Friday afternoon tech humor

You may have chuckled over this one already. It was new to me, though, when
my brother passed it along.

Dear Tech Support,
Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband
1.0 and noticed a slowdown in the overall
performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications
that had operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other
valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5,
but installed undesirable programs such as NFL 5.0 and NBA 3.0. And
now Conversation 8.0 no longer runs and
House Cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system. I've
tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but
to no avail. What can I do?


Dear Desperate:

First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an
entertainment package, while Husband 1.0 is an
operating system. At the command line, try entering
C:\ITHOUGHTYOULOVEDME and download Tears 6.2 to install Guilt 3.0.
If all works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then
automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and
Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse can cause Husband
1.0 to default to GrumpySilence 2.5, HappyHour 7.0
or Beer 6.1.
Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will create
SnoringLoudly.wav files. Whatever you do, DO NOT
install Mother-in-Law 1.0 or re-install another
Boyfriend program. These are not supported
applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it
does have a limited memory and cannot learn new applications
quickly. You might consider additional software to improve memory
and performance. I personally recommend Hot Food 3.0 and Lingerie

Tech Support

Where are the angry shareholders?

I was in Winnipeg yesterday for the annual shareholders meeting of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The bank
has done pretty well by its shareholders. It posted some good numbers this
quarter and, compared to its peers in Canada, its
stock has done very nicely
. But, as bank CEO
John Hunkin
said at the meeting, while 2003 should go down in the bank's
history as a very good year, it won't. The bank, he said, stumbled when it
comes to maintaining its reputation.
I think Hunkin is being kind to himself. CIBC didn't stumble — it fell flat
on its face.
Consider this: In September, CIBC was ordered to pay $52-million (U.S.) to
investors who convinced a judge that CIBC tricked them into buying bonds in
a cosmetics company even those CIBC new the company was on the verge of
collapse. (CIBC is appealing this ruling).
Several weeks later, the bank paid $80-million
to settle allegations made by U.S. And Canadian investigators
that it aided and abetted the executives who perpetrated the Enron
As soon as that cheque cleared, CIBC was back in the middle of another
scandal. This time it was the mutual fund scandal in the U.S. CIBC is
accused of lending $1-billion to the hedge funds which allegedly engaged in
the illegal mutual fund trades. Not only that, but New York State Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer says he has a memo from a CIBC executive which
described to others at the bank how to break the law and engage in this
illegal trading! The executive who wrote that memo was fired by the bank in
December and
now faces 27 counts of grand larceny and
fraud. Spitzer isn't done with the CIBC yet and the bank has put aside
another $50-million U.S. For fines it will likely have to pay.

Almost unbelievably, Hunkin, in his
speech to shareholders
, suggested that the ethical breaches that led to
these fines was a result of being “encouraged” by shareholders and the media
to be aggressive. I suggest it was neither. It was nothing but greedy
investment bankers with not enough supervision who got the bank in trouble.

In the press conference after the meeting, Hunkin said that, as CEO, he had
to take responsibility for the harm to CIBC's reputation last year. What
Hunkin actually took last year wasn't responsibility but a $3.3-million
bonus, part of an overall pay packet worth $10.7-million. The guy who
actually took responsibility it seems was David Kassie, Hunkin's good friend
and number two at the bank. Hunkin fired him a few days after that other
exec was charged by Spitzer.
So, with all this background, I figured for sure Hunkin or his board would
face at least one angry shareholder at the annual meeting. Heavens to bets,
I've sat through dozens of annual shareholder meetings in Toronto for
companies large and small and, invariably, there's some retired pensioner
who gets up and gives it to the CEO for one thing or another.
Amazingly, though, not a single person put a question to Hunkin or his board
at the shareholders meeting.

And on a completely unrelated note, if you're travelling to Winnipeg I
highly recommend the Fairmont Winnipeg. The bank held their meeting there
and I stayed overnight there. The prices are very reasonable and the service
I had was top-notch. You'll also be surprised at the food. Very nice.

Wi-Fi on the train

Canadian Wi-Fi service provider Spotnik Mobile announced
that its service is now up and running on VIA Rail trains
running between Montreal and Quebec City. I've used a VIA Rail train service
before, albeit from a different provider, but using the same basic network
architecture and it's pretty good. A satellite-based service takes the
network from the train into space and back down to a base station which
plugs into an Internet backbone. On the train itself, the satellite signal
is fed to a plain-vanilla Wi-Fi base station and the signal is then
broadcast to Wi-Fi equipped devices on board that train. So far, the service
is available only to travellers in VIA first-class cabins. And, even better,
the service is free to travellers for the time being.
VIA also offers a similar service in its first-class cars between Toronto
and Montreal and has either launched or will soon be launching a service on
runs between Ottawa and Montreal.

Wi-Fi Hits Home; What's Wi-Fi?

The folks at polling firm Ipsos-Insight say Americans (and, I presume,
Canadians) are becoming more and more aware of what Wi-Fi. The pollster says
that six out of 10 Americans know what the technology is, compared to four
in 10 during the same survey last year. Ipsos concludes that this broad
level of awareness means Wi-Fi is poised to move beyond the 'early adopter'
phase and into the mainstream.
Still, among those who had heard of the term Wi-Fi, more than half — 55 per
cent in the poll — said that was it: They'd only heard that term but
didn't know what the technology was all about. Just 8 per cent in the survey
said they were very familiar with the technology. You can become very
familiar with the press release here

Heads up Vancouver — I'm coming your way to talk about blogging

The Canadian Association of Journalists has
its annual conference in May in Vancouver. For the last seven or eight years
at this event, I've led workshops in computer-assisted reporting. This year,
I'm foregoing spreadsheets and database programs for blogging. Here's the
blurbs for a panel and a workshop I'm involved with. I am eagerly accepting
any and all advice about what I ought to do or say. Also looking for your
nominations about the best places to eat in Vancouver.

The Blog Revolution: How Blogs are Changing and
Challenging Journalism

Everyone's doing it, including media professionals. Web logs, or blogs, give
anyone a platform and a potentially limitless audience. Lately, bloggers
have broken news stories, kept other stories alive, created their own
celebrities, and-oh yeah–helped overthrow the editor of the New York Times.
Previously unknown bloggers have been offered plum jobs in conventional
newsrooms, and conventional newsrooms have started blogging. Some prominent
journalists have even found themselves paired with “watchblogs” that analyze
and critique every story they create. What are the tensions between blogging
and traditional journalism? And what can journalists learn from blogs and
bloggers? Is this a new form of media democracy? This panel of tech-savvy
journalists, bloggers, and media observers will explore the way blogs are
changing and challenging journalism-and where it's all going.

Featured Panelists: David Akin,
technology writer for the Globe and
and CTV and blogger; Emira Mears, co-founder of
Raised Eyebrow web design, media activist and co-editor of; Alan Bass,
assistant. professor of journalism, University College of the Cariboo; Robert
, blogger and professor of e-Journalism, Loyalist College;
Caterina Fake, former art director at, editor of; Saleem Khan, blogger and
technology writer/editor.

Workshop: Blogging 101
They've played key roles in the combative US presidential campaign.
Academics say they'll revolutionize mainstream journalism. But what do blogs
have to do with the daily lives of journalists in Canada? What do
journalists need to know about this new source of views and information?
David Akin, who is National Business and Technology Correspondent for CTV
News, a contributing writer for The Globe and Mail, and a blogger himself,
leads a workshop for journalists who may one day want to start their own
blog and for all those who wish to learn how blogs fit into daily
newsgathering. Blogs– short for Web logs — are a new kind of online
publication that are quickly becoming as important to journalists as e-mail
and the World Wide Web. Akin will run through some of the popular blog
publishing tools; take participants on a brief tour of the blogosphere; and
lead a discussion of the relationship of blogs to mainstream working
journalists. Designed for those with little or no knowledge of blogs or
blogging, this workshop will focus primarily on giving working journalists
real-world skills they can put to use right away in their newsroom.

FlashMob: Building SuperComputers from volunteer PCs

[Feel free to distribute this widely. This sounds kinda cool – Akin]
Welcome to
This is the home of the first Flash Mob Computing supercomputer and the
official site for all things Flash Mob Computing. On April 3, 2004
University of San Francisco will host the first Flash Mob Computing
computer, FlashMob I, with the purpose of creating one of the Top 500
Supercomputers on the planet. You Can Help!

You are invited to join us in Koret Gym at USF in San Francisco from 10pm –
4pm. Bring as many computers as you can and we'll give you everything you
need to jack-in and add your computers' firepower to FlashMob I, and
hopefully make history. The more people that come the bigger a supercomputer
we can create. Everyone who participates will receive a T-Shirt, immortality
on this site, a certificate and a badge to put on your computer in
recognition of having created one of the fastest supercomputers on earth.
Plus they'll be prizes, contests, special guests, and lots of fun throughout
the day.

What is Flash Mob Computing and FlashMob I?
A Flash Mob supercomputer is hundreds or even thousands of computers
connected together via a LAN working together as a single supercomputer. A
Flash Mob computer, unlike an ordinary cluster, is temporary and organized
on-the-fly for the purpose of working on a single problem. Flash Mob I is
the first of it's kind. By bringing hundreds of people like you together in
one room, we will have enough computing power to become one of the fastest
supercomputers on the planet.

Who should participate?
Anyone interested in science and computers. FlashMob I is a radical new idea
in the world of supercomputers. Kids, students, adults, professionals,
academics, web folk, IT departments, computer clubs, LAN Party types. Anyone
with a computer is welcome.

What Can I to Do?
Bring one or more computers to Memorial Gym. Your computer must be at least
1.3 GHZ Pentium III/AMD equivalent or better with 256MB of RAM, a 100 Base-T
network connection and a CD-ROM.

We will provide you with a CD-ROM that you'll boot from. The CD-ROM contains
everything you need including an operating system, configuration and the
benchmarking software. It does not matter what your computer's current OS
is. Because the software boots from the CD-ROM and runs entirely from
memory, you'll hard drive will never be touched so it doesn't matter what
your OS is or what software you have. If you pre-register you'll can
download an ISO image of the CD-ROM so you'll be ready to go before you

When you arrive, you'll be assigned a Hub Captain who will help you get your
computers up and working as part of FlashMob I. You'll be running Linpack —
the benchmarking software used to rank the Top 500 Fastest Supercomputers.

So tell your friends, grab computers from home, from work, from school,
wherever. Make science, make history, make a supercomputer.

What's Next?
Your first step is to register here. That will let us know you're coming.
Your second step is to recruit friends. If you're interested in becoming a
Hub Captain or sponsoring a hub, click here.

Hasn't this been done before?
No. FlashMob I is something new in the world of supercomputers. While grid
computing, like the SETI@Home project, has been around for some time, and
“big iron” supercomputing dates back to WW II, the idea of creating an
ad-hoc supercomputer on-the-fly that's tightly coupled on a fast LAN using
ordinary PC's is a revolutionary idea.

Today, supercomputing is controlled largely by governmental organizations,
academic research institutions, animation studios, and recently human genome
companies. This means that the problems that get solved by supercomputers
are narrow in scope and tightly controlled. We want to change that. We think
that a group of folks should be able to get together and study whatever they
want, and they should be able to use a supercomputer to help them. So if a
highschool science class wanted to study the ozone hole using a
supercomputer model, they could create a FlashMob supercomputer in a few
hours and start running their model today. If a group of neighbors were
worried about how a local gas station's underground gas tank might leak into
the drinking water if the tank ever cracked, they could use Flash Mob
Computing to model the scenario. In short, we hope Flash Mob Computing will
democratize supercomputing. That is to say, it will make supercomputing
accessible to everyone. To us, that's a very exciting idea.

Are you serious?
Absolutely! FlashMob I is above all else a serious scientific experiment.
It's at least one students thesis, the results of FlashMob I will be
submitted for inclusion in the Top 500 Supercomputers, and we expect
numerous academic journal articles to be published based on the results.

A million downloads for Canada's equivalent to ITunes

While American music fans have bought and downloaded 30 million songs and
counting from Apple's iTunes
music store
, many Canadians are still waiting for their first chance to
buy some tunes from Apple.
Many more Canadians, however, said to hell
with waiting for Apple to figure out the licensing deals in Canada, and have
pointed their browsers at Puretracks, Canada's first digital
music download service.
Like Apple's iTunes store, music is a 99 cents
(Canadian) a song. Unlike Apple's store, Puretracks is not for Mac users. It
works on Windows only.
The big news from Puretracks today, though, is that it has now had a million
downloads since its launch in October.
“Puretracks is all about delivering the best in online digital music, and
this milestone demonstrates that hundreds of thousands of Canadian music
fans and our business partners agree,” said Alistair Mitchell, co-CEO and
co-founder of Puretracks, said in a press release. Mitchell used to program
jazz on CBC radio. This is his first big
private sector foray and, so far, it looks like he and his partners are
going about it all right.
Puretracks also said it would start selling prepaid cards at major retailers
like Zellers and Mac's convenienc stores. That's smart, too.
Puretracks says its catalogue now exceeds 250,000 tracks from Canadian and
international artists on both major and independent record labels.

Convergence is back!! Cable company wants to buy Disney

Just when you thought the idea of media convergence was dead and buried, it's back in a big way. Today, Comcast, the the largest cable company in the U.S., made a bid for Disney, the Mickey Mouse people. The deal would combine a wires (distribution) business with a content production business, the same model behind BCE's convergence strategy and Time Warner's convergence strategy. It's also the same imperative, albeit to a less degree, that drove Rogers Communications to acquire Maclean's, some radio stations, and magazine properties.

“We have a wonderful opportunity to create a company that combines distribution and content in a way that is far stronger and more valuable than either Disney or Comcast can be standing alone,” Comcast CEO writes in a letter to Disney CEO Michael Eisner (

Some other press clippings today on the subject:

Comcast launches hostile bid for Disney
Comcast Corp. Wednesday launched a surprise all-stock offer to buy Walt Disney Co. for about $54.1-billion (U.S.), touting the hostile bid as a chance to create a “unique” world-leading entertainment and communications company in the face of failed talks at an executive level aimed at bringing the two together . . .

Comcast, Disney Are 'Perfect Merger Partners': Merrill
The rationale of the Comcast-Disney union is the combination of content and technology, the same as in the News Corp. merger with DirecTV, says Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen….

The Mouse Without Mike?
Because Michael Eisner apparently rejected Comcast's advances, it is unlikely that he would have a job at the combined company. Observers say Viacom and News Corp. might jump in with bids as well. . .

The Dean Campaign and the Fickle Press

Lots of prominent Net pundits — exhibit number one is here and =exhibit number two is here — have suggested that Big Media was responsible for doing U.S. Democratic candidate Howard Dean in. Well, before I say something about this, let's look at what another prominent Net pundit, Clay Shirky, has to say about this:

Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Camapign?
I'm getting the same cognitive dissonance listening to political handicappers explain Dean's dismal showing in Iowa that I used to get
listening to financial analysts try to explain dot com mania with things like P/E ratios and EBITDA. A stock's value is not set by those
things; it is set by buyer and seller agreeing on price. In ordinary markets, buyers and sellers use financial details to get to that
price, but sometimes, as with dot com stocks, the way prices get agreed on has nothing to do with finance.
In the same way, talking about Dean's third-place showing in terms of 'momentum' and 'character', the P/E and EBITDA of campaigns, may miss
the point. Dean did poorly because not enough people voted for him, and the usual explanations — potential voters changed their minds
because of his character or whatever — seem inadequate to explain the Iowa results. What I wonder is whether Dean has accidentally created a
movement (where what counts is believing) instead of a campaign (where what counts is voting.)
And (if that's true) I wonder if his use of social software helped create that problem . . .
To which I'd add the following:
Dean's people post-scream were quick to blame the media for his downfall.
Dean's people, pre-scream didn't need the media. Dean, pre-scream, was going to make the media irrelevant.
Dean's was the campaign which harnessed the Internet — so said Dean's ultra-cool Netizens as they laughed at how the Washington Media just didn't
get it. Heck, the Washington Media said so, too. This guy Dean knows the Internet, they said. He's raising millions of dollars on the Net and he's finally tapped into the political energy of young people…
And there's the rub …
Dean did tap into political energy of young people. They came from all over. They volunteered. They evangelized. They set up Web sites. They swarmed
non-believers. They put up posters. They manned the phones. And then they forgot to vote.
Dean is not the first and won't be the last politician to be abandoned by young voters.
Many pollsters and sociologists (and not a few journalists) have noted that people between the ages of 18 and 30 are more engaged than their
parents about globalization, the environment, capitalism and politics in general. They're more likely to go to a protest; to write political tracts;
and so on. But they don't vote.
Now there's Howard Dean. Left out hanging to dry not because of any media conspiracy or any Big Money, Big Politics gang. But because the very people
who went to the mat for him forget to do the most important thing you can do for any politician: They never went to the polls.
Look at the numbers in Iowa. Look at New Hampshire. Voters were older, it was rarely their first time voting in a primary, they'd been around the
block a few times. Where was the generation that Dean was supposed to deliver?
Where are the twentysomethings? And if they won't vote for Dean, who will they vote for?
I can't remember who said this, but it's been one of my favourite lines for more than 25 years: Bad governments are elected by good people who don't