Eric Lindsay's Blog 2007 August

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Apple Event

Apple advised the media on 31 July there would be an Apple announcement about Macintosh products at Cupertino on Tuesday 7 August at 10 a.m. Speculation ramped up (again). Wow, G5 Powerbooks, finally :-) Actually, an invite (possibly fake) circulating on the web shows a roller coaster, with the text In 1998, everything changed. Let's go again. In 1998 Apple dropped Newton development, produced the Powerbook G3 portable, and introduced the first all in one iMac.

Most people seem to be expecting an new thinner version of the iMac desktop (still using a mobile CPU, but desktop hard drive). While I would like to see a quad processor, that doesn't seem likely. Speculation on Apple dropping the 17 inch model, leaving only 20 and 24 inch. I would like to see a 27 inch as well, but that also doesn't seem likely. Speculation on it having an aluminium case. Given Apple use metal for their Pro line, I think that would confuse their market position. I think they will offer a black case, at a premium. It is possible that Apple got hold of an early but small allocation of the Penryn 45 nm chipsets that Intel have been sampling fairly freely, and saying will be released in 2008. Doesn't seem likely, but it is possible. Especially if Apple say it will take a while before full stocks are available.

My 20 inch iMac G5 is only a little more than 2 years old, and does everything I need. Too early really to replace it, but if Apple give me any sort of decent excuse I will do so. I'd like to have the the 24 inch display, the built in iSight, and the remote, but it is a bit hard to justify without something extra.

Current prices of standard iMac 17 inch is A$1549 (US$999) and A$1849 (US$1199), 20 inch A$2299 (US$1499), and 24 inch A$2999 (US$1999). A direct conversion of US$1999, allowing for 10% US sales tax, is about A$2570. There is a considerable premium.

I keep hoping for an Apple version of a lightweight small tablet computer, in the well under 2 kg range. Touch display, able to use Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (just like I am using on my present iMac). Alas, I don't think it will happen. Tablets have never sold well, despite long efforts from Microsoft.

Blu-ray? You have to be joking. Price is still silly, and what would you do with it if you had one?

Maybe we will get some news of iLife and iWork upgrades. Apple might also fix .Mac, although I think it is beyond fixing.

Damn Spam History

Good article on history of spam by Michael Specter appears in The New Yorker magazine 6 August 2007 edition.

I still want a special squad of hired killers murdering spammers.

Thursday 2 August 2007

Developing Power

Cheap power for industries precludes renewable energy. Enforce renewable energy and industries leave. However emissions are international, and laws more lax or harder to enforce in developing countries. Result, even greater emissions, and less protection for the environment. For example, despite cleaning up for the Olympics next year, Beijing particulate counts are 16 times those of Sydney. Not a good sign. Against that, I recall when Sydney was a filthy mess.

If Australia first targets the highest polluters, then all the brown coal power stations in Victoria would be closed. However the 85 million tonnes of brown coal these burn annually provide the cheapest power in Australia, and their 50,000 gigawatt hours of electricity underpin Victorian industry. Given the Labor deals to get cheap energy, these plants will not be closed down.

Unlike the 20% in NSW, Queensland power demands will increase 35% in a decade. It will be met by coal (just like the rest of Australia). There is a pilot carbon dioxide capture and storage scheme for the Stanwell power station near Rockhampton. Another will be tried at Biloela. Lots of money for research, but few results as yet. A more conventional plant is the A$1.1 billion 750 MW Kogan Creek air cooled turbine plant near Chinchilla. At least this doesn't use as much scarce water. It will however burn 2.8 million tonnes of black coal a year.

Linux in China

China is adopting Microsoft, rather than Linux. Although Microsoft had to drop the price to $3. Fake Steve Jobs explains why free Linux sucks even more than a $3 Windows. I hate to agree, but he is right. Installing Linux and Linux applications sucks. Always has. It just sucks less these days. Sometimes it even works great. But you can't count on it.

Apple's OS X is built on free and open source software. It does all the work of integrating everything into a really workable Unix desktop. I am happy to pay someone not to have to organise that myself. Plus I don't care if the GUI is open source. If I want to run some specialist Linux program, odds are someone has compiled it for me.

Andrew Morton told me in early 2004 that Linux made a great server. I had asked him about using it on the desktop, if you didn't want to fiddle with it. I got the impression a year or so to go. So I bought a Macintosh. My partner Jean uses Ubuntu these days on her Dell notebooks. She almost always gets everything to work (although I wish she could track down the damn beeping on her latest Dell). We check reports on Ubuntu on whatever model she intends to buy. However it takes hours of effort to get the last peripheral running or the last package installed, usually over weeks or months.

Friday 3 August 2007

Wind Farms

Wind farms in Australia can be dismissed as an almost irrelevant niche energy source. While wind power probably could be expanded by as much as a factor of 10, at considerable expense, that is not much use in most areas. Tasmania is a reasonable area for wind farms. So, to a lesser extent, is South Australia. However in most of Australia there do not appear to be reasonable strength winds. You are really looking for consistent 10 metre per second wind, and in most of Australia that is scarce.

Power output in wind turbines is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. There is no way around that.

Saturday 4 August 2007

NSW Power Price

The Iemma state Labor government enquiry by Professor Tony Owen into electricy generation brought no surprises, but some blunt language. Government owned Macquarie Generation and Delta Electricity say a new baseload station will be needed by 2013-2014. This essentially means the permits must be granted in the very near future.

The interconnects to Queensland and Snowy Mountains can handle 1000 MW, about 10% of NSW electricity. However drought can quickly reduce availability. Delta specifically warn against use of peaking and intermediate load generators to avoid baseload plant, as residential prices could rise 30%.

Essentially, it means yet another coal fired power plant, although it may be coal seam gas. Macquarie want to add two 900 MW turbines at Bayswater, using less than 10% of the water used by older coal power stations. Delta want two 750 MW coal fired plants added to its existing Lithgow site.

Power and Aluminium

Aluminium production from alumina generates around 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite 20% increased efficiency since 1990, production has increased 64%. Electricity makes up 30% of the production costs of aluminium in Australia. In Australia, aluminium smelters use 29,000 gigawatt hours a year, while the 8.3 million residential consumers use 57,000 GWh.

Sunday 5 August 2007

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Cars

Australian Design Rule 81/01 measures fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions for light vehicles. Australian Design Rule 79/01 - Emission control for light vehicles does not limit carbon dioxide emissions.

I note that the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Voluntary Code of Practice - Reducing the Fuel Consumption of New Light Vehicles declares an intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An intent is hardly an requirement.

From 2010, no car sold in Australia should produce more than 400 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled. How about adding that to the Australian Design Rules?

Monday 6 August 2007

Vampires Save at Blood Banks

We had to drive to Mackay so Jean could donate at the blood bank. Despite leaving the Whitsunday Terraces at 7:30, it took us until 10:15 to reach the hospital. Stop at Bloomsbury for milkshake for breakfast. Then slow traffic at various spots. We still had 15 minutes in hand, which was good.

The paperwork took forever, but the folks there were helpful. Volunteers help out there also.

I managed to lose my phone in the waiting room. Noticed it before we drove off, and found it under a chair.

We dropped a computer monitor off for Leanne, in a slight diversion before leaving Mackay. Also left a door mat, saying One nice person and one grouch live here. Leanne had liked the idea when I mentioned finding one at the Airlie Beach markets.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Proserpine Sugar Mill Tours

Proserpine Co-operative Sugar Mill once again has two hour mill tours from Monday to Friday at 11 a.m. Costs $20. You have to wear closed shoes for the tour.

Tiger Moth Adventures

Peter Hearnshaw's Tiger Moth Adventures has been at Airlie Beach for a year now. He has flown Tiger Moths for 20 years. This one was built in 1940.

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Apple Event iMac Launch

At their Apple Town Hall event on Tuesday, Apple released new versions of the iMac, priced at US$1199 (US$300 less) and US$1499 for the 20 inch, US$1799 for the 24 inch (a US$200 price drop). The 17 inch models have been dropped, but the price of the entry level 20 inch has dropped to the price of the standard 17 inch. There does not seem to be a low end model, so expect complaints from the price sensitive end of the market. The 20 inch uses a LG Philips LM201WE3 LCD, as seen in this disassembled iMac Core2Duo photo.

These models have Santa Rosa Core2Duo mobile processors at up to 2.8 GHz, similar to the Macbook Pro laptop. Memory is still 1 GB, which works for Tiger, but I fear might be tight for Leopard. Also, memory is DDR2, which I believe is slated to be replaced by DDR3 (faster cycle via deeper prefetch buffer, longer latency, better power consumption) sometime soon. Not that I am sure that matters as yet. Hard drives can be up to 1 TB on the 24 inch model (yeah!)

Brushed aluminium case with a glass cover, but it still has the chin. Drat, I hoped they could reduce the chin, and the black display surround adds a five o'clock shadow to the face. At least it hides the camera. A new thinner aluminium accented keyboard, that really looks small. I hope the keys feel good.

Glossy displays, with a black surround. I am not sure I want a glossy display (I live in a very bright room in the tropics). Last time I looked at a Macbook Pro with glossy screen vs the matt screen, I decided I probably wouldn't be able to cope with the glossy display. This is a bit of a bummer.

Video is now ATI Radeon HD2600 PRO or HD2400XT, which the gamers will probably hate. However as the first graphics cards with 65nm feature size, they probably dramatically reduce power consumption to around 45 watts absolute maximum. That has to be important to Apple designers. The ATI is mostly substantially slower than Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT on a synthetic benchmark under Windows, but keeps up at 1920 x 1200. Maybe that is the UVD video processor support? Sounds like it will be a good match to iLife applications, even if gamers complain. I'm waiting to see reviews of how well the video goes in non-game applications.

I hope the included remote control has been changed to metal from the previous white plastic model. Since the mouse has not changed from white, I fear that this remote has not been updated. Also, is there a magnetic spot on the new iMac to leave the remote? It seems the magnetic remote control fastener is gone. I have heard mention the magnet wasn't strong enough to keep the remote in place anyhow, so perhaps this wasn't as good an idea as I thought it was (I don't have one).

Also gone is the sleep light. So how the hell do you tell what operating state it is in?

The new iMac design meets the July 2007 Energy Star 4.0 specification. This is great for low power consumption enthusiasts, since it enforces better than 80% power supply efficiency at anything over 20% supply rating. The sleep and other low power modes are tougher also. I like that a lot (except for losing the sleep light).

Apple Event Mac mini upgrade

Apple refreshed the Mac mini. Many rumour sites expected the lowest cost model in the Apple line to be dropped. Apple only mentioned the upgrade in their Q & A, not during their presentation. I imagine that means an older 1.83 GHz Core2Duo, not Santa Rosa, stuffed in the same old motherboard, but it still means the entire computer line now has 64 bit processors. Increased to 1 GB of memory. 80 GB hard drive. Combo drive, for US$599. If you want 120 GB hard drive, 2 GHz processor and a Superdrive, you need the US$799 version. Does seem to have Gigabit Ethernet. Still shared memory GMA950 integrated video. Still 802.11g, not 802.11n draft. I think this probably does mean the Mac mini will get discontinued later this year.

Not competitive in hardware with a cheap Dell tower, but that isn't the idea. Should be fine for some purposes, especially as an introduction machine. It essentially repackages the Macbook. Would make a nice home audio machine. Not so sure about it as a video server.

Apple Event Thin Bluetooth keyboard

As well as the thin USB keyboard (with two USB 2.0 ports), Apple will also release a thin Bluetooth keyboard at the end of August. To my delight, this one lacks the numeric keypad, and is laptop sized. Promises to be much smaller and lighter than my existing white Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I really like having a chance to get a smaller wireless keyboard. I used small wireless keyboards for years before moving to an Apple. I can see myself ordering that as soon as I've had a chance to try the keys.

Thursday 9 August 2007

Apple Event AirPort Extreme

Seems Apple have silently upgraded the AirPort Extreme wireless router to Gigabit Ethernet. This is very welcome, as most people noticed this just made life hard if you wanted to run a fast network. Must start getting some Cat 6 wiring together.

Apple Event iLife '08 Launch

Finally, an upgrade for iLife, available for US$79 (A$99, A$129 family). Not that the previous iLife version wasn't working fine for me. iLife 08 needs OS X 10.4.9 or higher.

iPhoto has events, groups of photos taken on the same day (you can have multiple events per day, or multiple days per event). Also, you can hide photos you don't want to see each time.

Brand new iMovie lets you make a movie quicker and easier, with drag and drop of video just like text. Imports from AVCHD, HDV and DV camcorders. Also export to YouTube, iPod or AppleTV easily. Reported not to work on any G4 model. However Apple make iMovie HD '06 available for download if you own iLife '08.

GarageBand adds a virtual stage for ease of creating music.

iWeb lets you use Google Map, AdSense or add movies. More Apple designed themes.

I ordered a family pack of iLife.

Apple Event iWork '08 Launch

New versions of Pages '08 and Keynote, plus the long awaited Numbers intelligent tables and spreadsheet module. Price is US$79 (A$99, A$129 family), available now. Requires OS X 10.4.10 or later.

Numbers '08 puts multiple intelligent tables on a graphics canvas. Rearrange and resize spreadsheet tables, and add columns. Automatic header and footer rows. 2D and 3D charts. Interactive printing, to suit paper sizes available to you. I don't need much of a spreadsheet (I have been using the one in my PDA) so this will probably suit my needs.

Pages '08 says has a word processing mode, as well as the page layout mode. However the word processing is probably just a page layout mode template similar to word processing. I have always added the bulk of my text by writing it in TextEdit, although I make minor editing changes in Pages. Personally I am not sure word processing and page layout should be done with the same program, but it does make last minutes changes easier. Now 140 Apple templates. Change tracking, to assist with editing.

Import and export many Microsoft Office files, including MS XML, or export PDF. Doesn't seem to handle ODF format.

I ordered a family pack of iWork also.

Apple Event .Mac

Dot Mac has had an update, with storage increasing from 1 GB to 10 GB. Transfer limits go up to 100 GB a month. Personal domain names will now be possible, in conjunction with names purchased elsewhere. Web gallery photos integrated with iLife, and look good. Still sounds too little, too late.

Friday 10 August 2007

New iMac Problems

Reports of condensation behind glass screen front or yellow dust under screen of new iMac models. Photos of the second looked to me like an LCD lamination failure.

I haven't had a chance to download the presentation as yet, to look at Steve Jobs body language. Reports are that most of the presentation was about iLife and iWork. The Mac mini was mentioned only in response to a question afterwards. The Airport Extreme and the Mac Pro Raid hardwear were not mentioned at all. There wasn't a lot of time spent on the iMac presentation. I think the emphasis on software and dismissal of hardware is relevant.

I still think the Mac mini will get killed off this year.

The current iMac feels to me like an interim model.

Saturday 11 August 2007

Comparing iMacs

As I noted last week, prices of previous iMac 17 inch was A$1549 (US$999) and A$1849 (US$1199), 20 inch A$2299 (US$1499), and 24 inch A$2999 (US$1999). A direct conversion of US$1999, allowing for 10% US sales tax, was about A$2570.

Prices of the new 20 inch models are A$1698 and A$2149. Prices of the two 24 inch models are A$2599 and A$3339. So the lowest and highest prices are both higher than previously, but you get a lot more computer for your money. The two middle machines are closest to the old models, and they are cheaper.

Camels at Airlie Beach

The guy who who has run the Whitsunday camel rides at Airlie Beach on Market Days for the past year is Flynn Moustafa. The camels are certainly nicely dressed up. He also takes the camels to the Bowen markets.

Sunday 12 August 2007

iLife '08

No problems installing the new version of iLife. Then I got nervous and decided to read the Apple Forums before using it, just in case there were conversion problems. While it didn't sound terrible, I recall the iPhoto4 to iPhoto5 slowdown problems, so I duplicated my iPhoto Library, just in case.

I was interested to note that Apple now make the iPhotoLibrary directory a package, so it isn't as easily altered by users using Finder. Changing the contents was a source of problems for many people. You can still access the contents by right clicking the library and using Show Package Contents.

Old Toad (a very helpful iPhoto user) mentions iPhoto 08 is now able to change EXIF capture dates on original files, using Photo < Adjust Date and Time menu. Also writes title into the IPTC Title field, the original file name to the Headline field, the Comments to the Description field and the keywords to the Keyword field upon exporting. Now if only you could add GPS data.

Eight bounces to start iPhoto '08. Maybe 15 seconds for the display of events to appear, so whatever conversion was done was quick! Display of photos within events was awesome. The display speed looked great. I will be interested how well this goes on my Powerbook G4, with 512 MB of memory.

iWork '08

No problems installing the new version of iWork. It left my previous version alone, in its previous directory. My family pack serial number was accepted by Pages. The range of templates in Pages is considerably greater.

Monday 13 August 2007

Universal Trial DRM Free Music

Universal Music Group will do a six month trial of MP3 music downloads without DRM. That is good. The bad side is not being available via iTunes Store. Most other online music stores I have encountered have been a pain in the arse, so I probably won't try these. Mind you, the music distribution business is mildly ill at the moment, and that may be fatal. Especially if folks at Universal keep shoving their head up their arse.

EMI did their music the right way in May, dropping DRM. I believe they have been rewarded with a sales increase online.

Sets scene. Universal Music appears on an internet store that is inconvenient or harder to use than iTunes. Potential customer decides if they are going to that much trouble, they may as well get the thing from a an equally inconvenient torrent that doesn't cost anything. Universal Music get no money from potential customer. Brilliant idea from Universal. Unless the idea is for Universal to discover piracy has increased, so they can claim going without DRM is a failure.

Travel to Mackay

Another trip to Mackay scheduled so Jean could make a deposit in the Blood Bank. But first, see the surgeon and get new X-rays with a decent view of her left leg. These reveal the left hip joint is just as bad as the right. Since she is at present having most trouble with her left leg, this gets the first hip replacement. Ceramic ball into plastic socket supported by titanium. Two weeks to go.

We also stopped at a specialist chemist shop, to collect disability appliances for Jean during her recovery. Better now than after the operation. She gets more advice on this from the hospital during the pre-operation conference next week.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Apple Keynote

Watched the Steve Jobs new aluminium iMac keynote finally. Notebook sales up over industry. All in one world. Aluminium and glass, both recyclable. Glossy display, no matte version. Jobs didn't seem to me nearly as enthusiastic, nor did the audience.

iLife '08 release. Lengthy demonstration.

iPhoto Events, automatically doing albums without manual intervention. Skimming through photos in events. Use spacebar to select a photo to represent an event. Split and merge events. Looks really nice.

1.7 million .Mac subscribers. New Web Gallery using Web 2.0 Ajax stuff, with one button photo sharing from iPhoto. Contributors photos sent via email to your gallery. Synch to your iPhoto library. Photos can be sent from an iPhone. Multiple galleries. Albums on the web can be skimmed, just like in iPhoto. That is pretty cool. Pity Australia doesn't have the bandwidth to use it.

iMovie completely replaced. One library for all your video, on internal or external drives. Scroll through your videos, and skim though faster than real time, like your photos. DV, HD or still camera movies. Does look really easy to use (if your Macintosh can keep up - G4 is not fast enough).

Turns out Apple just made iMovie 08 difficult to use with a G4 system. Teksanity on iMovie on G4 gives a list of patches needed to force iMovie to work on a Powerbook. Apple may break that on later updates.

iWeb adds Google Maps and Google advertising, and HTML snippets as live web widgets. Media index page. Personal domain name support. Themes can be changed after publishing.

iDVD has extra themes, upgraded.

Magic GarageBand and other enhancements. Selection of genres on a stage. Select the instruments. Looks great for a quick backing sound.

.Mac goes from 1 GB to 10 GB of space. Price unchanged.

1.8 million purchasers of iWork. Adds Numbers as a table organiser and spreadsheet.

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Weddings Web Site

I started working on the Whitsunday Weddings Photography web site, after Peter and Leah visited me with more material on Tuesday.

Pauline Hansen is Back!

Just when you think it isn't going to get weirder, Pauline Hansen has registered a political party in her own name, and is standing for the senate.

Intel Penryn Release Date

Reports that Intel have let slip an 11 November release date for their 45 nm Penryn class CPUs. Their site briefly listed seven Xeon CPUs with 12 MB of L2 cache (6 MB per core). Speeds ranging from 2 GHz to 3.16 GHz, with 1333 MH frontside bus. This means they are Harpertown quads, containing two dual core Wolfdale CPUs. Not much there for the portable computers, nor the iMac.

I sort of expect to see Apple announcing Mac Pros using these at the January 2008 MacWorld show, if not before. I gather the first Penryn chips will be socket compatible.

Now I am not expecting Penryn class updates for the portable computers or iMac until second quarter 2008. Apple don't use anything except mobile optimised CPUs in anything except the Mac Pro and their server range. The iMac is a giant screen (20 and 24 inch) transportable computer without a battery pack. From the Apple engineering view, it is a all in one portable computer, not a desktop. Sticking to mobile CPUs means the frontside bus will not go over 800 MHz. Standard clocks will range from 2.1 GHz to 2,6 GHz, with the more expensive Extreme models having an unlocked multiplier. The only question is whether to wait for the Montevina mobile upgrades.

On the other hand, I don't want to wait for the Nehalem microarchitecture to replace Core2. What if it is a dud? However mainly I don't want to wait too long to update from my Powerbook G4 and iMac G5 ALS. iMovie '08 already can't run on a G4. I expect other Apple programs will soon require at least a G5. In addition, it would not surprise me if Leopard works substantially better on Intel than on PPC.

Thursday 16 August 2007

Uranium Sales to India

Has the Liberal Party leadership gone totally senile? Selling uranium to India, a country that has not signed and observed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, goes against treaties Australia has previously supported. No sign, no sale! It also guarantees opposition on many fronts in Australia. This idea is utter idiocy, no matter what India says.

Friday 17 August 2007

DRM on Computers

Peter Gutmann points out Microsoft has wasted a lot of time in Vista catering to Hollywood's AACS DRM push for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. See Ken Fisher at Ars Technica for an outline of AACS and DRM problems in computer operating systems. George Ou rebuts Gutmann's claims, as does Ed Bott's rebuttal of FUD about Vista DRM.

My previous advice to boycott DRM still applies. I won't buy any product with that level of DRM. This means I refuse to buy Blu-ray, HD-DVD, or any TV product with HDCP. This boycott is intended to reduce the incentive for Hollywood to push their DRM and their ICT flag. You should note that if you are not in a position to simply buy a complying computer if you change your mind (I am), then a failed boycott means you can't access HD. For me however, Hollywood and the movie producers can get stuffed. There is plenty of free, non-commercial stuff out there on the web.

In the meantime, I am buying DVDs where I can routinely break the stupid Macrovision DRM. I expect to eventually have much of the media I want on my computer. I long ago dumped my TV set, and use a computer monitor for watching TV.

Compact Disc 25th Anniversary

The 25th anniversary of the commercial release of digital audio on the compact disk on 17 August 1982 by Philips in Germany. CD was an enormous success, and remains so, despite falling sales in the past year or so. CD sales overtook records in 1988. However in the USA, CD unit sales and revenue dropped 8% in 2005, and another 12% in 2006.

Saturday 18 August 2007

Thai Dinner

Finally managed a birthday dinner with Rex and Myra. Sound levels allowed conversation, and the food was even better than I remembered. I enjoyed the chance to get out to eat with company.

Fake Science from Hollywood

Hollywood magic always looks flashier than real science. Hollywood blockbusters have limited science literacy (pdf), which doubtless explains why so many people still believe crap like homeopathy, religion, and fairies in the bottom of the garden. The paper, by C J Efthimiou and R A Llewellyn gives simplified equations of what would really happen in various Hollywood scenes, from Speed, Spiderman, Aeon Flux, The Core, Superman, X-Men: The Last Stand and The Chronicles of Riddick. Shows that Hollywood produce crap.

Sunday 19 August 2007

Software Awards Scam

Software awards scams abound says Andy Brice. He proves it.

Monday 20 August 2007

Vernor Vinge at Hotchips

Vernor Vinge comments on failure modes for circuit chips at the Hotchips symposium. Interesting.

Travel to Mackay Blood Bank

Drive to Mackay. Visit hospital for pre-operation advice. Visit specialist chemist for Canadian crutches as advised by hospital. Visit blood bank yet again. Return to Whitsunday Terraces.

Apple vs Dell

Apple have around 150 stores in the USA, whereas Dell mostly sells over the internet. However look at these photos of Dell store and Apple store in a mall. Note the Dell store at Valley Fair is empty, whereas the Apple store is packed. Apple are doing something right in their stores, at least in California. Apple sales are up, Dell sales are also up, but not by as much.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Blue-ray vs HD-DVD

Paramount and DreamWorks will release work in HD-DVD, not Blue-ray. Paramount formerly agreed to support both formats. Reason given was lower manufacturing costs. However they probably also didn't want to see a media entertainment rival like Sony studio productions also the supplier and controller of hardware.

Sounds like the fight between the high definition formats continues. Obviously no point in buying into either one for consumers. I will stick to DVD. After all, regular CDs continue to kill SACD and DVD-Audio. Of course, with market idiocy in DVDs like region coding, deliberate broken features like DRM, and these stupid seasick menus, you have to rip DVDs to your computer anyhow to make them of use.

Once the DRM is cracked, a couple of DVDs full of data will do a lot better job than any HD disks stuffed with DRM ... until we have enough bandwidth to download instead of having disks.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Adobe Flash and H.264 support

Nice blog post from Adobe engineer Tinic Uro on H.264 and MPEG-4 in Adobe Flash.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Fone Zone Buys Next Byte

Something strange. Fone Zone announce they are buying Next Byte for A$21 million, plus 16.1 million new shares. Why does a phone company acquire the 17 stores of the largest specialist retailer of Apple products and services? Sure, Apple is expanding in the market, and the iPhone looks like a hit. Fone Zone say strategic acquisition, and income stream. Cost was 5 times Next Byte's EBIT of A$6.3 million on revenue of A$105 million. Interestingly, Fone Zone are Telstra largest Premium dealer, with 150 stores. They also sell the Nokia N95 outright at A$1400.

Friday 24 August 2007

WARTS Pirate Pete

Whitsunday Youth Theatre Group (WARTS) present The Adventures of Pirate Pete at Proserpine tonight, and during the weekend. This is WARTS 8th annual production. WARTS will be renamed Whitsunday Youth Theatre. The group gave a presentation at the Airlie Beach markets the previous Saturday.

Saturday 25 August 2007

iPhone Unlocked

First software unlock of iPhone SIM, so you can use it with a different service provider. Great. Look forward to seeing details. Seems they intend to provide a commercial unlock service.

Sunday 26 August 2007

Travel to Mackay

Jean's hip replacement is scheduled tomorrow at Pioneer Valley Private Hospital. We left the Whitsunday Terraces and drove to Mackay a little after 2 p.m. Having taken this precaution, there was no delay any place along the highway, and we reached our motel before 5 p.m.

The Windmill Motel at Highway Plaza, North Mackay was pleasant, new, and in my doubtless biased view, overpriced. Jean had booked a few days on Wotif at a more reasonable tariff. To get a ground floor room, we were across the road from reception and the restaurant. This explained why some rooms (there) got room service, but we needed to have takeaway from the restaurant. As Jean is the one with mobility problems, collecting dinner was no problem for me. The food (pasta, and a roast lamb for me) was fine.

The room we had was a curious mixture of the very good, and the badly planned. Good amount of space available. Even with a Queen bed, there was space for a writing table, a breakfast table with the tiny fridge under one end, a large square coffee table, and two large bedside tables. The built in mirror door wardrobe was also large. There were two regular chairs, and a small lounge chair. The bathroom was spacious, with a large shower.

The lighting was very good by motel standards. As usual the best lighting was in the bathroom, with a large tube fluorescent over the mirror, and a large circular fluorescent as the main bathroom light. The main room also had one of the large circular fluorescent lights in the ceiling. There was a downlight over the writing desk. Two built in bed lamps, which being halogen would be difficult to direct when hot.

There was a data port for internet access. The room was well supplied with double power points, at the desk, by the bed, and near the fridge.

So what was wrong? The bedside tables had sharp corners at eye level when sleeping. The TV was on a sharp cornered wall mounted stand above the fridge, leaving you in constant risk of bumping into it while using that area. The window turned out to be made of glass bricks, which meant no natural air circulation. You had to use the ceiling fan and/or the air conditioner, whether you wanted to or not. The tiny fridge made a big noise. There was also a constant noise from some other machinery nearby, probably some other air conditioning unit. The room was basically noisy. The bed was comfortable, but the pillows were way too thick for me.

As motel rooms go it wasn't terrible, but it could have been so much better.

Water Tanks

Health alarm on drinking from water tanks, according to David Murray writing in The Sunday Mail. AMA's Dr Michael Whitby warns against drinking from rainwater tanks in cities. Queensland Health warns against drinking from rainwater tanks. Health Minister Stephen Robertson warns tanks could become mosquito breeding grounds.

I warned about this when this water tank idiocy was first promoted.

I also note warnings that imported tanks may not cope with Australian conditions.

Monday 27 August 2007

Pioneer Valley Hospital

Jean's hip replacement operation took place at Pioneer Valley Private Hospital, on the north side of Mackay, near where the Bruce Highway enters the town. Dr Steven Megson is the surgeon. We set out from the motel around 10 a.m. as Jean was due in at 10:30 a.m.

A fair amount of sitting around, waiting for various administrative and medical things to be complete. Jean was wheeled away from her room next to the nurses station, bed and all, at around 1:30 p.m.

I went to Mt Pleasant Shopping Centre to get something to eat.

Hip Replacement

Jean was returned to her room around 5:30 p.m. about an hour later than expected. The surgeon explained the x-rays had shown she needed a size 1 hip socket replacement. However she actually needed a size 0, the smallest one. Jean was fully awake, and showing good spirit on her return. She wasn't moving from the bed, as she had a drip, two drains, a catheter, and a heap of monitor gear connected to her.

Jean was in good spirits considering she was just out of the theatre, and ate a bit of food when offered. However when the nurses started transfusing her whole blood cells around 9 p.m., she was in considerable pain from the flow of the cold cells. I don't think she will get much sleep tonight.

I got back to the Windmill motel around 10 p.m., and managed to send gmail to the people on Jean's list of folks to notify.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Jean Hip Replacement - Day after

I didn't sleep well, and was awake at 4 a.m. Obviously I had no problem leaving the Windmill motel early. Not sure where I will stay this evening as yet. Luckily I was able to get a room at the Bona Vista motel, just up the road from the hospital.

Jean was having breakfast when I arrived. Today Jean got let loose from the monitors and so on. The nursing staff had given her morphine during the night to ease the problems with the red blood cells going back in. The doctor had also arranged the drip to go into her other hand, as she was having so much trouble.

Getting washed wasn't pleasant for her, but at least that was complete before she was wheeled off to get another set of xrays. She also changed room, but that just involved wheeling the bed back to the new room outside the high dependency area.

Jean wanted me to note her hospital lunch was marinated rack of lamb on a puree of sweet potato with a rosemary jus, plus carrot and snow peas.

Jean had been looking fairly good, but was very tired from lack of sleep both after the operation and from sleeping poorly for about five weeks before it because of pain. As the spinal block wore off, Jean was getting less and less comfortable, as various monitors were removed. There was also some mixup about when she was getting some pain control tablets. The staff eventually gave her some morphine, which was just taking effect when Mike the physiotherapist came in.

Jean managed to stand with a walking frame, shuffle her legs convincingly, get a few steps in, and sit in a chair for a fair while. She found this hard, but was coping very well, except for starting to get really sleepy. So we got the nurse to help her back to bed.

Jean's dinner was roast beef salad, but she couldn't finish it. I left to take my stuff to the new motel, and get some food myself. Managed a walk for that. When I returned to the hospital Jean was very sleepy, and I soon left, hoping she managed both pain relief and getting some sleep this time.

Total Eclipse of Moon

Total eclipse of the moon commencing at 6:51 p.m. with the moon getting more and more red until totality at 7:52 p.m. The moon will still be visible, thanks to sunlight refracted via the atmosphere of the earth. With blue light scattered in out sky, this leaves the moon bathed by faint red light. The moon starts emerging into sunlight at 9:23 p.m. and is free of shadow at 10:24 p.m.

Alas, there was a cloud cover in Mackay, so all I saw was glimpses of light.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Jean Hip Replacement - recovering

Jean was having breakfast, a mushroom omelette She was talking with Dr Megson when I arrived. Although Jean had not had a good night, and had not slept well, she got a lot better as the day went on. She was getting better treatment for pain, although with some problem communicating with the nursing staff. Plus she had the drains removed during the middle of the morning. She got to the bathroom for a shower for the first time, using the walker.

Jean's first attempt at walking with the crutches went very well, with her getting as far as the nursing station before returning to her room. She spent a fair bit of time out of bed. She was also getting much better at both getting out of bed and getting back into bed without additional help.

I certainly hope that this time she gets a good night sleep. The signs do look better.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Jean Hip replacement - stairs

Jean was getting around much better on crutches. This time the physiotherapist got her to walk all the way along the hall to an outside verandah, and then down seven steps. Jean made her way down, then back up, and then repeated it. Returning to her room was via the entire central area of the hospital. She did find it tiring.

I left the hospital after 3:30 p.m. and returned to the Whitsunday Terraces at Airlie Beach. She didn't need me there any more.

Friday 31 August 2007

Doctor Shortage Critical

The Whitsunday Times front page proclaims Doctor need now critical, as it reports on Dr Yehia Abd El-Baky meeting with Federal member for Dawson, De-Anne Kelly. This reinforces warning in June of shortages in medical staff in the Whitsundays.

Windows and Apple MacBook Pro

What do Microsoft workers do when they need to reduce their stress levels on holidays? Run a Macbook Pro, and use Parallels when they need to use a Windows application.

Then the author starts a list about what is wrong with the Windows user interface, relative to Macintosh OS X.

The problems with Windows include stealing focus, irritating messages, make it hard to stop hardware, reboot without permission, and pester about rebooting soon. Not that you can't come up with a list of Mac OS X annoyances as well.