Wireless Nomad: The Story So Far

Made the switch today from Sympatico to a local (Toronto) co-op called Wireless Nomad. All that I can say is (fifteen minutes later) so far, so good.

The story so far:

With Katie moving out and Heather moving in, it seemed like a perfect time to (at least) look into switching ISP. Katie and I had Sympatico for the past two years, and while I’ve never had a problem with Sympatico, there appears to be a move with all the “big” ISP towards what has been called the two-tiered internet: in a nut-shell, large ISPs (including Rogers and Shaw) have “throttled” bandwidth so that certain programs have little or no connectivity. I find that problematic, and I don’t want to be a Sympatico customer when they decide to follow suit. In my experience, the large Canadian ISPs have folllowed each others’ lead when it has come to capping bandwidth and increasing speeds (of course, with the exception of Sympatico-part of the reason why I was happy with ’em) so I figure it’s a matter of time.

However, what I was really disappointed with was the cost per month to access Sympatico. We had signed up for “High Speed” and were paying ~$48.00 month, including tax. That works out to ~$576 a year: a chunk of change for a student. So, I decided that I wanted to at least look for an alternative ISP that would offer a similar connection speed, no bandwidth cap, no “throttling” of certain programs and, all for less money than I was currently paying.

Earlier in October, while surfing boingboing I read about a Toronto ISP that “encourages connection sharing“, which is a big no-no with Sympatico (and other ISPs too) since it effectivly means a reduction in subscribers. This ISP was (and still is) Wireless Nomad. So I checked out what they offered and their price, and I decided that this seemed like an excellent idea. Long story short: they installed the hardware today and Wireless Nomad is my new ISP.

I’m going to make a few more postings on this service as I know that friends are looking for alternatives to large ISPs and I’m the guinea pig.

Internet Security Shitfit: WMF Exploit “worst infection in history”

Seems like all the geeks on the web are up in arms over a possible security exploit in Windows Media Files:

There is a new danger floating around the Internet right now, a zero-day exploit taking advantage of the Windows Media Format (WMF) vulnerability. Its not limited to WMF files, it is taking the shape of images as well. This exploit is currently billed as the worst infection in history. It can hide rootkits, it can even hide itself.

Not one to cry wolf, seems like this is legit. I would suggest installing the temporary fix until Microsoft unviels an official patch. Keep in mind that when MS does get around to doing this, you’ll need to uninstall the fix (which will be in the "Add or Remove Programs" as "Windows WMF Metafile Vulnerability HotFix") before installing the official one.

Update: Is this legit? Try a Google News Search for "Windows WMF Metafile Vulnerability HotFix" and see for yourself.

PhD in Two Weeks? WTF am I doing at York?

I just got some "GET A DEGREE BASED ON LIFE EXPERIENCE!" spam in my inbox. Not such a big deal normally. While it’s true that I’m honoured that Clarence has been trying to get in touch with me; sadly, he doesn’t say who I am. He doesn’t even say what University he’s from. Usually, it’s some cool sounding place.

However, while I am interested in getting a PhD in as little as two weeks, I’m not so sure that I want to get one from an organization that misspells their "their"s. Yikes.

P.S.: A personal note to Clarence: you’ll make your fake-University seem more real if you don’t say the "administration" is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. You have to project some kind of bureaucratic aura of in-accessibility. That’s the way that real Universities do it.

You have been referred to us: (Referral ID: R8204)

Based on your present knowledge and past life experiences our University administration office has been trying to contact you. We feel you may qualify for one of our Univsersity degrees in your area of expertise. We have been qualifying people based on thier experiences in past and present jobs and are offering qualified degrees with transcripts for those that qualify.

If you call our offices now we can confirm our information and send you either a Bachelors’, Masters’, or Doctorate within 2 weeks.

Administration Office Number: 1-XXX-XXX-1674

Administration Hours: 24 hours, 7 Days a week, including Sundays and Holidays University Administration

Clarence Moore Client Identification: CL6563

Solution for an full in-box? SNARF

Seems like Microsoft has gone and created some pretty interesting software (that, not suprisingly, plugs into a pre-existing piece of MS software) that will rank emails in your in-box not on time of arrival but on SNARF’s perceived importance (i.e. someone who is in your address book, someone you’ve replied to often). I don’t suffer in-box drowning, but know many people who do (my supervisor, for example).  Might be a solution.  Only problem?  Hafta use MS outlook.

Link: SNARF from Microsoft Research

Some good news: My abstract for a Trash Animals anthology has been accepted

Just had an email pop in my inbox with the following message:

Congratulations! We are happy to inform you that your abstracts have been accepted for the Trash Animals anthology project.

Which is fantastic news, all ’round. I proposed to write about Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) in Toronto.  Here is a snippit of my abstract:

I’ve chosen to write about my local experiences with ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) for two reasons. The first is because for most Torontonians, the species of bird known as the ring-billed gull does not exist. Rather, when most urban humans interact with this bird, a gull or seagull is seen: a homogenized mis-understanding that hides the possibility of meaningful engagement. The second is because they are seen as being, quite literally, garbage birds. Ring-bills are seen as a scavenger that will steal food from you while you are picnicking and, if you’re especially unlucky, will defecate on you.

Part of the game of academia is getting published, so if all goes well, this will be added to my C.V. Exciting for a newbie like me.

Annoying MP3 ringtones & Kerry Christensen, Master Yodeler

Browsing my blog subscriptions rather than working, I came across a thread on MeFi asking for suggestions for the most annoying MP3 ringtone. There are a number of good suggestions, but these are my favourites so far:

The person responsible for the Chicken Yodel is none other than Kerry Christensen who, according to his website is an alpine and western master yodeler. The master yodeler part has to be true because it’s his URL. So, I poked around the website a bit and found out more about Mr. Christensen. It seems as though Kerry has managed to carve enough of a niche out for himself that he is one of the "few" full-time yodelers in the US today. 

What does one do as a full time yodeler, you ask?  Well it looks like you travel to a lot of RV parks to perform. For example, if you’re in Mesa, Arizona the coming February 2nd, you can catch Mr. Christensen at the Mesa Spirit RV Resort (which seems like a pretty special place in and of itself–9 miles of paved streets!). Or you could travel on a cruise with him to the Caribbean or up the Rhine river.

Some other career highlights:

  • 1977: standing ovation at his first public yodeling, held at Brigham Young University orientation assembly
  • 1984: began working at the German pavilion at Epcot Center, Disney World
  • Unspecified dates: cruise ships to Alaska, Panama and the Caribbean

Now, I do want to share the fact that I do have a soft spot for yodeling and the Germanic arts in general (especially Polka), so it’s with a bit of jealousy that I came across Mr. Christensen’s recordings. Not only is Kerry an accomplished yodeler, but he’s what is called an Austrian double-threat, playing the Zither too.

It’s enough to get me to visit Arizona this winter. 

Saw an XBox 360 today

I was at a Future Shop today picking up some pictures (the first time I’ve had Future Shop print my digi pics, BTW) and I came across a XBox 360 at the store.  I just saw it in passing (wowzas, but don’t buy one until you have an HDTV), but the best thing about the whole experience were the three uber-geeks that were glued to the thing for the duration of my visit.

These guys were about as stereotypical as you could get for gaming nerds: long stringy hair, baseball caps, chubby, unkempt facial hair. I can only imagine how many of these guys are coming out of the woodwork to come and gawk at the 360. Not quite the viral marketing that Microsoft had in mind, me thinks.