Pat Drummond :: life & technology

June 29, 2019

China is a Rogue State

China  has imprisoned two Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for six months now. Bully tactics. How would you like six months of daily torture, sleep deprivation, and interrogation. This should have been a wake-up moment for all countries that deal with China, but instead there is silence. Someone has to stand up to these bullies. Someone has to hit back. Someone has to stop playing pussy foot.

Jean Chretien's suggestion to simply not extadite the Huawei executive to the United States is ridiculous. No one is safe if we bend to their threats. China seems to think that Canada is their entry into controlling North America - I hope they are wrong and countries wake up to how China does business.

Banning the Chinese United Front agents in Canada would be a great start.  We must never delude ourselves into thinking that China is anything but a bully state who does not recognize any kind of democratic rule of law. They are used to getting their own way - Canada and the USA must wake up and play hard ball - the only thing China understands.

May 20, 2019

Reaction to the Ontario Amber Alert May 14

Just after midnight Tuesday, the guardian of a 3-year old boy reported the mother had not returned him. At 3:05 am Sudbury police confirmed the pair had taken a bus from Sudbury to Toronto on Monday evening. The Amber Alert went out Tuesday at 5 am to all of eastern Ontario using the Public Alert System. The boy was found in Toronto 2 hours later.  (more...)

Discussion about the Alert on social media:

"I think Amber alerts on phones are a fine idea, but they should target them. Don’t wake people up when there isn’t a snowballs chance in hell that they will be anywhere near the suspects."

"(Alert for child on a bus to Toronto) Yes, I am suggesting that the bus company would be able to contact one bus to find out where it is. If the powers that be are willing to wake up the whole &*#$ province, they can inconvenience slightly the passengers on one bus to ascertain if these people are one it."

"If you have a home full of mobile devices, I feel for you as the alert hits each one at different times."

"The last amber alert turned out to be vengeful parent and the police didn't check before sending out the alert ... that boils my blood."

"It's ineffective security theatre to use the same system and mode of operation for amber alerts as for evacuation alerts and imminent disasters."

"On my phone all alert noises get blocked by 'do not disturb' settings, which is a problem when it comes to an actual emergency that affects me personally."

"I fear an accident if that thing blares while I am driving. At least, I don't have to worry about my phone, because it doesn't receive any of these."

"I saw a cylist get shocked dangerously by the prev. Amber alert. He was passing a long line of people on the sidewalk, so 30 phones went off all at once .."

"My understanding was that in the US, alerts have multiple urgency tiers. The Ontario implementation mandates the use of the top, presidential alert, tier."

"I fear an accident if that thing blares while I am driving..."

"Was watching tv with earphones.. nearly had a heart attack!"

"when I got the tornado alert, my priority ..was making the alert be silent as quickly as possible rather than reading it. It's sheer chance that I didn't drive into the tornado itself because I'd already developed the "silence this quickly" reflex from the amber alerts."

A few things to know about Public Alerts:

Canada's National Public Alerting System (NPAS) provides emergency management organizations with the ability to rapidly warn the public of life-threatening hazards through radio, television, email, text services and on compatible wireless devices.
  • A compatible wireless device that is turned off will not receive an emergency alert. When the device is powered on and the emergency alert is still active and the user is still in the alert area, then the wireless device will display the alert.
  • The alert alarm volume uses your phone's volume setting.
  • Android users can find the alert here it's still active:
        Messenger app > Settings > Advanced > Wireless Alerts
  • If you are receiving repeated alerts of the same message, your device may have a "Reminder" feature turned on, which you will need to turn off.
  • You will only receive Canadian emergency alerts that occur where you are located in Canada. When traveling in other countries, alerts would be based on the rules for that country.
  • If your wireless device is set to silent, no sound will accompany the emergency alert message. However, this behavior may depend on your wireless device. In some instances the alert sound may override your user settings.
Canada's Emergency Alert System:

April 14, 2019

Treating a cat in pain

My senior cat tore her ACL (cruciate ligament) and had a bad limp. The vet ordered drugs and keeping her in a cage for a month to get better. (They don't do surgery on small pets so this is not a cure.)  Unfortunately, she reacted to the antiinflammatory/pain drug Metacam. The alternative was opiods for the pain. The vet would not recommend CBD oil (aka didn't know anything about it).

I bought Fortify250 for small cats and dogs online. On March 25 I started her on the recommended half-dropper (5 mg) A few days later she went down the stairs for the first time in a month. Coming back up at an angle with 3 good legs was not elegant, but she made it. Then jumped on the bed!

I had read online that cats don't digest plant oils very well - and this product has MCT coconut, hemp seed and pumpkin seed oils, so I searched for pure CBD isolate powder.  I had trouble finding a Canadian source so ordered from Colorado (10g $120usd). Too good to be true?  Yes - the package was stopped at the Ontario border. UPS tracking stated "the product that is to be imported is prohibited."  I found a CBC news story "Cannabidiol oil won't get you buzzed but it could get you busted". CBD apparently is a controlled substance.  It isn't made from cannabis plants (but can be) and it has no THC at all (so no "high"), but I can't legally import it. Even the company I bought if from didn't know. How crazy is that?

February 03, 2019

Please don't share "Junk News"

Everyone's heard of fake news but probably thought President #45 invented it. Well put on your helmets because the online war on democracy is already up to speed trying to influence you and as many of your friends as possible before the Canadian federal election in October.

I read in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper (a trusted news source) that even after the Russians were caught out for spreading fabricated news stories during the 2016 American election, they continued their online attacks. Russian operatives are experts at creating distrust of the political system on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other social sites. Their news stories look professionally done, with photos and videos, but full of misinformation about candidates and public figures. These might even influence you not to vote at all. 

In the recent Swedish election, 22% of news shared online with political hashtags was found to be "junk news", defined as deliberately misleading, deceptive or incorrect information.  During the last Mexican election completely fabricated news stories about candidates and President Obrador were circulated, but apparently in this case most attacks were home-grown.

I expect Canada is fertile ground for digital warfare - we were early adopters of social media sites, but entirely too trusting about what we read online and far too quick to share and retweet to our followers and friends.

Online Media Literacy
If people begin to distrust all news sources, even traditional media, they could stop voting and democracy itself would be in trouble.  You think this can't happen, but it already has.  All democracies need to teach media literacy that gives all citizens, not just journalists, the know-how to navigate the news and separate fact from fiction.

The 30-Second Rule
Canadian political scientist Thierry Glasson points to the "30 seconds" campaign by Quebec journalists. It urges everyone to take 30 seconds to read a piece of online content before sharing it.  First check the source - where is it from? Is it trustworthy. Do its links take you to another site? If you doubt the a single second that it's legitimate, don't share it.

Type "Canada media literacy trusted sources" into your favorite search engine to learn more about trusted news sources.              #fb

June 26, 2018

Westjet "Entertainment" failure

I watched movies on Westjet flights last year using their Android app - successfully. I had given up trying to use instructions for browsers in Windows - it just didn't work. But this year - on two five-hour flights yet - not even the app worked.  On my last flight, an iphone next to me worked fine - I'm wondering if their IT people test anything else? I also tried THREE Windows Flash-enabled browsers - every single one requested I install Flash, which of course was installed, enabled and works fine on all other video sites, thank you very much.  Very few passengers were watching videos, which tells me I'm not the only one who couldn't get Westjet Entertainment to work. 

I complained after the first flight and they offered me a $25 credit to my Westjet Rewards. Great I thought, until I discovered it's only useful on another flight - and expires in September!  The second time I complained via email, they punted it to IT, who have little incentive to admit a problem. They should send it to a senior VP, who might actually care about losing customers.

As a former programmer, systems analyst and a tester for a community network, I feel confident in complaining about technical problems. Most other people just give up. The poor stewardess has no idea how to solve the problem, and certainly wouldn't get brownie points for reporting the problem to management. 

My next long flight will be with another airline. I can accept technical problems, but I can't do business with a company that just doesn't care enough to fix them.