Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 June

Thursday 1 June 2006

Subway Infuriating

Subway have managed to make one of the most infuriating commercials I have ever heard, with their double double meal meal deal deal. My solution, avoid Subway until that commercial has been gone for several months.

Terrorism Overrated

Are Islamist terrorists likely to take over or overthrow any first world government? Not likely. Despite how much I loath these twisted fanatics, they have in total managed to kill around 5,000 people in Western countries. This is a fraction of the death toll from motor vehicles, or in the USA, from handgun deaths. In short, terrorists are not a military threat to a democracy.

They are however a threat to democracy, when terrorism is an excuse to increase security precautions without the overview of the judiciary or the parliament. Casting aside a thousand years of struggle for individual rights in the name of security will neither provide security, nor human rights.

Friday 2 June 2006

Flight through Dreamtime

David Marks sent us the itinerary of his latest Australian outback air tour. Some repeat areas for us, but many were areas to which we wanted to return. The problem is that Jean already has several other trips scheduled in July (Kimberley) and after August (Europe). Plus, doing such a trip only every two or three years is a much better fit to our travel budgets (which is already blown this year).

Spare Parts

I tried to buy a 22 ohm 1 watt resistor in the Tandy agency, to repair a dead X10 Powerline controller. Tandy had a small box of what remains of what was once a proud display stand of parts. Does no-one repair anything these days?

Saturday 3 June 2006

China Syndrome

When a nuclear plant melts down, burns through the earth and heads for China. The Australian government must feel the Chinese government will act the same way if any but the most timid criticism is offered. True, the expansion of Chinese industry is driving Australian economic well being. However, our traditions are different . China invaded and took over Tibet, threatens the existence of Taiwan, steals intellectual property, kills off dissenters in massive numbers by our standards, and is basically a military dictatorship enforcing repression against aspirations for human rights for its own people.

When three Australian miners were trapped, a whole town responded, and two miners survived. In China, two million people work in poor safety conditions in coal mines, and 6,000 coal miners die each year.

Politically, we have bugger all in common with China.


My neighbour knocked on the door to see if I could help with a micro switch. I had previously given him one for a door switch. This time it was a $75 boat gadget that had failed about 4 months after being replaced, thanks to salt water corrosion. The plastic mechanical part was fine, but a micro switch in it had failed. I had a bag of switches (probably pulled from a photocopier), so we soon located two that would fit the space. Ohm meter showed which contacts were what, and we celebrated with a glass of fine wine. He later reported the repair worked just fine. I was absolutely delighted to see that I am not alone in wanting things repaired rather than replaced.

Sunday 4 June 2006

Telstra sale

I would like to argue that the Commonwealth Government have ripped money out of Telstra. The problem is, the ripped money was via dividends, so all shareholders got a cut, not just the government with their 51% plus. The government would also clearly like Telstra to ramp up the stock price (which is illegal), when Telstra executives clearly have a duty to tell the truth. The truth is that Telstra has tough times behind it, and ever tougher times ahead.

The government floated the first third of Telstra at $3.30 in 1997. In that year Telstra paid a shocking $4307 million in dividends, for a yearly deficit of $3224 million before floating it. Ouch. In 1999, they floated another sixth, at $7.40, and the government got A$8 billion more for than than for the first third. Now the shares are selling about about $3.70. Plus in 2000, there was a dividend of $4375 million, for a deficit of $2724 million. In 2001, this was repeated. A dividend of $2316 million, a deficit of $2087 million. In total, in the nine years from 1997 to 2005, the total deficits were $8258 million, the total surpluses were $4516 million, to give a total overall deficit of $3742 million. Now maybe Telstra could not find anything more worthwhile to do with its income than to pay it out to the shareholders, but that is a suspicious bunch of figures.

Another suspicious figure is that in 1999, the market capitalisation of Telstra was $115 billion. Today it is under $50 billion. Fixed line phones, the core of the Telstra monopoly, are not a growth business these days. They are a rust belt industry.

Monday 5 June 2006

Peak Oil

It seems highly likely that oil output has reached its peak. Sure, new fields will be discovered, but we use oil 9 times faster than it is being found. Sure, some countries will be able to increase production. However watch Saudi Arabia, as that is the key producer. If it can not produce more, that means crude oil has peaked. On a running average, demand for oil will increasingly be ahead of supply. This means price increases.

Oil is dirt cheap, even at US$70 a barrel. A barrel is 42 US gallons, 336 pints, or about 22 cents a pint or 38 cents a litre. European fuel prices include heavy taxes, and people still pay, so you could easily see prices of US$2 a litre (about US$300 a barrel) within 20 years. Before this price is reached, ethanol and other fuels become economically viable. Oil shale gets important. Who knows, maybe some people will even reduce their use of oil.

Spare Parts (2)

My own collection of resistors provided a stack of 68 ohm 1/4 watt. Three in parallel should be around 22 ohms. I removed the old, burnt out 22 ohm resistor, enlarged the holes in the circuit board to take extra leads, and soldered in all three resistors. My X10 Powerline controller promptly showed power, and turned my lights on and off again. It wasn't that I didn't have a few spare controllers. It is just that I wasn't brought up to throw away even a cheap gadget if minor repairs would keep it working.

Now, if I can figure a way to repair the touch pad switch in another of the controllers. Alas, repairs to one of a series of membrane switches is pretty tough. If the X10 stuff didn't have 240 volts in it I could try improvising, but I simply will not take a chance on safety with anything powered by the mains.

Tuesday 6 June 2006

Recliner massage chair

Super Amart chain advertise an under A$500 recliner massage chair. This is interesting not because I expect it to be very good, but because at one time only USA gadget stores like Sharper Image had massage chairs. Over the past year or so even country area Harvey Norman and Scali furniture started stocking massage chairs, at Sharper Image prices, whereas prior to that they were almost unknown in Australian furniture stores. We will look for well made massage chairs dropping in price over the next few years.

Wednesday 7 June 2006

Large LCD display is high definition

I was starting to think that no-one in Australia sold a TV, LCD or plasma display that was really capable of displaying full high definition. By this, I mean have a 1920 by 1080 (or more) display. Most high definition plasma displays here are close to analogue TV definition, down to 852 by 480. This may be technically of use in NTSC countries, but is not even close to high definition.

Sharp 165cm Aquos LCD listed at 1980 x 1080i (sic). This was from Status Plus, and they didn't list a price (I am sure it would scare me away). Still, impressive size. The 113 cm A$7000 Aquos model was also 1920 x 1080, so it is nice to see a few sets know what high definition really is. Not that anyone seems to be broadcasting it, nor can you get media or players for it.

Thursday 8 June 2006

Dreamtime by Air

Jean had decided it just wasn't possible for her to go on the outback air tour. David Marks told Jean he had one spot left on the August trip. I had rejected going without her, but she and David both suggested I would enjoy the tour. It is true. They are a great tour.

Media Advertising and the Internet

Advertisers discovered the internet over a decade ago, but didn't have any back office systems to handle the new media. Click here for a brochure? Right! So the 1999 dotcom boom was soon followed by a bust. Total advertising is increasing rapidly, as everyone tries to get attention. Newspapers remain larger in Australia than television, but will soon be overtaken. Radio and magazines are each a quarter of newspapers or TV, with radio expanding faster than magazines. Internet first overtook outdoor advertising in 2004 and is now double. Cinema is practically dead, and pay TV is about twice cinema.

Media Advertising
Media 2002 $M 2003 $M 2004 $M 2005 $M
Newspaper 3030 3295 3617 3800
TV 2592 2830 3142 3615
Radio 702 737 841 950
Magazines 789 821 894 950
Outdoor 261 297 328 370
Cinema 58 66 74 75
PayTV 74 93 123 140
Internet 167 236 388 647
Total 7673 8375 9507 10547

Friday 9 June 2006

Greenhouse Fairy Tale

The greenhouse fairy tale is that everything about the climate was just fine until humans started burning coal. Then, since 1860 when we started taking temperature records, the mean temperature of the earth's surface has increased. The rest of the tale is that it is all the fault of our nasty, unnatural civilisation, and that we should all go back to the farm, or to a hunter gatherer state. Aside from the obvious problem that doing so would kill off about 5 billion people, (modern agriculture is that efficient), it is by no means certain that humans caused any observed temperature rise.

First you need to establish that temperatures have been rising, and that this is unusual. We know there was a warmer than now period in the Middle Ages, before anyone industrialised. We know there was a very cold period around 1800 (contemporary diarists recording that the Thames was frozen over). There are also a number of contrary trends. For example, surface temperatures in the Northern hemisphere probably declined 0.6 degrees between 1945 and 1965. Some explain that decline was caused by increased reflection of sunlight from heavier cloud cover brought on by industrial particle pollutants acting as triggers for cloud formation. Given the Northern and Southern hemisphere air circulation is mostly separate, and the Southern hemisphere was not polluted, we should not see a downward trend in the south over that period.

The big boogyman of climate change is carbon dioxide, which is usually labelled the greenhouse gas. All else being equal, you would expect that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would contribute to global warming. However there was a lot more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the past. Indeed, it seems likely that essentially all the free oxygen we breath comes from plants, which implies radically higher carbon dioxide levels in the past, so high no animal could survive. Luckily, back then, the sun also put out less heat. The sun is going to continue to increase its output (that is the way stellar evolution works for that type of star). Who knows, that might even explain why the polar caps on Mars are also shrinking.

Water vapour exists in greater quantities in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide. Water vapour is also a greenhouse gas. I wonder why that isn't mentioned very often by the people wanting to spend a fortune moving to a hydrogen economy?

What harm does higher temperatures cause? If it is a runaway effect, the Earth gets very hot. Likelyhood, unknown. If the temperature rise is moderate, the water in the oceans expands, icecaps melt (but only the ones supported by land raise the sea level), and we get lots of coastal flooding, unless you construct defences. Haven't the Dutch been doing just that for 500 years? However say we do get a 5 degree rise in the next 60 years. That is as substantial as the change from the last ice age. The trouble is, the models being used for prediction are not very good.

Higher carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures normally mean increased agricultural output, not a decrease, although the plants involved would need to change and the locations as well. If fresh water is in shorter supply, that is more complicated. Certainly Australia (the driest land apart from Antarctica) is suffering from a lengthy drought at this time. Perhaps we will finally stop using grade A drinking water on lawns.

Kyoto? What a disaster. No energy exporter is likely to join, and the largest energy user, the USA, did not join. Nor did the second largest, China. Plus the places that did join are not meeting their targets. Australia didn't join, but (thanks to a one off deal regarding not destroying trees we would otherwise have cleared) may end up one of the very few countries to meet the putative Kyoto targets. And what is the penalty for not meeting targets? More strict targets next time. What a farce.

Saturday 10 June 2006

Airlie Beach Markets

Almost flooded out, as usual. I walked down from the Whitsunday Terraces a couple of times, the second time to delivery surplus magazines and stuff to a few of the people that were there. That made up my walks for the day. In the afternoon, Jean stomped off and ended up walking to Cannonvale and back.

Bicentennial Path to Cannnonvale (1)

Despite clouds and the threat of rain, Jean's afternoon walk included the return from Cannonvale, making this at least 7 km. I was very proud of her.

Sunday 11 June 2006

Whitsunday Boat and Leisure Show

Oceanic Insurance as sponsor and the Rotary Club of Airlie Beach as organiser. This show seems very popular, with a large transportable building for the stalls. There were an impressive number of large marine engines under cover, and many boats on display on land and in the water. Plus a number of the clubs and organisations, like the TAFE and Volunteer Marine Rescue. The GPS systems were as impressive as I expected, and cheaper than I thought they might be. The unseasonable heavy rain the previous evening may have reduced the number of attendees.

Bicentennial Path to Cannnonvale (2)

I walked the path with Jean after lunch. My return was a bit late, as I checked out the boat show as we were returning. I thought that Jean was doing really well with her walking. Her shoes certainly seem better for walking than my Teva sandals (not that I am tempted by walking shoes).

New Government Acronyms

The Australian Government is following up on its own technical college proposal with a set of new educational facilities, to show the states how to do it.

New departments include Department Of Public Education, Department Of Public Education and Science, Department Of Public Education - Youth, Department Of Public Instruction and Educational Resources, Department of Unified Public Education. The taxpayers will also be able to attend and get Standard Heath And Fitness Training Education Department.

Monday 12 June 2006

The Lung Goodbye

Hollywood promotes smoking, again as this Times article points out. Isn't it about time that any film that depicts smoking get an adult only rating? Isn't it about time the tobacco lobby got exposed for buying position in films? The tobacco industry kills more people than heroin pushers, so why give either of them any sort of break?

Tuesday 13 June 2006

National Identification Card for Australians

The misnamed Access Card the Coalition government is attempting to foist on Australians is if anything even worse than the twenty year Australia Card the Labor Party proposed. The defeated Labor Australia Card proposal ensured that I never voted for Labor again. However I have now run out of political parties for which I have any respect.

Not that we know much about the identification card, as this content free ABC report on government Access Card shows. KPMG did a Privacy Impact Assessment study of the Access Card for the government, but now the minister will not release the full results. Says the scope has changed. What are you hiding? Meanwhile, the cracks are showing. James Kelaher, the smartcard project leader, resigned not only from the project but also from the public service over disputes on how the card should be handed. Plus the budget to persuade citizens to sign up is A$50 million. That is a lot of money for something that should be able to sell itself as more convenient. Who wouldn't be suspicious?

The Australia Card and the Access Card are both bad, but Access Card is worse. Both national identity cards held as not compulsory, because they are pseudo-voluntary, in much the same way breathing is pseudo-voluntary. The choice is simple. Live with the card or without the government. If I could also get out of paying taxes, I'd live without the government. As it is, I will have to be satisfied with voting against the government next election.

Multiculturalism Bombing

Multiculturalism bombed fairly badly when the first terrorist bombs went off. Fairly or not, all Muslims were blamed for their lunatic fringe. The failure of Muslim leaders to denounce terrorists at once did not help matters. Multiculturalism was never a grassroots movement in Australia. It came from an elite, and was pushed from above, so when an excuse can be found to reject it, that excuse will be taken. Assimilation will be the word of the day. However when so many Australians originated overseas, it will inevitably be a soft edged assimilation. Interaction, but not the co-existence of separate communities spouting crap about multicultural mutual respect while gathered in insular armed camps.

The conflict in societies with a large minority population are obvious to Australians. We used to almost have that between Catholic and Protestant, although it never reached the bomb throwing of Ireland. Perhaps the critical mass is 10% of the population, perhaps more. However it is unlikely to be 1% or even 5%. Plus those who do well where an established population remains poor are always at risk. Hard working Indians occupying the top of the economic food chain in Fiji. And everyone blames the Jews, where a cultural emphasis on education ensures a rapid rise in positions. Just look at how many Jews lead companies in Australia or are in high earning jobs, despite the tiny number here (you will know it is tiny if you ever tried to find kosher food in rural Australia). You simply do not get a major conflict out of groups that are only a few percent of the population. Even if these few percents added together make up half the total population.

If you really want to see multiculturalism and even multiracial societies in full retreat, look to the third world. People like to live among their own kind. Except for South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa is no longer multiracial. Uganda threw out their Asians. In Zimbabwe whites dropped from 3% to under 1%. Baghdad once had a large Jewish population. Turkey expelled almost their entire Greek population, and killed more than a million Armenian Christians.

Perhaps real multiculturalism is having a diversity of nations, and real tolerance not waging war on each other.

Wednesday 14 June 2006

Cultural Revolutions

First it was hunter gatherer. The male fascination with ball games, like the current soccer craze, the remnant of the need for a keen eye for game animals. Likewise the throwing of stones morphs into pitching balls with accuracy. Never mind that much of the tribal food came from women gathering. Men don't read maps because game didn't stay still. Women kept track of where food grew. In good land, it was a lazy way of life, with leisure and time for ceremony.

Many thousands of years ago it was agriculture. Harder work in many ways. But the surpluses could feed a priesthood, nobles, enough even to raise an army beyond the size of a tribe. No hunter gatherer tribe could stand against an army. So agriculture pushed the few remaining hunter gatherers into poorer lands.

The industrial revolution took off in Britain in the mid 18th Century. The Enclosure Acts divided the community land of the commons into individual ownership (with the poor getting the worst pieces) and forced expensive fencing. It made farm lots larger, and banned peasant farmers gleaning left over food from the fields of their land lords. The enclosure acts could be enacted in an area if the owners of three quarters of the land wanted it, even if the rest of the community did not. The result was to force small farmers off the land, and into the cities, where they became the workforce for the new factories of the industrial revolution. This is continuing, with the small farm well on the way to disappearing in Australia at the moment.

The tools of the industrial revolution included division of labour, so unskilled farm hands could handle simple tasks. This was coupled with specialisation of labour, where workers were trained in highly specific tasks. Mechanisation, with machines replacing human muscles. This is often considered to have started with Richard Arkwright's mill in 1771, and the water frame. This moved crafts from the home when farm work was slow, to factories, where workers had to gather. Automation takes mechanisation one step further, with even skilled workers replaced by machines. The inventions that really pushed mechanisation were the assembly line, and interchangeable parts. You can tell a hand crafted item from a machine item because the machine item is always perfectly formed.

Textiles in Britain, railways in the USA, and later the automobile, pushed the industrial revolution. By 1840, manufacturing and other manual labour occupied 17% of the US job market. However assembly line jobs tend to be boring, repetitive, closely supervised, and the work defined by time and motion studies. Despite which, by the end of World War II, blue collar workers made up 40% of the US economy, with manufacturing employing the majority. However employees in manufacturing have dropped continually, as productivity has increased. Only in fields that resist mechanisation and are protected against imports, like construction and transportation, have wages boomed.

Agriculture employed 67% of the US workers in 1840. Now it is 2%. It would not be unreasonable to expect the same to occur with manufacturing, with blue collar jobs falling to 2% by the middle of the 21st century.

Thursday 15 June 2006

OSX Elsewhere

I have seen little evidence that you can take an OS X boot DVD and run it on a PC. All the working versions I have noticed seem to be modified OS X downloads. I don't dispute that a sufficiently geek person with carefully selected hardware can get a modified version of some versions of OS X to run.

Likewise, I have seen no evidence that you can take a standard Window XP boot disk, and use it to install Windows. You have to run something like BootCamp, or one of the other methods people struggled with earlier to force Windows to boot on Macintosh Intel hardware. You can not simply put in a CD and install.

Just look at the differences in hardware between a general PC, and an Intel based Macintosh. I am a bit out of date on PCs (because my PC hardware is old), but here are some of the things Windows XP may use, if they exist, which do not exist in a current Macintosh with Intel. Thus specific support in OS X is unlikely.

ISA bus. EISA. VESA. PCI bus (MacBook Pro uses PCI-Express) VGA (optional adaptor from mini DVI - Mac now uses digital video). PCMCIA or PCCard (MacBook Pro uses ExpressCard/34) Keyboard or PS/2 port Parallel printer port RS232 serial Games controller IDE ATA hard drives

Then there are the firmware support differences, where depending on their vintage, PCs may have. BIOS and POST BIOS data area table Rom scan memory map I/O map Hardware interrupts for serial, parallel, floppy, mouse, hard disk, etc. CMOS memory and RTC.

It is certainly true there are many areas where the new Macintosh use pretty standard components, and things either work of drivers are available. Integrated graphics, many ATI and nVidia graphics cards. CD and DVD burners. Most USB, and some printers. Some PCI cards. Some Firewire. Lots of Ethernet chips and Wireless adaptors. An impressive list of PC hardware could work with OSX 10.4.1, which I imagine was very close to the developer builds for Intel (which ran on non-Apple hardware). By the time you got to OSX 10.4.6 the good news for running was mostly confined to modern notebook computers. It was still an impressive list. There will be a certain number of the Linux enthusiasts who will get OSX to run most of the hardware in their laptops.

I can't imagine that Apple will care. It is unlikely to change their hardware sales, as these guys will either already have a Macintosh along with several other laptops, or were never likely to buy a Macintosh in the first place. Apple do not need to provide any support. Plus if these installations break on updates, the users have to go through all the work of patching yet again. I can't see a business or school trying to do this.

Moving the other way, Windows on Macintosh with Bootcamp and Parallels now available, I can not see a great number of people continuing to experiment with other methods. There is little advantage, and the cost of the alternative is either nil or low.

Friday 16 June 2006

Infrastructure Problems

The last 10% of electricity supply capacity is used less than 1% of the time in most eastern Australian states (3% in Queensland). If you have such excess capacity, peak power generation costs are very high. If you lack that capacity, power outages are likely. Charging substantially more at peak times would help even out use. It should be noted that, except for hydro, sustainable energy sources are a pathetically poor match to use. Solar is periodic over a day. Wind is often irregular. Neither are suitable for base load power.

Water supply shortages hit during low rainfall periods. Building more dams is rarely a solution in itself. For a local example, the 50 metre high Peter Faust dam 27 km upstream Proserpine has a 470 square km catchment area. It was built in the 1990's for flood mitigation for Proserpine. The dam has considerable capacity, but is now down to about 15%. It approached capacity only once, soon after it was built. Major flooding exceeding 8 metres would have occurred if rainfall exceeded 300mm over the Proserpine catchment area over 24 hours.

In Australia we use 3500 litres of water per person per day. Not personally. Householders use around 300 litres per person per day. No wonder either. Water costs around 0.1 cents a litre, which is about the distribution cost, but implies water has no value. Our water costs are among the lowest in the world, despite rhetoric about the driest continent.

Most water use, over 70%, is for agriculture. Here the price is even lower than it is to households. If changed at household rates, water for agriculture would cost $10,000 a million litres. The three percent of our national output attributed to agriculture would drop rapidly.

Probably the major factor in infrastructure problems is misleading price signals. For example, the road network heavily subsidises heavy trucks. These damage roads at a rate approximately proportional to the fourth power of their axle loading. If charged for road use at an appropriate rate, most large trucks would be uneconomical. Nor do trucks pay for capital upgrades to the road, the way train operators do for rail lines.

Saturday 17 June 2006

Text Edit as Word Processor

Regarding the lack of a word processor in MacBook. I note that when Pages, the text publishing component of iWork, was demonstrated at a Steve Jobs keynote, Jobs actually said that with iWork they were working on the replacement for AppleWorks. Given the time since upgrades to Appleworks, I imagined that said Appleworks was dead. It did appear on iBook and iMac G5 until the end.

You may not have noticed that so many features have been added to the rich text handling components of OSX that the free example program TextEdit (on all current Macs) now acts as a low end word processor.

If you set TextEdit for Rich Text, and for Wrap to Page, you have control over justification, line spacing, list handling, links, and can do tables. You can magnify the page to make small type sizes readable. You can set selectable custom styles for type style (bold, italic, underline), type face (any font you have), type size. You can loosen and tighten kerning, use ligatures, set baselines for superscript and subscript. Type and background (including in tables) can be coloured. Type can have selectable shadows at any angle (very flexible, but no choice of shadow colour yet).

You can set document properties (author, company, copyright, subject, title, keywords, comments) for document searching using Spotlight.

You can have page numbering, date and document title on the printed pages.

You can add photos to your text by dragging and dropping and resize them as you wish (although if you did not resize photos before doing so, the file size may become excessive).

You can not do multiple columns (except by faking them with tables).

While this is nothing like a full word processor, it is probably a little more than users expect from a demonstration program (the source of TextEdit is included in the developer files if you happened to install them).

Sunday 18 June 2006

Apple EFI boot firmware

While EFI supports a read-write FAT driver, Apple probably use a read only HFS+ driver. The bless command line tool can set a file ID pointer in the HFS+ volume header that points to the OS loader. Storing a file path in NVRAM allows use of an EFI loader stored in a FAT32 volume. Wonder if that means booting from a USB iPod and any other USB memory card, as well as Firewire? Boot Camp patches the firmware to allow BIOS style booting, from a hard drive partition boot sector. See El Torito images. There is a UGA video card driver, Graphics Console, Ethernet, AirPort and Apple's IR Remote Control.

Monday 19 June 2006

Greenhouse Gas

I am getting tired of all the bad press carbon dioxide gets as the major greenhouse gas. It isn't. At 350 ppm CO2 is way below water vapour, at 1% to 4% (10,000 ppm to 40,000 ppm). Water vapour probably accounts for around 30 degrees of greenhouse warming.

Most gases in the atmosphere do not cause greenhouse effects. Single atom gases can not, so rare gases like argon, neon, helium, krypton, and xenon are safe. Gas with a single chemical bond between two or more like atoms can not cause it, so there goes nitrogen (N2 - 78% of the atmosphere) and oxygen (O2 at 21%) and hydrogen (H2 at 0.6ppm). So the greenhouse gases are water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4 1.7ppm), nitrous oxide (N2O 0.3ppm), ozone (O3 0.03ppm) and CFCs.

Carbon dioxide is an efficient absorber, but only at 4.26 and 15.0 micrometres. However these bands (out of the close 1 to 40 micrometres that water vapour absorbs) are already almost saturated. So doubling CO2 should not double absorption.

Human activities do increase CO2. Making concrete does it. Using firewood. Breathing. Fossil fuels are the big one.

Tuesday 20 June 2006

HD-DVD or Blu Ray?

Neither. Why bother trying to decide between two incompatible video storage formats, when it is totally unclear which one will dominate? Wait three years and see if one of them is dead. With a bit of luck, both HD-DVD and BluRay will die, and the place we put our movies will be on our hard drives. In the meanwhile, the best format is DVD.

I want to watch HDTV. On what? Most of the stuff listed as a TV in the local stores is a display, not a TV. That is, they do not include a TV tuner. If they do include a TV tuner, it is just as likely to be analogue as digital (analogue TV is scheduled to be dumped sometime between 2008 and 2012). If it is a digital tuner, it is just as likely to only be capable of receiving SD (standard definition) not HD TV. If you buy a set top box, it is almost invariable SD not HD. Plus if you do feed it to a display, that display is unlikely to actually be HD capable. That is, it is not likely to be able to display 1920 by 1080, or 1080P HDTV. So why bother right now?

Meanwhile, the cursed movie industry is busy trying to force HDMI and HDCP on us. There are perfectly good digital interfaces like Gigabit Ethernet (most computers), IEEE1394 (Firewire) (most video camcorders, including HD ones) and DVI (any quality computer) out there. But no, Hollywood wants us to change to HDMI. Tell them to shove it up their arse!

Wednesday 21 June 2006

Resolution Independence

Resolution independence is when you can have any size display and use any number of dots per inch, and your display still looks good. Apple started out at around 70 dots per inch. Windows tends to use something over 90 dots per inch. IBM has demonstrated displays with 200 dots per inch. However laser printers use a minimum of 3400 dots per inch. And it shows!

If your operating system helps application developers produce programs that look good in any resolution, older viewers (like me) will be very pleased. We can magnify our screen, enough so we can read what is on it without finding a magnifying glass. The first program I encountered that did this really well was the Opera browser. You could zoom entire web pages. I just loved this.

Now I want to be able to do this in any program. Sure there are ways and means, but most are not real transparent in use. Apple's OS X 10.4 Tiger has resolution independence support but not ready for prime time. However since Apple control the display in most of their computers, they could readily promote say power of two resolution increases. That would be sufficient for me in many cases.

I am really looking forward to what we hear about resolution independence when Jobs and others preview the next version of OS X Leopard at the Apple developer conference in August.

Thursday 22 June 2006

iPod Nano

I have just realised that the iPod nano 1 GB model came out well after the 2GB and 4GB iPod Nano. Now that probably means that the 2GB is a 4GB that lacks a second set of memory chips. I guess I had better start seeking a broken iPod Nano on eBay or somewhere so I can get extra memory chips to solder in.

Not sure I need more memory, given how easy updating your iPod content is, but a tech guy has gotta do what a tech guy has gotta do, and that probably means a soldering iron.

Friday 23 June 2006

iPod impedence

I wonder how I can connect my iPod to an amplifier? Apple's technical specifications list the earphone output as having an impedance of 32 ohms, but do not list the line output impedance. Apple's database does not help. It did list an iMac as 65 ohms, and 1.4 volts nominal (root mean square) or 4 volts peak to peak. The Mac mini specifies 10 ohms source impedance. It is fine for the earphone output to be 32 ohms, or indeed anything from say a low of 8 ohms to a high of 64 or so. However I would have expected a line output to be expecting to feed anything from 10k to 50k ohms. It is a real pity Apple don't mention that somewhere.

If I use the earphone outlet, I have the advantage of a volume control. But I also have the disadvantage of a volume control, which perhaps does not present the best signal. Plus there is the considerable chance that Apple modified the output to suit the (unknown) characteristics of their earphones. It just seemed safer (albeit less convenient) to get hold of the line output via the Apple dock.

First I need a pinout of the Apple dock. I couldn't find that on the Apple site either. Maybe you need to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Obviously it has to have USB power and ground, plus USB signals. Same goes with Firewire, since the older models had that. Plus left and right audio, and doubtless a signal ground. Then there is the video output, probably composite.

Saturday 24 June 2006

China Growth and Pollution

Anyone surprised to note that as China industrialises and boosts its productivity, it also increases the pollution it produces? Now second only to the USA, and likely soon to overtake it. China has however announced many ambitious policies relating to world best practice on pollution fighting. Now it just needs to manage to to put them into action.

Sunday 25 June 2006

Oil rigs leave gulf of Mexico

Despite the desperate demand for oil in the USA, there are only 90 oil rigs left in the gulf, of the 148 there in 2001. Production in 2005 was 19% of USA use, down from 25% in 2003. At this rate the USA will have to start looking to Cuban waters for more oil.

Monday 26 June 2006

Tobacco dodges

Turns out that big tobacco in the form of British American Tobacco once again dodged cancer compensation claims with an out of court settlement. Once again tobacco failed to turn documents over to the court. The sooner tobacco production is illegal for companies, the better for human life.

Tuesday 27 June 2006

Kakadu Plums

Tart little (2 cm) green plums (also called murunga or billygoat plums) in north west Australia which ripen around March. They turn out to be about 3% vitamin C, which is close to 60 times the average for citrus fruits. Sort of like a natural vitamin pill.

Wednesday 28 June 2006

Subaru Forester XT

Once again the light (1500 kg) Forester is listed as the best handling 4WD available. 6 seconds for 0-100 isn't bad for the manual, and 7.6 seconds for the automatic. It is also the only 4WD with a 5 star NCAP crash rating. Comfortable too.

Thursday 29 June 2006

Muddy Bay Destruction

The Port of Airlie developers Windward brought in the wrecking crew and a digger to demolish two boats that has long been stuck in the mud below us. The smaller Noela Ray was the first to go. It has been on its side for many years. The larger wooden vessel, protester Steve Hitchins' Malanda had been moved once, I believe, perhaps seven years ago when he bought it. It had been in Muddy Bay since 1996. By the time we had to catch our taxi Malanda was about half gone, and failing light precluded more photos. Newspaper reports are that the demolition took two days, and left some debris. Cap'n Dan says the 57 tonne, 88 foot long Malanda was built in Brisbane in 1923. Ansett used it for transport to Hayman island from 1976 to 1982.

Sydney Visit

At least the apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces looked great when we left late in the day. Our cleaner had been here, and everything was cleaned, polished and in order. Not always what we thought was the way it should be, but absolutely in some sort of order.

We had a direct flight to Sydney on Jetstar from Proserpine at 7:35 p.m. Despite a 6 p.m. taxi running a bit late to the airport, and another taxi from Sydney airport, it was still after 11 before we reached the Capitol Square Hotel in Haymarket. Our Wotif booking over the internet had again worked just fine. Five hours of travel is actually pretty good for over 2000 kilometres, but I just seem to feel it getting longer and longer with every flight I take.

I did have some Analog and Asimov magazines along for entertainment, plus my iPod for music. I tried using my $50 Jaycar sound reducing headphones from the iPod, but they acted as if the left headphone was getting neither signal nor sound reduction. I don't know if this indicates the iPod has weird sound connectors (it can feed photos to a TV), or whether the Jaycar headphones are just too fragile. The iPod in the ear phones can not compete well with jet noise, at least on the classic music I prefer.

Friday 30 June 2006

Catching people in Sydney

We had booked the hotel $10 buffet breakfast, and as a result, I don't think I had another meal that day. Jean had a morning business appointment and then planned lunch and dinner with friends. I spent a certain amount of time trying to schedule my own meetings with various people.

In the morning I caught the train to the Westfield shopping centre at Bondi Junction. Jean phoned while I was at Westfield, Bondi Junction to say she had managed to get books we had planned to buy while in Borders at Parramatta (probably in the Westfield there). When I looked up from answering the phone, I noticed I was outside Borders inside Westfield. Borders was impressive in size. In the magazine section I noted many air freighted magazines. For the first time in my life outside California, I saw copies of Nuts and Volts electronics hobby magazine for sale. I sort of regret not buying copies, but with air freight bringing it to over $20, it just doesn't seem worth it except when it covers something of specific interest to me. Plus I have to wonder whether a giant like Borders manages to kill off many smaller, more specialised bookshops. I didn't actually notice any books I wanted, but the extensive areas where you were encouraged to sit and read seemed a great idea, as did the cafe. I could see a place like that becoming a favourite place to await friends, and I only rarely get out of a bookshop without buying something.

Back in the CBD of Sydney, I was saddened to note that many bookstores I recalled had closed. Possibly I was forgetting where they had been, but I think they had really been closed. Others seemed ensmalled.

Shopping. Lumiled flashlight at Jaycar. Wrong one, but the one watt aluminium model was on special. I wanted a three watt version, but somehow totally failed to grasp the bulk of the one in the catalogue. I thought it was hardly larger than my tiny Sharper Image model that Jean had taken off with her to the Kimberly. The problem with the model Jean took with her was that camera CR123 Lithium batteries last only a little over two hours, and cost around $10 each. A great light for emergencies, but costly in everyday use. I was keen on staying with AA batteries that are easy to get, but not if it meant my travel light was gigantic.

At UTS that afternoon I caught up with Tim, Brian, Layna, Lindsay, Mary, and suggested perhaps dropping back to Maths and seeing them at lunch on Monday.

I caught up with Martin at Disney, about seven weeks out from the 2D cartoon studio closing. There must have been about 50 people left from the peak of perhaps 250. They were busy closing down everything, in a very thorough manner. Martin did tell me that the touch sensitive displays did not work as well as I thought they might (I have a 7 inch touch sensitive screen in my Psion 7). The artists found that their hand got in the way of what they were trying to draw. It turned out the cheaper separate drawing pads worked better for most artists. That saves me some money, as I'd been contemplating the fancier display type. Nothing like getting expert advice before buying gadgets. Mind you, I'd have to be a heap better at drawing before it would be much use to me anyway.

AppleCentre Bondi Junction

A recent net story had indicated Westfield at Bondi Junction now had the largest AppleCentre in Australia in Bronte Road, covering three floors. This was the Academy store, all done in stainless steel and glass, with stainless steel mesh stairs. The interior had been shopfitted in only a few weeks, work was continuing, and the newness showed despite the 15 June opening. A narrow frontage, and without an Apple sign out front, somewhat hard to spot. Looked nice, with a twelve seat training lab for the Academy work, 8 seat technical and support bar, and a 24 seat cinema for training and presentations. Not bad at all for a computer store.

This was a move by Ben Morgan's former Oxford Street AppleCentre to the new location. I was at the new store outside peak hours, and the staff were very helpful. Not that I could buy much while travelling, except a travel charger for my iPod, somewhat urgent by then.