Eric Lindsay's Blog 2008 June

Sunday 1 June 2008

Port of Airlie Marina Comics

Perhaps what I need to do is to do some comics about the Port of Airlie Marina. Seems that perhaps Comic Life is the way to do this. Should the emphasis be comedy or tragedy? Considering Port of Airlie Marina construction noise is killing the eastern end of Airlie Beach, I guess it is a tragedy.

APA comments

Discovered I was close to a deadline for comments for FLAP, so I located the missing mailing and spent most of the afternoon and evening writing up comments to the members. Luckily I can send them as a PDF and have them printed in the USA. Snail mail would never have met the deadline. Isn't it about time that paper died as well?

Power Outage

Power went out for a second twice at 1:34 p.m. today at the Whitsunday Terraces. No indications as to why this happened.

Monday 2 June 2008

Delicious Library

I downloaded Delicious Monster's Delicious Library program for cataloguing my DVDs and books. It has some neat features, and some really fancy special effects. I was only allowed to put in about 25 items, and even with this tiny number some features ran slow. Not a good sign, since that was a black mark in the earlier version.

Scanning DVDs and books via my cheap Canon MV700i DV cam corder was great. Delicious Library captures the bar code really quickly, despite my unsteady hand and vague waving of the item in the direction of the camera. Unfortunately the Canon camera refuses to stay switched on, and after way too short a time, tells me it is going to go into automatic shutdown, despite being plugged into mains power. So far I haven't been able to switch this feature off.

OK, scanning is great. However it is also almost totally useless. In the first dozen movies I scanned with Delicious Library, all except one was unknown. So I tried a shelf full of books. Got about three items out of 25 (some books didn't have bar codes). One of the items that it picked up pointed to the wrong item in any case. Basically, using Amazon as your only database source really sucks. If your books and DVDs come from outside the few countries where Amazon has its sites, scanning is a waste of time. A real pity, as it seems to have great promise.

The main problem I encountered early was that the Amazon data just didn't match my DVDs or books. I ended up having to retype at least half the details. This is similar to early problems with iTunes (especially for people with mostly classical music), but eventually iTunes got way better data. I know I sure contributed enough obscure CDs data to Gracenote.

Cute items in Delicious Library included DVD and book covers getting filled from the top down. Also, deleting a book was indicated by the book catching on fire. Great special effects. I showed that to Jean and she rolled her eyes. I loved it (that figures, doesn't it?) However it doesn't make up for the initial Amazon source of the Delicious Library database just not being even close to good enough. The sales area for software is world wide, and being country centric just doesn't do it any more. It will get even worse when the largest middle class in the world is split between China and India.

Since you can add your own material, I could use Delicious Library. However the overheads just seemed too high to continue my test.

I decided to download DVDPedia and try that. It seems to have an active developer community. Another possibility is to use an online DVD collection database like DVDSpot. I am thinking a web based community stands a better chance of having decent data from countries other than the USA. Well, there goes another day.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Skype Nomad

Here is something weird I just read in The Australian. A challenge to travel around the world in 33 days non-stop. Skype mean non-stop. You have to sleep on something that is moving. Rebecca Campbell found it includes travelling in jets, on dog sleds, on camels, in canoes and sky-diving. The Nomad non-stop travel blog starts here. OK, cute lady doing something groovy, what is not to like? I hope she manages the trip without going insane.

Scanning, scanning

I have been using my old 15 inch PowerBook connected to a Brother DCP-150C multifunction all-in-one to scan various old photographs. Over the past month and a bit I scanned almost 500 photos. Then the scanner stopped scanning. Switching the scanner off and on didn't fix it, neither did powering it down, nor did connecting and unconnecting the USB cable.

I finally had to reboot the PowerBook. Not sure what the problem was, but scans continued uneventfully after that. The PowerBook had only been running for a month or so. Well, OK, it had been running 51 days, with the last reboot being to install the Brother software.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

OS X 10.5 Leopard Security Guide

Apple have released a security configuration guide for Leopard OS X 10.5. Anyone using Leopard needs to read it. If you can't understand it, check that whoever handles security for your computer has read it. If you don't think it matters, sooner or later, something will bite you, probably hard. The Twenty First Century is no time to use insecure computers.

Energy Efficient Light Exchange

Exchange five old incandescent bulbs for five compact fluorescent bulbs (incorrectly described as energy efficient bulbs). State Labor member for Whitsunday Jan Jarrett got her picture in the Whitsunday Coast Guardian newspaper swapping bulbs with Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Mike Brunker. The council and Ergon Energy provided a coupon to local households for 15,000 bulbs, to be swapped between 2 June and the end of June. Ms Jarrett claims savings to householders of about $100 over the life of each globe.

Do I need to explain why I think this whole light bulb effort is utter crap?

Thursday 5 June 2008

World Environment Day

Who noticed? Two page spread in the Whitsunday Times. One article saying solar hot water can reduce power consumption from hot water heaters. Mind you, with the vast majority of people in Airlie Beach living in apartments rather than homes, most can not ever install solar hot water. They don't own a roof space. Also the hard water here ruins solar hot water systems. Ecosmart have a clever plumbing scheme to ensure cold water isn't wasted from hot water taps for showers. Easier if installed in new bathrooms, or when doing major replacements. Plants Whitsunday say plant native and edible plants (again, most residents here in Airlie Beach don't own gardens). Battery World advertise their battery recycling scheme. Sports Power advertise bicycles (I liked that until I noticed my street has a 24 degree slope warning). Plus Whitsunday Escape now has a Beneteau Lagoon 420 hybrid electric charter boat. That sounds cool! Maybe not practical, but cool.

Pull Apart Laser Printer

Great article from Evil Mad Scientist on pulling apart a Hewlett Packard HP2600N color laser printer. Why would you do this? Because you can, and it contains some really neat components. Also, because the cost of replacement toner and drum is such that it does not pay to replace them.

It is cheaper to throw away a new laser printer once it is empty than to replace the toner. There will always be some other new colour laser printer than can be purchased cheaper than a set of toner. There is something utterly insane about any society in which this makes economic sense.

Friday 6 June 2008

149th Anniversary of Queensland

Celebrating the 149th anniversary of the founding of Queensland, and Local Government week. Whitsunday Regional Council doing a breakfast at Proserpine and at Bowen for members of the community. If they had a breakfast at Airlie Beach lagoon I could have avoided eating at McDonalds. I doubt anyone will send sympathy cards.

Copying DVDs

Having finally got all my DVDs out of my way by putting them on shelves in my closet, I then got them out again and started ripping them to hard drive. No, there is no logic in this. It was mainly that my old PowerBook wasn't in use scanning my old photos, and I had a Western Digital 1.5 TB hard drive I wanted to test. I copied the most recent version I could find of Mac the Ripper over to the PowerBook, and started ripping during the day. By the time the evening TV News (mostly clips from advertisers) was over, I was on the 15th DVD. At this rate I will have all the drama DVDs ripped within a week. That feels really great.

Obviously I needed some way to view the DVDs. I don't have a TV (since TV in Australia is basically crap), but my 24 inch computer monitor is larger than the last TV I owned. Apple's Front Row is perfectly happy displaying ripped DVDs. Yeah! So I just need to alias my movies folder from my 1.5 TB drive to the Movies folder on my main drive. Front Row will show the movies on its menus. No, it isn't as flexible as full scale home theatre personal computer (HTPC) but it is sufficient for me. No more finding a set of steps to grab a DVD off a set of shelves high in the closet!

I figure I am still on schedule to have 97 TB of storage sometime in 2010.

Pantry Cupboards

We were finally able to get Jean suitable replacement pantry cupboards from Porters. They ordered them in specially from one of their other stores, and we had them delivered (30 kg each package). So we ended up having three new 1800 mm high by 390 mm by 400 mm wide white pantry cupboards. But first Jean had to build all three, which she did one each day. I was very impressed that the pre-drilled cupboards fitted together perfectly. We have had several DIY cupboard kits that lacked the precision of these Summit models. The resulting pantry cupboards look much neater than the old open front cupboards.

Saturday 7 June 2008

Whitsunday Boat and Leisure Show

The seventh annual Oceanic Whitsunday Boat and Leisure Show held at Abel Point Marina. Sponsored by Oceanic insurance, and with all profits going to Airlie Beach Rotary Club. Two full days. It includes teams of school students building a boat in two hours. An official customs boat will attend. Around 8000 attendees are expected. Zonta Club is expected to provide munchies. The Proserpine High School band will provide entertainment. Biggest problem I can see is the lack of parking at the Abel Point marina (the show occupies the usual car park) - however I always just walk to the show. Entry is $10.

The marine art show will again be held in conjunction with the boat show, for the fifth time, and is expecting more than 170 items to be displayed. Tony Fossey has promoted the art show for a long time, and is to be congratulated on the quality of the show. Around $12,000 in prizes are available. Judges for the art show include artist John N Pearson, and long time local photographer (and previous show winner) Ziggy Ziegler. Alas, this time I didn't get to the place.

I found the marine show fairly boring this time. Seems more developers and real estate agents than ever. There was going to be a hybrid boat, but I never found that either.

Sunday 8 June 2008


Proserpine Lions club present WhitFunday family fun day at Dingo Beach. Raffles, egg throwing championships, ladies rolling pin throwing championship, ladies nail hammering, cast net throwing, sand sculpting. The Whitsunday camels will be there for rides, plus Proserpine School Band is expected.

Jean's Leg

Jean got up from my recliner chair late in the afternoon, and promptly had problems using her left leg. She has a hard lump near the top of the thigh, as if a muscle had bunched up. She was not in any significant discomfort when she was resting on a bed, and there were no other signs. She sent me out to get her a pair of crutches at the chemist. Using them, she could get around the apartment, and sit in a chair. As a holiday weekend, no doctors are available for another few days.

Monday 9 June 2008

Intel Atom

Early tests on prototype single core Atom based motherboards indicate it will struggle with video. Intel Atom struggles with 720p video, and shows 85% CPU and playback stuttering. Intel Atom video rendering and encoding is slow, slower than a lower clocked Celeron. Initial Intel Atom benchmarks are slow, at least for prototypes.

On the other hand, the Intel Atom is cheap at US$25, at least for the non-notebook version (it has a different socket). Intel are suggesting a system price, without monitor, but with 512 MB memory, 80 GB hard drive, and DVD, of under US$249. Talk about a race to the bottom! Should be fine for an email and web browsing and text editing system, which will be enough to suit many people.

The dual core Intel Atom is due in July. However with 8 Watt TDP for the CPU, and a total of 16 Watt for the chipset, this just isn't shaping up well enough for low power devices, in my opinion. It does promise lower thermal output, but it simply isn't all that much lower than you can get from faster chips. In a small form factor (think Apple TV or Mac mini size), it should run somewhat cooler. An example would be the new very desirable Asus Eee Box running Linux.

Most laptops just hold their breath between power sockets, so perhaps the power drain will not matter to most people, but I think the high power consumption sucks. The ARM range is all over it for lower power (at the expense of even less performance. Also nVidea have some new chips just out that promise better performance for the power. At the moment, I am not seeing much potential for anything innovative, nor for any long battery life device based on the Intel Atom.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Apple iPhone 3G

Version 2 of the Apple iPhone to appear 11 July, with Australia on the list of release countries. Available in white as well as black. Very slightly larger maximum dimensions, but probably a better feeling shape. Height: 115.5 mm (115 mm). Width: 62.1 mm (61 mm). Depth: 12.3 mm (11.6 mm). Weight: 133 grams (135 grams). Old tech spec figures in brackets. As expected, lower battery life while on 3G, but slightly better on 2G. You can select to use 2G only, if you wish. Same single 2 megapixel camera, but now includes geotagging (yeah!) Said to have real GPS. The earphone connector has been fixed so it is no longer recessed. More important in a music player, the audio from the built in speaker is reputed to be better.

The power adaptor provides USB connection, so the separate lead is a USB to iPod style lead. The USA power adaptor is tiny. Hardly larger than a power plug. Sign of someone obsessive at work (that is great). Alas, power adaptors for other countries do not appear as slim.

Still no sign of MMS. No mention of Bluetooth tethering for use as a 3G computer modem. No Bluetooth connection to a decent keyboard (hint, my Apple keyboard uses Bluetooth). Bluetooth stereo earphone support? No horizontal keyboard for email or notes (nor anywhere outside Safari). No copy and paste - give me a break! No voice dialling for hands free use. No audio recording. No file system, so there still seems no way to take your own files along with you. This crude excuse for a phone is lacking stacks of stuff the cheapest rival phones offer. It is still a first generation trial at a phone. Only the interface doesn't suck.

Cost of the iPhone appears to be slightly higher in the USA. This is done via an increase in data charges on AT&T being more than the now subsidised upfront cost of the iPhone. However there remains a possibility that phone companies will offer even greater discounts upfront. I wonder how much phone companies are paying Apple? I suspect there was a price increase in the wholesale price.

I tracked my mobile phone use. My phone is an obsolete Ericsson, with an interface that sucks so bad that I only have a half dozen numbers in its address book (and find them by arrowing through the numbers). However it will connect my PDA to the internet, for collecting email (the iPhone won't do that for the PDA). The phone spends 95% of its time in a drawer with the battery out (I am not interested in having my location tracked). Only once or twice has anyone phoned me this year (probably a consequence of the phone being in a drawer). I might make one or two calls a month from a mobile (regular phones are way cheaper, not that I use them much).

I just can't see the use of a mobile phone, except when I am travelling. One person I do reply to by mobile phone uses SMS and MMS, and doesn't have email. Email is what I mostly use to communicate with, using a decent keyboard, not SMS via a phone.

If I used a phone much I would probably be impressed by the Apple iPhone. However what I really need is a PDA to replace my 1997 Psion, and this doesn't seem to be it. If I do want an iPod, with some phone functions, I guess I would look for an unlocked first generation iPhone, after all the second hand ones hit eBay. As a test model for a market, it was a fairly reasonable item. More important, it is probably easier to change (Jailbreak) than the next model will be. However I think it would be a lot easier just to buy a Nokia instead of an iPhone.


Apple announced Apple MobileMe to replace their ailing .Mac online service. The name sounds like only a dork would use it. Some kid is peeing on Mobile Me, Wii!

Seems to be pushing it like a Microsoft Exchange for the rest of us. Works with iPhone, iPod Touch, Macintosh and Windows PC. Handles Address Book (including Outlook), push email and iCal. Access photo gallery and iDisk files. Space available is increased to 20 GB.

The Mail seems to imply using IMAP, which I have never trusted. In any case, IMAP is not available from my domain host, only POP3.

Items removed from .Mac include Panther support, iCards, Mac slides (whatever they were), and online .Mac bookmarks. This last one seems a silly thing to remove. It was handy to have your own bookmarks available via say a library computer, or one at someone's home. See Apple's .Mac to MobileMe transition details.

Main improvement is syncing mobile devices over the air, rather than via iTunes. I do like that. Not so sure I like it being a Push service. What about data charges from swinish teleco's charging like wounded buffalo, if I may mix animal metaphors.

Still seems no iPhone support for ToDo lists. Why not? Actually, Apple's ToDo stuff just isn't nearly good enough. I am thinking Cultured Code's Things might be a far superior way of handling ToDos and Task management.

Snow Leopard

Apple Macintosh OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) was announced, for release in about a year. Stated aim was increased performance, rather than features. This was especially increased performance on multi core processors, using Grand Central. Since the hardware guys are looking to increased core numbers for future performance, they need software support. Typically software support is years behind hardware advances. This may be the most important advance announced this time.

Smaller applications. Although disk space is getting cheaper, smaller applications would be desirable for computers and other future devices with solid state drives. Plus I am tired of bloat in programmes. This is a bonus.

Quicktime to get an update and speedup with Quicktime X. This is way overdue.

Microsoft Exchange support. I am not in business so I don't need it. However it would be a big boost for iPhone use in business.

The developer's preview build of Snow Leopard at the moment appears to be only for Intel based systems. This may not be significant, since any developer of new software will perforce be using an Intel system. It may not mean that Snow Leopard will be Intel only. Then again, it may mean just this, that PPC processor support will be dropped in 2009, three years after the last PPC system was available new.

Wednesday 11 June 2008


We needed to go food shopping, and replenish depleted wine stocks. Cellarbrations were having a half year clearance, and one of the local stockists were Onos, where we usually shop for wine. However the noise level from the obnoxious local radio station playing over their speaker system had us commenting to each other before we even left the car. Luckily we had spotted one or two brands we liked on the flyer, so we got a few cases as quickly as we could, and left the store as fast as we could. Had we wandered around as we usually do, who knows how much more we would have bought?

One reason for going shopping was to escape the noise from the Port of Airlie marina construction. In particular, vibrating steel pilings into the ground, followed by pounding them the rest of the way in. The vibrating phase was registering between 87 and 91 dB on my SPL. This marina construction noise is driving us nuts. I started up a demo copy of Sound Studio, and used the internal microphone of the computer to record samples of the pile driving.

Beyond Safari

Although Safari makes a great browser, the idea of syncing everything in Safari bookmarks or RSS feeds to another computer (or worse, an iPod Touch) just isn't going to work well. Too much cruft.

OK, I could just swap out the Safari bookmark file, and replace it with a simplified one prior to syncing. I am still considering that. The Bookmarks.plist, which is located at ~/Library/Safari/, is an XML file, and copying rather than parsing is easier. Not that there are not a bunch of bookmark managers.

A better approach would probably be a systemwide bookmark manager. Shareware URL Manager gets good reviews. The shareware Bookdog just doesn't seem to me to offer sufficient. Another shareware bookmark manager is Bookit, which also handles bookmarks from multiple Macintosh browsers. These can all organise bookmarks. However I think their approach is wrong.

I think the correct approach is a tag oriented bookmark manager. WebNoteHappy does the usual bookmark importing and folder organising. However it adds extensive notes on the URLs, and a tagging system that allows Smart Folders. It also interoperates with NetNewsWire.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Powering Electric Vehicles

I was considering how to provide green electricity for electric vehicles. Obviously at home, overnight night, cheap electricity from the spinning reserve of coal fired power stations is cheapest. However consider the day in the north. Coal is still cheaper, but finding power for a future fleet of vehicles would mean even more power stations to cover peak loads.

I have a modest proposal. Solar thermal power at shopping centre car parks, and business car parks. Solar thermal can easily be small scale, and can be decentralised. The power is metered, so the user (eventually) pays for the cost of the thermal solar power plants. Plus the power is a good match to charging needs for the journey home, for electric vehicles.

Friday 13 June 2008

Boomer debt

I was thinking of the baby boomer generation (now 44 to 62 years old) as cashed up, and spending the kid's inheritance, despite knowing many were likely to be on an age pension. 2006 Census data analysed and compared with three previous census by BIS Shrapnel. Only 21% were paying for a mortgage in 2001, but by 2006, 33.6% were making mortgage repayments. True, 23.3% of adult children between 20 and 34 years old were now living at home, but that was only slightly up on the 21.5% of the previous census. Seems more likely lots of people traded up to larger or more expensive homes, or borrowing against home equity. Despite this, almost 80% of over 65 year olds owned their own home, with only 5.2% still paying a mortgage.

Saturday 14 June 2008

DVD Ripping

I managed to rip my (small) regular DVD film collection to computer, by concentrating on it to the exclusion of all else. I had to transfer the rips to a one terabyte drive to have sufficient space. This means the original DVDs can all stay in a closet, well out of the way.

The DVD store at Cannonvale shopping centre were closing, and had ex-rental DVDs at $5 each, so I added another 10 to my collection. The space the DVDs occupy in my closet is starting to get excessive. I think I will have to discard all the boxes. I hardly think DVDs have any resale value these days, so there is no need for me to preserve them in original condition.

I remain unsure how best to manage a library of DVDs. I tried the very fancy Delicious Library, but it represented an enormous overkill. Plus it wasted a hell of a lot of time in testing. I don't really need to track directors, stars, who borrowed them, or anything like that. However it was mostly useless because the data it checks comes from Amazon, which simply don't have most DVDs on their lists. Although the bar code scanning was flawless, the UPC data backing them was pathetic.

Sunday 15 June 2008


VirtualBox x86 virtualization products run on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), and OpenBSD. It is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). Sun took over around February. It is an alternative to Parallels or VMWare Fusion.

Monday 16 June 2008

Hal Spacejock eBook

Popular Australian science fiction comedy author Simon Haynes is giving away a free online novel. The first of Simon Haynes Hal Spacejock eBooks is available for free download. Even better, they come in rtf, prc, html and text format, so any ebook reader is just fine with them. No DRM to get in the way. Well done Simon, and Freemantle Press.


Jean passed me a note about nerdgassing. The word we had to have. Talented writer John Scalzi (Old Man's War) claimed the word, since Google hadn't listed it. I should also mention that Scalzi has an enlightened attitude towards eBooks without DRM.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Domino Pizza

Cheap Tuesday. After months of effort, I finally persuaded Jean that we could tolerate a pizza for lunch. But the Domino pizza was just woeful. I don't know whether they changed their formula for supreme, but it wasn't nearly as good as usual. In fact, it was basically pathetic. Guess I am doomed to only have pizza when Jean is away. If that is typical these days, it won't be Domino. However I do feel it was an anomaly, and not typical.

OK, Beagle Boys still have the best take away pizza in Airlie Beach. Three times the cost, but sometimes you just have to pay more. I should be able to sneak one (or two) in when I visit the Sunday markets on the Esplanade. Plus Eagle Boys have just opened at the Whitsunday Shopping Centre at Cannonvale, just past the row of three banks. I know Jean really likes them as well.

The Hybrid Handout

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gained friends in Japan and Victoria with a free handout to Toyota, the largest car manufacturer in the world. Rudd tipped in about A$35 million from taxpayers. The Victorian Labor government tipped in an unknown amount. This rewards Toyota for announcing it will produce 10,000 petrol electric hybrid Camry models each year. This is not a green gesture, this is just a handout to retain local manufacturing jobs, at great expense to the consumer. This is particularly stupid when outside the southern rust belt, industry is screaming for labour.

The Australian motor industry should be left to sink without a trace. It is a buggy whip industry. Governments should not be trying to pick winners. It especially should not be handing out a billion dollars assistance a year to the car industry through tariffs and handouts.

Camrys are a poor choice for a hybrid. They are inefficient, according to the Green Vehicle Guide, at 9.9 litres per 100 km. About a quarter of the cars available on the local market give better economy. USA tests of the hybrid show they are about 27% more efficient than the non-hybrid. This would make them about 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres. Over 100 vehicles sold in Australia do better. Not one of the more fuel efficient vehicles is built in Australia! Not one! Australian car manufacturers are stuck building for the 1950's, when fuel was cheap and vehicles were expensive.

The Camry hybrid will bring no new technology to Australia. The battery and electric drive train are built in Japan. The USA experience is that adding a hybrid badge to a Camry increases the price by more than 25%. This makes the Camry an expensive, inefficient, subsidised lemon.

Paul Kerin drew my attention to the Camry again in an article in The Australian today. His articles usually make sense, and this was no exception (sorry, can't find a link).

If any government really wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, there is a very simple way to do it. Declare carbon dioxide emissions from cars a pollutant (just like we have declared lead a pollutant, except in Mt Isa).

Set the emissions limit for passenger vehicles at 400 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled, from 2010. Cars above that pollution level can no longer be imported or produced. Reduce the allowed level by 20 grams per kilometre each year. So by 2015, to be sold in Australia, new cars must produce less than 300 grams emissions per kilometre travelled. By 2020, the limit is 200 grams of carbon dioxide emissions.

There are already numerous vehicles that produce less than 200 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre. Plus any manufacturer can try anything they like to meet this standard. Change to LPG. Use a diesel engine. Or a hybrid. Or even go for a short range electric vehicle. It will still take ten years for existing car stocks to disappear from the roads, at any emission level.

This setting of standards gives the rapidly disappearing local car manufacturers time to consider their options. It reduces our use of increasingly scarce oil. It reduces the pressure to provide new oil refineries. It sends a strong message to all industries about being serious about pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It even helps meet reduction of emissions targets, unlike most schemes. It even targets the rich, instead of the poor. Surely a formerly socialist government would consider that a bonus, rather than a disadvantage.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Microsoft Stockholders

It seems some Microsoft stockholders are annoyed at poor performance over the past decade. There have been rants against Microsoft from Fake Steve Jobs before, but it is his business to say nasty things. Barron's notes trimmed outlook for Vista from a Bernstein analyst. Mind you, companies often say things just to get web hits on their advertising. Cut and run from Windows from InfoWorld says Window is doomed. Plus Google applications are out there, ready to take the low end of business computing. Ouch! For an aggressively negative article about Windows Vista, there are plenty around.

Does this make any difference to me? Not really. My first experience with Windows XP on an IBM Thinkpad was enough to get me searching for an alternative, any alternative. That started out as going back to Windows 98. Then I asked my Linux using friends for advice, and decided Linux wasn't ready for the desktop back then. Saw a number of people using Macintosh. helped some of them use the Unix side of it to get unusual conversion tasks done. That seemed OK, a GUI with Unix under the hood. I bought a PowerBook in Las Vegas in early 2004, and haven't looked at Windows since. I have no idea whether Vista is good or bad. I have no intention of finding out, until and unless Apple piss me off. If they do, I would probably look at Linux first.

Thursday 19 June 2008

OS X 10.5.3 Update

Since I couldn't sleep, I got up at about 3:30 a.m. and started the 420 MB download of OS X 10.5.3 for my MacBook Air. There turned out to be another hundred or so megabyte of updates also available. It takes several hours to download, and gets in the way of Jean working, Plus our (slow) iiNet ADSL plan gives us unused download capacity after midnight, so I try to schedule large downloads for the early morning. By about 4:15 a.m., the 10.5.3 update had reached the top of the queue, and started downloading.

Apple Store Sydney

Apple Sydney store opens at 5 p.m., today 19 June. First Apple store in Australia. First Apple store in the southern hemisphere for that matter, despite being the 215th Apple Store. I am really tempted to fly to Sydney to see the opening, however they don't actually have anything I want to buy at the moment. I am holding out for an iMac without a reflective display. Third parties claim the new Sydney Apple store to be the second largest Apple store in the world, and to have the largest Genius bar (help desk) of any store. I wonder if this says something about the ability of Australians to use technology? The three floor store has 700 square metres of glass frontage. One 15 metre laminated glass panel is claimed to be the largest installed.

Very nice photo of Apple Store Sydney by photographer Josh Hill, at night prior to opening. Set of Apple Store Sydney photos on Flickr, with the covers coming off the store. A slow loading .Mac gallery of Apple Store Sydney evening photos prior to opening. Another set of Apple Store Sydney photos, in a smaller format.

There was a lengthy video piece from the gadget guy on the channel 7 Sunrise program, that someone put on uTube (why does uTube default to pathetic Flash video?) I was out when the news ran most of this stuff, but downloaded some of the videos as mp4 later. The Sydney Morning Herald had photos and short interviews with the first ten people in line for the Apple Store Sydney opening.

Before I forget, here is why Apple Stores won't work, by Cliff Edwards in 2001. Right, Apple stores will not fix Apple sales. Personally, I think it is just great to finally have an Apple store in the Southern Hemisphere. Now, if only I lived closer than 2000 km away!

Visitors Fly In

Hugh and Anne flew their hired four seater light plane into Whitsunday Airport and phoned up around 6 p.m. Despite them giving me a link to their Google calendar, I had somehow expected them the following day. I was totally disorganised, with stuff I couldn't easily interrupt ripping on the computer. Jean was already cooking dinner, but I was able to turn off my stove and shoved the extra things I was cooking into the fridge. I decided I wasn't going to go driving a twisty unfamiliar road at night in Jean's new car (there had been an accident a few days previous), so I took a taxi to the Flametree caravan park (right next to the airport). I had a pleasant talk with Hugh, and got to hear of their very active plans for their Top End air tour. Sounded great.

Friday 20 June 2008

Show Whitsunday

The annual show returns to Proserpine Showgrounds in Jupp Street. Fireworks and DJ in the evening are expected. Arts and crafts, sideshow alley with showbags, motocross, Gilmore All Stars family circus. Cattle, poultry, horse and dog display. Woodchopping event.

Power Outage

Power blipped out a couple of times for a second or so at 4:20. Although my UPS protected my iMac, I realised that my two large hard drives connected to my PowerBook G4 are both vulnerable. Looks like I will need to find another UPS for the hard drives, especially when ripping large numbers of my DVDs.

I have a couple of really old UPS that don't seem to work. Guess it is time to pull the old batteries, and try replacement 7.2 AH sealed Gel cells. Luckily I have some on hand. Alas, two of the gel cells I had on hand had shorted cells, and my charger couldn't revive them. The UPS wouldn't work on cells that tested OK either.

Apple Services

The items in the Services menu of applications are driving me nuts. There are way too many items there, resulting in the whole menu being ignored. This is despite it including some very handy capabilities. I didn't find a lot of information on the web about how to remove unwanted Services. Basically it was a powerful NeXT item. Applications list NSServices within their package, so editing it out of their info.plists with Property List Editor may work. I did find mention of adding additional services to the menu.

ChineseTextConverter is something I am unlikely to use. The application itself is within System, Library, Services. So I removed the whole application. However nothing seemed to change initially. Maybe it needs time, or even a reboot.

Adam C Engst of the Tidbits folks mentioned Many Trick's Service Scrubber, by Peter Maurer. Since I wasn't getting anywhere, trying Many Trick's specialist donationware services removal tool Service Scrubber, by German software developer Peter Maurer.

Monday 23 June 2008


The two kitchen cupboards Jean found replacements for should go today. More accurately, should be collected today. I wanted to get that organised quickly, in case we leave town unexpectedly. Just as well that I did. Jean was talking leaving town this evening.

Construction Noise Airlie Beach

I expect that if the six day a week pile driving continues, Jean will want to leave Airlie Beach. Any concept of quiet enjoyment of your home is impossible. The night shift taxi driver next door has taken to spending his days at Jubilee Pocket in an attempt to find someplace where he won't be kept awake by the Port of Airlie marina construction noise. Why anyone would voluntarily stay in Airlie Beach at the moment is beyond me. It didn't help my mood any when the pounding of the pile driving started several minutes before 8 a.m.

By the end of the evening, Jean had decided we were not going to stay in Airlie Beach. There was a conference she wanted to attend in Wollongong next weekend. After very little consultation she had flights booked for Wednesday. Hotel bookings followed. I emailed some friends in Sydney, to see who was in town.

TV Shows on iTunes Australia

Apple Australia very quietly included some TV shows for purchase (at A$2.99) from iTunes Australia. Looks like some are from the US ABC, some from Disney, some from MTV. Local free to air channels ABC and Nine also have some of their shows. Seems like a total of around 20 shows, which is a fairly limited launch. Unfortunately, there are all shows that I wouldn't watch for free anyhow. Not that putting up with crap advertising is free, if you value your time. How many snack and toilet breaks can you take during a show?

Buying the TV shows I want on DVD still seems by far the least horrible (albeit not cheapest) option. If you are careful not to buy seasons until the price drops, the per episode price approximates the download price. The resolution of a DVD (especially in PAL) is higher than 640x480. The major thing is the time and disk space wasted ripping DVDs. Luckily I can do that on my old Mac Powerbook notebook computer, and just check every twenty minutes or so to see if the rip is complete. Storage space for the DVDs is also a problem, but I have a closet dedicated to storing the original DVDs out of the way.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Nokia Buy Symbian

Phone maker Nokia will pay a quarter billion Euros to buy Symbian from existing partners. Nokia already had around 48% of Symbian. Symbian is the most used smart phone software system for phones, with around 200 million shipped over the past decade. This would be more impressive if I didn't think the existing partners in the open platform Symbian Foundation had basically totally wasted the Epoc software they got from Psion when that company dropped making PDAs in favour of trying to capture the smart cell phone software market. They do say Symbian will be open source. I have no idea whether this is aimed at Google's Android software for phones.


Having sent out late emails to people in NSW, I realised people in ANZAPA and some custom lists were missing. That is the trouble with ad hoc mailing lists. Too easy to get stuff wrong. I sent out some more emails. I also phoned Graham, who I needed to catch up with. Meanwhile, Jean had other contacts organised. We seemed to have a plan, starting with a taxi to collect us at 11 next morning.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Travel to Sydney

Jean sent me off to collect a lunch from Subway for our plane flight. I messed around transferring files to memory sticks and to my MacBook Air for the stick. I did remember to charge the iPod. And the phone. By my standards, that wasn't too bad.

Whitsunday Taxis collected us from the Whitsunday Terraces at the entrance to Martinique at 11 a.m. Uneventful trip to the Whitsunday Coast airport past Proserpine, except that even in a decent sized taxi, Jean's legs were cramped. This is the first flight Jean has taken since her two hip replacements. She had to get special treatment while they checked that she was indeed a walking collection of metal. No big drama about it however, in such a small airport. I hope it is also fine at larger airports like Sydney.

The Virgin Flight DJ1114 left on time at 12:45. I couldn't resist the chocolate cookies they sell. They were announcing the descent to Brisbane by 1:45 p.m., although we are not due to land until 2:10 p.m. Our DJ246 flight to Sydney leaves at 4 p.m., so Jean would have time to stretch her legs at the airport. That worked pretty well, as she got the entire length of Brisbane airport. All I needed to do was carry the luggage. The flight went fine, and we were in row four so we had an easy exit.

No problems collecting luggage in Sydney after we landed on time at 5:30 p.m. By the time we reached the baggage area, the luggage was in view. Quick taxi ride to the Park Regis hotel on Park Street, in the middle of Sydney. Abut half the distance we are from Proserpine airport, and about twice the cost.

The Park Regis hotel seems noisy, but this is typical of Sydney. Fifteenth floor room, and street noises are noticeable. You could get a second room keycard, but since it didn't include the magic elevator pass, that wasn't exactly convenient. Why hotels are so reluctant to allow access on a per person basis escapes me (and annoys me). First person to return to the hotel gets the elevator pass, and the next person is stuck on the ground floor, unable to use the elevator until some hotel employee takes pity on them. The system of Park Regis hotel keys sucks.

Another thing that sucks at the Park Regis (and most hotels in Australia) is the stupidly high charge for internet access, via Ethernet cable. Something in the order of $30 a day, per device. As a result of the per day charge, we didn't bother buying access at all. So we didn't stay in the hotel room using our laptops, so we didn't order in room service, etc. Your loss.

There was a Coffee Club cafe adjoining the hotel, where we shared a large toasted turkey and cranberry turkish bread sandwich, and a glass of wine each. We used the Coffee Club rather a lot, as it was convenient, and acceptable.

I had not taken into account just how far Jean had walked during the day. We set out towards King Street at a slow pace, and eventually reached the brand new Sydney Apple Store on George Street. It looks great, all lit up and full of people. Alas, we couldn't enter, as they were having some special event. By then it must have been 8 p.m. in any case, so it wasn't like I was likely to have been able to look at the store. We stopped at the Woolworths near Town Hall for some milk (once we decided it must be on the lower ground floor), and then back to the Park Regis Hotel. We collapsed pretty early, and even the traffic noise wasn't enough to stop us sleeping.

Thursday 26 June 2008

First Day in Sydney

Jean was still sleeping, so I watched a video of The Gruen Transfer on my iPod Touch. I still can't wear earphones for an hour without them hurting my ears. I have no idea how anyone can see earphones as acceptable for any except short items. Perhaps some version works, but the three earphones I got with gadgets are all unacceptable. Watching the video didn't disturb Jean, so that at least worked.

No hot water in the shower. I left it running for a considerable time, in the hope it would heat up. I thought they must have a central hot water system with lengthy pipes between it and the rooms. No luck. I finally inspected the tiny bathroom, and found a small Dux heater under the sink. I could hear the relay click when the sink hot water tap was on. So it seemed that the water flow from the low flow shower head was insufficient to switch on the hot water. I ran the sink tap to turn on the hot water, and then had my shower with both taps running. What a waste of water, in a city with water shortages.

Breakfast at the Coffee Club, right next to the Park Regis hotel. Convenient location, and not all that crowded after nine, as we subsequently discovered.

We headed for the Sydney Apple Store, which at that hour of the morning was not very busy. A bunch of helpful Apple staff were around on all levels. I still dislike the glossy display on the iMac. One staff member found a place that made a matte cover for the iMac glass. The store had a table of iMac, a table of MacBook Pro, a table of MacBook in white and another table of MacBook in black. Guess which Macintosh sells well? The Mac mini and the Mac Pro were relegated to a single example of each off to one side. I can sure see why so many people would love to see a model half way between those two. Not that I expect it. That is where almost every other computer maker on earth is sitting, losing money.

The big surprise was two tables of MacBook Air. I counted that lightweight, feature deficient model as almost a niche market, so I was not expecting to see it pushed heavily despite being the most recent model. That said, it makes a wonderful travel computer, especially for business (I am typing this web page on my own MacBook Air). Alas, I have a trip planned for October for which even the slim MacBook Air is too large, and almost too heavy, while an iPhone just doesn't have the keyboard capability to do the job. I will probably have to take my ten year old Psion 5 as the best choice for a travel computer.

The staff were helpful about us taking photos inside the Apple Store. I have a bunch of photos of the glass staircase, including some the helpful Apple staff took of us standing on the glass stairs. I don't expect the photos will show the artistry of it like publicity shots do, but it was great to try for good photos.

Sometime during our walk we saw a large, black, stretch Hummer driving along George Street. Now that was a surprise. Looked a bit excessive.

Jean decided not to go to Galaxy bookshop, and we never did get any SF books while in Sydney. I did manage a quick visit to Galaxy, but found little to retain my interest. Fantasy seeming to outweigh what little SF I could find. A pity SF has abandoned its readers. Now I in turn am abandoning books.



At a cheap items sidewalk store with spruikers, I picked up a replacement backpack for the one whose straps had fallen apart back home. I couldn't find anyplace that sold straps, and at $10, the whole backpack was cheaper than I was likely to find any nylon straps anyhow. About the only thing wrong is that I didn't really want a large backpack (except for the once a week market trip where large was essential for the vegetables). I mostly wanted a smallish comfortable backpack, for carrying computer and photographic gear.

I walked down to Central Square before dinner, to check the numerous computer shops there. Most were closed, but there were some fine prices showing. USB and SD memory at $3.50. 8 GB USB for $35. A one terabyte Lacie hard drive at $279. That sure is the place for bargains. I was pleased to get there, and it is beyond Jean's present walking distances.

Dinner was lamb cutlets at the Coffee Club, once Jean got enough energy to go out for a meal. Lucky it is next door to the Park Regis hotel.

After dinner I tested the city for WiFi with my iPod Touch. Although there was no network showing at our 15th floor room, when I went down to the outside street, around 30 networks were showing. A few of them were even open, without passwords. I walked to the Apple Shop, where there open network showed good signal strength, but I could not persuade my iPod Touch to connect via them. Pity. I wanted to check email.

Friday 27 June 2008

Wollongong Trip

Another breakfast in the Coffee Club. We set out from the Park Regis hotel around ten. Traffic in Sydney was gridlocked, however we had decided to walk up Park and William Street to Europcar to collect the hire car. Trouble is, our luggage was bulky, and the distance fairly long for Jean, especially pulling luggage on wheels. She did very well. We were in a small Nissan trying to find our way to Wollongong by eleven. Jean did very well with her plotting a course. We had advice from the car rental folks, a decent map of Sydney, and absolutely no idea of exactly where the new tunnels went. Despite that we headed off on the right road.

Beautiful weather (and missing the correct route) lured us along the southern foreshore, looking at beaches. They looked great. We missed the turn to Highway One. Luckily there was a recovery point a few streets further along, and soon we were headed for the Royal National Park. As we crossed Tom Ugly's Bridge, I recalled I used to drive that way when I worked at Miranda many decades ago.

We had a great time travelling through The Royal National Park. We picked up some sandwiches at Audley, where we also got our Park permit. I had often tried to persuade Jean she should see the Royal National Park when we lived in Sydney. It is one of the earliest such parks in the world, and is unusual in being so very close to a major city. We took the side road in to Wattamalla and wandered around. That didn't look very different. We also took the road to Garie Beach. The YHA there is incredible, nothing like anything I expected.

We got great views of the diverse vegetation in the Royal National Park, plus lots of chances to check the sea shore and the fine beaches along the way. It was a wonderful trip, full of opportunities to take great photographs.

Sue greeted us at Corrimal Beach Bed and Breakfast in Dobbie Avenue, and brought out a really nice swirl cake she had baked for our arrival. We were later introduced to Daryl. The place is very new, only in its sixth week of operation. Our room was spacious, well appointed, and very comfortable. There was a decent amount of cupboard space for us. Unlike the hotel, the en suite bathroom also had lots of space. It also had soft fluffy towels, not threadbare like some places. Little things, but appreciated. I was able to set my computer on a desk for typing these notes.

Sue suggested the Corrimal Leagues Club, a few blocks west of the high school, for dinner. We both had roast lamb and a Jean a red wine. The meal was excellent, and very filling. I was the designated driver. We also bought a bottle of merlot at the club bottle shop for our three day stay.

Back at Corrimal B&B, I watched the first episode of The Guren Transfer on my iPod, before catching up these notes.

Although I got to sleep around 10 p.m., I awoke around 3 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. The older I get, the worse I sleep, especially in strange surrounds.

Saturday 28 June 2008

Wollongong Meeting

Jean was in poor shape first thing in the morning. So stiff she couldn't tie her shoe laces. That seems a bit of an obstacle in her plans for world domination (sort of like a Dalek confronted by a staircase). She didn't say much at breakfast (bacon and eggs) but that is usual. The stiffness was not a good start for the day, although by 9 a.m. she drove off for her meeting, and dropped me off when she found a parking spot.

I wandered around the Wollongong town centre. One early find was a tourist information centre, who gave me a helpful town map, and an entirely useless bus timetable for a bus that didn't actually go where I needed. Luckily my web searching had given me a bus route of far more use (route 8 to town, route 3 to Corrimal East and distant parts). At a cross street between Market and Crown I found a travel shop that sold maps, so I got a decent UBD Wollongong street map. That helps me place various areas.

A camera store with a window full of tripods, at 302 Crown Street. Madsens camera and imaging seemed an old fashioned, full service photographic dealer, with four decades of experience. The owner showed me some wonderful tripods, with designs I had never seen before. There was one Manfrotto 785B modo tripod at $142.50 I thought particularly suitable for a travel (by car) tripod. I use lightweight cameras for web images, so I don't need the heavy duty gear a professional photographer would select. Since Madsens will mail order photographic equipment, I think I will order the Manfrotto 785B tripod when I get home. I didn't want to carry even an extra kilogram when it all has to go into bags I may have to carry if Jean isn't able to pull her wheeled travel bag when we return to Sydney. The Madsens owner also showed me so really nice digital filters, with some Cokin ones looking very handy.

I found both Dymocks and Angus and Robertsons bookshops. Managed to restrict myself to Jarad Diamond's Collapse, about the decline of thriving civilisations, subtitled how societies choose to fail or survive. I wanted to read his chapter on Australia, one of the most ecologically fragile developed societies, and potentially the first to fail.

The other book was David Viney's Get to the top on Google, a 2008 text of search engine optimisation. Although I do think I know enough to mostly get search engine positioning right, times change, and a specialist in the area can probably provide nuances I would never find for myself. I have noticed it is much harder to get first or second page Google positioning now than it was in the past. I never used to have to resort to looking at keyword density. Just obvious stuff like get my title right, use a good description meta for the results page, and made my H1 and first paragraph relevant, and kept clunky markup, navigation markup, and all code well away from the top of the page.

The Darryl Lea shop offered me a sample of the dark orange Rocky Road. Alas, it is a product they are withdrawing, before I even found out it existed. Myer had underwear in a brand I use, and in my size. I can never get it back home, at least in my size, for some obscure reason relating to stock levels.

I eventually caught the 3:13 p.m. #3 bus outside the entertainment centre back to Corrimal B&B. Various text messages from Jean, with some hasty replies from me while on the bus looking for my stop, and later as walking to the door. Jean was part of a dinner party for the very early evening. She drove back and collected me so we could both attend. She also made me the designated driver, and directed I get her a glass of red wine to go with the very nice pizzas we all shared. At least I got a glass of merlot when we returned to our room. On the other hand, Jean was sleeping before 8:30, obviously completely exhausted. I don't like our chances of catching up with too many other people on this trip.

Sunday 29 June 2008

Wollongong Walks

Jean and I got into the town centre well before Jean's meeting. First we took a look at Battery Park and the two neat cannons and 1890 fortifications there. We took a long walk around the various foreshore attractions. We went from Marine Drive to Endeavour Drive up to Flagstaff Hill. Some very neat 64 pounder cannons in my photos. The lighthouse was pretty neat. Then we went along Harbour Quay to view the old 1871 lighthouse. We noted the crane pedestal. Plus a pelican at the Belmore Basin harbour. We walked back past the fish markets. It was a pretty long walk for Jean.

Wollongong Shopping

I wandered up Crown Street to the rather nice mall. More shops open than I expected from my first encounter with the town centre. Plus it was sale time. Alas, all I managed to find at first was some underwear in Myers. Not exactly a thrilling buy. I did remember to check their camera department for a Canon TX1. No luck. Paslow Books lease had expired. The Mac1 computer store was closed. However I did find a nice Amazon computer backpack at a Tandy store.

Most of the day my phone wasn't working, but Jean and I managed to swap a few SMS, in the fleeting moments when my phone worked. Jean gave me a lift back to the Corrimal Beach Bed and Breakfast when her meeting was finished in the late afternoon.

I spent a little time assisting Daryl get WiFi working, since Jean wanted to check email. Most of the problems were down to Telstra BigPond (like Apple) wanting to do things their way, rather than using more standard methods. I was annoyed to find Telstra wanted fixed user names and passwords, and had apparently customised the firmware in their ADSL modem to ensure this. Still, at 45 minutes to recover from wrong assumptions, it only took about ten times as long as setting up a standard ADSL modem with your own choice of settings would have taken. On the other hand, with the Telstra method, you didn't need to know what you were doing. Mind you, if you were trying to set up BigPond with a Linux or Macintosh system, you may be totally out of luck. If I am forced to use Telstra here to get ADSL2+, I will have to pick a bring your own modem arrangement, or it will never work. No-one here has a Windows computer.

Sue made us a very nice home made schnitzel dinner, as a special arrangement. She really is a good cook. It was very good not to have to go out again.

Monday 30 June 2008

Back to Sydney

We headed a little further south along Grand Pacific Drive. Past Shell Harbour we visited Bass Point, and the Boston Shipwreck memorial. During the walk, Jean took a fall, something I had been dreading. Luckily she suffered only gravel rash. Heading back to Sydney, we went around the western side of Lake Illawarra. We followed the coast, with Jean seeking real food, and not finding it. We did manage to get a few more photos of the Sea Cliff Bridge, from the lookout over Coalcliff. We also got to the foreshore nearer to Sydney, and took a few photos there before continuing.

Jean did a wonderful job of finding a path through all sorts of long dark tunnels that didn't exist when we lived in Sydney. Emerged from the last of the tunnels all set to turn straight into the street that led to the parking garage of Europcar. We had to drag the bags up the hill on William Street. It seemed easier for me to pile everything on Jean's wheeled bag, and take most of the bags. We were back at the Park Regis hotel before 4 p.m.

In Sydney

I headed out and got a larger travel bag. That was partly to get any further loot home, but mostly for a forthcoming trip where I needed something for the whole trip that was smaller than my usual bag. At the Pitt Street Mall I got some CDs of Andean music from Santos, who were playing for the street, to add to my world music.