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.

Redstone P.S. BBQ Evening

This evening our family had the pleasure of attending a school BBQ hosted by our kids’ school at York Regional District School Board, Redstone Public School. These are annual events held to provide a nice forum for parents and teachers to introduce each other at the beginning of the school year. Last year for reason unbeknownst to me the event was not held. I am glad for its resurrection, and enjoy the information sessions that the teachers graciously put together for the night. I hope that the school will continue to upheld this tradition in future years to come.

With my boys being in grade six and eight respectively, I noticed that the school staff paid special attention to technologies. It is funny how the term technology is ubiquitously referring to contemporary electronics from cell phones to laptops. Strictly speaking the by-gone days of overhead projectors and 8mm films were also technologies when I went to school.

I echo the school’s focus on how modern technology of interconnected, always online type devices can be a double edge sword. They can be distracting and tremendously hurtful in the case of cyberbullying. At the same time, they can also be very useful tools assisting translation, dictionary lookups, convenient calculators,  and used properly a nascent platform to achieve a paperless classroom. More than once Google Classroom and Twitter was mentioned to streamline communication amongst students, parents, and of course the teachers. Open and frequent communication amongst these three parties ensure no surprises, and we can all act proactively to optimize the student’s learning.

As a professional working in the technology space, I definitely applaud and welcome the technology adoption. I salute the board and the school for embracing such a progressive learning process.

Change Your Password With Rogers Email

It all started with all the articles that I’ve been reading about a security breach at Yahoo. I’m not a big Yahoo user, so my first reaction is quite blase about it, even when 500 million users were affected by it. Read more about it here.Yesterday I suddenly realized that my primary rogers.com email address is actually provisioned by Yahoo!

Yesterday I suddenly realized that my primary rogers.com email address is actually provisioned by Yahoo! I quickly changed my password and told my wife to do the same. I even registered for two-factor authentication, but that did not seem to work very well. On the off chance that there were sensitive emails in my inbox, I deleted all my emails from my Yahoo account from all the folders including trash and sent folders. Luckily I didn’t have many because email to my rogers.com account is automatically forwarded to my Gmail account and deleted.

I don’t use the same password on my other accounts, but if your other accounts use the same password as your Rogers account, you should change those too.

If you are a Rogers subscriber, I would recommend that you do the same. I reached out to Rogers why they did not disclose or notify their users of this security breach. They said that they will take my recommendations under advisement.

Trouble Using My Apple Watch to Unlock My Mac

One of the features of the new macOS Sierra is the ability to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. After I got my two-factor authentication in order, I tried it out and to my disappointment, it did not work.

Scouring the Internet, it looks like many people are having similar issues. The posted remedies have all centred around ensuring that we meet the hardware requirements and that the process is properly setup, which I did. I even rebooted all my devices, Apple Watch, iPhone, and Mac numerous times.

img_0048

What worked for me was toggling the Handoff option on my iPhone. I hope this little tidbit of information will help you out.

 

Apple’s Two Factor Authentication

Apple released macOS Sierra earlier this week, and I installed it via the App Store on my MacBook Pro. As always the installation was smooth and uneventful. This has always been Apple’s strength making the upgrade process as seamless as possible.

The upgrade came with many new features. Syncing contents from the Desktop and the Documents folder to my other Apple devices sounded very attractive. Unfortunately, Apple will have to earn some additional credibility in this department before I fully trust this feature. Before I entrust my most important data sitting in my Documents folder to an automated process made by the same makers as iCloud, I like to see some good history being made first. As for remote copy and paste, I’ll get around to it when I actually have a use case. The tab feature is also another use-case specific feature. Check out this article from sixcolors.com for a more thorough list of the new features.

There are only two features that I really wanted out of this new version of the operating system.

  1. Siri on the desktop
  2. Allow Apple Watch to unlock my Macbook Pro

I used Siri to open applications, perform web searches, and do other things that I do with Siri when I use it on my iPhone. It was pretty impressive and handy.

I thought being able to unlock my Mac with my Apple Watch is a very cool trick. Apple explained it on one of their support pages. When it came time to explore how to setup the auto unlocking feature with my Apple Watch, I learned something new. One of the requirements for the auto unlocking feature is Two-Factor Authentication. Unbeknownst to me, I have been using an older form of authentication called Two-Step Authentication. The folks at sixcolors.com did an excellent job in explaining the differences.

I went about converting my Apple ID from using two-step authentication to two-factor authentication. This process is not so straightforward. There were some scary moments when iCloud settings failed to setup correctly, or verification codes were not received. Finally, I overcame all those issues through reboots and retries and having multiple iDevices and Mac’s during this process came in handy as well. I can see how novice users can lock themselves out of their iCloud accounts when subscribing to two-factor authentication in the beginning or when transitioning from two-step authentication.

After successfully converting to two-factor authentication, I turned the auto unlocking feature on in the Mac’s Security & Privacy preference pane. On the first try, it had an issue pairing with my watch. The second attempt solved the issue.

In my case, the most confusing part was that there were just too many credentials to keep track of during the setup process:

  • iCloud password
  • iPhone passcode
  • Mac login password
  • Verification codes that Apple sends to your trusted devices

For me all were different. Just beware that you really have to read the prompt and make sure you are providing the correct information during the setup. At least I feel a lot better using Apple’s latest authentication mechanism with a 6 digit verification code versus the previous less secure 4 digit code. Also if you sign up two-factor authentication with your iPhone, you may have to ask Apple to send it via SMS, because your messaging and notification may not be working yet.

When you switch to two-factor authentication pay attention to what information you provide. Good luck to those who try!

New iPhone 7 with A Big Scare

I just received my new Black iPhone 7 today from the office. My first impression was that The Black (not Jet Black) is very nice. The black colour melds nicely with the antenna bands rendering them invisible. If the previous iPhone 6s had this colour scheme, I would have chosen it as well.

With every new iPhone, I do the ritual of backing up my old iPhone and restoring the backup on the new one. This time however, I ran into a glitch and nearly gave me a heart attack!

Right after choosing “Restore from iCloud”, the new iPhone 7 informed me that I should update to 10.0.1. I guessed it was shipped with 10.0.0. I did not think much of it, and of course proceed with the upgrade. The upgrade completed without any incidents. What really gave me a real unpleasant surprise, was that it did not perform the restore! Arghh!!!

I kept calmed and went to the iCloud settings and to my surprise I found that iCloud Backup was turned off. I said to myself, “No Big Deal”. I went ahead and turned on iCloud Backup. And then the dreaded words of “Last Backup: Never” came up. WHAT?!

These are the times when having more than one Apple devices really help. I went to my iMac through System Preferences I made sure that the backup that I just performed on my iPhone 6s was intact. Sure enough, it was there. Whew! I decided to erase the new iPhone 7 again, and restart from scratch. The second time around, it found the backup and is now restoring. Fingers crossed, let’s hope the restore goes well!

Another interesting thing is that I had two factor authentication turned on and my old iPhone 6s is the default secure device. While setting up the new iPhone 7, I had to use my iPad Air to authenticate. Yet another case for having multiple iDevices handy.

Okay, I am exaggerating the perils of the above situation. In the worst case, I still have my old iPhone 6s and I can plug it into iTunes and have it perform a backup. Any how, everything is restoring now. Awaiting my iPhone 7 to restore and start playing with my new toy!

Scaled Solar System

School started this month. To my delight, I found out that one of my sons is participating in a paperless curriculum. Their first exercise is to recreate a scaled version of our solar system using the available area of their classroom ceiling. When my son told me of this exercise, I immediately thought about whether a linear scale would give enough fidelity to the  inner planets that can be visually perceived by the students.

Driven by my curiosity, let me try to calculate it here. From this article, we know that there are multiple definitions of the diameter of the solar system. We will take the smallest definition, that being defined by the outermost recognized planet, which is recognized today as being Neptune. Neptune’s orbit has a diameter of 9.09 billion km.

This number seems to be a very large number. Let’s work with a more convenient unit, called the astronomical unit (AU), which is equivalent to 149,598,000 km. One AU is equivalent to the average distance between the centre of the Earth and the centre of the Sun. Working with the AU unit, we can now say the diameter of the solar system is:

\frac{\text{9,090,000,000 km}}{\text{149,598,000 km}} = 60.76 AU

Next, we need to find out a scale to represent how many AU’s per meter. Assuming a typical classroom’s dimensions are 15 meters wide by 15 meters long, we can now calculate the scale with:

\frac{\text{60.76 AU}}{\text{15 meters}} = 4.05 AU/m

If the Sun is situated in the centre of the classroom, we now need to know the radial distance, the distance in meters from the Sun to a planet within our classroom solar system.

\text{Let P} = \text{distance from Sun to Planet in AU}

\text{Let D} = \text{distance from Sun to Planet in meters}

We can then get the distance in meters for the above planet with this:

\frac{\text{P AU}}{\text{4.05 AU/m}} = \text{D m}

Let’s do this for Earth, which is 1 AU from the Sun. Using the above formula, we can get how far our classroom Earth will be from the classroom Sun in meters.

\frac{\text{1 AU}}{\text{4.05 AU/m}} = \text{0.247 m or 24.7 cm}

I hope our classroom Sun, represented by a balloon, has a radius less than 24.7 cm!

You can obtain the rest of the planets distances in AU on this site. I took the opportunity to also convert them into classroom meters.

Planet AU from Sun meters from classroom Sun
Mercury 0.39 0.096
Venus 0.72 0.178
Earth 1.00 0.247
Mars 1.52 0.375
Jupiter 5.20 1.240
Saturn 9.54 2.356
Uranus 19.18 4.736
Neptune 30.06 7.422

I guess I satisfied my curiosity. It does seem possible to create a scaled model of the solar system for a 15m X 15m classroom, where the inner planets are still visible to the naked eye.

However, the size of the planets cannot follow the scale. I will let the reader figure out why.

I also took the opportunity to write a small helper App for you to calculate the scale and the distances. Click here.

Thoughts on Robots and AI

The accelerated and recent advances in AI and robotics have some people really concerned over the potential impact of our position in the food chain. Generally, would we still be the master of our destiny and where is our collective position in the universe? Such concerns are understandable, and one typically tries to cheer and support ones own team.

The team that everyone wants to root for of course is the human race. This is the perspective of how these arguments go. Will robots dominate us, and control our lives? Will we be slaves or simply be exterminated? Can we control them? I think these types of considerations and arguments are literally, and racially selfish. I think it is grand that we as a species, represents a stepping stone in a potentially long spectrum of matter self-attained consciousness, participating in the development of the next step. This step can be in the form of more carbon based chemistry (our own evolution) or artificial biomechanics, but these are really subjective classifications based on our own studies and religion of science. In effect, nature doesn’t give a crap how the next step is achieved. Nature is amoral to the next step, whether it is better or worse; or forward or backward.

We however like to preserve our stories and culture. Our consciousness gives rise to a story, a history, a thread of events, achievements, interpretations really. The longevity of our story is perceived to be paramount. However, this story is totally useless without other consciousness to appreciate it. I think any consciousness is as good as any. It doesn’t have to be strictly humans.

I think it is pretty cool that we can participate in the creation of a long lasting consciousness that has the possibility of lasting longer than any one individual. Whether that consciousness places human values above its own, I think is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I don’t need to be in the last chapter of a book that currently has no ending. I’m just happy that our race is part of the story. So I say don’t hoard the book, and be a little generous and give other bits of matter a go, shall we?! Not that I sell my own race short, but I can be proud of my race being on top, and/or equally proud of my race inventing the next dominate race. I may not like it, but totally understand and accept it. Of course I don’t want to die either, and few do, but we all eventually come to terms with it. Be more open to our definition of offsprings!

For all we know, we are all the products of a planned breeding program of Neanderthals or some early hominids. 😉