Archive for November, 2006

Microsoft finally launches Vista

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

After problem-filled five years, new computer operating system goes on sale

Gillian Shaw

Windows Vista is the culmination of an unprecedented development program and the biggest thing for Microsoft since Windows 95. Photograph by : AFP, Getty Images

After five years and numerous delays, Microsoft’s long-awaited “Vista” operating system is launching for businesses today, with the consumer version slated to follow on Jan. 30.

As the culmination of development and testing unprecedented in scale, the software giant is staging a massive kickoff for Windows Vista and for updates to its core business products Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.

“For us it is by far the biggest thing we have done since 1995m when we launched Windows 95,” said Jill Schoolenberg, general manager of Windows for Microsoft Canada, which will be holding a launch event in Toronto while Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer and other company executives will be celebrating at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Unique to this launch is the level of testing and feedback that went into the creation of Vista and the business software updates, with more than five million beta versions distributed around the world.

Microsoft tallied one billion user sessions — that is one billion sessions in which the company sat down and worked customers through the product — in the lead-up to today’s launch.

“It is completely unprecedented for the industry,” Schoolenberg said.

Nearly $7 billion US went into the development of Vista, which had its start before the company made a significant upgrade to its XP operating system in 2004. While Microsoft has a lot at stake in the new releases, with Vista and Office accounting for about 90 per cent of the company’s profits, analysts don’t expect to see an immediate shift among business users to the new software.

Consumers, though, are expected to embrace the new operating system, with Microsoft mitigating the missing of the Christmas computer sales market with a promise of a Vista upgrade for Christmas buyers.

In its predictions issued Wednesday, market forecasters IDC projected the number of the new operating systems will hit 90 million units in the coming year, led by strong demand on the consumer side. IDC projected Windows Vista Home products will account for 90 per cent of the new Windows operating systems used by home users. By comparison, Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise are expected to account for 35 per cent of the new Windows operating environments among business users.

“After a long wait, the adoption of Windows Vista will take place almost immediately among consumers, while businesses will follow a decidedly more conservative adoption curve,” Al Gillen, research vice-president for system software at IDC said in a release.

Borrowing from Apple’s keen attention to ease of use, the new Vista has seen an improvement in graphics and presentation, as well as in search capabilities. Security is a huge issue, both for business and home users, and it is one that Microsoft, with its history of security vulnerabilities and patches, has promised to deliver.

Security also receives special attention in the new Office software as businesses and corporations face regulatory and compliance issues, coupled with growing cyber and other threats.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


East is East opens east-side branch

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Mia Stainsby

Laura Grafton shows off fresh roasted masala chicken roti rolls in East is East on Main street. Photograph by : Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun

I’m still thinking about that darn Nutty Gypsy. So yummy! It’s not a person, but a thing — a delicious milkshake to be more precise. I had it with my lunch at East Is East on Main Street and loved the luscious mix of nuts, chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, yogurt and milk. I should confess, it was my husband’s shake but I borrowed it for a very long time.

East Is East arose out of the success of its larger counterpart on West Broadway. When the Main Street location opened in June, the menu featured mostly wraps with flavours of the Silk Road, covering Asia, Tibet, India, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. The health-minded kitchen uses organic ingredients as much as possible and follows ayurvedic principles. To accompany the wraps, there are fresh juice mixes, shakes and lassi.

As of this week, the menu expands to include the “Eastern Plates” that are offered in the other location.

These meals include a choice of two entrees, which come with two kinds of rice, roti, salad and mango pickles, tummy fillers all, for $15.

In keeping with ayurvedic ways of balancing Earth’s natural elements, seating is made from driftwood with the energy of the water and lights are covered with teak bark and glow like fire.

While calm is part of ayurvedic life, some of us are in a big hurry. And for the scurriers, there is a take-out window where you can order from the street, weather permitting.

The dining area is small and narrow, but there’s space reserved for evening entertainment — Afghani, Persian and Indian music. And during the day, there are Bollywood music videos, which somehow strikes me as un-ayurvedic. But I’m no expert.

East is East is open for lunch and dinner, daily.

— –


4413 Main St., 604-879-2020

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


Cafe Diablo not just a drink — it’s a fiery performance

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

‘It’s a little bit dangerous if not done right,’ says The William Tell’s Philip Doebeli

Joanne Sasvari

Philippe Doebeli creates a Cafe Diablo at the The William Tell restaurant on Beatty street in downtown Vancouver. Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

Something about this dark and chilly time of year makes us yearn for drinks that are not just hot, but flaming.

Maybe it’s a nod to that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life where George Bailey and his guardian angel enter Nick’s bar and Clarence orders “a flaming rum punch” from the disbelieving barman. Hardly anybody makes flaming rum punch any more — in fact, they didn’t even make it in 1946 when the movie was released.

So, instead, there’s the Cafe Diablo.

“It’s something that my father started. He saw it in Switzerland at the casino in Bern,” says Philippe Doebeli, who took over The William Tell Restaurant from the legendary Erwin Doebeli when he retired.

“It’s not like you light a coffee on fire. It’s more than that,” he says, adding, “It’s a little bit dangerous if not done right.”

The Cafe Diablo is not just a drink, but a performance.

“There is no recipe written down for this. When my father retired, he passed it on to me,” says Doebeli, who is the only person on staff authorized to make the signature drink.

“What is in it is sugar, cloves, orange liqueur, brandy, then an orange rind and a lemon rind, the whole rind cut in a spiral. And cinnamon. And coffee, of course.”

At the restaurant, Doebeli prepares the Cafe Diablo to order on a tableside cart.

“You have the cauldron, which you get very hot,” he explains. “You start off with overproof brandy, which is mainly for firing. You pour that into the bowl and it vaporizes.”

Then he blows the brandy vapour into a lit candle and — whoosh! — it ignites. (This is the most dangerous part. “If you don’t watch it, it can blow towards the guest,” he says. “Don’t try it at home. Diablo is very much something to be done by a pro.”)

Quickly he adds the cloves and sugar, which immediately caramelizes. He then places the orange and lemon rinds in the cauldron, followed by the orange liqueur.

“Then you work it,” he says. “It takes some artistry.”

He presses the rinds firmly in the bowl to release their aromatic oils, and swirls them around to blend the citrusy essence with the sugar.

Next he sprinkles in the cinnamon, creating a shower of sparks as it meets the flames.

Finally, Doebeli adds brandy, coffee and a touch more overproof brandy to really get the fire going.

Then he lifts a ladle of the burning liquid high into the air and pours it into the coffee glasses from aloft, creating a dramatic, flaming arc.

“It’s a show,” Doebeli says modestly.

“I do like it a lot. More than anything I think it symbolizes our restaurant — laid back, classic dining and showmanship.”

Needless to say, the Cafe Diablo is not an everyday drink. It’s something for a special occasion, perhaps some dark and chilly night when you’ve got your own guardian angel in tow.

The William Tell Restaurant is at 765 Beatty St., 604-688-3504,

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


Filipino food gets designer presentations

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Rekados filipino cuisine: Vancouver gets its first come-hither Filipino restaurant for the budget-minded in clean, modern surroundings

Mia Stainsby

Chef Charlie Dizon, wife Pinky and brother-in-law Larry Elima, all owners of Rekados (meaning ingredients) Filipino Cuisine, show off crispy Pata, sugpong sinigang sa miso and special cocktails sebu afterglow and boracay blue. Photograph by : Peter Battistoni

There’s nothing shy about Filipino food. It stamps its feet for attention. It can be a melody of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours but it can also, without a knowing hand, be muddled and off-kilter.

In terms of making a mark in this restaurant city Filipino cuisine has just been but a blip on the radar. Rekados is the first come-hither Filipino restaurant, a place where owners, Charlie and Pinky Dizon and Larry Elima, created a budget-minded but clean, modern space for physical appeal.

“It’s been my dream to introduce the Filipino culture and food to Vancouver when I moved here. Our Filipino guests are telling us this is finally a place they can be proud of,” says Elima. “They invited their non-Filipino friends. It’s heartwarming. People are asking about our culture. I’ve been working so many years in this industry and I’ve never been able to say to my friends, let’s go for Filipino food.” And this is something I didn’t know — the Filipino community, he says, is the third largest minority group in Vancouver.

The staff are as friendly as can be; if you tell Larry, who works in the front that you liked your meal, he lights up, barely able to contain his excitement.

I ask a female server what she’d recommend. “It depends on what you are craving today,” she replies, and proceeds to describe some of the dishes.

In the kitchen, chef Charlie Dizon translates Filipino cuisine into designer presentations. It helps that he worked in a high-end French restaurant in Manila. He moved to Vancouver 10 years ago and has previously worked at Monk McQueen’s and Wild Rice as well as the Arbutus Club.

The cuisine reveals the country’s history of trade with China and colonization by the Spanish. Adobo, a very common dish is made with pork and/or chicken, braised in a sauce of soy, garlic, vinegar and peppercorns and sometimes, coconut milk. Here, the kitchen grills the pork and chicken separately, and presents the dish on a long and narrow plate.

Dizon’s tokwa ‘t tokwa (deep-fried tofu) is a delicious treatment of this bland food. It’s shock-fried in hot oil and served quite elegantly with a bright soy-chili sauce.

I tried a very nice curry with tiger prawns and a coconut milk-based sauce. Grilled eggplant was served on a narrow plate with shrimp paste sauce, tomatoes and onions. Bihon, thin rice noodles with veggies, shrimp and Chinese chorizo received gentle treatment with no sign of clumpage. Another noodle dish palabok with “luglog” noodles, shrimp, pork, egg and cracklings was not as refined. A half roasted chicken with lemongrass marinade (it comes whole as well), coupled with another dish would be more than you’d need for a meal.

Prices are ridiculously easy to swallow. Appy size dishes are $2.75 (for steamed Chinese pork buns, which looked delicious), to $4.95 to $6.95 for the flashed-fried squid. Main dishes are $7.95 to $11.95. Actually, there’s a $29.95 banana leaf mixed grill with whole tilapia, barbecued chicken, beef shortribs and eggplant, served on a banana leaf.

The crispy pata (slow roasted pork hocks), Elima says, is a popular dish. “It’s slow roasted for four hours and quickly deep-fried at service. It’s crispy outside and inside, it’s so tender.”

And quelle surprise — desserts are worth a try too. The warm toffee cake with a banana springroll, butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean ice cream wouldn’t be out of place in a haute dining room and neither would the chocolate trio of flourless chocolate cake, ganache and “Antonio pueo” hot chocolate. There is a small selection of affordable wines, with an eye to working with complex flavours.

When I was leaving after one visit, Elima saw us off with most heartfelt of thank-yous. Hands waving, eyes bright and a smile writ large upon his face: “Thank you! Thank you! Come again!” he cried as we left.



4063 Main St., 604-873-3133. Open seven days a week, lunch and dinner.

Overall RATING 3 1/2

Food RATING 3 1/2

Ambience RATING 3

Service RATING 3 1/2

Price $/$$

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


Wireless WIFI high-speed Internet access for whole city of Kamloops

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Technology: Wireless high-speed Internet access for whole city

Jim Jamieson

Vince Cavaliere may be reading this story online today, using his new wireless high-speed Internet access in Kamloops.

The veteran realtor will be one of the first — and most eager — customers as Kamloops launches a wireless network that covers about 80 per cent of the city’s area.

“I think it’s fantastic for Kamloops,” said Cavaliere. “I think you’re going to see this in every major city in Canada in the coming years. I have up-to-the-minute information access on all new listings placed on the Multiple Listing Service network, not only in Kamloops but anywhere in Canada.

“I can get zoning information. I can go to anyone’s website. As a realtor, that gives me a lot of powerful information,” he said.

As part of a public-private partnership with service provider On Call Internet Services, Kamloops will join a list of Canadian cities with a metropolitan wireless “WiFi” network that includes Victoria and Toronto, but not yet Vancouver.

Nine access locations have been constructed to provide WiFi connectivity to laptops and other compatible devices. An additional 14 “hot spots” for wireless Net connectivity have been provided by private businesses for a total of 23.

The service costs $3.50 per hour, $14.95 per day or $40 per month and offers download speeds of about two megabits per second — roughly equivalent to a consumer-wired Internet connection.

Cavaliere said he has been using a wireless air card from a major telecommunications provider that is costing him about $100 a month.

With the new Kamloops service, he figures he’ll save at least $60 a month and get faster speeds.

Jeff Putnam, business and client services manager for the City of Kamloops, said the city wants to retain and attract knowledge-based workers and businesses.

“Kamloops has always been known as a resources-based town, but now we’ve got a huge university,” he said. “We’re really focused on knowledge-based workers.”

Putnam said the city expects a strong return on its $106,000 investment over the duration of the three-year partnership arrangement. On Call will run the business and handle the equipment maintenance, he added.

“The business case is really strong,” he said. “We only need 125 monthly users to break even.”

The service is really aimed at mobile individuals and won’t be a viable alternative to Shaw Cable or Telus Corp.’s wired high-speed Internet service for more than a few Kamloops residents.

Putnam said the range of customers expected will be from local consumers to visiting business people to city employees — such as meter readers, city inspectors and firefighters — who will be able to ditch their cellphones.

“With our workers, we’re going to save a lot of money on cellphone use because we’re going to be able to use VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol or Internet telephone technology) that will save tens of thousands of dollars in the next couple of years.”

Instead of cellphones, the workers will communicate via headsets linked to WiFi equipped handhelds or laptops at virtually no cost.

As for Vancouver, a city-hall staff report on a metropolitan wireless network is to go before city council in December or January.


To connect to a wireless “WiFi” hot spot, you need a laptop or other portable-computing device that is wireless capable. Most newer computers — PC or Mac — have this technology built in. But if your computer is older, an external or internal card can be connected to provide reception. Most wireless devices find hot spots automatically.

Though some hot spots, such as in coffee shops, are free, many require fee for service. Expect to encounter a registration screen and be asked for a credit-card number.

Be cautious when using hot spots. Security experts advise the minimum is up-to-date security software and a firewall. If you’re transmitting sensitive information, encryption is also advised.

© The Vancouver Province 2006


Building Developer Broshure

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006


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New-home sales fall in October, but prices rise

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Jeannine Aversa
USA Today

WASHINGTON — Sales of new homes fell in October by the largest amount in three months, a fresh sign of continued cooling in the once-sizzling housing sector.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new-home sales totaled 1.004 million at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 3.2% from September. That was the largest drop since July, when home sales plunged 9.2%.

Home prices, meanwhile, rose in October, after falling sharply in September.

The median price of a new home sold in October was $248,500, up 1.9% from the same month a year ago. The median price is where half sell for more and half sell for less.

The 1.004 million pace of sales last month was slightly weaker than the 1.050 million economists were forecasting.

Sales fell in all parts of the country, except the West.

In the Northeast, sales plunged 39%, steepest drop since January 1996. In the Midwest, they dropped 5.6% and in the South, they slipped 1.7%. In the West, sales rose 3.2%.

At the current sales pace, it would take 7 months to exhaust the supply of unsold new homes. That’s up slightly from a supply of 6.7 months for September.

The cooling in the housing market figured prominently in the national economy’s 2.2% gross domestic product growth rate logged in the third quarter, slowest pace since the end of last year.

Builders cut spending on home building at an 18% annual rate, the most in 15 years, the government said in a separate report. That sliced 1.16 percentage points off third-quarter GDP, the most in nearly 25 years.

Outside the struggling housing sector, other parts of the economy remain in decent shape, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a speech Tuesday. Consumers and businesses are spending and investing. Employers are hiring and workers’ wages are growing.

Economists don’t believe the housing slump will short-circuit the five-year-old economic expansion and throw the economy into recession.

Bernanke also struck an optimistic tone on this front, but said there is always the risk of a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the housing sector.

The Fed chief said “the slowing pace of residential construction is likely to be a drag on economic growth into next year.” Even though there are signs that the demand for homes is stabilizing, builders still need to work off a bloated inventory of unsold homes and that will take time and further adjustments, he said.

The dark side of the hot market

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Too many people can’t afford to live in Greater Vancouver; it’s time to consider freeing up vacant land for housing

Philip Hochstein

In some areas, the cost of the land itself accounts for close to half the total cost of housing units built on it Photograph by : Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun

We all know how hot the Greater Vancouver housing market is, and many sellers and homeowners have benefited handsomely from it.

But as climbing prices further outpace incomes, affordability inevitably decreases. This is the dark side of today’s housing market, and its impacts are many.

Can a young family or retiring senior afford to stay in the neighbourhood where their roots are?

Will a new college graduate build her career in the Lower Mainland, or migrate elsewhere?

Is that much-sought-after out-of-town job applicant going to accept the offer from a local business desperate for his skills?

Housing affordability also contributes to some of our biggest social problems. One of the focal points of the Greater Vancouver Leadership Summit opening today will be homelessness.

Well more than 2,000 people in the region were found to be without a home in 2005, nearly double the number in the previous count three years earlier.

Opinion leaders and policy-makers have committed to wrestle with the causes and costs associated with that problem, and I hope this will include discussing one of the most fundamental ingredients of affordable housing — space to build.

We’re approaching the point, in some areas of the Lower Mainland, where the cost of the land itself accounts for close to half the total cost of housing units built on it. Of course, we have some fixed geographic constraints, but we’ve also chosen to limit our options to a remarkable degree.

According to the Greater Vancouver Regional District, nearly 200,000 hectares of land — about 70 per cent of the entire regional land base — is currently set aside in what’s referred to as the Green Zone. That includes areas such as watersheds, wetlands, conservation areas and parks, which have obvious ecological and quality-of-life importance.

But one of the most common reasons for precluding residential development on land is its use (or potential use) for agriculture. Some 60,000 hectares of the GVRD — about 20 per cent of the entire regional land base — are included within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The time has come to reconsider the logic and value of this particular exclusion on this scale within one of Canada’s largest and most severely housing-constrained metropolitan areas.

Recent research from the Rappaport Institute at Harvard University, for example, identified various consequences of a restricted housing supply, including more volatile housing prices; longer-term income and employment declines (as businesses exit high housing-cost regions), and reduced demographic diversity.

All of these factors should be considered by the provincial government when applications are made to remove land from the ALR.

There’s also the issue of non-critical use of existing ALR land, particularly in urbanized areas. How much does land set aside for wineries, high-end riding academies and hobby farms contribute to food security?

The need for and value of additional areas for residential development are clear, and we have the urban planning tools to make attractive, responsible and highly efficient use of newly released land.

But it starts with room to build. There are enough under-used lands within the ALR in Greater Vancouver to improve housing availability and affordability.

It’s time for an upfront discussion of the best use of ALR land. Our community’s future calls for nothing less.

Philip Hochstein is president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Airbus A380 Worlds largest passenger jet makes a Vancouver stop

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

World’s largest passenger jet will visit Vancouver tomorrow

Ashley Ford

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a . . . plane?

Tomorrow morning, Lower Mainland airplane buffs will finally get a chance to see what all the fuss is about when the Airbus A380 super-jumbo — the world’s soon-to-be largest passenger jet — arrives at Vancouver International Airport. The behemoth is flying in from Sydney, Australia, for a brief stopover as part of a round-the-world, 17-city flight test.

The massive, 560-tonne aircraft that’s capable of cruising at 1,062 km/h with more than 800 passengers, is supposed to usher in a “new century” of high-capacity air travel.

The double-decker plane is 73 metres long, 24.1 metres high with a wing span of 79.8 metres. Powered by four Roll Royce Trent 900 or General Electric-Pratt & Whitney GP-7200 turbo fans, the A380 has a service ceiling of 13,100 metres and a range of 14,800 kilometres.

Some $14 billion and 12 years in the making, the magnificent beast is still not quite ready to make its international debut with Singapore Airlines.

Unfortunately for plane spotters, the giant plane will likely not be visible from a public area of the airport and the best possible viewing spot will likely be at the Flight Path Park on Russ Baker Way at the eastern end of the south runway or on Templeton Road near the east end of the north runway.

The A380 is scheduled to touch down tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. and depart at 4:30 p.m. on its way back to its home base in Toulouse, France. Vancouver is the aircraft’s only North American stop during the test flight.

A magnificent engineering feat, the A380 has been plagued by setbacks and technical hitches that have infuriated customers, seen the firing of major Airbus executives and the loss of at least one large order.

U.S. cargo giant Fedex announced earlier this month that it had dec-ided to abandon the A380 and order 15 Boeing 777s from Airbus’s arch- rival.

The latest glitch has been installing the aircraft’s 500 kilometres of wiring.

Still, Airbus expects to receive certification for the A380 from both European and U.S. authorities on Dec. 13 and the first aircraft is set to be delivered to Singapore Airlines in October — 20 month behind schedule.

Despite its problems, there remains a great deal of faith from international airlines in the plane, including Emirates, Lufthansa, Qantas and Air France. But Emirates, which has ordered 43 aircraft, the largest individual company order, warned Airbus recently it views the delays as a “serious issue and will review its options.”

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Bell Canada will provide Telecommunication Technology for Convention Center

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Showcase plants firm’s flag in Telus territory

Jim Jamieson

Bell Canada planted its corporate flag deeper in Telus’s backyard yesterday. It announced it had won the contract to provide information technology and communications for Vancouver’s expanding Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The cash value of the deal wasn’t released, but the contract includes overseeing the infrastructure installation for the current major expansion and continues for 15 years after the project is completed in 2009.

The partnership for Toronto-based Bell with the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion project dovetails nicely with the $200-million deal it won two years ago to be the 2010 Olympics communications provider.

“This is massive, as far as the impact on our company,” said Charles Brown, president, Bell Western Region. “What the Olympics does, what this facility does, is show the whole marketplace that Bell is a significant player. This is going to be a technology showcase and it’s going to be very high profile.”

Brown said Bell plans to continue its expansion into Western Canada, which began about six years ago.

He said the telecommunications company currently has about 2,200 employee and receives more than $1 billion revenue in Western Canada, but expects to employ 4,000 people by 2010.

Russell Anthony, president of the Convention Centre expansion project, said Bell Canada’s Olympic partner status, including supplying services to the international media centre, which will accommodate 14,000 journalists — wasn’t a factor in its being selected.

“We had an independent process,” he said. “It was based on a long-term view.” Anthony said Bell was very aggressive in its bid.

“They were prepared to do a lot of research as to what it would take to make us best in class,” he said. “Also, their support is ongoing. In addition to the equipment they will put in now, they’ve got a refresher program so when new technology comes up, they will use it in the building.”

Bell Canada will supply the full range of its services, from high-speed Internet to wireless to broadcast video to satellite in the centre.

Paul Williams, director of Strategic Solutions for Western Canada, said the company will install 16 kilometres of fibre-optic cable in the building and is capable of installing new strands through conduits on an as-needed basis.

“We will have redundant fibre going into the building, one coming into the new facility and one into the existing,” said Williams. “The system is designed so one side can carry both if one goes down.”

Bell Canada will also offer such innovative services as radio frequency identification and a portable communications pod.


Call it a router on steroids.

That’s what Bell Canada plans to roll out for the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre when the current expansion is completed in two years.

Called a “communications pod,” the 22-kilogram device will take the 100-gigabit-per-second ethernet feed from Bell Canada and be able to split it 144 times.

Bell Canada currently has a prototype for the suitcase-sized device and expects to have it available to offer such applications as video conferencing and broadcasting.

© The Vancouver Province 2006