Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Who will rule? Google, Huawei or Microsoft?

Monday, November 25th, 2019

Who is kidding who in the high-tech wars? Based on what Google Analytics can tell us about readers of this web site, I think you should all sit up straight and try not to drool as you keyboard. No, it’s not that bad. It’s worse. Big Brother is alive and well and running the World-Wide Web. Why wait for Huawei?

Google’s Sidewalk Labs only wants to take over Toronto. I just found out that Microsoft is making a lunge for the whole country. And I would trust the Peoples’ Republic of China before I would ever trust the evil empire of Bill Gates and Company.

I did not spend 30 years in the computer industry, just learning how to keyboard. I remember a conference sponsored by Gates and Friends in Seattle one time. When the guru from Microsoft finished his presentation, I grabbed a floor microphone and told the audience of over a thousand techies “I might speak with a Canadian accent but when it comes to Microsoft’s promises, I’m from Missouri.” There was a lot of laughter before Microsoft lackies could recapture the mic.

And yet, the other day, Microsoft sent me an e-mail offering me, the Microsoft version of MyAnalytics, for my exclusive use. It seems this small addition to my software could help me improve my focus and wellbeing. Not only that but it promises to improve my networking and collaboration. With Microsoft?  And they tell me this is for my personal use. Oh?

Now, how quickly can you tell me how many of you use Windows? And how often do you accept Microsoft updates to your software? And you do know that information goes both ways when you do, don’t you?

It is certainly not my intent to create any paranoia here but you would be amazed at what Microsoft already knows. It might not be as exciting as the traces of bodily fluids that you and a friend left on the back seat of your daddy’s Chevrolet but almost as embarrassing.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

 

Alberta should say no to own police.

Friday, November 15th, 2019

We are hearing a lot of bad ideas from Alberta of late. When premier Kenney gets into a hissy-fit, he rails and rants a lot and he comes up with some really dumb suggestions. The dumbest of them is the one where Alberta would create its own pension plan and put all the money into the tar sands. Another is the idea of firing the RCMP as the provincial police in Alberta and creating their own provincial police.

The policing idea has merit but I would suggest that the start-up costs for an Alberta force would be sizeable and there could be unnecessary levels of chaos in the transition. What Kenney and his friends should do is hire the Ontario Provincial Police to do the job. The OPP has the training facilities, the people and the skills to provide a seamless transition. And the good news is that Doug Ford was never allowed to put his people in charge of the OPP. They are untouched by politicians.

It makes them one of the best police forces in North America. Compared to the nearby New York State Police, headquartered in Albany, the OPP are paragons of virtue. They always stood a head taller than the Quebec Provincial Police but I am told by Quebecers that the QPP are no longer the bunch of thugs, they used to be.

While my experience with RCMP headquarters in Ottawa was always friendly and interesting, I could not say that for the kids fresh out of training in Regina who travelled the roads of Alberta looking for someone to harass.

But just why the dismissal of the RCMP as provincial guardians of law and order in Alberta would be a blow for freedom by Kenney is beyond me. It is easy enough to imagine that pulling four million people out of the Canada Pension Plan would be a small set back for the larger plan but the entire idea is that the larger the plan’s base the easier it is to ensure growth in its asset base. Small plans are more vulnerable.

Especially if you put the Alberta portion into as polluting an industry as Alberta tar sands.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

On the home straight.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

We are in the final week and nobody really knows how this election will play out. We tend to confuse what we hope will happen with what is really happening. The pollsters seemed locked in secondary races and are ignoring the real one.

Maybe green leader Elizabeth May is the only realist. She admits to the media that she is not running to be prime minister. She does have images of being the balance of power dancing in her head but the pollsters are even pooh-poohing that idea.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the least likely to achieve. Instead of dealing with the realities of being a third party, he has delusions of the glories of the prime minister’s office. His princess is going to be terribly disappointed with the results. The reality for Singh next week will be the heavy loss of Quebec seats for the socialists. And there is no way those losses can be recovered with a few possible gains in B.C.

But, in the same way, the higher poll figures in Quebec for the Bloc Québécois do not seem realistic. I agree that these voters are telling the pollsters that they are inclined to vote for the Bloc in rejection of the Tories. I also think many Quebecers are up to their usual tricks on the pollsters. There is a possibility that more than a few of those reported Bloc votes are really parked votes that the voters are embarrassed to admit are going to the liberals.

What worries me the most is the deteriorated state of organization in Ontario liberal riding associations that are not running an incumbent. If the effectiveness of the Tory ground game when Doug Ford had his romp to power provincially, is even half as good this year, it will be more than the liberals will be able to match.

And it should be obvious by now that the conservative weakness this year has not been Doug Ford but Andrew Scheer. Chuckles is no leader or debater or politician and he was lame when on the defensive. Even his attacks on Trudeau often come across as hollow and rote. He is not credible as a leader.

I think the forecasts in our Morning Line are still valid. We will be putting it all together next week. We live in interesting times.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Liberals won’t miss Jane or Jody.

Friday, September 13th, 2019

There is an erroneous assumption that liberal voters in their B.C. and Ontario ridings would want to vote for former Trudeau cabinet members Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould. That is not too likely. What most often happens in a situation such as this is that they will pick up enough disgruntled liberal vote to defeat the official liberal candidate and allow a conservative or NDP candidate to take the riding.

But that is often the best outcome from their point of view. For people who want to make something of their life, a four-year stint in the far corner of parliament, away from the real action, might pay well, but is a boring prospect.

Philpott and Wilson-Raybould took their initial cabinet jobs in the Trudeau government quite seriously. One example of their work was Bill-14 – the assisted dying act that was past by the last parliament. The fact that most liberals considered it a weak and ill-considered bill failed to worry them.

What should worry them is the ruling by a Quebec superior court judge the other day that invalidates sections of theirs and Quebec province’s medically-assisted dying acts as being restrictive and unconstitutional. This is the first step in the act being sent back to the federal parliament and the Quebec national assembly to be reconsidered and fixed. That is what happens when the job has not been done properly. The process starts over again.

The court ruling was a victory for progressive Canadians who saw the acts as a poor substitute for what most see as the need for peace and dignity at the end of life. As written and supervised through parliament by Philpott, a medical doctor, and Wilson-Raybould, a senior lawyer, the act failed Canadian needs.

Voters in Jane Philpott’s and Jody Wilson-Raybould’s ridings need to remember that these people let us down.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

In defence of print media.

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Starting the day with coffee and the newspaper is a formula that works for me. The coffee wakes me and the newspaper introduces the day, informs, incites and inspires me. The ageless love for print news is my only bow to conservatism. It is a model that has its origin hundreds of years ago in civilized history. It is a model that has constantly been challenged by technology.

The challenges started more than 100 years ago. Initially, communications professionals had watched radio position itself as a news medium to the consternation of print media. It was a live and let live process as it sorted out the winners and losers. And it happened again when television challenged both radio and print. They had to change and accommodate each other.

But where we are failing today is in recognizing that the Internet needs to be accommodated in the same way. Nobody realized that our politicians would fail so badly in recognizing what that accommodation meant. When the new kid on the block lacks the disciplines and controls that impact all the other kids, you have allowed trouble on the street. The failure to tax and set realistic standards for the Internet has allowed this medium to have an unfair advantage over the older, established media.

There would be nothing stupider than for government to give money to preserve print media when it fails to tax or control the Internet that is causing the losses to print media. Government is there to level the playing field—not to decide who is to survive.

The people who make the ultimate decisions are the users. The only thing that users have to realize is that we all benefit if the rules are the same for all media. If an editor goes to jail for publishing false information, then Facebook and blogs must try for similar standards. And if a billboard company pays sales taxes on renting a billboard, then Google should pay taxes on its advertising transactions.

You will never convince this reader that print media is for dinosaurs. Print is a self edited version of news that is efficient and satisfying. Radio and television news are linear and you have to go through the boring to get to the stuff of interest. And on the Internet, you are never sure if you are being told the truth unless you can trust the source.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

This is not news.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Reading other blogs can be a sometimes painful mission. You do it to see what others are writing about, to study their style (or lack thereof) and to see what answers they offer. Mind you, after each experience, I come away with the feeling that the social experiment of the Internet is akin to the compost heap I had at the back of my garden.

The good compostable material was rare and you had to help it along with some well rotted materials and the right bugs. Churning it occasionally also helped. Like the Internet, there are good smells and bad smells and you have to deal with them.

But a news medium, the Internet is not. (I will make a small exception for the Internet edition of England’s Guardian. Only because there is no speedy print edition availability on this side of the pond.)

It would probably surprise the Toronto Star, who send me their daily digital edition and newsletters for free, that the price is right. It is their newsletters that I consider more valuable. These are arranged in a linear form that allows me to self-edit and read more of what interests me, without getting trapped in endless trees and missing items of interest.

But who ever told these Internet browser companies that users want their ridiculous versions of news on their opening screens? Thank you, I do not want Microsoft or any other software company determining what is news for me!

Though I do feel badly for the legitimate reporters who have to read the twits from the Twitter King in the White House. Making sense out of that juvenile crap seems like a fate worse than death for a serious reporter.

Just consider yourself lucky you do not have to follow Trump on Facebook. That Internet phenomenon was designed originally to get more college kids sexually active and it never has grown up.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Dutch have no lock on sex.

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Contrary to the opinions of tourists by the canals of Amsterdam, the Dutch did not invent sex. It is more likely that they are just more open about it. As I recall last time I was in Amsterdam, they had still not taught their residents about the value of scooping the pooping of their over-sized dogs. I might have looked at some of those ladies in windows, if only I had not had to watch where I stepped.

But that is no excuse for the blue-stocking Toronto Star using staff writer Heather Mallick to write an opinion piece about shutting down Amsterdam’s red-light sex windows.

And where she got her ‘informational’ revelations on the ‘gangster-run, money-laundering and exploitive’ business of sex work in beautiful Amsterdam is beyond me. She certainly did not seem to have much information on the very thorough and quite competent police in the Netherlands.

But Mallick is pandering to the typical attitude of feminists that it is all the fault of men. Women have been trading on the sexual interest they can draw since long before King David got the hots for Bathsheba.

And if you have been puzzled by the misogynistic Incel movement that led a young man to go on a rampage with a truck down Yonge Street in Toronto in April, 2018, you need come to an understanding. A very big part of it is the same reason that North American tourists gawk at the women in the windows of Amsterdam. The repression of sexuality in North America denies our natural instincts. This leads to mental health issues on this side of the Atlantic.

The sooner we accept prostitution for what it is—a safety valve and natural, the better. In the same way, we need to accept the human body with all its faults for what it is. We need to have a better understanding of our needs, urges, and desires while being more accepting of failures to meet some impossible standards of beauty and/or handsomeness. By accepting ourselves first, it makes us better prepared to accept others.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The weariness of being elite.

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

It is tough to be an elite. While we bandy the word about, we are really complimenting the people we deride for being elite. And yet we get defensive when we are accused of being one of those elites. Maybe those who think elitism is a state of mind are right: If you think you are, you might be.

I had always assumed that the elites were people most of us looked up to. Mind you, we look up to different people for different reasons. The athlete who makes an accomplishment is only king until his or her best is bested. The person with all the money might be elite until he or she is indicted for fraud or some other skulduggery. Actor, author, barkeep, communicator, doctor, engineer and the list goes on, but the elites can be variable. It is not just that they are better, or richer, or talented or erudite, or smoother, but they stand out in the crowd.

I remember when young and impressionable, I met John George Diefenbaker, whom, as prime minister of Canada at the time—was soon to be replaced by Lester B. Pearson—whom I also met and liked. I considered them both elites.

When I met John Wintermeyer, who once led the Ontario liberals, I was meeting a man from an old Ontario family. He was a true gentleman. I determined then that political leaders should be, and I emphasize the ‘should be,’ someone you can look up to. Oh, has that ever changed!

After having an interesting chat with Justin Trudeau over dinner one time, the wife and I spent considerable time discussing our thoughts. We were both convinced that he was far more like his mother than his father. We both thought highly of his father. Watching him later in action with a crowd, I realized he had something of an on/off switch, a handy item for a politician.

Listening to populists such as Doug Ford in Ontario and Donald Trump in the United States, railing against elites, I tend to be defensive. Yet if railing against real elites, they would include the Brit royals who are bred and trained to that aura of superiority.

I guess it is all in the attitude. Elites do make good subjects for whipping up images of privilege.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Does distaff determine Democratic destiny?

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

An unwieldy field of two-dozen potential candidates is vying for the Democratic nomination next year in the United States. Luckily, there have been surprises. The key surprise is that two women have been determined to be in the top four. To no one’s surprise, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is holding strong, as are former vice-president Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The surprise new leader and odds-maker favourite is Senator Kamala Harris from California.

This gal is sharp. Google her and you will find a web site that is a good balance between reasons why and requests for funds. There is a professionalism there that says she did not decide to do this yesterday. There is also a freshness.

Many believe Joe Biden did a bang-up job as vice-president for Barack Obama. He should be satisfied with that success. He did more than most VPs and yet he suffers from some of the Obama era errors. I think he should retire a winner.

The same seems to handicap Bernie Sanders. I love the way that guy thinks but he is like the guru on the mountain top. He has been breathing in that rarified air too long. Sure, America certainly does need to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Bernie is just not up to doing it.

I think Elizabeth Warren’s story is one of remarkable achievement. She seems to have lived more than one lifetime already and is working on a third. America needs that fine mind of hers in the Senate.

The problem is that Americans have had the opportunity to see Biden, Sanders and Warren in action for a number of years. Kamala Harris is the new kid on the block. Americans need someone such as her to really reform the American political system.

Canadians will find some interesting similarities between former attorney general of California, Kamala Harris, and Canada’s former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould from British Columbia. The difference is that Harris is one very smart politician.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The airplane that fell to earth.

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

The original Boeing 737 narrow-bodied airliner was introduced in 1968 and was a short to medium range two-engine jet aircraft favoured by regional airlines. More than 10,000 737s were built by Boeing over the years as the company took it through various upgrades, including the 737 Classic, the 737 Next Generation and finally the 737 Max that could hop oceans and continents. In its final versions, it was a US$100 million plus aircraft.

By early 2019 almost 400 of the 737 Max aircraft had been delivered by Boeing and today, they are all grounded. They might never fly again.

Experienced commercial pilots are often delighted to express an opinion about the air worthiness of the aircraft. It has been test flown by experts without a problem. There are those who think it should be put back in service and there are also those who think it should be sent to the scrap heap. The arguments continue.

The facts are that there are basic design flaws that were accentuated over the years by the conflicting desires to improve the aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption while adding distance and space for more revenue-paying passengers.

What is even more serious is the fact that many of the numerous computerized systems on the aircraft are using forty to fifty-year old software programs. Why update something that works, is the usual rationale. There are always new software modules to write with every version and ‘fix’ of an aircraft.

But there has been little changed in how we design and write software after all these years. Strangely enough there has been little concern for the advancement of software design. Other than questions being asked periodically during Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) meetings and discussions, and left unanswered. Software seems to be the forgotten science.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me