whatever standard they put out. Were they ever wrong. That is not to say that IE has not tried the same thing(they have), IE just drove the standards committees to adopt IE standards using logical arguments.
Well with Netscape V6 NN is supporting the W3C/ECMA standards very closely. They have dropped tags that were not adopted and they have included IE tags that have got into the standards. I am finding that IE5 requires more non-standard code than NN6. IE now has to get rid of the “document.all” script tag and we are closer to a standard browser than ever before. That is not to say there aren’t coding work a rounds required….just not near as many.
I want to support Netscape’s venture in being 100% standards compliant. That is why this site was built for both NN6 and IE5. Previously I just let NN in but a lot of stuff did not work. With NN6 only some demonstrations don’t work. All the cool buttons and configuration etc. all works.
On the down side Netscape is going to alienate a lot of developers since they have removed tags like LAYER from NN6. Also it’s “simpler” client interface is not very pretty which may take some people time to adjust(if ever). The toolbars could be better. NN6 actually works better on IE sites than sites built for NN4. Hopefully developers will forgive Netscape and recognize it took a lot of guts for Netscape to do this. It was not an easy decision.
Congratulations Netscape…. Get the final version out please…. I want people off NN4.

Gun Control... Wake up United States!

Updated 2009-11-25
At this time virtually any large USA city has 2+ times more murders than the entire country of Canada. Yet gun control is still not a major issue in the USA. I hope posting it on the blog will drive more communication on the issue.

Published 2001-09-10
A touchy subject… As a Canadian citizen I can tell you that gun control works. The mentality that we need guns to protect ourselves from others only ensures that everyone has guns. I know that if I had a gun available “at the moment” the possibility of me using it in rage or personal defense is conceivable. Please understand, I think anyone in rage/defense can do things they would not normally even think about, so to me anyone could pull a gun. Now I consider myself a reasonable person who is not likely to do this kind of thing, but when I think about someone that is not quite so stable carrying a gun I get very nervous.
As a Canadian I don’t even think about “Do they have a gun?”(except for Police). Currently I live in Toronto, Ontario, a city with approximately 3 million people living in a diverse multi-cultural environment. Comparable to many major cities in USA yet our homicide rate is far lower. We live next door to Buffalo/Detroit who both have less people and many more homicides. WHAT CAN YOU ATTRIBUTE THE DIFFERENCE TO??? Funny thing is that I would expect everyone in USA to be on their best behavior knowing everyone else has a gun… Instead it seems to bring out the more “macho” attitude.
I think being a cop is tough in Canada… I would not be one where anyone can carry a concealed firearm or where firearms are so readily available. No wonder cops shoot so many people in USA.
I have lived in the country and know the value of a rifle(groundhogs are pesky critters), I also like to use guns for target practice(fun). In no way does gun control stop these things. It helps control them. Key benefits of gun control is it reduces the availability of guns. Most gun controls are targeted to stop hand guns, and AK47 type assault weapons(or bigger). I know that some of us would just love to play with one of these but in Canada we understand controlling guns can save our lives! Just a little more important to us. It would probably be cool to have your own tank or nuclear bomb but I know that if I can have it so can everyone else. In these cases I would rather no one have it. I know it is not perfect and we should all be able to do what we want… but we have a responsibility to the society as well.
“Guns don’t kill people, people do”…
Atomic bombs don’t kill people either but you don’t see me saying everyone has the right to one.
“The Constitution”…
Wake up! That is how gun makers and criminals are sucking you into stopping gun control. Do you really think with your basement full of weapons you are any match for the military of the USA? Canada is no match for one of their aircraft carriers… ;-)If the military was put in place the first thing they do is disarm everyone so where are your guns anyway. This part of the constitution was written during a very different time and meant to cover situations that no longer exist. Please, give up the guns, for all of us.
There will always be someone who wants to own a tank. It is up to those with a little more sense to say wait a second, I don’t think it is a good idea for anyone to own a tank… At least not unless it is controlled so we know you aren’t going to shoot us.
Don’t believe me…
Here is statistics from StatsCanada on Homicides occurring between 1966 and 1999 in Canada. We are not as good as many European countries on a per capita ratio but are no where near USA. For that matter all violent crime is reduced with gun control. I think that our violent crime statistics would drop noticeably if USA installed some form of gun control. We still have approx. 30% of homicides using a gun… We just have a lot less homicides.
Don’t even think about how many less robberies and other non-violent crimes would be committed with gun control. Just think… less jails, less costs, less crime, less murders, less fear… LESS GUNS!  
Is your “target practice” worth the cost to society? Speak up… send email and letters to your congress.
If you want to do something good with a gun…

CHARLTON HESTON comes to mind

I will never watch his movies again! He personally set back gun control immeasurably.
Of course this is my opinion…. I could be wrong.