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30 March

Earth hour came and went in Montreal. We kept our lights off as a symbolic gesture, but not much change was apparent from the houses in the neighborhood, or the broader bit of cityscape I managed to see. The impact of electrical usage from Earth Hour would have been limited, but the symbolism and publicity could have been important. On the whole, I am quite dismayed and a bit disappointed by my brethren.

(In all honesty, I did come close to forgetting start-time of the event myself.)

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
31 March

I've been hearing about Twitter for a while now. It's a communal micro-blog. In general, I have though it was ridiculous and constituted a way for people to waste time. Worse, I tend to value my privacy and a site that wastes time and exposes your privacy seemed really pointless.

That said, I keep hearing how good it is, and came across the following video that
makes a compelling case for using Twitter. I am still very unsure about it, but
the idea of maintaining links with far away friends seems good.

On the other hand, it's not clear whether (a) the idea will scale, (b) it's not merely suited to a few very web-oriented people, or (c) I am just a cynic. I'm there as gdudek.

Your opinion?


Sorry, this poll was not enabled for voting for a long time. That's finally fixed.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
20 April


April 26th, 2008 is the holiday to celebrate the free exchange of ideas, written words, artworks, and other intellectual content. (This is a repost of the RIP day announcement.)

The exchange and retention of complex ideas is one of the key things that distinguishes human behavior. The exchange of written ideas is the basis of our civilization. Today, the free exchange of ideas is being threatened.

Are these things, ideas, writings, art, and music "property"? Not really. Should content creators be rewarded for their efforts? Of course. Is that happening today? No. The system today is broken: most artists, poets, musicians, and novelists do not make significant money from generating creative work.

The concept of intellectual property today, and the mechanisms used to reward its creation, are badly broken. No protection at all would be better for society as a whole than what is in place today. Today's system is an excuse to concentrate control (and revenue) in the hands of a few companies and people, and the expense of social good, intellectual growth, quality or cultural enhancement.

Do something about it!

On April 26th, put something you have created into the public domain. Copy something you own (in most places you can make completely legal copies of your own media for your own use). Do something even more outrageous to state your position. Give out a CD to somebody on the street.

Do you read stuff on the internet all the time? Put up some information on something you know, for other people to use. Put the page in the public domain, or put a CC license on it.


Some lay people are still unaware of the term "Intellectual Property" (IP) which refers to the fact that non-tangible things, like music, inventions and ideas, can be legally protected. Luc Devroye has a provocative piece on his web site about Intellectual Property, and why the implementation is today's society seems to diverge significantly from the principles or ideals that justify it. Luc is a brilliant and very famous academic whose diverse contributions includes fundamental work on probability theory.

April 26, 2008 is also World IP day, as declared by WIPO. One disturbing aspect of the IP landscape today is that many governments have become members of WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization), and WIPO is fairly aggressive about pushing a very protective IP policy. One of the WIPO statues i s that members countries give WIPO ... "such legal capacity as may be necessary for the fulfilment of the Organization's obj ectives and for the exercise of its functions" [wipo convention].

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
30 April

Comments on this blog have been disabled or broken for a long time. I was driven to madness by comment spammers. They're finally both fixed and enabled again.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
12 May

One of our intrepid people took a sensor node to the beach to collect some data underwater. Unfortunately, there was a leak in the housing. The salt water flooded the computer enclosure. If the computer is off in a case like this, then a quick wash in fresh water and a couple of weeks of drying out is likely to render things good again.

Unfortunately, in this case the person involved had the computer turned on, and left it as it was for over a week. Not a good idea, since salt water is corrosive to electronics. Worse yet, the computer was powered up at the time. Here is is when I got my hands on it.

Happily, some of the parts could be salvaged after being washed, but a lot of the gear was a write-off. That's an inevitable consequence of doing underwater research, but it still hurts.

Here at the tips to dealing with a computer if it gets liquid, especially salt water (or coffee) spilled into it:

- Remove power immediately! Tear off power wires if necessary.

- Pour out as much of the contaminant as possible, quickly.

- Open it up as much as possible, every connector, nook and cranny.

- Wash it thoroughly with clean non-salty water. Rinse well, but don't rub.
Spend up to 10 or 20 minutes rinsing, but not much more to avoid dissolving glues or paper wrappings.

- Resist the desire to use alcohol or other drying agents as they are solvents and can ruin connectors, plastic sleeves and other little organic bits.

- Let it dry afterwards for a LONG time. There might be water under a chip.
It usually needs 2 weeks or more. A dry place helps, but be careful of places
that are too warm, or which have warmth, but also condensation.

We have had some surprising recoveries.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (7) or Leave a comment |    
21 August

In the new International Edition of Hasbro's game Monopoly (known as "Monopoly Here and Now: World Edition"), the Atlantic City street names that defined the game have been replaced by the names of major international cities. Of course, in classic Monopoly the square named Boardwalk was the most expensive, important and glamorous on the board and the ownership of Boardwalk often determined the outcome of the game.

In Monopoly Here and Now, the square that was Boardwalk will be called Montreal! The game will also have revised events with an international theme replacing the traditional "Community Chest" and "Chance" cards. The city that occupies the lowest-priced square is the Polish city of Gdynia, an industrial port town of about a quarter-million people. ''

One of our friends, incidentally, works for Hasbro and got to play the role of the iconic Mr. Monopoly (formerly known as Rich Uncle Pennybags) at the product announcement yesterday.

To fool with the consistency of placement of Montreal, I tried comparing hotel prices for Montreal and Gdynia. On the travel web site that I use (tripadvisor.com), Montreal has 85 hotels listed and reviewed, with nightly prices from $592 to $39 (median price 315). (The $39 price is in student residence at McGill University, available only while students are away in the summer.) In contrast, the 17 hotels listed for Gdynia vary in price from $190 to $24 with a median price or $107. Likewise, using Expedia.com, the median prices for Montreal and Gdynia are $340 and $131 respectively. (The cheapest hotel shown in Gdynia is the Kropeczka Hotel which is 17 Euros and actually looks pretty nice.)

List of properties and associated cities

List of properties and associated cities

For Paris, France, however, I get a median single-night hotel price of $678 due to an very expensive outlier hotel, so I guess the median hotel price wasn't the basis for Montreal's placement in the top spot. In must have been the quality of the robotics labs!

The full list

of all the properties and the associated cities is here (from expensive to affordable):

  • Dark Blue: Montreal, Riga (formerly Boardwalk and Park Place)

  • Green: Cape Town, Belgrade, Paris

  • Yellow: Jerusalem, Hong Kong, Beijing

  • Red: London, New York, Sydney

  • Orange: Vancouver, Shanghai, Rome

  • Magenta: Toronto, Kyiv, Istanbul

  • Light Blue: Athens, Barcelona, Tokyo

  • Brown: Taipei, Gdynia

The selected cities were chosen using a poll of users on the Internet. Hasbro started with a list of 68 "great cities" and allows uses to nominate any city they wanted. Apparently the votes of over 5,600,000 people were tallied to create the ranking. (Hmmm... did they have measures to avoid spoofing and ballot stuffing? The restrictions and described at the end of this article.)

Montreal will be represented by a picture of St. Joseph's Oratory, a big church in the city. In the game it will sell for $4,000,000. I can't help feeling it would have made sense to use a real residential property. One with a pricetag of $4M could easily be found. (e.g. A quick search found me an "ultra luxurious and spacious maisonette" in the Golden Square Mile at luxury real estate for a cool $3,950,000).

A history of Monopoly is quite interesting, and involves a series of takeovers and commercial plays itself. The game is apparently based on one by Elizabeth Magie that predates a later claim of inventorship by Darrow. The Magie board and design are available as part of her US patent (now expired).

Further reading:

An excerpt from the original terms of use are as follows:

The website will be open for voting from January 22, 2008 through March 9, 2008 (the “Voting Period”), with voting on the top 20 pre-selected cities open from January 22, 2008 through February 28, 2008, and voting from February 29, 2008 through March 9, 2008 on only the top 20 wildcard city nominations.

From January 22, 2008 through February 28, 2008, each person providing their email address will be allowed to cast one vote per day for each of up to 10 of the pre-selected cities and one wildcard city. From February 29, 2008 through March 9, 2008, registered users will be allowed to vote once per day for one of the top 20 vote-getting wildcard cities nominated. Only one vote per city per day will be counted. For purposes of voting, a day is the 24-hour period starting at midnight UT (GMT) each day during the Voting Period.


The leader board for pre-selected cities will not be displayed after February 21, 2008, but votes for pre-selected cities will be accepted through February 28, 2008. The leader board for the wildcard cities will not be displayed after March 4, 2008, but votes for wildcard cities will be accepted through March 9, 2008.

After March 9, 2008 no further votes will be accepted.

The final board of the top 22 locations determined from all valid votes cast will be displayed in August 2008.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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