Sunday, November 18, 2007

Achieving Karmic Environmental Balance

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In 1966, my grandfather, William Arthur Wall, decided that he wanted to grow trees. With the help of the Ontario government, he located 195 acres of abandoned farm land that was available from a tax sale, and had the land plowed into furrows for a tree farm or plantation.

Using seedlings grown at the Kemptville Nursery, he planted Red Pine and White Spruce. The initial planting was done by machine, but the quality was poor, and my grandfather decided that the planting should be done by hand in future. And so we did. With a bucket containing bundles of 2-3 year old seedlings, and a shovel, we walked the rows, ultimately planting 150,000 trees.

As a 10 year old kid, the work seemed impossibly hard. The buckets were heavy, the mosquitoes relentless, the weather cold. While I retreated to the car to recover, my grandfather would just keep working.

I learned a few important life lessons from the experience:

You need to work hard to get something you want,

It is never too late to start (what was an old man doing planting trees??)

Some things take longer than next week or next month to accomplish.

It is difficult to adequately describe the sense of accomplishment one gets when looking at a forest, knowing that before, there was only scrub. The transformation of the area has been incredible, with a big increase in wildlife as well - birds, groundhogs, porcupines, and signs of other larger animals.

Having spent most of my working life involved with information technology, the one constant has been change. I read, research, and learn, aware that the useful life of what I know will likely expire in less than 24 months.

It is some comfort to know that by acting as the steward of a forest, I have something in my life to counter-balance the pace and waste of IT. When I think of all the paper that is consumed by the process of automating information processing, I take karmic relief in the knowledge that the big ledger in the sky is balanced by the contribution of biomass, habitat, carbon sink, and whatever other environmental factors forests contribute.

I have to say though, the personal benefits are limited to the non-financial. The economics of growing trees are not pretty. One has all the capital costs up front, running costs in the form of property taxes, and event costs in the form of pest control and natural disasters such as ice storms and fires. The bottom line is that this is a labour of love. So far, it has been a money pit.

If you feel the need to redress your environmental karmic balance, send money, and I will plant a tree in your honour.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

V-Gear LanDisk Firmware - Version 024

It seems that V-Gear has indeed disappeared.

I have received a number of requests to post a copy of the last firmware update I have, which is version 024.

Since Blogger doesn't allow posting of files directly, I have created a page on my web site. The firmware is available as a .zip file, since Homestead doesn't allow posting of .bin files (notice a theme developing here?)

To download the firmware, click here: V-Gear LanDisk firmware version 024

Monday, November 05, 2007

Car-Sharing firms merge

The technology magazine RedHerring is reporting that two car-sharing firms in the U.S. are merging. The result gives an operator with a footprint that covers a significant number of metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Zipcar Carpools with Flexcar

Venture-backed Zipcar, whose by-the-hour car-sharing service is used by college students and urban dwellers, is merging with Flexcar, a cross-continent rival service funded by Steve Case’s Revolution, the companies said Wednesday.

In a conference call, Scott Griffith, chairman and chief executive of the combined company, said the top post-merger shareholders will be venture capital funders Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, and Revolution. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Jonathan Seelig, a managing director at Boston-based Globespan, said in a telephone interview that bigger is better in the car-share business. "This business is better at scale," he said. "I love that I can use cars in San Francisco, where I travel frequently and Seattle, where I also spend some time. It’s about more people, more cars, more places."

The only markets where the companies compete head-to-head are San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Zipcar operates in markets including New York City, Boston, Toronto, and London. Flexcar operates in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle, where its headquarters were located.

“There’s very little geographic overlap between the two companies,” said Mark Norman, former chief executive of Flexcar, who becomes president and chief operating officer of the combined company, which will take the Zipcar name and be based in Cambridge.

Mr. Griffith said the combined company will have about 180,000 users, about 120,000 of whom were Zipcar members. The deal is expected to close by week’s end.

"When we acquired Flexcar in 2005, our goal was to bring car sharing to more people in more places," Mr. Case said in a statement. "The Zipcar merger will accelerate this effort."

In July 2005, Zipcar raised $10 million in a funding round led by Benchmark, followed by a $25 million round in November 2006. Officials said the combined company has sufficient funding to take it through the merger and beyond.

In New York City, Zipcar’s rates start at $5.85 per hour and $58.65 per day for frequent users and $10 per hour or $69 per day for occasional users.