Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ya aint gettin da full truth

In a news report by Scott Johnston from 630 CHED, titled 'City portion of arena deal "covered" says city manager', it is my belief we are hearing fudged information. In court, the proverbial oath is to tell the truth, the whole truth,  and nothing but the truth.

We are not getting that full truth, which it is my belief that makes the city manager a liar.

Just along the same lines as the cities CFO said at council, with a wink wink nudge nudge, that taxes are not going up because of the arena. She too, was telling a partial truth. And the only reason why she could get away with the response was because the question was related to "this year". And of course, since the city really didn't spend any money, it's kind of hard to raise taxes on something not yet disbursed. DUH. But hey, the city ran around screaming and cheering that taxes were not going up. .. And you fell for it. Right?

Anyway, getting back to dear Simon, who was quoted as saying :
“If you take the arena project, the city office tower, and you take Stantec, there’s a billion and a half dollars worth of investment into the core and that will be sufficient to pay off clearly any of the municipal portion on the arena”
 What Simon fails to add is this. All of the tax revenues from the CRL zone, based on the existing relocation of other businesses, means the areas vacated are no longer going to pay those property taxes. Empty buildings do not generate tax revenue. So those 10's or 100's of millions of  tax dollars are lost. When you add into this the fact that all new property taxes raised within the CRL zone will NOT be going into paying for the required services the city and it's residents needs (fire, police, infrastructure etc) then this means we are in reality, out DOUBLE the amount of money required to pay for those same fire, police, infrastructure type items.

So, with a loss of double the hundreds of millions, I'm thrilled to know that Edmonton is becoming much more effective in dealing with crime and stuff, and we can start to get rid of the extra cops and fire fighters and paving equipment contracts that will no longer be needed.

Of course, the above statement is an oxymoron, because taxes WILL go up to recover the loss of the revenue stolen from city taxes, in order to support a billionaire. To think otherwise... well, I'm sorry. I'll call a spade a spade. You are just stupid.

By the way, did you note the part where he included the "city office tower"? Isn't that the one where city employees are all supposed to be going to? I seem to recall something about the city not paying property taxes on places it has. Maybe I'm wrong... *coughs

Have you also forgotten about that portion of the education tax which is part of property taxes, being stolen from our children? Meh... the kids certainly don't need that money, because you know, the teachers love teaching so much they will do it for free. Course, with that lost revenue for schools, you have to know your fees to send kids to school will go up. Buses, books, art supplies. But you don't care, right? After all, we have to support a poor billionaire. And even our Mayor has expressed delight in taking that portion of the taxes away from the children.

Yet another farce presented to the people was the item of Katz getting parking revenues. One would think that would mean he would be able to keep all of the parking money from the arena parking at the building. What you were not told is that the parking money is not JUST limited to "his" palace. What you were also NOT told was that the city is paying ... ops.. I mean you are paying ... to replace all of those parking meters in the area, with new fancy electronic programmable meters, so they can RAISE the price of parking.. ops, I mean so they can give Katz a lot more money. And of course, the spin provided for that aspect was that "we have to be competitive".

So much more is yet to come. The question is, since we all know that ignorance is bliss...

Just how blissful are you? Sheep being what they are and all.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Please Prove Your Ethics

In light of the latest Auditor Generals report, we have every political party jumping on the bandwagon, or trying to prevent the bandwagon from falling apart.

So here is a simple challenge to every politician or party in Alberta. The people are basically looking for party responses, but will take individual ones as well.

Just make up a blog post, and in simple basic language, tell the people why you are honest, why you have integrity, and why you will be transparent. Then respond here, anonymously if you wish, and post a link in your reply to that post.

We aren't looking for pages and pages of details... just your basic common sense layout of generic principles that you feel are important. If your blog post also links to party policies, that's fine if you want to expand things. But please, keep your basics as simple as possible.

It's really not that hard to do... is it?

The people thank you kindly, in advance. And they will also note any lack of responses.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Broken Politics

No matter where you look, politics is broken. Pick a city, province, country... the vast majority probably have major issues. For the most part, we as individuals have little control over world politics, and as we "drill down" closer to provincial and city events, our control increases in varying amounts.

In my opinion, the biggest reason people do not get out and vote is because they feel politicians never listen to them and never represent them, so why bother.

Time after time, an individual or a party that we feel would represent us the best, is not elected. And we have given up. No matter how much we scream at people to get involved... unless they feel what they have to say counts for something, they will continue to not show up to vote.

So for example, if a particular riding has a 30% turn out in voters and there are 4 parties running in that riding, then the person with the highest percentage of votes, wins. All of the others are tossed out. "A" got 35%, "B" got 30%, "C" got 25% and "D" got 10%.

The winner of 35% gets elected, and 65% (a much higher majority) get nothing. To make matters worse, only 30% of the voters, of that 35% winner, are really represented. And this is extremely dangerous for all.

And you wonder why people give up.

But what if... what if the concept, changed. I've heard other places in the world do this, and I'm sure that it also carries its own type of problems as well... but...

What if... the total number of seats in government, are filled by the percentage of the votes each party received. Yes, in this scenario, it is quite possible that the person you voted for in your riding, and won that riding, might not actually end up getting a seat. But please, follow along with the concept. :)

Lets take the same above percentages, and apply that to the entire province (or country if you want). Party "A" has 35% of the seats to fill. Perhaps they can take the "top winners" of the various riding's, by percentage, and fill those seats in order. The other parties would do the same thing.

So in this case, it is also possible that the person you voted for in your riding, and lost.... could end up with a seat anyway.

Would this type of scenario be more of what would entice you to actually vote? To actually know that what YOU think, counts a lot more?

WE are the people. it us up to US to drive a change. Take your ideas and present them, let YOUR voice be heard for a change.

Or continue on with thinking that Ignorance is bliss. Chances are one day, it will come back and bite you firmly in your ass. Enjoy that...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Microsoft allowing Google back door access?

I'm sure most of my readers know that I am not a fond fan of Google. The spying factors and all. And yes, blogger is a Google product, but I post things here, because I want Google to know what I think, and why. Anyway...

The other day I was (shush) forced into a corner, into using Google Voice. It was the only option I had at that moment. So I had to install their little "plugin" in order for things to work. One would think that a browser plugin should only work or be active, when the browser is active AND that plugin is being used. But we are talking Google here.

After the "need" was over, I rebooted my Windows 7 system and I noticed in my router log files, some outgoing connections to some "tools" thing at Google. So I opened task scheduler, and found 2 entries created by the Google software, that would run at boot, and then "every hour" after that. The (cough) idea being that Google wanted to check to make sure you always had the latest "tools". Yeah, thanks but no thanks. So I disabled the tasks from running. That should solve the problem, right?

A short time later, I rebooted again... and... damn... there was that traffic in the router again. So I started up Process Monitor (a great free utility from Mark over at SysInternals) and asked it to make a bootlog of the processes being run. Rebooted, and then looked at the log file.

Low and behold, Google was still DIRECTLY calling the task files (they are stored in the Windows Tasks folder) even though they had been disabled in Task Scheduler. Well, screw that, I though.. So I deleted the tasks, and rebooted again. WooHoo!!! Yup, that solved that. Success!!

But.. wait... my IP blocking program (PeerBlock) was showing that there were about 200 attempts in the space of 3 seconds, to go out to the Google address, again.

So this time, I went in and uninstalled the Google plugin. Google was still blocked, and that caused close to 500 attempts to speak with the Google servers. So once again, I rebooted. And it finally stopped.

So... Dear Microsoft... WHY is it, that Google can still run tasks, even though they have been disabled? What kind of "special" access do they have?

I'm really not liking this. At all.

Just sayin.

Monday, June 2, 2014

And who do you represent?

I tend to not get overly involved with the Canadian federal politics scene because I just don't have the mindset to handle having a dictator running my country. It's hard enough just to keep up with the local civic and provincial issues as it is. Some of you are probably calling "bullshit" at this statement, because now and then I do send out twitter messages, many of them directly including Harper's twitter account, about dictatorship, treason, and other things. Yet I am nowhere near as "hard" on Canadian Politics as many others.

With that said, the other day I was bored and frustrated, so I turned on the tv set and came across the political discussions on the CTV Power Play program. I never watch it... but I did say I was bored.

Apparently there is this big issue involving Justin Trudeau and stuff happening with respect to the abortion issue. CTV showed various clips, one of them where he was asked a question and then stood there not saying anything and looking totally stupid. Finally  followed by awkwardly worded sentences that seemed to indicate he was being caught with his pants down and had no clue what to say in "political" words.

One clip did catch my attention though, and it had to do with voting along party lines, regardless of the MP's personal views on the matter. What made things worse, from my perspective, was the panel on Power Play were more concerned about the "abortion" topic, than the rest of the response.

Um... excuse me MISTER Trudeau... and the rest of the MP's that WE the people, elect.

I know I expect too much. Like honesty and integrity. Something that the vast majority of you, regardless of party, seem to lack. And excuse me for being under the naive impression that WE the people (supposedly) elected you to represent US. And by "us" I don't mean the United States either. Silly that I even have to mention that but we know how you love to twist things and offer excuses. Anything but the truth, so help you God.

This post is just to remind you for the future election(s). WE the people grow tired. WE the people are very annoyed with you for representing anything BUT what WE hired you to do.

Your jobs as Members of Parliament are to represent the views of the people that elected you. Not your personal views. And certainly NOT your party views.

YOU think we are too polite to stand up and fight for the right things for all of Canada. I would suggest to you, that you are sadly mistaken. WE the people... have had enough.

As for the abortion issue, since I know some of you came here to read about that...

I don't believe that it is my place to tell a woman what to do with her body.

This is a matter between the woman and her doctor. And yes, I get that it's not quite that simple. These things never are. The issues are certainly complex on both sides of the fence, of that... there is no question. My personal belief is that each case must be based on the individual merits. I would feel very sad if a woman was choosing abortion as a form of birth control. But I would also be sad if a woman was forced to term if the pregnancy was a result of a rape, when that woman did not want to have that "memory" being forced on her. Some women can handle that, some can't. This again boils down to a medical issue. Both the mental and physical health of the mother-to-be must be taken into consideration.

Please don't beat me over the head, because I also agree "all" should have a chance at life.

I am not specifically pro-choice. Nor am I anti-choice. I simply have to defer back to my statement, that it is not my place to tell a woman what to do with her body.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

World Health Misleading Advertising

From within the social media world, the number of people who are striving to maintain that "healthy glow", is certainly evident. There is non-stop chatter about keeping fit, eating right, doing exercises and generally, keeping in shape. And in theory, there is certainly nothing wrong with any of this.

Today's instant digital world has seen both adults and children get taken away from the good old days of family fun, outdoor play, eating right, and general overall just keeping in shape. We have become victims of the corporate advertising world. They have lead us to believe that they know what is best, with fancy marketing, smooth mellow tunes, and eye popping websites.

A while back, I started looking into some issues with respect to the World Health fitness centers here in Alberta. When I do a search on "world health" (I use Bing, not Google), right at the top the search page shows "World Health" with a link to, and subtitles under that link on the search page show many entries with respect to the Calgary location. Yet when you click on that link, you get taken to the World Health Edmonton website. There is a selection box at the top of the webpage that allows you to choose between Edmonton and Calgary though, which implies the organizations are related. Don't try to pick the "choose your city" selection because that creates a page not found error.

With the appearance that Calgary is the "head office" (from what search engines seem to imply) I contacted the Calgary location to ask them some questions about the Edmonton operations. Wow, that was a mistake! Calgary wanted nothing to do with Edmonton, and I was told that they "split up" a while back. I find it rather strange that they both use the same website landing page though.

So, what was it that started my quest? Well, on their website, way down at the bottom, is a heading called "No Contract", under a "Memberships" heading. If you are on the Edmonton page selection, they have a short blurb about how hard it is to make a commitment, and fill out this form so we can contact you. Yet it also states "membership options". So now I am confused. If "no contract" implies you can come and go, and pay certain fees for the use of the equipment... but there is that nasty word "membership". Hmmm...

Okay, so lets try this. Go back up to the top of the website and select Calgary as the choice. Same basic layout, and down at the bottom again, is the 'no contract' link under Memberships. Calgary goes into a little more detail, and even has big words saying "No Term Contract", as well as several other categories. If you click on the "get membership prices" (huh? Membership again? hmmm) they list some details (much more in-depth than Edmonton does) and then the "fill in the form" stuff, similar to the Edmonton link.

But wait! Down at the bottom, Calgary lists "The Small Print". Which says that a no term contract is actually an agreement for 26 consecutive bi-weekly dues".

How in the world can they say this is not a contract, when clearly it is!

Even more curious still, is why Calgary says that membership allows some access to the Edmonton locations, but Calgary wants nothing to DO with the Edmonton operations.

This entire situation smacks of deceptive advertising. And I know some people that have been caught off guard, especially after being asked to supply banking information for automatic withdrawals from their bank account.

So I'm calling "bullshit" to the Edmonton operations because you apparently deliberately HIDE the fact that a contract IS required. Maybe this is part of the reason why Calgary wants nothing to do with them.

With that said, I then went on a mini-hunt with some of the local twitter folks who manage fitness locations in Edmonton, because there HAS to be a place that isn't out to deceive you. One of the people I contacted was Chris Tse who is a co-owner of Blitz Conditioning. I asked him about "no contract" stuff and he responded (paraphrased) "If people want to walk in and just pay-as-you-go without signing any form of contract then they CAN do that. We don't believe in forcing people to sign contracts!"

So there ya go. You CAN get healthy, on your terms.. all it takes is a little shopping around. Don't fall for deceptive and misleading advertising. You can do it, I know you can!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Alberta Political Futures

With the latest revelations of huge severance payouts and outrageous holiday payments for the departing of the Princess Redford staff, combined with the "private penthouse" for the Princess (not even done and some $21 million over budget), I think its safe to say that the PC Alberta party has firmly over cooked their own goose.

The burnt and fried carbon remnants of the party will probably have their butts kicked out of provincial politics, with only a few people getting re-elected in the next Provincial election.

Clearly, the Wild Rose will probably form the next government, given their standings in the polls. For whatever polls are worth, of course.

With that said... it is time for EVERY Alberta party to jump on the band wagon, and take the concept of the "sunshine" list, and put some numbers next to what each job listed, will pay. For the most part, all of those jobs need a huge reduction in wages.

More importantly, any "contracts" created by the "new" government, must eliminate these huge severance payouts. What is happening now is WAY out of line with what the private sector does. I recall hearing, for example, that the AHS head side of things, will get 1 months severance for every month worked, up to a maximum of 12 months. Something in excess of a half a million dollars.

What's more appropriate would be one months severance for each year worked. With no "holiday pay" payout.

Even more critical in all of this, is the requirement for recall legislation. It is the ONLY tool the taxpayers have at their disposal, to force the elected politicians into keeping the promises they made, On top of that, we need to make sure that a promise is also practical.

The people have had enough with the lies. And even more than enough of the costs.

Post created March 28, 2014 . . . updated May 6, 2014

Please note, I am personally not leaning towards or against any party at this time. I'm not sure that I have any form of trust for any of them, and THIS is their opportunity to stand out and shine. It's really pretty easy.

1) Pick some of the top jobs from the sunshine list, and put dollar values on them.
2) Guarantee there will be no fancy contracts with huge payout clauses.
3) Define what an appropriate severance would be, generically, like above.
4) State your stance on recall legislation.

It's not that hard to do, is it? I will take any "failure to respond" as a signal that your party will continue on in the ways of deceit, manipulation, and distrust.

May 8th update

Public service should be about serving the public, not about taking a job for 4 years and expecting to retire off of the taxpayers backs. No offense, just saying. Elected officials are one thing, staff for them is a totally different issue. I personally can't see any job staff would do, that would qualify for more than about $150k a year. I know we are not the "USA", but consider the White House Chief of Staff, one of the top jobs. And the pay for that. I would suspect that job is a lot more detailed than anything we would be doing here in Alberta. Maybe I'm wrong, I honestly don't know. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated, I'm always willing to learn. :)

May 23 update

If you don't want to post a full out reply here then at least respond with a link to your party's website with the appropriate details.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When good service turns bad

Last month I did a blog post on good service. Sadly, sometimes good service turns into a disaster. I have sat and pondered the circumstances for over a week now, because I wanted to give my frustration level a chance to simmer down.

After leaving Derrick Dodge from the original trouble shooting they performed (which was covered in my previous post listed above) on the Cirrus, I returned home and spent a few days going over the information. Following the advice of the shop foreman, I had a friend come over to assist in isolating out the various sensors. According to the diagnostics done by Derrick Dodge, they stated that the 5 volt sensing line appeared to shorted out, so the hunt was on to find either a bad sensor or damaged wiring.

After spending considerable time testing the sensors and the 5 volt line, we got down to the last sensor in the system. No faults were found, and during the entire process, the 5 volt line was always there, never missing. So the information provided by Derrick Dodge was not accurate. An email was sent back describing the events, and I had asked for additional suggestions. The response sent back was basically "we gave you the free time so if you want more, bring it in and pay for it"..

Sigh. Ok, I understand but.. what I was told wasn't right. I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of spending more money based on an inaccurate diagnosis, so over the next few days I was able to determine that the issue was more than likely a faulty PCM (power train control module) unit. I was able to track down a replacement, and once that was installed, all of the components "signaled" properly, and the annoying "check engine" light and other fault lights disappeared. Success!!

Arrangements were made with Derrick Dodge once again, to take the Cirrus back in for an outstanding warranty recall notice, and to get the required insurance inspection done for the insurance company. I was told they had to work on the shifting console area on the floor, and that section had to be removed for them to do the recall work. Since this was going to take several hours, their shuttle folks gave me a ride back home.

I received a phone call, stating their were problems. Apparently the car died when they were moving it into the shop. They were only able to get a portion of the recall work done, but they did complete the inspection. I was told that both front wheel bearings needed replacing (very strange) but other than that, the rest of the car was in mint condition (at least as far as the insurance inspection was concerned). They had to do a diagnosis on the "dead" problem, which of course, was going to cost me. Naturally, I had no choice but to authorize that.

I was contacted later, and told that a sensor had failed, which would not allow the car to start. Their parts and labor costs were insane, so I asked if I could replace it myself, on their lot. They agreed to allow that. So I acquired the part for free, and took the necessary tools with me to jack up the car, support it, and do the work. I figured 15 minutes, since the sensor was only held in by one bolt, and could be easily accessed from under the car. And the weather that day was wonderful. When I got to their lot however, I found that they parked the car in a location in the lot, that was on a severe slant. I cautiously jacked up the car, put a jack stand under it for support, and crawled under. The height I had it at wasn't dangerous at all, but the fact it was parked on a slant, on ice, and that it was on a corner in the lot where all other traffic went by to get out, was a major concern. I thought about moving the car, and I tried to start it "just in case"... but, there was nothing. I mean total dead battery nothing. WHAT THE... This was a brand new battery put in just 2 months ago. I went back into the service reception area. Admittedly I was not in the best of moods. Why they choose to park the car in the worst spot possible, was beyond me. And of course, "they" did nothing to cause the battery to die but they did immediately offer to diagnose it, at a cost of course. Something which made me even more upset. I declined their kind offer to charge me more, and asked to have someone come out to boost it.

I had to get the car on level ground. I needed another 3 or 4 inches in height off the ground, to be able to gain access to the sensor. The boost battery came out, and of course, the car refused to start. I got out of the car, frustrated. I told the kid with the boost battery to forget it, and he disconnected it. I pondered on how to move the car and pushing it was the only option. So I went to get back in and... the car was locked. And... they keys were inside. The removal of the boost battery caused a spike which locked the car doors. I was not impressed. And I was getting cold. Almost an hour into a 15 minute job, and I couldn't take any more. So I put the car back on the ground, packed up the tools and went back inside to the service reception. I gave them the replacement sensor, told them the car had locked, and left it up to them to figure it out and to replace the supplied sensor. At which point, I left... frustrated and cold.

I picked the car up the next day, having to pay for the insurance inspection and the "dead diagnostic" time. Just over $160. I talked with the inspection mechanic, who was ecstatic about the great shape the car was in.I asked him to explain the "test" for the bad bearings, and asked if there was any objection to used parts instead of new ones, and he said that was no issue. They also completed the warranty repairs but.. and yes, there is another but... they couldn't get the key removed from the ignition. They were more than happy to charge me to find out why, but I declined that. I did pay another $104 for them to replace the sensor.

While in the dealers lot, I tried to check the key issue out. The key would not even move to the position for removal, it was blocked by the transmission interlock assembly. Frustrated, I took it back home so I could figure this out. And of course, being pot hole city, the ride back was bumpy. When I got back home, I put the car in the garage, turned it off, and pulled the key out. WHOA.. say what? Yup, I took the key out.

It seems there is an interlock cable that links up to the floor console shifter unit. (you know, that area they had to work on for the warranty recall stuff) Whatever it was they were working on, this cable or mechanism was bent or kinked or out of place. And the bumpy ride home moved it around enough so that it allowed it to work properly again. I tested this theory out, by putting the key back in again, and not "quite" putting the car back into park, after moving the shift lever. Sure enough, the key was stuck in the same position, not allowing it to turn far enough to get to the position to remove it. By pushing the shift lever firmly into the park position, I heard the locking mechanism release, and the key was allowed to turn the rest of the way to remove it. And to think Derrick Dodge wanted to pull my steering column apart because THEY figured a pin or spring inside the ignition lock had failed. Well, if THAT were indeed the case, then the key would have turned all the way to the removal position.

Anyway, it was time to concentrate on the bad wheel bearings. I tested the passengers side and noted a small wiggle. I then checked the repair book and found the nut holding the bearing in place was supposed to be torqued to 180 foot pounds. Our impact air gun would only do about 130, which is what I had used to tighten it last time it was worked on a few days back. So out came the torque wrench, and it was snugged up. The wiggle disappeared. I then checked the drivers side and found NO wiggle at all. To be safe, I used the torque wrench on that, and it would not budge any more.

I made arrangements, and booked another appointment to "re-test" these 2 bearings. A simple 5 minute job to put it back up on the hoist, jack up the front tires, and "wiggle" test them. That was at 1 pm. At 4 pm, I was told the car was done, and that it had passed the inspection. I was then told "oh, didn't we tell you there would be an additional charge for that... another $35 please".

Um.. NO.. you never said that. As a matter of fact, when I paid for the insurance inspection, I stated at that time "so all he has to do is a quick re-test of the 2 front wheel bearings, since I already paid for the inspection, yes?".. And "yes" was the answer. Why did it take 3 hours to do a 5 minute job? Why was I not told when I brought it in at 1 pm that there was going to be more charges? Why wait until after?

Anyway, I paid the additional fee, got the paperwork I needed for the insurance company and left.

Nice to know I didn't have to pay in excess of $550 to replace front wheel bearings, when one side simply wasn't tightened enough, and nothing was wrong with the other side at all. Maybe the inspection fella felt that if one was bad, then probably the other one should be replaced just to be safe.

What I find most strange is... I generally didn't have "problems" until after Derrick Dodge had the car. It started fine all the time, even before the PCM was replaced.

The inspection fella said he thought maybe the nut might not be tight but he did a quick check and it seemed ok.

The battery was brand new, but they never did anything to make it go dead. Yet they were more than happy to offer to diagnose it, for a fee.

And they were more than happy to offer to pull apart the steering column to fix the key issue. Which was never once an issue before.

I will, on my own time, pull apart the shifting console, and properly fix the adjustment so the key doesn't get stuck again. It still has an issue if I don't "firmly" put it into park. Their own notes on my service invoice state they in fact did this exact step.

It seems like every time I took it in for "one thing", another problem magically appeared. Perhaps coincidence. I'm not saying they created some "make work" projects at all, but the circumstances are certainly strange. I do have to add in however, that a new "clunk" is now there, that was never there before my last visit. Turning the wheel, and backing up now gives this new noise. I think I will find that and fix it myself.

While I am grateful for the staff labor rate charged, the appearance of the additional work that needed to be done, including the offer of being charged to fix their own mistakes, has turned having stuff done at Derrick Dodge from a dream into a nightmare.

p.s. No, I'm not looking for any refunds etc. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alberta Politics comes crashing down

With all of the dirt flying from the Redford team, I think it's pretty clear that the people don't want her as Premier anymore. The PC's need to toss her out.

I find little point in stating all of the reasons, because the list is endless. The question is, what to do now, and what to do at election time.

I will say at this point, I trust no party, and no leader. The political grandstanding by them all, has been shameful. And I'm honestly sick and tired of hearing what will be done just to get elected, and then coming up with excuse after excuse to not do things. At the same time, the "other hand" is doing all of the crap behind closed doors.

Iveson pulled the same bullshit, and of course we have Harper... all of it is enough to make one scream.

What I would like to see, is for a party to stand up to the plate and make some sound promises. In writing. I want to see recall legislation implemented within the first 100 days, to force some integrity back into the system. I want to see the ruling party bring in 1 or 2 members of the other parties into major meetings, and to sit back and listen to the ideas from ALL of the parties.

Time after time after time, many excellent suggestions have come from other parties, and the ruling government has snubbed their noses in the air at them, because THEY didn't think of it.

That has to stop.

We elect people to represent US, not to represent a party or party politics. Those who get voted in MUST have the freedom to represent the people that elected them. And if those people are saying "don't do this", then those members MUST express that vote in the legislature.

Enough is enough.

I'd also like to see some form of legislation that requires those elected, to hold regular town hall meetings of some type. Certainly when major bills are being discussed, or perhaps every 9 months or something. I don't know what a good time frame would be, all I know is, its time those elected started listening.

If you want MY vote, and you want to be trusted by the PEOPLE... then you need to make these promises in writing, and you need to do it NOW.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Computer Security, Big Brother and the Cloud

I suspect I may be biting the hand that feeds me, because in essence, this post will contain some observations about Google, and of course the "blog spot" site this blog is on, is a Google product. This post is also about a lot more.

Some time back I did a blog post here, on routers, router hacking, back door commands, and other interesting things. I was doing some emailing with a friend in Germany and I wanted to hunt that post down for him. Yet for some reason I can't find it. I know I didn't delete it. I have never deleted any of my blog posts, no matter what the topic or results have been. Yet .. .. .. it's gone.  With that said, I'm going to post this information again, with a bit more detail and advice. :)

I've been around the block with computers. 35 (or so) years of building, supporting, and programming them does give me a little insight on how they operate. I myself am certainly not a "hacker" per say. And I don't profess to be a real security "expert". I know enough to know some of the simple things to watch for, and how to go about protecting against them, to the best of my simple abilities.

Back in the summer of 2012, I did a screen shot of a program I use called WallWatcher. This program monitors my router, and reports in real time, all of the incoming and outgoing connections, the protocols used, the remote and local IP addresses involved and port information for all of the packets sent, or attempted to be sent. It also reports attempted connections in both directions.

I was having a terrible time with internet stability, and quite often... just going to Google Dot Com, my system would freeze up. My router would at times, go into an infinite loop of cold starts, which made all forms of communications impossible. Other times, there would be a "hiccup", and some stuff would come back. I realize some of you are going "huh?" so let me explain.

Within the configuration pages of your router (most people have one of those now) are places where you can do things like port forwarding, and allowing certain ports to be open that normally would not be. If you are a gamer, you are probably aware of what I mean. :) When you make a change in one of these configurations and hit the "save" button for it, the router stores those changes and then sends out (whats refereed to as) a "warm start" command. This allows the changes to be applied, usually without affecting any other things you have going on. Kind of like plugging in a USB device with your computer system running.  A cold start, is essentially the same thing as taking the power away from the router. No power, no communications.

Anyway, I checked my WallWatcher program, and took this screen shot of what happened back in June of 2012.

The entries in yellow, are the router reset commands being performed. If you notice that really long entry in the message area, you can see that it's going to some absurdly weird place at google. And immediately, it went into a cold start. I did nothing more than opening a web browser, and went to google. I did no search, entered nothing in the search area, pressed no buttons. .. .. and my router was attacked.  I say "attacked" because doing a remote cold start is something restricted to higher end routers, and should by all definition of security, only be allowed by a top level system administrator that has been authorized to do those functions. My router is not "high end", and sure as hell Google is not authorized for anything of this nature.

I also use another program called PeerBlock. It's great "open source" software, that I use to stop annoying advertising, and other such things. Anyway, over several months, I have built up a list of many IP addresses that I have (painfully) encountered, of many MANY other sites that also send out weird code to cause my router to cold start. They ALL have that same form of really long weird name, and for the most part, those IP's belong to systems that are a part of "the cloud" network.

When clouds first started appearing on the internet many years back, hitting one of them would at times, bring up a pop-up box with legal terms about what a cloud is, what you are allowed to do, etc. One of the things mentioned in that agreement, was that cloud servers by default, are allowed to control ports in your computer, supposedly in order to enforce the rules of the server. And around the same time in technology, newer routers began appearing on the market, replacing older models.

Older routers had a feature where you could enable "remote logging", which allowed the router to report what it was doing, to an internal port on the system. This is the feature that WallWatcher and other log reporting software uses, to display "in english" what is going on. A super powerful thing to have, for those wanting to know whats happening. All of the newer routers have had that feature removed.

Oh sure, you can still get a log report, the manufacturers tell you. But you have to open your router configuration page, go to the report page, and open the report, which appears in a web browser. And it only shows a few things, with the information being 'static', not in real time. In order to get the current information, you have to refresh the webpage. Hell, if you refreshed the page even every 5 seconds, you could easily miss thousands of "hits". So all of the router manufacturers have essentially left you in the dark. On purpose.

Why? Well, with the cloud now being out, they didn't want to cause people any worry about their ports being accessed, and a real time log display could tend to spill the beans cause concern for end users. After all, what you don't know, won't hurt you.

If you think cloud servers are still cute, then open your router log webpage and note the information. Then go to a known cloud server webpage in a new browser window. Go back to your router configurations, change or make up some port setting changes, enable them (you can clear all this later) and save the changes. Go back to your router log file and look at the new entries. I'm betting you will find additional probing, just from sitting on a cloud server. You see, it SAW those changes made, and it was curious what the heck you were doing. Of course, much of this depends on how your router logs work. By the way, even the desktop version of TweetDeck appears to have some minor cloud association with it. I've notice a few minor probes coming from them, when I make my own router changes. ... 2 or 3 tiny queries of some kind. Where as many other sites can send out requests 20 or 30 times.

And for me... I have to say... THIS is MY computer. What I do in the way of router changes is NONE of your business! If your website or cloud server is SO poorly programmed that you "can't take a chance" on what I did, then ... grow up.

As for the "security of the cloud", well... here are my thoughts. Yes, by all means, if one server goes down, the rest of them in "the cloud" can still probably serve your internet request. Some cloud servers network within the same data center, and some network amongst other data servers in other locations, which could be 100's of miles (or more) away. After all, this is the internet. :)

One would tend to suspect that if one of those servers could be hacked (and it happens) ... just think of the huge amount of data... OR monitoring ... that could be accessed or watched over.

There are a lot of people out there, that do a lot of bad things. There is a lot of spying going on. Draw your own conclusions on who may be accessing what, and ask yourselves what about the bigger picture down the road. Will there be back door commands that will eventually allow those "big brother" types to gain access to your system?

On the plus side, all is not lost. There ARE places where you can get great 'open source' firmware to restore and upgrade your router operations. WARNING! If you choose to take this route, then search and read and re-read everything you can about exactly the steps you need to take. If you fail to do this properly, you can "brick" your router. At which point you may have to toss it. Just saying...

I recommend the DD-WRT site for the firmware and TONS of information, including forums and wiki stuff... and for an example, check out this PCWORLD article for some general information.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Do you program in Dot Net or Mono?

I've been kicking the programming can now for 35 some odd years, and I have done so much, in so many different languages, I've forgotten just how many...

So much of what I do, I just take for granted. Experience is a great teacher, of that there is no question. And of course, the tools for programming have come a really long way, especially when it comes to ... dare I say ... being lazy.  The assortment of RAD (rapid application development) applications is just HUGE. I use many different ones of course, for each has their own purpose.

One of the tools I use from time to time, is Microsoft Visual Studio. It works pretty slick, and I can configure things the way I want them, especially when I build a DLL or some other object. And from time to time in the past, I've also done the odd "dot net" platform programming.

Dot Net has issues of course. One of the largest is that when you compile your code down to an EXE level, you can still dis-assemble the program back to the full source code. I know Visual Studio does have stuff in it, that will do some very simple protection, but to get your code completely protected, you need to purchase some rather expensive "options".

Do note, there is no "slight" against what MS includes, but you should be aware there are other options. For a lot less cost.

Many years back, I discovered the EZIRIZ site, and over the years I've followed the dedication that Denis has put into not only wanting to do things right, but to do them for a fair price. He has amassed a huge number of corporate users, including Xerox, Bosch, Corel, and even Microsoft.

If you develop in this environment, and you need a great product with awesome service, and a "more than fair" price, then I suggest you give them a try. They support Windows, multiple web languages, Silverlight, various smart devices, and more.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A little speeding is ok, right?

So David Staples is complaining that he got a photo radar ticket, for ONLY going 10 kilometers per hour over the limit. And he's using his job as an ... what is it.. opinion columnist, sports writer.. whatever... to gather support for being "bullied" by the law, by telling his little tale, complete with pictures of him and the ticket (side note.. could that pic be enlarged to reveal his personal info? Not that I have done that, nor would I waste the time doing it either) combined with doing an online poll, in an attempt to garner support for his cause.

He states something about a cop telling him back in the 90's that "up to 15 over is ok" (paraphrased), and the general appearances of his two stories posted to date, give the impression that this "going 10 over" is something he does all the time. After all, he admits that he has had a few tickets in the mail.

Let's face facts here. Photo radar is nothing more than a cash cow. You can't bring your accuser into court and question them. You can't offer an instant, and possibly reasonable, explanation as to why you were speeding, or why you ran that red light. And there are valid reasons for doing so.

Everyone speeds a little here and there. You almost have to at times, especially in keeping within the "flow of traffic", otherwise you face the wrath of enraged drivers, and (sadly) even the real possibility of some nut case tailgating you or cutting you off to prove a point on how much more superior they are than you. Of course, these things tend to apply on places like freeways and highways than normal city streets.

We must acknowledge that the law is the law. Yet we also understand that the law is supposed to be tempered with justice. It's clearly impossible for anyone to maintain "exactly" the speed limit. Foot fatigue, a little body shift to get comfortable in the seat, that tiny bit of pressure on the gas that lets you creep up and down in speed... especially on hills and valleys... I mean, those are normal and in fact natural. There is also the legal aspect in knowing that vehicle speedometers can and do go out of calibration, especially if you don't have the right sized tires on. Or the electronic sensors in the newer cars go out of "spec".

So generally, the law will usually avoid giving out tickets when the speed is minor. By that, I mean within a 5 kph range. And the courts tend to get a little pissed with cases within that range so for the most part they will generally look the other way when you are up to 7 kph over.

BUT... (and there is always a 'but') it will always depend on conditions and location. If the weather is bad, you can get a ticket for doing the speed limit, because you are not driving to conditions. This does NOT mean when conditions are perfect, you can go over the limit. And what about school zones, on a perfect day? If you think 10 over is ok, you are an asshat. Hell, 5 over in a school zone with kids around, you deserve a ticket and an ass kicking to boot. (no pun intended)

One major part in driving anyway, is to be aware of your surroundings, and paying attention to the roads. Clearly Mr. Staples doesn't do this, otherwise he would have seen the photo radar vehicle parked on the side of the road, where normally no car is parked.

Nuff said.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fishy Tower Deal

Just when you thought matters could not get any worse, this new deal with Katz and the new office tower adds some major stink factors.

When the last council lead by Mayor Mandel was (cough) negotiating the arena deal, one of the items Mr. Katzlington had on the bargaining table was "and you will move all the city employees into my new office building" (paraphrased).

Naturally, the public went into an uproar and council members quickly "came to the rescue" (coughs) and publically told Katz to take a hike. "Sure showed him" was the concept presented as many on city council proudly thumped their chests.

And now guess who "won" the (coughs) public competition to build a new tower for most of the city employees. Yup, out of about 14 bidders, Katz was chosen.

The City jumps up and down swearing the process was fair, and some independent folks were watching over to make sure of it. And with that, I'd suggest this was all just a marketing ploy. And you have fallen for it.

One can easily speculate that design and "wants and needs" were conveyed to Katz during many of the secret and/or private meetings or phone calls that Mandel had with him. Perhaps the ploy all along was to have this catered to, and the demand as part of the arena deal was to just create a puff of smoke.

I recall various newspaper articles that appeared immediately after the fact the City had in camera (private) meetings about this. Other developers seemed to indicate they never really had a chance anyway.

So if the City is saying that Katz came up with "nine out of 10 points" (for value, I guess) while the next closest was a six out of ten....

There was certainly ample time to carefully craft this "slight of hand", as many call it.

If it smells like a fish...

I'm betting it would have cost taxpayers less, to have the City build our own building...

(Note: References to Katz imply assorted associations with Katz, the Katz Group, WAM, and potential others.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

So you want service, huh

I've been on quite the "vehicle" journey this past winter. Fixed incomes, tight budgets, etc. My little 85 Toyota needed some winter prep done, and I wasn't happy with the condition of the radiator so I put a new one in. Common sense also dictated that it would be wise to change the thermostat as well, so I did all of that.

I seldom go out, but when I did (after the above was done) there were heating issues. (sigh)

The Toyota has a 5MGE engine in it, which is a "straight up" 6 cylinder. Unlike a general engine where you have say, 3 pistons on each side, this engine has all 6, straight up in a straight design. And at times, this design has been known to cause air pockets within the cooling system. Several attempts were made to "move" those potential air pockets out of the engine, the new radiator was checked for flow, the thermostat removed and checked for operations... but the problem only got worse.

To make a long story short, the new OEM thermostat was a bad design, and the spring got caught in the mounting bracket, forcing the thermostat to stay closed. This caused the engine to over heat, which caused the main head gasket to blow.

It was a total "tooth and nail" fight with the local head of Parts Source to prove the thermostat was faulty, however eventually they came up with a replacement head gasket and new antifreeze to replace all that was lost. The only problem is... our garage was "full", so those repairs on the Toyota have to wait for summer weather.

A little "saving grace" was available, as my brother has a 95 Cirrus which I can use, but it also required some repairs. To make that long story short, most of those repairs had been done over the years, and last summer he finally got around to finishing the paint job. The car was then taken in for a full frame alignment (that in itself is another story for another blog post) and then I set about working on that dreaded "check engine light" stuff.

We have several scanners for the new car computer things they have come out with over the years, and while they plugged into the OBD2 scanner port, none of them worked. After a lot of head scratching and internet searching, questioning all sorts of scanner manufacturers and third party computer diagnostic programs, we found that while the connector is an OBD2 type, this specific year, make, model and engine size, was an OBD1 computer. Nothing exists anywhere for diagnosing it, other than the dealer.

Since my brother had dealt with Derrick Dodge in the past, I contacted them through social media, and went into great detail on the issues, what had been found, diagnostic codes, sensor testing, etc. This was passed on to the service manager, who made the arrangements to have the car checked out.

The Cirrus was taken into their drive through bay area. Very impressive I must say. Within a few moments, this younger looking guy came out, scanner tester in hand, and jumped in to plug it in and ran some diagnostics. I brought along our Haynes repair manual, discussed all of the things done, and he spent some time trying to inspect a few things. We then went over the schematics of the system using the Haynes book, and he didn't think some things were right, so he took more time and photo copied some sensor pages from the dealer manual to help us out.

The basics of the tests indicated that the sensors were not getting the 5 volt line it needed from the PCM (power train control module), so we left Derrick Dodge with some really awesome information, and a great experience.

I found out afterwards, this "young looking kid" was really their shop foreman! So a huge kudos goes out to Gary Winters... he obviously knows his stuff. His expertise in explaining both the electronics and the mechanics was a breath of fresh air. Mind you, it also helped a lot that I knew what he was talking about too. I've been working on cars (and many other things) since high school. And I'm not a spring chicken anymore so...

A definite "tip of the hat" has to go to Derrick Dodge Family Center on 62 ave and 104 street.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nice port probing by the Government of Canada

I had a curiosity to check a website for Employment and Immigration today. Not much of what I was after, was there... was a simple check for some old age pension stuff.

These 2 pics are screen shots of the probing attacks that happened after I closed the browser down.

Food for thought. Needless to say, I'm not impressed.