Basement Transition from Halogen to LED

I love Amazon Prime. You’ll see why later.

Old halogen light with screw on base
Old halogen light with screw on base

Our basement were filled with these old Halogen MR16 pot lights that each took up 50W each! I had ten of them, so this ends up to be half a kWh. This means at an average rate of $0.13 / kWh, I’m burning about a quarter every two hours. This may not seem much in the beginning, but it adds up. I’ll let you do the math for a month and a year.

I went to Amazon and found an LED equivalent called PAR16, and found them at Can Lighting Inc. They had a package of ten, so I ordered them. With Amazon Prime, they arrived the day after, which was yesterday, with free shipping.

Now instead of 50W each they are only burning 6W each, 12% of the original cost.

I also learned that the number after MR or PAR is the width of bulb in 1/8 of an inch, so 16 is 2 inches or approximately 50 cm. The screw on base is called E26, instead of the small two prongs called Gu10. Very confusing!

AI & Our Future Generations

When I came into the workforce in the early 90’s, any career connected to the computer was hot. The Internet was at its infancy. Any two or more (often just two) computers connected was called a network, which was a huge deal. Believe it or not email was the killer app. The World Wide Web was not invented yet, and when it came into the scene, finding a photo on a web page was a big deal.

My young and arrogant mind was extremely happy with myself, since I was all ready to take on the world with an engineering degree specializing in computers. It was a fearless time. We called the shots, not the employers. Our salaries increase astronomically, often with accompanying perks. We could do no wrong, because we were in demand.

I remember reading an article about our company’s solution. The solution was installed at a food and beverage manufacturer, who recently announced a significant layoff caused by the application of our software. Our customer was happy, because we saved them a tremendous amount of costs. I thought that anyone who picked a career in a job involving repetitive tasks will be in trouble. Cashiers, banking tellers, and warehouse pickers are a few that comes to mind.

We were all too eager to implement algorithms and solutions to turn repeatable tasks into optimal applications running on computers. We as a profession were clear and present danger to people’s livelihood who were dependent on honest jobs that are replaceable by robotics, advance supply chains, automated warehouses, or just simply better data visibility and communication. On reflection, I was / am part of a group that is undermining the economic value of a human being in a capitalist economy. People that are displaced are forced to upgrade and migrate their skills to other areas that are still in demand.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning coming into the consumer and business market in a big way, I am led to believe that the next set of jobs, jobs requiring judgement and decision making are now potentially replaceable by AI technology. Even software developer jobs may be under threat, when you have technologies like Viv that fulfills a human vocal request by manufacturing a custom program. I fear that replacement of traditional professions like lawyers and doctors are not too far away when IBM Watson can now perform medical diagnosis. How will these displaced professionals upgrade their skills?

In today’s news, one can frequently find mentions of self driving cars. How they are on the cusp of mass market availability and adoption. Companies like Tesla, Apple, and Uber are all either actively implementing production quality solutions or developing them. Imagine all the UPS, Fedex, freight truck and taxi drivers that will be displaced. The disruption does not stop there. If the technology is as successful as advocates tout it to be, then accident rates will drop. The transition from human to driverless solutions can translate to a large decline in automotive body shop business, and potential insurance revenue impact.

You can make arguments that displaced drivers will find other types of work, but I fear that under the current, exponential improvement of AI technology, the total some of human demand in the economy will continue to diminish, because AI will be so good that you will be hard pressed to find a job that AI cannot perform. So whenever you have an over supply of humans and a dwindling demand of their usability, you get erosion of the economic value of human beings.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Is it not good that AI capable machines pamper us and do all the hard work and thinking?

Assuming that we continue to function in a market based society, my immediate concern is, how does the next generation make their income when their economic value is eroded to the point where there may not be any jobs left. Well, I suppose there are jobs that involve creativity and innovation, such as artists, and musicians. From another hopeful perspective, this may resolve itself since providers, even if they are machine run, must find matching buyers with enough spending power to buy their products and services.

My second concern is, as a species, how do we continue to excel in our own knowledge and achievements, when AI can solve most of our problems. You can probably find some evidence of this today, with the usage of Google and other specialized search engines. I am not sure that the current education system are raising deep thinkers complemented by these new AI based tools, or more academically hampered ones because of the same tools.

Lastly, there is the Matrix or Terminator scenario, but the difference is that it may not be a violent take over. It could be a slow transition, as we welcome these technologies as new found creature comforts. A gradual displacement of our economic worth and values, until we are all powerless with our machine overlords. Or if you believe in Ray Kurzweil’s singularity, we can be in a symbiotic, and harmonious relationship with the AI machines.

Please tell me that my fear for our future generations are unfounded.


Linux OpenVPN and IP Routes

There are certain background tasks that I perform with my iMac that requires VPN services. In the interest of saving some electricity, my goal is to have my iMac goto sleep and idle at a lower power consumption state, than what has been in the past. Let’s just say that our main iMac is on at all times, because it served as our media server for our collection of viewable devices such as iPads, Apple TV’s, etc.

This blog post is just a self account of my activities and is not a detail tutorial containing command line examples of how to accomplish this. Sorry you’ll have to go else where for that.

I managed to move all these services to my Linux box running Ubuntu Server 16.04.1 LTS. The Linux server was acting as my Network Attached Storage (NAS) server, while my iMac was running all the application services that I use around the house, which includes:

  • Plex Media Server
  • Minecraft Server for the Kids
  • Apache Server for certain web applications that the kids use
  • Other services that require VPN connectivity back to the office and else where

I needed to move all of the above services from my iMac to my Linux server so that my iMac can effectively goto sleep and save me some power. I managed to move all the non-VPN services first and saved the VPN services for later.

To my surprise, it was really easy installing OpenVPN. When I connect to the office, I found out that I could not get to the other services, because the return traffic was rerouted through the VPN tunnel. I needed a way to configure the Linux Server to route certain IP traffic from services originating from my Linux Server to bypass the VPN tunnel interface. This is when I learned everything about iproute2, and iptables. As it turned out, I did not have to use iptables.

However I did spend a good portion of my Sunday afternoon to read up on these utilities, and after several iterations I finally got the configurations working. It was a combination of creating a new ip routing table with default routes targeting the physical interface instead of the tunnelling interface, and an ip rule to configure certain traffic to use the routing table. Now my iMac can goto sleep when it is not being used by us, saving us electricity!

iPhone 7 Manual Camera

Good morning! I woke up before the sun rise and was staring at my bedroom window when I suddenly became curious to how my phone’s camera will perform under these super low light condition.

I downloaded the Manual Camera app from the App Store, and adjusted the ISO, focus, white balance, and shutter speed, took the shot of my bedroom window. I wanted a balance of properly exposed picture but not too grainy. I then shot a picture with the standard camera app which is in full auto. 

Top is full auto and the bottom is with the Manual app

The auto version seemed over processed while the manual version looked more realistic in comparison to the real lighting condition at the time (prior to sunrise). The color of the sky in the manual version is also more true to reality. If you have a chance, play with the Manual app.

This is also the first post that I produced entirely on my iPhone while still in bed. Amazing what you can do with your smartphone these days!

A Lack of Fall Colours at Kortright

Yesterday’s weather was so clear and sunny. We decided to spend Thanksgiving day to hunt for fall leaves. Our first stop was at the Kortright Centre. The centre had many trails and the guide suggested the best trail to view the most colours. Luckily it was a short trail, less than 3 kilometres. My eldest son, Jason, is just recovering from a flu, and we can tell from his body language that he was simply too tired to do anything too exhausting.

We all took some beautiful photos with our iPhones. I got a chance to really test out my new iPhone 7 camera, and the pictures turned out really good. Both in the  shadows and against the sun.

It looks like we were too early. We decided to head more North to the York Regional Forest Trails, and to our dismay, it looks like we need to give the trees another week to really show their fall colours. Here is a picture of Jason standing alone on the trail.

Viewing fall leaves.


School Cross Country Event

Yesterday my wimg_0003ife and I attended a local school cross country event. Students from grade four to eight competed in a running race for approximately two kilometers. The competed distance varied depending on their grades. Many parents showed up to cheer the students on. With them came the endless displays of smartphones and cameras to record the event.

I suppose we were no different as we were there to cheer on our niece, who is attending grade seven here. Coming from China, attending a school with new and different customs and language is extremely difficult for her, so we were delighted to know that she chose to participate in the annual cross country event. She displayed ample courage trying to fit in, in our foreign land and culture. She started out quite strong. Although she fell behind the main group, her competitive attitude shined through with a sprint to the finish line.

img_0005All the students should be commended for their efforts and the display of good sportsmanship at this year’s event. At the finish
line, I see many students taking this competition extremely seriously, and others who gave it their all to finish. Bravo to all those who participated. Let’s not forget our energetic pace bunny who must have ridden more than 40 km around the trails to ensure a fun and safe event for the students. Three cheers for the pace bunny!

The camaraderie of the teachers from the different schools were also great to watch. There is a sense of caring and of course coaching being offered to the students for such events. I think they have all done a wonderful job in organizing this event.

Last but not least, we also must not forget the student volunteers who helped with the organization of the event.

Looking forward to seeing all of you guys next year and hopefully, I can cajole one of my sons to join next time.

The Journey 

During the fall of 2008 after a colonoscopy examination, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The surgeon who performed the colonoscopy advised surgery. In January of 2009, I underwent laparoscopic colon resection surgery. It was an interesting holiday season since at the time my mom was also diagnosed with stomachache cancer and also went under the knife. Don’t worry this is not a depressing story, as both of us have recovered fully. On September 27, 2016, my oncologist at Sunnybrook told me that I was cured.

I will spare you the gory details of numerous medical procedures, but suffice it to say that it was a journey. Not one through hell but a mental and physical trek filled with enlightenments. The experience has taught me the true value of family and friends. In addition to the special support from my immediate family, the accommodation from my employer and heartfelt support from my coworkers were all critically important through the recovery period of first the surgery and then chemo-radio therapy. I am also grateful for our Canadian healthcare system, and the people making it all work. The operation performed at the old Humber River Hospital and the FOLFOX chemo drug was offered as standard care by OHIP, and the treatment and monitoring services that I received at Sunnybrook was second to none.

This experience has also provided me an important perspective. Everything pales in comparison to the value of life. It also taught me that your life is not solely yours, and you have an important responsibility to your spouse, kids, parents, and others who have an emotional investment in you. This journey showed me how lucky I was surrounded by caring family and friends. My recovery from cancer has fueled me with tremendous willpower and courage. The ordeal is now an anchor of hope and comparison when I am confronted with emotional hardships or difficult situations at work. All things both physical and mental are now simply easier.

I use my new found willpower to ride my bike further than my pre-cancer days. I have more energy at work. I am more tempered when it comes to emotional issues. I hope to be more caring and understanding to others who may be going through similar hardships. So cancer to me is a blessing in disguise, it has forced me on a journey which molded me into a better person around the people that I love and value.

“The more the body suffers, the more the spirit flowers.”

— from “St. Simeon Stylites, a fifth-century ascetic who lived for decades atop a pillar in the Syrian desert” an Excerpt From: Roy F. Baumeister. “Willpower.” Penguin Group USA, Inc.

Google Adopts Apple Combine Hardware and Software Philosophy

Google held an event earlier today and introduced a suite of new hardware:

  • A phone called Pixel that works with Daydream their new VR headset;
  • Google WiFi router;
  • And an Amazon Echo like device called Google Home, that will work seamlessly with existing Chromecast devices

Google Assistant is the culmination of Google’s software strength in the area of search and machine learning. The event is peppered with a plethora of examples on how your daily life will be improved and facilitated by the Google Assistant through the use of Google’s new hardware. The hardware and software combination makes for a compelling and attractive offering to join the Google ecosystem.

I think Google is finally seeing the light of Apple’s philosophy of building solutions with full control of both hardware and software design. Apple still has two other areas where Google is still lacking:

  • A retail presence with a second to none personable support experience;
  • And its devotion and practice in personal privacy

It will be interesting to see if a future Google will make ways to close the remaining gaps. Of course, I’m also worried about how Google will serve you ads through these devices once they’ve trapped you into their ecosystem.