Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 August

Tuesday 1 August 2006

Construction technique

Gadget thoughts. Wall lining material, with all electrical and network and audio video attachments. Plus it is sound absorbing to reduce complaints by neighbours. Made of sugar cane waste, to help reduce CO2 emissions.

Wednesday 2 August 2006

Solar cooker

Gadget thoughts 2. Solar cooker, using fresnel reflector. Little mirrors set at correct angles (half angle to focus) to reflect sunlight to a point. Construction in vacuum formed plastic (like bubble packs). Vacuum sputtered aluminium on reverse as mirrors.

Thursday 3 August 2006

Trip to Melbourne

After the usual last minute packing glitches, at 11 a.m. Jean drove me from the Whitsunday Terraces to Proserpine airport for Virgin Flight DJ954 to Brisbane, and on to Melbourne. Unlike JetStar, Virgin at least put your luggage the whole way through if you book both flights together. The 12:50 left on time and arrived early at Brisbane. I had nearly two hours at the airport, which luckily is one of the best in which to spend a few hours. DJ332 from Brisbane to Melbourne to Brisbane left right on time at 4 p.m. and also arrived early, just after 6.

I had a pretty good flight. Although the new Creative Labs HN-505 active noise reducing headphones are pathetic as music headphones (clearly audible noise when switched on), they did have passive noise reduction and some active cancellation. They claim 121 dB sensitivity (doubt it), and 15 dB down at 300 Hz. The folding mechanism worked well enough, and the bad to keep things together was handy. I need to find a better pair, like perhaps the sound Buster. At least I was able to listen to iPod music while reading my book. The Byron Bay Cookies I bought made a pretty good snack.

Unfortunately it took ages for the luggage to appear after the flight. Skybus were pretty good however. The bar coded ticket I printed from the Internet worked fine. Even got a tour of the alleys of Melbourne before being deposited at the Victoria hotel.

The town looked like the sidewalks were rolled up, but I was pleased to see at least restaurants open in Swanston Street. Plus convenience stores open all over, so I was able to buy some fruit juice. I did find an interesting looking brew pub on Russell, near Little Collins Street.

No sign of any fans, not even British fans at the Victoria bar. I was shocked to note that smoking in bars still appears to be permitted in Victoria. Plus a TV set for every channel, mostly noisy, all being ignored. I suspect I will also ignore the bar, despite fond memories of it.

It is freezing in the hotel room, and indeed in all Melbourne. I guess 10C doesn't seem like freezing to those who live here. Had to use the reverse cycle air conditioner, which sounds like a wind tunnel. If bringing outside air in, it seems unable to manage to heat the room enough. Horrible noise from that nasty little box, but it is marginally better than not being able to feel my fingers and toes.

There was a room safe (well, a tin box) in the room. Since it had one of those U shaped secure keys in the lock, I used it. I guess a previous guest didn't return the key for their deposit.

Friday 4 August 2006

Continuum 4 Convention

Use of the air conditioner finally thawed me out enough to take my shower. I also prepared a list of the books I have for the GUFF auction. Finally I was ready to take a walk.

Couldn't find many cafes food spots open, but perhaps I was simply too early. There seemed more internet cafes than real ones. I finally returned to a MacDonalds on Swanston Street. Unlike the one in Airlie, the food was not hot, the wrapping poorly done, and the place didn't appear to provide newspapers for patrons. It was 15 cents cheaper (I have no idea why - I would prefer a better product than saving 15 cents). I also checked Starbucks, in the hope they had the fantastic hot chocolate the US variety had a few years ago in San Francisco. Didn't seem to, so that leaves Starbucks as utterly worthless to me. (It turned out that the nice cafes were all down arcades.)

Maybe some local fan will turn up and advise on eating places. I did however notice Royal Arcade off Bourke Street contained two chocolate shops, one of which offered lunches. My spirits rose. There was also a silk store, so I will check for a replacement travel jacket. (That worked great. I was able to get two almost perfect replacements for my totally wrecked jacket from several decades ago. Finally, after asking in stores for at least the past ten years.)

Apart from Angus and Robertsons (having a computer book sale) bookshops seemed scarce. I did find an RMIT bookstore in Tivolli Arcade on Bourke Street, but the books were too academic for my current tastes.

I found by accident several Dick Smith stores on Bourke Street, plus a laptop computer specialist and a PDA store near Galleria, none open when I saw them. I did have these listed in my iPod, so I would have eventually got to them.

Pedestrians appear to recognise no rules. They cross streets against red lights, they walk on any side of the footpath. I am getting less and less tolerant of cities. On the other had, the traffic was very light. Hardly any cars seemed to traverse the CBD. It seemed more like a country town, so there was no wonder people sauntered across major roads. The lack of traffic seemed a worthwhile result of ring roads.

Saw Mark Plumber and Clair Brialey at reception, so I asked if they had any British currency to spare. For Jean. No luck.

Writing these notes took me to opening time (I hope) for shops, so I will take another walk. I also have to hope the overcast gloomy sky is not a prelude to rain while I am out. It looked like some rain fell overnight.

Canon A530 camera for Jean, after some searching. This was to replace her broken Kodak. Dick Smith listed it, but had none. JB Hi-Fi price matched for me. Had the size, optical zoom and most imporant an optical viewfinder rather than those ghastly electronic viewfinders, SD card, and AA batteries Jean wanted. The display positioning wasn't as good as we wanted, but the weight was very light.

More DVDs from JB HiFi. It was a good trip for SF DVDs.

Collected membership of con. Talked with Lewis Morley and Marilyn Pride. Terry Frost, who is being married soon. Took photos with Helena and Merv Binns.

4 p.m. Melbourne Conventions, Fandom and Fanzines. Merv Binns history of conventions. Bruce Gillespie hoping it isn't all nostalgia. Unicons and Monash cons in the 1970's. How award name was suggested Dick Jensen, Lee Harding, and Merv Binns talking. Dick suggested Ditmar. Terry Frost mentions relaxacons at Medlow Bath, and Bruce the prior one at Adelaide. Jocko recalls more.

Leigh Edmonds turns up midway through the panel, to my astonishment. Valma also turned up.

The cane toad awards were recalled, and not favourably.

Janice Gelb arrives midway, looking damaged. A fall wrecking her neck, requiring a support collar. She could not look down, which makes reading real hard. I had similar symptoms last year so I really sympathise.

The Seattle Australian NatCon vote, which Terry was heavily involved in. I approved. Southern Cross conventions and management changes, and how much trouble that was.

Roman Orszanski turns up. Talk with Terry Frost, and with Goh Charles Stross. He turns out to be one of the most impressively informed authors I have met. Really sparks ideas.

6 p.m. Are Weblogs the New Fanzines panel GoH Margaret Lanagan, Sara Eggen, Chuck McKenzie and Janice Gelb. Harlan Ellison story. Immediacy question. Fanzines have history over years. Electronic is immediate. Nipple wars in Live journal. Online censorship wars. Much on Live Journal, which I think helped destroy the printed fanzine (not that I think it would have survived the internet in any case).

Book launch, so I bought both Eidolon 1 and The Silver Road , and then stored Justin's trolley and some books in my room. There was a downstairs bar for the launch. Due to poor timing on my part I failed to get a drink at the launch.

Bar, for double bourbon with Leigh Edmonds. Then with Roman. The bar was a popular spot during the con.

11 p.m. Guilty pleasures panel with Charles Stross, Margo Lanagan, Shaun Tan and Bruce Gillespie. All manner of items proving how smart the panelists are. If they are so smart, why are they on a panel that ends at midnight?

Bruce Gillespie says he still thinks that Philip Dick wrote much the same as Enid Blyton. I think that the quote of the con.

Sitting around bar until 2 a.m. with Roman Orszanski and others who remember Medvention.

Saturday 5 August 2006

Continuum 4 convention

Up at 6:30 or so, well before my 7 a.m. alarm, and ready to head off for breakfast with Roman, if he phones early enough. The lifts were slow, but I headed down to the lobby so as to be ready by 7 a.m. I wonder where the nearest newsagent is? I guess a 711 will do.

I have to meet Justin of Slow Glass Books with his trolley at 8 a.m. We had him unloaded by about 8:30 a.m. Roman turned up and helped with moving the books. Roman and I went to the Pancake Parlor for breakfast. Alas, that was somewhat disappointing, at least for breakfasts.

The panel on Youth TV programs starts at 9 a.m. Addiction or aid? Breakfast instead.

10 a.m. How downloading has changed the popular media industry, and free to air program timing changes, are we all downloading? Paul Poulton, Jocko, Katharine Shade, David Cake, and Danny Oz. Lots of examples of downloading, DRM and similar. Economics of the industry. Commercial networks in decline.

I skipped the fantasy panels at 11 a.m. to talk with people, Leigh Edmonds and Valma Brown were there. So were artists Lewis Morley and Marilyn Pride. There were around 200 member in all. It was suggested that around 20 were from Perth or had a past connection with Perth. A handful from Adelaide including Yvonne Rousseau. Sydney was poorly represented. Janice Gelb was again wearing a neck collar and being careful how she moved.

This was followed by Shaun Tan's GoH speech at midday. This covered the reasons behind a variety of his drawings. I thought this worked well, as I don't often hear artists explain their work.

Since Charles Stross was autographing in the foyer I bought the three science fiction novels of his I noticed in paperback. Although we had followed his work in Asimovs, I don't think other works had reached us in Airlie Beach.

A variety of auctioneers including Damian Warman relieved a hoarse Justin Ackroyd at the fan fund auction. I was pleased to see five out of the six items I donated raised over $200 for GUFF. The two initial volumes of the Don Tuck SF encyclopedia was pushed to $150 by Stephen Boucher. The Visions of Tomorrow set was passed in by Justin. I expect that will do well at a larger con.

Then there was thundering rush to move the dealers out of the foyer into one of the panel rooms to allow space for the masked ball later. Lots of people helped, so it didn't take long.

I went seeking dinner with Bill Congreve and another. Chocolate Fire was a hit, but didn't actually have food. Luckily we managed to get giant focasias elsewhere on the way back

The book launch at 7 was the small anthology Cock, so I hope their confronting title results in sales. Once again my timing was such that I didn't get a launch drink.

The masked ball in the Swanston Room gave an opportunity for conversation at the very far end of the foyer when the music wasn't on or not too loud. I only managed to stay in the room briefly, despite the bar being there. I liked DJ Chuck McKenzie's music choices, but couldn't begin to handle the sound levels.

I noticed Merv Binns there, with Helena as usual taking many photos. Helena is seeking other photos from the con. I took very few.

The masked ball ended at midnight, when the bar in the con area closed.

As usual we ended up on the mezzanine floor outside the bar with the usual suspects like Rose and Roman. I gave up at 2 a.m.

Sunday 6 August 2006

Continuum 4 convention

The 10 a.m. panel was the Future for Franchised Science Fiction. Iain McKenzie, Katharine Shade, Jocko and Ori Shifrin. Lots of TV shows mentioned.

Had to replace my Psion 5mx batteries after a write to disk was unable to complate. Grump. Twenty four hours of operation is not enough from two AAs.

Lots of details of shows from panel and audience. I hardly recognised many of the TV shows mentioned.

11 a.m. panel Coming soon! on upcoming attractions in film, TV and so on. Mitch, Ian Mond, Terry Frost and Simon Oxwell.

Casino Royale James Bond movie reinventing the franchise, which I rather like, despite flaws. Many movie previews. I keep forgetting to download previews. Worst was probably Snakes on a Plane (which I believed a joke until I saw it previewed in a cinema).

Midday for the Charles Stross GoH question and answer. Caution in publishing world because of low returns on first novels. Editors want similar books (only different), but authors want original work. Accelerando available for downlaod. Elderly (1993) website. Site often contains works. Buy when the pain of reading on screen exceeds the cost of actually buying it. Publisher ran into Laurence Lesig's secretary who explained it. As I mentioned, Stross is formidably bright and up to date. First person in ages who has made me feel totally out of date in technology rather than popular culture.

Publishing now based on 70's methods, that didn't send publisher broke. Very conservative.

No point in making an ebook reader, unless the Chinese need it for their population. At most twice the cost of a hardback, and no heavier. Readable in any light, easy on eyes, waterproof enough to drop in bath, rugged enough to survive a four year old.

SF is at most 2% of the fiction book market (romance is 40%). Hence problems in selling to widely separated and scattered audience. A signing tour needs to sell 15000 copies.

Blogs as work in progress done as private blog, while the public blog is market tool.

1900 SF books published a year, plus more in magazines. Charles manages to read perhaps two books a week. You can not keep up.

Singularity Sky (space opera) title was used because Ace had a novel out with a title similar to the original title. Explains singularity concept as used by Vinge, and how you write space opera in such a world.

Impact of game based worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life on future virtual reality computer interfaces.

Sell to the USA because that is where the money is. Treading on their political or religious toes is not the best idea if you want to earn a living.

Hugo nominated works are increasingly available as free downloads. I had neglected that trend. But I also neglect Worldcons.

After the lunch break I attended Bruce Gillespie's GoH speech, where Ian Mond did a fine job of drawing answers from Bruce.

The paronia and New World Order panel of Charles Stross, David Cake and Russell and Jenny Blackford seemed to do a good job.

I ignored the 4 p.m. panels and had a chat with people in the foyer until I realised I was late taking an extra electric kettle to Roman's tea party.

Back to the panels at 5 p.m. for the accuracy of SF Speculations about the future, which with Charles Stross, Shaun Tan, Jenny Blackford and Andrew Macrae was also good. However as a result I missed the fan fund panel with Bruce Gillespie, Alan Stewart (who I hardly saw at the con), Terry Frost, Damien Warman and Janice Gelb.

The last panel was on must see media. Lots of suggestions from the panelists, but I guess I am more cynical about the merits of some of them.

There was a half hour milling around period prior to the 7:30 closing ceremony. The con committee seemed to me to have done a good job. Dispersing from the con area took a considerable time.

Most of us remaining eventually ended up around the Victoria bar. At a certain point more organised (and hungry) fans started arranging a pizza delivery. Took a long while to arrive, and there were a lot of pizza boxes. It didn't all get eaten, but I certainly know I overate. Note to self. Jalapeno pizza is a mistake. Even when there is plenty of beer (we managed to run the bar out of ale). There was only one person working the bar, so she was overworked at times.

Got to bed at 2 a.m. yet again. At least I am consistent. I wish I were not so consistent about awakening at 6 a.m.

Monday 7 August 2006

Melbourne trip

I got my convention notes up to date (for a very vague version of up to date).

Fairly late in the morning, after nine, I wandered up to Roman's room. He emerged just before I knocked on the door. What timing!

We took Roman's bag to Spencer Street station on the tram, so he could check it in a weird, expensive locker with electronic key. I was pleased to check the exact location of the Skybus terminal, since when I arrived I saw only the interior.

We walked back, for exercise, and since it was a great day, and the town is interesting. An Apple Store in Burke Street didn't seem very on the ball.

I got a book on Unix on Apple after Roman pointed it out in McGills. It had a lot of the additions and modifications Apple did. They certainly are outside my decade old Unix memories. We failed to find a book either of us liked about Ruby on Rails. Roman also worked very hard to convince me to give WordPress a try as a blogging (and general web generation) system.

We eventually located the arcade that Roman said contained a good cafe for breakfast. He was correct, but by then it was closer to lunch.

Roman kindly showed me some of the features of WordPress. It certainly seemed more impressive than my memories of it from a year or so back when I was seeking a web site generation system. I had gone back to hand writing my HTML, and had started writing some of my own site generation tools. But mostly I wrote tools only when annoyed about something, so I only had a very limited system prototyped. I can see I have to give WordPress another try. Take note, I need to carry a USB memory stick with me.

Roman organised for us to meet Janice Gelb at Federation Square for ice cream. I don't know how Roman knows all these good places to eat. Lots of media stuff at the square, including a 50 year retrospective on Australian TV. Roman and Janice eventually wandered off to see the DaVinci models exhibition (I had seen it ages ago at UTS).

I found more Apple stores to visit. Nothing new at Flinders Street (unlike when I visited last year).

Usual searches for books and DVDs, with some success. JB HiFi had a Sennheiser PX100 headphone under $100, but I could hardly test it in their store, so I didn't buy.

I managed to get through a bunch of department stores. Not a lot of interest. However much of the problem was it seemed too hard to find appropriate parts of most stores. I am sure I missed items by not being willing to waste extra time searching.

Melbourne Centre is a fascinating building. There is a shot tower in the middle, with a dome built over it. Seemed to have a cinema there.

That evening I returned (with some problems finding an entrance from the street still open). Superman Returns was the least terrible sounding (not encouraging). This was in a weird cinema in the hard to locate cinema complex. Called Half Pipe, it was a bare floor covered with giant bean bags. It was surprisingly comfortable, although I feared I would drop off to sleep during the movie. Superman Returns had great special effects, and little reason to exist. I think the franchise is dead.

Tuesday 8 August 2006


Lots of wandering around. I got to Jaycar and bought more components plus a few more electronic kits for my speaker experiments.

I seemed to have a fair number of lunches at Chocolate Fire in the hub arcade, 318 Little Collins Street between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets. That store is really dangerous.

Off on a 112 tram from Collins Street to Audiophile at 519 Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy. The store looked small, with lots of obvious acquaintances dropping in. It was too noisy for a good test, but I figured I would not have a better chance to test a headphone. I bought the Grado SR125, one step up from the Grado SR80 headphone I originally intended. In the hotel room it certainly revealed more from some of my iPod material than I was used to hearing (I had some parts of some Stereophile Test CDs in Lossless).

Audiophile also showed me a neat little updated hi-fi component from Teak. This is their CR-H255. High definition (whatever that means) digital radio, CD player, iPod input, and USB port for devices with music on them.

I walked back from North Fitzroy, as the weather was beautiful, and the buildings along Brunswick Street interesting. Also I couldn't figure out which tram zone I was in. Stopped for more shopping at Jaycar and Office Works when back at the city, but many stores closed before I could reach them.

2006 Census

Census night. At the direction of the local collector, I had already filled in my census papers back at home at Airlie Beach (despite thinking the direction was helpful but wrong).

I believe that as at the previous census Jean and I were at the Birdsville caravan park.

Wednesday 9 August 2006

Melbourne Trip

After a week of clear skies, Melbourne finally produced the misty weather and showers I associated with that city. I was delighted to see a Mary Martin bookshop, a name I thought lost and forgotten along with Max Harris and the legendary poetry of Ern Malley. However the books were few, and most attention given the cafe and bar under the same name. A Camera House had a wonderful range of digital cameras, but none better for our purposes than the one I had already found for Jean. They did have a few very nice compact Meade ETX astronomy telescopes such as Mike Weasner once demonstrated to us, reduced in price once again. Not something I could carry home, but very attractive.

As usual I lunched at Chocolate Fire.

No luck with the banks I visited seeking Euros and Pounds for Jean's European trip in September. Eventually I learned of a head office branch with an international section not very distant. Being lunch time, it was busy, but soon after the rush eased I was able to collect the money for Jean.

I made an attempt to find more gadgets, mostly in the department stores this time, as there are none here. Upmarket Bang & Olufsen had a mini store at David Jones. Pedro Faria showed me Beolab 3 speakers ($4990) and Beocenter 2 ($6990). While all CD and DVD players now seem to me obsolete, replaced by readers in computer, speakers are the last resort of high end sound. There are many more expensive. There are many equal in quality. There are more and more using active, digital drivers. Relatively few fit in a small space as neatly. However this model accepted only analogue input.The ideal, to me, is that once sound moves from the analogue domain (soon after the microphone) it not emerge from the digital domain until it reached the speaker drivers. Close, but it was not so. Maybe next time.

Movie The Sentinel was my last treat for the day. Fairly standard protect the President from the traitor type thing. Well enough done, but nothing new. Have to admit to liking the idea of movies on the large screen (despite the volume always being too loud) however I don't like them enough to drive 70 km to attend.

Thursday 10 August 2006

Leaving Melbourne

I was up before five. No problems getting out of the hotel, and there was a taxi outside. Managed to get the 5:30 Skybus to the airport, and thus was in plenty of time for Virgin DJ311 at 8 a.m. Only a half hour at brisbane, and then onto DJ953 for the trip to Whitsunday Coast Airport. Jean met me there just after midday. Very smooth trip.

Friday 11 August 2006

Forthcoming Conventions

Nullus Anxietas The Australian Discworld Convention at Carlton Crest Convention Centre (Melbourne) 9-11 February 2007

Conspiracy II is the 28th National New Zealand Science Fiction Convention, to be held Queens Birthday weekend, 1-4 June 2007 at the Mecure Hotel, Willis Street, Wellington NZ. The GoHs are Eric Flint, Dylan Horrocks (Comics), Isobelle Carmody, and Marianne de Pierres.

Convergence 2 the 46th Australian Science Fiction Convention at Rydges Melbourne Hotel, on 8-11 June 2007.

Conflux 4 Canberra is 28 September to1 October 2007.

Conjunction is the 29th National New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, in Wellington NZ at Easter, 21-24 March 2008. GoH is Elizabeth Moon.

Saturday 12 August 2006

Flyers from convention

AustralianHorror Writers Association for dark fantasy and horror.

Cat's Cradle Comics moved to 36 Sydney Road, Coburg

CSFG Publishing have five books available.

Escape to Earth a novel of the pending destruction of Earth, by Lawrence Johnson Sn.

Clayton L Mcnally books To the Stars and Surviving Behind Enemy Lines

Infinitas Bookshop at Parramatta newsletter for June 2006. I enjoyed their flash fiction from the Magic Casements competition.

Science & Swords, books from another world, in The Strand Arcade, 250 Elizabeth Stree, Melbourne, June 2006 newsletter. Full colour, glossy paper. photos of bookcovers. Wonder how they can afford colour? They also appear to sell books at a discount to many booksellers (A$15.95).

48 page Slow Glass Books catalogue 204 for August 2006.

Space*Time Buccaneers by Ian Gunn, 2006 reprint available from Mrs KPG, PO Box 567, Blackburn Vic 3130

Sunday 13 August 2006

Sony Blu-ray failure

Sony officially announced its BWU-100A Blu-ray optical drive for computers at its Experience More 2006 event in Sydney yesterday. It will not play commercial Blu-ray movies encrypted with High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which means it is an almost total waste of $1400. Sony do have another computer that does handle Blu-ray, as it contains a certified HDMI card.

Panasonic DMR-E700BD can record 4.5 hours of digital satellite high-definition television when used with 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray Disc Rewritable format discs. Alas, current Sony single layer Blu-ray drives can not read the dual layer Matsushita Blu-ray disks. Can you say compatibility problems? The two are even physically incompatible (the Sony is in a cartridge).

Once again, I suggest avoiding Blu-ray and avoiding HD-DVD entirely. I especially suggest avoiding anything that Sony make, as it will almost certainly be incompatible with the rest of the world.

Monday 14 August 2006

Sailing Boat flies

Stephen Bourn sail boat should be fast and stable, although the whole hull leaves the water at speed.

Video of model sailing boat demonstrates the unusual craft.

Technical paper explains the science and mathematics of this innovative design. In a world where oil may already be in short supply, the need for high speed sail will surely increase.

Tuesday 15 August 2006

Fresh air, low noise levels

Silenceair bricks allow air flow, cut noise levels by around 85% in this passive design by Dr Chris Fields. It acts as a noise baffle, and can even be made in transparent materials. Just great in a climate like tropical Australia. I found this because I was looking for just this sort of solution where I live. Natural ventilation without compromising noise attenuation.

Silenceair sell the bricks for building use, as a substitute for other natural ventilation methods. It incorporates insect screens, and is suitable for homes, apartments and commercial buildings. Dimensions of a grid match normal brickwork.

Noise reduction Rw is 25dB, and is better than foam treatments between 2500-3000 Hz. Reduction is 34dB at 1600 Hz. Around that of a sealed plate glass window. I like that. Looks like even at low frequencies it is around 15dB.

Wednesday 16 August 2006

Microsoft redesigns iPod box

Microsoft redesigns iPod box is an silly video, and not even new. But I enjoyed it. It does show that some Microsoft staff have a good sense of humour.

Thursday 17 August 2006


Atheist is a propaganda video but with Muslim fanaticism getting the news, it is nice to see publicity for an alternative to religion.

Friday 18 August 2006

Green Flights

No such thing as a green flight. However you could pay to plant enough native trees to absorb the carbon dioxide pumped out by your share of the flight. Cheer up, only a few tons.

Greenfleet and Carbon Neutral are two organisations who organise tree planting to compensate for CO2 use.

Saturday 19 August 2006

Big tobacco racketeers

British American Tobacco, formerly WD and HO Wills, destroyed potentially incriminating documents in Australia. Whistleblower and former tobacco in house counsel Fred Gulson's evidence of the documents helped a USA Federal Court ruling against the tobacco giant.

Plus Washington federal judge Gladys Kessler banned the use of terms like light, low tar and mild on cigarette packages in the USA from January 2007. Stricter rules already apply in Australia.

Sunday 20 August 2006


Computer boarding passes not requiring identification allowed ABC satirical TV program The Chaser to trick Virgin Blue airlines to make boarding calls for a Mr Al Kyder, and a Mr Terry Wrist.

Monday 21 August 2006

Telstra slightly pregnant

Telstra has regulatory certainty about pricing for the copper line to the home. It doesn't like the result, and little wonder. So if you have a Telstra cable connection, you get broadband. If you only have a phone line, you get pissed on from a considerable height by Telstra executives, because you don't pay enough to be worthwhile as a customer. Face the fact that country Australia either pays a hell of a lot more for a decent broadband connection, or it gets a subsidy. Since I live in country Australia, I want a subsidy. Paying $200 a month for broadband would be a drag for me.

The government should buy back the Telstra wire, and run it as an independent corporation selling access to anyone. It will make a loss, and governments would prefer to rip off inflated dividends to make their bottom end look better.

Tuesday 22 August 2006

Forget about Copyright

Proprietary systems. Microsoft Plays for Sure absolutely doesn't work at all on most media players, because most media players are iPods, and the only copy protected format they use is AAC. Meanwhile, unprotected MP3 or any of several other unprotected formats works with anything. I have a bunch of stuff I have downloaded from iTunes Music Store, when they offered them as free samples. I might even buy CDs from some of these bands. I most certainly will never buy a protected download.

The only CDs I have bought lately have been from local bands, producing them in home studios. In contrast, I have bought about 100 DVDs of movies in the past year. They were all cheaper than CDs (I only buy when movies are cheaper than a paperback). I only started buying DVDs when I could break their crappy Macrovision copy protection system. I have never bought a SACD or a DVD-A. I hear BluRay and HD-DVD can't be broken, so I will never buy them either.

Maybe the music industry will die. Hope so. I would be delighted to see musicians making most of the money from their playing, but the music industry sucks.

Wednesday 23 August 2006

Three Uranium mines

Labor still has a (no more than) three uranium mines policy (Olympic Dam, Ranger and Beverley). So what is a fourth mine doing starting up? Well, you see, that doesn't count. Apparently a former Liberal government somehow issued most of the required permits long ago. Move along now, nothing happening here.

Thursday 24 August 2006


Should an architect regard a client as a sponsor to the art? The perfect client with deep pockets and few opinions? Or do client wants and needs, despite problems and budget, remain the most important thing?

Friday 25 August 2006

Fake Green Power

The National Greenpower Accreditation Program says new green power can not be sold independent of Renewable Energy Certificates. So when Queensland bought a great lump (A$665,500 worth) of green energy from state owned Ergon last year for 390 state regional schools and electoral offices, did they really get green power? The Queensland environmental Protection Agency isn't sure it did. Public Works bought green power from Country Energy of NSW for the Queensland Parliament , and now there are doubts about that also.

Firewire in HDTV

I see lists of IEEE 1394 in consumer electronics and IEEE 1394 in computers. So why do local stores look at you like you have two heads when you ask about an IEEE 1394 connector on a TV or settop box? All my computers have Firewire (Apple name). Sony computers have iLink (same thing). My hard drives have Firewire. My video camera (Canon) has an IEEE 1394 connection, as does almost every DV camcorder.

Obviously connecting an IEEE 1394 settop box to a computer is the way to go for an instant personal video recorder. The port should normally export a MPeg2_TS stream (in D-VHS format). Why can't retailers get with it?

Saturday 26 August 2006

LPG a dead fuel

The government had to be seen to be doing something about fuel prices, however apart from cutting excise, it can't actually do anything. One Liberal wanted to push LPG (liquified petroleum gas), and so the government is wasting taxpayer money on a subsidy for conversion to LPG.

Sunday 27 August 2006

Balmy Army songs

British sports supporters bring songs to the games. At some game in New Zealand sung to the tune of Lonnie Donegan's My Old Man's a Dustman, the lyrics included.

You failed in the Tri Nations.
In the World Cup went to sleep,
The All Blacks all should stay at home,
And stick to shagging sheep.

Another set of lyrics in Australia, to the tune of Yellow Submarine for cricket included.

In the town where I was born,
there lived a man who was a thief,
And he told me of his life, stealing 
bread and shagging sheep.
So they put him in the nick, and 
then a magistrate he went to see
He said "Put him on a ship, to the 
convict colony".
You all live in a convict colony, a
convict colony, a convict colony.
You all live in a convict colony, a
convict colony, a convict colony.

Monday 28 August 2006

Electrical Safety Switches

Since March, domestic rental properties have had to have an electrical safety switch fitted within six months of a lease being signed. All such properties must have safety switches by February 2008. I am not sure there are enough electricians to even do it, although maybe it helps explain why you can't find an electrician for any other work.

Personally I don't like safety switches (earth leakage switches) because a whole heap of common gadgets can trigger them. For example, some computer power supplies trigger portable safety switches I have. On the other hand, with power cords that can reach the balcony (where there are no power points), I leave one of the little plug in safety switches on the end of the cord, just in case. Rain often takes you by surprise here, and I had a friend die using an electric drill in the rain. I am not convinced a safety switch would always save you, but it is a cheap precaution.

Power points get overloaded by accident. Any load that includes a heater is likely to get overloaded. Stove, bar heater, toaster, clothes dryers, all take lots of power. So do bath and spa heaters, and air conditioners. Stoves, water heaters, spas and air conditioners all should have their own separate circuit. On the other hand, you can plug a bunch of lights into a single circuit.

Old wiring gets bad, especially the 80 year old stuff. By now most of that would be lucky to have any cotton insulation left. Rubber insulation came in around WWII, but some of that cracks with age. Whatever your view of PVC, the change to it over the past 40 years probably reduced the risk of electrical fires.

I like the simple neon testers that show whether power is wired correctly. Way too many power connectors are wired with active and neutral reversed. A tester shows this.

Energy meters are really cheap in the US, and almost impossible to find in Australia. They are great for checking how much power your appliances really take.

Tuesday 29 August 2006

Solar Power and Sun Position Charts

Just what anyone interested in solar energy needs. Personal sun charts for your location, generated by a nice web program from the University of Oregon. Output can be PNG or PDF. Airlie Beach seems to be a pretty good spot, especially at the Whitsunday Terraces.

Plus where power is used at night shows in this Google night time map. I just liked the pictures, and had lost my previous link.

Solar cells are a problem. The silicon ones are made from end caps of electronics grade silicon. As the industry expands, it has used up this resource. However you can not sell solar cells for a sufficiently high price to make custom silicon worthwhile. So the price rises as they compete for better silicon. Only solutions I can see are custom solar silicon plants, or changing to a new material (there are less efficient ones).

The solar cells used in space are highly efficient (since they have multiple junctions) up to 40% solar conversion has been reached by Boeing's Spectrolab, although 30% is more reasonable. Using up to a 50 or more times concentrator starts making sense at that sort of efficiency. Fresnel lenses are relatively cheap (at least the few I have are). Plus a lot is known now about exactly how to cool semiconductors.

Here is Greg Watson's design, an Australian solar cell concentrator system that appears to have tackled a lot of the issues and problems with solar power for individuals. I think I want a test one for my balcony. Decentralised solar power appeals to me.

You could also go for an Eclectic Energy low noise direct connect urban wind generator designed specifically for home use. Good luck in avoiding complaints from the neighbours.

Wednesday 30 August 2006


After years of low investment due to low returns, Caltex finally see it worthwhile increasing the efficiency and output of their Australian oil refineries in Sydney and Brisbane, at a cost exceeding A$300 million. However they predict the increase will be in diesel, and expect to be producing more diesel than petrol in the future. Seven billion litres of petrol, and 4.5 billion litres of diesel 2005. However jet fuel and diesel demand are expected to increase, diesel driven by mining and transport demand, and the introduction of efficient European style common rail diesel passenger vehicles. Not before time.

Refining capacity is limited all over the world, thanks to low returns on oil, leading to high refinery margins now that demand is closer to supply. Caltex expect earning increases of up to A$150 million a year by 2009. Caltex shares that were A$1 in 2002 hit A$25 this year. A bit of a difference.

Thursday 31 August 2006

Jean off to Europe

Around 5 p.m. I drove Jean from the Whitsunday Terraces to the Proserpine airport, and hung around until she went through security. Rained on the way back home, making the road even harder to see in the dark. Jean later reported the incoming plane made four attempts to land, two from each direction, before getting a break in the wind.

Alternatives to Microsoft

The free office program NeoOffice 2 Aqua is looking more and more like a regular Macintosh application, and less like Open Office, which requires X11 for its GUI. Spotlight is now integrated, and there is an Intel binary as well as the PowerPC version. Since the Intel port of Microsoft Office for Macintosh is still some time away, this fills a potential gap nicely.