Eric Lindsay's Blog December 2009

Tuesday 1 December 2009


Jean wanted to do food shopping at Coles this morning. We did that and I put it in the cooler in the car while we took a walk through the nicely air conditioned Willows Shopping Centre. We also managed to find a few items of clothing at the later opening stores, mostly replacing stuff wearing out.

Despite having no great hope of finding it, we sought pink batt ceiling insulation at the local Mitre 10 hardware store. When we pulled up, we noticed they had a great big sign advertising insulation. That was great, as no-one had seemed to have any available for the past several months. I had measured the ceiling beam spaces (880 mm) in the garage in the morning prior to leaving. The insulation was the 430 mm wide stuff, 1.2 metres long. A tightly compressed bag of 16 batts would cover around 8 square metres. The garage is between 25 and 30 square metres, so we bought four bags.

Fast internet turning into a hard sell

Fast internet turning into a hard sell, reports Jennifer Hewett the The Australian. There is little logic in a fibre optic National Broadband network, when most people select cheap rather than fast in their network connections.

This is just what I am experiencing in Carlyle Gardens retirement resort, when attempting to convince people that going on the Internet may be worthwhile. Despite the 100 member Carlyle Gardens computer club, many people are totally uninterested in coping with a computer. They were forced to use computers before they retired from work, and they hated the experience. By extension, they see no use in paying for the Internet, nor even in having access for free.

The National Broadband network is another Labor government boondoggle that has had no accounting done, and is unlikely to ever make a commercial return. The NBN finances are dodgy, and the image not helped by hiring merchant finances as gunslingers. In essence, it is an attempt to re-nationalise the communications network we had when Telstra was sold.

Block Party

When I dragged my cooler to the mail boxes and marquee just after 5 p.m. there was no one visible. However just down the side road were heaps of chairs. People were sheltering from the sun between the houses around 519. There was already a barbecue set up.

I had a surplus of beer and soft drinks, and several containers of snacks. What I did not have was celery sticks. Somehow between buying them this morning and getting home, we lost a bag of vegetables.

Leigh gathered us all by the mail boxes and helped by Ray handed out the mail box keys, complete with red ribbon. Everyone got a little plush toy, which they found when they tested their key. That was Ray's idea.

Must have been forty or fifty people there. More food and drink than anyone could get through. Various people had obviously been baking all day. I did not attempt to sample everything, but the few items I did eat were very nice. The party broke up around 8:30 p.m. and seemed to be pretty well received.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Pay for News

Online readers need to pay for content, says Rupert Murdoch. But then, he would say that, wouldn't he? He points of the obvious, that the old model of advertising paying for newspapers is dead. Online advertising does not pay enough, not for news gathering. However I believe that means the fleets of reporters are also out of work. News organisations increasingly ask citizen journalists for video snips of events. I believe there will be far fewer professional journalists (not even a tenth as many) with much wider circulation. There will be far fewer scoops about government troubles. The power of the press will decline, along with their ability to gather news.


The fence building continues. The heavy duty fence poles have reached all the way to the entrance. There is already a low wooden fence alongside the bridge, near Nellie's place. Not that it stopped the dirt bike riders that upset some residents.

We went out shopping to Willows. Jean found that Coles actually had found our missing parcel of vegetables. Coles let us replace them. We looked in a bunch of the other stores, and bought cheap orange juice in Woolworths. At least it gave us a long walk in the cool of the air conditioning.

I collected Bob in Jean's car, and brought him over so he could send a birthday email to his grand-daughter. That was his first email. I had carried my computer over to the bar the previous day, and attempted the email there. Bar internet connection was not getting to the internet, and neither was the Computer Club. When we checked the computer club, we found a notice that the Internet connection was dead. Turned out to be a disconnected phone line.

Iain, the security guy, dropped in when I was having dinner. New Windows 7 computer not connecting. Old one used dial up modem, but Netbooks tend not to have a modem. The cellular wireless card also did not want to show up. Some time after Iain left, I managed to find the Telstra wireless driver that was probably needed. Jean did a lot of work on the computer, and sent SMS to Iain when I had a driver. I gather Iain managed to fix things with that clue.

iTunes Extras

iTunes LP and iTunes Extras for Developers explains how to use HTML, CSS and Javascript for adding material to iTunes. These tools are standards based.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Do It Free

Wonderful little article by David Thorne, done as an email exchange between a person wanting work done free, and the person with the skills to do the work. Please design a logo for me, and a pie chart. That is telling them (off).


The fence is going along nicely, with the workers arriving early in the morning. Speaking of working, I got dehydrated moving dirt different places in our garden. Raking it into place was bad enough. Carrying a shovel of dirt from near the house was way worse. I widened the ditch near the house to 700 mm, which is probably enough for a path. I managed to get little dams of dirt around the Blue Eyes, so I hope that retains water near them somewhat better.

Went walking in the midday sun to get lunch at the restaurant. The temperatures are starting to reach points where I may reconsider midday walks.

Computer Club

The good folks running the computer club asked me to come to a meeting. They are still attempting to get the free computers for teaching seniors how to use computers. Had we known how much red tape would be involved, we may never have started this project. Kevin especially put lots of time into emails back and forth with the people running it.

Leigh was incredibly generous with her time, and her efforts to support the resident's computer club. We had a lengthy meeting with her, attempting to find ways to satisfy the government red tape. There was also an ongoing internet access issue, where none of us really know what is happening.

After all that, Clive and I ended up in the bar for a beer, and Kevin soon joined us.

Friday 4 December 2009


Brief power outage (a second or so) with electricity off around 5:40 a.m. according to my UPS, a few minutes after we started the washing machine. I hope this does not foreshadow unreliable power during summer.

Since the weather forecast is (finally) for rain tomorrow, we did three loads of laundry, as the puffy white clouds mounted in the sky. Humidity is high, but the clouds moderate the sun to keep the temperature (just) below 300C.

A little after 10 a.m. the main lawn sprinkler system decided to spring into action. I saw it from my chair and rushed out to the clothes line. Got the sheets in before they got wet, and then decided most of the other stuff was sufficiently dry to make getting that in also a good idea. I can hang out the towels when the sprinklers stop in a half hour.

Jo-ann asked me to check a TV connection problem for a new resident. Although I hooked up the Austar box to the TV, and checked the garage connection to the fibre optics, there was no signal. Sure looks to me like that whole row of houses does not actually have the fibre optic feed connected. I reported my suspicions to the office. I later checked that Alan and (much later) Nellie did not have connections.

Chip and PIN Credit Cards

Chip and PIN credit cards are being introduced in Australia. Credit cards using chips instead of magnetic stripes can reduce card skimming, but not eliminate it. It is relatively easy to read and reproduce the older style magnetic stripe on a credit card. It is much harder to replicate a chip credit card. However ATMs and card readers need to be upgraded to handle chip cards. Chip and PIN credit cards are being used already in most of Europe, as some travellers have discovered when they attempt to use magnetic stripe credit cards.

Most credit card fraud in Australia is done with a card not present, that is, online or mail order. The second largest credit card fraud avenue is fake cards. Chip cards will reduce the number of fake credit cards. However neither chip nor PIN will reduce card not present fraud. I can see no advantage to consumers in moving to a PIN, as distinct from a signature.

Unfortunately, Visa in Australia intend to ban signature cards by April 2013. PIN style security does not help credit card users. First, it is another bloody number to remember. PIN security helps banks, merchants and credit card companies. However the big problem for consumers is that disputed transactions are either harder or impossible to prove. If a merchant fails to check a signature, it is relatively easy to prove you did not make the transaction. Consumers lose this option when a PIN is involved.

Is Global Warming Unstoppable?

Is Global Warming Unstoppable? Throughout history, a simple physical constant - an unchanging mathematical value - links global energy use to the world's accumulated economic productivity, adjusted for inflation. University of Utah scientist Tim Garrett, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences concludes. The accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor. That constant is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. Conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use. Strategies for slowing carbon dioxide emissions and global warming include increased energy efficiency, reduced population growth and a switch to power sources that don't emit carbon dioxide, including nuclear, wind and solar energy and underground storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. Another strategy is rarely mentioned: a decreased standard of living, which would occur if energy supplies ran short and the economy collapsed.

Read an abstract of Tim Garrett's paper Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide? The full paper is available. Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?

Saturday 5 December 2009


Lots of articles on how to make an Apple clone (Hackintosh), like this one on LifeHacker by Adam Pash. Plus slightly later, an easier way to install Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6). Whether this hacking is worth the hassle is another thing. Personally I would leave it to the impecunious young.

Digital Radio Worthless

Excess digital radio spectrum was recently auctioned in Australia. Enough for 40 new DAB radio stations (20% of all available space) went for A$7 million. That makes each station worth A$175,000. It makes the total digital radio spectrum worth A$35 million. In contrast, the second Sydney FM licence DMG bought went for over A$100 million five years ago. I keep having the feeling digital radio is dead.


We went to the Sunland shopping area early in the morning. Got my usual four newspapers, while Jean shopped the IGA. She even found turkey, which only just fitted into our freezer. Somehow I still ended up paying for the stuff, and having to carry it out to the car. Must work out how that happens. Jean got some nice turkey bon-bons from Leonards.

Late that evening, Iain from the security patrol dropped in. He had managed to get the computer working, and wanted to advise me of that. He told me that the Xmas party would be rocking until late. Opps, I had failed to attend the party at all.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Apple Tablet (1)

Apple will not make a so called netbook computer, despite the way sales are booming. Selling heaps of product at lousy margins is silly, especially when it kills off the rest of your computer business. The low end of their notebook or laptop computer range produce most Apple sales, but still have good margins. A reduced performance netbook style computer with cheap CPU and parts but running Macintosh OS X would kill a lot of sales.

Apple are well aware of what contributes to their profits. If anything is to cannibalise sales from a product line, Apple will want it to be something they designed. Just like iPhone sales ate iPod sales (in 2006, 55% of their profits).

I am sure Apple have built test models of netbooks, with a 10 inch display. However I am guessing they could not make something that would redefine the netbook market, so why launch one at all. Apple will not want to cannibalise some of their major hardware sales, unless they can simultaneously kill off most of the rest of the personal computer industry.

Apple have an ecology ready for change in the household computer. Various things work wirelessly, over WiFi, and other companies are doing the same. Not just WiFi wireless base stations like Airport Extreme. Backup your files wirelessly to a Time Capsule hard drive. Print wirelessly via an Airport Express. Send your music wirelessly via an Airport Express. Send your movies and music wirelessly via an AppleTV. A Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse are standard for many users. You can make a lot of money on convenient add on devices.

You can use an iPod Touch or an iPhone for most common consumer computer activities. It is not a traditional business computer, and never will be. Email, web surfing, social computing, music, video, even reading books. However the small display is a little restrictive.

Apple Tablet (2)

An Apple Media Tablet will not compete with a MacBook. It will be differently capable, but not a replacement for a laptop computer. It will not run business applications, except in small scale. It will also not compete with an iPhone, as the size will be wrong. It will be ARM based, not Intel based. It will not run the full Macintosh OS X, but will run the iPhone multitouch system. It will not have moving parts. No keyboard, no optical drive, no hard drive, everything solid state (including a small solid state drive), everything depending on frequent Internet access. It will not have 3G cell connectivity, or if it does, phone service will be optional. It will be a multi-media, multi-touch screen based device, aimed at consumer entertainment and social interaction.

Remember the ultra miniature personal computer (UMPC) craze of about three or four years ago? Impossible to use keyboard, red hot CPU, lousy battery life, operating system that could not cope well with the tiny display. Plus they were expensive. Niche market, that never caught on, now replaced by the cheap netbook that Apple will not build. Mind you, a netbook can have a decent battery life, unlike the horrible battery life of a typical UMPC.


I note the massive metal construction that was erected last week near the new mail boxes. Now that these posts stand tall to the sky, I am left wondering just what comes next. We checked them out again during our morning walk. I also took a few photos of our new street signs, now the sun briefly allows a photo that is not in shade.

Since the morning was sufficiently cool, I went for a brisk walk around Carlyle Gardens. That was an extra two kilometres. I also dropped the Whitsunday Times in for Neil.

Solve Emissions - Close Victoria

Close the La Trobe Valley power stations that use brown coal, the filthiest fuel in Australia. For instance, closing Hazelwood would eliminate 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year for the next 20 years, at a cost of 520 jobs. Hazelwood produces 1.58 million tons of emissions per terawatt hour produced, making it probably the dirtiest power station in the world.

The four brown coal enterprises in Australia (pretty much only Victoria) have about 8 mines. The industry has revenue of around a billion dollars, pay wages of around A$200 million, and employ around 1350 people.

Anglesea (1969)
Alcoa, 160 MW, high quality coal compared to La Trobe Valley
Hazelwood, Morwell Vic (1964-1971)
Hazelwood Power, 8 @ 200 MW+, sold in 1996 $2.36B, owned by International Power and Comm Bank. Originally scheduled to close 2009, now 2031. 25% of Victorian electricity. 17 to 18 million tons of CO2, 5% of Australian total.
Loy Yang A (1985-1987)
Loy Yang Power, 4 @ 500 MW, sold in May 1997 to Great Energy Alliance
Loy Yang B (1993-1996)
International Power, 2 @ 500 MW, sold in 1995 now International Power and Mitsui
Morwell (1958-1962)
Energy Brix, total 170 MW
Yallourn W (1973-1982)
Yallourn Energy, 2 @ 360 MW 2 @ 380 MW, natural draft cooling

Monday 7 December 2009

Apple Tablet (3)

How much power does an Apple Tablet require? An Intel Atom CPU needs around 2.4 Watt. In contrast, a dual core ARM Cortex, with amendments by Apple owned PA Semi, will probably come in under a half Watt. The ARM SGX GPU is around 1 Watt, and I believe the Nvidia Tegra is similar. A solid state drive is no better than a tiny rotating hard drive, but (as we can see in the classic iPod) is way more reliable. Say between 0.4 and 1.5 Watt, but only when operating.

The display gets interesting. Lots of people are hanging out for OLED, like on the Microsoft Zune. Power consumption is low, at around a fifth of LCD with LED backlight. However the visibility in sunlight absolutely sucks. I think Apple will continue with LED backlit LCD, like on the iPhone (itself hard enough to see in sunlight). That makes power consumption about 2 to 3.5 Watts.

So, total power consumption around 4 to 5 Watt. An iPhone battery is good for around 9 Watt hour. However a new Sony battery design is available, using an Olivine-type lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material. Sony have traditionally supplied Apple with batteries. Sony claim a high power density of 1800W/kg and extended life span of approximately 2,000 charge-discharge cycles. I think a 7 inch Apple tablet would be good for well over 30 Watt hour.

If your power control is sufficiently aggressive, that could mean a ten hour life when playing video (like the iPhone), or charging every few days.

Apple Tablet (4)

Interfaces will be Bluetooth and WiFi, with a (custom) USB for power input (like the Apple portable optical drive). I do not think the iPhone dock connector can handle the amount of power needed to charge the battery. Will it have a mini DisplayPort? I think so. Sound port just like the iPhone, and a speaker like the MacBook Air. When you want to run it in text input mode, you could use a Bluetooth keyboard instead of the touch keyboard. A camera like the MacBook Air, with video mode, but only facing the user.


AppleTV is a limited facility computer with a 160 GB hard drive running a tightly locked version of OS X 10.4 (Tiger). It has an infrared remote, plus component and HDMI outputs for video. It is intended to connect to a TV set, or a monitor and speakers. The included software will play H.264 and MPEG4 video (both international standards), but it will not play variety of other popular video formats. The AppleTV connects to your network via either wired Ethernet or wirelessly via WiFi. It is controlled and synchronised via iTunes software running on your main computer.

A TV Flash is a commercial (US$50) compilation of a variety of free and open source hacks, intended to open up an AppleTV box for use with other video formats. Basically it packages various Linux hacks in a less inconvenient form, and helps you install them onto a USB stick. Reviews indicate installation on Apple TV can be interesting.


I set various downloads running on the computers when I got up at 5 a.m. Afterwards I dug some more dirt up in the garden and moved it from the trench to raise the rest of the garden bed. Grow something? You have to be kidding.

Just as I finished and slumped in front of the computer, Jean came out and said we had to take our morning walk. Damn! Must admit that the trees on the street nearest the entrance are looking really healthy and growing nicely. Meanwhile the fences along the drainage ditch (Carlyle Creek) are extending very nicely, as the fence contractors work in the heat. The bridge is finally being fitted with railings. The steel supports are now painted black, and hardwood rails are being fitted on the top.

We went out to get our concrete garden blocks. Did not take very long to organise a pallet of blocks (about 190), which weigh a bit more than a ton. We had them delivered, and they arrived just before midday. The driver got them off the truck very neatly using the built in crane. The blocks are right next to the garden, but not blocking the drive.

Next delivery was the replacement computer, which arrived about five minutes after the concrete blocks. I did not around to unpacking it until the afternoon.

The restaurant was real busy at lunchtime, with three separate groups partaking. Bob waited for me. Must check how his email went, and whether there is a reply.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

New Zealand Book Council

Lovely stop motion paper animation of a passage from a book, Going West, by Maurice Gee. This advertisement from ColensoBBDO, Auckland was animated by Andersen M Studio for the New Zealand Book Council. About my only objection was it being presented using Flash (Adobe's browser plug-in for Flash on a Macintosh is a disgrace, and a major reason I use ClickToFlash to block all Flash). I am however highly amused to note that this can only be presented on a computer, and never on a paper book.

Jesus Venn Diagram

Jesus Venn diagram showing relationship between zombies, Frankenstein, Dracula, and Jesus Christ. Not particularly accurate (Frankenstein is the doctor not the monster), but funny.

The Death of Jobs

Some jobs will never return to the local market. Worrisome Thoughts on the Way to the Jobs Summit, by Robert Reich, former USA Secretary of Labor. Federal stimulus to create jobs, followed by anti-stimulus by States, via tax increases, job cuts and service cuts. However Labour increasingly competes across the world, via call centres, data entry and heaps else. Many companies have found ways to cut their payrolls for good. They’ve discovered that new software and computer technologies have made workers in Asia and Latin America just about as productive as Americans, and that the Internet allows far more work to be efficiently outsourced abroad.

What small business is happy employing staff? Having the right staff is wonderful, and the right staff do a great job. However ... I note numerous very small businesses that will not employ staff, although they could use the extra help to grow. The owners have consciously decided that staying small is less effort than coping with the government red tape of having employees. When getting anything done these days, they look for independent contractors.


On 8 April 1933 the people of Western Australia voted to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia by a margin of more than two to one. I wonder what the vote would be today in Western Australia, and in Queensland? I wonder what the vote would be in mining towns in the tropical north?

King Canute, Emissions and Population

King Canute knew better than to command the tides. Kevin Rudd appears to think otherwise about greenhouse gas emissions. Our population is increasing at over 2% a year. That is over 440,000 people a year. Everyone wants to live better, generally measured as gross domestic product (GDP). Most civilisations use 10 milliWatt of power per inflation adjusted 1990 US dollar of GDP. If GDP rises, emissions rise. GDP will rise as population increases, or as the standard of living increases. So instead of a 5% decrease from 2010 to 2020, there would be a 20% increase.

If you are serious about emission reductions, either population or standard of living, or both, must drop. Malthus was right after all. Is there no alternative? Energy productivity is a primary term in the equation. If energy efficiency improves, productivity increases, but then you get more emissions, not less.

Essentially a non-carbon energy source would be one way to bypass that. The only such energy source that is already standard engineering practice for large scale base load is nuclear power plants. There will be long delays installing, politically unpopular, and installation resources are already in a queue.

Regardless of what our politicians say, energy use will increase, and thus greenhouse gas emissions will also increase. The political spin will be that they are doing something. Instead, an emissions trading scheme will just be another pass the plate scheme, with governments skimming a percentage from the top of the tax. Where they have to, they will bribe people to shut up.


I had a shopping list when I set out to Willows Shopping Centre. BigW was initially a disappointment, as I could not find any price on the bicycle our neighbour had recommended. I went on to Sams Warehouse. No Z table. However a helpful staff member showed me where the hanging storage gadgets were. Two of them looked like they would work. I also got an upright fan, while it was cheap. Back at BigW, I was able to get my questions answered, so I bought a cheap folding bicycle to use around the resort. Woolworths for food, where I found everything on Jean's list.

While I was at lunch there was a delivery. The Hewlett Packard Photosmart AiO B109n with Wireless inkjet printer. I was not expecting that until the end of the month, and had no notification it was arriving. Now I just need to do the paperwork for the cash refund, without which I would not have considered it.

I also organised to get a Dell UltraSharp 3008WFP monitor, when Jean found them reduced in price. After reading several reviews of the Dell UltraSharp 3008WFP, I decided now was the time to upgrade.

Telstra iPhone Tethering

Telstra finally allow iPhone tethering, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. This is about the most silent update (on Saturday) I have heard of. My tethering crack disappeared when iPhone firmware was updated. Since I was not normally using it, I did not worry much. However it did not make me feel very favourable about Telstra, when other phone companies (Vodafone, Optus, 3) had enabled tethering back in June.

Telstra carrier update 5.1 on Saturday enabled the tethering. Telstra are reported to have blamed Apple for the delay.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Recycled Water

Sewage pumped into drinking water. Nausea and diarrhoea have been reported at Coomera, where the new $80 million Pimpama Wastewater Treatment Plant had been pumping recycled sewage into the wrong pipes to more than 630 homes. Sure makes you glad recycling is so safe and reliable.

Desalination plants are uneconomic also, despite John Brumby's attempt in Victoria to spin the 150-gigalitre Wonthaggi desalination plant costs. Going to a public private partnership will cost taxpayers far more, nearly a quarter billion a year on some figures.


We were up late, nearly half past five. I opened the garage and the hatch to the roof space, so they would cool a little before the sun rose. Then moved the four containers of ceiling insulation next to the ladder beside the ceiling hatch.

Andrew arrived before 6:30 a.m. He put in a heated half hour and more of installing the insulation batts in the ceiling space over the garage. There are some corners where access is just about impossible. Used up three of the four bags of insulation batts, and declared the job finished. I figure next winter will be a better time to try to extend the insulation to the hard areas. One interesting item is the new batts appear twice as thick as the existing insulation in the ceiling. I think the original specifications were simply way too limited in the first place.

Andrew hopes to return to do crusher dust into the garden edging trench next week. Meanwhile, I need to deepen the trench in some areas, so I will soak it with a hose to make it easier to dig out further.

Intel Graphics

Intel have not given up their quest for an integrated graphics chip, however the Intel Larrabee graphics processor chip is dead. Even with the experience Intel have, they could not make the chip competitive with the two graphics chip makers. This may trigger Intel to attempt to buy out Nvidia (but would raise monopoly concerns), like AMD bought ATI. The Larrabee project will now become a testbed for multicore graphics and supercomputer development. A multi x86 based graphics unit would be very unlike anything on the market. Drivers would be interesting, in the worst possible sense.

Apple must be pissed off. Part of the reason they bought into the Intel roadmap was potential future integrated chips. Apple are also pissed off with Nvidia due to the hardware problems (solder life span) of some Nvidia parts, and looked like installing one generation old ATI mobile graphics cards in future. Despite this, I recently bought a MacBook Pro with the integrated Nvidia 9400M plus a discrete Nvidia 9600M, as a passable way to await a transition. I was not worried Apple would not include Larrabee; I was worried that they would! I think my graphics performance with the Nvidia would be at least four times my current desktop, despite being mobile chipsets. Guess I better buy AppleCare insurance after all. I did not trust Intel to get their integrated graphics right (older models were pathetic compared to the two graphic chip makers).

We will see if I am right when the feature size reduced Arrandale (Clarkdate mobile) CPUs with Intel integrated graphics come out next year. I figure Apple will have to use the Intel integrated graphics in their low end models (MacBook and Mac mini), although there is a rumour Apple have rejected Annandale with Calpella graphics. Apple will probably put a discrete ATI mobile graphics chip in the high end models. I am betting the MacBook Pro I just got will still be competitive, if not faster on graphics. At the moment I think the Nvidia 9400M is the best integrated graphics package on the market (despite the hardware failure risk), and both my new Apple use the 9400M.

Another Publishing Standard

Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc. today jointly announced that they have entered into an independent venture to develop open standards for a new digital storefront and related technology that will allow consumers to enjoy their favorite media content on portable digital devices. Just what we need, another proprietary format infested with DRM. These media idiots continue Initiative Will Also Offer Marketers Rich Array of Innovative Advertising Opportunities. Right, I already waste a certain amount of time blocking advertising crap. It will probably end up as useless as PDF is online (PDF is for printing).

A pity the press release is almost content free. Another quote. The goal of this digital initiative is fourfold, to create: a highly featured common reading application capable of rendering the distinctive look and feel of each publication; a robust publishing platform optimized for multiple devices, operating systems and screen sizes; a consumer storefront offering an extensive selection of reading options; and a rich array of innovative advertising opportunities. Get a clue guys. There is already an open standard that works on all portable digital devices. It is called a web page. It can produce reasonable looking typography, subject to limitations that can already be worked around.

If you want to see eBooks done right, check out Baen Books. Magazines and newspapers can be done in a similar way. Make it real easy to buy, and who would waste time pirating it? Oh, right, the folks who never would have bought it anyhow.

Windfarm NIMBY

The New Zealand government Meridian Energy electricity business had a windfarm application rejected by the Environment Court. The NZ$2B proposal for a 630MW wind farm on South Island has been rejected as inappropriate to the outstanding natural landscape of the Central Otago's Lammermoor Range, 75 km from Dunedin. Campaigners against the project claimed it was 100 per cent vandalism. New Zealand has good wind resources, and currently obtains 3% of its electricity from wind. It hopes to increase that to 20%.

Meridian Energy also gave up on a plan for a NZ$1.5B addition of 540MW of additional hydro electric energy on Waikato River, where the largest set of power dams in New Zealand operates. New Zealand sources 55% of its electricity from hydro energy, and hopes to reach 75% renewable by 2025.


Once again the sprinkler system on the Eastern side of the house sprang into action at about 10:15 a.m. We rushed around closing any vulnerable windows, since it was windy. At least no laundry was drying on the line.

The weather was hot, and humid. However the rainy season is still not upon us. Jean and I had the air conditioning in our rooms running all day. One good report. It is obvious that the new insulation in the garage reduces the heat load into the garage by an enormous amount. Instead of being unbearable, the garage was now simply hot like the rest of the house. I think the next step might be to install some remote temperature sensors in the roof space, and work out just how bad the roof space gets under the metal roof.

Every now and then I went outside with a shovel, and dug out more of the trench around the garden. I sure hope Andrew can get the crusher dust to fill it next week.

Emissions Trading

Tony Jones: Are you saying that even with the best will in the world an emissions trading scheme in Australia will be ineffectual?

James Hansen: Absolutely. These cap and trade trading schemes are a terrible idea. You can see what they do. They are a way to continue business as usual because they include these offsets, for example. They’re not attacking the fundamental problem. Who they’re good for is the big banks. In the United States it’s going to be Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, the trading companies.

James Hansen is the NASA guy who did more than anyone else to warn about global warming. No wonder the Greens would never support an ETS in Parliament. ETS is the equivalent of buying indulgences from the Pope, so you can continue to sin.

If you are serious about carbon dioxide emissions, declare CO2 a pollutant (like the USA did a few days ago), and regulate reductions. You could start with the Australian Design Rules for cars, and not allow more than 400 mg CO2 per kilometre travelled (that gets rid of Bentley, Farrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and a few others). Next you could close Hazelwood power station, as it has the highest emissions in Australia for the power produced. This stuff is not rocket science, but there is no political will to take tough decisions.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Peer Reviewed Papers for Climate Change Sceptics

Around 400 Peer Reviewed Papers for Man Made Global Warming Sceptics. The way the terminology changes, I wish the people saying climate change when they mean Dangerous Man-Made Global Warming would just say so.

The list above misses some recent nice paranoid stuff like how the chart of official New Zealand temperature readings (which show warming) do not match what happens if you chart the actual official data but see adjusted, which does not show warming. Here is a report NIWA squirms, but agrees to release adjustments, according to slightly looney NZ Parliament member Rodney Hide, who was at the meeting. However there is a new series of measurements on unchanged and unadjusted sites that shows warming, but does not answer why adjustments were needed on the first series. One answer is that temperature readings were made at different sites, when an original site was moved elsewhere. For instance, the Wellington site was moved. Here are details of the Wellington sites.

So, if there is global warming, why would anyone live in the tropics? Personally, over the past few decades, satellite data makes me wonder if climate sensitivity should be reconsidered.

MacBook Pro

I seriously considered transferring my accounts from my old iMac G5 ALS to my new MacBook Pro. However what if I had some sort of transfer system failure? I had no trouble transferring from my old PowerBook to the iMac G5, but they used similar processors. There were many more potential complication with the move to Intel.

I decided to take my backup drive, which Time Machine updated every hour, with me to Airlie Beach. That had a copy of all my files dating back several years. Migration Assistant is able to handle either a direct transfer from the old computer, via Firewire (IEEE1488b) or Ethernet, or a transfer from a Time Machine backup. I figured I might have a little more time at my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces in Airlie Beach. And another excuse not to do more cleaning of the place.

Residents Meetings

I went to the morning meeting, covering the accounts. All the accounts sounded sensible enough, although no-one ever likes additional costs. I am not sure I am willing to extend that sensible description to every question. Questions on auditing the accounts are not the same as general questions, which as far as I can see, are always allowed sufficient time afterwards.

Evening resident's meeting. As with the earlier meeting, I sat right down the front, along with Ray. The evening meeting seemed to go a little smoother.

Unfortunately, Laurie Smithson's presentation on his new project of the development of a Carlyle Gardens Townsville Residents’ Website was late in the evening. For some of us, attention may have been flagging due to the hour. Perhaps Laurie was also a little nervous about presenting this. The new site is likely to have a lot of the more formal information and documents about the retirement village, especially as it develops.

Friday 11 December 2009


I was up early so I could finish loading the car for the trip to Airlie Beach. Refuelled just before the Ring Road, and was on my way a little after 5 a.m. I stopped at Inkerman to check progress on their pub. They had the last certificate. Now they just have to complete the interior fitout, and open in the New Year. For breakfast I had one of their bacon and egg rolls, which was typical railway worker gigantic, and must have had at least two eggs.

At Centro at Cannonvale I was able to get a piece of 300 mm wide radiata pine, about 1.9 metres long. As usual these days, warping was a concern. However it should be suitable for a stand for the new monitor. Plus it fitted in the car, leaving almost enough room for a passenger.

Happened to run across Michael, who I knew from the markets. He complained about accommodation in the area when you are looking for a relatively short term. The town was fine for expensive stays of a few days. For all I know, it is also fine for long term. But not for a few weeks or a few months. I thought something might be able to be arranged about that, but needed to check what Jean thought.

Searching for DVDs did not work. I got some milk instead, before taking everything into my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces. Off to collect the mail, which was reassuringly reduced in quantity. If the Post Office at Airlie Beach is going to remain closed, it is best not to have any mail arrive at all.

Saw Paul and his building crew, busy replacing the railings on the stairway of Driftwood Terrace with powder coated metal railing. I had somehow not noticed this progress previously. He tells me the last two terraces are likely to be done January and February. This essential work was something I have long awaited, since the old wooden rails have been dangerous for some time. I am glad I was not on the body corporate committee this year when Paul's company was selected, as I was the person who suggested him for previous work about the resort. He did our apartment fitout a dozen years ago.

Migrating to New Apple

I started with some research on potential problems. However nothing I found seemed too bad. So I let Migration Assistant move selected users, but no applications. That took a fair amount of time, given the hundreds of gigabytes involved. About the only thing I could not do was change the name of my user. Must see if there is an easy way around that. I already know a hard way, involving little used root access.

Essential Programs - ClickToFlash

As soon as I started using the Safari web browser, I recoiled in horror. Those winking, blinking advertisements infesting many web pages. Rushed to download ClickToFlash. As the web site promises: Ever wanted to get rid of the scourge of the web that is Adobe Flash, but still retain the ability to view Flash whenever you want? With ClickToFlash, you can! Using ClickToFlash, all of those icky Flash bits that have infected most webpages on the internets are replaced with a nice, smooth gradient and the word Flash set in a nice, pleasing font. When you want to view the Flash, just click on it! This is by no means the limit of the facilities of ClickToFlash. You can also right click to select YouTube videos display as standards based H.264, which saves using a JavaScript bookmarklet to fudge this.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Essential Programs -Smultron

For writing this blog, I wanted a text editor that could handle multiple files more easily than TextEdit. It also had to do syntax highlighting for HTML (I make enough mistakes that help is handy). Grep style search and replace capabilities across multiple files were also essential. A bit of project awareness was also handy. There are a number of text editors that handle most of this. Bare Bones Software have Text Wrangler, for example, which does all except the HTML. However I specifically wanted a Cocoa based editor, not something emerging from an older tradition.

I have (slightly reluctantly) settled on Peter Borg's Smultron. Reluctantly, as it is no longer supported, and the Snow Leopard beta is the last update. Sometime or other, I will need to seek a replacement. So far I have found nothing else as stable. Several apparently well regarded editors I tested (on my iMac G5) simply failed to operate reliably, and repeatedly crashed.


I wandered around the Airlie Beach markets, collecting my egg and bacon for breakfast, and doing the very limited food shopping on my list. Dropped some books and magazines off with Glenn. I saw no sign of Rex, and hope he is well. I also did not spot Steve.

I did see some giant (1 metre or more), flat wooden gecko models at a stall. These were decorated with Aboriginal dot style artwork, although they were probably from Indonesia. I thought entrance statement! I asked if I could take a photo. Emailed the photo to Jean from my iPhone. While I walked to the news agency, I called Jean to ask what she thought. She said buy all three. The dealer was very pleased, although somewhat bemused by the use of tech for shopping.


I had my usual party at my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces overlooking the beautiful seaside vista off Airlie Beach. While I had several bottles of sparkling wine, and a half dozen of red and white on hand, Jim brought one of his usual fine red wines. I had started cooking a Kitson's creamy chicken, bacon and leek pie before anyone arrived. The little apartment stoves take a fair while to bake a pie. Jim and I were sitting on the balcony admiring the view when Glenn and Alison arrived. We got stuck into the sparkling wine, as well as the red wine, while we talked. Michael arrived around 8 p.m., bringing a bottle of white wine. This also gave him a chance to look over the place. He said yes to staying there for a while, but wanted his own furniture out of storage.

Since people were still peckish after the first pie, I cooked a beef, red wine and sweet potato pie for the second course. Our nearest neighbour was also going to drop in, but we did not see him after he headed out for what he said was a brief walk to the street for a meeting. We did not break up until after 11 p.m.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Moving Furniture

I spent the entire day, and half the night, moving furniture. Well, actually, it really was moving the contents of furniture, so I could subsequently move the furniture. Also a lot of washing of surfaces exposed by moving stuff. That sure is a bare room right now.

I ended up chucking everything into my room. This finally resulted in a room so packed that I could not easily move. Especially move about the floor. I had no idea we still had so much crap on hand. Not good!

USA Border Beating

Canadian science fiction author Dr Peter Watts beaten at USA border, according to Cory Doctorow. I have no idea of the true nature of this. It is notable that Dr Watts was arrested, and is now defending charges of assault laid by USA border guards.

The rise of Homeland Security was the major factor in my refusal to visit my many friends in the USA. After visiting the USA pretty much annually on a regular basis as a tourist, I simply will not visit the USA again. As a tourist, I dislike being treated as a potential criminal. I had hoped the change of government would make a difference, but this report does not encourage visits.


Since a millennium is 1000 years, and the first millennium began at the start of the year 1, it ended at the end of the year 1000. The second millennium then began with the year 1001 and concluded at the end of the year 2000. Therefore, the current millennium technically began with the year 2001. USA National Institute of Standards and Technology, Time and Frequency Division.

Ten years later, and it still bugs me that so many people (and governments) got that date wrong. And in another few weeks, they will get it wrong all over again, and proclaim the end of the decade. Just another Grumpy Old Man!

Monday 14 December 2009


As usual I was awake slightly before it started to get light. I was driving by 5:20 a.m. Good drive as far as Inkerman, where I had another giant breakfast. There seemed to be a new kitten there, trying to ingratiate itself to tourists.

Ayr did not work for me, as the fabric shop I wanted was not open when I went through after 8 a.m. No more tropical shirt material for me. After Ayr there were delays for road work. I did not reach Carlyle until 9:30 a.m.

Essential Programs - Net News Wire

Newsgator's NetNewsWire is an RSS reader. There is a free RSS reader in Safari. However NetNewsWire has the advantage that you can sync it with your iPhone version, since they both use Google Sync for their database of what you have read. You can also use it on any of your computers, without needing to arrange to synchronise data. Now, where is that serial number? Seems like my previous version was a beta, and the new one has a little advertisement. I will probably pay to get rid of the advertisement.

I did have a look at Acrylic's">Times news reader. Although it looks pretty, I found the interface confusing, cluttered and the typeface hard to read. Another possibility is Doseido's Headline. However their interface looks like an iPhone display. I simply could not follow the logic of their approach. In addition, neither seemed to have an iPhone version, nor did they appear to sync with more than one computer.

Elastic supply electrifies

Queenslanders' electricity use soars 10% despite cost increasing by 35% over the past two years, while population increased only 2%. What was that about price signals? So much for how cap and trade emissions trading schemes that increase prices will reduce use. Electricity use is not very elastic, especially in the short term. On the other hand, rationing works, as many states found with water supply shortages.

Tuesday 15 December 2009


Jean wanted to make a food shopping expedition. I ran off to other stores seeking ways to organise the overfull room at Airlie Beach. Could not find anything of use. Decided I would need to design an alternative. Bookcases and some dowel seem about as easy as any, and probably not much less tidy.

A bit of a shower of rain before lunch, so we rushed out to bring in the laundry. At lunch, Pat was still looking to getting us off to her Saturday party. We still have no idea what we are doing.

The Wacom Bamboo drawing pad arrived, together with the included Photoshop Elements. I am not willing to buy Photoshop Elements, but the drawing pad with Elements included was cheaper than the next version of Elements alone. No, I do not understand markets.

My Mini Display Port (for Apple) to Display Port (for Dell monitor) adaptors arrived from the USA. I find it hard to believe no-one imports these adaptors from China, now every Apple uses Mini DisplayPort. Of course, not much else uses DisplayPort, as the TV manufacturers are stuck with HDMI. I will be driving a display with 60% more pixels (2560 x 1600) than the largest Full HD TV set (1920 x 1080), so HDMI simply does not cut it.

Essential Programs - MT NewsWatcher

Usenet is probably considered way too obsolete to be of merit these days. However I like using it. For that, I need a news reader. MT NewsWatcher seems fair enough, in a rather old fashioned manner. Since my preferences had transferred, I just downloaded a new copy. I also sent my article read details off to the internet, so I could download them from any computer, and read from where I left off using any computer.

The only thing I could find wrong with the usenet newsreader was the Tasks Window was partway off the screen. I looked online for cures. None of which could work (no minimise button available, for example). Eventually I found the answer in the section of the manual devoted to Task Windows. In Preferences, under Interface Options, you can have tasks Windows turn off use of a floating window. That will reposition it.

Macintosh Internet Problem

My MacBook Pro decided it could not connect to the Internet. Which was peculiar since it had been connecting just fine for days. It was because I had switched on the computer from which all my files had transferred. Two conflicting computer identities. OS X discovered the problem before I did. I changed the name. I was thinking for a while that I might have an excuse to check how Apple service handled a minor internet problem. There are so many potential failure points in internet access that seeing whether a company attempts to solve it, or just tries to palm you off to an ISP or something gives a good idea of the quality of their service.

Conroy Censors Internet

Senator Conroy's secret attempt just before Xmas to censor the internet demonstrates once again he is an utter idiot, by going ahead with internet censorship in Australia. This ineffective censorship attempt will be via a blacklist, and operated by ISPs.

The previous blacklist was less than accurate. Plus there is always the suspicion that secret blacklists could have political ramifications. After all, this censorship will not prevent access to refused classification (RC) sites, so perhaps the government should say exactly what this censorship is intended to accomplish? Certainly Australia is not the first country to attempt to censor the Internet, but the others have not been democracies. Conroy's response to Crikey criticism.

Conroy is the same clown who promoted a National Broadband Network (despite no evidence the public are willing to pay for speed), without working through the costs of such a major infrastructure undertaking. The same politician who threatens to break up a public company, Telstra, for not doing what the government would like. This is saying to every company their telecommunication investments are at sovereign risk. Someone should take Conroy away and dump him on the backbench before he really damages the country.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to bypass King Canute Conroy's internet censorship (and can not find a 16 year old to ask), just Google proxy, or VPN, or P2P, and maybe take a side glance at encryption using PGP. But the easiest way to find out how to bypass government censorship is to ask a horny school kid. They usually know the essentials for sex sites, or think they do, and can find more misinformation from their peer group. I gather protestors in China tend to use Psiphon, TOR (The Onion Router), or Peekabooty.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Runaway Cars

Cruise control terror for freeway driver in a runaway Ford Explorer in Sydney, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Not unknown in other vehicles, 41% of sudden acceleration complaints are Toyota, according to USA consumer magazines. Ford comes second at 28%, while each company has 16% of the USA car market. These figures are on a small number of complaints, around 100 per year, out of millions of vehicles. Meanwhile, here is a fatal Lexus crash, where the driver of a loan car was an experienced police officer, and an occupant of the car made an emergency call to report the accelerator was stuck (by a floor mat). There was no means to switch off the engine, as this car has an engine start button. Nor can neutral be instantly selected (I gather there is a 3 second delay before it selects).

Safari Complaint

Safari web browser History allows Reopen Last Closed Window, however in conjunction with the Option key does not allow Reopen Last Closed Tab. Accidentally closing a tab is far more likely than accidentally closing a Window. I sent an enhancement request to Apple feedback.


When we returned from shopping, Andrew was working on installing our pallet of concrete blocks as a garden wall. I eventually moved about 150 of the blocks to the garden, which was a little less than a tonne of concrete blocks. Andrew was laying crusher dust and cement powder into the trench I had dug around the garden. It did not help any that the garden sprinklers run (incorrectly) around 10 a.m., instead of 10 p.m. Plus it rained. Only light rain, but still. At least it was not as hot as it might have been.

Got the new double row of blocks laid around midday. By then I was thoroughly wrecked by moving concrete blocks. A couple of decades ago I could have moved a tonne that distance in 30 minutes, or less.

We have arranged for Andrew to return sometime to cut up a handful of blocks for some corners and ends. Plus we are still awaiting the concrete people becoming available for the path. We will also get Andrew to install more insulation in the ceiling, but that can wait until winter.

In the early evening, when it was cooler, I moved the remaining 40 or so concrete blocks out of the way in the driveway. That let me put the pallet out of the way, until we can get rid of it. I also reinstalled the 30 solar lights in the garden.

Multi Touch Gestures Fail

Awoke my Unibody MacBook Pro from sleep this afternoon. The multitouch gestures had all failed. This is a software issue, as making a new test account established they were working on that. In my regular account, it was still not working. I killed all the multitouch gestures in my System Preferences. When I re-enabled them, multitouch was working again. I am suspicious of a bug in the Tap to Click option, partly because it seems pretty sensitive to any actions.

Protest Letters to Ministers

Protest letters are basically a waste of time. However you can waste public servants time, as a more effective way to make your point. Read this article by Bernard Keane, who explains how complaints (don't) work.

Write a different letter to your local member, and each relevant minister. Raise multiple related issues, so that canned replies are not relevant. Force the use of extra resources.

Thursday 17 December 2009


Jean wanted to get away from the house, so we went shopping at Willows. I got more DVDs, Jean found clothes that fitted. Then we headed for Domain Central. Jean dropped me off at Bunnings, while she headed for Spotlight and the patterns. I was able to get another set of the 16 pack of Solar Magic garden lights. I went into LifeTec to see what disabled stuff they had. Pretty impressive, as I thought when they exhibited at Carlyle Gardens some considerable time go. This was just a fact finding visit, not because we needed any aids as yet.

It is a bit hard to negotiate that shopping area on foot, but I eventually reached the Dick Smith Tech Store. While they did not have the Uniden CB radios I wanted, they had a highly similar model. We wanted these for use in case of an emergency situation such a cyclone activating the emergency response team at Carlyle Gardens.

At home I assembled the 16 solar lights and charged them. Left the lights in our front garden to charge, and then overnight to check they all worked.

Internet Explorer Worst Web Browser

Microsoft notes in their blog forthcoming improvement in Internet Explorer 9. Unfortunately, they reveal that the unreleased update will still be the slowest rendering Javascript and by far the least standards compliant web browser. IE9 will still not render correctly served XHTML, unlike every other major web browser. As I have written before, Internet Explorer is the village idiot of web browsers.

Back in 2003, Microsoft was reported to have spent $100 million a year on Internet Explorer in the years when it destroyed Netscape as a potential threat to the desktop. I wonder how much it is spending now?

Free eBooks

Found a site that lists a bunch of other sites offering free eBooks for download. They continue with more free eBook sites.

Many of the free eBook sites are very heavy on computer books. For example, Free Book Spot, mostly in PDF. Free Computer Books is obvious. Free Technical Books from lecture notes and so on. Zillr seems mostly computer and management stuff in PDF.

eBooks lab seems heavy on medical, dental and pseudo medical. Free eBooks is more general, and offers HTML, PDF and Mobipocket. Many Books has a very wide range of generated formats, and a good range of books. Get Free eBooks has a variety of books in PDF. Scribd is a well known source of eBooks, which is almost useless because it uses Flash. Globusz has non-technical books and some fiction, however the SF is mostly links to Baen Books. Online Free eBooks has automotive and technical books.

Friday 18 December 2009


We were up late. Around 6 a.m. I moved the new solar garden lights into the public garden alongside us. I am a little concerned about the quantity of light, as they will be shaded by our house in the afternoon. I noticed during the evening that one of the new lights did not work, just like the first set.

Laundry, and Jean noticed that the irrigation sprinklers were running at 10 a.m., so there was a bit of a scramble getting some of the more exposed laundry out of the way. That means the sprinklers are running in the a.m. on Wednesday and Friday. Not sure if they run in daylight on a third day each week. In the new year I will ask Mark if there is an easy way to get the timing changed to the evening.

Took Leigh a present, as a thank you for coping with all manner of interesting times. I think the staff here do not get sufficient credit for their efforts. Whatever the employment rate elsewhere, it seems to us very hard to get trades people in Townsville to do jobs. As the population ages, that trades and services shortage will get even worse.

Managed to install the housing for an extra security camera during the late afternoon. Been intending to install that for ages, to supplement other security equipment. I still have an extra five infra red movement sensors to install in blind spots around the house.

Electricity Costs to Rise

Electricity costs in Queensland are to rise 13.83% next year, after a draft determination by the Queensland's Competition Authority. Transmission and distribution costs are said to have risen 20%. Coal and gas costs have increased, according to the draft determination.

Former Labor premier Peter Beattie deregulated the electricity generation sector. At the time Peter Beattie said electricity prices will not rise (September 2005). It was claimed families would save $150 a year. Since then there have been four electricity price rises in Queensland. 2007-8 11.37%. 2008-9 9.06%. 2009-10 11.82%.

Retail electricity prices in Queensland comprise generation, transmission, distribution and retail costs. Generation is 44% of the cost. Network (high voltage transmission and local wiring distribution) are about 47%. Retail marketing, billing and connection is 9%. Community Service Obligation payments to Ergon even up the price of electricity throughout Queensland, although the actual cost of supply (especially distribution) in regional areas is much higher.

Internet Appliance

Interesting 10 inch Android based internet appliance with WiFi, Bluetooth and UMTS/HSDPA from Notion Ink. They hoped to show at CES in January 2010. They see the value in the cloud. Whereas as an old cynic, I see single points of failure when the connection dies. Meanwhile, I do not think Android is ready for large screen (1024 x 600) prime time. Reported to use an nVidia eight core Tegra T20 chipset, and a transflective Pixel Qi display. The panel may be viewed indoors as a regular LCD, or outdoors in either transflective mode with reduced colour vibrancy or fully reflective 64-level grayscale mode. I can say the reflective grey displays worked great on a 1997 Psion, until the sun heated the panel. At which point the contents disappeared.

Saturday 19 December 2009


I was up late, so it was 6 a.m. before I started watering our garden. Jean tells me we need to find soaker hoses and water the lawn in areas where the sprinkler system is not keeping up. What I think we need to do is to install our own sprinkler system in our garden, even if it is temporary.

Actually, what I would like to do is pull up all the plants, cover the garden area with stones, and never work on a garden again!

iPhone Guides

Sheet of tips on getting started. A3 size PDF chart.

Learn how to use iPhone features.

Apple iPhone OS 3.1 manual, about 216 pages. Switch off VoiceOver and Accessibility options (unless blind or close to blind).

iPhone Guided Tour video. Caution, large video (over 265 MB zipped).

General iPhone support contents index. Has links to video guides as well.

iPhone TroubleShooting Assistant.

General iPhone hardware troubleshooting guides.

Apple's note on magnified Home screens(their support staff should have known this).

iPhone Specifications. Note cellular and wireless preclude use of EDGE or 850 MHz HSDPA in most regional Australia area, except on Telstra network. Other networks do not offer EDGE, only GSM and GPRS, and do not have 850 MHz towers at all. Check your local phone company tower frequencies.

Birthday Party

I was kindly invited to a birthday party for one of the Carlyle Gardens residents. They were being collected by some sort of community transport arrangement (TOTTS) that seemed very convenient. I must get more details. The venue was Satamas, a Malaysian Chinese restaurant out towards OfficeWorks. It was good to try a few different dishes at the buffet. Not sure pavlova is a traditional Chinese dish, but what would I know.

Sunday 20 December 2009


I scraped the dirt sort of level in the trench at the rear of the garden. Put the large concrete blocks into a row at the rear of the garden. Somewhat later I opened the garage door and got the rest of the first layer of these concrete blocks, and also set them in place to make 16 installed.

With a thunderstorm due tonight, we started the laundry. One question is whether the eastern side main sprinkler system will start operating during the day, like it does on Wednesday and Friday. The answer is yes, the sprinkler system starts on Sunday at 10:12 a.m. I unpegged some of the threatened clothes, and will hang them out again when the sprinkler system stops at 10:43 a.m.

Electricity Failure

Electricity failed at 8:07 a.m. No warning, no apparent cause. Ergon Energy fault line message as of 8:09 a.m. says an outage in Condon, Kelso and elsewhere, and that an emergency crew are attending to the electricity supply.

Power came back at 9:17 a.m. Time to repair, 1 hour 10 minutes, which seems about typical of the past few events I have recorded. Luckily the washing machine seems to simply continue operation from where it was when the power went out.

My UPS for my iMac desktop kept operating (although I shut down the iMac) for the entire period. The UPS in the garage operating the ADSL modem, router and wireless network also continued to operate throughout the entire period. As a result, I was able to continue to use my MacBook Pro laptop computer during the entire period. It even told me I had five hours of battery life left at the end.

Replacing Electricity

Jean always needs a cup of tea. We do have a Weber gas barbecue, mostly for emergencies. But that is a lot of work just for a cup of tea. Rick Rogers' Solar Billy is an Australian invention that will boil water from the sun. As an interesting aside, the Auscorp Imports and Exports Pty Ltd Buy page has a title element mentioning Apricus solar hot water, who made our evacuated tube solar hot water heater. I sent off an email.

We have a few battery fluorescent lanterns, for night time power outages. The commercial Arlec brand ones seem just fine, although a little clunky. The ideal battery portable emergency light would look just like a regular standing lamp. You would have a stack of standard cylindrical LiIon batteries in the pole. Using lead acid gel cells is pretty old fashioned.

Given how hot and humid it is, I started researching rechargeable battery fans. As usual, you can buy just the thing (10 inch fan) at WalMart, but not here in Australia. I wanted a fan with rechargeable batteries, and a charger. Needs a hanging clip as well as wall mounts. Plus a fold down desk stand. Multiple speeds would be desirable.

Altronics have a Fan Sleeve Bearing 120mm 12VDC Air Flow: 105CFM, which is too low. Input Power: 6.8W, which means a bit over a half amp. Speed: 2750 RPM. Noise Level: 41dBA, which is noisier than I want. On special at A$25. Not as much air flow as I want however. Might be able to be modified for other purposes. I can sort of see a tower of three or four, with a standard 7.2AH lead acid gel cell in the base. You could use a standard gel cell charger. Not elegant, possible.

HP Photosmart B109n AiO Printer

I just started to install my recently purchased Hewlett Packard Photosmart B109n All in One Wireless Printer. The very limited manual insisted you needed to run the CD to install ink, and configure the printer. I was dubious, because I have had nothing but trouble with HP printer software. However, it had a nice fancy manual on how to install the ink cartridges. Seemed to be no way to connect to the printer without using the USB connection from my MacBook Pro, so I did that.

The install seemed to work, although it insisted I needed to install the printer a second time in my Apple System Preferences. Printing worked wirelessly, on one of the two similarly named printers. However scanning using the HP software did not work at all. I found a note on the internet saying do not use the HP printer software with Snow Leopard. Just what I needed to see! Why couldn't the printer come with a note?

Since Preview could see the scanner features of the printer, I used the HP Uninstaller to remove the printer software. Unfortunately, the uninstaller did not actually uninstall. I deleted the thing manually.

Essential Programs - Bento

Bento is a simple database for personal information, providing ease of use, but not a lot of power. Your data gets shoved into an SQLite3 file. Setting up Bento databases is pretty easy, especially for entry. If you need calculations on your fields, your options are very limited. I find the main advantage is that Bento on a Macintosh will synchronise with the Bento iPhone application. So, I mostly enter stuff on the Macintosh, and mostly view it on the iPhone. This is stuff like lists of my DVDs, fuel records for Jean's car, trivial stuff like that.

Bento would not install on my new Macintosh. The licence key accept box was blanked out. However why was Bento 2 coming up, when I had downloaded Bento 3? It seems all the (old PowerPC) applications in my personal account Applications directory had been transferred to the new computer. A PowerPC application was unlikely to be happy on an Intel computer. Although I had told Migration Assistant not to move Applications, that seemed not to apply to Applications in my personal Applications folder. I think that is a bug. Once I delete all those applications, Bento came up. I just had to put my data files back in Application Support (I had removed the data thinking the problem was a transfer glitch - just picked the wrong glitch).

Monday 21 December 2009


I moved a few of the large rocks today. I had hoped to move a plant Jean did not like, but wanted to get the ground thoroughly wet first. However today is not a watering day, so I guess that will be delayed until Tuesday.

While I was at lunch, my Dell 30 inch monitor arrived. That figures. I unboxed it late in the afternoon. My, it sure is large.

Jee Labs

Jee Labs design AVR boards that can be used for environmental monitoring. Includes a mini web server, so they are pretty much computer agnostic. Very low battery power consumption. See a list of projects. ADC converters on I2C bus interface. Arduino boot loader. 8 port digital IO board. BMP085 barometric pressure and temperature sensor, via I2C. Looks like you can do a mesh wireless network with the gadgets. Looks like you could do neat things with both temperature and electricity use monitoring. I like Jean-Claude Wippler's designs.

Is Pixel Qi Good Enough?

Is the new 10.1 inch ePaper like Pixel Qi display good enough for an Apple tablet? The product promises lower power use, and daylight readability, both highly desirable. Apple were rumoured to have ordered 10 inch panels some time ago. Wintek model# EE-1044-IN-W5C with viewable dimensions of 8.6 x 6.5 inches.

I think Apple have been considering using the Pixel Qi, but have rejected it until the image quality improves. The prototypes looked reasonable (in photos), but I get the impression production quality is a problem. Look for a bunch of demonstration tablets using PixelQi from various manufacturers at Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in early January.

Mind you, guesses about Apple Tablet with drawings abound. There are heaps more guesses out there.

Tuesday 22 December 2009


We went mall walking at the local Willows Shopping Centre. It turned out that Big W really did have an Iomega 1 TB hard drive for A$114. This makes storage costs around 11.4 cents per gigabyte. Hardly worth the inconvenience of burning a CD or DVD at that price.

I also went to the Sams Warehouse, since they had price reductions. Heaps of furniture, some of which looked potentially of use. They had one of those wine fridges, but in glossy black, I doubt it would look much like the rest of the room.

Before the mall walking I had watered the garden, and the faded patches of the nearby lawn. Either the sprinkler system is just not managing it well enough, or there is some other problem with the grass. I had also watered the garden in an attempt to loosen the soil enough to dig up one of the plants in an inconvenient location. Sure does not seem to be helping much. We did manage to get the laundry done and hung on the line before leaving.

Back home, Jean switched on the air conditioner. It is just too hot inside today. I sure noticed that when I walked through the heat to the restaurant.

iPhone and Law

Australian police use iPhone to catch illegal drivers reports that Tasmanian police use iPhone camera to identify unregistered cars, by sending an photo back to their central database. This saves officers having to contact Central Despatch and have numbers entered manually.

One Laptop Per Child

Another fantasy computers proposed for 2012 by Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child. Totally sealed XO3 computer in plastic, for educating third world children. This time the price aim is US$75, not US$100. The closest OLPC came to US$100 was around US$175. Sales were also way lower than predictions. This time they will open architecture the computer, in the hope of forcing competition upon the entire industry. Interesting company, with laudable aims, but given their track record, who would invest?

There has been considerable interest from the open source community in OLPC. I gather Fedora have offered a new Linux core for the machine, for example.

Wednesday 23 December 2009


The sprinkler system came on before I could move all the rocks from the medium size rock pile to the garden area. I still can not remove the shrub at one end of the garden, so that sort of slows down moving many more rocks. I did manage to place a half dozen or so of the rocks into the garden.

Assembly project this morning was Jean's Weber barbecue. We had done the trolly stand last evening. Luckily the Weber required relatively little assembly. So we now have our emergency cooking facility if the power goes out over Xmas.

Encouraged by the ease of assembly of the Weber barbecue, I started on the Repco Origami folding bicycle I had bought from BigW. Despite the dire warnings about using an experienced bicycle mechanic in the instructions, it was about 98% assembled. Some trouble determining how some of the foldings bits actually went together. The manual is a shambles, as well as not actually covering what needed to be done. However it all seems to look like a bicycle now, which is a good start.

Edna Nita Townsend

Received the sad but expected news that Edna Nita Townsend had died in hospital today, after a long fight with cancer. E.T. as she was known had invited me to her table at the restaurant soon after I first arrived in Carlyle Gardens. She had a little group of lunch companions every day. She must have been some character in her earlier days. She had hoped to get through to her 60th birthday, 20 November 2009. She was stubborn to the end.

Megapixel Myth

Your camera does not need vast numbers of pixels to be capable of producing a decent photo when blown up large. A U.K. TV show shows a 2.2 megapixel photo on a cinema screen, and the image looks fine. In fact, the smaller pixel elements of multi megabyte cameras have a regrettable tendency to produce poor images with lots of noise. Just forget megapixels. A couple of megapixel is just fine. What really comes in handy is ultra-zoom, 10 times or more zoom. This lets you get photos of objects you can not get near to.

This complaint about pixel counts particularly applies to cameras in phones. With the limited space available, you have a very poor lens, with a diameter of at best a few millimetre. Adding more pixels does not get you shaper photos, it just gets you more noise in the sensors. The clamour of the ignorant for increased pixel counts illustrates why such decisions should be left to engineers.

The major problem with photos taken with an Apple iPhone camera is camera shake on shutter release. Until you learn the shutter operates on release of the touch, not on making contact, you risk camera shake.

Wireless HDTV

Wireless HD television is in some high end TV sets, using second generation embedded Amimon chipsets to deliver WHDI uncompressed HD TV over a 30 metre range. Mount Amimon chipsets in laptops or receiver transmitter pairs and beam HDTV to a TV set.

I could see this as the next step for an Apple TV, an upgraded Airport Express router or a forthcoming entertainment tablet. Apple have standardised on Display Port outputs for their video. Amimon supports the DisplayPort protocol over the PCI-Express interface. Apple could add full HD wireless to their existing wireless music transmission.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Essential Programs - Things

Things is a task management program that appears very simple, but has more subtle power than it first seems. Cultured Code seem to have thought about the merits of throwing every task oriented buzz word into the program, and have thankfully resisted that impulse. For example, it does not support Gantt charts, nor critical path methods such as PERT charts. Things was winner of an Apple Design Award in 2009.

Collect new to-dos in the Inbox to get them out of your head quickly. Today is your list of things you want to complete Today. Due items will automatically appear here too. The Next list contains anything you want to do as soon as you get to it. To-dos from your projects are shown here as well. Use Scheduled for all to-dos that you want to start at a later date. Once that date arrives, they will be automatically moved to Today. The Someday box is for ideas you might want to pursue in the future. Organise using Projects. Logbook collects items you have completed.

Things for Macintosh synchronises wirelessly with Things for iPhone, thus leaving your task list available when you travel. This takes Things out of the nice to have class, into being essential.

Essential Programs - Xyle Scope

Cultured Code also make Xyle Scope, which allows you to understand the interaction of HTML and CSS. It shows precisely what selectors and elements are responsible for content and format of any part of a web page. It shows the block content of a web page, while allowing you to suppress inline elements. It lets you envisage the cascade in Cascading Style Sheets. You are working blind on web pages without some equivalent.


Completed moving all bar two of the pile of larger rocks into the garden, in front of the large green things that I suspect are shrubs. Commenced moving small rocks to behind the Blue Eyes, in a probably futile attempt to restrain them from taking over.

Passerby asked if we were disturbed by the aircraft landing at night. There is always some joker around. It seems our (65) garden lights have attracted notice from those taking an evening walk. At least you can see where the garden edges are.

Went for my first ride on my new Origami folding bicycle. It seems it has been a while since I last rode a bicycle. At least, that is what my knees tell me. Can't tell the difference between one gear and the next. Luckily (for bicycle riders) Carlyle Gardens is essentially flat. Must adjust the seat a bit better. Possible adjust the brakes as well. Since I did not fall off, and did not wobble a lot after a shaky start, I pronounce the trial a success.

Since my first bicycle ride went so well, late in the afternoon I cycled to the bar for Happy Hour. Talked with Allen about his bicycling experience in Townsville, since he rides up to 45 km a day. Took a small handicap for the ride back home (only a glass or two).

Display Port

Jean asked about which cables to use to connect her Dell to the 27 inch monitor. I started explaining that using something digital was a good move, because they were much better than old fashioned analogue VGA. However I did not think she had DVI. Of course, Display Port was even better, but she would not have that on a Dell computer. Not satisfied with that, Jean insisted we look in the horses mouth to count the teeth (always a problem for philosophers). It turned out that she did have Display Port. A full size Display Port. Since the new monitor came with a Display Port cable, that is what Jean can use to connect. The HDMI port the consumer entertainment lobby like can be safely ignored.

Friday 25 December 2009

Xmas Day

I started moving smaller rocks into the garden shortly after getting up. This makes most of the row behind the Blue Eyes. Naturally the sprinkler system got me from time to time. Several neighbours walking their dogs stopped to chat.

After a short time inside at the computer, I packed up the Whitsunday Times, and took them over to Neil. Having walked that far, I continued for the two kilometre walk around Carlyle Gardens. That got me back around 6:20 a.m.

Went to Xmas lunch at the restaurant around 11:30 a.m. I wore the new red Xmas shirt Jean had made for me. I also wore the 49 LED flashing badge, to compete with the Allan was wearing. Jean joined me at a table close to the food around noon.

Lots of residents attended the restaurant for Xmas lunch. I was pleased to see that Gayle from the office managed to come along. Had Pat, Jeff and Barbara at the same large round table, very near the food (essential positioning for Jean). Got through a bottle of champagne (sorry, sparkling wine) while we munched ham, turkey, chicken, and prawns. Allen gave me four left over puddings with custard. Jeff and I stayed on until the bar closed, then dropped into his place to continue drinking into the early evening. Were it not for the automatic spelling correction, this comment would be even more incoherent.

Hear of the Tablet?

Year of the tablet, says NY Times blog, with supporting detail. Microsoft tried promoting a tablet computer ages ago. Despite their efforts, it remains a niche market. They are trying another Microsoft tablet computer codenamed Courier now. It is aimed squarely at the business world, at the day planner. Microsoft are good at business computers.

All such tablet computers run into an unanswered question. Why do you need one? Obviously if you asked someone in 1850 what transport needed, they would be answering better horses. They would not answer horseless carriage. Until someone convinces you to forget horses, tablet computers are in the same position. You have to forget computers. To succeed, tablets for consumers will have to make most uses of personal computers obsolete.

Book sales are in decline. In the USA, independent booksellers have 10% of the market. While Barnes and Noble is in reasonable shape, Borders is not. O'Reilly pin their hopes on an Apple Tablet. However although everyone is making an eBook reader, like the Amazon Kindle, I get the feeling most people do not care.

Chorded Keyboards

Frogpad is a one handed keyboard, one of many attempts at chorded keyboards. I have used several different chorded keyboards. Basically, I can not see them catching on. A full keyboard is heaps quicker, more likely to be available, and people learn them while young. I find it interesting that Apple ensmalled their wireless Bluetooth keyboard some years ago. It is about the size of a laptop keyboard.


Opera released a pre-alpha build of their Opera web browser. Naturally it is unstable (unexpected crashes). The first interesting item is Carakan, the new ECMAScript and JavaScript engine that replaces Futhark. To my surprise, Carakan appears faster than even the recent web browser speedups from Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. At the moment, the unreleased Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is not even close to any of these in Javascript speed. I was also pleased to note Opera seems to have more support for CSS3 in their Presto 2.5 rendering engine. Opera are also trying their Vega vector graphics library. There are now only a few items in my blog that Opera does not render as I intend. As a result of all major browsers (except Internet Explorer of course) supporting more of CSS3, I will try adding some more advanced CSS when I find time.

Saturday 26 December 2009


Got up slightly after 5 a.m. somewhat the worse for wear. We were having the first real rain in 8 months. No downpour overnight, but after steady rain, it decreased to a light but steady misting that had already partly filled the trench in the garden. Around 23 mm. No need for me to water the garden. Also a little too muddy to place more rocks in the garden. Shucks, what a pity.


Who grabbed the iSlate domain name some time ago? Brand protection company Mark Monitor. The Apple ownership was briefly exposed in 2007. So will Apple call some future tablet computer an iSlate? I say no way. iSlate = Is Late. That variation alone is enough to kill the name. Who knows what anagram ales it? iSteal. iStale.

On the other hand, Slate Computing (USA) LLC of Delaware c/o Corporation Trust Centre asked for an Australian trade mark on iSlate and Magic Slate. Slate Computing also claimed iSlate in South Africa. Much more on ownership of Slate Computing and iSlate, which seems to be something Apple arranged around 2006. For a roundup of recent Apple iSlate rumours that will leave you confused.

However see this astonishing 1987 Knowledge Navigator video, for an idea of where Apple saw things going. This was prior to the web, prior to video conferencing. So, where next? Since those days, Apple have stopped releasing concepts. Instead, they ship products. Slates were displaced from schools by cheap paper. Speculation is that Apple may see their slate replacing paper.

Tactile Feedback

Tactile keyboard feedback through an LCD is something Apple recently patented. I do not believe they will attempt to include this sort of technology in models in 2010. Too much chance of things breaking. Apple have been removing moving parts, not adding them.

Monitor Changes

I finally removed my old monitor from the room, and took it along to a staging area for Jean. to collect it. After cleaning the desk, I started trying to put my computing environment back together. That new monitor is large. Those cables from the computer are short. There always seems to be one more item to connect. I realised I simply could not fit everything properly. Back to the drawing board (no room for that either).

Sunday 27 December 2009

Colour Laser Printing Tracking

Many models of colour laser printer track identity of the printer. They put extra yellow dots on every page, in a pattern that can be matched to individual printers. This seems to have been originally installed to track printing of counterfeit US dollars, so when caught, there was evidence for the courts. I mention this for the benefit of anyone plotting to print ransom notes or scurrilous letters to politicians using a laser printer.

Sharing iPhoto and iTunes

Sharing iPhoto library among multiple users, for editing purposes, seems to require removing permissions. This can be done on either an external drive, or a disk image. Unexpected results may occur if you try to do this from a standard iPhoto library with disk access permissions set in the default manner. This seems something that would be needed in a workgroup situation.

iTunes 9: Understanding Home Sharing to stream or transfer music, videos and others between up to five other computers on the same network. Movie rentals can not be shared. You can use Front Row to play music from a shared iTunes library. See also Troubleshooting Home Sharing.

Renewable Energy

Australia's renewable energy future 2009 was a series of public lectures organised by the Australian Academy of Science over the period of about a year. The speakers were all active participants in their field. The lectures seemed well prepared, and include the slides from the lectures. Audience comments are also included. If you want a background in renewable energy in Australia, this is more of the most accessible resources.

Monday 28 December 2009

Exercise Ptui!

Since the reasonably heavy rain woke me at 4 a.m. I tried to get my computers to use Migration Assistant to transfer one of my accounts from the portable to the media computer. For some reason they did not seem to like the 802.11g fast wireless Ethernet connection. While waiting, I had to find other things to do.

Went out to the garden and raked another quarter of the soil to slightly less hilly configuration. Then I started moving the smaller rocks into a row in front of the Blue Eyes. Got about half the row done before it was time for a walk.

Walked the two kilometres around Carlyle Gardens. Saw Garry, so I had a chat with him. He needs another stay in hospital while they break his shoulder and reset it, and is not happy. Saw the lawn mowing contractor, who was checking whether the lawn could take the weight of the mower. With 8 mm of rain, no, the soil will not support the mower.

When I got back home, the file transfer had still not happened. As far as I could tell, it had not even started. Not sure if this is a networking problem or just a very large hard drive. I probably should have used a Time Machine backup drive. Or use a Firewire cable. I found one of the drives came with a Firewire 800 cable.


Jean wanted a walk in cooler conditions, so we went shopping. I was holding out for a visit to Jaycar, but had to be satisfied with Willows. The stores were not open, and we ended up getting more of a walk than expected. BigW had bicycle things for me. A tyre pump, bike helmet, a gel seat cover, and a pathetic security chain. I looked for computer cables, but the choice was a bit limited compared to Jaycar. We did find a steam mop, but only a floor model. I am told a Bissell brand is the best model steam mop. We never found the wine cooler Target were said to have.


I had been invited to one of the neighbours for a curry, not something Jean can partake of. Barbara, another neighbour, was there, as was a friend of them all from outside the village. Sat around talking with Jeff over a beer beforehand. Pat had prepared three different curries, beef, chicken and prawns. To my surprise, one of the cats demanded its share of the curry. It had been a long while since I had eaten a decent curry, and it brought tears to my eyes.

Tuesday 29 December 2009


I was again up before dawn. This time there was no rain, so I was able to work fairly peacefully on the computer for a while. I eventually went outside and moved more rocks into the garden. I have to say that the garden is showing little design sense, but at least the rocks are (mostly) out of the driveway. After that I went for the two kilometre walk around Carlyle Gardens. Met the mowing contractor again. The lawns were still way too water logged for him to drive the mowers over them. We also managed to get the laundry done and hung out despite the threat of rain.

Iain from security dropped over to tell me about a computer deal. I can not work out which model he is talking about. He said he would take a photo and show me when he is doing the rounds tonight. Dropped around in the afternoon with model numbers, and I still can not positively identify which models he is looking at getting.

Cooked up a (very small) lamb roast, with vegetables. Lack of resources led me to fake the marinade (orange juice, lots of red wine, mixed herbs, ground pepper). However I did not get the browning of the vegetables I was seeking. Plus I think the oven was too low (175) to cook as quickly as I estimated. The onion, butternut pumpkin, and sweet potato were pretty reasonable, the potato was not cooked enough. I should have honey glazed the carrot. I should have used butter (we did not have a lot of it) on all the vegetables, as well as some oil in the pan.


We went shopping again, partly because Jean is into avoidance behaviour. We started with collecting the food we were short of at Coles. I thought there was not much we needed, but it still filled a shopping trolley. I had no idea we needed turkey, for example. I stopped at the newsagent for a paper. Not sure why I bothered, as The Australian on this holiday Tuesday does not include the computer section. I also went to BigW, where they had 3xRCA plug to plug video connectors in 3 metre lengths. While I suspect I will need a longer cable, better short than none.

We made a subsequent shopping trip, along Ross River Road to OfficeWorks. I was interested in seeing their hidden desk (top slides aside), but it was not of a size such that I could use it. Pity. I did get a nice long USB cable from Office Works.

Next was Dick Smith, who were selling security equipment at a 30% discount. Got more waterproof security camera housings, and hope they are the right size for the cameras.

Jaycar was the place that paid off, despite their electricity being out. Paying meant cash, and receipts all hand written. You only miss credit cards when they are not available. They had even longer (5 metre) 3 RCA plug video cables, and 3.5mm stereo to 2 RCA audio cables. They also had both HDMI and DVI in 5 metre lengths. That should let me position the equipment where I want it, rather than be forced to have it sprawl all over the desk. I have ducting to keep everything tidy. Now, if only someone would get rid of all video and audio cables.

Bombers on Airlines

No leaving the seat on the last hour of your flight to the USA. No reading, no use of gadgets. All because some religious fanatic can not abide the fact that the USA exists, drops bombs on various foreign countries, and sends soldiers all over the world. Mostly to places that thoroughly deserve to be visited by soldiers.

No doubt we will see dramatic footage of an aeroplane being blown apart by explosives. My view is that a bomber with the sort of explosives shown in underwear will succeed in blowing his bum off. I doubt he will blow an aeroplane apart. Even if they can, if you include the 9/11 terrorism attacks, using an airline is safer than driving to the airport. You have far more chance of being killed by lightning. If we spent as much on clean water in foreign countries, or on preventative health measures, or on almost any social cause, as we spend on airport security, we would save thousands of more lives. Bruce Schneier asks Is aviation security mostly for show?

[Much later I found this BBC news item confirming the underpants bomber would not have brought down a 747 with the amount of explosives he had.]

TSA are not exactly an encouragement to tourism in the USA. I stopped visiting the USA when I started being treated as a criminal rather than a tourist. I rather doubt I will ever visit the USA again. To my US friends, I think you need to take your society back from the goons who are holding you hostage to a dubious increase in security.

Reinventing the eBook

Blio is yet another reinvention of the ebook, this time from inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. Blio reader is a software platform that runs on various devices, although tablets are an obvious target. It adds colour, illustrations, video, animation and reading the text, something that epaper is usually really lousy at. On the other hand, HTML on LCD works just fine for all these. I am just not following the rational of all these eBook formats. We have an eBook format, it works fine. It is a web page. Plus if you demand an obsolete print copy of a book, you can always use Espresso Book Machine print on demand, although Third Place Press report some problems.

Wednesday 30 December 2009


Rain on and off during the day. Mostly off during the day, on at night. My two computers transferred accounts via the Firewire cable, taking about an hour and a half. There were a few subsequent glitches in Finder, which seemed to go away after a reboot. I found some old timber in the garage, and made up a few hard drive stands. This is mainly to keep the power supplies and cables out of the way. I also found time to install a couple of the camera domes, but rain stalled further security camera work outside.

The restaurant was open, so I had lunch there. Only four of us initially. Then another group of four arrived. Then two individuals arrived. Most people were probably not aware it was open. Allen and David were busy redoing the storeroom, instead of taking a break.

Loss of TV Signal

It seems that all the signals from all of the ABC and the SBS TV channels were lost at 7:42 p.m. The three commercial free to air channels are still operating. That sounds like a power outage at the translator tower, or perhaps a link failure to the tower.

While I was typing, we got an intense little bullet of rain squalls. The BOM weather radar is showing squalls. I guess that could have taken out a link. The signal came back after a few minutes, but it was not like the TV had anything worth watching.

Orchid Gene

An interesting account by David Dodds of The Science of Success. Essentially society works with a large number of robust survivors. However it works better with small numbers of more fragile orchid style people, who in the right environmental conditions thrive even more than more stable people. It also needs some aggressive individuals, even though too many are not good. You can match many such characteristics to genetics. The article surveys various studies in monkeys. It points out that most studies look only at the down side of bad genes, not at their up side.

Thursday 31 December 2009

Apophis Killer Asteroid?

Is Apophis an Earth killer asteroid? If the 350 metre asteroid were to hit on 13 April, 2036 it would probably kill no more than a few tens of millions of people during the 880 megaton energy release. The record-setting close approach to Earth on Friday, 13 April, 2029, when it comes as close as 29,470 kilometres above Earth's surface. It was originally feared Apophis might hit. However the near miss means Apophis will change its orbit, leading to increased risk in 2036. Apophis was briefly rated at 4 on the Torino scale, before being downgraded to 0.

Carlyle Gardens Flood

It seemed to me that it rained all night at Carlyle Gardens, including heavy rain around 4 a.m. Garry later reported 120 mm, while John reported 140 mm. The water formed lakes at the back of us, and on the western side of the house. The slopes of the ground are just not right at either location.

However it is the eastern side of the house that worries me. Water was piled up along the brickwork. The gardens and grass on the eastern side seem to be slightly higher than the house. So instead of draining away, water piles up as a flood against the house wall. There is a risk that the air conditioners will get flooded.

The water is also not getting away on the western side of the house. This leaves a lawn between the houses that is more like a lake than a lawn. Without drainage, the lawn turns to mud.

Edna Nita Townsend

E.T. managed to get through to her 60th birthday, 20 November 2009, before succumbing to cancer on 23 November. She was stubborn to the last, even if she did not know it at the end. One of our lunch companions, John, kindly gave Ray and I a lift to The Lakes Chapel of Morleys Funeral Home for the 10 a.m. service. When we entered, I notice a half full glass of wine had been placed on the coffin. Very appropriate.

The service celebrant Gay Rebgetz did a professional job. The slides celebrating Edna's life in Townsville exposed aspects that I had not known. For example, that she had been a Miss Australia entrant.

E.T. had selected You'll Never Walk Alone to commence the music, which fittingly closed with Time To Say Goodbye. Afterwards the recessional music was Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

Eric Lindsay's Blog December 2009