Category Archives: Technology

Steve Jobs

With some spare time before running an errand two days ago, I sat outside an Apple Store. I pulled out my iPad, and connected to Apple’s free wireless internet. Unbeknownst to myself beforehand, this is how I would ironically learn about the death of an icon. Despite not knowing Steve personally, I knew he was a superpower of sorts, a man who had accomplished so much in recent years, and touched so many lives. To this day, his company’s competition is still struggling to create products that resonate with people on an emotional level in an industry that was once relegated only to the most extreme of enthusiasts.

A news reporter caught up with me as I was watching video tributes to Steve. You can see me in the video clip below.

Below are a few videos that I would like to share for their inspiration.

“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones that do.”

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”

Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, tearfully remembers Steve Jobs.

Goodbye Steve.

My Impressions of Netflix on the iPad


After years of operating exclusively in the United States, Netflix has expanded to Canada after a somewhat bumbled launch. It works on Nintendo Wii, PS3, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch if you downoad a free app. Support is built into many newer TVs and the new Apple TV. Of course, you can also use a standard web browser from a computer.

For me, the iPad app is especially convenient. I already use the iPad with my TV for other apps, making this addition icing on the cake. Away from the TV, the iPad’s screen is big enough to take to any bed or couch in the house.

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Lightroom error "The file appears to be unsupported or damaged" caused by Picasa

Following the purchase of a DSLR camera, I have switched to using raw mode and Adobe Lightroom for post-processing of these photos. Up to now, I have been using Google Picasa to organize and tag my photos. Initially, my collection of photos worked just fine in Lightroom as I invested hours of work of retouching my favourite photos for my gallery. After doing some mass tagging and organization of photos in Picasa, Lightroom stopped reading many of my JPEG photos taken across many years with several different cameras.

Now, when selecting a photo in Lightroom’s Develop mode, I would see a error message:

"The file appears to be unsupported or damaged."

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Why keyboard keys aren’t listed alphabetically

Many of us type on keyboards on a daily basis without giving any thought to its layout. It just works, but why exactly do we use this layout? If you think it’s a carry-over from days past to slow typists down or the result of research to group commonly used keys together, it’s not true! Read on.

Most English keyboards used today use the QWERTY format, which takes its name from the first six letters appearing on the keyboard. Its design is based on a layout originally created by Christopher Latham Sholes for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter in 1873. Sholes actually began with an alphabetical layout spread across 2 rows, but jams became a major issue. When pressing certain two letter combinations (e.g., “St”) together or in quick succession, the metal arms mounting the characters would collide or become jammed.

Contrary to popular belief, no one wanted to solve this problem by slowing typists down. Rather, Sholes rearranged the layout so that commonly-used letter pairs were not close together on the keyboard, avoiding jams of the connecting metal arms, and thus allowing typists to continue typing fast.

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Crazy mobile companies promise coverage in over 200 countries, only 195 actually exist

Quick! How many countries are in the world?

It’s not something we think about every day, but the best answer for the number of countries in the world is 195.

Don’t tell that to Ma Bell though. Most of the Canadian cell phone companies promise coverage in “over 200” countries. In the United States, it gets even worse.

Need proof? Let’s start with the Canadian companies, best known for having some of the highest profits and highest prices in the developed world.

Given that TELUS has already gone the extra mile with 5 extra countries, I’m not sure how they plan to add new roaming destinations.

As if most of the 200 countries can be reached by road from Canada!

Fido and Bell also make similar claims, while Rogers is conspicuously quiet with specific numbers on their web site. Maybe it’s because everyone knows they don’t really provide widespread coverage in any countries, including Canada.

In the United States, the empty promises get even weirder. Verizon has a page for Antarctica, along with a useless coverage map!

I guess there’s no coverage in Antarctica, not even for the research bases.

Then there’s AT&T, an extra special American mobile carrier.

They are clearly the best, with coverage in over 25 imaginary countries that don’t exist.

While the definition of what a “country” is contested in some areas, most experts would agree there is only 195 countries give or take a few. Assuming all of the countries in the world actually have mobile roaming coverage, claims of 200 and 220 are definitely pushing it.

I’m not the Paul, Peter or Patricia you think I am

My word of advice: Don’t create email accounts and then forget about them for years. As it turns out, I did exactly that.

Although I didn’t expect any actual activity (read: non-spam e-mails) in this account, it turns out that the powers and randomness of the internet proved otherwise. By reading through my emails for the past few years in this long-forgotten account, you would think I’m a master of many identities, balancing myself as a poker addict, an avid church goer, professional photographer, world traveler, among other personas, each with its own unique name, such as Paul, Peter, Patti and Patricia.

Let’s begin looking through the e-mail excerpts, shall we?


This year we have three nominations for Citizen of the Year. Other potential nominees from the last meeting were dropped due to lack of profile information. The nominees are:

[list of names redacted]

Please make your selection and return your vote via reply e-mail.

Wow, I get to choose a citizen of the year? I nominate myself!

Happy halloween, patti! Hope you’re having fun…. 🙂 ken

Oh trust me, I am.

Welcome paul saulnier to the Smugglers’ Wireless Internet Network!

The account you just registered for was issued the following username and password.
Username: [redacted]
Password: [redacted]

I will use this smuggle iBeer on my iPhone across the border.

Hi Patricia,

It was great seeing you at the [location redacted] Bridal Show yesterday! [names redacted], and I really enjoyed chatting with you about your upcoming wedding at [redacted] Hotel. [other details about some photo product]


[some photo company]

I really enjoyed chatting with you as well… wait, Bridal Show? What?!

Dear Paul,

This e-mail confirms that a Security Code has been issued for your account at Poker Heaven (PIN: [redacted]) and sent by regular mail to the postal address you registered when you opened your account.

Good thing they sent this via regular mail. I wouldn’t want to be holding some poker addict back from his fix.


Just as a matter of courtesy, I wanted to let everyone know that I have resigned from the [redacted] Committee. This was a very difficult and disappointing decision for me, and I certainly did not make it lightly. While I deeply regret that I will not be able to fulfill my obligation to [location redacted]â??s residents and employees, I do take some comfort in knowing that our town is amply blessed with very intelligent, talented and community-minded individuals, any one of whom would be able to quickly and seamlessly fill the vacant position.

Let’s hope the best qualified person wasn’t the one who was supposed to receive my copy of the e-mail.

Finance Committee:

I have attached a preliminary 2010 budget which I will hand out to Session this evening.

Disturbing. The budget for a church was actually attached to this e-mail (well, actually the next one right after since the sender forgot to attach it the first time, oops!). This church had a yearly income of $488k, and expenses of $582k, leading to a whopping $101k deficit. Out of this, $5k is being spent on Telephones & Internet. It must be on gold plated phones because they certainly aren’t talking much to each other.

I thought you might like to see pictures from last night.

[name redacted]

These pictures of a business meeting weren’t nearly as scandalous as you’re hoping. Get your mind out of the gutter!


Please add our newest Trustee, [redacted], to the roster for distribution at the Jan 4 meeting.

[contact details redacted].

As well, you can delete [names redacted] â?? I have official resignations from each.

Thank you,


Please remove me from the roster. I don’t care.

Hi [someone else] and Peter,
I was just wondering if you received my note regarding the wall in the basement closet. We were wondering if it was going to be repaired before school starts.
Hope you are both having a great summer!

Sure, I’ll get right on that.

And the list of e-mail goes on. All in all, I took the liberty of replying to the most confused groups of people to tell them I’m not the person that they are looking for. I didn’t get many responses, presumably because the senders are too embarassed to acknowledge they’ve been furiously e-mailing the wrong person for months. In the case of the church, they thanked me for telling them, and continue to cheerfully send me a copy of their monthly newsletter. Oh well.

More media coverage!

As more outlets have picked up my Roomba emotional control story, other outlets come forward to cover the story.

Last week, my interview with Dr. Saul Greenberg (who coordinated with my supervisor and myself on this project) was broadcast nationwide on CBC Spark.

Various news sites from around the world spread the word in other languages.


In German!


In Japanese!


In Dutch! And a few more.

I was also contacted for individual interviews for the web sites of Wired and Wired UK.



In British English!

The Telegraph-Journal from my hometown also ran a story on the front page of their weekly Innovate section, with a very large colour photo.


My colleagues in the lab were quite amused as they saw me on the floor for this shot. The carpet, thankfully, was very clean. The Roomba in this photo actually has had its vacuum parts removed, so it’s not responsible for the cleanliness. Is a Roomba still a Roomba if it cannot vacuum?

Overall, this media attention has been a wild ride beyond my craziest expectations. I am very happy for the support this idea has received. You can view my complete project page on my web site.