VPN: What and why

A Virtual Private Network is a kind of encrypted “tunnel” through which data (encrypted again) passes. Why?

Say you’re surfing on a public wi-fi signal in a coffee shop. You are on the same network as everybody else in the shop. Others can easily watch and log what sites you are visiting, what passwords you may pass, and so on. So, you turn on your virtual PRIVATE network.


I set mine up and tried it today, comparing speeds of wi-fi access. Obviously, I took a big hit in surfing speed, but pages and email still came in at an acceptably fast rate.

Having a VPN is a good idea if you use public wi-fi.

My best 54 minutes this week

I don’t think I know anyone who would watch all the way through this talk, but I would be delighted to be wrong.

If you did watch, let me know. If you didn’t, it was just about the future, whether or not we’ll survive as a species here in meatspace and how there are no good solutions to the problems we’ve created, only less bad ones.

Sounds like sci-fi but it’s real and it’s now.

Our library : Full of cool innovation

Look where the magazines in the post below were housed. Smart, moving shelves radically reduce aisle space. Only one aisle exists at any one time. Push buttons shift the shelves along silently on tracks, opening up an aisle where needed. Seldom-used periodicals remain fully accessible in a very compact space.

Equally cool are assorted digital equipment offerings. Need a hi-res transparency scanner or want to digitize VHS tapes? Show your library card and sit down to a computer.

Next week, we will take a free, hour-long instruction course to become eligible to use a 3D printer, paying a nominal fee for materials if we want to make something. In a few years (or sooner) household 3D printers will be as common as toasters. We’ll laugh to think we once took a course on how to use one.

iMacs stuffed with high powered Photoshop, video-editing software, Raspberry Pi and Arduino mini-computer kits … also available to any library card holder.

IMG_0495.JPGMain Reference Library

This is one cool place. The Fort York branch has a Digital Hub, too. More are planned, around the city.

Who should pay for what art?


When I read that a long-published literary magazine was losing its Canada Council funding, I was curious enough to head to the reference library. What was On Spec? What had it done to deserve funding for over 25 years? What did it do to get cut off?

I got 3 non-circulating issues to read through. It’s a little, digest-size magazine, well enough made, that reminded me of a good high school yearbook. Heavy on sci-fi stories. Speculative fiction is seldom my cup of tea.

Canada Council cited layout as a failing. It’s actually not bad. A bit timid and conventional, a little unpolished. I guess the Council’s “unprofessional” criticism does apply. I’m not convinced that “professional” layout should be expected, though. I would like to see more daring, even if it failed.

As to writing, and this is a showcase for new writers, the Council wanted “better”. Me, too, from what I read. But new writers who are better may not need the Canada Council. I find it useful to sample less-than-excellent prose, if only to appreciate the accomplishments of unsubsidized writers.

I have no answers to my questions about why On Spec was funded, and none about why it was cut off, but the publishers are reaching out for Kickstarter funding from supporters. This strikes me as a good outcome.

Questions about On Spec have morphed in questions about Canada Council funding in general. What arts should be subsidized by federal monies?

Oh, oh. Brian may be right

Although it will be cheaper than my friend Brian’s estimate of $45, a ride on the new express train between Union Station and Pearson Airport may be set too high. Obviously, to be of use to most of us, the trip must cost significantly less than a trip for two in a limo.

From our place, a limo ride costs around $70. That’s $35 each to have service to our door. If we wrestled our luggage onto the TTC, rode to Union Station ($5 for two, one senior), it would take us at least half an hour to get there. Add the 25 minutes promised to ride to the airport and 15 minutes between each train departure and we’d be at Pearson in one hour and ten minutes. The limo is faster AND easier.

If the train ticket cost, say, $15, we could hump our luggage to the streetcar, then from the street into the train station and reach the airport for $35. For a mere $5.00, though, the two of us can go TTC to Pearson all the way, bypassing the new, “fast” train altogether.

What if we liked the limo front door service and tried to match it by taking a $28 cab ride to Union? If they set the train price as high as $20, our cost would be virtually the same as the limo cost. No point using the train.

So Brian’s expectation that the “The train will be a money losing disaster, methinks.” may well be correct.

Leslieville Flea at the Ashbridge Estate

On a nice day, this is an ideal location for the Leslieville Flea Market. It moves around, you know. We last visited when it was in the Distillery District. Outside, under good light, it was much easier to see all the old stuff. I liked the tools, Danica the jewels.

You may notice that I was more interested in the surroundings than in items for sale. Frankly, most of the offerings were pretty typical … old clothes, handmade necklaces and rings, leather belts. There were some old farm implements, which I always like to look at, but nothing I hadn’t seen many times before. I guess that’s the problem. A lot of the stuff looks like things in my basement or stuff I tossed out years ago. For younger customers, maybe there’s an appeal that I can’t feel.


Above is a lovely shot Danica took. It didn’t fit the slide show format and to crop it would have been a shame.

Open Streets Day

Some major downtown streets were barred to cars and opened up to pedestrians, roller bladers and cyclists today, between 8:00 a.m, and noon. We got to see familiar sites from a new perspective.


We started at Bloor and St. George, walking east to Yonge Street. In the last shot you see Tiny Perfect former Mayor Crombie talking to Olivia Chow. David Soknacki was out there campaigning, too. No sign of the Ford brothers, of course. They hate this kind of “war on cars” stuff. Some war. Four hours on a Sunday morning.

Not great video, but it gives you a taste … and you can play “Where’s Danica?”. We enjoyed ourselves. The event will be repeated on August 31st.

One thing leads to another

I meant to post this mural the other day, after a visit to a local railside community garden.
It’s big. Those 3 panels could be 4′ x 8′ panels. The whole thing hangs high on a brick wall, much more faded than I am showing it (thanks, Photoshop) and it overlooks the gardeners as they work below.


It’s signed Steve McCabe 3. A quick internet search led to this, and more.

I could write to Steve McCabe, and maybe I will, but for now I think I’ll just put up this post and see if he finds it.

Toronto the Terrible

Rob Ford hates public facilities like this restroom atop Corktown Common. There are 700 trees in the new park. Why can’t people just pee on those like the mayor does? Do we even need 700 trees? There wouldn’t be lineups if we only had 100, so 600 of those trees are pure gravy.

Other gravy in this mound of taxpayer dollars include spongy, springy, rubberized hills and swings for children to play on. That’s a water park in the foreground. A network of winding paths and stairways flank green landscapes and rock-rimmed ponds. I heard a bullfrog croak. How much did HE cost?

Friday ride: Distillery District

distillery-ride Coolish weather made a perfect day for pedalling, so we challenged ourselves to a ride through the downtown construction maze to the Distillery District. It was pleasant getting there, most of the way … lakeside bike paths, greenery and breezes. We had to walk the bikes on Parliament after crossing Lakeshore Boulevard. Two blocks, not bad.


I wanted to show Danica a new park just east of the District but there was NO WAY we could find through the dust and dump trucks. Traffic is a total mess down there. We both agree that it’s going to be an excellent ride when all of the Pan Am Games work is finished next year.