Notable quotes

“Your personal income is the biggest loophole; I can drive my Hummer through it.”

movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to
political commentator Arianna Huffington during a California recall debate.

“We get what we have now: a system that can be brought down by a teenager with too much time on his hands. Should we blame the teenager? Will that actually fix anything? No. The next geeky kid frustrated about not getting a date on Saturday night will come along and do the same thing without really understanding the consequences. So either we should make it a law that all geeks have dates – I’d have supported such a law when I was a teenager – or the blame is really on the companies who sell and install the systems that are quite that fragile.”

– Linus Torvalds on IT security, interviewed by New York Times Magazine 28 Sep 2003

“It’s so typically Canadian. The pioneer spirit still burns. They want to see if they have the toughest weather strictly for bragging rights.”

– Senior climatologist Dave Phillips of Environment Canada, on having received calls from outraged people in municipalities that rank No. 2 in environmental statistics. Interviewed by London Free Press 30 Sep 2003

Welcome to 1999

Who in the telcommunications world is driving innovation?

Last Wednesday, Sprint Canada proudly announced they have just launched Canada’s Sprint first IP Enabled Solution.

To them, I have to say, welcome to 1999.

1999 is when Bell Canada introduced IP enabled solutions and a fully-optical IP network. They were the first ones to do so in North America, let alone Canada.

2000 was when Bell Canada officially introduced their IP VPN service running Cisco MPLS. Sprint Canada pledges to launch their MPLS network in 2005.

2001 was when Bell Canada introduced Bandwidth on Demand; with a few clicks of a mouse on a web portal, a customer can go from 20Mbps to 40Mbps within less than a day.

2002 was when Bell Canada introduced VoIP solutions to complement the QoS-saavy MPLS network.

2003 was when Bell Canada introduced managed IP security and hosted telephony solutions to customers.

Looking forward, Bell Canada, Aliant, Bell West and Nortel Networks has recently pledged to invest $200 million to build their Next Generation Network. I’m thrilled about this, because we’re about to really eat our own dogfood now; the NGN will be more robust and flexible than any other data network ever introduced. The plan is to migrate over to VoIP, and maintain voice carrier-grade reliability.

It will be converged, with voice and multimedia on a single network. Customers will be able to make video calls. Unified messaging will become closer to reality. With a single ID such as an email address, you will be able to ring up someone’s office phone, cellphone, computer and PDA all at once.

So by 2006, one year after Sprint launches their “revolutionary” network, Bell will have already moved on to something even better. As Sprint is just dipping its toes in the pool, Bell has already hit the showers.

Who in the telcommunications world is driving innovation?

It’s not just in yogurt

What a culture-filled weekend! First Silverlotus and I strolled up Yonge Street, inspecting used bookstores. An interesting thing to note: the science-fiction section is always right beside the pornography.

A little snippet of counter-culture was unexpectedly discovered in the grungy basement washroom stall at a Timothy’s near Wellesley. Despite the fact said stall was half the size of a train’s loo, very very orange and very very dirty, it was resplendent in the words and thoughts of humanity.

It was like reading an online forum. There were the x-rated “For a good time”-esque spam, complete with Hotmail addresses, furious flame wars regarding spelling, and even threads and subtopics. “lim x approaches infinity, the inverse of a B.Sc to the power of x equals a B.A.” one of the non-profane posts went. “Very true,” someone else wrote, with an arrow pointing to the first post.

At night, we descended to the ROM to take advantage of their ROM Friday Nights Fifth Season. We managed to catch a jazz performance by the Bob Mover Quartet, an unfortunately somewhat disorganized bunch with a disapassionate chanteuse, but a good listen in the end.

You know, I used to think the museum was boring, but I am starting to appreciate the time and effort the museum takes to make their exhibits compelling and engaging. We can only see the future by understanding the past, after all. If you work in downtown TO, why not step out of the rat race on a Friday and take a stroll around. It’s free, and all you’ve got to lose is some time.

On Saturday, we grabbed a quick movie at Square One called Lost in Translation, about two Americans plagued with insomnia and culture shock while in Tokyo, Japan. In the end, you see that the world around them is only a metaphor for the loneliness and insecurities inside themselves.

If I could describe this movie in one word, it would be “subtle”. It was subtle in its sparse dialogue, filled with an awkwardness that made the two protagonists seem so real. It was subtle in its quiet, first person perspectives of Japan that would make the Travel Channel proud. The chemistry between the two characters, Bob and Charlotte, are what Producer Sofia Coppola called “romantic but on the edge”, is an undercurrent, much like the mutual and yet unrequited love story in wkw’s “In the Mood for Love”. It’s not a feel-good romance. It’s not a comedy of errors, complete with toilet humour and hilarious hijinks. It takes its time unfolding at the speed of life.

Which leads me to the criticism – a lot of people found it really boring. There are no gunfights or car chases, after all. Some people are offended that the Japanese are used for the gags, and I must admit that things could be a lot worse than being well-to-do and staying at a Park Hyatt Hotel in one of the world’s greatest cities. But I thought the movie was great.

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” – Bob Harris (Bill Murray)

On the bookshelf: Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. An amusing fairy tale adaptation, even though I felt like I was reading someone’s school assignment – the book is very short, but it is padded with a big font and doublespacing. And yes, this is the book where Tori Amos has a “cameo” as a talking tree. (She also mentions this in her song, “Beauty Queen/Horses“)

Sweden? More like Tackystan

We went to Dr. Sexy and Yuenk’s wedding reception last week. Between the tender stuffed cornish hen, Yuenk’s three wardrobe changes, bouquet AND garter tosses, multiple toasts and the bridal brunch the next morning, it was your basic dream wedding that everyone sees in their mind’s eye. My parents are unwilling to offer any assistance for mine, so I will probably not have a “real” wedding, but that’s just life.

It’s funny, at a wedding you never really get to talk to your friends, you’re always stuck with a strange person at your table (in our case, a breakdancing American), and you always see the groom proclaim to his bridde, while riding piggy-back on the best man, “I am your robot”. OK, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.

Whose side are they on anyway?

The CRTC pledges to work in the best interest of customers. However, are they punishing the ILECs and coddling the competitors in the process? Lawrence Surtees, a senior IDC analyst, raised this possibility today.

First, we have a series of CRTC decisions to keep the ILEC prices above those of the CLECs. Personally, I find these CLECs often lack technical expertise, customer service, and service breadth. They also often don’t own the networks they are selling, being content reselling the ILEC’s wire wholesale. And thanks for the CRTC, these wholesale prices are often bargains. Regardless, many major competitors went bankrupt last year.

However, thanks to bankruptcy protection, these CLECs have become born-again, and given a clean slate on debt to return with a vengeance – the Company Formerly Known as AT&T Canada, Allstream, Call-Net Enterprises (Sprint Canada), and 360 Networks/Groupe Telecom. Together, they wrote off over 18.8 billion dollars in debt. But this raises a question: if these companies can defy death and just blow off bad credit, why do they need regulations to stay alive?

Second, we have the other fighters hiding in the wings, that the CRTC will be unwilling and unable to regulate, and probably not even aware they exist. As networking equipment becomes more commoditized, the profit margins will come from design, consulting, and support services. System integrators become major competitors in the IT field. Why else would IBM buy PwC Consulting and fold it into its IBM Global Services system integration division? Then you have the Internet ISPs and wireless carriers, eager to gobble up new access markets.

And then you have the threat of newer tech. Hydro companies are determined to provide networking over powerlines with hydro telecoms, and the monopolistic cable companies are busy launching two-way interactive digital cable systems. These two new technologies could be available in five years. And then you have your usual set of suspects such as Bell, Aliant and Telus, ILECs in their own provinces seeking new territories to dominate.

Competition benefits the customer by reducing prices. However, Canada already enjoys some of the lowest telecom prices in the world. Are regulations in place just for competition’s sake alone?

Seattle daily times

Somewhat topical after my trip to Seattle are these series of special features called the Seattle Daily Times Centennial Stories, which are a compilation of past articles, catching a glimpse of the trials and tribulations that have shaped Seattle to what it is today – from the boom times of the Klondike gold rush and the post-WW2 formation of Boeing Co., to the bust times of the 1980s and the Vietnam war protests.

What you have is a progressive little city, tied as much to its native American and fishery heritage as it is to its state-of-the-art tech industries, where its citizens are as adept in front of a computer as they are hiking in the mountains. At least to me.


Valve Software’s ambitious online subscription and multiplayer service, Steam, was released recently. If you’re not aware, Valve developed the 1998 Game of the Year “Half-Life”, the anticipated soon-to-be-released “Half-Life 2”, as well as “Counter-strike”, currently the most popular multiplayer game in the world. So Valve (made up of ex-Microserfs) has a pretty good pedigree.

So it may be a good idea for content delivery providers to take a look at Steam, which could possibly revolutionize the game industry. Steam allows players to connect and battle each other, but also allows players to purchase games online and download them. Patches and bugfixes also are downloaded automatically. Game installations can be scanned for cheats and pirated versions can be disabled.

It’s a tall order. You need secure servers, big pipes, low latency games. By using distributed file servers push content to end users, Valve can cut out the middle men – publishers and stores, laminated cardboard boxes and jewel cases.


That is, assuming this works. Steam has been in beta for over 12 months already, but its stunning debut seems to have fallen short on expectations. The Steam client is sluggish, unresponsive and the UI was not designed to give much user feedback – the client occasionally takes a minute or two to load, but without a splash screen or progress bar, it appears as if it has crashed. Of course, a lot of these weird crashes and slowness can be attributed to the unprecedent server load of thousands of people trying to connect and download game caches, which can be over 300MB in size. Releasing a new version of Counter-strike two days later only added to the feeding frenzy.

Steam also lacks a few features. Currently, to play a singleplayer or LAN game, you must be online. So no blasting headcrabs in Half-Life on the train with your laptop, at least for now.

So was Steam a failure? I doubt it. No one has ever attempted this before, on such a grand scale. As for the load, well, Steam is offering some very popular games. And as the mad rush dies down in the coming days and more servers will be added, the Steam network should become more responsive.

Gamers are screaming for Gabe Newell’s head, but then again, the gaming demographic was never known for its compassion or reception for change. They just want to play their games, right now.

In several days, Valve will be closing down its old multiplaying stomping grounds, the World Opponent Network (WON), for good. They’re not looking back.

IP IP Hurray

We all know that IPv6 will give us so many IPs we won’t have to use NAT or dynamic addressing, and we’ll still have enough IPs for every man, woman and child + dog until we colonize the entire solar system. But “lotsa IPs” is just one of the dozen possible benefits IPv6 brings to the table. Here’s a good two-part article called How Did IPv6 Come About, Anyway?