Eric Lindsay's Blog August 2009

Saturday 1 August 2009


Drove off to Willows so I could have breakfast at McDonalds. Alas, I could not find a copy of a suitable paper to read while I was eating. However I was able to confirm this store also had free WiFi. Afterwards I collected the newspapers at Willows. Target was at such a stage of reconstruction that I could not find anything in it, so my shopping list was little help.

The hardware store was able to sell me some more 40 mm screws. Had to take 8G rather than the 10G I wanted, and a pack of 50 instead of 100, but it will be enough to complete the bookcases. I also got some spare No 2 Philips screwdriver bits. I have already broken the tips off two of the existing bits.

Between various other things, I did not get the second side on the bookcase until late in the afternoon. My plan to get this all done before Jean returns is looking fragile.

Keyboards Lack Security

At a presentation at Blackhat, K Chan explains Reversing and exploiting an Apple firmware update. This got a lot of gasps of outrage with rumour sites saying this security hole must be patched. The thing is, you can not easily patch this sort of hole, provided there is a need for firmware patches. There will almost always be Apple firmware patches for keyboard problems. The capability is inherent in the USB specification, and the typical implementation of USB keyboards. Most USB keyboards will be susceptible, including built in keyboards. The real nasty bit is pre-installed keyboards being compromised during manufacture.

Hills Home Hub Wiring

Connecting the Hills Home Hub to an ADSL modem moves the modem from the kitchen (where it is in the way) to the cupboard in the garage. Since the modem includes a switching Ethernet hub, I can also distribute Ethernet connections via the structured wiring through the house. This is sounding like a plan.

Just one immediate complication. The Hills Home Hub Owners Manual says to connect the ADSL filter to the Mode 3 socket, and switch on the Mode 3 switch. However then you need a 4 wire Mode 3 filter. Which seem rather scarce, and mostly need to be hard wired by a licensed installer. All of your phone lines will now be filtered. The wired distribution of filtered phone lines means none of your phone connectors in your rooms can accept an ADSL modem any longer. That all seems rather limiting, so I think it is better to throw away the manual.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Hills Home Hub Wiring

Ignore the entire users manual for the Hills Home Hub, especially regarding using the Mode 3 socket. After all, there is no alarm dialler, and the Mode 3 socket is not even switched into the circuit.

Plug the RJ12 line in connector from any cheap ADSL splitter into any of the inward RJ45 phone distribution sockets in the Hills Home Hub. Put the ADSL modem in the garage cupboard next to the Hills Home Hub. Plug that into the ADSL side of the splitter. Plug a standard RJ12 line into the phone out of the splitter, and thence into one of the RJ45 home phone distribution sockets. About the only feature to add is some RJ12 to RJ45 cables, or some RJ45 to RJ12 reducers, so the narrower cables are a better fit into the RJ45 sockets in the house. Jaycar sell packets of the reducers, and the cables.

You have the same REN figures (three). The phone line from the ADSL splitter is filtered. If you plug two additional phones in around the house, each should probably have their own inline filter (I have a packet of filters in the cupboard). The ADSL modem provides a four outlet switching hub with RJ45 Ethernet connectors. Use some straight through Ethernet cables to plug a bunch of the structured wiring into Ethernet. Now your computers can use a wired Ethernet connection, instead of wireless. I put one connection through to my room, and two through to Jean's study.

There is one spare connection on the switching hub on the ADSL modem. That can connect to an additional wireless access point. That looks like a good thing to use to experiment with a Tomizone wireless hotspot.


I slept dreadfully. Went to bed late on Saturday. Tossed and turned all night. Woke up tired. Stayed tired all day. Virtually nothing done. Nothing of much use at any rate. I did brush some rubbish off the floor. With Jean due tomorrow, I thought I better clean up a little.

The Social Club annual general meeting was on. I went along to have a look at the results. Must say they certainly went through the meeting procedure at a great pace. The whole meeting, including the unopposed election of slightly fewer committee members than they needed, started on the dot at 4 p.m and was completed by 5 p.m.

While I was there I went along with Geoff looking at what he did to keep the public address system running during a meeting. They have a neat and well organised public address system, with multiple speaker sets, decent PA amplifiers, and a range of wireless microphones, each on different frequencies.

No dinner for me at the meeting. I had totally forgotten to buy a ticket to the burger feast when they were available last week. So I had a glass of wine during the meeting, and then went home. I am usually somewhat more organised than that.

iPhone SMS Vulnerability

Talked up big in the press, however realistically the problem has existed since the iPhone existed, and has not been exploited. Basically the sort of stuff that accompanies an SMS is handled by boilerplate code. It seems few people expected attackers to try overloading the content of the SMS message surrounds. So, usual buffer overflow, add malicious code exploit is possible. There are two solutions. The obvious one is better error handling of messages. The other is that phone companies more carefully constrain SMS surrounds.

Apple say nothing about security concerns on iPhone 3.0.1 update, but that is usual. See Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures for more details of malware. If looking specifically for iPhone vulnerabilities start a search. More on Apple Product Security from Apple.

Monday 3 August 2009


Jean phoned my mobile phone from Brisbane airport just after 9 a.m. to tell me she was safely back in Australia, luggage and all. I did a fair amount of tidying up the house. Alas, that mostly did not include throwing things out to remove clutter. I am still working my way through ANZAPA mailings comments, but very slowly. I put them aside to continue reading bits from Cory Doctorow's excellent anti Homeland Security novel Little Brother.

Lunch at the Carlyle Gardens restaurant, as usual, but with a restricted range of items. Penney had devised a new smoothie, based on ice cream and Baily's Irish Cream. However I did not dare sample that.

Reception had my parcel delivery. Since I had ordered only on Friday afternoon, I had not really expected a delivery soon after midday. While I have not totally given up on Apple making non-reflective or even matte displays available for their Macintosh computers, I am reluctant to count upon it. So I ordered the parts to bring my old Apple computers as up to date as can be easily done. The parts I ordered will let me bring my iMac G5 ALS and my 1.25 GHz PowerBook G4 to 2GB of memory each. I also ordered a replacement battery for the Macintosh PowerBook.

In the afternoon I continued assembling bookcases. Some of those shelves just do not fit correctly. My cuts were simply not sufficiently precise. I also got out the saw, and cut the four new shelves for the narrow 900 mm wide bookcase. Being conservative, I cut them slightly too long. This is slightly better than cutting them too short, as it leaves the possibility of trimming the shelf length. See Porcine Aviation.

An interesting set of witnesses to the bookcase construction were about four wallabies, one with a joey in the pouch. They had discovered the relatively new, uncut and rich green grass from the turf laid last month. A couple of them were grazing a few metres from our garden. The wallabies did not seem too concerned when I was drilling holes in bookcases, two of them lying down in the grass.

Jean Returns

Set off in the car to collect Jean around 4 p.m. I had not driven to the airport previously, but managed not to get lost. Despite Jean having had a boring wait for many hours at Brisbane airport, she seemed tired but pretty cheerful when she emerged from Townsville arrivals at 4:45 p.m. We had to drive through what passes for peak hour traffic in Townsville, but were home soon enough.

Jean tackled the mounds of mail awaiting her, and did triage. Declared herself not hungry, did not have dinner, and went to bed around 7 p.m.

Tuesday 4 August 2009


Unfortunately we awoke real early. Did laundry before dawn. Worked on our computers. Had breakfast. Around 9 a.m. we walked across to the Carlyle Square for the Expo.

Carlyle Gardens manager Leigh had organised a large Seniors Information Expo of companies and volunteer organisations that assist retired or aged people. There was certainly a very decent number of tables, many representing organisations of which we were unaware. We must have spent close to an hour wandering around and checking out the displays. Aged Care Assessment Team, Public Trustee, Red Cross Blood Service, Senior Citizens Association, Australian Hearing, RSL Home Care, Blue Nursing, Veterans Affairs, Centrelink, Meals on Wheels, Independent Living Solutions, LifeTech, Amcal Chemist, and even Escape Travel.

Channel Nine news sent a news team. Leigh persuaded us to be interviewed. Jean later said she was annoyed she was not wearing a T shirt saying she was retired, and that was as dressed up as she got.

The Carlyle Gardens restaurant was running a cold cuts buffet, to cope with the expected large crowds at the Expo. We returned to Carlyle Square just prior to midday for lunch at the restaurant. As usual, Jean grabbed a table by herself, away from people. This did not work perfectly, as Christine from the sales team came and had lunch with us, and various residents came over to see how Jean had enjoyed her holiday.

In more disruption for Jean, some new residents from a street over came and asked to look at the awnings we had installed. They were expecting the awning people to come next week to give them some ideas.


Late in the afternoon I trimmed the four slightly overlong shelves for the 900 mm wide bookcase. My electric screwdriver could not manage all the screwing around. In fact, the various Chinese brands of screws said to have P2 heads do not seem to match my brand new screwdriver bits that are also said to be P2. However I eventually got all four shelves into the bookcase. That leaves only some sort of block at the back of each shelf, to prevent books falling off. I already have the timber for this.

Twitter if For Old People

Cute Morgan Stanley report of teenage experience of media. Matthew Robson, a 15 year old work experience student reports on media. Basically tells it like it is for teenagers, and how they relate to media. Essentially, they are cost and time sensitive. Which is not the way the media would like to be related to.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Network Solutions Mad Dogs

In a show of unbelievable hubris, reviled, overcharging Network Solutions have decided to rename common internet terms for services with their own geek speak nonsense. All I can think is that some disgruntled former Network Solutions employee somehow managed to change their web site. Network Solutions - Rebranding the web, because they don't know any better is one reaction to this idiocy. Another is Network Solutions renames their services for added obscurity. The actual Network Solutions web site is sufficiently horrible that I did not link to it.


Evidence suggests Jean got up and started working in her office just after 3 a.m. However all the overseas travel caught up with her, and she went to bed at 3 p.m. I have not seen her since.

In the early morning I hand weeded some of the new turf alongside the house. As I discovered with the earlier turf, if I hand weed prior to the first time the lawn is mowed, I basically get rid of the vast majority of weeds. They are mostly stuff caught in the original turf, or not killed off when the turf was laid on what should have been bare ground.

We went to Willows shopping centre this morning. I had been negligent about restocking with food, except for staples I knew Jean would want like milk, eggs and orange juice. Over a hundred bucks. However that included some Coke (which is not food), and some weeding forks. I am not pleased with Coles. Familiar items I like no longer seem to be stocked. I have a little list, and they certainly are missed.

Jean thanked the travel centre that assisted with her South American trip. At the news agent I managed to get the Tuesday Australia, that I had forgotten to buy on Tuesday. Today I was after The Australian Literary Supplement, which appears on the first Wednesday of the month. Jean found one of her model railway magazines.

The Carlyle Gardens restaurant had Ploughman's Lunch on their blackboard. Yes, the chef had decided that would help use up the cold cuts leftovers from yesterday. I bought one as a take away so Jean had a dinner on hand. I had a pork roast for lunch.

It seems my appearance on the TV news had been noticed by both restaurant staff and some of the residents. Naturally I had forgotten to watch the news last night. When I went to reception, Leigh thanked me for appearing with her at the interviews. I congratulated her on her birthday. I must also congratulate Gayle, who must have done heaps of organising for the Expo.


I asked about passing my iPhone to Jean prior to my contract expiring, so I could get an iPhone 3gs. Her phone contract has already expired. The Telstra store in Willows did not see any problems. Not that they could sell me an iPhone. Stocks of the iPhone in Australia are still so low that this regional Telstra store does not expect to have any for a month or so. Press reports on iPhone shortages in Australia.

Thursday 6 August 2009


Jean reports that a fairly typical NQ tradesman arrived around lunch time to see about doing something to the security screen locks. Alas, since neither he nor we have keys, he went away empty handed, muttering about having to drill out the lock tomorrow.

I phoned the office. A bit of passing of information back and forth. They do not have the keys either, at least for our house (I think they have them for the homes still to be sold). It does not seem likely that the builder's foreman has them, or he would have given them to the tradesman. The latest report is the locksmith will see us on Monday.


A lot of my web domains are hosted on Dreamhost. Now I am contemplating what I would need to do to extend my Carlyle Gardens Gnome web site. In particular, I wanted retired residents to be able to add their own material, without needing to know anything about writing web pages. Luckily DreamHost has many facilities to make life easier.

Many people have encountered the Wikipedia online collaborative encyclopedia. This is run by a program called MediaWiki. Dreamhost make it easy for me to install MediaWiki access to my readers.

As an aside, it seems there is help for Macintosh users of DreamHost. DreamMount is a Mac OS X application that allows you to mount DreamHost domains or users to a networked filesystem. Works for shell and sftp users. Even more help for iPhone users. DreamApp, a tricorder for your website. Another is DreamAdmin, using the DreamHost API. Yet another is SweetDreams, which also uses the API and is free and open source.

Domain Name Hijacking

Comcast have proven themselves total arseholes by doing DNS hijacking. Look for a non-existant domain name, and Comcast redirect to a page of poxy advertising. Several companies have tried this previously. ICANN needs to tell them to stop stuffing up the web.


During the morning I managed to put bookstops along the back of the 900 mm wide bookcase. Nothing like a small saw, some glue, and some panel pins to speed that up. During the late afternoon I added some backing to the 450 mm wide bookcase. Alas, I did not have sufficient small wood to do the very last shelf. I also managed to Estapol the fronts of all the shelves, something neglected previously. So the two new bookcases can probably move into my room tomorrow, if they have stopped outgassing varnish.

Friday 7 August 2009

Apple Rejecting iPhone E-Books?

App Store rejections tied to third party rights infringements says TUAW, which claims the App Store is rejecting all e-book submissions. One Russian e-book developer says the most ridiculous App Store reject I’ve ever seen. However just which other e-book readers is Apple rejecting. I simply do not know.

One reader suggestion is that since Apple vet all App Store applications, their legal department say they need to ensure copyright is maintained for apps showing third party content.

Microsoft Responds to Apple

Microsoft Windows Mobile to be Windows Phone. In other non-news, Microsoft Vista second edition is to be called Windows 7. So Microsoft's solution to having platforms that are inferior and increasingly unpopular is to change their names. That should work.

Meanwhile, a Laptop Magazine survey of 4500 laptop owners says Apple gave best technical support. Apple rated 83%. Dell rated 60%. In direct tests by the magazine, Hewlett Packard rated 48%. On the Tech Support report card (direct tests in the USA) Acer scored a C-, Apple an A, Asus a B-, Dell a C-, Fujitsu a B-, Gateway C-, HP C-, Lenovo B+, Sony B+, Toshiba B. However the tests performed by the magazine were subjective, and of inadequate scale for any realistic conclusions.

Vocalabs survey places Apple first, out of Dell and HP. This was based on a year long survey of 1147 customers ending 31 May 2009 following a service call. 58% of Apple customers were very satisfied, vs 46% and 43% for Dell and HP. 18% of Apple customers were dissatisfied, vs 31% and 33% for Dell and HP.

Apple Censorship?

John Gruber of Daring Fireball claims Ninjawords: iPhone Dictionary, Censored by Apple, even after removing some potentially objectionable works. Apple's senior VP Phil Schiller responds regarding Ninjawords, basically that Wiktionary includes vulgar slang of a type not included in common dictionaries. Wiktionary is an online dictionary. Apple suggested the developer wait until the parental controls were available in Version 3 of the phone operating system.

The developer decided to self censor, in an attempt to get earlier approval. The alternative was wait for version 3 of the iPhone software, the release date for which was not announced at that stage, although likely dates were known. Seems both sides acted reasonably, albeit in haste. Although like Gruber, I question any form of censorship relating solely to crude language. But people in the USA seem to me to have some strange hangups.

App store mercenaries says Red Sweater Blog. Testers are probably hired to run a bunch of easy scripts against new applications. They are probably paid by how quick they can get through the tests. Makes sense, if the whole App store was set up in a rush. I am sure that it was.

Apple Know If You Are Bad

Apple plans abuse spy for your iPhone, according to New Scientist. The Apple consumer abuse detection system patent shows sensors for exposure to liquid (a liquid sensor is already in iPhone), a thermal sensor, a continuity (tamper) sensor, a shock sensor. The device would store records of abuse events. These could be accessed in a diagnostic mode. The detection circuit could also switch off the device, to reduce further damage. So Apple will know if you have been good or bad.

If you are going to store abuse events, then it only makes sense to time stamp them. In addition, I think any abuse event that does not destroy the device should trigger a warning screen. This would provide instant feedback that you should not be abusing electronic equipment. I know too many people who should never be allowed to own delicate gear, as they simply do not understand how to handle it.

Apple Tablet

Apple Tablet: It doesn’t exist, will never exist says Stefan Constantinescu. To back this up, he provides a history of various claims that Apple will launch a tablet computer. Starting in September 2002. 2003 was a good year for Apple tablet rumours, as was 2008. Seven years of speculation covered. It was fun.


I moved my two new bookcases into my room. Alas, installing one required that I unload three other bookcases, so I could move them by about five centimetres to make space. Still, I am well and truly headed for a room lined with bookcases. At least along any wall not occupied by doors or cupboards.

Saturday 8 August 2009


I upgraded my 2 GHz iMac G5 ALS to 2 GB of memory early this morning. This is about the last upgrade (except for a hard drive replacement) that I can make to the four year old computer. I also downloaded the latest (and probably last) version of Leopard, OS X 10.5.8. Next operating system from Apple, Snow Leopard, will not work on the PowerPC models of their computers, so this is the end of the upgrade line for my Macintosh.

However I will not buy a replacement Macintosh for my consumer desktop computer. The display glare on all the current model Apple iMacs makes them look just like a mirror. The recent iMac displays are totally unusable (unlike say my 27 inch Dell matte display) in my brightly lit room in the tropics. It is not that I want a matte screen; what I want is to avoid reflections. To me, that probably means museum quality non-reflective glass. Even if that means paying a premium for decent glass. Unfortunately, Apple does not offer that option.

The only remaining possible upgrade is our internet connection. While we have fibre to the home, there is no backhaul connection to an ISP, so FTTH is useless except as a free to air TV feeder. We were kind of hoping for a quick FTTH ISP connection when we moved. So we are still stuck with Telstra's expensive, antique copper wires. Test results from Oz Broadband Speed Test run on 08/08/2009 at 07:10 AM. Mirror was iiNet. Data 3 MB. Test Time 21.19 secs. Your line speed is 1.16 Mbps (1156 kbps). Your download speed is 145 KB/s (0.14 MB/s). Later in the day it is slower. Much slower! Jean has organised us to get a faster ADSL line. However with our distance from the Kirwan phone exchange, we can never get ADSL2+, and ADSL speeds are likely to remain pedestrian.


Our shopping this morning was limited to newspapers for me, a model train magazine for Jean, and a few food items. It still took way too much time. We totally forgot to look for the place that sells fresh farm eggs. It is not in the Townsville phone book, but we will get details of how to find their outlet from some of the other residents at Carlyle Gardens. They are only open for sales a few hours on a few days a week, which makes shopping tricky.

I partially filled one of the new bookcases with DVDs. The shelf spacing was designed for either paperbacks or DVDs.


It seems the Cyberduck FTP program is not as yet compatible with Snow leopard. Cause appears to be that Snow Leopard uses Java 1.6, which is fully 64 bit compatible. However Cyberduck expects Java 1.5. I have been using Cyberduck for a few things because it basically adds a GUI front end to FTP. However for a lot of my Server 101 web site uploads I use my own scripts to run the regular Unix FTP. I think I really need to write myself a decent set of smarter FTP routines.

Resolution Independence

Just when will Apple finally fix resolution independence? Windows can manage it. Apple hinted it would be available in Tiger. Said to would come with Leopard. Snow Leopard still does not have it. Sure there will be problems with applications. However how can you run computer displays with sizes from 13 inches to 30 inches and resolutions from the 1984 default of 72 dpi to 200 dpi if you do not have resolution independence?

Blu-Ray Licensing

The Blu-Ray licensing fees taking effect this year will be $9.50 for a Blu-ray player, $14 for a Blu-ray recorder, 11¢ for a read-only disc, 12¢ for a recordable disc, and 15¢ for a rewritable disc. This reduced pricing structure was agreed at a February meeting by Sony, Philips, and Panasonic which also reduced the number of companies with whom you have to negotiate to license Blu-Ray. You can now get a Blu-Ray license and deal only with a single company.

Personally I would be perfectly happy if AACS DRM laden Blu-Ray totally disappeared. However whether it does or not, I will not be buying it, as it seems to have no value to me. Very few films I want to see are available commercially on Blu-Ray. Nor is Blu-Ray much use for transferring data. Recordable Blu-Ray discs are notorious for not working reliably in players other than those that produced them. Commercially produced Blu-Ray disks cost around US$3.50 in 1000 off quantities.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Website Charges

Rupert Murdoch plans charge for all news websites. The incremental cost of spreading information via the internet means information wants to be free. However Stewart Brand also said information wants to be expensive. Free does not mean without cost, it means not secret.

Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine -- too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, "intellectual property," the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new (technological) devices makes the tension worse, not better.

I can see that if the content is sufficiently attractive, paying is reasonable. After all, I pay for a copy of The Australian newspaper. However paying just involves fishing a coin out of my pocket on the two or three days a week I want a paper. I will not buy a subscription. I will not take special action to login to a website. I will not read The New York Times (they want you to log in). I will not link to articles in the New York Times (why waste the time of my readers with a link that takes them to a login page?) Especially when I could instead give readers a link to The Huffington Post.

Newspaper Website Economic

Most information is no longer a scarce resource. In fact, there is way to much information, so it is in surplus. Excess supply means premium prices are not available. However there is still no decent way to handle micropayments. You can not sell articles online for a cent each, because you can not collect so small a sum.

The customers of a newspaper are the advertisers, not the readers. There is a reason classified advertising is called rivers of gold. Else there would be no free newspapers. Newspapers (and many web sites) deliver reader's eyeballs to advertisers. Small circulation, readers without money, means less money from advertisers. The economic argument by publishers is less than honest. Publishers of newspapers should be more honest about who pays their way. It is not the readers. It has not been the readers in decades. However advertisers will not pay much for internet advertising, relative to display advertising.

So, the readers will not pay. If they did, you could not collect such small amounts. So the subscription model fails. The advertisers will not pay enough. So who will pay? Expect newspapers to become absolute crap. Oh wait, that has already happened.

Electric Car

Possibly an Australian first, a Toyota Hilux electric vehicle conversion by Malcolm Faed. However this does not use DC motors and a PWM controller. This conversion uses an industrial 3 phase induction motor, powered from a Danfoss VLT5042 frequency converter. The battery box contains 50 @ 12 volt 20 Ah sealed lead acid batteries, supplying 600 volts to the converter via +300V, 0 and -300V split rails. ACV charging is done via groups of 48 volt intelligent switchmode chargers.

The vehicle weighs around 1500 kg, has a nominal 15 kQ motor, battery energy is around 12 kWh. Top speed is 75 kph, range 35 km to 70% discharge. This sounds like a really interesting electric vehicle project to follow on Malcolm's blog.

Monday 10 August 2009


We set out shopping at 8 a.m. Bunnings at Domain Central first. Jean quickly obtained the paint and associated items she wanted for doing up the bookcases in the foyer. We inspected pull out clothes lines, to put under cover on our back porch. We did not come to a conclusion about which to get. A helpful Bunnings employee showed us the garden watering systems. There sure is a lot of little tiny fittings available. They looked way too complex for us. We will research them online.

I failed to find anything at Bunnings. No 8 mm thread castors, as they were all non-metric. What gives? The world went metric decades ago. Why are these old thread styles hanging around? There was also no wood suitable for making Ikea support replacements. Plus I did not like the dual purpose ladders I saw.

I had taken my recliner from the lounge room to my office while Jean was away. John Bradley's RetraVision LaZBoy Gallery were happy to sell me a Jason LaZBoy recliner chair. Since I can not match my existing leather one, I went for fabric covering, which is better in summer. The store will convert the chair to the swivel base. Another outfit will deliver the chair on Tuesday.

Not that I was looking for one, but RetraVision also had a Kensington K62681US adjustable memory foam mouse rest. Not nearly as handy as the solid base Fellowes 91751 gel wrist rest model and mouse pad I have been trying to replace for years. However the Kensington is not a terrible substitute, especially when you are desperate for a replacement. I can always add some wood underneath the new mouse mat to stop it flopping around.

Got a couple more of the cheap Bob 100 watt standing lamps that Brillant Lighting distribute from the lighting shop. Not such a good idea. As with the first pair some months ago, one of the lamp stands had damaged threads and thus the stand would not assemble. The 15 watt warm (2700) compact fluorescent reflector bulbs I bought at the suggestion of the sales folks stick out the front of the lamp shade, and do not seem to me nearly as bright as the previous CF bulbs. I will check them again tonight. With a luxmeter! Hmm, the problem is mostly the warm light. About a quarter the lux reading you get from a cool white reflector. Both have less light output than a GE small spiral CF lamp that does not protrude from the reflector.

Shopping Continues

OfficeWorks did my ANZAPA photocopying. I managed to forget I had this, and did not get it into the mail today. However OfficeWorks unexpectedly also had the D-Link DIR-300 wireless access points on sale at $59. Although a bit obsolete, these are the wireless access points with Tomizone facilities. I grabbed all three that OfficeWorks had in stock.

Dick Smith had some of their regular compact home phones on hand. I made sure I got the one with the push buttons on the body. That gives us a phone in Jean's office. I found one of their handy arms with magnifier that their flyer said were on special. Their computer system did not list it. They did find it on the computer a little later, on special just like I said. Now I can throw out the rusty one.

Jaycar treated us great! I had my little list, and the sales guy found everything on it. RJ12 to RJ45 cables, a packet of RJ45 to RJ12 socket reducers, a handful of one metre Ethernet cables, handset curly cord, a USB to IDE and SATA adaptor, a microphone headset for Jean.

Jean located NQ Wheels and Castors on Bayswater Road. Alas, no 8 mm castors, despite the incredible range. They offered some larger castors that I could put an 8 mm bolt through. Alas, way too large for what I need. Sure was an impressive range of castors however.

Spotlight did not have any suitable material for another Hawaiian shirt. However I did locate some material for a dressing gown. Of course, if I could just go out and buy a dressing gown this sort of handcraft would not be needed.

After all that, we drove straight to the Carlyle Gardens restaurant for lunch. As usual Jean hid at a table remote from others.

Telstra and FTTP

Telstra stays out of open access estates. If a developer installs communication infrastructure in a new estate, Telstra opt not to install their infrastructure. Residents of housing estates with fibre networks other than Telstra Velocity can not access Telstra's internet services.

Opticomm said Telstra did not offer services in any of the estates it had wired. Opticomm, which is backed by Hills Industries, had some 50,000 greenfield lots under contract for fibre rollout. We have Opticomm wholesale open access fibre in the next section of Carlyle Gardens, however there is no fibre connected ISP or backhaul involved so far. Government policy is likely to favour fibre roll out in greenfield estates in the future in any case.

There are calls political action to help home buyers avoid Telstra lock in.

Telstra Locks Exchanges

Telstra admits deception and admits Telstra lied about space available in phone exchanges. Court documents reveal ISPs were blocked at seven sites. iiNet showed space was available within the seven exchanges Telstra originally claimed were full to capacity. I look forward to October 2 continuation of the court hearings regarding this breech of the trade practices act.

I note that my previous phone exchange at Airlie Beach is one that is claimed to have run out of space. Given the expansion of Airlie Beach, I can believe it. However it would be nice to know for sure.

The only solution to the Telstra mess is structural separation. Doing it during a downturn is smart, because the drop in value of Telstra shares and dividends can be partly blamed on the global financial crisis. The original sale of Telstra can be blamed on the Howard government.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

iPhone or iPod Touch?

Apple Australia are selling the iPhone 3G for A$719, the iPhone 3Gs 16 GB for A$879, the iPhone 3Gs 32 GB for A$1040. No contract. After allowing for tax differences, at the moment these are around $100 more expensive than USA prices (Apple tend to set and keep prices relative to the date the item was released, regardless of further changes in exchange rates). This is about A$500 more than an equivalent iPod Touch, so you are paying a premium.

I am also contemplating buying a replacement iPhone without a phone contract, as most of the time I do not need to use the amount of call time required by a contract. I can already change my data package on a month to month basis. My use pattern is generally a couple of months with no real need for a phone, followed by slightly less than a month of intensive data use, usually in remote areas. Also my partner really, really wants to grab my existing iPhone to replace the iPod Touch she grabbed earlier. The extra iPhone facilities really do give it a decent edge over the iPod. In particular, the always present camera proved way more handy than I ever expected. So I am being encouraged to upgrade.

Still unknown is whether I can change SIM cards on an ad hoc basis. All major Australian phone companies sell iPhones (except most have stock shortages). Some carriers are only workable in major cities (but have cheap pre paid cards). Others are really expensive, but work well in country areas. Being able to run multiple appropriate SIM cards on different carriers would be really helpful.

Chair Cover

Jean kindly made a chair cover for my new chair. We had material from when we decided there would be eventually be more chairs. The sewing machine was already on the dining room table, ready to do other sewing. Also, a chair cover requires only a couple of straight rows of stitching, no complicated cutting or such. Still, it was very nice to get a chair cover so soon.


After failing to be able to cope with the complexity of a garden irrigation system at Bunnings, we decided to check the local Mitre 10. We were there so I could buy some Philips #2 screwdriver bits (I had accidently bought PoziDrive bits previously). The staff there showed us a pamphlet, recommended checking the Yates plan a garden software. More important, they had a DIY package of garden irrigation bits. All the stuff you needed to get started on a small garden. It cost about $20, so it was not worth trying to save a few dollars on the exact stuff needed. We had one question about hose fittings, and the hardware staff produced the exact fitting required to connect it all. No excuses now not to get a watering system into the garden.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Matte Display on MacBook Pro

Apple have silently upgraded their 15 inch MacBook Pro to allow for a non-glossy (matte) display as an A$80 optional extra. So I can finally look at replacing my 15 inch G4 PowerBook. Naturally this change comes a week or so after I bought extra memory and a replacement battery, in case I needed to use the ancient PowerBook for another few years.

I will have to get a look at how good (or bad) the actual display is on the 15 inch MacBook Pro. I know that the 17 inch Apple MacBook Pro display is very nice, as I checked it last time I was in Sydney at the Apple Store. They had two of the 17 inch model, one glossy, one matte. My question now is whether Apple have in some manner compromised the display on the 15 inch models. In particular, I want to check the 15 inch Apple MacBook Pro colour gamut. I doubt Apple have compromised it, but I have to look for myself.

If this 15 inch display looks OK, I will buy my replacement MacBook Pro sometime within a month of seeing it. Well, actually unless I spot some other issue, I will buy within 24 hours of seeing it. I was agonising a little about whether to compromise specifications with no second graphics card, since I no longer push computers to their limits. Jean says you might as well get the top of the range, just in case you need the extra horsepower. So, the top of the range 15 inch MacBook Pro with matte display it is.

Trouble is, Nvidia graphics chips may be faulty, so I may be looking for a replacement sooner than I think. On the other hand, in my iMac G5 ALS, the ATI graphics managed to basically unsolder itself. Luckily I had Applecare, and it happened a few months before the warranty expired.

What about the relatively low dot per inch resolution of the 15 inch model vs the 17 inch? At my age, looking for 130 dpi is a pointless exercise in squinting. Until Apple gets resolution independence into OS X, I simply can not use a small, high resolution display. Pity, as I love the idea of 1920 x 1200, but I can not do much about the quality of my eyesight.

The next Apple Macintosh I need to replace is my iMac G5 ALS. I think a 24 inch anti-reflective iMac would go down a treat. So, Apple, when can I expect a matte display iMac? Or even, dare I hope for, museum quality anti-reflective glass? It is the sharp edged reflections that I object to. Matte displays reflect, but it is not as annoying for me.

Ripping Blu-Ray

I gather the workflow for ripping Blu-Ray, so you can actually watch it on computer, goes this way. MakeMKV converts (rips) the video clips from proprietary (and usually encrypted) disc into a set of MKV files. tsMUXeR is a transport stream muxer that changes the files to something you can use. Handbrake encodes it to H.264 for playback on a video device such as computer or iPhone.

Twitter Life Span

Jean and I were arguing about Twitter. I said that with no way to make money, it would die, in five years. Jean correctly says that on the internet, five years is eternity. So I went looking for more details of Twitter.

Some Twitter email documents were cracked by Hacker Croll. TechCrunch got over 300 Twitter documents, including some internal strategies. One interesting point was Twitter wanting to reach a billion users by 2013, and make $1 a user a year. Another was a desire to make $4 million this year, when they probably have 40 million users. They were talking about commercial accounts, and charging more to fewer users. They do not like RSS migrating to Twitter, as it costs.

So, Twitter started in 2006 with $55 million, now has say 40 employees. Costs around $100,000 per employee, plus fixed costs plus bandwidth costs. Increased customer counts could kill it, but at the present size it is certainly good for five years. However I still do not see where they plan to make money.

Thursday 13 August 2009

ADSL Speed

Test Results from Oz Broadband Speed Test run on 13/08/2009 at 09:50 AM. 3 MB in 5.56 seconds. Your line speed is 4.41 Mbps (4408 kbps). Your download speed is 551 KB/s (0.54 MB/s). That is around four times the speed we had previously. It is just over half the speed we could theoretically expect from ADSL. ADSL2+ is not available in this area. We are a considerable distance from the Kirwan telephone exchange.

The fact that we have optical fibre to the home already is irrelevant, because there is no-one in a position to connect the fibre head end room to the internet. No ISP, no back haul. What we have over the optical fibre is free to air TV (picked up from a roof top antenna over at the Administration building). We also (in theory) have access to Austar pay TV, via the satellite dish outside the Administration building. We probably would not pay for TV, even if we had managed to catch up with the Austar sales folks. For one thing, we do not have a TV set.


Telstra want me to update my iPhone carrier settings. This solves a minor problem with using SMS. Since I never SMS more than one person (and them rarely) I will not have any problem with the reported glitch. However if I update the carrier settings, will that remove the patch I used to allow tethering my MacBook Air to my iPhone. So far I have not needed to tether, but when I do need it, I will really need to get it.

Friday 14 August 2009

To Airlie Beach

Up just before 5 a.m. for the trip to Airlie Beach. Despite being on the road by 5:15 a.m. the drive was fairly slow. I ran into mist for the first two hours. It was not until I reached Guthalunga (where I refuelled) that I really emerged from the mist. Got to the shopping centre at Cannonvale at 8:40 a.m. No chance this trip to visit Harvey Norman. Closed due to the fire that started in its photo printing machines. The Rivers, Dollars and Sense, and the Sports Power are also closed by smoke damage. Would have got my food shopping done faster had I not ran into an old friend, and caught up with his life.

Collected mail at Cannonvale. Only a couple of items with the old PO box number this time. Looks like the message is finally getting through. Except for the government bodies with multiple address databases that do not talk with each other. Dumped everything from the car at home at the Whitsunday Terraces at Airlie Beach. We now have two construction cranes below us in the Port of Airlie Marina.

Got breakfast. Walked to the newsagent and collected the magazines and newspapers they save for me. Remembered to get my prescription tablets from the chemist. However I forgot other scheduled items. That seems common. Walked back up the twelve flights of stairs to my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces. However at least I managed to read all the accumulated newspapers, and mark items for saving. The cleaning of the apartment is not advancing as fast as the newspaper reading. I also need to get parts to repair one of the toilets.

One advertisement for the local Home Hardware store listed a dual purpose ladder. That has been on our shopping list for ages. We even looked at one at Bunnings a few days ago. However this one was on special. So I drove over to the store and bought myself the ladder. How we can finally check the garage insulation correctly.

Had a quiet drink with Jim that evening. He sure seems to have a nice new set of Airport routers, not always the ones he intended. Luckily for my reputation as an Apple guru, I managed to solve one little computer problem for him.

Apple PowerBook Battery

My 2004 model 1.25 GHz PowerBook was not exactly going well on its battery. It started as a 4.4AH battery, and now records as less than 2.2AH. Which actually is not too bad for a four year old battery (Apple did one battery replacement due to a general recall of faulty batteries).

$ ioreg -l -w 0 | grep IOBatteryInfo shows Capacity=2172, AbsoluteMaxCapacity=4400, Voltage=11325, Current=1811, Cycle Count=232

So how much time did I actually get from the old battery? About 50 minutes to a shutdown, without warning, as shown here. $ uptime 22:14 up 50 mins

So I recalibrated the battery, which results in an even lower capacity being shown. $ ioreg -l -w 0 | grep IOBatteryInfo gives Capacity=1916, AbsoluteMaxCapacity=4400, Voltage=11175, Current=17, Amperage=0, Cycle Count=232. This absolutely means it is time for a replacement battery.

Broadband Speed

I checked our broadband speed at the Whitsunday Terraces at Airlie Beach, where we are fairly close to the telephone exchange (next block). To my considerable surprise, it was not very much quicker than our Carlyle Gardens connection, which is a far greater distance to the Kirwan phone exchange. So I tried a second test, at a different time of day. Much the same result.

Test Results from Oz Broadband Speed Test run on 14/08/2009 at 04:35 PM. Data: 3 MB, Test Time: 5.33 seconds. Your line speed is 4.6 Mbps (4597 kbps). Your download speed is 575 KB/s (0.56 MB/s).

Test Results from Oz Broadband Speed Test run on 15/08/2009 at 06:13 AM. Data: 3 MB, Test Time: 5.56 secs. Your line speed is 4.41 Mbps (4410 kbps). Your download speed is 551 KB/s (0.54 MB/s).

PowerBook Memory Upgrade

Since I had a new memory board for my 2004 model Apple PowerBook, I added that to the old computer. This brings the PowerBook to its maximum capacity of 2 GB. Not much more that I can do to upgrade it. Plus it will not be able to accept a software upgrade to Snow Leopard. However I am seriously contemplating a replacement MacBook Pro.

Saturday 15 August 2009


Walked to the newsagency to collect the morning newspapers. Took a photograph of the new bridge that finally spans Airlie Creek. Not that you could actually cross the bridge as yet. It has only been closed since November last year.

Then to the Airlie Beach markets for breakfast. Jean had given me a significant list of vegetables to collect for her. I even managed to get most of them. Bruce had very few bananas on hand, and said he had not picked enough. Rex had run out of West Indian limes. I bought Golden Limes and bush lemons, however neither are exactly a perfect match to Pisco. I guess we have to compromise. Several of the people I wanted to see were not present today. However with the Jimmy Buffet parrot party tonight, the markets were eventually crowded. I took my purchases up the hill to our apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces and shoved most of them into the fridge.

Back down the twelve flights of stairs for things I forgot. Dropped my problem reading glasses off at the optometrist for adjustment. The hairdresser was not busy, so I got my haircut. The Sailing Club was open now, so I renewed our social memberships.

Back at the optometrist, they helped me check their new sunglasses frames. It looks like some of the new frames are substantially better than the ones I am using now. I asked them to record the model on my prescription. I am very tempted to organise a new pair. I have already popped the lenses from my current prescription sunglasses a couple of times. Sooner or later I will break them. I guess I will see if Jean thinks replacement is a fine idea, or really silly.

With the Race Week and the Jimmy Buffet parrot party on tonight at Airlie Beach, Jean would probably hate it at the apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces. Fair bit of noise from music drifting up from the main street. I imagine that will continue until late.

Apple PowerBook

I downloaded the latest Leopard updates to my PowerBook. That worked well, with no sign of any problems so far.

The battery update was not so pleasant. Although the power pack thinks the Newertech battery is charging (orange light), the OS X software thinks it is the old battery. It also thinks the battery is not charging at all. I guess I will try a few charge cycles. At the moment I am hoping that the new battery will charge up overnight.

Correction. Here are the old battery details. $ ioreg -l -w 0 | grep IOBatteryInfo Capacity=2172, AbsoluteMaxCapacity=4400, Voltage=11325, Current=1811, Cycle Count=232 So after 232 charge cycles the capacity is seriously degraded. Uptime means it stays up up 50 minutes. Trying to check this always reveals even lower results.

The NewerTech battery shows up as having run 208 cycles, despite being sold as a new battery. It does not charge at all. Charging stalls. It runs the computer for less than 40 minutes. I sure wasted a heap of time on that, what with charging times of hours.

Broadband Speeds

Test Results from Oz Broadband Speed Test run on 14/08/2009 at 04:35. PM Data: 3 MB. Test Time: 5.33 seconds. Your line speed is 4.6 Mbps (4597 kbps). Your download speed is 575 KB/s (0.56 MB/s).

I tried again in the morning. Test Results from Oz Broadband Speed Test test run on 15/08/2009 at 06:13 AM. Data: 3 MB. Test Time: 5.56 seconds. Your line speed is 4.41 Mbps (4410 kbps). Your download speed is 551 KB/s (0.54 MB/s). In short, despite the much shorter distance to the phone exchange, this connection in Airlie Beach is not that much faster than at Carlyle Gardens.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Printing From HTML via CSS

Printing a book with HTML and CSS proves you can use HTML and CSS as a print design language.

Eric Meyer on Going into print and why a separate web page for printing is wrong. An example print style sheet. High resolution image printing and why web and print images are incompatible. Improving link design for print. See also A List Apart print styles. Or, Print it your way by overriding web page print features.

Designing for context making style sheets to suit the context of your presentation. Extending what you do with style sheets.


John Gruber on Markdown text to HTML conversion tool, plus the original 2004 Perl version. The Markdown syntax.

There are Markdown conversion tools in many languages, such as John Fraser's Showdown, Markdown in JavaScript, demonstration, which will work in a web browser. WMD: The Wysiwym Markdown Editor which helps you write what you mean. Unfortunately the JavaScript is obfuscated, and the editor may no longer be supported. There is a reverse engineered version of WMD. Also MarkItUp is a JQuery universal markup editor. Another example of the Upflow Markup editor.

Michael Dominic added a QuickLook for Markdown, which also uses the discount C library to parse Markdown for OS X users. Another QuickLook preview which produces an intermediate HTML. An AppleScript to Markdown previewer intended for SubEthaEditor, but could be converted. Uses Safari to preview. Using Markdown and Make to maintain a bunch of documents. Also uses sed to add HTML before and after the Markdown conversions.

Apple Battery Stuff

Batteries have always been a problem. Even when you treat the laptop batteries correctly. But first you check PowerBook G4 Computers: How to Identify Different Models so that you can figure out which computer you have. Next you check Resetting PowerBook and iBook Power Management Unit (PMU). Then you try to calibrate the PowerBook battery. At which point you find that the freaking new battery does not work any better than it did the first time.


While I tried to hear the morning public affairs programs, I could hear demolition noises from the bulldozer device at the old building below the top pool at the Whitsunday Terraces resort. Made it hard to hear anything else. I find it difficult to believe that council gave permission for work on Sunday morning. On the other hand, we are keen for that bunch to complete their demolition and leave. So I am not likely to complain.

Monday 17 August 2009

Back to Carlyle

I was awake very early in the morning but did not manage to get away as early as I planned. At least I managed to get everything into the car, including cleaning out the freezer into the Esky. Ran into some morning mist while it was still dark. Inkerman now had a concrete foundation and floor in place for their pub. They expect completion by the end of September. I got fuel there, since I was tired of driving by then.


Reverse osmosis desalination plants are very expensive to build, but expected to be cheaper than some to run. Kwinana ($387M) near Perth is three years old and produces 130M litres of fresh water a day. It needs 24 MW of electricity. Gold Coast just opened. Kurnell (Sydney $2B) is nearly complete and expected to produce $250M. You need to suck up about 20M litres of sea water an hour. Screen it, sand filter it. The osmosis membranes cost around $1000 each, and a plant may have 20,000 of them. They last 5 to 7 years. You need to clean them every few months with caustic, acid and detergent solutions. The pumps use several megawatt each. It takes maybe 5 kWh to produce a 1000 litres of water. It takes several hours (up to a day) to start or stop a desal plant. When stopped, you need special arrangements to protect your membranes, so you basically do not stop except for maintenance.

Tuesday 18 August 2009


Early in the morning we went food shopping at Woolworths. I bought a newspaper, as usual. By this time Lowes was open, so Jean could get some extra long sleeve shirts. Back home, to drop off the food.

Next shopping trip was to Barbecues Galore to buy a small Weber gas barbecue for our back porch. That meant we also had to get a 9 kg gas bottle. It seemed prudent to get a small table on wheels to cart it around. We also got the trivet, and a cleaning brush. That gives us an alternative to electricity, for cooking during the storm season.

The Mitre 10 hardware store was able to point us to a spray watering gadget something like our neighbour has. Seems to us the built in watering system for the new lawns and gardens alongside us is no longer working. Probably turned off prior to the lawn mowing, and missed turning it back on. So far I have been unable to catch Mark the head gardener to ask him about turning it back on.

Bento Database

With some of my data still on my dying Psion PDA, I decided I really had to start seeking an alternative. You can buy FileMaker's simple Bento database for the iPhone very cheap. That would provide a portable database. However text entry is just a bit too hard on an iPhone (or on most PDAs). Bento for iPhone will sync via WiFi with Bento on a Macintosh. Plus FileMaker will let you use Bento for a while on your Macintosh, as a trial.

First thing was to read the Bento User Manual that comes in PDF with Bento. Although informative and clear, I am afraid manuals tend to put me to sleep. It quickly became obvious that the Address Book and iCal integration was less than complete, especially with regard to smart groups. Each program can do things the other can not imitate.

USA Music Sales

Although CDs are 65% of unit sales in the USA, downloads are now 35%. However you should note CD albums are much higher priced than typical singles downloads. iTunes has 68% of the download market (however you should note unauthorised downloads are prevalent). Walmart has 20% of the CD sales, BestBuy 16%, and Amazon and Target each 10%.

I really thought that CDs would be even lower by now. I suspect if there was some way to allow for unauthorised downloads via file sharing, that downloads would be far higher.

Carlyle Gardens Computer Club

The annual general meeting of the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club was held tonight at the Carlton Theatre. There was little change in the executive, who had been doing a splendid job. Some change on the committee, as a few people retired after years of service. There were more new committee members than was technically required, so that shows the enthusiasm of the members. As usual of late, the meeting concluded with social talk along with some very fine snacks provided by the ever thoughtful and helpful ladies who have catered for previous meetings.

While talking after the meeting, Geoff had some interesting comments about how unlikely it was that residents will be plunging into high tech and the internet. I counter that having over 115 members in a Computer Club in a retirement village of 400 homes is not too bad. So I continue my schemes to have all of Carlyle Square connected to the internet via wireless access points.

Wednesday 19 August 2009


It turned out that the people wandering around the new houses were from the Queensland Electrical Safety Office, checking samples of the wiring for good electrical practice. Interesting to see them in a regional area, albeit the largest city in the north.

Noticed Mark the head gardener heading off to a dig down the street. Rushed over to ask him about the watering problem we think we see with the lawn and garden alongside us. The two hatches he opened did not control the water sprinklers that we have not seen running for the last week. Mark said he would need to check the landscape diagrams to find those controls.

Spotlight had more of the material we bought for Jean to make into a dressing gown for me (why can you not buy a dressing gown these days?) So we got another metre to get that completed. Then we tried Clive Peters, which is something like Harvey Norman. Jean looked with interest at the Nintendo Wii. However she wanted to look at Harvey Norman as well. By then we were tired of shopping. So it was time to take our faulty Brilliant Bob floor lamp back to the lighting shop. They swapped it for one that actually assembled correctly. They also swapped the warm white reflector fluorescent bulbs for cool white. I also bought a few of the GE small spiral CF globes, that are far superior.


With the lawn watering system to the east of our home being suspect, I decided to dash outside and check. So each time I heard a watering system start, I dashed outside to check just which section of the irrigation network had turned on. Well, naturally it got a bit late. I put a few glass jars outside on the lawn, to test whether the the sprinklers popped up and worked overnight. So about midnight I heard yet another sprinkler start. This sounded closer, so I grabbed a torch and went out to check. It seemed that it was the garden nearest to us. Alas, not the actual lawn sprinklers.

Within a few minutes, a car cruised up. Not our regular security guy (and his large alsatian). It seemed we had a different security guy at the entry way these days, with the regular guy still cruising around.

Do Not Call

Telstra say they help you avoid unwelcome calls by supporting the Australian Government Do Not Call register. It is a legal requirement that telemarketing respect Do Not Call phone numbers. So, how come there are headlines like Telstra fined for breaching Do Not Call? I also note that the Do not call register exempts charities, political parties and educational institutions. As a result of this, I never donate to any charity that does telemarket phone calls. I also have no wish to talk on the phone with a God botherer, since I am happy being an infidel.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Bento Database

Bento is a pretty, single user list manager from FileMaker, for Apple Macintosh computers. So far I can not see it really being any sort of relational databank. For most household and personal uses, a relational database is way too complicated anyhow. However I specifically wanted something I could (and would) carry around with me. That means something that would synchronise with an iPhone, like Bento for Macintosh does with Bento for iPhone.

There are considerable differences between Bento on the Macintosh and Bento in the iPhone. However despite these limitations, the iPhone Bento application is surprisingly complete.

I converted to CSV a few simple lists I use fairly often, imported them to Bento, and did a little tuning of the appearance and fields. There is not much that I am likely to do with lists of DVDs, except to include a cover photo. I added a field for insurance value. For TV series, I added a completed check box, for a quick indicator of whether I had everything in the series. That gives me a few lists I can use when I am shopping for DVDs, since I carry my iPhone with me most of the time.

Since I wanted to try a few calculations, I did a little home inventory database. Again, I added a media field to allow a photo of the item. Plus calculations of value. The calculations field really only allows the usual four functions (add, subtract, multiply, divide), grouping brackets, and concatenating text. That is a bit limited, but might yield interesting results if used with imagination.

Tomorrow I need to get a little more serious. My rapidly declining PDA is where I do all my fuel use and automobile calculations. I do not think the spreadsheet I did so many years ago would be too complicated for Bento, if it had some logical operators. However Bento does not, as far as I can tell so far. I decided to make it even easier, and drop automatic changes from gallons and miles, and only handle metric measurements. Only one country still uses Imperial measurements, and that is not here.

Wireless Networking Carlyle Square

I checked out the space available in the bar for adding wireless networking. Free WiFi, like every McDonalds has. No great problems technically, once I grab another power board and a few cables. Alas, although I have permission from the resort manager, our restaurant manager wants to throw the whole question back to one of the Prime Trust directors. I can understand this reluctance, but when I could probably have the whole thing installed in 30 minutes and at no cost, all these delays to consult really are annoying. Luckily I figure Xmas is a good deadline to get this stuff completed. Were I back at the university, the deadline would be tomorrow.

Bento Fuel Use

When refuelling Jean's car I record date, total kilometres, litres pumped, and cost. My old spreadsheet derived cost per litre, fuel economy, and totals for litres and costs. The fancy bits were the bits that allowed me to input in metric or Imperial. So I will drop Imperial as a pointless waste of time.

First step will be to see what I can export from the Psion spreadsheet, and convert to a CSV file. Then input that into the Macintosh via a CF Card. Turns out the Psion spreadsheet does not export. However there is an alternative way to convert Psion spreadsheet data to a tab separated file. Highlight the cells wanted, cut them, paste them into a Psion Word document, then export as text. The result should be a tab separated file, that many database programs will import.

I also have no way to connect the Psion to another computer (RS232 being obsolete). So I saved the resulting files onto a Compact Flash drive, which I can read via my Dell monitor photo card adaptors.

Friday 21 August 2009


Having a few open neck jars out on the lawn overnight confirmed that the lawn was not watered. However the sprinkler system does not run every day, so we need a few more days of testing. I have reported this problem to Mark, the head gardener. However the location of the controls seem unknown to all of us.

Used our new dual purpose ladder to check the insulation in the roof of the garage. What insulation in the garage? No wonder the garage was hot last summer. The roof insulation install looks shoddy to me, but at least it is there. However my only experience of doing insulation was more than two decades ago, so I am no judge. I guess I will now look for decent insulation that is on sale. I want the garage roof insulated before next summer.

Compact Fluorescent Lights

An amazing difference in start up time between a couple of brands of compact fluorescent lamps. Incandescent lamps reach full brightness almost instantly, as you expect. A GE tiny spiral cool white 15 watt rated at 900 lumens reached full brightness over a minute or so, producing a reading of 525 lux. It had a measured power draw of 13 watts. An Envirolux 15 watt cool white (4200K) reflector CFL by Lucci took well over five minutes to reach 500 lux. It had an measured power drawer of 17 watts.

Both the CFL claim to have a service life of 8,000 hours. Each cost just under $10. My comparison incandescent glove was a pearl 60 watt, which produced 370 lux, and naturally drew 60 watts. Incandescent globes are usually considered good for about 1000 hours. Naturally a clear globe would produce very slightly more light. As an aside, I returned two Envirolux 15 watt warm white CFL globes to the Beacon lighting store for replacement, as they produced paltry output of around 150 lumens. Pathetic! I also confirmed there is no way to recycle CFL globes, despite the small quantity of toxic mercury in every fluorescent light.

New Intel CPUs

Intel's mobile chipsets using the new 34 nm build are delayed. A range of seven dual core Arrandale CPUs are not expected until 1Q2010. So the only current Intel mobile chipsets with decent performance and semi-reasonable TDP of 45 watts and less remain the 45 nm Penryn Core 2 Duo. The new CPUs are likely to clock between 2.4GHz and 2.66GHz. Low voltage derivatives at 2GHz 2.3GHz and ultra low voltage versions at 1.06 and 1.2 GHz, with all except the lowest performing costing above US$300.

Intel's licensing dispute with Nvidia regarding external graphics processors means there is confusion as to which way to go with graphics. In the past, Intel integrated graphics have not been competitive with Nvidia or ATI (owned by CPU maker AMD). The Intel graphics were 130nm, and the current Nvidia parts are 65nm. Will performance change with 45 nm graphics directly on the Annandale CPU die? You would sure hope so, even if it is based on the G45 (X4500D) chips (which currently are about half the performance of an Nvidia 9400M). Moreover Nvidia still seem to me to have issues with the reliability of their mechanical packaging under heat stress conditions. Apple have been using Nvidia GPUs in all their recent notebook computers. However there are rumours of a rift regarding reliability. Further, the Nvidia MCP89 chipset (the successor to the existing GeForce 9400M or MCP79) is not scheduled until 1Q2010.

My take on this is that Apple will not upgrade from Penryn in very much of a rush. Apple will not use the 45 nm Clarksfield CPU due to heat issues. I would not expect to see Arrandale in their laptops until 2Q2010 or even 3Q2010. This is especially the case if the Intel Nvidia dispute is not resolved, or if the Intel graphics suck.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Matte MacBook Pro Photos

Some photos of the new matte display Apple MacBook Pro have finally started to appear on the web. Carlos at Rocket Silence did What It Looks Like - New Matte 15″ MacBook Pro and points to bunch of Flickr (and larger) photos.

There is also a note of the display used. Manufacturer: 00000610, Model: 00009CB1. No indication who that is.

Apple Answers FCC Questions

Apple answers the FCC questions seems to cover why certain VOiP applications have been rejected. Their contract says use WiFi for voice data. Also covers why Google Voice is stalled. Basically duplicate functionality (which is in their developer terms) and moving bottom row Apple icons on the iPhone. Seems a mild response. What I can not understand is whether Apple are serious about continuing to study how Google Voice operates. A case of right hand and left hand not talking?

Comments on The AT&T response to FCC are up on Engadget and many other sites. AT&T are on about network limitations (and rightly so). For example, SlingPlayer Mobile was initially rejected because redirecting a TV signal to an iPhone using AT&T's cellular network is prohibited by AT&T's customer Terms of Service, say Apple. Sure, it was accepted with other mobile phones, but hardly anyone uses apps on other phones. Plus AT&T do not have a contract preventing other phones from running applications. The experience to use these applications is just too hard for most users. So there is no network problem.

Google said SFA to the FCC, which seems pretty reasonable. The Engadget overview seems reasonably detailed.

So, Apple have 40 reviewers, a workload of 8500 apps a week, reviewed by 2 people, working 40 hour shifts, seems to mean 6 minutes an application. Also only 20% of applications are initially rejected. No wonder there are inconsistent results. Apple will be running some sort of easy peasy (automated) checklist to give a quick go or no go result to get their 95% handled in 14 days result. When they get a chance they probably go into a bit more detail with the no go. If there is outrage about some app that gets through, they reassess. Hence the apps that get ditched after a few months. How much effort do you put into a free application? Especially if your automated testing lets it pass?

Limited Mobile Bandwidth

Being in another country, Google Voice is not available at all. Apple having a spat with AT&T does not affect me directly. However similar phone network problems to AT&T exist here. If everyone with a phone changed to an iPhone, and tried using networked applications, all the mobile phone networks in Australia would crash. There just is not enough bandwidth at the available cell towers. Building a heap more towers will cost an absolute fortune, so phone carriers are not very keen on spending before they have customers.

In the past, mobile phone companies made their money from phone calls, and other 20th Century legacy applications. Naturally the phone networks are fighting desperately to keep phone calls, SMS and MMS relevant. However in a world where many users only want a data connection, many could not care less about voice. This would leave the mobile phone companies a low rent promoters of dumb pipes. Just like naked DSL on fixed land lines.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Internet Fails

Our connection to the internet disappeared this morning around 7:30 a.m. Our Belkin 802.11g ADSL modem router is not showing an Internet connection light, although it is showing an ADSL light. The connection came back sometime shortly after 8 a.m. Not happy about the internet connection just disappearing like that.

We do have alternatives. My ancient flying saucer style Apple Airport router has a dial up modem included. I could connect that, and we would have a very slow connection. Via WiFi to our computers. We did that for a week or so before we got our ADSL connection.

Or we could use my iPhone, and tether it to a computer. I pay for a fairly hefty chunk of download capacity. Then I could share the connection via my computer using WiFi. Just seems a pity that even in a major town, ADSL just suddenly gets unreliable for a period.

Carlyle Gardens Watering System

I had three glass bottle out in the garden and lawns overnight. When I heard the sprinklers turn on to do the lawn to the west of the house, I went out and checked they were running correctly. Got squirted in the face, so they were obviously working. No sign that there was water on the lawn behind the house. No sign that there was water on the lawn to the east, nor to the garden there. I know that the garden pop up sprinklers work, because I saw Mark the head gardener test them manually. So why don't they work automatically, the way they should?

Having scoured the house, I now have five glass bottle out on different parts of the lawn and garden. Real Soon Now we will know exactly which sprinklers are not working. The answer on Sunday night is that none of the sprinklers ran, but this may be a day when they would not do so in any case.

Monday 24 August 2009

Fault Fixing

Mark, the Finlay Homes site supervisor, visited to discuss our defects list. He certainly knew about the missing fly screens on the windpws. Said that the door and lock folks would be around today. He checked out the way the screen doors rub on the powder coat frames, and thought they may be able to be bowed the other way. However the main thing is the lock folks are expected today, to replace our locks.

Mark organised an electrician to change our single power point under the sink to a double, like the plans show. We decided the under bench exterior example we saw was probably because one of the display homes had simply been wired incorrectly. The electrician arrived about 15 minutes later. No problem with the job. As expected, he confirmed that the noise from the circular fluorescent lights will be the iron core ballasts. He did point out that if I replace with an electronic ballast, it may fail. Iron core ballasts are essentially there for life. It was obvious that although the existing ballast was cinched down tightly, the entire base plate flexes. I can not think of any way to fix that, apart from a replacement ballast.

It appears Carlyle Gardens are still in discussions regarding the front down pipe that makes the doorway entrance so dangerously slippery when damp. If it gets fixed, it will be every home, in one move. Door pulls for the interior cupboards are not on the agenda. Neither is insulating the garage ceiling.

Nokia Booklet 3G

Nokia, the largest cell phone company in the world, announced they will launch a 10 inch aluminium body computer with a glossy display. The Nokia Booklet 3G will use an Intel Atom chip, weigh 1.25 kg, and use some version of Microsoft Windows. It will have WiFi and Bluetooth, a front facing video camera, and an SD Card reader. It will have A-GPS. Nokia hope for up to 12 hours battery life. The new computer will have software to connect with Nokia products.

Nokia sold its desktop computer business back in 1991. I wonder why it thinks it can make money in the even more competitive area of netbooks now? I difference will be having 3G HSDPA phone networking. Perhaps Nokia feel mobile phone companies will sell this at a subsidised price (like mobile phones), and pay commissions? The devil is in the details. So far it sounds like yet another Windows netbook.

Conway's Law

How Do Committees Invent? That was the question melvin Conway asked in 1968. Any organization that designs a system (defined more broadly here than just information systems) will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure. That still seems true. The Harvard Business School working paper Exploring the Duality between Product and Organizational Architectures: A Test of the Mirroring Hypothesis came out in 2008. The Influence Of Organizational Structure On Software Quality: An Empirical Case Study by Microsoft reinforces it.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Unlock Your iPhone

The nature of carrier locking of a mobile phone to a phone network tends to depend upon where yoy live. Apple's official carrier iPhone unlock has existed all along. However relatively few iPhones are not under a multi year carrier contract. If you buy your iPhone outright, from the Apple online store, at a cost between A$879 and A$1040, then you have no phone carrier contract. Vodaphone offer an online unlock for phones if purchased from them, and the contract has expired. Otherwise unlocking an iPhone can be complicated. Try Apple's list of phone companies for a list of which facilities are available in which countries. This list also links to support pages for each mobile phone company.

Lock or Not Lock

A door and window guy from Signature Glass and Aluminium turned up just prior to 3 p.m. He had been sent by Mark to remove the locks from the security doors. A bit of fiddling, and he had the lock mechanisms apart. I questioned the removal of the rear door locks, but he said that was what his instructions were. Just as he was about to leave, the carpenter Jean had seen some weeks ago arrived. The carpenter had a replacement lock for the front security screen. This was keyed to the Carlyle Gardens system, and the front door. So at last we have a front security door key. The door and window guy will come back in the morning to provide locks for the back security doors.

It looks like the missing window screens on the lounge room and the bathroom have not been ordered. The carpenter got on to Mark about that. That may also be a job for the morning. However there was no mention of the security doors binding on the powder coated frames. Maybe they have forgotten that item.

Apple Price Marketing (iPod)

Apple will probably try to cover gaps in the price points of its devices. The low end is music players, where Apple cornered the majority of the market despite being a fairly late entry to the market. The iPod Shuffle (A$129), iPod Nano (from A$199) and iPod Classic (A$339) cover all except the low end for portable music players. You also still see the older clip on iPod Shuffle at even lower prices (A$65). Apple do not play at the low end of any market they enter. However the models above are not internet appliances, nor are they computers. Plus the entire music player market is tending to be fairly steady now, rather than expanding. iPod sales went from being the major driver of Apple profits to being the third in line market over the past two years. Intending buyers should note all iPod model except the Shuffle will be updated or changed in September.

The iPod Touch is a low end internet appliance, as well as being a music player. It was not by any means the first such device. Useful for far more than just playing music (and video). The iPod Touch starts at A$329 (A$419 for 16GB, A$549 for 32GB), as does the Apple TV. However the price jump to A$449 for a 160 GB Apple TV is steep. One interesting point is that Apple TV uses 802.11n wireless networking, whereas the iPod uses the substantially slower 802.11b/g wireless networking. So using an iPod Touch (or an iPhone) will slow down your wireless network. Apple have been careful not to give the Apple TV sufficient facilities to cut into sales of the much more expensive Mac mini computer. So the iPod Touch is actually more versatile (web surfing, email), while Apple TV outputs (somewhat) higher resolution video (1280x720 @ 24fps, 960x540 @ 30fps) via a TV compatible HDMI (puke) connector.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Network Down

Our internet connection disappeared around 5:05 a.m. No indication as yet as to the problem. Our Belkin ADSL modem router is indicating that there is no connection to the internet. Connection to the internet spontaneously came back at 5:14 a.m. without my doing anything. Seems likely it was something at the telecom end. Why should a relatively new connection have down time?

Apple Price Marketing (iPhone)

The iPhone 3G is A$719. The recent iPhone 3Gs is A$879 (A$1040 for 32GB). However for sales purposes, most purchasers will buy via a phone company, and have most of the price included in their phone contract. Notice the price difference from 8GB to 16GB is A$180 (iPod Touch difference is A$90), however the 8GB is the older model with fewer features. The price difference from 16GB to 32GB is A$161 (iPod Touch difference is A$120). You do have to wonder why such a difference on the memory price increase. I suspect basically because Apple can charge a massive premium. When the phone companies have spent the past 20 years adding feature no-one can use to their phones, making the first phone that is easy to use gives you a premium position.

Fault Report Progress

The nice tradesman from Signature Glass and Aluminium came around just before 7:30 a.m. Took him only a few moments to install our new keyed alike locks for the security doors at the back. I pointed out the screen screen scraping the power coat frame. He said he would talk to Mark about that. Sounds like the whole door needs to go back to the factory to be adjusted. While he was here, I got a business card. We will want another security door on the garage, so we can increase the airflow without compromising security.

Nothing as yet on the two missing fly screens on our windows, however it is still pretty early in the morning. Caught up with Mark later, and was told someone would come and measure the windows.

Power Outage

Our electric power went out at 2:03 this afternoon. The reception office was unaffected, and had no calls regarding the outage. The Ergon phone hotline reported outages in the Condon area. Power was restored at 3:05 p.m. My Powerware UPS held my iMac computer up for a mere 20 minutes. This despite the computer being in sleep mode (17 watt drain) for much of the time. Sounds like the Powerware battery is on the way out.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Smart Phones from Nokia

Some interesting background articles on what Nokia, the largest cell phone manufacturer, is doing recently to obtain their own operating systems, and make internet enabled appliances. Everything There Is To Know About Nokia’s Next Tablet, which is somewhat less than everything. First look at Nokia RX-51 also known as Nokia N900, being first impressions on the Maemo device, which drops the Symbian operating system.

I feel a tad nostalgic about this, as I once wrote a substantial web site about Psion Epoc, the operating system that became Symbian. Maemo is yet another Linux derivative, which is in turn a Unix offshoot. The problem with Linux for widespread use is that it is not sufficiently user friendly. The Unix geeks used to say Unix is very user friendly. It is just particular about who it makes friends with.

Speaking of internet enabled appliances, Archos have been making them for ages. Mostly as small video and music players. Their recent ARCHOS 9PCtablet is their version of a Windows 7 netbook, without a keyboard. Small and light (800 grams).

High Definition Television in Australia

High definition (HD) is mostly a marketing term, used to lie to the public about what they are getting in a TV. It refers to the resolution of a TV display. Digital does not mean high definition. Digital means not analogue (the older sort of TV). Widescreen means aspect ratio (say 16 wide by 9 high, rather than the older 4:3 ratio, so it is 30% wider) and has nothing to do with either digital (although most digital TVs are widescreen, not all widescreen are digital) nor high definition (most widescreen TVs sold a few years ago are not high definition). Given most country TV stations do not broadcast high definition it may not matter.

Digital TV was introduced in Australia in 2001 so politicians could sell the bandwidth used by the older analogue TV. Then the TV stations managed to get given a bunch of bandwidth for the changeover, so there is unlikely to be much left to sell. Meanwhile, the TV stations were so badly managed that most of them are going broke.

Using iPhone SIM Cards

An original 2G iPhone will not work via WiFi without the original SIM card. Using an original iPhone without a wireless service plan. However if you reset the network settings WiFi may work. Apple imply an iPhone SIM can be used in other phones, in iPhone: About the SIM PIN

Apple say iPhone 3G is activated at the place of purchase in Locating iPhone wireless carriers. They also say all four Australian carriers lock the iPhone to their network, and that all carriers offer unlocking. About iPhone carrier settings updates in iTunes explains where carrier settings hide. How to replace an original iPhone with an iPhone 3G or 3GS. Apple iPhone service say you can put an iPhone SIM into another phone and use it. So far I can not see the converse.

Apple Price Marketing (Desktop Macintosh)

The most expensive Apple computer is the Mac Pro, a large, powerful workstation starting at A$4499 and ending pretty much as high as you want to go. Most people who need this are into professional graphics, film editing, architecture and the like. It is not a consumer computer.

The iMac is a desktop computer, designed as an all in one piece monitor that also contains the computer. It has a full size hard drive, and includes a DVD drive. However the CPU is actually a laptop model, which helps keep the heat down. This also avoids competing with the Mac Pro in all out performance. Prices for the 20 inch display are A$1999 and A$2499 (with twice the hard drive and twice the memory). The graphics are the integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400M, which is a portable graphic processor. My opinion is that the 20 inch display is significantly inferior to the 24 inch iMac model.

The low end 24 inch iMac has an Nvidia GeForce GT120 graphics card, which is a much better video chip than the 9400M. Last time I saw the iMac, the 24 inch display was also superior. Price is A$2990. The high end model has a Nvidia GeForce GT130 graphics card and costs A$3699. Previous pricing for the iMac doubled from low end to high end, which covers a wide price spectrum. Indeed, you have an ATI graphics card option that will almost do this.

The tiny Mac mini is a more interesting model. Sold as a way of introducing Windows switchers to Macintosh. It is the low end, and has the Nvidia GeForce 9400M laptop graphics card, and a rather pedestrian 2GHz CPU. Costs A$1049 with an inadequate 1GB of memory. The upgrade takes the price to A$1399, with 2GB of memory, and a larger hard drive. Indeed, you could drive the price to A$1849, at which point the iMac is obviously a better deal. What I find interesting with this model is that Apple have increased the USB to 5 ports. This far exceeds the USB port count on any other model. I think the Mac mini is partly intended as a disk server for media. It also uses little power, only 13 watts when idle (the lowest of any desktop computer).


We were going to go shopping this morning, but decided to stay around to see if any further repairs were mooted. Jean apparently managed to get some work done, unlike me. I had King salmon for lunch at the Carlyle Gardens restaurant. Seeing the Carlyle Gardens video playing in the Administration reminded me that there should be some way to run local video through the fibre optic cable to the new section. So I asked Gayle about that.

In the evening, between setting out watering systems on the lawn, Jean decided she would go to dinner at the restaurant. We had the roast pork, and I had a lot left over to bring home. I raised some of the ideas of a community web site with Clive, from the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club. When the meal was finished I asked Kelly, our waitress, about the Nintendo Wii Fit. As I expected, she was very enthusiastic about the gadget. Told Jean it was real fun.

Friday 28 August 2009

Telstra Smart Community

Telstra Smart Community is the term the monopolistic telecommunications giant use for their Velocity optical fibre wired estates. Telstra Velocity home wiring sort of lists what you have to do to run their network stuff, if they managed to push it to a property developer or retirement community. Telstra Velocity Home Cabling Guide has some pretty pictures and diagrams, and Cabling new homes for Telstra Velocity has detailed guides. A more general guide to Telstra Velocity, for developers and users. Luckily Telstra do list installation requirements for builders. Telstra Network Termination Device lists is Telstra's network boundary point, a demarcation point. Less technical Customer cabling guidelines explains wiring to the Network Termination Device. Lots of PDF to read.

SmartWiring seems to be a Telstra marketing term for structured wiring. Requirements for MDF cover Telstra main distribution frames in customer premises such as Carlyle Gardens office. Alteration of Telstra facilities in homes and small businesses lists what you can not touch, and is way more liberal than it used to be.

Snow Leopard

While we were shopping, TNT Express delivered my copy of Apple's new Snow Leopard operating system (OS X 10.6). When I returned from the wine tasting at the Carlyle Gardens restaurant, I started installing on my first generation MacBook Air via remote Disk at 4:20 p.m. Once the two computers were connected (over WiFi) I started. The install software said 1 hour and 8 minutes. I had to put in an Admin password three times at the start. Estimated time went up to 3 hours 30 minutes. I figure installing a new operating system via WiFi is about as tough an install test as you get.

Around 6:48 p.m. the install was rebooting the MacBook Air. It was ready for login at 6:50 p.m. Initial login looks just fine.


We went shopping in the morning. Retail Therapy. Down the Ring Road to Stocklands Shopping Centre. The BigW there had a Nintendo Wii with a Wii Fit and a Wii Sports at what seemed a reasonable price. So Jean bought the Wii. I bought a few pieces of exercise equipment also, although at my age I doubt I can still chin the bar. I really hope we overuse and abuse the stuff. The checkout lady complained that she did not get the excessively fit male model on the box when she bought stuff. We sympathised.

We went to lunch at the Carlyle Gardens restaurant. After having two meals there yesterday, I had to cut back to just having a toasted sandwich. Jean had the seafood chowder. Pure coincidence there happened to be a wine tasting there today. Jean headed straight for the wine. Afterwards I also had the apple pie and ice cream, thus defeating any attempt at calorie reduction. We talked with Ed and Krys, a couple from Perth who were considering moving to Carlyle Gardens. They were real live wires. I made an appointment to see Leigh on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. about her PDA.

No More Books

No more rulers, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks was a phrase school children of my vintage would chant after term ended. Rulers have been phased out as implements of punishment.

Central Iowa’s Van Meter School District is phasing out traditional textbooks in favor of a curriculum based on an online format. As part of this change, schools in the district are distributing brand new MacBook laptop computers to students in the 7th through 12th grades for use in the classroom and at home. The school district’s superintendent says they plan to eliminate the need for textbooks within the next 4 years.

Jobs for teachers are not secure.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is coming. Google maps the world from satellite, plus StreetView, and more importantly, indexes it. Phones have GPS navigation, a compass to tell where it is pointing, and a camera capable of continuous video. Combine these and your phone display can tell you what your camera is seeing, and label all the buildings, tell you the names and phone numbers of the businesses or residents there. As Bill Joy said when head of SUN, Privacy is dead, get over it.

Make the augmented reality software a little smarter than just a substitute for a location aware phone book. You are standing outside on the street. The phone checks the bus schedule, and tells you when the bus will arrive. And so on. Whatever information usefully follows from knowing who you are, and where you are, and what surrounds you.

The first example of commercial augmented reality is reported for the Apple iPhone here. Robert Scoble says Yelp has an Easter Egg example of augmented reality. Games Alfresco have been covering augmented reality highlights for years. Places like MIT have been experimenting with augmented reality it for ages, often in a very sophisticated manner. The missing link has been widespread location aware devices.

The idiotic camera manufacturers had their chance (you could get a GPS enabled camera a decade ago) and dropped the ball because they were too busy trying to preserve film cameras. Now the camera makers are going to have part of their low end business destroyed by computer phone makers.

Apple Price Marketing (Notebook Computers)

Apple divide their notebook computers into two lines. The less expensive MacBook, and the more expensive MacBook Pro. Apple do not make a low cost computer. There is now only model in the MacBook line. A legacy look white plastic cased 13 inch (1280 x 800) 2.13 GHz Core2Duo with a 1066MHz front side bus and 2 GB of DDR2 memory. The integrated video is the Nvidia GeForce 9400M used in most of their computers. Minimum size hard drive of 160 GB. The price is A$1599. The interesting thing is that the CPU performance of all the Apple computers that use mobile chips (including the Mac mini and the iMac) is essentially identical, when related to the actual chip speed. There is no low end computer available.

The 13 inch MacBook Pro is essentially the same as the MacBook except for the unibody aluminium case, LED backlight on the display, faster CPUs, and 4 GB of DDR3 memory. It sells for A$1899 (2.26GHz) and A$2399 (2.53GHz).

The 15 inch MacBook Pro with 1440 x 900 LED backlit display starts at A$2699 (2.53GHz). The A$3199 model (2.66GHz and larger drive). More important, it is the first model that adds a second graphics card, an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT with 256 MB of memory. The A$3699 model (2.8GHz) doubles cache to 6MG, takes the drive to 500GB, and the graphics memory to 512MB The 15 inch models are finally also available with a non-glare display as an option, rather than the default glossy display.

The 17 inch 1920 x 1200 LED display model is A$3900. It is otherwise similar to the top of line 15 inch. While it is probably the thinnest and lightest 17 inch notebook available, that still makes for a large computer to carry on a plane.

Apple must be making an absolute fortune on their MacBook Air. A very nice 13 inch 1280 x 800 display. The thinnest and lightest Apple computer, it lacks an optical drive, lacks Firewire, lacks Ethernet. It is a very reduced computer. Same CPU and cache as the high end, but far lower clock speeds. Memory is 2GB, and can not be expanded. Pricing is a massive A$2399 for 1.86GHz with 120GB single platter drive (same as in the iPod Classic). At A$2798 you get 2.13GHz with a 128GB SSD. Solid state drives do cost a fortune (you can option one into some of the other models). However it is a first step to a range of computers with no moving parts. The MacBook Air is a testbed platform for new Apple technologies. It was the first with the machined aluminium body, for example.

Snow Leopard Features

With the new Wake on Demand feature in Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard and an AirPort Base Station or Time Capsule, you can see and access shared items even if that Mac is asleep, using Bonjour Sleep Proxy. See also review of Wake on Demand in MacUser. If you leave iTunes open, you can do a remote Wake On Demand for a shared piece of music or video. How would that go for a household media server! Hide the server in a cupboard or anyplace out of the way, with a stack of monster hard drives. Good reason to think Mac mini with 5 USB ports as a media server.

Gamma is a numerical value that describes the relationship between the varying levels of brightness or luminance that a monitor can display or a digital camera or camcorder can capture. Snow Leopard uses a gamma value of 2.2 by default. Previously the default system gamma value was 1.8. You may need to use ColorSync (in Preferences - Displays) to adjust settings. Much more information and linked articles here. Adjusting your colour profiles between cameras, computer, monitors, projectors and printers has always been a good idea, and essential for professional graphics artists, but relatively few people seem aware of it.

There is a certain amount of incompatible software with Snow Leopard. A more extensive Snow Leopard software compatibility wiki.

The Dock, Dock Expose, and Stacks, plus some hints on Finder and the desktop.

Inca Pisco

Jean brought home a couple of bottles of Inca Pisco from Peru. Pisco is a grape brandy. She had been drinking Pisco Sours at hotels through South America during her trip. So she followed the recipe. A couple of large jiggers of Inca Pisco, 3/4 jigger of fresh lemon juice, moderate quantity of egg white, a heaped teaspoon of sugar. Combine and shake vigorously with ice. Few drops of bitters on top. I think Jean left out the bitters (which we had bought specially for the pisco) and the sugar. The recipe says the drink is dominated by the unique taste of the pisco. It certainly was!

Sunday 30 August 2009

Why Netbooks Are Wimps

5 Netbooks Microsoft Has Crushed reports on Microsoft ensuring Netbook computers are undersized and underpowered. No hybrid drives. Beefed up netbooks are a danger to Intel and Microsoft. Microsoft said it would license Windows XP Home until mid-2010 only for machines it called ultra-low-cost PCs (ULCPC), which could have no greater than 1GHz processors, 1GB of RAM, 80GB of storage and 10-inch screens. Microsoft restrictions on hardware.

With mini-notebooks engaged in a race to the bottom, there is little chance of quality surviving. Meanwhile, computer makers from Acer up are cannibalising their notebook sales with mini-notebooks, while profit margins plummet. Expect to see bankruptcies and more mergers.

Dead Hard Drive

No, not my hard drive. However an external hard drive with irreplaceable photos. I checked with replacement USB cables, and then with a Firewire cable. Not the interface. Replaced the plug pack power supply with a couple of classy power supplies. Each indicated a fault that would not allow them to power up the box.

Pulling the Maxtor drive box apart was ... interesting. They sure design it to assemble easy, rather than disassemble. Much like modern cars in fact, which are impossible to work on. For all that, it was a beautifully built case. The hard drive was a 500 GB Seagate Barracuda, a nice 7200 rpm model Ultra ATA that was probably top of the line a few years back. Finally got the Maxtor drive box apart, and powered up the drive. The drive motor did not spin up. So, I have now eliminated all faults, except in the actual hard drive itself.

That is about the end of the line. If I had access to a stock of identical drives, I could try changing the electronics board. With surface mount components and fine flex cables, my chances would not be high. My hand eye co-ordination is not as good as it once was. Someone specialising in hard drive repairs, who understand hard drive recovery, and with a clean room, may be able to recover the data, but that sort of service costs around A$1000.

Monday 31 August 2009

Water Sprinklers

There were gardeners tramping around for most of the morning, turning the water sprinkling systems on and off. I saw Mark, the head gardener, checking just what watered where. The water sprinklers to the west of our house come on at 5 a.m. for 20 minutes. One of the things the gardeners did popped up the water sprinklers to the east of our house, first time I have seen them work in ages. Although the gardeners could manually turn the watering on and off, I am not sure getting at the automatic timers was proving as easy.

We are convinced the sprinklers to the east and behind us have not been working at all recently. I put about five empty glass jars on the lawn overnight several times, and checked for water in the morning. Jean had been using our soaker hose to try to preserve the turf. Then we saw Gary across the way using a fancier sprinkler. We asked which model, and then described it to the local Mitre 10 hardware store. Jean had been using that fancier watering gadget for the past week. However we do not have enough range from our hose to get across the path, and the lawn there is drying out and dying.

Eric Lindsay's Blog August 2009