Wednesday, 14 November 2007

another one bites the dust

A few days ago I read that american-owned tech giant IBM purchased Cognos ( for $5 billion.

Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? *sigh* no.

It seems that every time I look at the financial section of the papers or read the news feeds or blogs another Canadian company has been swallowed up by a US corporate conglomerate. Cognos, for those of you unfamiliar with the name, was an Ottawa-based technology company employing thousands of individuals in the city's hi-tech sector. Their specialty has always been business intelligence and performance management technologies, and they pull in just under $1 billion in annual revenue. Cognos was a solid Canadian corporation which, sadly, is now part of IBM, Inc. a corporate owned by our friendly neighbours to the south, doing just over $90 billion in annual revenue.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year solid Canadian corporations are being steadily acquired by larger, more ruthless american companies with deeper pockets larger spending budgets....let's talk a (somewhat depressing) walk down memory lane:

Remember Eatons? They were once the biggest and the best dept. store in Canada - selling everything from socks to stovetops. They were acquired just a few years back by Sears, and I haven't heard of them since...have you?

Those of us in Ottawa remember how the current Scotiabank Place used to be known as the Corel Centre (or even earlier, the Paladium). Corel was purchased back in 2003 by Venture Capital, a company whose name exists solely to acquire coroporations.

Want something a bit more recent? I can think of Stelco, the last Canadian independent steel manufacturer (all previous steel producers have already been sold out) acquired by US firm United States Steel just this year; or PrimeWest Energy out in Alberta who was acquired by Taqa (Abu Dhabi National Energy) just a couple months ago. Granted this last company wasn't american, but that's not the main point. The main point is that Canadian business owners are giving control of our most basic industries away to foreign individuals or governments.

Even the companies that instill a sense of national pride are no longer Canadian companies.

Hockey equipment manufacturers Bauer and Cooper were both acquired by Nike in 1994, with CCM bought out by Reebok a decade later. Even the Montreal Canadiens (habs) are now owned by Mr. George Gillett Jr., an american businessman.

At least we still have our trustworthy Canadian breweries...Labatt & Molson ("I am Canadian" marketing slogan). Sorry to disappoint, but Labatt was purchased a Belgian brewery over a decade ago, and Molson "Canadian" was recently acquired by US-based Coors in 2005!

Hudsons Bay Company ("the Bay"), Canada's -- no, North America's -- oldest retailer and a symbol of Canadian entreprenurial ability was purchased by Mr. Jerry Zucker, a US investor, back in 2006.

Good grief even Tim Hortons was acquired by american fast-food chain Wendy's back in 1995 (didn't you notice the doughnuts getting smaller?).

My point is this: it's not good enough for Canada to achieve social independence from our overly-friendly neighbours to the south. We may be more pleasant, more polite, better at hockey, and more diplomatic with the rest of the world, BUT they are looking at Canada's vast resources with dollar signs in their pupils. Canada needs to stick up for itself and take some pride in our nationality. This means economically just as much as anything else.

The noblest motive is the public good - William Kirby

Monday, 5 November 2007

google pushes

Has anyone read this BBC internet article: Google Pushes into Mobile Phones (

This may or may not be exciting to you, but as an avid Google user I am thrilled. I believe somewhat sarcastically that Google is well on its way to world domination.

Don't believe me? Just google "google."

Here are some quick facts about Google Inc:
- based in Mountain View, CA
- approx 10.6 billion annual revenue (30% profit)
- no. 241 on Fortune 500 (2007)
- started as search engine, now has hand in variety of industries
--- AdSense / Adwords
-- - dMarc (radio ads)
--- Blogger/Blogspot
--- Picasa (photo)
--- Writley (Docs & Spreadsheets) / Apps
--- YouTube (
--- JotSpot (wiki)
--- DoubleClick (ads)
--- Postini (email filteraton & security)
--- Gmail
--- Google Earth
--- Desktop
--- Toolbar
--- News
--- Calendar
--- Reader
--- Froogle (ebay-like ecommerce)
--- Orkut (facebook-like social networking)
--- Goobuntu (linux desktop, $200)
--- **now, Android (cellular)**

Now, Google will be creating an OS to run on cellular phones. Working with Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, they will not be offering their own cellular device, but instead running their software on mobile handsets worldwide - leaving the manufacture to the pros.

We all know how effective and efficient Google has become, and I can only imagine how well a Google OS would work.

Some interesting points:
- linux-based
- free OS
- direct competition with Palm, RIM, Microsoft, Symbian etc.

I think there is no question that the Google cellular OS will be stellar. With the vast experience Google has in almost every technological market, a Google OS (either Goobuntu or cellular) will move ahead, stunning users and decimating all others.

The real question is "do I want to give yet another piece of my life to Google?"

Let's face it. Google is free, its great, AND it's easy.... these are generally contradictory adjectives.

I can't believe that the only reason Google is moving ahead with such things is for its AdSense hand, which is the only obvious revenue-generating component of the vast Google economy. This means that there is some underlying objective that the general public has failed to notice. I'm sure there is some large database holding everything Google knows about me (and with my use of Google, we're probably talking terrabytes).

Is it worth it? Ah.. but it's so appealing.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Facebook: the glue is falling apart

I'm not sure if you have had the opportunity to watch Penn Masala's brilliant Facebook Skit...If not, please take 3:56 of your time and go take a peek ( I'm not sure if the video was Penn Masala's idea or if they were just contracted to sing the vocals, but I don't mind telling you it is a superb bit of work.

I bring this up to ask you, what is the purpose of facebook? Does facebook contribute in any way toward social networking as it claims to? I myself have been a facebook user for the past year or so, and upon looking back I cannot tell you why. I realise that this very blurb is full of irony. As soon as I send this email, it will be forwarded to blogger, which will in turn create a post on my facebook wall....or page.....or whatever you call it. You may, in fact, be reading this on facebook.

I have restricted my use of facebook to two functions: the marketplace tool, and the exchange of photos. Even so I am inundated with invitations from someone asking to be my friend, to join this cause, or to support some new important application, allowing me to publish globally how much alcohol I consume between 1800h and 2000h on the 2nd Friday of each month....or some other equally useless piece of data.

Last month I was invited to a party through facebook, and facebook alone. Since I don't bother checking my invitations and requests every minute of the day, the invitation did not catch my eye and the party came and went without my knowledge. Whatever happened to picking up the phone and calling your friends?? I'm fine with an email also, or even a face-to-face conversation, heaven forbid.

I've watched some of my friends spend minute after minute scrolling through unbelievably useless groups, photos, surveys, and information of “friends” they may or may not know in real life. I would like to put forth a simple proposition....bring back the art of conversation! If I were to take half of the people one facebook at random and stick them in a large room together, will one even know another? Does all the time spent going through someone's relationships, hobbies, interests and friends-in-my-network serve any purpose? I think not.

Let's go back to calling on the phone, driving to someone's house, getting together to look through photos. Relationships and communities are said to be the glue that keeps society together, and when we trade in our interpersonal skills we're killing the infrastructure of our society. My prediction, however far-fetched it may seem, is that GDP and production will fall in the next 10 years due to facebook (

All you facebook users, you've been warned; stop killing your social skills! You're fast becoming dollar signs in the eyes of new companies like – where it's ok to be g33k.

As a final remark, I know that not many people will actually get around to reading this article, and thus I will be creating a facebook cause to support my beliefs. Please consider joining.

Monday, 10 September 2007

The CUPE Strike at Carleton University: A Student's View

If you ask an honest student, they will tell you they don't enjoy school very much. Homework, tests, assignments, presentations, final exams...and I have to PAY for it? Nevertheless we all grit our teeth, drain our wallets, and study our brains out because we know our schooling is only a temporary displeasure that will help us significantly in the long run. A temporary displeasure that is, until CUPE 2424 started their strike on the 5th of Sept last week.

On this day school turned from a temporary displeasure into a throbbing headache. Simple services taken for granted such as IT support, librarians, lab workers, admin/office assistants, and TAs have been suspended indefinitely pending a favouring outcome in the bargaining process. Although the absence of these services has not been extremely detrimental to the student body as a whole, our tuition (which was required paid by the first day of classes) should ensure these facilities are available. It would be nice, for instance, to have TAs (teaching assistants), librarians, or tech support. CUPE 2424 states that its staff touch almost every part of a student's day on the university campus, and I wholeheartedly agree. I cannot begin to describe how painful it is to call the Registrar with an important question or academic alteration only to find out the entire support staff is on strike, leaving one manager to service the entire undergraduate population; or to email tech support asking for assistance...the printer in the Library still won't print the research data for my 1st presentation.

I know also I am not the only student affected by this strike. While standing in line for some time this morning for a new student ID card (the length of lines on campus now call to mind images of former USSR citizens waiting to buy bread) I was approached by a member of CUSA (Carleton University Student's Association). She was systematically traversing the line, handing out information pamphlets, and ensuring each individual in the line understood the position of CUPE 2424 and the purpose of the strike. When she came to me I mentioned I was surprised to see a student so cheerfully siding with the support staff who deserted students during the second most important time of the year (the first being final exams).

This CUSA member explained to me that she sided with CUPE mainly because, by not adhering to the union's demands and forcing its members to strike, the Carleton University administration was denying student's access to services our tuition has already paid for. She went on (and on) about how the professors and other employees had received 4%, 4% and 4% wage increase over 3 years and the CUPE workers were only offered 3%, 3% and 3%. “This is not about money,” she insisted, “it's about respect, and about Carleton University ensuring that students are provided with the services they have paid for.” She went on to say how Carleton University's employment offer even withheld vacation pay from the workers!

Surely this is a catastrophe! I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing at her. I had no idea that the Carleton Administration had threatened to break the law and defy the ESA and the Ontario government by withholding vacation pay to their employees (last time I checked, CUPE members are not Crown workers, farmers, or fishermen). Upon questioning her further, I was astonished to see how vehemently she defended the actions of a group she evidently knew very little about.

Upon visiting I learned that the rally on campus this morning was attended by over 200 people – including 100 students! I am again astonished by the support of students in this strike and upon questioning them further I can only conclude they have notions of “sticking it to the man” and “defying the establishment.” This attitude closely resembles the tactics the striking CUPE members have been taking over the past week – schoolyard bullying. Under the guise of presenting both sides fairly, CUPE members have been bullying the student population into supporting their cause.

Their tactics, which include everything from underhanded internet posts to the disruption of traffic along both the Colonel By Pkwy and Bronson Ave are nothing more than a pathetic attempt to gain support for a lost cause. Susan Arab, CUPE national representative puts it best when she says “We regret the inconvenience to students and the campus community, and encourage students and their families to put pressure on the university administration to return to the table with an equitable contract offer, so we can resolve this conflict.”

This method of bargaining was called bullying back when I was in elementary school, and I fail to see how it can be called anything else at the present time.

CUPE 2424 lost my support the moment they added 40 minutes to my daily driving time, and annoyed the heck out of me in hopes that I would cave and pressure the university to meet their demands. While I do sincerely hope that an agreement is reached soon and that services on campus are restored, this is one student from whom CUPE will never see support.

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