Ottawa Amiga Show and G-20 Meeting Protests

I had an adventurous Saturday this week, mostly due to the G-20 meeting of international finance ministers and central bank governors.

National Library Fiasco

This Saturday got off to an interesting start. My mom's organization had set up a lecture in the morning at the National Library (next to the Supreme Court where the protesters would be meeting) on the French painter Matisse and his works at the Hermitage museum, which meant that I had to get up early to drive them there. At 8am we got a report from one of the executive who heard on the radio that the library was closed. That seemed plausible, so there was much phoning around to inform most participants that the lecture was postponed to some future date. Then we found out that the library was actually open. Moral: next time try to get a more direct evidence, though that's hard to do as the voice mail system doesn't lead you directly to the commissionaire's desk at the library (particularly on Saturday when the regular staff isn't there to answer the phones).

Trip to the Amiga Show

I had long ago planned to go and see the Ottawa Amiga Show that afternoon. The location was at the Routhier Centre on Guigues street, which is just north of the Byward Market. That meant crossing the downtown core, which was blocked off by police around the government conference center (old train station), and getting past the protestors wandering around the area. It would be bad, but the maps showed that buses would have the MacKenzie bridge (beside the Rideau center) to themselves while all cars would have to go on the Laurier bridge, or far around via the Queensway.

I took the #2 bus from Westboro, with the idea that it would avoid the Supreme Court area and other protest sites (it goes east on Somerset then north up Bank). Not too crowded, just the usual people, until on Bank street nearer the protests when an annoying woman in a yellow coat with piles of things (knapsack etc) tried to get on. Shouting insults at the driver in a loud voice and stomping around, she also irritated everyone else on the bus (even though she claimed to be disabled - a pathetic ploy for sympathy). She was asked to leave by the driver, with encouragement from the other passengers. She refused to get off without the driver's badge number. After more explicative laden arguments (she wouldn't believe the driver when he told her the number), the driver moved the bus off Bank street (to avoid clogging the road) and quickly summoned an inspector. They got her off (to the cheers of the other passengers). I heard the inspector tell her that it was the correct badge number because he knew the driver personally. We left them arguing on the sidewalk. The crossing through the protest area and MacKenzie bridge was smooth, possibly because of the large number of police officers and lack of traffic. Unlike the announcements, pedestrians were on the bridge walking over to the Rideau Center. Past the bridge, the bus took an oddly twisted figure 8 route behind the Rideau Center and finally got to Rideau and King Edward, where I got off and walked easily down to the show.

The Show

The show was easy to spot by the inflatable Amiga Boing balls dangling from the windows. It was a reasonably sized show with two rooms in the community center containing half a dozen dealers. In the first one were several dealers in old Amiga stuff (CD-32 kits, loads of old games, demos on aging monitors), a representative from Amiga Inc, and the local Amiga groups (where I met Denis Desjardins of


Most of the new stuff at the show was about the AmigaDE (Digital Environment, a kind of virtual processor like the Java VM plus an environment). Randall (Randy) Hughes from Amiga Inc. was there and I had a chance to talk to him about the business side of things. They seem to be doing well, with several large contracts providing them adequate revenue. From the point of view of a developer, their royalty rates were favorable, at least when compared to regular bricks and mortar retail costs (20% for the portal, 48% for the developer, 32% for Amiga Inc, changing to 20/32/48 a year later). Another point was that software distribution could be via a web portal shop (Sharp or Amiga Inc. at the moment) or via a secure digital card or via an independent web site. Also there is financial pull from telecom companies looking for content for handheld things, particularly ones that use their networks. Perhaps a networked version of mini-putt golf (like the one Artech did for the PC) could be popular. Or a weekly cartoon series like UFO. The Sharp Zaurus is quite capable of running previous generation games, with a fast processor, 32MB of memory, and a usably high resolution colour screen. You can also run your games on other systems (like the PalmOS ones or desktop ones), if the environment has been ported to them, which it has to many.

I also got to play with his Zaurus, even though I don't read Japanese, I was able to figure out how to get to the main menu and launch games. Most seem pretty simple, though fun (like the Whack-a-mole style game designed to destroy the touch sensitive screen, or a nifty gravity well game from Microcabin). There was a local startup (Technomages) present which had several games for the AmigaDE too.

The rest of the room was a bit of an antiques road show with dealers of old Amiga stuff.


A bright spot was in the video room, though the people there are moving away from Amiga and towards using DV and firewire connected cameras. I had a long chat around the CineReal Pro-Video Production table about what they are currently using, and what other people are using (in-between sales of old Amiga video equipment and software). One of the guys there had even bought the Panasonic PV-DV101K I had been looking at to get an idea of current camcorder prices and features. Yes, they get tired of doing wedding videos. No, people are cheap and just want to pay for the standard production, not one that will be useful generations away with subtitles identifying all the people involved (a genealogical researcher's pet peeve). They also had a demo of the Matrox RT2500 video board which accelerates several mixing and editing operations to real time speed (see the review at Byte of the RT2000). I also bumped into Don White, now retired, of the old Ottawa Home Computing Amiga SIG.

Trip Home

I walked back to Rideau, past the quiet market (just barricades in the distance and few people). While waiting at the bus stop, I noticed a #2 turning off Rideau at the previous intersection, and was informed by the nearby hot dog vendor that the buses sometimes turn off early, as routes change. So, I walked up the street, got on a #18, which went down and stopped at the stop I'd left.

This time the loud insults were from an Aboriginal activist. He at least was a pro at that, almost ritually criticizing loudly to put the driver off balance, and then being polite. He stayed on a while, handing people a flyer about the Aboriginal plight in Canada.

At this point, the protesters must have gotten close to the MacKenzie bridge so we didn't cross there. Passing by, we saw the Rideau Center surrounded by twice as many police as before, and a TV truck. This must have been when it was locked down, trapping shoppers inside. I suppose there are worse things than being trapped there, surrounded by protesters hostile to corporate profit.

The bus continued on past Ottawa University (spotted a guy in full camouflage clothes with a handkerchief mask and backpack among the students), down the transitway, where it went onto the Queensway, then off again at Metcalfe, past the castle-like Museum of Nature, and north on Metcalfe. Traffic was normal on the Queensway, but got sparse further downtown. We passed four motorcycle cops in leather guarding the city library, then down a strangely empty Albert (except for a big blue trailer truck hooked to the Bell Canada switching building with a dozen thick black cables). The view sideways to parliament hill was also strangely empty of cars, street-side obstacles, and people. But once we got further along, there were lots of people at Place de Ville (probably protesters going home). The rest of the trip was uneventful, except for the loading of a guy in a motorized wheelchair (bus suspension lowered, fold-up door ramp dropped, seats lifted to make space).

- Alex

Copyright © 2001 by Alexander G. M. Smith.