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    March 2011
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I can’t believe it’s already one week since March break is over.  Still catching up.  Our son’s school had a two-weeks March break and we’re broke now.  During this time he rediscovered his love for swimming.  I swam with him one hour almost every day and we did some baking.  This time, we baked Challah, and here is the recipe.

Boil some water, you’ll use it to make lukewarm water for the recipe.

Mix 25 ml of the boiled water with 100 ml of fresh tap water.  Add 10 ml of honey and 22.5 ml of dried yeast.  Cover and let rest.

Break three eggs into a big bowl and beat them.  Add 80 gr of honey, 100 ml of the boiled water, 250 ml of fresh tap water, 125 ml of canola oil, 7.5 ml of salt.  Mix thoroughly, then add the frothing yeast mixture and continue to mix.

Slowly add 500 gr of unbleached white flour while mixing.  The dough should be sticky.

Replace the flat beaters with dough hooks and continue to mix, adding slowly another 400 gr of unbleached white flour.  The dough should start to come away easily from the bowl.  Keep adding flour until the dough is one big ball and does not stick much.  Cover with a damp tower and let rest in a draft-free place (the cold oven is ideal) for about one hour or until the dough doubles in volume.

After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it, knead it again and divide it into three equal portions.  Each portion will yield one bread:  one for today, one for tomorrow, and one to share with friends or neighbors.

For a round Challah, work the dough into one long roll and roll it around its center.  For a classical braided Challah, cut the portion in three again, work each third into a thin long roll and braid them.  Or you can do little rolls out of them.

Cover with a cloth and let raise again in a draft-free place for about one and a half our or until double in volume.

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F (convection baking – if you don’t use convection baking, bake at to 400°F).  Break and beat an egg.  Mix it with a few drops of water.  Brush the Challah with mixture.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.  Bake on a silicon mat for about 22 minutes.  Let cool for a little while and enjoy!

Whoever Owns the Medium Controls the Message

Great video on Youtube explaining why Canada’s telecommunication market is dysfunctional.

Don’t Tie Yourself Up

ISPs like Rogers and Bell love it when their customer use the email addresses provided “for free” with Internet access.  It promotes customer loyalty.  When you switch provider, you lose the email address.  Who wants to lose their email address?

If your email address ends with @rogers.com or @sympatico.ca you are vulnerable.  These address belongs to Rogers or Bell, not to you; and they can close it down / reallocate it to any other customer if you quit paying for their services.

The same happens when changing job if the email address is the one @<your_employer>.com.  Great if your contact address changes just when you are looking for a new job.

The web is full of horror stories.  Ordinary people lose their email addresses when they change ISP.  Then they can’t reset passwords for accounts that are tied to those email addresses.  They miss on notifications and communications to which they subscribed the old address.  They lose contacts as they forget to notify them of the address change.

This extra barrier gives ISPs the comfort that you won’t jump ship.  But what if you have no choice?  if you relocate to a neighborhood that is serviced by Telus (@globetrotter.net) and must give up your Bell services?  Sometimes you have no choice.

You know how cumbersome and costly an address change is.  In the electronic world it is no different than in the real world.  Reprinting business cards; notifying contacts of the change.  All of this takes time and cost money.

Savvy individual keep their personal email separate from their work email; and keep their personal email under their control and not under the control of their ISP.

The solution is simple:  open a free email account with one of the many providers such as gmail.com or yahoo.ca.  These services are free of charge (advertisment-financed), you can access them from everywhere the Internet is accessible and you control when the account is opened and closed, not your ISP or your employer.

And if you are still using ISP-provided or employer-provided email addresses, it is never too late to change.  Open a new address at a freemail provider and the transition will be painless and without pressure.  Move your correspondence to the new address until the ISP-provided address is only a spam-box for the unimportant clutter.

Hugin Participates in Google Summer of Code 2011

Congratulations to Habi for spearheading the effort.  A list of all 175 accepted mentoring organizations is here.  If you know of a university student who would like to get paid to write code this summer, let them know about the Google Summer of Code: the student is free to work on a project idea of is liking, including his own original ideas, within the context of a mentoring organization like ours, and gets T-shirt and a neat stipend from Google.

Next step for would-be student participants that wants to do work on the Hugin/Enblend/Panotools codebase is to join the mailing list, introduce themselves and make their intention of participating in the Summer of Code as students known, and work on their applications.  The earlier you start, the better.  The application deadline is April 8 19:00 UTC.

For advice to would-be student participants, look at the Google Summer of Code category in this blog.  Good luck everybody!

Spring Cleaning

This week TekSavvy started offering access to Rogers’ cable in London at better conditions.


Service Provider Price/M Transfert Speed
Express Teksavvy $36.95 300GB 10.0 down 0.5 up
Rogers $46.99 60GB 10.0 down 0.5 up
Lite Teksavvy $27.95 300GB 3.0 down 0.25 up
Rogers $35.99 15GB 3.0 down 0.25 up

With 300GB of transfer compared to Roger’s 60GB you can watch TV over the internet without worrying about overcharges.

Save an additional $40+/m.  Cancel Rogers cable.  Replace it with services like  Netflix ($8/month).  Watch your favorite CBC show on CBC.ca.  use the savings toward DVD rentals, add a title or two to your library, or go out to the local pub.

While spring-cleaning, replace also Roger’s home phone with Vonage.ca.  Vonage gives you a full service package for the price at which Roger’s home phone just starts with a basic package.

Add all of this up and you’ll be saving easily $360/year or more.

When you call Rogers to cancel the service they will try to offer you discounts and “benefits”.  Ask them why they are gouging you.  Don’t let them continue to gouge you.

It is outrageous that Rogers is increasing prices and reducing service while the worldwide trend goes the other way around.

Bye Bye Rogers

After a year with Rogers there is finally an alternative.  More on that change later.  Preparing for the call to customer service, I wanted a top ten list of reasons to quit Rogers.  I quickly came up with many more than ten.


1. Unless you like playing tetris, watching HD can be frustrating at times.  Symptoms include stuttering audio, mainstream HD channels unavailable for weeks, and this.  Annoying.

2. I don’t need my toddler to see violence on TV and yet if I want to show him On Demand children content we must navigate through a slow menu that exposes him to advertising for pay per view movies that often shows violent scenes.  Useless.

3. I have no other device connected to the HDTV receiver but an HDCP compliant display via HDMI and yet I have to acknowledge every time I turn it on that I am being treated like a thief. Nobody did that to me in the day of analog TV and VHS tapes.


4. Broken DNS. To make a few bucks more, Rogers fiddles with the DNS – the system that maps the URL you type into the browser to an IP address corresponding to a server.  This breaks the standard.  Because of Rogers, my printer (Brother MFC-6490, highly recommended and good Linux support) could not update its firmware.  If you’re savvy, you can get around Rogers’ DNS redirection by using dnsmasq’s “bogus-nxdomain” feature.  Nevertheless, if you are really savvy, you switch to a standard-compliant ISP.

5. Deep packet inspection and intrusion. I’m surfing the web and all of a sudden a piece of JavaScript tries to inject itself.  I’m sure it’s not legit, I have access to the source code of the website I am trying to view.  Examining the intruder it is not a worm nor a virus nor a phishing scam.  It’s my friend Rogers, notifying me that I have used more than 75% of my monthly bandwidth allowance and will soon be charged extra.  How would you feel if Canada Post opened your letters and changed their content?  And yet Rogers does exactly this, with impunity!

6. Bandwith allowance?  Yes, unlike in most developed countries, it’s capped very low.  I was lucky when I got my service: it was 25 GB/month.  Now the same service cost more money and buys only 15GB/month.  Are we trying to prevent usage of competing services like Tou.tv, Netflix or Vonage?

7. Speedboost, a seemingly generous practice of helping the poor speed-capped customers to some relief five times per calender year. Promised: 10.0/0.5

delivered: less than 2.5/0.5

8. The slow network.  I pay for 3.0/0.25, and indeed I measured 3.0/0.25  a year ago.  Over time it has progressively degraded to less than 2.5/0.25.

It may be related to the slow network, but I find the problems that I experience with Skype and Vonage to be very peculiar and specific to this ISP.  I’ve been using Skype and Vonage for more than six years and nowhere have I had more disruptions than on Rogers’ network.  Is it because they are competitors to Roger’s own home phone service?

9. Encrypted uploads are throttled.  Not helpful when uploading source packages to Launchpad or SourceForge; or home movies to a server.  Since I moved and became a Rogers customer I can no longer use my mutual off-site backup setup with a friend.  We used to rsync our respective data automatically overnight via SSH,  but we had to put this practice on hold.  It’s cheaper to make a copy on a spare hard disk and snail-mail it to him!

10. Port 25 is blocked, as expected from every decent spam-fighting ISP, who offers eMail relaying through their own mail servers.  With Rogers there is a catch: sender address must be registered.  Of course this is only to prevent the so common practice of spoofing the From header.  Too bad that registration is limited to five sender addresses only.

Customer Service

11. I explicitly asked from the start: no unsolicited marketing.  And yet I had to remind Rogers three time and my request was ignored.

12. What really tipped me over was when Rogers messed a credit card charge last month.  They sent me a “Returned cheque notice” asking me to fix the problem.  Which problem?  My credit card is in good standing.  When the agent charged it, she mentioned that there would be an additional late payment charge.  For their mistake? I protested and she back tracked, but the damage was done.  I could not wait to quit.

What are the Alternatives, Really?

Whether it is in the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum; or in the technically minded Net Index:  Canada ranks at the bottom in terms of telecommunication services and at the top in terms of telecommunication costs, and things are not moving in a positive direction.

In a nutshell: I am taking advantage of a bad regulatory decision in an even worse regulatory landscape.  The  Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a government agency that seems to have tasked itself with holding back Canada’s development, regulates telecommunication.  It has (wrongly) imposed on ILECs (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers, like Rogers) to open their networks to CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers).  The CLEC gets regulated entry to the ILEC’s network at “negoitated” wholesale rates and conditions fixed(!) by the CRTC and can give some of that savings back to me.  This is bad.  It’s uncompetitive.  It’s unfair.  It does not encourage investment nor innovation.  It’s dirigisme.  Short-term it is better than the pre-existing oligopoly, but long-term it is worse since it slows down massively the pace of investment and innovation.

Real competition is when the ILECs can do what they want with their network and consumer have a real alternative instead of piggy backing on them at an imposed lower price.  Under real competition, my next provider could offer me not only the same service at a lower price; but better adapted service.  In my opinion Canada needs real unbundling: the CLECs should get physical access (but not network access) to all the boxes where cables terminate (the Exchanges) as well as to the physical conduits between Exchanges; consumers should get control of the last mile between their premises and the Exchange and decide which LECs they want service from.  Unbundling has driven tremedous growth in France.  Ten years ago my friends there paid the equivalent of what I pay here today, and received a 5.0/0.8 service.  Nowadays they pay the equivalent of $35 per month (including a 19.6% VAT) and they get: 28.0/1.0 Internet service with no bandwidth cap; home phone with unlimited free long distance and international calls to more than 90 countries; more than a 100 TV channels, some of which HD.  All included.  To get a somewhat comparable from Rogers I would have to shell out more than $150 (plus 13% HST) per month.  Insane.


For now, consumers in Canada are better off switching to TekSavvy for their Internet needs and subscribing to the cable service because unless they also have an expensive old copper-wire phone service, the DSL service is “dry-loop-taxed” to the tunes of about $10/month, courtesy of another bad CRTC decision.

For the home phone, I recommend Vonage to the more conservative consumers, while I prepare my infrastructure to go even lower cost with voip.ms.

For TV, I can spend the budget that was allocated to Rogers cable on Blu-Ray or DVD rentals.  Specifically for my son, I can buy him one DVD per month of his favorite TV show and I still have not matched the cost of Rogers’ cable.

For wireless, I use a prepaid service from Speakout or PetroCanada Mobility.

Bye bye, Rogers.  If you want my business back, you better become competitive.


I’ve been recently approached by a user looking for advice:

“I’ve never contributed to an open source project before, so what’s the procedure for contributing. Should I share a patch with some others to test before committing? Now that I have a fix, I don’t know what to do with it!”

Have a Look Around.

Welcome to the world of open source. Every open source project has their own way of working and some are more formal than others. You want to find your way around.  For Hugin, I have formalized a community charter a while ago.  Observe how the project works and ask on the public communication channels how to contribute.

Make it Relevant, Persistent, Known.

For your contribution to be successful, you want to make it relevant, persistent, and known.

Relevance is context. The context of your contribution is most likely the project’s codebase. Make sure your contribution relates to a recent version of the code, and that it can be easily shared and applied.  In our case, assuming that you have the project’s Mercurial repository on your hard drive, make sure that your modifications are relevant to the most recent version of the code base and produce a standardized patch that is easy to apply:

hg pull
hg up default
hg diff > bugfix.patch

Next, find out what the project uses to track issues.  Issue trackers are used for persistence.  Hugin’s issue tracker is on Launchpad.  Whether your patch fixes a bug or adds a new feature, make sure that it is in the issue tracker.  If the bug is already known, add your patch to the existing bug report.  If it is new, file a new ticket.

Last but not least, make your contribution known.  Introduce yourself into the project’s communication channels and make the public aware of your tracker entry.  The ball is now in the project’s camp.

And now?

Now it is time to receive feedback.  Your contribution will be peer-reviewed.  Chances are that you will get some.  Senior code contributors may comment on your coding style or on the details of the implementation.  Bleeding-edge users may integrate your contribution into their self-built binaries and report test results.  Your contribution has taken the path toward integration and you have become a contributor.  Don’t forget to add yourself to the author’s list.  Thank you for helping make Hugin better.