Monthly Archives: August 2008

KDE or Gnome? Some advice for those new to Linux


KDE or Gnome? This is the killer question that can be quite difficult to answer and there appears to be very little information available on the first couple of pages of search engine results for the new Linux user. Which one is faster? Which is more stable? Which one looks better? Some simple information for the new user on a blurry topic.

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Toronto introduces first ‘scramble’ crossings to improve pedestrian safety


Toronto Scamble Crossing - at Yonge and Dundas

Toronto Scamble Crossing - at Yonge and Dundas

TORONTO — Pedestrians and drivers in Toronto will have to get used to a new traffic term: the scramble.

Thursday was the first day for the city’s new all-stop crossing at the busy downtown intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets.

The system allows pedestrians to cross normally as well as diagonally through the intersection while traffic is stopped in all directions.

Coun. Kyle Rae says the idea for the intersection is to make pedestrians – not cars – a priority in the city.

At the scramble intersection, the traffic flows normally for two cycles, then stops in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross.

Officials say the $60,000 pilot project is just a start, with more scrambles planned at other major city intersections in the coming years.

Curiosity of the Canadian Press

Putin Accuses U.S. Over Georgia


By Nabi Abdullaev / Staff Writer

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the United States of orchestrating the military conflict in Georgia in order to boost the chances of a U.S. presidential candidate.

In an interview that was to air on CNN late Thursday, Putin said Washington had encouraged Tbilisi to attack South Ossetia to give one presidential candidate an edge in the hotly contested U.S. election, CNN said on its web site.

Republican John McCain, a weathered foreign policy hawk and a staunch critic of Russia, is in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Barack Obama for the White House.

Putin did not specify a candidate. Reached by telephone, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say which one he was referring to.

McCain is an ally of outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush. Following Russia’s invasion of Georgia, McCain lashed out at Russia, calling on the Bush administration to pull out from a joint space exploration project with Russia and repeating a demand that Russia be kicked out of the Group of Eight.

The White House press office had no immediate comment on Putin’s statement.

At the onset of the conflict with Georgia earlier this month, Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected spin doctor and United Russia deputy in the State Duma, described the escalation as a strategy by U.S. neo-cons to boost McCain’s popularity. In televised comments, Markov accused U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney of masterminding the strategy. Cheney will visit Georgia next week.

Speaking at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin told CNN that Russia had to send its troops into South Ossetia to rebuff Georgian forces in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

He also rebuked the U.S. administration for not having done more to stop Georgia’s attack early Aug. 8. Led by U.S.-educated President Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia is the most enthusiastic U.S. ally among the former Soviet republics.

“In the interview with CNN, there were lots of tough but truthful comments,” Peskov said. “But in the interview, you also can see a desire and readiness to cooperate with all countries.”

Putin has stepped into U.S. elections before. In June 2004, when Bush was struggling for re-election amid criticism for going to war with Iraq without just cause, then-President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian secret services had obtained information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Putin’s announcement appeared to stun the White House, and analysts at the time dismissed it as a clumsy attempt by Putin to help Bush win re-election.

The formal pretext for the U.S. invasion of Iraq — spelled out by Bush in 2003 — was Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and its refusal to allow United Nations monitors to inspect them. No traces of the weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

Separately Thursday, Putin announced that 19 U.S. poultry companies would be banned from exporting to Russia after Russian health and agriculture officials randomly tested their products and discovered they were full of antibiotics and arsenic, CNN reported.

The ban is unrelated to the Georgia conflict, Putin said.

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Bill Clinton forcefully endorses Obama at DNC


Bill Clinton forcefully endorses Obama at DNC

Bill Clinton forcefully endorses Obama at DNC

Former President Clinton forcefully endorsed Barack Obama’s bid for the White House on Wednesday, telling delegates to the Democratic convention that Obama is “ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world.”

Clinton pushed back on attacks — initiated by himself and his wife during the bitter primary campaign, and later taken up by Republican John McCain — that Obama is ill-prepared for the White House, especially on matters of national defense.

“With Joe Biden’s experience and wisdom, supporting Barack Obama’s proven understanding, insight and good instincts, America will have the national security leadership we need,” Clinton said.

Clinton campaigned feverishly for his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her long-fought primary battle against Obama, and took her loss hard. He had not spoken out as strongly in support of Obama since he clinched the nomination in June.

But Wednesday, he was unambiguous in passing the torch of Democratic leadership to Obama.

Jabbing a finger at thousands of cheering delegates, he declared: “I want all of you who supported her to vote for Barack Obama in November.”

Running just over 20 minutes, the speech by the godfather of the Democratic Party whipped thousands of delegates into an exuberant frenzy. Where a night before they had hoisted “Hillary” banners, on this night they waved American flags.

The delegates stood on their feet and roared for nearly 3 1/2 minutes when Clinton walked on stage. The former president basked in their affection, but after several false starts at his speech, commanded: “Sit down!”

Clinton was by turns funny, nostalgic and wonkish, touching on issues like health care and pension benefits.

Clinton, ever mindful of himself, likened Obama’s presidential quest to his own bid for the presidency in 1992, when “Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be commander in chief.”

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Does Psystar have a legit argument in Apple countersuit?


Somewhere in the news coverage of Psystar’s countersuit against Apple today, I was reminded of the car analogy I use to help friends and family understand how to buy a computer.

Under the hood of a car, everything is the same. There’s an engine, transmission, battery and some spark plus, belts and hoses. It doesn’t matter if the car is a Mercedes Benz or a Kia. All cars (at least in the pre-hybrid days) worked the same. The major differences were found in the upgrades – more powerful engines, performance handling designs, enhanced safety features and so on. Even the leather seats, power windows and in-car navigation systems are upgrades. That’s why some cars cost more – and often times, perform better – than others.

Take that concept and translate it to the personal computer. Motherboard, processor, hard drive, video card, RAM and so on – they’re all in there, regardless of whether the box says Dell, HP, Sony or even Apple. That’s not to say that all chips and video cards are the same. Some components are faster and more powerful than others. That’s why you’ll see performance PCs souped up for gamers priced higher than a $500 eMachine at Wal-Mart – just like you’ll see Toyota Yaris priced significantly lower than the top-of-the line BMW X5.

And, with the right components and the technical know-how, anyone could build one. I’ve seen dozens of homemade PCs in Silicon Valley homes and have even purchased some RAM and an internal optical drive off the shelf at Fry’s Electronics. And who’s to say I can’t build a machine at sell it at my own price? That’s basically what Michael Dell did out of his dorm room back in the 80s to start what would later become Dell, Inc., one of the top PC makers in the world.

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English only for the LPGA? Imagine the Olympics for the few?


Jan Stephenson knew what she was about to say was going to get her in trouble. So the former star of women’s golf did not just say it, she went blazing into the minefield of a looming political debate with the bombshell declaration that “the Asians are killing our tour.”

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LPGA and accusations of racism – what were they thinking? Just have the best players, play! Unless they want an English only club?


LPGA seems to have created public relations mess

Mark Herrmann
August 27, 2008

It is hard to say which ideal gets trampled more by the LPGA’s new speak-English-or-you’re-out policy, the spirit of golf or the spirit of America. Either way, the women’s professional golf tour has turned a no-win situation into a big loss.

A little hint that this was going to be trouble was the way it came out. The LPGA didn’t hold a news conference. Instead, it leaked in a hard-hitting story on Golfweek magazine’s Web site. The gist is this: The LPGA, worried about losing interest among fans and sponsors, said it will suspend players who can’t pass an English oral exam after two years on tour.

This appears aimed directly at South Koreans, who represent 45 of the 121 international players on the tour and who – British Women’s Open champion Ji-Yai Shin and U.S. Women’s Open champion Inbee Park, to name two – are dominating. The rule is not mean-spirited, but it sure does head the tour down an awfully icy slope without brakes.

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PM cancels Jean’s Beijing trip, fuelling election hype


Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has asked Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean not to attend the Paralympic Games in Beijing, in a move further suggesting Harper will pull the plug on his current minority government and trigger a federal election.

The Prime Minister’s Office announced late Tuesday that Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley will represent Canada in Jean’s place at the Games, which open on Sept. 6. The decision allows Jean, who was to depart on Sept. 5, to remain in Ottawa, in case Harper asks her to dissolve Parliament.

The prime minister said he is continuing to consider whether an election needs to be called, a decision he has said he expects to make in the next few weeks. Senior Conservatives have suggested Harper could pull the plug on his government as early as Sept. 2.

“The country must have a government that can function during a time of economic uncertainty,” Harper said Tuesday in Ottawa.

The prime minister said he is not willing to wait for Sept. 9, the day Dion has suggested he could meet with Harper to discuss the issue of whether Parliament can continue as is.

The meeting would occur a day after three federal byelections in Quebec and Ontario; a fourth byelection is slated to take place in Ontario on Sept. 22.

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Dion says Harper about to break his promise on fixed elections


TORONTO — Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says he is perfectly prepared to meet with what he calls a “panicking” prime minister before Parliament is scheduled to resume on Sept. 15.

But Dion says Stephen Harper has no intention of holding serious talks with the opposition parties about the minority Conservative government’s fall agenda.

Dion says Harper’s officials did not indicate any urgency when he was contacted about a meeting with the prime minister eight days ago.

Now the prime minister is saying Dion’s refusal to meet immediately shows that Parliament is dysfunctional and reason enough for a fall election.

Dion says Harper is simply trying to force an election before the slowing economy shows Conservative policy shortcomings, and before parliamentary committees can explore the Tories’ “ethical” problems.

The Liberal leader says Harper’s complaints about scheduling talks with opposition leaders are a way of masking that he’s about to break the Conservatives’ legislated promise on fixed election dates.

But Dion says Stephen Harper has no intention of holding serious talks with the opposition parties about the minority Conservative government’s fall agenda.

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Toronto Transit gives the middle finger to commuters


TTC Commuters

TTC Commuters

Months after a strike that left tens of thousands stranded in the middle of the night, the Toronto Transit Commission decides it wants to cut out perks for customers who have been lining the commission’s pockets for years.

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Toronto transit looks to reopen streetcar bidding


TORONTO, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Toronto’s transit authority said on Tuesday it will recommend to its commissioners that it enter into a new bidding process with three major light rail manufacturers to replace the city’s aging streetcar fleet after the initial process was scrapped last month.

The Toronto Transit Commission said that it will propose starting discussions with Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the Canadian arm of Siemens (SIEGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Alstom (ALSO.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

The discussions on technical and commercial requirements will be part of a multi-step bidding process that will include a competitive pricing phase before the C$1.25 billion ($1.19 billion) contract is awarded.

The TTC said it had met with representatives from each of the companies, all of whom said they could build a streetcar that would meet the technical requirements set out in the original bidding process.

One of the terms stipulated by the TTC is that at least 25 percent of the content for the vehicles’ design and construction would have to be Canadian.

The contract for 204 new streetcars had at first looked likely to go to Montreal-based Bombardier, but the process hit a snag in late July when the TTC said the proposal it received from the company did not meet the technical specifications.

The TTC said the design would not be able to handle some of the tight turns on Toronto’s existing track network. But Bombardier disputed the claim and said that it stood behind its bid.

The only other bid submitted at the time was from Britain’s TRAM Power Ltd, which was determined to not be commercially compliant, and the original proposals process was canceled.

Germany’s Siemens and French-based Alstom had expressed interest in the contract, but had not submitted formal proposals.

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Snap election all but certain: Harper


OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper portrayed a snap election as a virtual certainty Tuesday morning and hinted it will likely be triggered next week.

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