Eric Lindsay's Blog 2008 December

Monday 1 December 2008

Cope With Recession

Cut your costs. Anyone whose parents lived through the depression knows you can always live a little cheaper. Any unexpected bill is a place to start looking for savings. It is something that was not in your budget.

Cut your debts. A large percentage of people are debt junkies. If you can't buy it with your existing assets, consider doing without it. Most of the current financial crash has been due to people being suckered into living beyond their means. If your credit card isn't paid off in full every month, you are living beyond your means. About the only worthwhile debt is that used to buy assets whose value is likely to rise. This does not include things like cars or plasma TVs. Pay out small debts, so you feel satisfaction at removing them. Then pay down debts with the highest interest rate.

Cash. Prudence dictates having enough cash (or fast access assets) to live for three months. Recession means boosting that to a year, even more if retired. You don't want to sell your assets cheap to cover living expenses. However look for bargains you can get with your cash.

Your assets should be diverse. Not just property, not just shares, not just Blue Chip, not just small companies, not just bonds, not just in one country.


Aussie-Retirement is a clean and tidy advertiser funded site. It contains a series of very short articles on different retirement topics, some of which are outdated.

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading once seemed to be the people helping with questions about retirement village life. They had a Retirement village guide - The Ins and Outs of Retirement Life, possibly called Retirement Villages Good Business Guide however the link has rotted. A better pdf publication is Easing into village life - A guide to retirement living. It covers the meaning of Retirement Villages Act 1999. Fair Trading also have a pdf explaining changes to the act in 2006. Additional Retirement Villages Regulation 2000 is also available.

Garbage Missed

The garbage was not put out this morning. I took our bin out when I went for a walk at 7 a.m. The bin was empty when I came back a half hour later. No other bins were visible outside Whitsunday Terraces.

Stupid Tourists

So all those StarWars tourists went to Bangkok Airport to get a TIE Fighter.

Tuesday 2 December 2008


Display Port is a VESA digital computer to monitor interface that became a standard in 2006. It is supported by AMI/ATI (chipset and graphics card), Apple (all future computers), Dell (monitors), HP, Intel and Nvidia, amongst others. Apple used a mini DisplayPort connector, and Apple licence use of their Mini DisplayPort design for free.

Display Port supports internal video connections in laptops with fewer wires than previous technologies, and other cost savings in circuitry. It supports external connections at greater resolution than the consumer electronics HDMI connector used by modern TV.

Bridging the new DisplayPort standard in EDN points out where cost savings can be made with royalty free DisplayPort. There are also technical problems with DVI and HDMI line voltages as integrated circuit feature sizes fall below 45nm.


Looking after residents. ARQRV - Association of Residents of Queensland Retirement Villages tries to assist residents get what they paid for in retirement villages.

Retirement Villages Australia is a retirement village industry association with around 600 member companies. It has functioned for around 20 years. It promotes Accreditation -Establishing Quality Accommodation Standards, where a village must meet 29 requirements every 3 years.

The Villages directory site has some good articles. A history of retirement villages in Queensland. They have a good summary of the loan and lease nature of buying a place in a retirement village, together with its fee structure. This concept may not be clear to some potential purchasers. There is also a Retirement Village Living eBook in Australia for Over 55, by Christopher Baynes.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Evil behind Psystar

What nefarious evil lurks behind Psystar, asks Apple. Groklaw found the changed court papers, in which Apple asserts that someone unknown is behind the Psystar actions to sell computers together with a modified version of Apple's OS X Leopard operating system able to run on these computers. Sale of Apple's OS X for use on anything except Apple branded computers is against the Apple EULA. Apple sell them only as upgrades for their own computers. This is fun! I love a conspiracy.

All downside for Apple. Psystar basically have no real assets to lose. If the Apple EULA is ruled defective, Apple may not be able to prevent computer hardware companies selling OS X on clones. Apple do not seem to have worked hard to prevent the early clones.

You should note that the free versions of Linux have gone exactly nowhere in the marketplace (maybe 1%), despite some of them being pretty reasonable for a non-tech end user. However Apple has a much more popular Unix and GUI. How much are Apple sales due to pretty hardware and aggressive advertising. How much is having a nice version of Unix?

Thursday 4 December 2008

Stan Veit and Computer Shopper

Several decades ago, when I visited the USA, one of the first magazines I bought was the gigantic Computer Shopper. It was edited by Stan Veit. Now Stan Veit writes about Steve Jobs and the very early days at Apple. In fact, the article starts with Steve Jobs (the fast talking Steve) selling Stan an Apple 1 over the phone.

Garbage Missed

The garbage was not put out this morning, yet again. I took our bin out when I went for a walk at 7 a.m. The bin was empty when I came back an hour later. No other bins were visible outside Whitsunday Terraces.

Friday 5 December 2008

Molecular Liposuction

Cutting blood supply to kill off fat notes drugs designed to starve tumors by thwarting new blood vessel formation, or angiogenesis, also cause dramatic weight loss in obese mice.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Why DNS is Broken

In the ICANN blog, Kim Davies explains Why the DNS is broken, in plain language. Handy cheat sheet for trying to explain to others that, yes, there is a problem with the Domain Name System. Namely, that it was designed when the people on the internet were all reliable and trustworthy. Also, that the problem is serious, and will eventually lead to heaps of people losing heaps of money, when someone hijacks bank and stock sites.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Product Placement

Product placements in the top ten USA TV shows will exceed 21,000 this year, yet another massive increase. One of the benefits of historical films, or future science fiction films is that there are few opportunities for product placement (although selling products related to the show is big business - think StarWars dolls and props).

Dead Water

Dead zones of oxygen depleted waters offshore, caused by plant nutrients, mostly nitrates. This fertilises algae, which fall to the bottom when dead, feeding bacteria growth that uses up most of the minimal oxygen dissolved in sea water. Oxygen levels drop from as much as 10 ppm, to as little as 0.5ppm. However fish start having problems when oxygen levels drop to 5ppm. The article continued on limiting fertiliser pollution.

ISP Filtering

ISP filtering a dream, say Telstra. Might as well try to boil the ocean. I must say ISPs are remarkably in tune with each other on this idiocy of the government.

Newspapers Not Green

Environmental toll of New York Times annual subscription is very high. The 236 kg of paper produces 660 kg of CO2, and uses 22,700 litres of water. Printing is another 37 kg of carbon dioxide. Delivery and disposal another 5 kg of CO2.

In contrast, a PDA with batteries that will last three years takes 22 kWh of electricity, uploading takes at worst 6.3 kWh a year, and charging the batteries at worst 6.3 kWh annually. That amount of electricity means less than 10 kg of CO2. Annual water consumption would be less than 340 litres.

Crystal grabs carbon dioxide

An organic crystal called calixarene absorbs molecules such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and nitrogen. In a mix of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, it preferentially absorbs CO2. This potentially means it could clean up hydrogen produced for fuel cells, in which CO2 decreases efficiency and reliability.

Capistrano Drops Windows

Daring Fireball points to an interesting note from Jamis Buck, a RoR developer of Capistrano, about why he is dropping Windows support. Something has to give. In this case (and among other things), it's Windows. Microsoft may be an 800lb gorilla, but it's not _my_ gorilla, and it's not in _my_ room. If you need to appease the gorilla, that is (with all due respect) not my problem. I felt a similar sense of relief when I wrote a recent web site, Carlyle Gardens Gnome, that did not support Internet Explorer.

Monday 8 December 2008


I kept wondering what in the hell was the Freeview stuff the Free to Air TV channels advertised. Turns out it was just trying to say the five Free to Air (that means they show commercials a third of the time - but since the cable channels are full of advertising, it is hard to tell the difference between) channels were all going to run three digital channels each. Wasn't extra channels either a requirement or a benefit of the digital changeover?

So I tried checking the Freeview web site. It basically doesn't work. Probably some sort of Flash crap that won't work on my phone. No, I am not including a link to a broken web site.

Seems like Freeview also implies an electronic program guide (EPG). What is the point? No TV station in Australia ever starts or ends programs anywhere near the time they say, except maybe for the news.

I wonder how you receive digital TV? Austar satellite is all analogue anyhow, as far as I can see. Like many others, the body corporate by-laws where I live doesn't allow your own antenna. The existing distribution amplifiers and wiring can only handle analogue. Sounds like there is no way to watch digital anyhow. I did try a USB digital TV tuner, but with the tiny antenna supplied, it picked up nothing. Just as well I don't actually have a TV set either.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Panoramic Apple Stores

Panoramic VR camera views of the opening of new Apple Stores. These VR views are fun. Opening of Apple Store, Munich, Germany on 6 December 2008, photographed by Willy Kaemena. Opening of Apple Store, New York photographed by Jook Leung on 19 May. Here is the Apple Store, Sydney, Australia opening in June 2008 by Peter Murphy. You need QuickTime for all these.


From inspection of the overflowing rubbish bins at Florin Terrace in the Whitsunday Terraces, it seems obvious that once again the rubbish bins were not put out daily. Not sure why this daily task is too awkward.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Nvidia Bad Bump Solder

Nvidia had a solder problem mid 2008 and put aside lots of money to deal with it. The Inquirer thinks MacBook Pro has bad 9600M GT GPU. They claim this is caused by use of high lead rather than eutectic bumps. To back up this, The Inquirer bought a new MacBook Pro, pulled it apart, cut the chips in two, and had the bumps analysed. They claim there is a problem.

Browser Javascript Performance

Browser Javascript Performance on SunSpider Javascript benchmark. Each time someone runs these tests the results seem to change. However Firefox 3 and later is looking very nice. Opera and Safari are not trailing by much, and Chrome is coming last. First by a large margin is a WebKit nightly build. Another test puts Chrome first. This is a great time for web browser performance. There is real competition between the various engines.

However see this post by John Resig about the lack of accuracy of Javascript timers as a result of a 15 ms update of their timer. The most common Windows XP timer has a resolution of 15.625 ms. Lots of sub 15 ms responses will get rounded to 0 ms. In short, you need a better timing method. JohnResig also comments about the quality of Javascript benchmarks. You may also notice Apple (WebKit and Safari) promote SunSpider, Mozilla (Firefox) promote Dromaeo, and Google Chrome have V8 Benchmark. Better run tests on all three as a matter of course.

Construction Site

All sorts of activity at the Port of Airlie Marina construction site. Large truck came to take away the bits and pieces of the floating dredge they had on site. The self propelled crane was there to do the loading. Took most of the day before it was ready to go. There was also some smaller construction equipment being moved away.

The derelict building on land below Florin Terrace started being demolished. Two workers clumped all over the roof during the heat of the summer day. They removed most of the corrugated iron roof over the course of the afternoon. You could clearly see where fire had damaged the interior a year or so ago. I am very glad that building is being removed, as it attracted vagrants, whose food handling practices in turn attracted rats.

Window Reflects Heat When Hot

Window tint acts when hot. This material, of vanadium dioxide imbued with traces of tungsten, changes to a heat mirror at temperatures above 29C, totally unlike passive window tints. Unfortunately the tint is fragile, so it would probably need to be on the inside surface of a double glazed arrangement. It also has a yellow green tinge, so you would probably need a blue tint to assist in colour correction.

Wine Credit

Unexpectedly got a delivery, which turned out to be from my financial institution. It contained a promotional boxed bottle of Ross Estate 2006 Single Vineyard Old Vine Grenache (tasting notes are PDF). It came with an interesting Vinoglobe wine decanter and aerator (the Vinoglobe website is Flash with audio so I have not linked).

Thursday 11 December 2008

High Sports Fishing Catches

Sports fishing serious depletes fish stocks, at least in some USA areas. In some species of fish in the USA, sports fishing accounts for 23% of the species catch. This is higher than was expected. It looks like human population numbers may make some activities generally considered harmless to fish stocks a matter of concern. Sports fishing is big business in my area.

Origins of CSS

While style sheets were not exactly new to programmers, in 1994 Håkon W Lie wrote his influential Cascading HTML style sheets - a proposal, which advanced the idea of a cascade of style sheets. It also noted that a web page may be printed, or spoken by a voice synthesiser, or rendered in braille. Håkon W Lie wrote at length on Cascading Style Sheets in his thesis.

CSS was created to save HTML. There are some interesting commentaries on the Håkon Lie thesis on cascading style sheets.

Bert Bos, another CSS developer, collaborated with Lie on printing a book via CSS. The only product I know that does XML to PDF conversion is Prince.

Why Are Newspapers Dying?

The failure of the Tribune newspapers prompts Kurt Cagle to ask Why Are Newspapers Dying? It is not all dodgy financial deals loaded with debt. They were dying long ago. Old industries do not always disappear. The New York Times has a negative net worth, and debt it probably can not repay. I expect newspapers to become smaller, like small town cinema, like radio, like blacksmith shops (yes, there is one in my area). That is what I expect from newspapers that survive at all.

Kurt points to blogs, and the number of readers revealed by RSS feeds. He notes the astonishing (to me) figure that only three USA newspapers now have a readership over one million. He further notes tech blog readerships probably exceeding those newspaper figures.

Advertising agencies are also going under. Where television is not indicated, agencies are an excellent match to magazine and newspaper advertising, which is in decline during the world financial crisis. Their replacements may well be more in tune with Internet advertising.

Friday 12 December 2008

Web Note Happy

The bookmark manager in the Apple Safari web browser works pretty well for me. The folders help organise it. The thing I mostly miss is more detailed notes about the merit of various bookmarks. Plus I sometimes want bookmarks in several places at once.

When I started using my iPhone, I found I didn't want several thousand web page bookmarks on my phone. Plus when I use Opera or FireFox instead of Safari, I don't have access to the same bookmarks. So checking a separate bookmark manager seemed like a good idea.

Web Note Happy adds both notes and multiple tags as your bookmark manager. It can import from Firefox, Opera, Safari and others. It also interoperates with NetNewsWire to add notes to RSS feeds. It provides nested Folders, and Smart Folders for organising your URL library.

Web Note Happy can import and export in the XML Bookmark Exchange Language (XBEL) format.

Red Baron Turns Yellow

The buzzing of a Tiger Moth distracted me this morning. It was the usual adrenaline rush acrobatics over Airlie Beach. However instead of the red biplane I expected, this time the plane was painted yellow! Whoever heard of a yellow Red Baron?


SBS has a program that talked about Ikea and Sweden, and the whole Ikea town in Sweden. You could predict Ikea will eventually take over the furniture world, and the contents of every house. Except that Ikea do not deliver. The nearest store is 1000 km away. Seems like I am safe. Furniture I make lacks the Ikea style. Also my furniture tends to have a variety of power boards built into it.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Packing for Moving House

The packing for our forthcoming move continues. It is probably a bad sign that out of 21 boxes packed, 20 contain books and magazines. Worse, it hardly looks like anything has changed. In truth, I can see that my bookcases are perhaps half empty. Since my bookcases are all small (they are stacked three high), some with be moved with their lightweight contents (the ones with DVD boxes, for example).

Real soon now I will start dismounting some of the actual furniture, starting with the large home made desk on which I am writing this (the desk started as the sides of an equally home made water bed). I have a smaller desk (made from the ends of the water bed) that will act as the temporary replacement.

iPhone Applications

Almost Xmas, so time to buy myself a few more iPhone applications to try.

A Farley File. As a Robert Heinlein reader in my youth, I have obviously needed one of these since I read Double Star. It just runs extra notes attached to your Contacts.

Kirill Dergachev Sensor Data just outputs GPS readings, including altitude, and accelerometer output (and averages). Just what I needed.

Sookie Solutions iPhind searches contacts and notes within contacts.

Protests on Net Censorship

Protests against Australian government plans to censor web continue. Street protests in several Australian cities. It should be abundantly clear to governments that they should keep their hands off the internet. Especially when this stupid intervention is only to gain votes from a couple of independent politicians who may well have very strange ideas.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Power Outages

1:30 p.m. Power glitch for an instant.

5:35 p.m. Power glitch for an instant.

8:23 p.m. Power glitch for an instant.

I fear it may be the season for power outages. We have been running our air conditioning almost continuously throughout December, unlike most years. We started running it late November, very unlike most years. The major power use peaks in Queensland are due to air conditioner use. Since this was a Sunday, industry use should have been relatively low. Indeed, the NEMMCO Australian national electricity grid demand graph clearly showed the peak had not been reached in Queensland. So this is all probably a result of thunderstorms and high winds.

Outback Solar Power

I have long held the only sensible place for solar power is outback towns that are off the national electricity grid. They are just about perfect test beds for small scale community solar or other alternate power plants. After all, they would be using expensive diesel fuel otherwise. Plus they will still have the diesel (able to start within seconds) to supplement any power production problems. It is a win win place to experiment.

A $4.5 million solar farm at Windorah, with both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Anna Bligh attending the test of the five 14 metre solar dishes that track the sun. They could run up to 60 homes and businesses, by producing up to 300 megawatt hours a year. More important, they could save up to 100 tonnes of diesel, and about 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

These figures are also what is wrong with solar. About $15,000 spend to save a tonne of CO2. About $45,000 per person for the plant. That amount of diesel would cost around $15000 a year, so the solar plant would take around 300 years to pay back its costs. This is not cheap energy. This sort of thing will not save the planet. At the moment, it is little more than an expensive political photo opportunity.

Free eBooks

I was packing for our move, and looking for things to throw out. Regretfully picked up my microfilm copy of the classic 1964 Stephen Dole report Habitable Planets for Man from the Rand Corporation. This is still probably the best work about designing a planet for SF authors. But these days I don't have a microfilm reader.

Google. On the D Lynn Frazier blog. Free eBook Habitable Planets for Man by Stephen Dole. Pretty good. The Rand Corporation had recently decided to make the PDF available free, while encouraging purchase of the paper version. There it was! I am absolutely delighted.

There are a whole list of classic Rand reports available. They also had a copy of Space Handbook - Astronautics and Its Applications by Robert H Buchheim, of which I still had my battered paperback copy. There is also a link to the Nasa html version of Space Handbook.

Monday 15 December 2008

Moving to XHTML

In 2009 this blog will be converting all future posts to XHTML, instead of HTML. Correctly served XHTML requires that all elements in my markup be well formed. Web browsers will interpret the contents with an XML parser. This forces me to correct any markup errors. Any XML markup error requires the browser to stop processing, and report the error. Instant feedback, very unlike HTML handled by a traditional tag soup browser that specialises in error correction.

To read the blog, use any standards compliant web browser. Works with Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. Also works with iPhone and Blackberry phone browsers. Internet Explorer does not work at all.

Internet Explorer has a competent XML parser, however it does not correctly handle XHTML. This is a Microsoft bug that they have declined to fix in IE7 or even in IE8. It is not an error on my part.

Web Standards

The W3C - World Wide Web Consortium produce the recommended specifications for producing web pages. Lack of web standards are important factors in the cost of building a web site. Without standards, just how do you write your web site?

You can write exclusively for Internet Explorer. However this means your web pages for IE5 break in IE6, for IE6 they break in IE7, for IE7 they break in IE8, each time IE gets closer to the standard Microsoft agreed to.

You can write to the standards. Then your web pages will work in every browser, except the most used browser, Internet Explorer. Plus you will probably waste a lot of time fine tuning your way around differences between IE5, IE6, IE7 and now IE8.

Standards Compliant Browsers

No browser has complete support for web standards. However many browsers have excellent support for standards. Support for standards is increasing in every browser. It is the roadmap to the future for browsers. Support for old web sites is not getting any attention, at all, by browser designers.

Previously I said, to read my blog, use any standards compliant web browser. Works with Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. Also works with iPhone and Blackberry phone browsers. Internet Explorer does not work at all.

As Versioning, compatibility and standards points out, there are complications in providing a standards based browser. Especially if your standards support was idiosyncratic in the past. It is even worse if you are the dominant browser, and the people making web sites expect compatibility.

In making the change to XHTML, I was influenced by Jeffrey Zeldman and his 2001 article To Hell With Bad Browsers. The standards have been around for years. If not now, when? It is a good point. Most of the recommendations have been around for a decade. It is time to use them, strictly.

Viewable With Any Browser

The viewable with any browser campaign reinforces something Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web once, said said.

Anyone who slaps a this page is best viewed with Browser X label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.

Unfortunately Charles Miller points out in Gresham trumps Postel. By making browsers that attempt to cope with every badly written web page, we are ensuring that most web pages are so badly written that we can no longer be certain that any browser will display them. We now compare browsers not by how well they render web pages, but by how robust they are at not displaying errors in those web pages.

Internet Explorer Bugs

Microsoft fixed a lot of CSS bugs in Internet Explorer 7 by August 2006. As a result, many web pages customised for IE5 and IE6 broke when viewed with IE7. Microsoft does not want to break the web, but their initial ploy created an outcry against IE. Internet Explorer struggles to be compatible is an example. Microsoft are rightly concerned that many broken web sites that pretend to serve XHTML will fail to operate if these sites are treated as anything except badly written HTML.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 did improve standards support past IE7 levels. After an outcry by concerned web developers, IE8 also uses its revised Standards mode by default. This will break many more web sites, that were customised for the incomplete Standards mode of IE6, or even IE7. Microsoft have included a button in IE8 that switches it to IE7 mode for a specific web site. I imagine that will get heavy use.

Quirks Mode and Standards

Does this relate to browser Quirks mode using the Doctype switching introduced by Internet Explorer 5 (Macintosh)? Not really. Quirks mode is an early attempt to prevent old web pages from breaking. Quirks mode exists only to prevent old non-Standards based web pages from breaking.

If you continue to write Transitional web pages, you can never take advantage of browser improvements. Browsers are only improving their Standards compliant mode. You can only take advantage of browser improvements by writing web pages in (X)HTML Strict.

My pages have been written as HTML Strict for ages. All browsers, including Internet Explorer, treat my pages in Standards mode. The problem is that older versions of Internet Explorer had a different idea of how Standards mode should be presented. So my pages looked and worked badly, but only in Internet Explorer. This problem meant most company web sites either used backwards compatible Transitional mode, or wrote their pages specifically to suit Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer Does Not Work

Since the problem is Internet Explorer, I have gone the other way. I make my pages follow web standards, W3C specifications and recommendations, and ICANN MIME types.

Internet Explorer 8 is the most standards compliant Microsoft browser yet it does not handle XHTML. Since IE6 and IE7 have very incomplete support for CSS, when I write a web page, I have to consider adding special treatment to help these browsers show my pages.

However if I use correctly served XHTML, strictly according to the standard recommended, then no version of Internet Explorer works. This solves the problem of writing especially for different versions of Internet Explorer. It does however give the intending reader the problem of using a different browser.


Eventually Microsoft will write a version of Internet Explorer that supports web standards, including how to serve XHTML. At that point, my XHTML web pages will all automatically start working with it. I am writing my web pages for where the web will eventually be, not for the broken mess it is now.

TV Gone

I was watching the News at 5 on 10 when every channel, including Austar, went out. Since my display is a computer monitor, and my sound goes via my stereo, the cause must be something common to both. I use a combined VCR/DVD player as a tuner, so it could be the tuner section. However the DVD part works. Flicking channels picked up static on a single channel. I think either the TV translator, or the distribution amplifier for the building is out of action.

This was annoying. They had just got to the item about Telstra being dropped from the National Broadband Network bid (for not putting in a proper bid) when the stuff disappeared. I had to bring up a newspaper on the internet to read what had happened.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Ads Steal Internet Visitors

Admen steal internet visitors from high cost sites. Set a cookie, track potential high value visitors to high advertising cost web sites when those visitors go to low advertising cost sites. Have these advertisers no ethics?

Obvious solution for visitors, apart from turning cookies off always, or wiping all cookies when you leave a site, or making your cookie file read only. Always block all third party cookies as a matter of course. You might also want to kill referrer logging. You also miss a whole bunch of advertising if you turn the Adobe Flash plugin off. I sort of assume these days everyone has pop up windows off permanently.

If your web browser doesn't make this sort of defence easy, consider using Opera (most of these things are built in) or Firefox (numerous extensions that give you control over such stuff). You might also consider a hosts file that just discards anything from advertising sites. Or suppress the advertising with a custom CSS file for your browser.

To Townsville

We were on the road to Townsville just after 7 a.m. If there was an increase in traffic due to the holidays we didn't notice it. We did notice that out of town petrol had just fallen below A$1 a litre. Jean had a reasonable price for a motel overnight, booked via Wotif on the Web. We don't like phoning the motels direct, and with Wotif you get a printout you can wave at a motel if they claim you didn't phone them with your booking.

After our usual stop for a snack at Inkerman, we reached Townsville around 11 a.m. The new Ring Road let us out at Upper Ross River Road, very close to the entrance to Carlyle Gardens retirement Resort.

We did some driving around the grounds of Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort, looking for existing solution to potential problems. Saw a bunch of tilting horizontal sun shades on west facing windows. Saw a lot of garden gnomes on a lot of gardens made of pretty much entirely of rock. Check. There were two solutions.

Not many TV antennas. I guess TV is piped through the wiring system. We never did confirm how TV reception is being done. Nor whether it is still analogue or has changed to digital.

Carlyle Gardens Xmas Party

The Prime Trust sales staff at Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort had sent us invitations to this Xmas Pool Party. They even catered it with snacks and pizza through the Carlyle Gardens restaurant.

The party was intended for new residents, mostly those in Stage A of Carlyle West, across the bridge from the original areas. This was a way of meeting potential future neighbours. I thought it would be a great way to get an idea of which things were likely to be a problem, based on the comments of those who had already started moving in. I managed to talk to folks at each table.

Complaints about getting a Telstra phone connection. Some home utilities connections not completed. Hot water with switches off (we were told the hot water systems have a pump). Power wiring with reversed connections (must take my tester with me). Ovens left on after being installed. Each is easy to check, now we know that we should check.

Donna from sales really tried hard to get the pool party going, and was joined in the pool by a handful of attendees. The party didn't actually liven up a lot during the singing of Xmas carols, also led by a lively Donna. A certain resistance there. I found it amusing.

Alas, the inspection of the home we were to lease had not been arranged. Must have overloaded the list of things to do when we talked by phone about that. I think I will have try to restrict phone calls to one item per call, despite my dislike for any phone call. It is better for each side. The inspection was quickly organised for noon tomorrow.


Netbook computers. Small, internet enabled computers, mostly cheap. Maybe you want to experiment with Linux on one. Maybe you really can not use a notebook computer due to the weight and size. I found that size and weight problem when I was travelling by light plane for several weeks in September.

Most people probably buy netbooks because they are cheap. However there are cheap notebook computers. Netbooks have to keep getting even cheaper to compete. I can see a whole generation of netbooks on which no manufacturer is making a profit. A race to the bottom.

Meanwhile, the horsepower of a netbook makes them a a poor match to Vista. So they tend to sell with Linux or Windows XP. I wonder what Microsoft think of that? Or are they stuck in another race to the bottom?

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Consumer Camera Products

Canon postpones construction of digital camera factory. So, the world economic crisis claims another slowdown. However I can not help but think that some of us might have bought certain products, like digital cameras, somewhat earlier. Except for one thing. Camera makers persist in making things I do not want, instead of things I do want.

I am not going to buy a large SLR camera (plenty of people will). They are large enough that I will not carry them with me, no matter how good a photo they take.

However I do want an optical viewfinder. I take photos outside in bright sunlight in the tropics. An LCD display is utterly useless. I can't see anything on them. I have to guess what I am photographing. So I am simply not going to buy another camera that only has an LCD display. This is no longer a negotiable feature. LCD displays absolutely suck.

Carlyle Gardens Inspection

We did find that the bridge between Carlyle East and Carlyle West was pretty much complete, except for Ergon needing to complete moving a power cable underground. We took some photos of the rear of the house from there.

Inspection time. This time the tiling variation was actually in the bedrooms. Actually, the grouting still wasn't complete, and the tiler was still working on the front room. Actually there were builders working in most rooms. However the two extra air conditioners in our bedroom variation were not installed (nor even had wiring as far as I could see). Jean's extra power point was also not in. So once again we had to ask whether the September variations were go, or not.

The tiling of the back porch was done (still wet, as that was in the morning). This time the ceiling fans were all in. Some fluorescent downlights not installed, but the wiring was now visible. The kitchen was mostly in place, except for cabinet hardware and whitegoods. Some bathroom screens still to install.

The driveway was in (poured the previous day, we gathered). Hot water heater and external air conditioning units not yet in. Overall, the house was a long way further along, even if it was very recent work. However, ready by Friday? Not likely. Ready by Xmas? Possible, but unlikely.

The builders are only off work until 5 January, a much shorter break than I expected. The lawyers are off for several weeks. Our sales person is off until 12 January. So it doesn't seem worth looking at getting much done before mid January in any case.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Carbon Dioxide Satellite

NASA set to launch CO2 hunter satellite. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) is intended to show where CO2 is being emitted and absorbed on the surface of the earth. So the idea is to see where the 7.5 billion tonnes of CO2 humans emit each year fits into the 330 billion tonne a year natural carbon cycle.

Apple Mighty Mouse

I like this design for a new Apple mighty mouse. All smooth and touch surfaces. Most important, no scroll ball to fill up with gunk. I think Apple covered similar ground in one of their patents some time ago, but this is a very nice image of one possible product.

Friday 19 December 2008

Carlyle Handover

Today was the day we were originally told our new home at Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort at Townsville would be ready for us to take over. We are not the only folks whose original date estimates are less than accurate. Luckily, we don't much care about the date, unlike people who had to sell a home at the same time. Except that it would be better for us if it were much later. March would be fine, and April even better. By April the wet season is drawing to an end, as is the cyclone season.

Xmas Food Shopping

I can't believe how much it is possible to spend on food as we approach Xmas, mostly just stocking up for Xmas (no festivities). Well, to a slight extent also getting in some cyclone supplies, like water. Nearly $140 in Coles for food. $50 for turkey. $60 for wine (obviously a survival supply). It would have been more if we had any place to store it. The packing ready to move occupies most easily available floor space.

Christmas Island Detention

I am highly amused to note that the much reviled Pacific Solution of the conservative Howard government remains in play, at least in variations. The Labor government Immigration Minister Chris Evans today authorised the opening of the remote Christmas Island detention centre. This will house illegal immigrants as slightly increased numbers (164 people on 7 boats against 148 last year) of boat people head for Australia.

HTML to EPUB Converter for eBooks

BookGlutton have an HTML to EPUB converter for eBooks freely available via their web site. The BookGlutton Blog comments on paper vis electronic books.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Body Corporate Budget

After several changes of date, we had the body corporate budget meeting today, starting at 8:30 a.m. Not particularly convenient for me. It took us until about 12:30 to get most of the meeting done. The last of us were still doing the walk around checking problem areas until around 2 p.m.

Calibre eBook Management

An open source eBook library management program called Calibre (formerly libprs500) is available for Linux, Macintosh and Windows. It is written in Python. Does library management, format conversion, news feeds to ebook conversion as well as e-book reader sync features. It is mostly an eBook cataloguing program.

International Digital Publishing Forum for eBooks

International Digital Publishing Forum, formerly Open eBook Forum, support .epub as the file extension of an XML format for reflowable digital books and publications. .epub is composed of three open standards, the Open Publication Structure (OPS), Open Packaging Format (OPF) and Open Container Format (OCF).

The Open Publication Structure (OPS) specification is based on XML. The Open Packaging Format (OPF) specification provides additional structure for eBooks. The OEBPS Container Format (OCF) 1.0 is a single file general container format for related files, and is based on zip. A more readable summary of International Digital Publishing Forum Digital Book Standards is in their forum.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Rubbish Bins Not Collected

Once again the rubbish bins at the Whitsunday Terraces resort were not put out for daily collection by the garbage truck. I noticed them when headed out for my newspaper, and put out the bins for Florin Terrace. It looked (and smelled) as if the garbage bins were not collected on Saturday either. The stink was noticeable two floors away from the bins. The garbage bins were alive with blowflies.

I put the garbage bins out on Golden Orchid Drive for collection. When I returned a half hour later with my newspaper, the garbage truck had just arrived. I could not see any sign that other garbage bins from the Whitsunday Terraces had been put out. After I took the rubbish bins back to their hiding place, I went down the steps again with some insect surface spray and tried to reduce the blowfly menace.

Stanza eBook Reader

Lexcycle (revolution in reading) promote Stanza eBook reader as a free application for iPhone and iPod. They also have a free Stanza desktop application for Macintosh and Windows that will convert various digital publishing files. Stanza has native support for EPUB format. Stanza Desktop contains built-in reading support for DRM-free Amazon Kindle, Mobipocket, Microsoft LIT, and PalmDoc, as well as Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, HTML, and PDF. Stanza iPhone or iPod Touch supports eReader with or without DRM and ePub without DRM. This Stanza FAQ lists sources of eBooks for download.

Bookworm is a browser based application for reading EPUB books. They have a epub format checker so publishers can check EPUB files are correct.

Web Page Structure

The Opera MAMA survey of web site structure reveals hardly anyone (0.5%) uses Byte Order Marks (BOM). I think some text editors add them automatically. I can see little reason to add them.

The most common Doctype by far was HTML 4, which was used more than twice as frequently as XHTML 1.0. Relatively few (less than 10%) used anything else, with the most common being old HTML 3.2, and about a third as many XHTML 1.1. There were a surprising number listed as ietf.

Doctypes were mostly Transitional, so about 85% of web sites were being served by browsers in Quirks mode. Slightly less than 10% were Strict, which may mean browsers used Standards mode. Less than 5% were Frameset, so maybe web writers are getting the idea that Framesets are a lousy idea.

In an earlier study, about 20% of the text was readable content. In this study, about 61% was tags, so perhaps the ratio of content to tag is increasing. It still seems silly to me that most of the content of a web page is not something you can read.

Valid web pages remain a minority. However it had increased to 4.13%. Of interest was 20% of the W3C member sites now had a valid page, up from 3.5% in 2002, and 17% in 2006. The most discouraging item is that formerly valid sites were no longer valid. In a similar disappointment less than half the web pages with valid badges on them were actually still valid. Interestingly pages using Strict Doctypes were twice as likely to pass validation as other pages.

We already know most XHTML is served as an incorrect MIME type. Only 2.8% of XHTML were served correctly, even when XHTML 1.0 was not used.

Monday 22 December 2008

Harpers Bush

A distant cousin advised me of Harpers Bush. The Geographical Names Board of NSW were advised to assign the name Harpers Bush for a reserve of around 6.5 hectares comprising Lot 2, DP 853940, Lot 2 DP 1046713 and Lot 283 DP 1075889 in an area located on the corner of Reservoir Road and Holbeche Road, Blacktown. GNB 5271 reference around 28 November 2008 gives the Latitude as -33 47 35 and the Longitude as 150 53 43.

Named after the Harper family who owned the land from 1919 when William Harper purchased the land until Blacktown City Council acquired the Harper Bush in November 2007.

In the 1920s William had established a home with his wife and raised three children. The land was partly cultivated but much of the natural tree cover was retained.

Blacktown Council Names Harpers Bush

I found myself wondering just when and how Blacktown Council named the Harper family land at Reservoir Road.

DE2902 – AD270039 – General Business: Naming of land acquired for Open Space, Reservoir Road, Blacktown; AQ-643/10 suggested naming the land Harpers Reserve following a 5 December 2007 meeting.

FC280053 – The proposed naming of Reserve 752, Reservoir Road, Blacktown to Harper Reserve of 21 May 2008 recommended council inform Geographical Names Board and Mrs Joyce Harper. This report helpfully links to a council land plan of Harper Bush area. I note a couple of indentations into the area. One exclusion would probably have been the site of the old cottage. Another exclusion probably the land left to me that my mother sold when I was fairly young.

Ordinary Council Meeting 726 Minutesof 28 May 2008 notes DE2938 – FC280053 – The proposed naming of Reserve 752, Reservoir Road, Blacktown 48-752-1; AQ-643/11. MOTION (Gapps/Collins). That Council approve the name "Harper's Bush" for Reserve 752. Carried. All of which leads me to wonder who decided on Harpers Bush rather than the original Harpers Reserve as proposed by committee.

Blacktown Council Acquires Harper Land

I also found myself wondering just when and how Blacktown Council acquired the majority of the Harper family land at Reservoir Road. It is listed in Council records as a compulsory acquisition.

I note in the ordinary council minutes 719 of 12 December 2007 WF1871A – FC270216 – CONFIDENTIAL – Section 10A(2)(d) – Land and Environment Court Proceedings – Compulsory Acquisition of Land for Open Space, Reservoir Road, Blacktown – Claim of Mr Gordon Harper AQ-643/10

Attachment 1 to FC270188, the Director's Comments on Legal Costs 1 July 2007 - 30 September 2007 shows lawyers engaged since August 2005. I quote AQ643 – G.Harper vs BCC, Reservoir Rd, Blacktown – Compulsory Acquisition $35,680.19 Maddocks Engaged August 2005 and AQ643 – G.Harper vs BCC, Reservoir Rd, Blacktown – Compulsory Acquisition $1,975.00 Barrister – Peter Tomasetti Engaged August 2005.

Attachment 1 to FC280013, the Director's Comments on Legal Costs 1 October 2007 – 31 December 2007 now shows AQ643 – G.Harper vs BCC, Reservoir Rd, Blacktown – Compulsory Acquisition $89,748.32 Maddocks, with a note includes expert witnesses consultant fees and barrister's fees (Barrister - Peter Tomasetti).

Attachment 1 to FC280064, Director's Comments on Legal Costs 1 January 2008 – 31 March 2008 shows an additional amount AQ643 - G.Harper vs BCC, Reservoir Road, Blacktown – Compulsory Acquisition. $5,601.33 Maddocks. Matter not finalised at this date.

Attachment 1 to FC280131, Director's Comments on Legal Costs 1 April 2008 – 30 June 2008 shows a final amount. AQ643 – G.Harper vs BCC, Reservoir Road, Blacktown – Compulsory Acquisition. $1,028.26 Maddocks Engaged August 2005 Matter finalised. So this land acquisition had continued for a long time, and cost council a considerable amount.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Carlyle Gardens

We just heard from the Prime Trust sales person at Carlyle Gardens. The builders have gone off for their Xmas break. The new house we are to lease is not yet complete. This comes as a complete shock and surprise to us all ... NOT!

I am predicting around mid January before we hear anything more. Fifty fifty chance of any handover of the property in January.

Long Tail Chopped Off

Net music theory ends up a tall tale says Patrick Forster in The Australian. He reports that 10 million of the 13 millions pieces of music available on the internet did not sell one copy this year. In short, Chris Anderson in his blog in 2004 and book The Long Tail in 2006 simply got it wrong. I find this a real pity. I enjoyed the book, and I liked the thought that it did leave a place for the long tail of products that were not popular.

Job Search

An enterprising job searcher used a sandwich board to seek work. Says it is better than waiting for CentreLink or job agencies. Got three job offers in 45 minutes.

Targus Mouse

Scroll wheel replacement finally comes to computer mouse. The Targus For Mac Wireless Mouse is topped by a four way optical scroll board. I wonder what the Targus battery life is like? they claim up to six months. At last, a potential replacement for the Apple Mighty Mouse whose scroll wheel keeps getting gunked up. Alas, initial reviews say the scroll is way to sensitive to use for small distances. Unlike the Apple Mighty Mouse, which after much use is too gunked up to move to all in some directions.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Web Page Problems

I started writing an end of year newsletter for New Year. This meant reading through my blog postings for the year, in the hope of finding something interesting had happened.

The thing I mostly noticed was the abysmal quality of my web page tags. I thought I was mostly doing a fairly clean job of my HTML. No tables, no frames. Writing only to HTML 4.01 Strict. Validating my pages. All that good stuff. I had cleaned up 2005 to 2007, probably in some previous end of year fit of pique. My 2008 pages showed how wrong I was. Lots of unencoded ampersand (&) in URLs I had linked to. Just why do companies continue to use poorly thought out content management systems to stuff up web pages?

Anytime you quote something, especially from some government body, you are highly likely to pick up incorrectly encoded characters. Business tend to generate their web page content in Microsoft tools that simply get character encoding wrong all the time. There is little reason to expect people employed for clerical tasks to realise their tools are producing such poor results.

Also, I made a lot more typos in my HTML than I thought. The very fact that I find it easier to write my web pages directly in HTML shows just how poor the commercial editing tools are. The intent of the web was that when producing content, you would have good tools doing the relatively trivial task of getting the HTML correct. I still can not recommend any product to someone wanting to produce a web page. That is utterly incredible, given how long the web has existed. Especially when the original web browser that Tim Berners-Lee wrote would also do editing!

Character Set Cut and Paste Problem

A cut and paste – with an embedded en dash – looked bad in my browser. In the past I have mostly substituted a hyphen, but improving appearance means I really need either an em dash or an en dash.

An em dash was probably correct, but I agree with the Chicago Manual of Style and several book publishers. An em dash mostly looks too heavy and Victorian for modern typography. So I decided on a spaced em dash. However a regular space is too long, so I also needed a shorter space character.

Since I use English pretty much exclusively, I long ago settled upon the easiest IANA approved character sets I could. I initially used simple ASCII (ANSI_X3.4-1968) and then ISO-8859-1 as per RFC1345 - Character Mnemonics and Character Sets for any HTML page.

The use of named character entities, or hexadecimal character entities, may be unreliable across browsers, so it seemed safest to me to use numeric decimal character entities. Character entity references in HTML 4 as defined by W3C lists some common entities used for ISO 8859-1 (Latin-1) characters.

I tried  –  for a hair space but that seems to only work in the Opera browser. It is also not listed as an HTML character entity. I decided to compromise with a thin space  – , supported in Opera, Safari and Firefox.

Dashboard Widget Weaknesses

Nice article about Apple Dashboard security weakness explained by 2600 contributor. Explains the existing security model, of limited rights. Points to ways around limited rights. Comes with example code. Just right as a Xmas present.

Xmas Thursday 25 December 2008

Xmas Cards

Despite my own abysmal response, we seem to have a number of Xmas cards.

Santa on Cross

Time to comment on this Hallmark Holiday, celebrating tackiness in the name of the lord. The story of the Japanese Santa crucified by a store is probably an urban legend.

I am told photos of yourself with a crucified personality was a feature at Burning Man a few years back. Santa and Elvis were popular. A potato head Santa on a fork featured at a restaurant in 2002. Also in 2002, Chili Ciluaga near 6300 block of Ustick Road, Boise is reported to have put up a crucified Santa. In Canada, Jimmy Wright of Metchosin BC did a crucified santa. I don't know about the reindeer - probably out dashing through the dough.

Art Conrad of the 300 block, Olympic Avenue, West Bremerton, WA did a 15 foot cross with a crucified Santa Claus in 2007 to protest the commercialisation of Xmas. This year he sells the T-shirt and the card. Motto is Santa died for your Mastercard.

At Easter, I am looking forward to the Easter Bunny being crucified. I hate rabbits! The feral scum should be wiped off the Australian continent. Same for feral cats, dogs and foxes.

Religious Scenes

There is much advertising themed as religious, with the red and white Santa Claus similar to Haddon Sunblom's successful 1931 Coca Cola advertising campaign. I am relieved to note Clement C. Moore's pipe smoking has now been dropped. Poets are always doing politically incorrect things. We do get Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, from Robert May's 1939 Montgomery Ward advertising, and the Johnny Marks song Gene Autry popularised.

Some homes have explicitly Christian scenes depicted, like the three wise men and the manger. Pity Matthew doesn't mention it was three wise men (did mention three gifts). Come to think of it, didn't they become wise men in a politically motivated change in the King James version? Didn't mention the camels either. Mind you, Matthew sort of implies they went to a house, not a manger. And Luke thinks the manger visitors were shepherds. But it is probably close enough for religious art.

Friday 26 December 2008

Moving to XHTML (1)

Mid month I converted my tiny retirement village site Carlyle Gardens Gnome to correctly served XHTML. That is, XHTML served as application/xhtml+xml, not incorrectly served as text/html like most web sites. That was fairly easy to do manually. Also, as a very new web site, hardly any search engines would have indexed Carlyle Gardens Gnome (I don't bother to check my Page Rank, or even my visitor logs). I probably did not have much search engine position to lose, if I got things wrong. I probably did get lots wrong.

I started moving my recent Whitsunday complaints site Airlie Beach Bum to correctly served XHTML. This looked more difficult. The site has been up for nearly a year. Other web sites may have linked to it. It may even be in some browser bookmarks.

Easy bits first. The index.html page stays as HTML. Add a helpful note that Internet Explorer will not work with XHTML, and a link to why it is broken. A global search and replace to convert all the obvious HTML stuff in the head element to XHTML. No, I don't believe HTML Tidy will do a clean enough job. Then conversion of internal links. The existing manual HTML was already very clean, and tags were already closed and well formed. However there will be lots of errors to fix. Hand writing HTML guarantees typos, or worse. Close the editor.

You have Unix under Macintosh OS X, so change the file names in bulk from the Terminal (Apple Developer Tools provide an example AppleScript that would probably also do it). That is, .html extension gets changed to .xhtml

for i in *.html; do mv "$i" "${i%.html}.xhtml" ;done

Why .xhtml? Partly because it is one of the expected, correct extensions for XHTML, but is not .htm or .html. So I can see which files are converted. Apple treat the .xhtml extension as being xml. So browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari will all flag the first tag that is not well formed, instead of displaying the file. Instant error feedback, so you have to fix technical errors in your web pages. Both my web site hosts (Dreamhost and Server101) serve files with the .xhtml extension correctly by default as application/xhtml+xml, and not incorrectly as text/html.

Now open up the web site again in your web browser. On a Macintosh, if a page XML tags are not well formed, the browser will refuse to show the page. On my already clean web site, after one global search and replace, I had only three individual errors to fix in over 50 pages, so I was very pleased.

Moving to XHTML (2)

If you have existing web pages whose names (URL) need to change, do you simply remove those pages? Not good for people seeking the old pages. You can do an automatic redirect within each old web page, but that is a kluge whose time has passed. It break browser back button use. Some browsers may not follow these redirects. Also search engines may dislike it (and think you are scamming them).

The best approach is to get the web server to redirect any request for an old page to the new pages via a 301 Permanent redirect. Search engines like it. You can redirect every .html to .xhtml, however in my case I want to leave the index.html page alone, and also have a page explaining which browser you need, and that has to be .html.

So I need a .htaccess file on the web server with a whole heap of lines for each individual web page. I am partial to an ls into a file, cp the file, a little editing in vi to add redirect 301 to each line in the first file and the full URL to the second file, and then use paste to join the two files line by line. If you were doing this more than once writing a script might be better. Each line ends up saying something similar to redirect 301 /tsunami.html

Eric's Tropical Shirts

Jean wanted a set of photos of the cotton tropical print shirts she made for me this year. So we went out on the balcony, where I squinted in the tropical sun. Jean put the photos up on the Google Picasaweb photo site. We got the cotton material during multiple visits to Spotlight over the past year. It is not easy to find suitable cotton material. If you think these shirts are bright, you should see the material I liked that Jean rejected. I don't believe a shirt is right unless anyone seeing it has to wear sunglasses. As the person operating the sewing machine, Jean has an absolute right of veto. She also has way more taste than I have.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Boxing Day Sales Scam

Classic opinion piece by Fiona Connolly in The Daily Telegraph on the Boxing Day sales scam played on bargain hunters. After examples of false saving behaviour, she delivers this zinger of a paragraph in the middle of her rant.

But what you're really doing is playing a losing game with multinational companies with multi-million dollar profits that have whole departments full of professional scam artists employed specifically to mess with your head.

User Agent String

Serving different web page content to different browsers is a dead loss. You absolutely can not rely upon how a browser identifies itself. Aaron Andersen's sad (and funny) tale, the History of the browser user-agent string shows that browsers all imitate each other when they identify themselves. Opera really set the rot upon the web when they let you use whatever you liked as a user-agent string. Now they pretty much all can do that. Well, actually, they all start by saying they are The Book of Mozilla.

The browser user-agent string is close to utterly useless. Browser sniffing is a pointless waste of energy. I neither check the user-agent, nor use it. I never will. However if you want to analyse a user agent string, there are lists of them.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Fanzine LoCs

Not sure why they were set aside so long, but late last night I started emailing LoCs on the accumulated fanzines carefully set aside in their own file box here.

Power Outage

Electric power was lost for a second at 7:20 p.m. during a rainstorm. Lots of thunder and lightning around the time. Another momentary outage around 7:47 p.m. Plus the TV translators (towers) were going out even more often. As usual during rain, the satellite channels from Austar were basically out of action. Another lightning strike outage at 7:58 p.m. Another power outage at 8:08 p.m.

The rain was absolutely bucketing down by 8:08 p.m. Maybe we are seeing the first of the real rainy season? The radar images show the rain extending from Bowen (70 km north) down past Mackay (150 km south). My neighbour Jim is out in it somewhere in his sail boat, on an eight day sail. By the following morning, my balcony rain gauge was showing 70 mm of rainfall.

Monday 29 December 2008

Apple eBooks with DRM

ScrollMotion has deals with Simon & Schuster, Random House, Hachette, Houghton Mifflin, and Penguin Group USA to develop e-books for the Apple iPhone using the ScrollMotion IceBerg eBook reader. Alas, so far the IceBerg book prices seem 30% higher than Kindle eBook prices on Amazon. Several blogs have also complained about the ScrollMotion business model.

Each book is a separate FairPlay protected application. This seems to me a loser by having separate books, and by having DRM. However they are searchable, and you can annotate books, both of which are good points. It seems likely that the page content matches the printed content, which may mean text size is not dynamically alterable without scrolling. ScrollMotion would like to see the organization of the app store evolve so that ebooks could be listed separately from other apps like games, and stored on the device in a separate location. Maud Newton has a good ScrollMotion writeup that explains more about how it works.

Apple iPad

Techcrunch say large format Pod Touch in the latest of many tech and rumour sites pushing the idea that Apple will produce a large form tablet computing device. All think it will be intermediate in size between the 3.5 inch display of an iPhone and the 13 inch of a MacBook Air. Techcrunch claim their rumour mongers are more reliable than the general run of rumour mongers, going back more than a year.

The Jupiter class PDAs or PIMs long ago went down the tubes. The Psion netBook is still a great example of a powerful PDA computer, but the fundamentals are a decade old now. One point was that it did up to 7 hours on the original battery, more on a more advanced battery.

Tablet PCs have not taken off. That seems partly a matter of cost. A miniature full function computer tends to be expensive. In contrast the new range of cheap low power sub-notebook computers (we can not call them netbooks) from Asus and others have taken off very well. At Amazon, they lead the computer sale numbers. However they are threatened by low cost full size notebook computer prices decreasing. They also may have the same razor thin margins of low end notebook computers.

Computer makers have a limited range of CPUs available if they want to run Windows. Battery life tends to suck on anything able to handle Windows Vista. Use the lower power Intel Atom, and performance is down unless you run the obsolete Windows XP. Despite enthusiasts (my partner put Ubuntu on a new EeePC today), Linux really has not caught on in general, so it is harder for manufacturers to take advantage of its ability to work on low speed chips.

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Menu Design

So far I have a only a small amount of content on my retirement village site Carlyle Gardens Gnome. However I have around 50 pages on my critical Airlie Beach Bum tourism infrastructure. I have changed both web sites to correctly served XHTML. I have not added a menu system, nor even a bread crumb trail. I have also been somewhat unhappy about many of my previous menu systems, so just using one of these didn't seem a great idea.

Time to steal web site ideas from Stu Nicholls CSS Play. This wonderful web design site provides playful examples of CSS based ideas. Some elegant menus I can not use, as they do not handle fluid web design. A nice dropdown ribbon menu, and a wonderful example of png transparency, but not suited to a fluid design. I also like vertical concertina menu. I will probably use a flyout menu with breadcrumb trail as I have use previously, however this professional dropline menu with current selection takes a very different approach.

Cease and Desist Netbook

A note Enthusiast web sites C & D using term Netbook. It seems Psion have noticed use of the trademarked Netbook term by people selling sub notebook or mini-notebook computers other than a Psion netBook. These sub notebooks typically use an Intel Atom chip. They have used Origin to send cease and desist letters. Origin have clarified the Psion Netbook claim in what seems to me to be a very reasonable response.

For the sake of full disclosure, I note that I used to write a Psion Epoc web site. I own a Psion 7 and a MalayBook (both variations of the Psion netBook).

Fire Alarm

Some idiot set off the fire alarm around 3:15 a.m. As far as I could tell, the majority of people staying here paid no attention to it, even if they heard it. I am so relived the infrequent alarms are mostly set off by idiots tampering with outside alarm buttons. I can just imagine the chaos if the mandatory smoke alarms within rooms were actually mains powered, and linked back to the central alarm system. These alarm links seem to be required in some new buildings, but not in older buildings. With a kitchen in each apartment, false alarms would be overwhelming in number.

Asus 1000H EeePC

During our shopping trip, we visited Harvey Norman, where Jean bought herself their last Asus H1000 EeePC, with the 10 inch display. It is very small, light and cute, and has a much nicer display than the original 7 inch model. Pity about also having Windows. That evening she started the massive download of Ubunto for the EeePC.

Wednesday 31 December 2008

Fire Alarm

Once again, probably by the same idiot as last night, another fire alarm around 1:30 a.m. Again, as far as I could tell, the majority of people staying here paid no attention to it, even if they heard it. Reception could not tell me whether the person doing these alarms was spotted on the (many) surveillance cameras the Body Corporate paid so much money for. In the past, setting off false alarms had led to court action, and seriously large fines. The call out fee from the fire brigade is around $800.

Intel Mobile Chips

Intel's 28 December chip price list includes an inexpensive Core i7 quad (i7-920 (8M L3 cache 2.66 GHz 4.8 GT/s) Nehalem architecture desktop chip at US$284 and with a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 130 Watts. That is way too high for an iMac. I see no reason to believe Apple would move from its use of mobile chips for the iMac and Mac mini models.

Interestingly, a new inexpensive Core2 Extreme Quad processor has appeared since 7 December under Mobile (FCPGA6 / FCPGA8), as the Q9000 (6M L2 cache 2.00 GHz 1066 MHz FSB 45nm) at US$348, and with a Thermal Design Power of 45 Watts. Way cheaper than the Q9100 (12M L2 cache 2.26 GHz 1066 MHz FSB 45nm) at US$851, but the Q9000 has only half the cache. These two mobile chips also include Trusted Execution Technology, which some have speculated could be used for vendor lock-in.

Slower clock and higher power use than many of the 25 Watt TDP and 35 Watt TDP Core2 Duo CPUs you could use that would run cooler. Performance increases from a slower clocked Quad are only likely for people doing lots of multi-threading. We are talking about a gigahertz clock difference here. Maybe things will be different under Apple's Snow Leopard however, but it will be a year after it is released for developers to take advantage.

With many desktop computers running desktop Quad CPUs, I can see an iMac perhaps getting the mobile Quad CPU. Mainly to keep it partly in line with desktop specifications elsewhere. A 17 inch MacBook Pro with a Quad seems less likely. A 45 Watt TDP means lots more cooling issues. I am not sure the 17 inch has the weight and cooling area to be reasonable. Battery life would take a hit also. I notice the Acer announcement is an 18 inch Quad laptop. I bet it will also be a lot heavier and a lot thicker than a MacBook Pro.


There was a five minute fireworks display on the Airlie Beach foreshore at 9 p.m. I had a movie camera set up to capture it from our balcony.

Asus 1000H EeePC

Jean's massive ISO format Ubuntu download of about 800 MB ended as we were getting up. She was able to install Ubuntu on her Asus 1000H EeePC this morning. At this stage Ethernet was working, the display was fine, and she could take some time setting it all up the way she wants for travel.

Netbook Replacement

Notbooks and Craptops is a neat article on why netbooks are not as versatile as people think. I somehow do not think notbooks or craptops will catch on as names for these devices. However with Psion owning the trademark on Netbook (for their 1997 PDA), there is a need for a name other than sub-notebook or mini-notebook.

Mike O'Connor in Lepton's Blog predicts a scaled up iPod Touch he calls a NetPad, but that is also a Psion trademark from the 1990's. He also mentions iPad, TouchPad and DynaPad. he has some nice ideas for the design, although I think some of the best are unlikely from Apple.

Way back, various StarTrek TV series had Personal Access Display Device (PADD) which looked a lot like I would expect an enlarged Apple iPod Touch to look like. Some StarTrek novels called them Data Slates. I rather liked the concept of these PADDs. Since they synced, they were not really a one person device, they were to a large extent able to be used by anyone. Plus you just left them lying around until you needed to look something up. I could see leaving a few PADDs in various rooms of the house, or toss one in the car when travelling.

Internet Explorer Does Not Work

Readers of this blog (if I have any) should note that Internet Explorer will not work with future postings. This is due to an IE bug I am no longer willing to work around. To view my web pages, use any standards based web browser. Alternate web browsers include Opera, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, plus numerous others. As far as I know, Internet Explorer is the only browser unable to display correctly served, totally valid XHTML.

Microsoft, this is your problem, not mine. Internet Explorer may be the 800 pound gorilla in the web access room, but IE is not my gorilla, and Microsoft's broken version of web access is not in my room.