Archive for the 'Geekstuff' Category

05 Sep 2017

Posted by under Dave's Thoughts,Geekstuff

The Big Finish

After 14 years, 5 months and 19 days I have finally completed the CNPS game that I started back in 2003! The realization, this past March, that I was close enough to finish the game in under a year gave me the push I needed to start paying closer attention to the game and actively look for plates. Once the weather got to be nice, I just made a point to go out for a walk at lunchtime almost every day.

Working along 9th Avenue at the west end of Calgary’s downtown, was quite convenient as there are surface parking lots from 4th to 8th Street – loads of cars to walk by every day. With enough variation to constantly see new cars and enough stability to find numbers a second time when their turn came. … hey, don’t be giving me that look!

The graph above shows the progress since the start of 2017. The open circle data point is the where I was on 17 March, the 14 year mark. You can see how the 3 or 4 per month rate in the first quarter jumps up around the end of May going to a rate of about 12 per month over the summer. There were multiple occasions where I saw two or three plates in a single day. What a difference from when I was languishing in the 700’s at 45 plates per year.

Anyway, it’s a giant relief to have finished and I hope it doesn’t take too many weeks to train myself not to swivel around to see every car license plate that goes by!

Best of luck to Scott and Joel as they continue the Quest! Remember, it’s not crazy – it’s a calling.

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17 Mar 2017

Posted by under Dave's Thoughts,Geekstuff

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Hope you get to enjoy something green today!

After a late blast of winter last week, with temperatures down around -20°C, it is finally warming up and the cars are all the same colour – dirt brown. Same as the streets, the cars, the lawns and most everything else. It seems like it’s been a long winter but at least the warmer and longer days give hope that eventually Spring will be here.

Of course, an annual highlight at this time of year is the progress update on the CNPS license plate spotting game. Although progress continues to be maddeningly slow, it was an improvement over last year. The commute, although brief and on public transit is helpful – especially compared to last year where there was precious little regular driving. This year I spotted 43 plates bringing the progress to 943. Close enough to the end (only 57 to go…) to conceivably finish up in the next year. Maybe I will have to sacrifice any appearance of normalcy and scout a walking route through the surface lots around the office and take a walk each lunch hour! Wish me luck!

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30 Nov 2016

Posted by under Dave's Thoughts,Geekstuff

Chestermere Timelapse

Today I found out that Google Earth has added a huge amount of satellite imagery data allowing pretty near any place on earth to be viewed over a time range of about 1984 to 2016. The resolution is not so great in the earlier years of the range, but certainly good enough to see the extent of the change over time. Even better, you can run the images as a timelapse at different speeds. The functionality is available in Google Earth, but if you don’t have that you can also use Google Earth’s Time Lapse website.

Here is the timelapse for Chestermere, where we used to live. We moved there in 1998 when the population was a little under 2000. The town grew to about 20,000 by the time we left in 2014. Here is the timelapse:

For reference our street is circled in red in this 2014 screen grab:


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20 Nov 2016

Posted by under Dave's Thoughts,Geekstuff

The Olden Days

At breakfast on Saturday with the kids, the conversation turned to the “olden days”. Yep, the time before the internet. None of our three kids have never known a time without the web, google or smartphones – the whole of the “information superhighway” exists in their pockets. Remember the information superhighway? Even that term sounds trite and dated now.

Life without a computer with high-speed, always connected wifi is basically a concept that is as foreign to my kids as the idea of having a television is to my generation. Or access to a telephone to my parent’s generation. Today, my kids have phones with them wherever they go, but never call and talk to anyone. They have a television in the house, but have no concept of having to wait until Tuesday at 8:00pm to catch the latest episode of their favourite show.

The world wide web had been developed about 4 years before Steven was born, having begun with CERN creating the first webpage in 1991 and then releasing it as open-source software to the public in 1993. I had a webpage up and running in 1996 – exactly what it looked like is pretty much lost now, as I made periodic edits and the various versions are lost to history. However, this is what that same page looked like in 1999 when I updated it after Mark was born:

As the breakfast conversation continued, we got to talking about the early computers that Brenda and I worked with. Brenda’s first use of a computer was in Grade 11 writing simple Basic programs on a Commodore PET with no disk storage – only cassette tapes.  My experience was similar – the first computer that I used was an Apple II in about Grade 8 – I actually entered a coding competition with a friend in about 1977.  That was long before such advanced technology as the 5.25 inch floppy drive was available!

The first computer in our family, though, was a spectacularly expensive Gateway2000 486DX-33 that we purchased in 1992:


That’s $2700 in US dollars – back in 1992 the exchange rate was about $0.84 Canadian per USD so that was actually about $3225.  To put that in perspective, adjusted for inflation to 2016 that is just shy of $5000.  And what did we get for that princely sum?  Here are a few highlights from the packing list:

  • 486 DX CPU running at a staggering 33 MHz
  • Gemini motherboard
  • 1 Mb of 70ns memory (SIMM packaging)
  • ATI Ultra VGA video card
  • 120 Mb Western Digital IDE hard drive
  • Both kinds of floppy drive
  • “Crystal Scan” 15″ VGA monitor
  • DOS 5 (Gateway version)
  • Windows 3.1
  • Software: MS Works, Money, Publisher and Entertainment

These images are of the packing slip that came with the system – the images are big and I had to really bump the contrast and brightness because they were “Printed with SOY INK” which, sadly, has not withstood the test of time very well. 

gw2k-packingslip1 gw2k-packingslip2

The day that cow-spotted Gateway box arrived was a pretty exciting one and we toted that computer around through a number of moves – from the house in Cold Lake to the apartment, then to Thetis Island, Australia and back to Chestermere.  I don’t know exactly when we retired it – probably some time in 1999.  By that time we had a second computer (a Compaq laptop purchased in Australia) and it was certainly showing its age after 7 years.  The only pictures that I can find with it are from our time at Capernwray in the summer of 1996:

bcb-thetis-treehouse-crop rdb-thetis-treehouse-crop

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