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Wednesday, 28 May 2003

I recently found a a piece of parasite software on my system, thanks to the terrible security of Windows. :-P Fortunately I am a fairly savvy conputer user, knowing a fair bit about the internals of Windows so I could remove this annoying piece of *#!!* software — though it was damn tricky finding every place it hid itself and its data. I'm still not sure I zapped all of it. :-P

Parasite software is usually spyware. It scans your harddrive for personal information (address, credit card numbers, etc...) and keeps records of every site you visit, sending that data somewhere, usually to some company who will sell that info to third parties. Parasite software doesn't show up in the Add/Remove programmes control panel which means to uninstall it you have to know what files it secretly installed in the first place, and even if you can hunt down and find all those well hidden files, if you don't get every last one they can redownload and reinstall themselves the next time you go online. This is scary stuff - programmes that can't be deleted that spy on everything you're doing on your computer and send the info God knows where!

So I did a little bit of research in to parasite-ware and spyware and I found two webpages which are very useful. The first one (http://www.doxdesk.com/parasite/) has a little script on it to detect whether your computer has any of about ~100 different pieces of spyware as well as instructions on how to get rid of any that are found. The second (http://www.unwantedlinks.com/spyware-info.htm) has a good explanation (even for non-geeks) of what parasite spyware does and a link to a list of about 800 programmes that secretly install this crap.

I recommend that everybody who uses Windows on their computer visit that page (with Internet Explorer, not Netscape, Opera or a different browser) because these parasitical spyware programmes are NOT not detected by anti-virus software! The annoying parasites are usually secretly bundled in with free softare people download from the next (Grokster, BonziBuddy, Kazaa, LimeWire, AudioGalaxy, CuteFTP are some examples of the more popular ones), but some webpages secretly install parasite software when you surf to them.

Also, a very popular program called Gator, which is advertised a personal utility program that helps you manage personal information (name, birthday, address), bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords and so forth. It's major feature is to automatically fill out forms on web pages with that personal info — which sounds cool ("hey, less typing!"), untill you realize that Gator also sends that info of yours back to it's creators for them to sell to third parties! Not only that, but Gator is also "theftware", which means that when you are surfing, Gator scans all the web pages you visit for ads and switches them for ads of Gator's clients. On the surface this doens't sound too bad - and ad is an ad, right? Wrong! Most of those webpages have those adds to generate revenue so the people can keep their pages online. But since Gator is secretly replacing those ads with ones from Gator clients, the people don't get the revenue they deserve. Gator is extremely unethical.

Friday, 16 May 2003

Since my Mother swears by what banana skins have done for her ferns, I've deced to try them for my container gardening this year. Bananas have high levels of phosporus and potassium and along with nitrogen are the three elements most rapidly removed from soil.

If I remember my biology from high school and my zoology & botany from university, phosphorus is essential for both photosynthesis in plants and cellular respiration in animals. Unfortunately I can't remember what the potassium is needed for.

In years past I've always used Miracle Gro (that blue, crystalline fertlizer) on my plants and they have done nicely. So this summer I shall see if the banana skins make my container gardened plants any healthier. I have the biggest hopes for the tomatoes and peppers. Come winter when I bring my orange tree inside I'm going to give it banana skins, too, and maybe it will stay healthier all winter.

While I've never had bad luck with the tomatoes and peppers, they've always been under–performers for me, especially the tomatoes. My herbs have always done well with mild neglect, getting nice and bushy, so I guess a combination of that and not being as experienced a gardener as my Mother has not let my tomatoes and peppers grow to their potential.

Last Saturday at the farmers' market, in addition to some catnip and lemon balm, I picked up two little cherry tomato plants with flower buds already on them. (Not having a driver's licence sucks, so I don't usually get plants until June when I go along with my Mother the teacher on her garden shopping trips when school has ended.) I gave the plants some banana skins today and I am hoping that some early cherry tomatoes from healthy, banana–fed plants will encourage me to be more attentive to the plants that need more than the mild neglect I give my herbs. :-)

Saturday, 10 May 2003

Well, I got another letter to the editor printed in my local newspaper (The Record). It was about bilingualism in response to somebody that I saw as being prejudiced and anti–francophone. Since the Record has recently gone non-free :-( on it's website, here are both letters for you to read and make your own choice.

Ottawa is wasteful, 29 April 2003

Our Canadian dictator and his loyal followers have done it to us again. The millions needed for housing, health, education and a great many other subjects are to be wasted, with the help of Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, on divisive, useless, unneeded bilingualism.

It always amazes me how Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien can come up with dreams like this, especially at a time of war when the United States needs our assistance. Even the military is neglected when urgently needed.

What we have now with no real opposition is sad.

William White, Kitchener


Yea for bilingualism, 5 May 2003

I fail to see how bilingualism is "divisive, useless, unneeded," as characterized by William White in his April 29 letter, Ottawa is Wasteful.

White comes across as one of those anglophones who complains that they were forced to take French in public school yet still expect francophones to learn English. Were I a francophone, that kind of attitude would annoy me to no end.

Why should a francophone have to learn English if the anglophones aren't going to make a similar attempt to learn French?

Nor does it help White's argument that he comes out of the gate with an attack on Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Perhaps White missed the last few decades of democratic elections in this country?

Bilingualism is a good thing and not just because of the benefits of learning any second language.

French-English bilingualism programs here in Canada are great things.

When I took French in public school and university, I learned a little bit about francophone-Canadian culture and if you remember the Canadian history course from high school, then it is easy to understand a little bit about what causes the feelings that fuel the separatist movement.

Bilingualism programs go a long way towards healing that rift.

J'espère qu'à l'avenir pour tous les étudiants Canadiens que l'immersion de langue sera la norme, plutôt que l'exception. Bravo pour le bilinguisme.

Cory C. Albrecht, Kitchener

I finally got my bicyle out of the basement and I biked over to the nearest gas station to fill the tires, and you'd never guess what I saw.

A Pileated Woodpecker! Now these things aren't that common, so I almost fell off my bike when I saw it! The last (and only other) time I had seen one was about 15 years ago in Point Pelee National Park and it was on the list of uncommon and rarer birds that if you saw one you were supposed to find one of the staff and tell them.

I live in suburban Kitchener, and there is a small (one block square) woods just down the street and about a 15 minute walk in the other direction is Steckle's Woods — a fair–sized bush for being in the middle of the city. I saw the Pileated Woodpecker on one of the trees in the front lawn of a house which backs onto the main road which separates my subdivision from Steckle's Woods. But still, you don't expect to see a bird like this in the middle of the city.

I guess I'm going to have to take my camera and telephoto lens into the woods to see if I can capture this bird on film. Way cool experience!