2013 May 06 @ 20:43 No comments

A) A furniture store in Ottawa.
B) An even number.
C) The population of Talbot county, Georgia.
D) A title-portion of a YouTube video.
E) The number of spam comments I deleted today.


Categories: Aggravations, Site News

Bitcoin == [insert meme]

2013 April 09 @ 09:15 No comments

Bitcoin has undergone a meteoric rise in the last month, going from $13 at the start of the year, to $200 today. When I read these numbers, something tells me I need to get in on this. NOW! But when I see this curve displayed in graph form, the first thing that crosses my mind is: Nortel.

For those not familiar with the Nortel story, here it is in extreme brief. Nortel was a Canadian telecommunications company, spun off from Bell Canada in the early nineties. It was a manufacturer of network equipment, and had a presence on the TSX. During the late nineties, Nortel’s stock did well. Extremely well. It managed to get to a high of $124 in 2000, about the time that I remember seeing news headlines like: ‘You NEED to get in on this!’, or ‘How high can Nortel go?’. Many people bought in at this level (a few I know personally), and almost immediately, the stock started to slip. These declines were written off as minor corrections, and the late comers were assured that things would be back to normal soon. They never got back to normal though.

Instead, Nortel stock sank with other tech-bubble stocks, and by the end of 2002, the stock was trading at under $0.50. Those late investors ended up taking one hell of a bath, even assuming they got out before this per-bankruptcy low.

Bitcoin though, is not a stock. It is a currency, and a fiat currency at that. Why is it fiat currency? Because it is not backed by any tangible asset. Also, its monetary base can be expanded infinitely.

Yes, I am aware that there is a maximum upper limit of 21 million Bitcoins. No more full Bitcoins can be mined beyond that magic number, however, each Bitcoin can be infinitely subdivided, allowing the monetary base to grow. And unlike physical fiat currencies, whose supplies are controlled by central issuing agencies, Bitcoin can be subdivided by anyone. This has the odd effect of making Bitcoin a deflationary currency. By its very nature, it encourages people to hoard it, in order to realise the maximum possible benefit from it.

Why buy today, a car at 100 Bitcoin, when you can wait a week and buy it for 10? Or wait a month and buy it for 1? This is a characteristic that the early adopters benefit from greatly, but that subsequent adopters do not realise to the same degree. And with sufficient time, and adoption, the latest adopters will see no appreciable benefit from this characteristic. What this implies is that there may be two physical limits to Bitcoin: the first being the previously mentioned limit of 21 million mined coins, and the second being some yet-to-be determined limit on the number of adopters.

For me personally, the current sense I get from Bitcoin, is the same sense I remember getting when I saw Nortel’s stock charts: this is not going to last. If I am wrong, so be it, but my expectation is that the price of Bitcoin will collapse, badly. When? Who can say. Between now and then, there is certainly money to be made, but I am not a brave enough investor to bet on speculation. I have neither the background information necessary (just who is this mysterious figure behind Bitcoin), nor the risk appetite necessary.

Categories: Internet, Politics, World

Canada and bank bail-ins: depositors beware

2013 March 28 @ 11:06 No comments

While I was perusing the various media reports about Cyprus’ banks reopening, and the potential ‘bail-in’ hit depositors could be on the hook for, I came across a comment that caused me to raise an eyebrow in concern. The post mentioned that the 2013 Canadian federal budget indicated that the government was planning to set up a bank rescue framework that would include depositor bail-ins.

With the page numbers conveniently provided by the poster (pages 144 and 145), I decided to check out the accuracy of their statement, and found a copy of the 2013 budget. I downloaded the pdf, and scrolled to page 144, and found that the poster was indeed correct. Bail-in’s are coming to Canada.

Establishing a Risk Management Framework for Domestic Systemically Important Banks

Economic Action Plan 2013 will implement a comprehensive risk management framework for Canada’s systemically important banks.

Canada’s large banks are a source of strength for the Canadian economy. Our large banks have become increasingly successful in international markets, creating jobs at home.

The Government also recognizes the need to manage the risks associated with systemically important banks–those banks whose distress or failure could cause a disruption to the financial system and, in turn, negative impacts on the economy. This requires strong prudential oversight and a robust set of options for resolving these institutions without the use of taxpayer funds, in the unlikely event that one becomes non-viable.

The Government intends to implement a comprehensive risk management framework for Canada’s systemically important banks. This framework will be consistent with reforms in other countries and key international standards, such as the Financial Stability Board’s Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions, and will work alongside the existing Canadian regulatory capital regime. The risk management framework will include the following elements:

  • Systemically important banks will face a higher capital requirement, as determined by the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
  • The Government proposes to implement a “bail-in” regime for systemically important banks. This regime will be designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital. This will reduce risks for taxpayers. The Government will consult stakeholders on how best to implement a bail-in regime in Canada. Implementation timelines will allow for a smooth transition for affected institutions, investors and other market participants.
  • Systemically important banks will continue to be subject to existing risk management requirements, including enhanced supervision and recovery and resolution plans.

This risk management framework will limit the unfair advantage that could be gained by Canada’s systemically important banks through the mistaken belief by investors and other market participants that these institutions are “too big to fail.”

After a little more searching, I also found that this was not a new idea. The Bank of Canada published an article titled Contingent Capital and Bail-In Debt: Tools for Bank Resolution back in December 2010 as part of their Financial System Review report. Now while the article points out that the idea of bail-ins is not new and has been discussed elsewhere in financial literature, and is itself not a policy document, the fact that the concept of bail-ins have reached the federal budget should put anyone with deposits in the major Canadian financial institutions on their toes.

Does any of this mean that one (or more) Canadian financial institutions are in danger of failure? Not necessarily. But keep in mind, a month ago, Cyprus’ banks were considered well-capitalised, and on solid footing. How quickly things can change.

Canadian depositors take heed.

Categories: Canada, Politics, World

SimCity Map Sizes

2013 March 22 @ 11:04 No comments

Since the release of SimCity (2013), I have read several reviews (and many comments) about the game, most of them not very positive. One of the criticisms that was repeatedly made, was that the map was to small, being 2 kilometres a side (for a grand total of 4 km2). In the back of my mind, I remembered that the medium sized map from SimCity 4 was 4 km2, but I could not remember how big the maps from the other versions of SimCity were. So, for my own amusement, I decided to poll the various city simulator games I have (minus SimCity 2013, which I will not be playing—ever), to get a rough determination of their map sizes in kilometres. For any who are interested, here are the results.

Game Map Area In Tiles (t2) Map Area In Kilometers (km2)
SimCity 10000 t2
100 × 100 tiles
2.44140625 km2
1.5625 × 1.5625 km
SimCity 2000 16384 t2
128 × 128 tiles
4 km2
2 × 2 km
SimCity 3000 Miniature: 4096 t2
64 × 64 tiles

Small: 16384 t2
128 × 128 tiles

Medium: 36864 t2
192 × 192 tiles

Large: 65536 t2
256 × 256 tiles
Miniature: 1 km2
1 × 1 km

Small: 2 km2
4 × 4 km

Medium: 9 km2
3 × 3 km

Large: 16 km2
4 × 4 km
SimCity 4 Small: 4069 t2
64 × 64 tiles

Medium: 16384 t2
128 × 128 tiles

Large: 65536 t2
256 × 256 tiles
Small: 1 km2
1 × 1 km

Medium: 4 km2
2 × 2 km

Large: 16 km2
4 × 4 km
SimCity (2013) Not Applicable 4 km2
2 × 2 km
Cities XL Not Applicable 100 km2
10 × 10 km
Categories: Games

(Mostly) Open Source Windows Programmes

2013 March 15 @ 21:12 No comments

A short list of (mostly) open source software for Windows, presented in the order in which I install them.

Categories: Windows

Samsung NP300V5A-S05CA Drivers

2013 March 15 @ 15:12 No comments

After playing around a while, trying to get Linux working on my laptop (and failing), I decided to give up the effort for the time being, and reinstall Windows 7. Now, the installation of the OS was easy, but—contrary to a Linux install—I was left with a minimally functional system. The install/rescue disk that came with my laptop did not have several of the drivers that I needed—such as drivers for the NIC’s.

This has always been an annoyance for me, but I made due with another machine and a USB drive to get the drivers I needed. But before I could do that, I had to identify what hardware I had, in order to get the proper drivers. Unfortunately, Samsung was very skimpy with the documentation they provided, and listed only the barest minimum of information (the kind that gets the attention of the technical illiterati, but is just slightly above useless).

So, I head to Samsung’s website, and go to the driver/download area, find the series of my laptop, and have to make an educated guess on the product number. My laptop has the product number: NP300V5A-S05CA

No doubt this marks it as a laptop to be sold in Canada, and—of course—it is not a product number that is listed on Samsung’s support pages. The equivalent US unit (and thus, drivers) is: NP300V5A-A05US


2013 March 06 @ 10:51 No comments

It has taken a little time, but I have finally found the sweet spot for archiving my music to flac and then creating ogg copies for use on my smartphone. It consists of the following three programmes:

  • 1) Asunder: for creating the initial flac files.
  • 2) GPRename: for removing the special characters that interrupt easy command-line access to the files and folders created in step one. (I remove things like brackets, punctuation, ampersands, and spaces. All that I allow are miniscule letters, and the dash.)
  • 3) acxi: for bulk creation of ogg files from the flac archive.

Detailed instructions on getting the music onto the phone can be found in a previous post: Slackware <—[FTP]—> Android

Categories: Linux, Music

Renaming files from *.flac headers

2013 March 03 @ 22:32 No comments

So you have done something stupid. You have a music library of several hundred flac files, and decided to run a renaming script you cobbled together (from bits and pieces) upon said library. Now all the file names are garbled messes.

What do you do now?

Answer: you install EasyTAG, and get it to fix your mistakes.

Learn this lesson secondhand. It is no fun learning it firsthand.

Categories: Aggravations, Linux, Music

A Page to Track No-track Search Engines

2013 February 26 @ 11:14 No comments

Last night, after adding an ad-block filter to Opera on my phone, I decided to do a little surfing, and wound up coming here—just to see how it rendered, you understand. I wound up on my post about no-track search engines so that I could add them to Opera, but found that one of them was now just a domain parking page for all intents and purposes.

After doing a little poking around, and searching, I found two new no-track search engines, and figured I should update my post. But I scratched that idea not to much later, since the post would be buried in the archives. So I thought about providing a current post that referred back to the original post, saying that it had been updated, but then I would need to get the url for the post (and it is long a complicated), and I wanted to be lazy.

So, instead, I have created a new page dedicated solely to search engines that do not track your movements. When it is updated, I will post a note here. Also, if I have missed any, please feel free to tell me, and they will be included in the list.

Categories: Internet, Site News

Ad Blocking for Opera Mobile on Android

2013 February 25 @ 22:47 1 comment

For the week or so that I have had this new-fangled smartphone, when I browsed the internet (which has not been often) I used Firefox (with ad block), and routinely found that page loads were extremely slow. I passed it off as a connection issue, but yesterday, I decided to a different browser, and opted for Opera.

It is not quite fair to say that the speed difference between Opera and Firefox is akin to that between a hare and a tortoise, but the analogy comes pretty close.

Pages that Firefox would chug along to load, popped up almost instantaneously in Opera, and so I decided to tolerate the tiny ads, on my tiny screen—until today. Why should I sacrifice bandwidth, and scree-space, for an add I can barely read to begin with? So, here is the very simple solution to eliminating (most) ads in Opera.

(Credit to Cirrus Minor for being my source on this matter.)

  • 1) Download the file you find here, and rename it to urlfilter.ini
    • 1.1) If you downloaded the file to your PC, copy it to your Android device.
  • 2) Put the file in what ever directory you want. (I put mine in a new folder titled configfiles.)
  • 3) Open Opera, and in the address bar type: opera:config
    • 3.1) Hit Return (in case that was not obvious).
  • 4) In the Quick Find box, type filter.
  • 5) Point the URL File Filter box to the location of your new urlfilter.ini and hit save.
  • 6) Restart Opera, and enjoy ad-less browsing.
Categories: Android, Browsers, Internet