Toronto Attractions

Thought I’d post some thoughts on interesting things to do while in and around Toronto (Ontario, Canada).

The Distillery District is new and I haven’t heard much about it yet. I intend to visit there the next time I’m in town.

Also new (to me) is Scenic Caves Nature Adventures. I’ll be checking this out too this year and post a review when I get back. The website is challenging to navigate but I think it’s because they are assuming a lot about how their operation runs. For instance it’s not clear to me at all if the attractions are all for one price or a bunch of loosely collected separate outings. A phone call will sort that out soon enough. Check out the inexplicably hard to find video.
Addendum: I spoke with someone at the scenic caves and they assured me that for park admission cost (about Ca$17) you can do the scenic caves thing, but for the full price (about CA$ 95) you get the Canopy walk, the suspension bridge and the scenic caves. I think this is going to be fun.

Also of interest are the old standbys of cycling along the gorgeous Martin Goodman Trail. I’ve ridden many portions of it many times and have always been impressed at having this wonderful path available to me spanning the Toronto waterfront from end to end of the city.
It can get a little dicey cycling the trail in the Queen’s Quay Terminal district where you’ll need to get on the road and merge with the somewhat chaotic traffic. But if you’re not in a hurry, you can always walk your bike along the shopping district’s sidewalk and enjoy a little peoplewatching.

Also new to me as a fairly new pilot is the idea of visiting the Toronto Island Airport to rent a plane. I’m pretty sure that, holding a US Certificate, I’ll need to hire an instructor to come with me for now. I understand that there are a couple of ways to become legal in Canada based on that certificate. I’ll go this easier way first and see if it’s worth it to me to navigate Canada’s somewhat more bureaucratic airspace. Then maybe I’ll apply for a more permanent solution. My other choice is to rent my plane in the US and fly in, but I think it’s a good idea to get training in this slightly different airspace anyway. I spoke with Mel at Island Air Flight School & Charters. It sure is expensive to fly in Canada but some things were not as bad as I expected. For instance I was under the impression that you had to pay user fees for each take-off and landing, but Mel tells me that’s not so.

Found an interesting site that talks about downhill mountain bike rentals etc.

I’ll post more ideas as they come up.

Alchemy Firmware for WRT54G

Head on over to for a ton of info on this incredibly flexible 802.11g wireless router.

This is where I found the Alchemy firmware update for my unit. The two most appealing things about it for me were:

The ability to specify “Services Priority” for various types of packets (bittorrent, skype, http and https) to bulk, standard, express or premium and,

The ability to assign specific IP addresses based on MAC address. This way I could configure the router to use DHCP and let my home network stay dynamic. I want to open up the 6881 port for my main machine so it can listen for incoming bittorrent messages and I wanted to only open up the one address. But I try to stay away from static addressing because I need the practice and experience dealing with machines whose IP addresses can and will change occasionally.

Vonage Setup

Once I set up my cable modem I decided to put my Vonage router between my modem and my WRT54G wireless router. This is how Vonage’s website indicates it should be done, but not how their techs will have you set it up if you call for assistance. For some reason I had loads of trouble trying to set it up properly when using my DSL account. I think I was just trying to overthink the whole thing.

Anyway, a few tweaks to the Quality of Service parms (QOS) on the Vonage router and my voice communication is as solid as it gets. I had also previously installed the Alchemy firmware update on my WRT54G box to ensure decent QOS when Vonage was on the “wrong” side of it from the Cable box (Cable Box – WRT54G – Vonage Router). It was a good step since the Alchemy firmware update is eminently configurable. And it brought me some immediate relief when I started working with Bittorrent. You see one of my podcast feeds (SlashDotReview) has had some hosting issues due to bandwidth consumption and has moved its main feed over to a Bittorrent feed.

Anyway, I am able to give priority to voice traffic (and HTTP traffic) and lower the priority for Bittorrent traffic and that helped a lot. But the best solution was to swap the order of the boxes (Cable Box – Vonage Router – WRT54G) and let the Vonage router have full control over QOS.

Then I disconnected Bellsouth at the point where it enters the house and have plugged my Vonage router into a wall socket. End result? All phones in the house are now driven off of the Vonage router.

Now to cancel my BellSouth service. I also have to deal with the fact that my TIVO (Series 2 Phillips DSR704) can’t dial out on the Vonage line. What’s good enough for voice definitely isn’t good enough for the picky modem chipset in these boxes. I’m toying with alternatives, but that’s another discussion.

Cable Modem Addendum

Even though my phone lines have always been run through my surge protector. For some reason I had not run my incoming cable wire through the surge protector as well. I just left it as the technician installed it.

Yes, it’s now surge protected too.

Yes I had a technician install my cable – it required fishing a line down my kitchen wall from my very hot, very dry, very dusty attic. Well worth the $37 I paid to Comcast. I’ve fished enough lines up there that I know the value I’m getting by letting someone else do it! 🙂

Took him nearly two hours to fish that line…

Hello Comcast – Hello Lightning

In my efforts to embrace all that is wonderful and new I’ve been steadily preparing to wean myself off of Bellsouth. I set myself up with Vonage a couple of months ago and that went pretty well. Just this past Saturday I had Comcast come by and set me up with a cable Internet connection. I have to say it’s blazing! I used to get about 2200 kbits/second download speed with my Bellsouth MegaDSL line my Comcast hovers consistently in the high 3,000’s and I’ve even seen it get above 4,000. And that extra speed is noticeable when I stream videos and the like.

Anyway, about 29 hours after initiating my Comcast service, tropical storm Arlene made itself felt in the form of a power surge that resulted in a great white flash and cool “popping” noise that demolished my cable modem.

After some going around with the cable company (mostly because their outlets are not open on Mondays and then they are not supposed to do modem swaps) I managed to get a replacement modem a couple of days later and was back in business.

Then I found that the surge had also taken out my Vonage router :(. About 45 minutes on the phone with India and then New Jersey resulted in them agreeing that the router was toast and they are shipping me a replacement.

I expect the replacement to arrive tomorrow then I’ll be back in business.


Irfanview is a free image viewer for the Windows platform with a small footprint that can display almost any still image format.

With plug-ins it can also deal with sound and video files but to my mind its real strength is it’s ability to simply and easily walk through directories of images and perform rudimentary operations against the files such as resizing and reorienting them.

It can also handily capture screen shots and crop images in a basic way.

A great value for the price (free!).

Speaker Phone advice?

Say, does anybody out there know of a decent speaker phone?

I’m looking for something that has a cordless handset and has a base station that can operate as a really good quality speaker phone. I’m using Vonage now and I cannot tell if my old Panasonic KX-TCC912 is just becoming cantankerous or if there is some interaction between the two technologies.

Anyway any suggestions and personal experience that you’ve had with speaker phones would be greatly appreciated!

VI-125 cell phone from Sprint PCS

LG VI-125 Cell PhoneI just retired my venerable StarTac phone in favor of the VI-125 from LG after 5 years of use.Who is LG? No idea, but this phone had several features that I really liked so I went with it. Unfortunately Sprint PCS does not offer Motorola phones any longer. Motorola seemed to be the only folks out there who understood the concept of a "Vibrate then Ring" setting.

The new phone does sport a vibrate mode and is intelligent enough to switch to a ring tone when in the charger. Mich’s Samsung phone (SCH-A460) doesn’t do that for some weird reason. It seems like whoever designed hers doesn’t actually use a cell phone.

I also wanted to get rid of the antenna since that turned out to be the biggest weakness in my wonderful StarTac. It kept getting caught on things and eventually the "catching" caused the case to crack. It isn’t completely shattered yet, but it was about to go and I didn’t want to be "Phoneless". I recognize that the internal antenna is likely to not be as sensitive as an external, but I’m pretty sure that this new technology phone’s newer electronics should allow it to be on par with my last phone with the antenna.

I also wanted a speaker phone. Not for public places, but when I’m at my desk at home or in my car I’d much prefer to be talking to the phone at a distance rather than holding it up to my ear. One of the odd things that I’m noticing with a lot of new phones now is that you cannot hear yourself in the earpiece as you talk. Maybe that partly explains why folks seem to sound so loud when they use them?

And, most importantly, the phone is just a phone. I was a little concerned that I was going to end up with all sorts of other junk on the phone (camera being the most obvious add-in). Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Luddite, but the camera quality on cell phones is so poor that I’m not remotely interested. When they sport 3-6 Megapixel CCDs and decent optics I’ll look into combining my phone and camera (at least I’ll always have the camera). But I just upgraded from an older digital camera because the pictures really don’t look good anymore on today’s computers and I see no reason to go backwards just to have the camera on my phone.