Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 November

Wednesday 1 November 2006

Vaccine against Atherosclerosis

I've been on cholesterol reducing statins for about a decade. Why isn't a vaccine available? Cholesterol travels from body tissues in the blood in high-density lipoproteins (HDL = good) for disposal. High levels of HDL reduce heart attack risks. Low density lipoproteins (LDL = bad) carry cholesterol from the digestive system to body tissues, but along the way can form fatty deposits along artery walls. High levels of LDL lower the chance of avoiding heart attacks.

An enzyme called cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) pulls cholesterol from HDL and adds it to LDL. It has no known benefit in humans. Some humans have two mutant copies of the CETP gene, do not produce CETP, and live normal lives with high HDL levels, and very low risk of heart attack.

The immune system can make antibodies against CETP. Charles Rittershaus of T cell Sciences tried this in animals in 1997, and continued working on this at Avant, also here.

Initial human trials also appear promising.

Thursday 2 November 2006

Sunday program

Graham Davis asks why viewers are deserting the Sunday current affairs program. It is dying. Audiences dropping from a peak of 380,000 to under 200,000. However it seems to me the entire TV industry is dying. Given the crap they produce now, good riddance. Come back, Kerry Packer. You are needed.

I also couldn't help notice that, like James Packer at Channel 9, Kerry Stokes of Seven turned a bunch of his TV equity into cash. Looks like both outsmarted the Federal government. I keep thinking of rats and sinking ships.

Friday 3 November 2006

Reef Festival (1)

The FantaSea Whitsunday Reef Festival commences with a free cracker night on the Airlie Beach foreshore. This usually involves a very nice set of skyrockets around 8 p.m. We get a great view from our balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces resort, so we don't walk down to the seaside. This time around I got about 20 minutes of video on my camcorder.

I always thought it was week long celebration, but my day count reached 10.

I don't understand the reasoning, but when Vite set up the attractive looking Whitsunday Reef Festival web site they didn't give it a valid doctype, and made the main navigation depend upon having the proprietary Shockwave plugin. Luckily there are alternative real links in the text. Tough luck if you are behind a firewall that doesn't allow Flash, or are disabled and using an aural browser. Or even if you are a visitor driving in and trying to access the fixed width site using a mobile phone.

Saturday 4 November 2006

Reef Festival (2)

The usual weekly Airlie Beach Community Market is on during the morning. I always visit to socialise with people I know. Additional events include something called Body Synergy by the Lagoon (since it is run by Fitness venue it sounds too energetic), a social paddle with the outrigger canoe crowd (actually a regular event), an afternoon sailing regatta, touch football coaching (sounds dangerous), and CPQ's sand sculpting workshops from 11 to midday. Evening events include outdoor starlight cinema by the lagoon (float on by), a dinner party at the Esplanade already sold out, and a wearable art parade.

Whitsunday Art Gallery on Shute Harbour Road at Cannonvale has an exhibition by Carol Bell from 2 to 4.

Sunday 5 November 2006

Reef Festival (3)

A Fawlty Tours' guided tour of the Whitsunday Great Walk. Not sure how this works, as it can take three days to do the entire walk.

The sand sculpting competition is midday to 3 p.m. in the afternoon. I thought it ended at midday, so I was surprised to see nothing there except one lone sand castle. Also the Divalicious Fashion Show, at Verandah from 3 p.m. and a free Queensland Fire and Rescue Display at 5 p.m. outside Airlie Beach Hotel. There are evening Airlie Beach Beachside Markets from 4 to 8 p.m.

Acoustic Room Treatment

Broadband sound absorbers and bass traps are available from StudioCel. Three designs of light panel, wide range of colours, in a velvet finish. Prices from A$119 to A$195. Installation is via hidden stapling. Web site is nearly useless, but the pdf about room acoustic treatments indicates they know what they are on about (if their panels work). No real details of anything, but the photos of the panels make them look attractive compared to many treatments.

Monday 6 November 2006

Reef Festival (4)

Reefworld celebrations and Hamilton island Day.

Vista Features

A great hoax blog entry on Vista features removed, showing Microsoft managers have a sense of humour.

Not the first. There was the great Microsoft redoes iPod packaging video, and the Bill Gates and Napoleon Dynamite go to college video.

Port of Airlie Marina Construction

After years of inaction, it sounds like developer Meridian have started the A$450 million 28 hectare Port of Airlie marina project. Don't know why they call it a marina, when there are 365 apartments, 15 beachfront (mudflat) homes, and a 140 room hotel. Well, there are 240 boat berths. The Port of Airlie marina below the Whitsunday Terraces in Muddy Bay has finally started being constructed. The fences went up in the past few weeks. Now Golding of Gladstone are building a land mass. There are a grader, and a front end loader destroying the mangroves by the beach at Muddy Bay. I imagine this means another five years of construction noise for the town. Another land grab is what it mostly is.

Their web sites are pathetic, so I'm not going to attempt to give a link. Think Flash, downloads instead of opening pages, uninvited music, and horizontal scroll bars.

Tuesday 7 November 2006

Reef Festival (5)

Reefworld celebrations, and Whitsunday Joy Flights. Mind you, the Tiger Moth joy flights are every day anyhow.

Image Conversion

I had an urgent need to convert a bunch of jpg and gif images from large sizes to something more suited to thumbnails on a web page. I had neglected to buy Lemke's Graphic Converter, which will do a batch job of image conversion.

The CoreServices folder in System - Library on your hard drive contains a scriptable background application called Image Events that can access the command line application. MacTech explains performing basic image manipulation with AppleScript. Apple also explain scripting Apple Events. Finally MacOSHints detail resizing an image with a drag and drop script. Although almost all the code needed is described, I haven't had much luck doing anything quickly with AppleScript, so for my few dozen images, the command line is easier.

Luckily, Apple's OSX includes the scriptable image processing system (sips), which is available at the command line. Kirk McElhearn advises sips --resampleWidth 240, and drag a copy of the graphic to the Terminal window. Type sips -help or sips -H for information about using sips. Or try sips /foo/bar.tiff --resampleHeightWidthMax 300 --setProperty format jpg --out /foo/bar.small.jpg to change a tiff file to a jpg with a maximum height or width of 300 pixels.

My first attempt was fouled up when sips didn't seem to understand how to change the size of gif files. However subsequent tests showed it could do stuff with jpeg, tiff, png, and pdf. Didn't seem to care for the Gif files I tried.

Melbourne Cup

Many of the pubs and restaurants in town seem to have something on to celebrate the Melbourne Cup. We managed to collect a few bottles of bubbly so we sat with a glass and watched the race on the computer monitor.

Rubbery Piracy Figures

That is what a report to the Attorney General's department said. The BSAA claims of losses of $361 million a year were considered unverified and unreliable. About time more people told the software and the recorded music industry that they are full of bullshit. Their claims, and most of their trivial music.

Wednesday 8 November 2006

Reef Festival (6)

Reefworld celebrations and Daydream Island Day.

A guided tour of the Whitsunday Great Walk.

Evening events include the regular twilight social sailing we often view from our Whitsunday Terraces balcony, the Lagoon Starlight Cinema, and Sundowner Sunset Cruise.

Ignore the Music Publishers

Seems like a bunch of musicians dislike the music industry. Interview with Janis Ian on life in the music industry and the Internet debacle. Next we have Courtney Love doing the math on the music publishers. or Steve Albini on The Problem with Music.

Thursday 9 November 2006

Reef Festival (7)

Reefworld celebrations and a lawn bowls competition, with Coral Sea running a sold out comedy gala with five comedians in the evening.

Dead Politicians Are Best

Yes, a dead Democrat beat a live Republican in poll for county commissioner's race in Jerauld County. Democrat Marie Steichen, of Woonsocket, got 100 votes, defeating incumbent Republican Merlin Feistner, of Woonsocket, who had 64 votes. Yes, the voters did know the winner was dead.

Dead politicians have a lot of advantages, when you think about it. Can't be bribed. Can't vote against your interests. Can't lie (well, except still). You can say they stink, without anyone being able to disagree. They can be trusted. They will never do anything you dislike.

Friday 10 November 2006

Reef Festival (8)

Reefworld celebrations and Long Island Day. Whitsunday Joy Flights.

A guided tour of the Whitsunday Great Walk.

Lagoon Starlight Cinema, and Whitsunday Transit's Groove Under the Stars cocktail party at Coral Sea, which didn't sound like my kind of thing until I realised it included live jazz.

Telstra Remain Pack of Arseholes

After years of falsely saying ADSL only provided a top speed of 1.5 mbps, Telstra have finally decided to remove this artificial political restraint from their lines at around 2400 phone exchanges. Now you can get up to 8 mbps downloads, instead of a top speed of 1.5 mbps. If you pay $30 a month more.

Naturally if you are more than a few kilometres from the phone exchange, you will not get the uncapped speed. That is a technical problem, not Telstra being bastards. Upload speeds are well below the 1 mbps limit, and this is Telstra being bastards.

BigPond has also announced a range of new consumer-grade ADSL plans, as follows (download limit and price is per month)

256kbps/200MB (AU$29.95)
256kbps/12GB shaped (AU$59.95)
1500kbps/400MB (AU$39.95)
1500kbps/12GB shaped (AU$69.95)
1500kbps/25GB (AU$99.95)
High speed/600MB (AU$59.95)
High speed/12GB shaped (AU$89.95)
High speed/25GB (AU$119.95)
High speed/60GB (AU$149.95)

High speed refers to uncapped ADSL1 or ADSL2+, depending on geographical location.

Why ADSL2+ only in some geographical locations? Telstra will only enable ADSL2+ at the 300-400 exchanges where some other ISP already has their own ADSL2+ DSLAMs installed. If no one else offers ADSL2+ from your exchange, Telstra will not offer it either. Bastards.

Telstra's monopoly pricing also vastly exceeds that of other ISPs offering similar speeds, for any specified quantity of downloads.

Telstra should have been split into two sections, and the wiring part kept as a public utility. The government got that wrong. The government should fix it.

Don't forget you also have to pay an extra monthly fee to have the phone line, whether you want to make phone calls or not. Being anti-social, I can easily get along without a voice phone line ... but I want my broadband internet connection.

Saturday 11 November 2006

Reef Festival (9)

The Community Markets again, plus an outrigger social paddle, and a social golf day.

Afternoon brings DJ workshops, a prospect that fills me with horror. However there will be a Rotary street parade as well at 5 p.m.

Evening brings Mainstreet Mania, but most weekends the Airlie Beach main street is pretty manic anyway.

Awake With A Bang

Around 6 a.m. the power went out in Jean's kitchen with a bang! The UPS started a continual beep, rather than the usually on off beep. Jean disconnected the UPS, flipped the circuit breaker for that room, and somewhat grumpy, continued to get her morning cup of tea.

Looking inside the UPS didn't reveal any obvious burn marks. I pulled the battery, in case it had failed in the six years of so, and checked it for charge. Seemed OK. The UPS wouldn't run a light bulb, but 40 watts might not be enough to trigger it. I gave Jean my identical UPS, so the ADSL wireless router and the fax were both on a UPS again.

Much later in the day, Jean asked me to reheat a cup of tea in her microwave. Nothing doing. No clock, no display, no activity. We conclude the bang was the Sharp microwave going up in smoke (except no smoke). What is particularly annoying is that this is a few week old replacement for another Sharp microwave that died recently after only a few years (if that) of use. That other Sharp microwave had a gecko hanging off the interior of the control panel, but I don't think that was what killed the panel switches (it worked otherwise, but without a reliable start button was not much use).

When I pulled apart the old Sharp microwave, the design looked pretty clean and reasonable. Despite that, two failures is too many. Sharp microwaves are now off my list of appliances I am willing to buy. Three strikes and I stop dealing with any product from the company.

Sunday 12 November 2006

Reef Festival (10)

A guided tour of the Whitsunday Great Walk. Plus Foreshore Fiesta, whatever that is.

Whitsunday Population Growth

Picked to be one of the 10 fastest growth areas in Queensland, according to a State Government report. Golly gosh, isn't that something to look forward to. A chance to have obnoxious neighbours, instead of nice ones. 2.7% a year for the next 20 years.

Canon HV10 High Definition Camcorder

I've long been wondering how to try making high definition videos without spending a fortune on a professional camera. The consumer grade Canon HV10 camcorder is about the third consumer model to appear (the first two were from Sony). It saves to DV tape, has 10x magnification, IEEE1394 (Firewire) connections to the computer, and does 1080i. Better for bright scenes than low light, but for my exterior video purposes that is acceptable. Better for landscape than close up, due to the wide angle limits. Again, acceptable for my purposes. Battery life is pretty pathetic, but at least I know that. With certain exceptions like that, the reviews are favourable.

Must keep an eye on the prices of that model after Xmas.

Monday 13 November 2006

P&O Cruise Ship

When we awoke, we noticed a P&O cruise ship anchored out in Pioneer Bay. They sneak in during the night, and we see them from our balcony in the Whitsunday Terraces when we look out in the morning.

The one god, the fun god, the sun god, RA RA RA

Oh wait, they are not doing that after all that bad publicity.


I finally got myself a Gmail account as ericblindsay (watch for the b in the middle). I also redirected the webmaster and fijagh address at my domain to gmail. Only a few years after Gmail appeared. Jean sent me the invite on 15 August, but at least that was this year, not last year. Why bother with Gmail when I have pretty much unlimited email accounts or aliases on my own domain? More and smarter people at Google working on keeping my web exposed inbox free from cursed spam.

Tuesday 14 November 2006

Microsoft Zune music player

Microsoft are all set to release their Zune music player. Pity they don't appear to have bought the commercial web site for it. Network Solutions say is registered to Gate Market Research Limited, 20-22 Bedford Row, London, WC16 4JS, UK, and has been since 1998. It expires 21 June 2009. Maybe Microsoft will offer lots of money.

Today is also the day the Microsoft MSN Music store stop selling music. So if you are heavily invested in the Microsoft Plays for Sure you might now be wondering whether you can play your tunes on a Zune? Well, it appears Plays for Sure doesn't play on a Zune. Tough luck. Seems like Microsoft just shafted you, Napster, AOL Music Now, and Urge music stores, and all the people you bought Plays for Sure players from Archos, Creative, Dell and Iriver. Never mind, you can rip your music from CDs into MP3, and play that instead.

Well, you can unless you have beamed an MP3 to a Zune. If you do that, your music gets wrapped in copy protection, and expires in three days, or three plays, whichever is first. Three plays isn't three full listens. Even running a tune for a few seconds counts as a play.

You can play your Zune bought tunes on your old MP3 player... You can, can't you? No, it looks like you can't do that.

At least you can still use familiar software like Windows Media Player to handle your music? No, it seems you have to use a new software player for Zune.

However you do get a nice 30GB hard drive in a Zune, although it is 60% bigger than a 30GB iPod. You can carry a lot of stuff between home and work with that ... Opps, no, it seems that unlike the iPod, Zune won't work as an external hard drive either.

Early stories said Microsoft would replace all your iTunes Store bought music with Zune equivalents. Turns out this is not the case.

How about music at the store? Microsoft will have a decent quantity on lunch. After all, they are paying Universal not only for each tune sold, but also a payment for each Zune sold. Talk about buying your way into a market!

Oh yes, and Zune won't be launched in Europe or Australia until at least next year, and maybe not until 2008! This just gets better and better!

Wednesday 15 November 2006


Using Gmail to stop spam didn't work out as well as I hoped. The ratio seems about 20 spams a day, to each genuine message. Also two genuine messages went into the spam folder. On the other hand, they were from totally compromised addresses, so I wouldn't have received them at all were it not for the change to Google (I dump spam compromised addresses). On the down side, several of the spams were good enough to get past Google's filters into my InBox.

My own general heuristic for spam seems to work as well as the Google one. I just whitelist all email addresses known to me, and filter any HTML or graphics email from anyone else into the spam trap. But I don't get a lot of unknown email.

Revised Web Page

My architect neighbour wanted his Whitsunday architecture web site revised and updated. First thing I found was that the web site provider Gisol don't seem to renew your domain name automatically, and it had expired. Luckily still within the renewal grace period. However unless you enter a trouble ticket, you don't get told the mystic URL for organising a domain name renewal. Still, at least they tell you the URL pretty much as soon as you ask. It wasn't always that way.

Turns out finding out how to renew your linked domain name doesn't help any in renewing domains that you have aliased to the original name. Because it took several weeks to get them aliased in the first place, I have until nearly the end of the month to get the rest of them renewed. May need it.

I am not exactly thrilled with the user experience at Gisol control panel. On the other hand, it has all the essential bits for running web sites, I usually only need to do things via their interface infrequently, and the price is right. Better than right actually. I wouldn't even bother to try multiple sites at regular prices.

Thursday 16 November 2006

Political slime

The women in Queensland Labor politics seem to be winning the slime race, with Liddy Clark off in 2005 as Indigenous Affairs Minister, after a bottle of booze appeared in an alcohol free community. Beattie must have been happy. I think Queensland gave up having Indigenous Affairs ministers. Linda Lavarch gave up the Attorney General position, over continuing problems with the Patel affair. Probably instead should have been slated to the health people, for their choice of doctors. Gordon Nuttall went out from Primary Industries after allegations he lied to a parliamentary committee over the Patel scandal. Now Nuttell is being investigated by Crime and Misconduct regarding loans from businessmen. Merri Rose had staff problems in 2004, resigned as Tourism Minister in 2004. Now she is in court about threats if she didn't get a public service job.

NSW Labor comes in second. Local Government Minister Kerry Hickey managed to get four speeding tickets, three in his ministerial car. Maybe they need a car with cruise control. Police Minister Carl Scully went out for misleading parliament over the Cronulla race riots ... twice. Industrial relations minister John Della Bosca paid a parking fine, and still got in trouble. Seems his office may have paid it. Aboriginal Affairs minister Milton Orkopoulos faces 30 drug and child sex charges. One of his former staff members is also facing charges.

W.A. Police Minister John D'Orazio left in August, over videotapes of a panel beater thinking he could sort out traffic notice problems. You would have thought a police minister could sort out his own traffic notice problems. Small Business Minister Norm Marlborough seemed to have close connections with former premier Brian Burke, who urged him to look after a mate, using a second mobile phone. You never know who is listening on these phone calls. Brian Burke seemed to have lots of contacts with current Labor politicians, including Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley.

Internet Use in Australia

How many people use the internet in Australia? 14,663,622 users as of Aug 2006, 70.7% penetration, per Nielsen out of 20,750,052 population. 1,300,359 broadband users as of Sept/2004, per ABS, but far more now.

Friday 17 November 2006

Architect Queensland

The first cut at the revised Architect Queensland site is done. Mostly looking for places to include keywords for search engines at this stage. So I dumped to CD and took it with me to the main street. All the staff were walking along the street headed for Mangrove Jacks for morning tea, escaping the noises of office renovation. That gave me a chance to monster them for more material for the web site (200 words about each building they designed), and ask each of them for something from their building portfolio.

The photos and illustrations for the architect site are not what I would like. Obviously the recent ones from the computers are great, with over 4000 by 2000 pixels for each building illustration. I seem to be getting good results reducing their size from the command line with sips. There was also the odd Tiff or PDF (probably accidental) that I converted to a web image format like jpg or gif. Older items seem to be from a 640 x 480 digital camera, or transferred from the much older Pict format, and the results are so small I can really only use them as thumbnails. The various Gif items are a real mess. If I do any size changes I get bad moire patterns. I guess I will have to adjust the illustrations again soon.

No Telstra Internet

The iiNet connection to the Internet failed mid afternoon, after two years of mostly reliable operation. That was from both the wired and wireless systems. Neither ping nor traceroute indicated anything beyond our router, no domain name server available. The wireless connection to our router still worked fine. The ping and traceroute built into the router didn't get out, so that seemed pretty conclusive that any problem was outside our network (unless the WAN part of the router had failed).

When our neighbour arrived after work, I asked him about his business link (with Voice2Net, a different ISP). That had also failed. Sounds like a problem with either the Telstra exchange, or with the line south from this area, but phone calls worked. There were high winds, and unseasonable storms had damaged infrastructure in the south, so that was plausible. Also, Telstra had announced they were taking the performance cap off ADSL in their exchanges (at a fee), so that could have stopped the connections. Telstra have scheduled upgrades in Queensland, but not for several more days. I doubt Telstra care about other ISPs having problems.

Saturday 18 November 2006

Sony Lose a Fortune

Sony PlayStation 3 is finally on sale at US$499, or US$599 with WiFi and larger drive. However according to iSuppli, it costs Sony US$806 (a $307 loss) or US$839 (a loss of US$240) for the larger model. An interesting sidelight is the Nvidia graphics chip at US$129 actually cost more than the Blu-Ray drive at US$125. I am surprised.

XBox 360 (at US$299 and US$399) contained parts worth US$525, a loss of only US$126. Microsoft can afford to lose more than Sony. Give away the razor, and make a profit from the blades.

No Internet

Phone calls to our ISP (iiNet) didn't produce any relevant information. iiNet were not aware of any problems with their connections to our (remote) area. They suggested phoning Telstra. The Telstra numbers put you in phone menu hell, where no possible choice seems relevant to the complaint. Not that I ever managed to reach a human being. I did find some messages saying Telstra were receiving lots of phone calls, and to expect delays. Yeah, well, if your broadband connection doesn't work, I expect a lot of people would phone.

I walked around town, and found the Whitsunday Terraces resort BigPond connection plus a second ISP had been down since Friday. Several of the Internet Cafes in the main street had notices out saying Telstra couldn't tell them when the Internet would be available. One internet cafe and music store had simply closed down the business for the day. Global Gossip was up and running, saying they were using their slower ISDN connection instead of their normal speed internet connection.

The internet came back around 24 hours after it failed. I couldn't find any explanation of the outage on the iiNet, Telstra or BigPond sites. Didn't find anything on Whirlpool either.

Next week I found this Outage Start Friday, 17 November 2006 3:00PM EDST, Outage End Saturday, 18 November 2006 2:00AM EDST notice: We are currently having problems with ADSL. This is affecting customers in Airlie Beach. Customers may experience errors when attempting to connect. Technicians are treating this issue as a priority and are working on the problem. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

De-Anne Kelly, the local Federal Nationals member of Parliament, was both faster than Telstra and slightly more detailed. Her staff kindly told me Telstra have advised that the cause of the problem was some physical damage to the fibre-optic cable near Ayr and that the problem was rectified as soon as possible.

I must admit that when a traceroute of the Telstra link to the rest of the Internet appears to go south via Brisbane and Sydney, I am more than a little uncertain as to why a fault well north at Ayr would affect Airlie Beach. I certainly hope Telstra are not telling our Federal Member a porkie. Relations between Telstra and the government have not been all that harmonious since the arrival of Sol. Although perhaps they need to have a crash or crash through attitude to do better than the average telecom company.

No Toothpaste

Poloxamer-407, a colourless flavourless detergent added to mouthwash and toothpaste, coats cholesterol control cells in the liver, leading to much increased cholesterol levels. Dr Victoria Cogger at the Centre for Ageing, and the ANZAC Research Institute in Sydney, discovered this recently. What fun.

Sunday 19 November 2006

Greenpeace Fraud

Greenpeace have a guide to greener electronics, typical of the shoddy, self promoting trash I expect from that bunch of frauds. Scores a dozen or so electronic companies for how green they are. But, get this, it scores them based on what the companies say on their websites. No proper checks, no confirmation. The sooner Greenpeace are exposed as a bunch of latte swilling, chardonnay sipping, tree hugging, inner city phonies the better.

Monday 20 November 2006

Resale Value of Hybrid Cars

Not enough of them in Australia to have any real idea. In the USA, the Toyota Prius gets top rating for resale value from Consumer Reports. However it starts out as a scarce, high priced and trendy model. But, good news for the ecology folks. The Honda Civic hybrid, which looks just like a regular Honda, does not do nearly as well at resale.

Not sure the large premium on hybrid cars makes a lot of economic sense, unless petrol cost a heap more, and you drive a hell of a lot in stop start city conditions. Personally, I'd be better off with a short range all electric for shopping locally, and a conventional low sulphur diesel SUV for long trips.

Also, I have to wonder how long the battery pack lasts, and what it will actually cost to replace. Against this, hybrid battery packs are not running fast recharge nor deep discharge. They should last more than the 300-500 charges you get from AA or laptop batteries. Still, it could be that ten year old hybrid cars will all be running as conventional junkers.

iPod Shuffle

The first version of the Apple iPod Shuffle, the one that looks like a stick of chewing gum or a USB memory card, was being replaced by the clip model shuffle. So when the original went on sale at the local Tandy and Dick Smith agency at A$69, I couldn't resist getting one. Earlier reports of this model were that the earphone output had a lower frequency limit than some models, being pretty much straight from the DAC. Seemed a fine way to get an iPod for test purposes. A whole stereo entertainment system in a very small space. All you need to complete it is active powered loudspeakers.

I just happen to be in the middle of building up a few 36 watt Class H amplifier modules at the moment. Plus I have some speakers of a suitable size. Next thing will be to try for a solar power charging system for the gel cell lead acid batteries I will be using with the amplifiers. Just the thing for a sunlit Whitsunday Terraces balcony.

Tuesday 21 November 2006

I have always wanted a really up to date computer. Something twenty first century, rather than twentieth century. Here are some peripherals, like a floating web camera, from Savit Micro, or a hovering mouse from Crazy PC. If peripherals can float in the air, why can't the computer?

Wednesday 22 November 2006

HDMI Problems Caused by HDCP

A search for High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) problems finds numerous accounts, dating back to 2004. Most are actually High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) and Advanced Access Content System (AACS) Digital Rights Management (DRM) problems (David Berlind of ZDNet suggests it be called Content, Restriction, Annulment, and Protection or CRAP).

Some HDMI problems are caused by lousy cable and connector (the entire cable and connector design is a committee stuffup). Some problems are because HDMI is unsuited to long lengths of cable in the first place. HDMI is derived from DVI, designed for connecting computers to monitors. You don't need long cables to monitors. So it used unshielded twisted pair cable, which is a poor choice for transmitting high frequencies over long distances. By long distance, I mean way less than 7 metres.

Contrary to expectations regarding the merits of digital rather than analogue signals, the twisted pair signal in HDMI often provide a poorer picture than the coax cable used in mature analogue component video! The high speed digital lines in HDMI may require up to 1.4Gb/s for 1080p. In contrast, 1080p in component cables needs 74 MHz, so you can get away with longer cables.

HDMI was mostly devised by Silicon Image, and and its partners. It is pretty much no damn use to anyone except that company. There is no consumer benefit in HDMI.

It also doesn't help that HDMI 1.3 won't appear on devices until 2007, and is probably incompatible.

Most display devices still can't actually handle a full 1080p high definition signal. A computer quality display with 1920 x 1080 resolution is the minimum you should consider. This restricts you to smaller displays, as basically none of the large ones can handle that resolution. I doubt there are any rear projection, plasma or projector displays on the market able to handle high definition 1080p as at 2006.

Apart from computers, there are no sources of full 1080p high definition signals either. The first in Australia will probably be Sony PlayStation 3 with Blue-Ray, sometime in 2007 (press releases claim 1080p - I will believe it when I see it and test it). HD-DVD releases are initially at least in a maximum of 1080i, an interleaved format, not progressive scan.

Sound seems almost as much of a mess. Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD are the next-gen audio codecs that will be offered with HD DVD and Blu-ray. DTS offer proprietary DTS-HD Master Audio lossless compression, while Dolby's TrueHD uses Meridian Lossless Packing. These are unlike previous lossy cinema sound. Existing sound systems are not compatible with the new sound outputs, but it is expected that most new players will also transcode to (lossy) 5.1 standard S/PDIF digital interfaces. Some silver disks and players may provide multiple uncompressed PCM streams at 24/96 or 24/192, but don't count on it.

Thursday 23 November 2006

Ecological Action

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth has an associated web site. One page suggests what householders can do. I just went through these ten points. What a piece of shit!

Replace an incandescent light bulb with a fluorescent. Bit hard, since I have none in use. I have used fluorescent for several decades. Effect, nil.

Move thermostat down 2 degrees in winter, up two degrees in summer. I don't use a thermostat in winter. It takes a lot of heat to tempt me to put air conditioning on in summer. Effect, nearly nil.

Clean and replace filters in furnace and air conditioning. No furnace, air conditioning used less than a month a year, and not 24 hours even then. Effect, almost nil.

Install a programable thermostat. Existing air conditioner, when on, detects the presence of people, and has an away from home mode. Effect, very little.

Choose energy efficient appliances, Energy Star. Only appliances used are fridge, stove, washing machine and air conditioner. Replacing any would probably use more energy than the saving. Effect, minor.

Wrap water heater in a blanket. Already well insulated, as proven by using a thermometer outside the container for the hot water heater. Effect, minor.

Use less hot water. Already use showers. Already use cold water for cleaning clothes. Effect, minor.

Use a clothesline. Already our present behaviour. Dryer has only been used two or three times in the past decade. Effect, almost impossible to detect.

Turn off appliances you are not using. Don't have a TV. If people are seriously expected to do this, manufacturers need to stop putting clock timers in gadgets, and start fitting hard power switches. I am going to ignore this as unworkable.

Unplug electronics from the wall. See above.

Only run dishwasher with full load. Mini dishwasher, especially suited to small loads.

Insulate and weatherise your home. Why? I don't heat it, and rarely cool it. I mostly leave all the doors open. Effect, nil.

Recycle at home. No provision in the area. Nearest recycling areas too far away to be economical.

Buy recycled paper products. Or stop using most paper.

Plant a tree. No garden.

Switch to green energy. Have you looked at the price of green power? I pay for a small amount of green power.

Buy locally produced foods. That is what the local farmer's market is for.

Eat less meat. Cows fart methane.

Avoid driving as much. No car.

Carpool to work. I always used public transport or walked.

Fly less. Has someone mentioned this to Al Gore, or any other politician?

Trusted Computing

The hardware for the Infineon Trusted Platform Module doesn't appear to be included in the latest Mac Pro nor the Core2 Duo MacBook Pro systems. Not that Apple have ever used it on production Macintosh, nor even provided a driver. Amit Singh details Apple TPM in his book, so please read the details from the person who has revealed most about them. Amit also provides an experimental TPM driver.

However, I was not happy about that module even being on the hardware, despite it potentially being of use for my own protection. There would surely be a temptation for someone to abuse it. Perhaps not Apple, but I wouldn't trust the music distribution industry as far as I could spit. The Sony rootkit that persuaded me never to buy another Sony product is a good example. Also the virus writing community may have found an attack via that hard to resist.

Apple do appear to have encrypted a few of their OS X binaries as protection against reverse engineering. This may make it difficult to run OS X on arbitrary Intel hardware. I wouldn't go to the bother of trying to run OS X86, so encrypted binary doesn't really worry me much at the moment.

Friday 24 November 2006

Anal-Retentive Protests

Bruce Perens' says Protest the Microsoft-Novell Patent Agreement. Lots of other people appear to agree, and take their protests even further.

Anal-Retentive Terminology

Is there or is there not a hyphen in anal-retentive?

Yes, when it precedes the object it modifies (he is an anal-retentive fellow) but not when it follows (that fellow is anal retentive).

Beethoven Piano Sonatas

Beethoven's last three piano sonatas, numbers 30, 31, 32, Opus 109, 110 and 111, are among the most technically difficult written. Mitsuko Uchida did a recording for Philips praised as one of the finest available in a digital format.

Saturday 25 November 2006

International Buy Nothing Day

Take a break from commercialism, consumerism, and the rat race with International Buy Nothing Day on Saturday 26 November. This is the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday that is the biggest sales event in their year.

More on consumerism at Adbusters.

Sunday 26 November 2006

Recycle in Whitsundays

I need hardly mention that recycling isn't a major interest in the Whitsundays. Too far away from population centres to make it economic, I suspect. However after some private attempts at recycling, the Whitsunday Shire Council recently provided a bunch of reasonably attractive recycling bins by the Lagoon and along the foreshore, plus a few in Proserpine. Not before time, but well done.

Monday 27 November 2006

The SciFi Channel

Seems I gave up on TV about 9 months too early. Foxtel and Austar plan to start carrying the SciFi Channel this very week, on 1 December. TVI General Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Hudson says the launch was seven years in the planning. They even mention advertisers may appreciate many sci-fi viewers are older, early adapters. mentions shows called Medium, Battlestar Galactica, The 4400, Farscape and Stargate Atlantis. All in 4:3 instead of 16:9, or so I hear.

No Foxtel here in the country. I suspect Austar will not make the SciFi Channel available in whatever cable thing we receive free. But it is mostly too little, too late. I'd rather buy the DVD sets, sometime when (if) they are cheap. These days I rarely get around to watching the DVDs I buy, but if I want to, I don't have to pay per view nor put up with advertising. As I have said before, TV is dead.

In California they don't throw their garbage away - they make it into television shows. Woody Allen - Annie Hall, 1977

Tuesday 28 November 2006

RIAA Lawyers

Interesting account by Ray Beckerman of how the RIAA attack suspected music downloaders and harass them legally.

Come to think of it, the entire Defective by Design attack on DRM seems to me a very worthwhile organisation.

I also very much liked Georg Greve's If paperback books came with DRM. A short story illustrating what DRM really is about.

The register has Pink Floyd's first manager Peter Jenner on DRM is fucked, about why the big four record labels are past their use by date.

Wednesday 29 November 2006

iPod Video

Dave Balderstone wrote in usenet:

Yes! There is an 12" screen iPod coming out in the next month. It will feature HD video, full DVD play, 120 hours of battery life, a touch screen and voice activation, cell phone and WiFi, will be 1/4" thick, weigh 7 ounces and cost under $300. Oh, and it will have projection mode so you can play your videos on the wall at, like 120" screen equivalent.

Wrong again, although only in minor details. The totally flexible paper thin screen is ePaper, and wrapped up within the cell phone sized iPod like a roller blind. It extends to the 11.2 inch display. The other side of the screen is the solar panel. The projector mode lens is at one end, so when you put the device on end on the ground, it projects onto the ceiling for watching when in bed. Many specialist movies are expected to appear for this mode. The projector mode can also project a keyboard onto a flat surface, and the ir laser scan detects your keyboarding for when you use the PDA mode. You didn't even mention the GPS and moving map car navigation system.

Thursday 30 November 2006

Apple and Vegemite

I note Amazon is getting mentioned on The Register as a result of offering a jar of Marmite as a best together item with dot Mac membership. I am aghast that the Apple online Store in Australia has failed to offer dot Mac membership together with a jar of Vegemite.