Eric Lindsay's Blog January 2010

Friday 1 January 2010

I've Got a Little List - URL

I am sure they will not be missed, that is, most of the URL. The extra / in http:// is a mistake. Sir Tim Berners-Lee even says so. Indeed, as the browser fills in the http:// you can leave that out most times. If using a browser, you are looking for a web page. Everyone with any sense aliases www to the domain name, so you should not need the www either.

Essential Programs - Validator SAC

Validating your web pages is essential for getting them correct. It is up there with checking your spelling. However you can waste a lot of time online unless you have a stand alone HTML validator. In addition, you need to validate your cascading style sheets, but since this is done rarely (they do not often change) the online W3C CSS validator is usually just fine.

Audio in Web Page

Yesterday I decided to include an audio file in a web page. What a can of worms! There does not seem to be any standard way to do this. In fact, there does not seem to be any way to do this that is both valid and works widely.

The new HTML audio element seems an obvious choice. However despite some browser support, it is not a W3C recommendation as yet. In addition, you probably will not get any support if your web page is parsed as XHTML rather than HTML.

The old Netscape embed element is not part of any standard, so you can hardly use that in a valid web page these days.

That leaves the HTML object element, which is intended for various odd files, including type of multimedia. The problem is getting it to work. My audio file was an MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) standard. The MP3 MIME type is audio/mpeg.

Start of Year

I went for a walk in the early morning, around Carlyle Gardens. Had just about reached the front door and was contemplating pulling some weeds in the lawn when it started raining. That was a lucky save.

Jean wanted to go mall walking around 10 a.m. To our surprise, the mall was mostly empty, although a fair range of shops were open. We checked Sams Warehouse. They had white furniture with metal legs, rather like our dining room table. We could not see how we could use them, but they were interesting for matching purposes. Also a folding chair that opened flat. I have a space in my room kept for just such an item. BigW had cheap printer paper, so I got some. We also found some yellow rubber ducks, for the bowling green when it next fills with rain.

Went to the happy hour at the bar in the late afternoon. We were still carrying on after 9 p.m. when the bar had been long closed. Some of the ladies brought snacks and nibbles and shared them around. I thought it went pretty well as a way of celebrating arrival of the New Year.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Stack Overflow

Stack overflow is a web site for computer programmers to ask questions about code. Seems like it was set up like a Wiki, in that it is collaboratively edited. Similar sites include Server fault for IT system administrators. Super User is a question and answer site for any sort of computer enthusiast question. Doctype is for questions about CSS, HTML and website design. However before starting anything involving programming, maybe you should read The Joel Test - 12 steps to better code. You might also looks at how to write good standards.


I went for a walk around Carlyle Gardens at 6 a.m. Gordon was headed the opposite way around on his bike, and rapidly convinced me a bicycle is at least four times as quick as walking.

Went shopping for newspapers and food. I thought Jean had a giant list, but this was not the case. Afterwards we visited the Mitre 10 hardware store. Got gutter sealant so we can fix the gutter leak where they removed the down pipe. Also tried to get something to stabilise the bookcases I need to build. We can not locate Ikea style steel cross braces. Got a roll of steel tape that may work as a cross brace, at least in tension.

In the late afternoon we bashed the broken wooden pallet with one of the concrete blocks it carried until it came apart. It was too large for us to return it, since it would not fit in our car. That made way too much noise in my opinion, but no-one came out to chastise us, so I guess we got away with it. Managed to rip the skin off my fingers in a few places. Thank goodness there are no more pallets here.

Broadcast vs Narrowcast

I saw a newspaper being delivered while I took my morning walk. Newspapers are discrete chunks of matter, delivered to a wide variety of people. Like TV, radio, or BigW advertising flyers, they are broadcast media. They must be very general, and appeal to a very wide range of people.

Local newspapers are much more aimed at people in one geographical area. Another example of geographical limitations are flyers from a local business. Specialist magazines, like the garden railways magazine Jean subscribes to are aimed directly at railway enthusiasts. They are narrowcast, and not of general interest.

Advertising in broadcast media has to be cheap per reader. Advertising in narrowcast media can be much more expensive, per reader, because advertisers already know the interests of their reader.

The delivery system is lumpy and location bound. Either the newspaper is delivered to your home (not much use when you are away), or else you find a news agency. In sharp contrast, the reading of newspapers and the like is something that can occur anywhere. On the train, at the breakfast table, in the bathroom. This contrast between location bound delivery and consumption anywhere is the great weakness of most broadcast media.

Mind Mapping

I think a tablet style computer would be suitable for taking mind mapping notes. I looked at 9 Mind Mapping Tools for Mac which lists many recent mind mapping programs. The latter also provides tips on essential mind mapping features, and hints about steps to a killer project mind map.

Since any mind mapping software would also almost certainly need to run on an iPhone like operating system, that criteria excludes all those written in Java. The most likely of the bunch seemed to be Mind Mode, which is free. You have to pay for the iPhone version, and the pro version that it synchronises with. However the free version will give me an idea of whether it works for me.

I've Got a Little List - Newspapers

The very first newspaper was produced in Britain exactly 225 years ago today. A few years later it was renamed The Times. It existed to sell advertising, a model almost all newspapers still use. However the broadcast bulk advertising market is in decline, faced by targeted narrowband advertising on the web. The audience on the web is in little discrete clumps, with way less of a mass market. Also readers are increasingly aware they are not clients of newspapers. Advertising is the client. There is a good reason classified advertising was once called rivers of gold.

However the time for paper newspapers has passed. Bad news on the doorstep does not cut it in a world of instant communication. Newspapers (and TV news) increasingly draw from the same array of press reports. If you have access to AAP and Reuters and so on, do you really need a newspaper for news? An RSS feed can be used in a mashup to give you similar access.

A traditional newspaper is a discrete lump in time, arriving once a day or even slower. Unlike delivery via the web or internet, which can be exactly when you want it. However computers have been a discrete lump in space. You go to your study to sit at a desk to turn on the computer. When the computer can be anywhere you are, and never switches off, access is just as easy as for newspapers. This is the (unfulfilled) promise of tablet computers.

Sunday 3 January 2010

I've Got A Little List - Cigarette Lighters

Cigarette lighters in cars are a dead loss. Cigarette sales are gradually decreasing, due to health choices by former smokers. Confirmed smokers always carry a lighter anyway. New antismoking laws in Queensland make it illegal to smoke in a car while carrying a child under 16 years, due to concern about second hand smoke. So you do not need cigarette lighters in cars for smokers.

There are three different car cigar lighter socket design sizes according to ANSI/SAE J563 specification (one is for ancient 6 volt cars). However these days people want to use the sockets for powering all manner of gadgets. Many do not respect the allowed current drain (usually not to exceed 15 amp). The connectors are not that great a design. Plus the uneven power output (between 11 and 15 volts sometimes) does not match modern electronics.

What cars need is also a number of 5 volt regulated 500mA USB sockets (some have these). In addition, they should have some inverter powered switched mains power receptacles available. These two would be a far better match to modern use than are cigar lighter sockets.

The other thing that should be in vehicles is WiFi, with a little short range wireless access point and router. Sure, you would need to provide your own 3G connectivity. Either tethered to a mobile phone, or slip your SIM card in the slot. It is just plain stupid not to have internet access in a car. You might need a map update.

Audio in Web Page

Is there some valid, accepted method of including audio (mp3 or aac) in a web page? Especially in XHTML Strict (such as I use) or as a fallback HTML 4.01 Strict. To my astonishment, it does not look like it. Except maybe include an ordinary link to the file. However the img element replaced links for graphics a decade ago. It has been ages since every picture opened in a new browser window.

Embed appears widely used. It is proprietary, from the old Netscape days. It is not part of any of the W3C recommendations. It certainly is not valid, and never will be. Every page that uses it is invalid.

The newer HTML 5 audio element would seem ideal, but is not yet a W3C recommendation. Although there is some browser support, the audio element may be years away from being a recommendation. In addition, Chrome and Safari support the popular but patent encumbered MP3 audio file. However Mozilla Firefox only supports open source Ogg Vorbis. I don't believe I have ever heard an Ogg Vorbis music file in the wild.

That seems to leave the object element, which in theory can include almost anything, including audio objects. However I get the impression using object is somewhat browser sensitive, especially as to whether parameters are accepted.

I managed to get a test page working in Safari 4 and Firefox 3.5, however the pre-alpha Opera 10.5 did not make media player controls available. If you switched the autoplay param to true, Opera would play music, but you still had no controls. Google Chrome beta for Mac does not show a player, but does play if the autoplay param is true.

Just discovered that HTML5 video element is unusable as well. Although the reasons are different. The data buffers as soon as you hit the page. For video, that can mean a whole heap of data downloading every time you get to a page. I think the web browser designers got that one wrong.


Went for my usual walk around Carlyle Gardens early in the morning. Then I wasted a heap of time trying to get audio into a web page while keeping the page valid. Looks like the browser support for the object element just does not exist.

The weather was sufficiently fine for us to do a couple of runs at the laundry. However we were nervous about rain. Late in the afternoon, when the temperature and humidity had eased, I installed a little fold out hanging line for washing. I had been intending to install that for a fair while.

Discovered my new computer did not have my movies folder, nor the iTunes music. Seems they were not on the backup drive. The movies folder was mostly aliases, and could be moved over WiFi. The iTunes Music folder was on a shared portion of the drive. That was harder. I finally started backing it up onto the same drive that holds the backup. Later I will transfer it to the new machine. I expect each transfer will take at least an hour, as there is around 70 GB of audio on it.

Population as Ponzi Scheme

At the end of the year, cheerful news came out of Victoria. Unemployment fell to 5.4%, and Victorian Premier John Brumby was full of how his state was the engine room of the Australian economy. However the growth was actually in housing and services. In the past 25 years Australia overall has added nearly $40 billion in manufacturing growth. Victoria has added virtually nothing to the manufacturing 10% of its economy. Export volumes have fallen nearly 20% in the past decade. If the people stop coming to Victoria from overseas, it will have no growth. The current good figures rely greatly upon agriculture and forestry increases from areas where the drought eased.

Monday 4 January 2010

I've Got A Little List - Typewriters

I mean, how ancient is the typewriter? It is positively 19th Century. These days everyone writes on computers. While I realise you could get some nice symbols on IBM type balls, a collection of these is nothing compared to the fonts available on computers. You could use an IBM Executive, with the multiple space bars and fractional backspace, to do justified typing. I have been there and done that. It is not worth the effort. Use something that makes fixing errors even easier than correction ribbons.

You could legitimately argue about whether a computer is actually easier to use. Many people will say that in their experience, a computer is a lot harder to use.


We were up late, and did not even start the laundry until just after 6 a.m. I started my file transfer into my Mac mini. The more speedy computer said it would take a bit over a half hour. After my morning walk, I started pulling weeds in the lawn around us. I hope the mower crew will be around later to collect the stuff, now the ground is drying out a little after the days of rain. Unfortunately for the laundry, it rained as soon as I hung them up. I got to try the new clothes line under shelter sooner than expected.

Sync Google Calendar

I finally looked more carefully at the Google Calendar that Jean had shared with me. It transferred just fine to my Google account, so I could read it on a web browser. However that was not the same as having it integrated with my iCal calendar on my desktop or phone. Google say you can sync calendars via CalDev, so I set up iCal to sync with Google. It took a bit more fiddling than I hoped, and the instructions could have perhaps emphasised the steps a little better. However it all did seem to work. The calendar is integrated into my iCal calendars.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

I've Got A Little List - Fax Machines

I mean, how ancient is the fax machine? It is like using a typewriter. These days everyone writes on computers. Then to send what you have written, you print it out and feed the paper into the fax machine! Which then converts what was once digital into analogue brightness levels, and then converts it back to digital. But then it transmits it via an analogue tone signal at ultra slow speed down the phone line. Then it prints it out again. Probably followed by someone typing it back into a computer.

I can not begin to express how wasteful and obsolete this whole process is. From a computer, passing through two lots of paper. What a waste of time, and resources. Give it up. Just use email in the first place! If you want pictures, include pictures in your email.

Intel Arrandale Mobile Processor

The specifications have finally been officially released for the Intel Arrandale Mobile Processor, the 32nm mobile equivalent of the Clarkdale desktop central processor. There is a 32nm Westmere core, and a 45nm support chip, a reduction from the three chip Penryn used in the Core2 Duo line. Eleven notebook chips in the new lineup. This will be more important to manufacturers who did not go with the two chip Core2Duo plus integrated NVidia Ion (GeForce 9400m) solution.

I deliberately bought a 15 inch MacBook Pro notebook a few months ago, specifically to get the NVidia GeForce 9400m integrated graphics solution. I expect the new Arrandale CPU to perform 20% better than the Core2Duo. Despite the smaller chip feature size (32nm vs 45nm), I also do not expect as much battery saving as some people believe. Parasitic gate capacitance is likely to be a problem with first feature size chip shrinks.

I do not expect Intel integrated graphics to be comparable with the GeForce 9400m. I may be wrong, but purely on an historical basis, I expect the Intel graphics to suck. Intel traditionally does better on benchmarks, and is comparable to the NVidia 9400m benchmark. My gut feeling is Intel will not stand up as well in real life compared to the 18 month old 9400m.

My MacBook Pro also includes the more powerful discrete NVidia 9600m graphics chip. If I am willing to sacrifice battery life and drive temperatures up, I can use the existing second graphics chip. That does perform well, for a mobile chipset.


After collecting the newspaper and walking at Willows, Jean sent me off to Sams Warehouse. Luckily the rain had stopped by then. I found they still had plentiful stocks of the folding chair bed they had discounted after the sales. Since it looked a good fit for where I wanted something close to that function, we wrestled it into the Subaru. It took two of the Sams staff to help with it. We had to take the chair home, since I could hardly fit in the car with it there. After removing the box full of chair, I set it aside for later unboxing.

We set out to Spotlight. Jean eventually found the extra patterns she wanted. I spent a lot of time wandering, looking at the amazing range of craft materials, most of which I could not even identify. On to Jaycar Electronics, who were short on their sale items (much not yet unpacked). They did have one of the UPS at half price, and also a large magnifier lamp with a 22 watt circular fluorescent tube. It sure makes a lot of light on my desk.

Google Phone

Google have announced their phone. The Nexus One runs Android 2.1, and uses hardware from well known original equipment manufacturer HTC Corporation. It is a GSM enabled phone. The Nexus One is available in the USA from Google at their web store without service for $529 or starting at $179 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile USA. It will also be available in U.K., Hong Hong and Singapore. It will also eventually be available from Verizon and in Europe via Vodafone.

The technical specifications indicate some significant technical advantages in hardware over the latest Apple iPhone. For example, more pixels on an OLED screen, faster CPU, removable memory. However several other manufacturers also provide fancier hardware. HTC phones have been known for providing good hardware for some considerable time now. This one was designed by Peter Chou and the TC team, and is highly similar to the HTC Bravo in Europe.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

3 billion downloads

Apple today announced three billion downloads of iPhone and iPod Touch applications in less that 18 months. This announcement comes only three months after the two billion downloads announcement.

Must just be a co-incidence that this announcement came the same day the Google phone was announced. What manufacturers and enthusiasts still do not seem to understand is that the game is not about technical specifications and advanced hardware. The game is about how much use people get from a device. While I think the Apple iPhone is technically inferior to many others, it is by far the most useful phone I have ever owned. My partner Jean snatched my older iPhone, not because of specifications, but because she started borrowing it to use it while we travelled. After a while she was borrowing my iPhone for hours on every trip. To a large extent, it is the applications that provide that advantage.

The advantage of iTunes and the application store to Apple is that it means they have 100 million credit card customers file. All with one click access to whatever Apple sell. This is a massive audience. Except for Amazon, it may be the largest customer base in history. Their rivals just do not seem to get this.

Portable Media

Hollywood studies plan portability for digital movies, probably by adding even more DRM to some new media format. These media guys are so afraid of pirating that they are not going to learn. There are reasons a bunch of us never bought Blu-Ray, never bought a movie from iTunes. There are reasons I will never accept a computer that plays Blu-Ray. Reasons not to accept HDMI and HDCP.


Another retail therapy day. Alas, despite new stock, Jaycar did not have another UPS, nor a water pump of the type I wanted. I did get a much longer 3.5mm stereo lead for the computer connection to the loudspeakers. Jean wanted to try OfficeWorks. That was inspired. They had some file folder boxes that suited her, and I will get the old discarded boxes. They also had the Office Matters Anywhere lap desk. It even has a space for pencils. No good for travel, but they seem pretty reasonable for use with a lounge chair. I was also able to get some replacement 564 ink cartridges for my Hewlett Packard printer at what seemed a good price.

Absolute stupidity took over when we returned. I decided it was a good time to start swapping the desks between our rooms. Tidied up everything off the desk surface, while Jean was doing the same for her second desk. To my considerable surprise, I was able to move the large table from my room without disassembling it. After lunch, we removed the middle leg from the larger desk. However it needed to be higher to clear Jean's filing cabinet. We put four casters on each of the legs. That seems to have solved the height problem. However we did find all this moving and woodworking rather tiring.

While I was at lunch, Jean phoned me to tell me I had been move my travel plans forward to Thursday. Friday had heavy rain scheduled, and was not looking good for driving.

I've Got A Little List - Music CDs

Optical disks with a digital recording. When you can download the digital recording, who needs the physical media? It is too small for a decent piece of album art. The capacity of a CD is ill matched to anything except classical orchestral music. After all, a piece of pop music rarely exceeds four minutes. This leads to overprice singles, and badly compiled albums full of filler material. Although digital downloads are not yet half of all music sold, the days of the CD album are dated.

You do not believe me? How many sales do 12 inch LP records have these days? Less than 2%. The situation is even worse for 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, reel to reel tapes, and wax photograph cylinders. The CD media is dead. It just does not accept it yet.

Thursday 7 January 2010

To Airlie Beach

I set out as soon as I had showered, so I was refuelling near the ring road around 5 a.m. That was a mistake, as the petrol station had again been playing silly buggers with the prices. Good driving conditions, as I listed to the news on the car radio.

I stopped at Inkerman. Must have been so early they had not started cooking breakfasts. Found out why the bacon and egg roll was so filling. They manage to fit between two and a half and three eggs on each roll. No wonder even the truck drivers think the meals are sufficient! It does not hurt that they also make the best meals I know on the road. The pub they are building was still being painted. They were expecting refrigeration equipment soon. I ate my meal while I read the morning newspaper.

Stopped at Centro Whitsunday and Woolworths for supplies, which went in the cooler. The Connoisseur chocolate obsession ice cream is back, after having been missing for months. There goes the diet. The bottles of bubbles for Saturday evening will also not help.

Collected mail at the inconvenient post office at Cannonvale. Luckily there was not a lot of it. Alas, several people who had been advised of the address change had managed to use the old PO box number address anyhow. We are obviously going to lose a bunch of correspondents when we drop the old addresses.

Studio Disaster Area

My apartment studio room was a disaster area. You could barely walk through it for the clutter. I had basically thrown everything into it from the apartment suite before leaving, so I could clean the suite after eleven years of use. I had got the cleaning of the suite done (for small values of clean), only late in the evening I had left.

Have no idea when we can get around to even simple renovations like getting the suite painted. The eleven year old floor tiles are still in good condition. The balcony tiles are original, but every time anyone mucks around, balconies leak, so I do not believe changing tiles is a good thing. The kitchen is also in good shape. That really only leaves the bathroom with somewhat old wall tiles (albeit still in good condition) and an old bath. Luckily about the only furniture left in the suite were the large bed, and a microwave in the kitchen. Pretty much everything else was out.

Now I had to tidy up the studio room, or at least make a good attempt at it. That essentially meant throwing out everything we did not need. However there was a bunch of surplus kitchen stuff from the suite kitchen where Jean would need to decide what to do with it. I do not like to throw out kitchen stuff when I do not even recognise what the function of the device is.

At Airlie Beach

Since the studio was such a disaster, I abandoned it and went for a walk down through the Whitsunday Terraces. Collected my magazine subscriptions and the newspapers at the news agency. Collected my tablet prescription at the chemist. Visited the hairdresser for a long overdue haircut. Got some more food supplies at Brumbies. Wandered around in the humidity, wondering what had happened to the forecast rain. Eventually realised that escaping from home would not actually get the studio cleared out. Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its students. I reluctantly returned home to clean the Augean Stables.

Studio Cleanup

The initial clutter was saucepans on the kitchen floor. I was able to stuff all of them in a kitchen cupboard. This cleared enough floor space to take boxes out of the closet. Then I could put Jean's giant bookcase up on end. At the other end of the closet I put the white laundry cupboard. Now I could balance a curtain rod on top of both, and hang up the clothes. I put a couple of plastic pull out drawers in the bathroom, and put clothes in these also. While doing this I kept filling the bin with rubbish, until I started running short of garbage bags. Despite working on this for a substantial part of the day, I only had half the floor cleared by the time I went to bed.

I've Got a Little List - VCR and DVD

The VCR died years ago, despite being more convenient than a DVD Recorder for time shifting TV. It is not coming back, no matter what anyone thinks.

However the same arguments that apply to the decline of the CD also apply to DVDs. Sure, downloads take longer, but speeds are increasing. There is relatively little in the way of legal downloads, as yet. However the trend is already clear. If the movie studios do not find a way to make downloads readily available, at reasonable rates, then their industry will be overrun by illegal downloads.

How many people still produce a DVD when they send content to someone else? You tend to put it on a solid state memory, or send it via the internet. It is significant that Apple have not made significant improvements to their iDVD program that produces DVD, while dramatically improving the other products in iLife.

Friday 8 January 2010

New Apple Store Design?

Rumours of a new design for a prototype store bringing the outside in via wide expanses of street level glass, and using two giant skylights to allow trees to grow inside. Wake up and smell the Astroturf. As usual, Apple are saying nothing, but read this City of Palo Alto architectural review board memo to get a feel for what is planned for a building on University Avenue and Florence Street.

Embedded Graphics

Imagination Technologies graphics IP core for mobile graphics. POWERVR SGX545 also supports OpenGL 3.2 to deliver class leading 3D graphics performance, and will also support OpenCL 1.0. and is licensed by a lead partner. Universal Scalable Shader Engine is a scalable multi-threaded GPU shader. The SGX545 delivers real-world performance of 40 million polygons/sec and 1 Gpixels/sec fillrate at 200MHz, and is perhaps 30% quicker than the iPhone chip (with has an ARM Cortex A8). Apple now have a 9.5% stake, and a licence to use this SOC.

Another choice Apple have is NVidia's new mobile graphics system on a chip, the Tegra 2, which may have even more performance. Both SOC chipsets are expected to be used with a dual core ARM Cortex A9. NVidia has had a design wins for D-Link Boxee internet TV. However it appears Apple are currently unhappy with NVidia, after the soldering reliability problem with MacBook Pro.

In addition, there is the Qualcomm Snapdragon variation of ARM, used in the Google HTC Nexus One phone.

Studio Cleanup

Finding items to throw out was much slower today. The kitchen stuff in particular baffles me, so I shoved most of that in boxes. Jean can inspect it and decide what we need and what can be discarded or donated. I got the plants up off the floor, which opened up a lot more space. There are still probably surplus duplicates but at least most of them are put aside for later checks. I will need to take several boxes of stuff to St Vincent's or some other charity store, if they are good enough to donate.

Comdex Full of Slates

Reports are everyone and his dog is releasing tablets or slates at Comdex. Or at least, demonstrating them for later release. Amazon's Kindle book reader was a small scale success. There are a number of other e-ink screen book readers being promoted over recent months. Many will ship late. Some, like Hearst, look stunning. The Plastic Logic Que proReader loks slim and expensive.

Everyone seemed to mention Bill Gates' 2001 tablet computer prediction that in five years they would be the most popular computer style. I gather tablets have around 4% market share, which is perfectly respectable for a niche product. Microsoft head Steven Balmer fondled a Hewlett Packard Windows 7 tablet during his keynote. Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Notebook looks very different. Windows laptop dock, takeaway Linux display. Nice to see Lenovo thinking about function.

I've Got a Little List - Movie Rental Stores

If downloads eventually overtake the use of optical disks as a distribution media, then where does that leave the movie rental store? The local video store managed to survive the change from VCR to DVD. Now they are anticipating a change from DVD to Blu-Ray. However if the change is to downloads, that leaves nowhere for the video store.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Airlie Beach Markets

Rain spat in the open door early in the early pre-dawn morning and puddled on the tile floor. I went and found a towel to dump on it. The day commenced with typical wet season grey skies. When I walked down to the market, the only stalls there were the fruit and vegetable places. Collected my bananas from Bruce. I had a chat to Alison, who was also seeking fresh produce. Glenn had given up and taken his stall home long ago, without setting up. Phoned Jean, whose first word was avocados. The vegetable stall had none.

There was a stall for Pacific Blue, Patrick O'Brien's Ingham based fruit winery, who sources his grapes from the highlands. I bought a bottle of Summer White to try with friends tonight. Pacific Blue winery also frequent the Willows markets in Townsville on Sunday.

I went to McDonalds for breakfast, since my regular breakfast supplier was not at the markets. Read the Courier Mail while there. Then to the newsagent for more newspapers. They asked about the markets, so I explained about the high winds forecast, and checked the Hamilton Island forecast on my iPhone.

Rex phoned me after I had returned home. He was wandering around the markets. I walked down the stairs again. Listened to one of the smart and talented Killingly sisters playing music to raise money for university fees. Naturally everywhere I went in the markets, people told me Rex had been seen headed in the other direction. Came upon my downstairs diagonal neighbours. While we were chatting, Rex came along, so we were able to have a chat. As usual, his computer is fighting him. A portable Macintosh would be great for him, but without fast internet access, his options are very limited.

Oz Weather

At the newsagent. Pulled out my iPhone to check the Hamilton Island weather forecast. Customer overheard this and asked about where I got the forecast. Told them about Oz Weather being great for Australian weather details and radar maps. About the Oz Weather iPhone Web Application. The customers expressed enthusiasm about getting a copy from the iTunes store. However it does raise the problem of how do you search through all the crap to find the good applications?

Apple iSlate

Predictions for an Apple iSlate or an Apple Tablet now include an aluminium body by AVY Precision Technology Inc, and 10 inch capacitance touch screen display by TPK Touch Solutions. Solid state drive, no optical drive, no Ethernet. Only a 3.5 mm audio connector and either a USB connector, a Magsafe power connector, or the proprietary iPhone connector. Think MacBook Air as prototype. As usual, Apple say nothing.

You can already use Magic Mouse gestures in some iLife applications like iPhoto and iMovie and Garage Band. Their interface has changed heaps over the past few years to enable this. iDVD is not relevant if you have no optical drive. Obviously iTunes could run on touch, especially in some configurations. iWeb I am not so sure about. Front Row video viewing would be fine with touch controls, since you hardly need typing. Multi touch gesture enabled version of iWork? I could see Keynote Mobile. Not so sure about Pages and Numbers. Remote Desktop solves many problems.

Retain the MacBook Pro for serious applications. Make this or a MacBook an interesting choice, but you still need something to which to connect it, just like iPhone or iPod. I was just not really expecting a tablet to be much use for work, even on a fairly casual basis.

Now if Bluetooth keyboards would work with an iPhone, that would hint at far more. However despite Jailbroken keyboard support, Apple do not support their own Bluetooth keyboard, as shipped with many iMac. This design decision must be to push the use of on-screen gestures and keyboard. Same lack of keyboard will apply to an Apple tablet. Apple may enable the keyboard in two or three years.


Michael made up some finger food featuring marinated semi-dried tomatoes. His numerous contributions certainly raised the class of the place. We could not use the balcony this time, as it was raining on and off. Glenn and Alison arrived, somewhat damp from the rain. I handed Alison a towel. Pete and Dawn arrived. I don't know where Jim was this weekend. I had lots of champagne on hand in anticipation, and cold flute glasses in the freezer. In the fullness of time, I phoned Beagle Bros pizza for a delivery. Beagle were our pizza suppliers at the night markets several years ago, and this was to some extent a deliberate attempt to recreate the social atmosphere of those days. To hell with the global financial crisis.

I've Got a Little List - Television

I am a little unusual in not owning a television set. However this is not the same as not being able to watch television. A set top box is just fine feeding a computer monitor instead of a TV. A USB TV tuner can feed signals into a computer. So you certainly do not need a TV set.

The big question is whether what is broadcast is worth watching on a TV. In Australia program start and end times are at best bad approximations. Time shifting via a recorder does not work real well when the broadcast times are all stuffed up. It is increasingly easy to download just the programs you are interested in, and watch them at a time of your own choosing. That is the big thing TV lacks, watching when you feel like it.

Sunday 10 January 2010


Unipixel have a nice (video) description of their more efficient TMOS LCD design, which can scale from tiny to TV size. Opcuity Active Layer film. Takes out most of the liquid crystal. Removes up to 55% of all material in a display panel. Passes far more light, and may be daylight readable. The design sounds interesting in this long movie. They have links with Philips and LG.


I did a load of laundry early in the morning. After that I seemed to spend much of the day moving the drying racks on and off the balcony, mostly slightly ahead of fresh rain squalls. I managed to get lots of boxes of things I suspect is surplus kitchen gear into the boot of Jean's car. I even put one of the pot plants on the floor of the car in front of the passenger seat, once we reached the cool of the evening.

Glenn visited during the day to collect another fluorescent light for his shed. I think I can find some more of those fluorescent lights. I certainly built enough of them back in the days when every bookcase here was topped by an indirect fluorescent light. While Glenn was there, Peter arrived to ask about web site problems. I wrote out a little list for him.

I've Got a Little List - Telephones

Have you noticed how the corner phone box has just about disappeared? The rise of home phones partially removed the need. The massive popularity of mobile phones completed the job. What will happen to the landline phone, or as phone companies call them, Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). There are now more mobile phones than there are land line phones, and more people are having their land line disconnected. Renters increasingly feel no need for any phone except a mobile.

When you make a phone call, you are usually not attempting to reach a number. You are usually attempting to reach a specific person. However home phone lines only let you reach people when they are at home. That makes very little sense.

For the home occupier, the only remaining purpose for a landline phone line is for connecting to the internet. Within Australia, cable is only rarely an option, and then only in certain areas in major cities. Mobile data connections tend to cost a heap, especially for large downloads. So the combination of large downloads, availability and acceptable cost is met only by landlines to an ISP. But who needs the phone part of it? You usually only need DSL, but without a voice connection.

Green Bullshit

A legally binding international agreement to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions was the aim at Kyoto in 1997. It was signed by many nations. Did Kyoto actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels? Without Kyoto, levels in 2010 would have been 142.7% of 1990. If fully acted upon, they would have been 133%. The actual result was 142.2%. In short, it was all political bullshit.

Sceptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg claims talkfests like Copenhagen do not work. They only produce spin and lies. The only solution is to come up with non-polluting energy sources that are cheaper than fossil fuels.

Monday 11 January 2010

To Townsville

I was awake before five, with only a cooler box and one other box to pack in Jean's car. Luckily part of the back seat, and the front seat were still free. I even had one of the plants on the floor in front of the passenger seat.

I was passing Bowen headed north on the Bruce Highway before 6 a.m. Guthalunga was no use for fuel, as although cheap, the petrol station there is not open at the hour at which I passed. However I had a cunning plan.

I stopped at Inkerman general store for fuel and breakfast. I sat on the verandah of their new, not yet open pub, read the The Australian newspaper and ate breakfast. They are still awaiting the refrigeration equipment for the new pub, but the painting is proceeding well. As a result of their three egg and bacon roll, I could not eat lunch later in the day. Reached Townsville around 9 a.m.


Unpacked the kitchen gear into the middle of the living room at Carlyle Gardens just after nine. Jean certainly eventually got distracted by trying to go through all the boxes. In contrast, I seemed to spend a lot of time collecting cardboard boxes and getting them ready to recycle. We took advantage of the cleanup to try to find a bunch of items that were surplus to our needs.

I've Got a Little List - GPS

The stand alone global positioning system (GPS) used for satellite navigation can be replaced by the modern Smartphone. This change from sat navigation to smartphone is already happening, according to news reports. The most vulnerable area is sat nav in cars. A few years ago fancy cars had sat nav systems for which they charged thousands. Now free applications from Google compete with applications from traditional GPS makers like Garmin and TomTom. It is not like sat nav is an essential item in a car. Most people will find a free version sufficient.

Only specialist applications will remain. Weatherproof systems with marine maps for boats. Aircraft satellite navigation. The rest are on the way out, when a GPS chip costs only a few dollars, and everyone knows it.

What is in it for Google that it will produce free maps? Location based advertising. Your cell phone knows where you are. Pretty soon so will every advertiser (and every security agency).

Price of Power

Electricity consumption is predicted to increase by at least a half by the year 2030 in Australia. Population, business and services growth drive this. NSW uses the most power, 72,000GWh, against 61,000GWh in 2000, with a prediction of 82,000GWh in 2020. Queensland is the fastest growing, moving from 39,500GWh in 2000, to 46,000GWh now, and predictions of 70,000GWh in 2020. Both states are predicted to use 125,000GWh in 2030.

With black coal being used by almost all power plants, carbon dioxide emissions will increase in line with power increases. Queensland has abundant coal seam methane, which produces about half the emissions of coal, so changing to new power stations is easier for Queensland. However gas power plants cost more than coal, so power prices will increase. Without major changes, emissions will simply continue to increase.

Tuesday 12 January 2010


Took a two kilometre walk around the place before the sun broke through the clouds. Lots of other people walking this morning. Upon my return I completed filling the recycling bin. I don't know where all this cardboard comes from. I swear we have been recycling moving boxes since we got here. It can not all be new wine boxes.

We visited Willows at nine, mostly so I could get The Australian newspaper. Jean took a walk around the air conditioned mall a couple of time, while I walked over to Sams Warehouse. No sign of any more Z desks. Met Jean at Coles. Why Coles I asked? Their butter is the right shape (by extension, the butter at Woolworths is the wrong shape).

Dialogue mostly starring Jean. Did you get rained on? Yes! That's nice dear. Sometimes I feel like George Burns talking to Gracie Allen.

I've Got a Little List - Distractions in Cars

Talking on a mobile phone while driving is banned in many countries and states. They distract drivers. The evidence is that drivers need to concentrate on the road. Distractions are almost as much of a menace as is drink driving.

So what do car makers do? Radio, CD player, noisy speaker systems, little video displays, satellite navigation. These are almost as distracting as mobile phones. They will all be banned in future cars. Passengers will be able to use such gadgets, but only with earphones. But never again will the driver have them available to distract from the task at hand.

Smoking Ban

Smoking bans for workers at the health department. No more smoking breaks, says the Commonwealth. If you want a smoke, it has to be on your unpaid lunch break. This new policy is to start in February. Wonder who will challenge it, and on what grounds. Back when I was working, I always felt it unfair that smokers could wander off for a break while the rest of us kept working.

Displays Disappear

The latest stories coming from Asia is that all ten inch class computer displays have disappeared from the market. This is not only OLED, but also more traditional LCD. The story is that Apple pre-bought them all. If true, this would imply Apple seeing sales exceeding a million a quarter.

The story as it stands is obviously bullshit. You do not throw a random mix of display components into a new design. If Apple have bought up big, it will be the entire line from one or two specific manufacturers. This in turn makes demand keener from other manufacturers, leaving little for the spot market.

One much older rumour from Digitimes was Apple were designing for a 9.7 inch OLED display from LG Display, and also for a more traditional 10.6 inch TFT LCD display. An OLED in that size would not be cheap, however Apple have a half billion dollar pre-paid contract with LG Display. My gut feeling is the smaller OLED product (if it exists) will show a price somewhere around A$2000, unless there is a phone company subsidy. The Sony XEL-1 11 Inch OLED TV costs US$2499. There is little evidence LG have the production capacity to make such an OLED display, except in small quantities. Single thousands a month would be my guess, especially if LG go ahead with their 15 inch OLED TV set.

Google Docs

Google Docs web browser based office package has just had some serious upgrades announced. You will be able to upload any sort of document, and have it available in the original format. You can share entire folders, and do bulk uploads. For many people, as long as they have internet access, the Google word processor and spreadsheet can replace more traditional Microsoft Office packages, and it is free. There are also a lot of detail improvements, especially for drawing.

This improvement in drawing is not surprising, given the superb Google Sketch Up 3D modelling program is also available for free. The full version of the program is available for a fee, but the free version is very competent.

Google provides storage on the internet for your files. The first gigabyte is free. The price after that is 25c (US) per gigabyte per year. Pretty much any type of file can be stored. This includes Picasa web photo albums.

Wednesday 13 January 2010


I was up very late, and did not manage to start my morning walk around Carlyle Gardens until 6 a.m. The number of people on Carlyle Drive at that hour was astonishing, as we all took our morning walks.

My only trip outside Carlyle Gardens was dropping a box of surplus household goods off at the local St Vincent de Paul store. I also stopped at the IGA for eggs, so Jean could make banana bread.

During the day I ripped up more cardboard boxes. Who knew a double garage could hold so many old boxes? I asked Meryl for permission to put recycling into one of the surplus bins at one of the demonstration homes. Filled that bin, and filled my own. By the time the bins clearances are due next week, I can probably fill at least one recycling bin again.

During the evening Jean demonstrated her prowess on the Nintendo Wii Fit games. She had the Dell 24 inch monitor set up in the living room. She must have managed a lot of practice over the weekend.

A New Approach to China

Google report taking a new approach to China following cyber attacks on Google and other company servers. These cyber attacks appear to have originated in China. Google are now saying they will consider discontinuing filtering of Chinese search results. Google have censored Chinese search results, within China, since 2006.

Depending on the reaction of China, it is possible this will result in Google leaving China. Google have not been the dominant search engine in China, and their search engine share has been in decline. Some commentators speculate picking up their ball provides a way out of a country in which they think they will never make sufficient profit.

I note some people I know of routinely block all China originated internet traffic. Their claim is that they get too much spam and too many cyber attacks from China.

I've Got A Little List - Watch

The wrist watch is about to join the pocket watch as an obsolete tool. Sure, a wrist watch is convenient, but how many devices do you want to carry? Increasingly people are using their mobile phone as a timekeeper. This particularly applies to the young, who would not think of leaving home without a mobile phone.

What is left for the wrist watch? Jewellery and status symbols seems about it. Mobile phones are far better for any time keeping purpose. They set both time and time zone automatically. They incorporate timer, stop watch and lap timer functions. Their alarm systems are far more sophisticated. Most of all, it is easier to read the time on a big display.

Thursday 14 January 2010


Although I was at the computer early, I also had to leave early for my walk, since the sky was clear. The sun rises above the hills before 6 a.m., and I did not want to be walking while the sun was up. When I returned home I watered the garden, since Jean had said some of the plants looked like they needed it. I weeded for about ten minutes, which is about all my knees can take, especially of something I am not interested in. I also put the first load of laundry on before breakfast. Unfortunately modern washing machines seem to take forever to complete their cycle. Certainly over an hour and a half.

While I was putting out the laundry, ages later, Jean called me inside to mash up the bananas for the banana bread. Should have been cooked at a decent time for morning tea, except we forgot the cooling time. I took a large slab of banana cake over to reception so the folks there could have some. Took some cake to Penny and Allen in the bar. I had been going to bicycle over, but using the car seemed more sensible.

I did bicycle to lunch. Way more people than usual turned up, which must please Allen. I found that Leigh had not been offered her share of cake, so I hope she found wherever they had hidden it.

Computer Security

Security Reason point to a MacOS X 10.5/10.6 libc/strtod(3) buffer overflow vulnerability, for which a demonstration code exploit exists. As the Poles say in their fractured English, We can create any number of float, which will overwrite the memory. In Kmax has defined 15. Functions in dtoa, don't checks Kmax limit, and it is possible to call 16<= elements of freelist array.

What is annoying is that it looks like Apple have sat on the vulnerability for seven months without incorporating an array bounds check. On the other hand, if everything gets checked, the code slows down. The folks writing the DIY virus writer kits will have to take this a lot further if they want it to be self propagating, rather than a web site or email vulnerability.

Desktop Conversion

Turn your laptop into a desktop computer with a BookArc computer stand, it says. I have one of their BackPack stands for my iMac. However Twelve South are only one of many companies offering stands, at prices ranging from reasonable to absurd.

Or you can simply make your own stand, using as little as a wire coat hanger, or some wood, or subvert a kitchen cookbook holder. Or make a vertical laptop stand from Ikea menu holders.

Actually any recent laptop computer (except a netbook) has more than sufficient performance to act as a desktop system. They will all allow a second display monitor to be connected, either mirroring the existing display, or as an extension to the built in display. You can connect an external keyboard and mouse via USB. The better quality Dell monitors (ones with IPS instead of TFN displays) come with built in USB hubs and camera card slots, all accessed via a single USB connection.

Complications may come when you want the laptop display to be closed rather than open, and the computer to stand vertical rather than horizontal. You need to check that ventilation is not affected. You may also need to ensure sleep mode can still be used, but not switch off accidentally. Most computers can be set to stay running when closed, however if you then put the computer in a bag or container, you can potentially damage them due to heat building up. Apple MacBook models will only run with a closed display if external keyboard and mouse is used, and will revert to sleep if not. This protects you from heat buildup.

I've Got A Little List - Business Cards

Callings cards (also called a visiting card) came from China in the 15th Century, invaded European aristocracy in the 17th Century as a point of etiquette. The whole back and forth procedure rather lost its point when servants disappeared. Calling cards are now something you use to place cheap phone calls while travelling. Business cards, with full address details, overtook the calling card.

However these days when you get a business card, you type the details in your computer contact file. Why not just cut out all this old fashioned typing? Just beam your contact details from your PDA or phone to the other person. Worst case, send your business details as an email, and let their data detectors feed it into their contact list.

Friday 15 January 2010


Although I left late for my walk, I managed to get back by 6:31 a.m., which means 21 minutes for the walk around Carlyle Gardens. Unfortunately, I also managed to get a blister from the top of my sandals. It sometimes seems that the earlier I arise, the later I am getting away for my walk.

There was a scheduled electricity outage commencing at 8:30 a.m. It happened right on time, to our disgust. We went out to collect eggs, as planned. After returning to put them in the fridge we headed for the university, where the Mac Shop has disappeared. Then to Stocklands shopping centre, so Jean could get some passport photographs.

About 11:30 we went to the Carlyle Gardens restaurant, surprising several people there. Jean got through an entire fisherman's basket. We returned home at 1 p.m. to find the power was still off. Luckily the electricity came back on at around 1:10 p.m.

I modified my Optima glass desk, by removing the cross brace that was in the way of my legs. I drilled a bunch of new holes in the metal base, and moved the cross brace there. That got it out of the way, and made the base more stable. However it did not help stability of the desk surface. Looks like they had a reason for where they put the cross brace. Next step is drill a few more holes for a modified brace somewhat higher on the desk, out of my way. I sure wish I could just buy a desk that suits me. I am getting tired of making my own furniture, or modifying commercial stuff.

I've Got A Little List - Cheques

Jean unexpectedly received a tiny cheque, so she needed to deposit it somewhere. Normally we never go anywhere near a financial institution. Nor do we normally send or receive cheques. They are just so 19th Century. You can make most large payments via credit card or bank transfers. Small payments can be made with cash or via PayPal. I think it has been at least a year since I received a cheque for anything.

The only country that still seems wedded to checks is the United States. But they are so old fashioned that they still use Imperial measures, instead of the metric system every other country uses (well, O.K. Burma and Liberia as managed to avoid the metric system).

Costly Taxi Plates

Economics says prices rise when goods are scarce. Governments say they want public transport to be used more often. However NSW government annual taxi leases in Sydney are so expensive that no new taxis will be put on the roads. The price is A$28,600 a year, or $550 a week. This raises the price of existing taxi plates. It increase the cost of taxi fares. The way to bring sanity to taxi fares is to allow anyone who can pass a taxi licence examination to run a taxi service. However the NSW Taxi Council and Cabcharge paid the Labor Party $373,000 between 1999 and 2007. Not likely that the value of taxi plates will drop while bribes continue.

Saturday 16 January 2010


I took a much less active walk today, due to the blister on my toe. I dropped a collection of Whitsunday Times off at Neil's place. Got some nice photos of wallabies on a lawn with my iPhone camera, even if the low light of the early hour. However despite this lower walking pace, I was only two minutes slower than the previous day. Subjectively I would have thought I was sauntering at half the pace.

Jean and I drove to Willows to collect the newspapers and some food. I think Jean got in rather more walking than she had originally anticipated. We had breakfast on our return. Alas, my attempts to remove the stuck on grass or pine needle debris from the porch failed. I think I need to soften up the stuff thoroughly with heaps of water from a hose. Or get a decent scrubbing brush. However the prevailing temperatures did not encourage me to experiment further that morning, so I settled on blowing the loose leaves away into the lawn.

In the late afternoon I rode the bicycle to the bar for happy hour. Allen tells me he had over 170 people on Friday happy hour. That record sounded pretty good. Back home for dinner, possibly a little less stable on the bicycle. I also (finally) remembered to water the garden before watching the TV news.

I've Got A Little List - Remote Controls

Remote controls are a pain. Usually black buttons on a black background. A whole heap of buttons. Some totally unidentified, except in the manual that you lost while unpacking the gadget. Heaven help you if you try to do anything at all complicated using the remote control.

However the real problem with remote controls is you end up with a half dozen of them. Then the one you are searching for apparently runs off to Bolivia, and is not seen again until you move the couch.

The solution is to replace the remote control with something you ten to keep with you. Something you do not often lose. Something with a decent display. Sure, gadgets like a TV show the results of using the remote. Your sound system does not. The obvious replacement for the remote control is your mobile phone. It is the all in one electronic equivalent of a Swiss army knife.

Apple WiFi

I could not connect my mini to the wireless network for some unknown reason. I had trouble the previous day. Nor could I find my network in Keychain Access. It was as if I had never had a network connected. The problem did not appear to be the Belkin router, as other devices connected. I eventually powered down the Mac mini, something uncalled for on my other Macintosh. This seemed to get everything working, however I do not like outages that have no apparent cause.

I read through the console logs. The change of hostname to local:mini may be implicated. The improper shutdown when the power went out probably did not help, but was not the cause. This problem occurs when emerging from Sleep. When coming out of Sleep, the mDNSResponder is listing frequent transitions of the en1 interface. This was followed by airportd[981] Apple80211Associate() failed -3905 (Timeout). Hence the timeouts when trying to join the gnome1 network. So it is like the hardware interface to the WiFi did not reinitialise correctly when emerging from sleep.

I also notice in the error logs that my final version Smultron text editor is having malloc problems. Smultron is no longer supported by the author, but the source code is available. I really need to find another decent text editor for writing web pages. The prospect of trying to find the memory error and recompiling the Smultron code does not appeal to me one little bit.

Cheap Energy for Sale

Low cost energy is the international trade advantage of Australia. Sure, stable government helps. Cheap coal exports ships the energy out directly. However low cost electrical energy to process mine products is what makes aluminium production feasible.

An effective emissions trading scheme would add at least 60% to energy costs, on top of existing State increases that may double wholesale electricity prices by 2015. The States will blame Canberra for the increases. Will that reduce electricity use? I doubt it. Every existing study I have seen shows electricity demand is inelastic. People grumble, but they pay more rather than reducing use.

The government demand for 20% (at present 9%) of Australian electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020 means about a seventh of our electricity must come from unreliable high cost wind farms (there are not many hydroelectric sites in a flat country with water shortages). So this 20% figure has been rorted. Rooftop photovoltaic panels are allowed five times the (market tradable) renewable energy certificates their output justifies by Labor. Look at the Coalition idiocy of considering coal fired heat pump hot water systems and solar hot water as power generators. Hint. This is bullshit.

Uncertainty means power stations will not be built to match population increases. Who would dare build a coal fired power station now? However nothing else can compete on cost. Fast start gas plants can charge premium prices during periods of critical shortages, but the economics of that are not convincing. Only the shortage of peak load power stations is convincing. The overloaded electricity supply will become far less reliable.

Sooner of later International Power will shut down Hazelwood (filthiest brown coal power station in Victoria) in a period of peak demand. Just to show that you can not get along without them. Watch your neighbours start installing diesel generators in their garages. Tell me again how much greenhouse gas emissions an emissions trading scheme will reduce?

Sunday 17 January 2010


Took a gentle walk before the sun rose over the hill. Had to return to the house to put a bandaid on my cut toe before I could continue. Listened to the gentle sizzling of dew on the high tension power lines. Saw an ibis in flight, all long beak and feet sticking out the back, looking like some absurd cartoon dart. On the way back, I saw a peewee catch an insect in flight.

Continued with organising photos both from the iPhone and camera. Takes a bit of work to label them all. I don't want to even think about getting Faces to identify the people. Nor have I started using Places for localisation.

Around 4 p.m. I started peeling onions and chopping garlic for the spaghetti sauce I was making. Then while the meat was browning I started drinking red wine. I hope I can find enough lids for everything. We seem to have one lid that is just plain wrong for the large pot.

I had been intending to format my apa mailing comments after completing writing them in the evening, however it turned out I did not have iWorks on the new Mac mini. This was correct, but I had forgotten it would not have been transferred. I installed Apple iWorks from the CD, as I have an Apple Family Pack licence for up to five computers. That way I can get the updates in the morning.

I've Got A Little List - Bookshops

Bookshops were a lost cause once Amazon became popular. Each book is an identical commodity. If one shop does not have the book you want, you can try the next shop. However no physical bookshop can carry the vast range of books in print. That takes a big book distributor. If you have to wait for a book anyhow, you may just as well order over the internet for delivery by mail.

We are seeing the disappearance of the small bookshop in most cities and towns. The franchise chain bookstore will be the next to go. Many of these are already having financial problems. Look at Borders bookshop decline in Australia and elsewhere.

Free is Irrelevant To Markets

Free is irrelevant to markets. The best things in life may be free, but if free, then they are not scarce. Things we value highly may well be free. The air we breath, for example. Markets deal only in scarce resources. If a neighbour asks for a glass of water, do you even consider the cost? At around $1 a thousand litres, of course not.

Many things that were formerly scarce are now common. Clothing, cookware, electronic devices. When we replace them, we often simply give them away. The cost of the time to try to sell them is not worth the effort. Easier to donate to a charity.

Monday 18 January 2010


The folks installing our awnings arrived in the morning, as promised. The weather had been overcast when I took my morning walk, however by 9 a.m. the sky was clear and the sun was scorching. The weather forecast was for something like 340C, and over 80% humidity. The guys from Townsville Blinds and Awnings who work in the tropical sun sure earn their money. They did not complete the installation until after 2 p.m.

I've Got A Little List - Books

When converting masses of trees into paper starts sounding both wasteful and ecologically unsound, ebooks can replace most paper books. Reluctantly for most people, however the economics of this should be convincing to anyone who has moved a library of paper books. Transmitting the content of a book is simply cheaper and easier than a heap of paper.

Just watching a child walk to school carrying a backpack half their size should be sufficient to convince anyone that paper books must disappear in scholastic areas for health reasons if no other. With every child in school being provided with a computer, just what is the merit of persisting in carrying around antiquated books?


Left a little late for my walk around Carlyle Gardens. By the time I got back, the humidity was high. Even if the early morning, the temperature went up rapidly once the clouds dispersed. I downloaded various software updates, including the iWork updates.

The awning folks arrived at 9 a.m. and got to work installing the awnings. Christine from the sales office dropped over to borrow a hose for cleaning the entry of one of the new homes. I offered her a loan of the air broom as well. I think they liked it.

I managed to get my mailing comments ready to go for all three apa mailings. Now, if I were only not so lazy about setting up the printers for ease of access.

Abolish Political Donations

Abolishing political donations from companies and organisations would eliminate the suggestion of bribing political parties. It may encourage politicians to consider the electorate rather than their funding base. However political parties have had their snouts in the trough so long they can not survive without donations. The global financial crisis knocked donations to all parties. Plus State Labor governments are so on the nose that donations to them would be lower anyhow. The Coalition got kicked pretty well by the union funded advertising campaign against them. So for a brief moment, both major sides of politics are seeking another trough.

An increase in taxpayer funding appeals. Canada heavily restricted donations. It tipped influence away from corporations and unions. The negatives are that single issue parties without a big donation base, like the Greens, would do much better financially than now. Plus taxpayer funding of anything to do with politics is vulnerable to a populist campaign against it. Reform amounts to propping up political parties with tax money. Why do I keep thinking lose - lose, instead of win - win?

Tuesday 19 January 2010


After my walk I watered the garden and only then read the news. Jean returned a Bluetooth mouse I had loaned her. She did not like the way an Apple Mouse handles right clicks. We had to be ready to drive to the car dealer so Jean's Subaru could get its regular service. There was a traffic jam, probably one broken down car we saw later. However rushing did not help, because neither Spotlight nor Harvey Norman opened until 9 a.m. At least Jean was able to find a Logitech Bluetooth mouse at Harvey Norman. We had a little wait for the car service folks to accept the Subaru. Another little wait for the taxi home, in yet another Toyota Prius. Very popular with Townsville taxi drivers, and surprisingly spacious.


I wasted a lot of the evening setting geographical locations on some of my 22,186 photos. I got most of the Airlie Beach and Carlyle Gardens photos done. The default iPhoto geolocation area is suburb wide. They have some pretty weird ideas of where suburbs are, hence I had to do custom areas. The Places feature in iPhoto is very obviously first generation. It needs a lot of extra work.

Geolocation is very early days for most people who are not GPS enthusiasts. It is already very obvious that geolocation is going to be an enormous advertising feature. That is one reason I always geolocate my area specific web pages. One reason I have not used many photographs to my web pages is that so far I have not added exif metadata information to provide their latitude and longitude. I started looking for cameras that included GPS and exif data about a decade ago. The camera makers still seem to have their heads in the sands. However mobile phone cameras are increasingly including this data.

Twitter Dead Again

I notice that for the past week or so Twitter has been effectively unusable. Either too slow to load, or simply incapable of loading their entire page front page, let alone completing a login. Sometimes after a login there is a note that Twitter is not available for technical reasons. This is the problem with Internet based services, and why I would never rely upon them for anything important. Sometimes the cloud evaporates.

Wednesday 20 January 2010


After my walk in the steaming humidity, I made a couple of files into PDFs for making printing masters. Weeded the garden, for very small values of weeding. The weeds are winning, especially in summer. Started the washing machine for a load of laundry, despite the weather forecast. The following days will be even more likely to have rain. While hanging out the clothes, discovered I had managed to launder my pen. Do'h!

I dropped more cardboard recycling in the bin next to Nellie's place. Just about full, so I took it down the driveway. Our recycling bin is just about full, but that is now a lot of the boxes we used while moving.

We closed up the house around 9 a.m. and turned on the air conditioners. Nothing like dropping the humidity from 70% or higher down to 40%.

I've Got A Little List - Libraries

When you can access any library from the internet, just how many libraries do you need? What if you want to borrow a book? If books are all electronic, you do not need the physical store of them. Can libraries reinvent themselves as something other than a repository of books? Lots of smart librarians out there, but I think they will find it a battle to stay relevant.

Wireless Networking

I want to extend my wireless networking on a more permanent basis. Now I have a shelf framework and printer shelf in one of the closets, I have a space for the printer and other gadgets. So I swapped two lines in the Hills Home Hub to provide an Ethernet link to the RJ45 wall connector closest to the closet.

Apple Interface Training

Apple know computer users do not want change. So over the past few years they have trained users to accept major changes in the computer interface. These changes will be almost as far ranging as the move from the command line to WIMP (window, icon, menu, pointing device).

Mike Elgan in Computerworld points to How Apple is training you for the future.

Apple are replacing physical keyboards with virtual keyboards. Look at their tiny Bluetooth wireless keyboards. Look at how they refuse to supply a physical keyboard for the Apple iPhone. Indeed, they block efforts to use a Bluetooth keyboard on iPhone, even though it could easily be implemented. They even sell the Mac mini without a keyboard.

Apple essentially killed off the floppy disk drive. Then they started killing off the CD optical drive via iTunes Store. They refuse to add a Blu-Ray drive. The MacBook Air even lacks a DVD. Apple are trying to kill off physical media. They want you to download media over the internet.

Downloads include all your applications. With App Store, they have a central internet distribution point that is not nearly as susceptible to malware and virus attacks. Plus it even turns a profit.

The interface on Apple computers is moving more and more towards touch support, and away from traditional file systems. CoverFlow visual navigation in Finder and iTunes. QuickLook instant previews of documents and files. Dock interaction changes, including Expose. The resizable virtual keyboard in the Accessibility Preference pane. The new Magic Mouse gestures, and how it interacts with iPhoto and other applications.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Consumption Bias

There is a deep seated bias in favour of consumption in greenhouse gas emission measurements. If China produces clothes, and exports them to Britain, China's emissions increase, whereas British emissions are limited to transporting the clothes from dock to shop. If Australia exports aluminium, our emissions are increased by the mining and the refining. The consumer of the aluminium gets a free ride. If Australia exports sheep or wheat or rice, our emissions rise, those of the consuming nation do not. The difference is billions of tonnes of emissions a year.

Essentially, any sort of emissions trading scheme benefits consumers, and penalises producers and manufacturers. Developed Western nations with mostly service economies, like the USA and Europe, are the beneficiaries. Producer nations like Australia and China are penalised, and counted as high emission countries. Emissions should be accounted for at the consumption level, not at the production level. The present figures mostly penalise the developing world.

I've Got A Little List - Christmas Presents

Christmas presents should be eliminated, as they are bad economics. The incremental retail sales figures for December are about A$5 billion higher than November or January (Waldfogel claims this a valid method). His standard economic analysis is that the average value of presents to the recipient is 82% of the cost of the present. So the lost value of Christmas presents is around A$1 billion. Or about A$50 per person. The obvious solution for people you do not know well is to give money or gift cards.


When I set out on my walk early this morning I saw a full half dozen plumed whistling-ducks paddling in Carlyle Creek below the bridge. They were there (on the other side of the bridge) when I returned from my walk. Disappeared by the time I got there with a camera, hoping the sun was up enough to let me get a photo. Stalled at photographs, I watered the garden. It was so hot during the day that I watered the garden again in the evening.

We went shopping at Willows for food. An interesting range of products do not seem to be available at one or another of the major food stores. Between the two we got most of what was on our list.

Jean decided that she would have lunch at the restaurant. That was a surprise. Driving to the restaurant through the heat was not a surprise. We had a nice chat with Geoff and Margaret, who were organising the auditorium for a group due on Friday.

Phone and Internet Fails

Our internet connection went out of action around 4 p.m. We were not paying a lot of attention to it. We had the WiFi connection to the ADSL modem, but nothing to the outside world. When Jean checked the landline phone, there was no dial tone.

We disconnected the ADSL filter, and checked the Hills Home Hub inward lines with another landline phone. Still no dial tone anywhere. Our next door neighbour still had dial tone, so the fault did not seem general. Jean used her mobile to complain to Telstra Faults. Did not take her long to get through to them. Telstra say they will contact us within 24 hours. It would be nice if they fix the phone line within 24 hours, without losing our internet connection.

Friday 22 January 2010


I was awake at 3:30 a.m. so I continued to organise my electronic books, in advance of suitable readers. Many of the books were not labelled all that well, so there could be confusion as to the author. I had reached S in the science fiction the previous evening, so I completed the science fiction. Next I want to integrate the PDF books. PDF is a poor choice for eBooks, as it does not adapt as well to different display sizes. Alas, in some cases, all I have available is a PDF.

Went for a walk as usual around 6 a.m. As I crossed the bridge I found a flock of around a dozen plumed whistling-ducks wading in Carlyle Creek. I returned with my 10X zoom camera, and took some photos.

Despite not having breakfast, I rode my bicycle to the auditorium to see what Geoff was doing to run the sound and video systems. We later had a bit of an issue with the DVD. We could not see the big screen well enough to tell where the little indicator was, so we did not know which chapter was selected. Had to walk down the front of the auditorium and peer at the screen. Maybe we need to look at a monitor in the control box?

I returned to the bar on my bicycle for happy hour, but did not stay for dinner. The exercise would have worked better had I not bent the elbow.

I've Got A Little List - Bookcases

The decline of paper books sales will surely see a decline in bookcases, and an even greater decline in bookcase manufacturers. If you have an ebook, you may decide you do not need to store a paper version of a book you may never re-read. There are a limit to the number of knick knacks you would want to display in formerly full bookcases. With homes having thousands of books stored in solid state memory, there will be a glut of bookcases in second hand stores around the country.

Phone and Internet Fails

I had just made myself a six fruit bowl of Weetbix and added the milk when a Telstra serviceman arrived in a BigPond van. Put the breakfast in the fridge. The Hills Home Hub junction box was showing a short, not an open circuit. But why? We finally found two, seemingly unrelated, lines could cause the problem. However two separate problems at once? Seemed unlikely to all of us. The only thing I can think is that lines that were normally phone had an Ethernet connection. However I had mapped all the lines in the house long ago specifically to avoid that problem. Trouble is, I can no longer find the sheet on which I entered the data. So a mistake (on my part) must logically be the cause. I will have to repeat the mapping.

I have to give Telstra top marks for their servicemen and technical help. The technician had done a fibre optic course last year, and was interested in what had been installed by Prime Trust. He thought fibre optics was overkill. On the other hand, it helped sell us on the idea of living here.

Saturday 23 January 2010


After I returned from my morning walk we started the laundry, despite the weather reports. No real sign of major change, although there were clouds cutting don the daytime heat. We did some minor shopping at Willows, but that was mostly so Jean could take a walk and I could get newspapers. For some reason they do not seem to have the weekend Financial Review. No sign in Sams of the stuff I was seeking, like the Z desk with wheels. We did however buy a new bird identification book, and identified my duck photos.

I watered the plants in the garden, since I still did not believe that rain was certain, even with a potential tropical cyclone approaching the general area north of us.

Macintosh Appreciation

A nice piece of flame bait from one of my favourite science fiction authors, Charles Stross, about why he uses an Apple MacBook Air. Anyone would think he was a little opinionated. Maybe even what he claims, a Unix bigot. Boy he got a heap of comments about his post.

I've Got A Little List - Handbags

Women's handbags had become bigger and bigger and heavier and heavier as music players and large mobile phones were added to diaries and even laptops. If a single smartphone can replace a dumb phone, and replace a music player, and include your diary, ladies may try smaller handbags. U.K. department store Debenhams claimed its research showed the average weight of a women's handbag had dropped to 1.5kg in the past two years, a decrease of 57%.

Sunday 24 January 2010


When I took my morning walk I noticed that the ducks were back. At eight we went off to Willows. Still no copy of the Financial Review in the news agency. However we had forgotten the Sunday Willows Markets were on. Jean found macadamias and bananas. I bought a big bottle of honey from the people who supply Carlyle Gardens. We inspected various plants and succulents. I am not confident about which ones I want. Asking for some plant invulnerable to neglect does not work. Also I forgot to ask whether anyone was selling Blue Eyes, which I want for the garden to thicken the ground cover with something attractive. We did get the Financial Review at the Sunland newsagent on the way home.

This time cooking the lamb roast for lunch worked far better. I used a fan forced oven set at about 2250C for the first 20 minutes. We also thoroughly wiped the vegetables with cooking oil before putting them in the baking dish. This combination gave the potatoes the golden crusted look I wanted. I guess we will get used to the fancy stove eventually.


I integrated the various PDF books into my eBook collection. This was mostly straightening up author and titles, that had been neglected for ages. Alas, the Baen Books Free Library CD I had was already integrated into these. The much newer version in one of my hardcover books had a cracked CD, so if there was something valuable to me on it, I can not get at it. Putting CDs into books is sort of risky, in terms of survival. I have bought two hardcovers where the CD tempted me, and both have been broken (cracked in two).

Monday 25 January 2010


We started getting a fair bit of rain early during the day, aftermath of the low that formed off the northern coast and inland past Cairns after Tropical Cyclone Olga stopped being a cyclone threat. Now we will have flooding in various rivers. I just hope the water piled up along the eastern side of our house drains away quickly.

I got enough fixes into Pete's web site to justify sending him the revised cascading style sheet, along with a lengthy email explaining some of what his web master needs to do. Fixed the fluid design, for small values of fixed. Background images in divs just do not work well on fluid sites. You have to be really sneaky.

I snuck to the restaurant between showers for lunch. The two small yellow rubber ducks were floating on the bowling green, which was full of water. The centre of Carlyle Square was afloat. Leigh said they improved the drainage each year. However this is a real flat area. We have a significant amount of water banking up against the eastern side of the house. I may try syphoning some of it away tomorrow, if the rain ceases.

Baen eBook

Tried to get an account on the Baen science fiction books site, since that seemed a pre-requisite to buying some more eBooks. However I never seemed to manage to log in. Also the Baen's bar area of the site was basically way too slow to actually use for anything. It timed out on a couple of my attempts. Something is killing the web site. Maybe everyone is thinking of trying to source eBooks in advance of the rumoured Apple slate announcement.

Blog Appearance

In case anyone has not figured it out, I will mention that this blog is the place where I do experiments with web pages. One of these experiments is running a web site using XHTML Strict, but actually serving XHTML correctly (unlike almost every other web site pretending to use XHTML). That is the reason you can not view it with Internet Explorer (no point trying advanced methods on a village idiot).

The changes this time are a different method (column-width) of doing the adjustable multi column layout. Change your page width, or your font size. It all adjusts dynamically. Looks like this works fine, so I will probably retire the previous column-count method. I basically think I misunderstood how best to use that. I will also be able to retire part of the media queries method I previously used to adjust widths. These changes work best on WebKit based web browsers (Apple Safari and Google Chrome). They also work fine on Gecko based browsers like Mozilla Firefox. Unfortunately Presto based Opera does not include support of such CSS3 experiments.

Another change (not very good so far) was doing shiny buttons on the headers, using a gradient fill instead of a graphic. Looks like that works best with bold colours. Only recent versions of Web-Kit understand gradient fills. Other browsers will ignore that experiment, as required under CSS specifications.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Australia Day

I got rained on when I tried to take my morning walk, so I soon retreated inside. Now grumping about being confined to the house playing with the computer. The Carlyle Creek is certainly running fairly well in the area under the bridge. Had bacon and eggs, but no way were we going to bring out a BBQ to do them.

Jean was muttering about making some ANZAC biscuits for Australia Day. This despite realising it is a really bad idea, since we will just eat newly baked biscuits at a diet threatening pace. I tried to help by buying lamingtons at Brumbys when we went shopping for milk. My idea was the coconut that fell off the lamingtons into the bag would be sufficient coconut for making ANZAC biscuits.

Rain continued throughout the day. The weather folks say 95% humidity at 3 p.m. The eastern side of our house is sitting soaking up water. Jean and I are looking at potential solutions, but draining the water away in such a flat area is a bit of a problem. We will check out flexible piping.

We had tickets for the Social Club pie and mushy peas evening. However that is not food Jean likes, and with the rain, I decided not to attend either. We had spaghetti sauce instead. Not all that much like an Australia Day menu.


I finally managed, after long delays, to log in to Baen's Bar. This was after a day of failing to manage a log in. Unfortunately that part of the Baen books web site runs too slow to use for anything. I could not even log out without the web site disappearing. Joining this thing is part of my moves to ensure a source of ebooks for use with a future tablet device. Otherwise I would not persist. Web sites that cause me problems usually just get banished.

Internet Blackout

I am participating in the protests against attempts to censor the internet, with the Great Firewall of Australia. See the Great Australian Internet Blackout for details of how your website can support protests against Labor Senator Stephen Conroy's attempt to censor the Internet. This is particularly annoying when censorship of the internet does not work. For details of how to bypass web censorship, ask any computer aware teenager. If they do not know, their mates will.

Apple Financial Report

Apple financial report was released today, and attracted the usual rantings from some so called analysts. If interested in this, I suggest reading the accounts (shrouded in the usual Apple secrecy) on the Apple investors web site, which includes a full audio podcast of the earnings call. Seeking Alpha have a full (10 page) Apple earnings call transcript available online.

Wednesday 27 January 2010


All the little solar lights in the front garden have died. I hope that is flat batteries because of clouds, and not because the rain got to them. The solar hot water system is also starting to run out of hot water.

Ex tropical cyclone Olga is now expected to reform over the gulf. I checked the weather radar, and decided not to take a walk. The rain fell a few minutes later. The wallaby in the garden, eating the flowers, did not like it. Too bad Skippy.

The sun came out before 9 a.m. I pulled a few weeds from the garden. I hope the sun stays out for long enough to regenerate the entire contents of the hot water tank, but that seems unlikely. However just bursts of sunshine through the day help a lot.

So much for sunshine. Light rain when I went to lunch. More rain as I returned home. By mid afternoon there was steady, heavy rain. This weather is getting depressing.

Water, Water Everywhere

With water piling up along both sides of the house, I went for a walk in the rain, along with our neighbours at Carlyle Gardens. There is certainly a heap of water not moving away all that well. There is water piling up behind the last few houses in the street.

One badly sited house is within two centimetres of getting water inside. If the water gets much worse, that house at Carlyle Gardens will flood. We cleared leaf and grass debris from some of the drain gates around houses. This helped the water drain quicker.

It is simply a lake between several of the houses. The policy of not connecting downspouts to some sort of water dispersal system is totally failing. If we had absorbent soils it might be different, but there is only 15 cm of mud over a clay cap. The rain water has no place to go, especially with the landscaping not directing the water away from homes.

Carlyle Creek is rising rapidly. The storm water outlets leading into it are already under water. One of the street drains was not really coping for a while there. The worrying thing is that this is really not an exceedingly heavy downpour. My guess is less than 300 mm in the week.

I think we came very close to having several homes flooded. If the rain had continued, I can not see anything that would have prevented flooding at Carlyle Gardens.

Apple Takes Tablet

Rather than speculate on what it is that will be released by Apple tomorrow, I refer to this Engadget complete history of the Apple tablet. This nicely covers just about all the rumours of an Apple tablet computer, dating back to about 2004. Surely somewhere in there someone has covered everything about it. Sort of like firing a shotgun; bound to hit something.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Carlton Theatre

A meeting to form a committee to improve facilities at the Carlton Theatre. My impression was the auditorium was originally sort of looked after by the restaurant operators. When Prime Trust gave up running the restaurant and bar last year, they were going to close. Luckily the lease was taken up as a commercial operation. However no-one really wanted the auditorium.

Consequently, Carlton Theatre sort of became lost in a no-mans-land. A very handy facility for residents, but also costing money to operate, with no-one really looking after it. Especially for cleaning, which has been inadequate for ages. With a reduced vote for cleaning costs last year, this will simply get worse. While groups using the Carlton Theatre generally make splendid efforts to clean up, they typically lack specialist cleaning supplies for such a large floor and carpet area. Hence the forming of a committee to look after the Carlton Theatre, and encourage more use of it for the benefit of residents.

Apple Event

Apple announced the long awaited iPad at 4 a.m. my time. First I read the Gizmodo liveblog from the event. Usual beard to baldness ratio. They blogged for six pages (and two hours) about waiting around outside, and in the queue, and listening to the live Dylan concert feed.

Steve Jobs on stage, still thin. 250 million iPods sold. 284 retail stores, 50 million visitors. 140,000 iPod and iPhone applications. 50 billion turnover. First commercially successful GUI computer, Apple Macintosh, 1984. First laptop with TFT display, raised keyboard, and a pointing device, Apple Powerbook of 1991. Three years ago, the iPhone. Need something better that laptops or phones for common consumer tasks, like web browsing, email, photos, video, music, games ebooks. Netbooks are not better, they are just cheaper and worse than notebooks.

Apple iPad

Looks like a ten inch iPhone. Tray at bottom, like OS X dock, iPhone like application icons. Accelerometer, so display adapts to orientation, like iPhone. Virtual keyboard pops up, almost full size. Photo handling looks like iPhoto events, faces and places, syncing with Mac and Windows via USB cable. Email like iPhone. Music player like a hybrid of iPhone and iTunes. Google maps. Calendar more like a datebook than iCal. Can watch HD YouTube, TV and movies. Display looks like 4:3 ratio, not 16:9.

iBooks, and an iBook store with Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette. Bookshelf looks a lot like Delicious Library. Books use open ePub format. Seems to work very much like Eucalyptus reader. However iBooks are only available in the USA.

New version of iWorks is available, rewritten for iPad. Keynote, Pages and Numbers, at US$9.99 each. Sounds like you could get real work done using it, at a consumer level.

Display is 9.7 inch IPS (not TFT) with an LED backlight. Who ever heard of an IPS display in a consumer laptop? I pay top dollar for IPS in my monitors. Half inch thick, weighs 1.5 pound. Custom ARM based silicon called the A4, 1 GHz, 16, 32 or 64 GB flash memory, 802.11bgn WiFi, and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR. Accelerometer, compass, speaker, microphone, dock connector, 10 hour battery with over a month on standby, capacitance multitouch display.

Runs most iPhone applications either at same size in a black box, or pixel doubled. So the display sounds like it must exceed 960 x 640. New SDK out today for developers. New York Times application.

iPad Wireless Data

There will be models with 3G built in. USA wireless data plans are prepaid by the month with AT&T. US$15 for 250 MB, or US$30 for unlimited (for small values of unlimited). All models are unlocked, and use a GSM 3FF micro SIM (smaller than regular phone SIM), so you can not use your existing iPhone SIM.

Starting price, US$499. An extra US$100 each time you double the memory. An extra US$130 for the GSM and 3G data connection models. US$599 or US$729, US$699 or US$829. Shipping in 60 days. Not being announced on international stores. My iPhone cost more than this.

What does it lack? There is no camera, so no iChat style stuff (I never found anyone to chat with). You can use the Apple camera connection kit to connect to a camera. No application multitasking. No windows on screen. No phone capability. There is an optional keyboard dock available. Looks rather dorky to me. You can also get a standalone dock without the keyboard. However it is said to work with the Apple Wireless keyboard.

iPad Specifications

Size is 243mm by 190mm by 13.4mm. Weight with 3G is .73 kilograms. 9.7 inch LED backlit IPS glossy 1024 x 768 pixel display with oleophobic coating (132 pixels per inch). 1GHz Apple ARM based A4 system on a chip. Sensors include accelerometer, ambient light sensor. Assisted GPS in 3G models. UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM/EDGE (850, 900,1800, 1900 MHz), so if using an off brand mobile phone service, check their available specifications (in Australia, Telstra is OK, the rest are not in country areas). Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology. 25 WH lithium polymer battery. Charge using 10 Watt power adaptor or via USB to computer system. Dock connector, stereo headphone socket. Video out 1024 x 768 with Dock Connector to VGA adapter, for projectors. 576p and 480p with Apple Composite A/V Cable (I think they mean component). Built in speakers, and microphone.

iBooks and ePub

Who uses the open ePub ebook standard, apart from the new Apple iPad? Barnes and Noble bookshop and Nook reader, BeBook reader, Project Gutenberg books, Hachette Book Group, iRex and iLiad reader. Sony reader and Sony Reader store,

O'Reilly eBooks uses ePub and you can also extract the ePub from a iPhone book app from O'Reilly. They have a ePub resources and guides page that seems comprehensive.

ePub is three specifications. The Open Publication Structure 2.0 (OPS) is an XML-based standard for authoring digital publications. Web-standard formats such as XHTML make up the core of OPS. OPS files can be created using a wide variety of Web and eBook publishing tools. OPS is a reflowable format which will reflow according to screen size. The OPS Container Format 1.0 (OCF) is a zip-based standard used to encapsulate publication components for transport and delivery. OCF files can also be created using standard ZIP applications. There is no cost, expense or fee associated with the use of the OPS or OCF specifications. The specifications are based on open and public-domain specifications such as XML, XHTML, CSS, Unicode, DTBook, OASIS’ Open Document Format and others.

Finding out more about ePub ebooks, or read ePub specifications. Online HTML to ePub converter. Lexcycle Stanza desktop ePub converter. Open source Calibre eBook management and conversion. Calibre FAQ and manual. Validate ePub book.

Making ePub eBooks

The content of an ePub is written in OPS. This is XHTML 1.1, which is a Strict XML format that removes deprecated elements from XHTML 1. It is styled with CSS. It can include JPEG and PNG images. Multiple XHTML files can be included. Hard coded links to other files can be included. It is contained in OCF. It is basically an XHTML web site packed into a single file by zipping it. An OPF ePub may include a separate Document Organisation Template (DOT) that lists, organises and links the content files using the OPF Spine element.

Friday 29 January 2010


Went for my first walk in ages this morning. The rain held off actually falling, so I reached home again without getting wet. Very overcast, so I am glad we switched power on to the hot water service.

Display Resolutions

Computers with displays initially appeared with resolution as low as 24 character on 12 lines. Back then, they did not actually do graphics, only text characters. In pixel terms, around 320 x 240, or composite TV standard. Back then, all TV used a 4:3 aspect ratio. Actual computer monitors, when they appeared, were 640 x 480 for a long while. Most of us moving from an old TV set really appreciated the improvement.

The Apple iPhone was launched with 480 x 320 pixel resolution. The screen presents 163 pixels per inch, which is a fair contrast to the 70 to 90 pixels per inch many computers have used until recently. The aspect ratio is 3:2, whereas wide screen computers are now mostly 16:10 or 16:9, which is a pretty idiot ratio for business and application use. It probably suits movies slightly better.

For example, the AppleTV video outputs (which with HDMI and Component are obviously intended only for your TV) are in 16:9 aspect ration. The two largest sizes are 1280 by 720 pixels and 960 by 540 pixels (a quarter of 1920 by 1080 FullHD). Obviously this is not intended to compete with Blu-Ray disks. It is intended to appear as good as or better than a DVD, while still being sufficiently small for downloading. See for example the Apple iTunes LP and iTunes Extras developer guidelines, especially if producing your own video.

The new Apple iPad at 1024 x 768 pixels resolution and 135 pixels per inch has a 4:3 aspect ratio. It is intended for vertical use, like A4 paper. The Metric paper system has a scaled aspect ratio of 1:√2 or approximately 5:7. The Apple iPad aspect ratio is not the same as an iPhone. It is however the same aspect ratio as two iPhones set horizontally (3:2 + 3:2 = 4:3). It is obviously not intended primarily for viewing movies.

Cloud Computing Speeds

I started a large video download this morning, soon after I arose at 5:20 a.m. It was the Apple 1.05 GB podcast of their iPad keynote. At 8:10 when we left to go shopping, the download was still showing over 200 MB to go, and a 25 minute estimate to completion. So my ADSL downloads are slower than realtime. See why I never bother with realtime feeds? When the internet connection is always too slow, cloud computing just does not make much sense.

Saturday 30 January 2010


Another rainy day, as Tropical Cyclone Olga reforms over the gulf. Looks like we are in for a real wet season. Sure unlikely to be a problem with lack of water in the north. Too wet for me to tale my morning walk. I also doubt we will manage any laundry again this week. I dropped over to see Geoff and Margaret to sign the minutes of the Carlton Theatre committee meeting. At Sunland I got the newspapers and some food shopping, which included spicy Italian sausage for me.

Then to the hardware store to check drainage pipes. They have the fancy (expensive) permanent drains Mark used around Carlyle Square. They also had flexible pipe, and square drains, more suited to temporary drainage. They also stocked trenching shovels. I will have to see about doing something about the water piling up along the house wall, as brick just does not keep water out.

How To Present News

I never wanted to be a news presenter on TV, but apparently it is a popular job. Luckily, this two minute clip on You Tube explains exactly how you too can learn to present the TV news, any news. Just watch it and learn exactly how to present any news story the easy, modern way.

Power Outage

The electricity failed this Saturday evening, just after Jean had dinner, at 7:45 p.m. This is the second time it went out today, and the second time my Mac mini has been subject to a power outage today. It seems that my UPS the Mac mini is connected to has given up working.

The hours passed, and still no electricity. Heavy winds from Olga, and extensive rainfall, were to blame. Plus Saturday evening is not a good time to find Ergon electricity workers in the field, despite their best efforts. The UPS holding up the ADSL modem and router kept working very well, for around 3 hours. So we were able to continue operating with our laptops on the internet until we went to bed. My MacBook Air worked from 7:45 to 11:15, but battery power was getting seriously low by then, with only 50 minutes still available. Since I did not want to shutdown, I put the MacBook Air to sleep then. The mains power was still not connected.

Sunday 31 January 2010

Power Outage

The electricity is still not working this morning. The 4 a.m. message on the Ergon electricity faults number listed lots of areas with problems. I assume that Bohle Plains cover us. Sounds like their crews can not continue until they have morning light. The 8:30 a.m. message had some areas off the list, and advised all their crews were working at fault finding.

Several of our neighbours started running their camping generators, to keep the content of the fridges from spoiling. Special kudos to Honda generators, that can barely be heard from our front door. I love the smell of gasoline in the morning.

We decided to visit Willows for breakfast. Coffee Club was acceptable. No, actually, it was rather nice. Next we went to OfficeWorks, where I got my printing copied, and Jean bought purple file boxes. We also visited Jaycar, and got a couple of UPS. And a FlyGun. I will be a terror in the restaurant.

Multiple iPod or iPhones

I think the first thing you would need to do to use an iPad is to change the way you use iTunes: How to share music between different accounts on a single computer. Plus you will probably have multiple devices sharing your computer. How to use multiple iPods with one computer.

Formalised Support for Handling Documents and Files

To support the ability to create productivity applications, iPhone OS 3.2 includes several new features aimed at support the creation and handling of documents and files:

Applications can now register themselves as being able to open specific types of files. This support allows applications that do need to work with files (such as email programs) the ability to pass those files to other applications.

The UIKit framework now provides the UIDocumentInteractionController class for interacting with files of unknown types. You can use this class to preview files, copy their contents to the pasteboard, or pass them to another application for opening.

Applications with the UIFileSharingEnabled key in their Info.plist file can share files with the user’s desktop computer. A connected iPad device shows up on the user’s desktop and contains subdirectories for all applications that share files. The user can transfer files in and out of this directory.

Of course, it is important to remember that although you can manipulate files in your iPad applications, files should never be a focal part of your application. There are no open and save panels in iPhone OS for a very good reason. The save panel in particular implies that it is the user’s responsibility to save all data, but this is not the model that iPhone applications should ever use. Instead, applications should save data incrementally to prevent the loss of that data when the application quits or is interrupted by the system. To do this, your application must take responsibility for managing the creation and saving the user’s content at appropriate times.

Of course, sometimes interacting with files is necessary. If your application creates files that can be exchanged with a desktop computer, you might need to write files to your application’s file-sharing directory. In this case, always be mindful that the user can add or remove files from that directory. Applications should look for new files in this directory and present them to the user automatically. If the user puts a file in the directory whose type your application does not recognise, you can use a UIDocumentInteractionController object to manage the file-related interactions for you as appropriate.

Ripped for iPhone OS 3.2 Documentation to which I should not have access. However it gives such a perfect outline of how the file system should be hidden from the user that I could not resist it. The iPad and iPhone are not designed for geeks, they are designed for end users. If you want to do geek things with them, sign up for the developer program (costs US$100 a year), where the SDK is free.

Eric Lindsay's Blog January 2010