Eric Lindsay's Blog April 2010

Thursday 1 April 2010

Head Mounted Display Glasses

Apple have patented head mounted display glasses, capable of accepting an iPod or iPhone like device that slides into the frame. Speculation on the name of the new device is rampant. Apple iEyes. Apple iGlasses. Apple iLash. Apple iSaw. Apple iSpy. Apple iWear. Yes, there is a real patent. Yes, Apple did hire wearable computing specialist Richard DeVaul recently. Yes, it is the first of April. See also Mark Sigal on 3D glasses, virtual reality, meet the iPhone, a composite of a Runtime Layer, a Physical Glasses Layer and a Cloud Service Layer.

Like something different for fun? Try this iCade iPad Arcade cabinet for a MAME emulator. All geeks would want one.

In other news, Apple drop Macintosh in favour of iApps. Would Australian MacWorld lie to you?

Tablet computers fail to catch on. But the original was when Bill gates tried to persuade the world that tablet computers were the way to go. That was in the year 2000. Since then almost every computer company has shipped a tablet computer. But they have not shipped a lot of them.

Best 1 April effort may have been science fiction writer Charles Stross's blog entry on his new book deal. Speaking of Stross, he and Cory Doctorow will write a sequel to Atlas Shrugged, with the children rejecting Galt's philosophy. I gather Ayn Rand is now a Dean Drive. The new Starbucks cup sizes was not a bad effort either. Then there is the effectiveness of tinfoil helmets against wireless signals.


Did my uneventful morning walk after arising. Jean took the car to Willows to collect something, possibly even a newspaper. I was one of about 15 people at a 9:30 a.m. meeting in the Computer Room with Sales about how the Open Day went. A heap of us thought it could have been much better. There must be a heap of people here with marketing experience, and another heap who know how to run events. At one time the meeting was a lot like a school room when the teacher turns away. However I think valuable suggestions will emerge. I suspect the next Open Day will be much better tuned.

Tablet Computers

Where did tablet computers come from? Alan Kay's 1968 Dynabook concept for children. Xerox PARC failed to build a Dynabook. Think of the tablet computer showing a news video used in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 movie 2001. Or the PADD from StarTrek.

In 1987, Apple invited students from 12 top universities to imagine a year 2000 personal computer. The schools each sent their best two entries. The judges, Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder and engineer), Alvin Toffler (futurist), Alan Kay, Diane Ravitch and Ray Bradbury (science fiction author) picked the winner. It was this 1988 entry from the University of Illinois. Tablet: the personal computer of the year 2000 on the NASA site (one of the authors was Stephen Wolfram).

Microsoft's Bill Gates was enthused about tablet computers. He introduced several tablet computers at Comdex 2001. Gates thought they would take over within five years. Instead they remain an expensive niche product.

Friday 2 April 2010

Web Sites for iPad

Apple have a list of web sites that are iPod ready. There are hints for Preparing Your Web Content for iPad. Their Developer notes include HTML5 <audio> and <video> tags. There are HTML5 and advanced CSS effects using gradients, masks, and reflections, to more complex 2D and 3D effects. There is also a CSS Reference for WebKit.

Any valid web site that follows W3C recommendations, and does not use plug-ins, should work just fine with iPad. I often do not alter my own web sites for iPad or iPhone, but my sites are all correctly served, well-formed XHTML, which I validate.


No walk for me today. It was raining whenever I tried to take a walk. That did not stop the laundry, as it stayed dry (and even sunny) throughout most of the drying period. I did do a few sit ups as exercise.

I found the HPM MoonGlow night lights online. They are still in the HPM catalogue, and two mail order hardware stores claim to stock these lights. Our two previous ones have died. We use them when travelling, to make sure we can see in the middle of the night in strange hotel bathrooms. For some reason hotels put intense fluorescent lights in bathrooms. This ensures you are thoroughly blinded if you put on on in the middle of the night. It also tends to awaken anyone else in the room.

Completed an eight page fanzine for FLAP, and emailed the PDF to Gary. This only a few days after the previous issue reached me. I got an utterly astonished reply, saying it was a record.


It looks like Apple have bought Intrinsity. At least, that is what Electronic Design News think. About a dozen Intrinsity engineers, including one of the founders, briefly had Apple on their Linked-In network details (these details now pulled). Interestingly, the Intrinsity web site is showing an under construction sign at the moment.

Intrinsity do Fast14 design tools for custom logic. In July 2009, Intrinsity announced that it had developed in collaboration with Samsung a 1GHz implementation of the ARM Cortex-A8 chip. The new Apple iPad uses a fast 1GH ARM chip from Samsung. This would make a good match for the P A Semi design folks Apple bought two years ago.

Saturday 3 April 2010


Took my morning walk as usual, and not even very late. We drove to Willows so I could collect the four weekend newspapers, while Jean did our minimal food shopping. Got a half dozen hot cross buns! Jean helped me eat some of them, despite saying they were not really her thing. Four newspapers. No wonder I did not get very much done.

Old Media Clueless

So Time want $5 an issue as an iPad application. So do Popular Science. Good bit. It is not a subscription. Bad bit. A paper subscription can be had for under a dollar a week. Fail. There seem to be a bunch of other old media pushing their electronic versions of their magazines as high priced applications. Basically old media want the new media to fail. But that is not what will happen.

With Internet delivery, you only need two newspapers in the English speaking world. The New York Times (combined with Wall Street Journal) from Murdoch and Fox (once Murdoch buys the NYT), to keep capitalists and those to the Right of Genghis Khan happy. The Guardian, backed by its trust funding, to keep the wishy washy, tree hugging, welfare statist Left happy. Everyone in the middle can grab the raw feeds from Reuters, Associated Press and so on, and let their software agents pull together the sort of newspaper they want to read. Where does that leave newspapers? With local advertising and local events. However Google and CraigsList will eat them up. Do not invest in newspaper stocks.

Pope Resign Sex Scandle

I found it hard to believe Richard Dawkins can say nice things about Christianity. Scandal and schism leave Christians praying for a new Reformation. Basically, it is better than some of the alternatives. Except when it is not. When Priests And Rabbis Commit Sexual Abuse. So what happened when the reports came out? Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys. What happened was Vatican Lashes Out At The New York Times Over Sex Abuse Coverage. Richard Dawkins even says Ratzinger is the perfect pope, but not for ecclesiastic reasons.

Sunday 4 April 2010

iPad Released in USA

I wonder what they borked? Camera on back? Not really. iPhone camera is really handy. But an iPad is just too large to use as a camera. Web camera on front? Maybe. I have never used the web camera in any Mac (except to get a bad login photo). But I gather some people do. Multitasking? Does it for some apps. But multitasking is more for power users. Fast task switching, with saved state, is pretty much the functional equivalent for most people for most apps. Printing? No printing without extra apps. USB? Goes against the standard. iTunes needed to use it. Now that is borked! Apple iPad case and dock are incompatible with each other.


I went for my early morning walk today. At Carlyle North I was greeted by a very friendly ginger cat, so that was nice. I also remembered to do my sit ups this morning. Now to get the reps up. Jean made me do another walk with her, despite my howling, whining and carrying on. It rained on us. Told you so! That reminded me to do another set of sit ups before lunch.

iPad links

Get Started has link's to most of the setting up material Apple have put on their site. iPad Users Guide is the regular manual. Setting up Mobile Me on iPad. The new iPad file sharing facility in iTunes. The iWorks file sharing facility. Frequently asked questions for Pages which exports to PDF. For Keynote. And for Numbers.

The ifixit teardown of the Apple iPad did not take long to appear. Chip porn! Naked integrated circuits. It takes me back to the old days, when I built my own computers from scratch.

Apple iPad USB Charging Broken

I notice complaints that charging an Apple iPad via a USB port is broken. In fact, it is not broken. It is doing exactly what the April 2000 USB standard says it should do. USB must provide 5 volts, and 100 mA. After software negotiation, USB can provide a maximum of 500 mA of current. That is 2.5 watts. That is the rules.

The Apple iPad has a 25 watt hour battery. Charging from USB would take between 10 and 15 hours (depending on the combined efficiency of the charging circuits and the battery). That assumes the iPad is not active. If it is active, the iPad lasts 10 hours on the battery. In other words, an active iPad draws the same amount of power a USB port can supply.

That is why Apple include a 10 watt battery charger in their iPad box. This should be able to charge an iPad in three or four hours. Other USB chargers may be able to do the same, since the 2009 Battery Charging v1.1 Spec and Adopters Agreement increased the power an adaptor could supply (and a USB device could accept). Apple have USB charging tips.

Some Apple computers designed to power a peripheral through USB can, after negotiation, supply a very non-standard 1200 mA at 12 Volts. This was probably for the portable optical drive for the MacBook Air. Normal USB ports supply around half the power of the iPad charger. So an iPad will charge, but slowly. This should only works when the notebook is plugged into the mains power. Should the iPad simply draw what it needs from any notebook computer? Absolutely not. If the computer is not designed to supply the higher current, it may be damaged.

Now do you understand why Apple used Firewire on the early iPod? Firewire can supply 12.5 watts, five times what USB can supply. This would have worked fine. It is a pity PCs were so backwards that they did not have Firewire (IEEE 1394) as standard. USB is underpowered by comparison, as well as being slower. No, don't look at the specifications. Just try streaming video via USB via steaming video via Firewire. The nominally 20% slower Firewire 400 absolutely blows away USB. And I have Firewire 800, which is twice as fast.

Adobe, Apple, eBooks and DRM

I see that eBooks continue to suffer the same problems as when they started appearing. A variety of different, incompatible formats, often complicated even more by Digital Restrictions Management (DRM).

Amazon with their Kindle eBook reader went with their proprietary AZW format. The Kindle is popular in the USA. You can convert between formats, with some difficulty. For example, From Adobe® InDesign® to the Kindle Store. Amazon make a Kindle reader available for iPhone and iPad. Amazon also own Lexcycle Stanza, an ePub reader for most computers, and iPhone and iPod.

Most eBook readers these days can handle ePub. This is based on standards like XHTML web pages, XML metadata files, and a zip container. Adobe make a popular DRM container for ePub. However readers want interoperable books, able to be read on any device. EPUB, iPad and Content Interoperability Apple's new iBooks also uses ePub. This is protected by Apple's Fairplay DRM. As a result, eBooks for Kindle will not work in other eBook viewers. Nor will eBooks with Adobe DRM work on iPad. eBooks with Apple DRM will not work on other readers.

On the other hand, ePub without DRM will work (or can be converted) to work in any ereader. DRM is the problem, not the solution.

Monday 5 April 2010


I went for my morning walk a little after 6 a.m. Did sit ups when I returned. Jean said we could do the laundry, despite the threatening clouds. So we started that. Then we hung it up inside, because it did indeed sprinkle on us.

I put a lot of time into writing up my response to the Open Day. Ended up with four pages of suggestions. It is in our best interest for the empty houses to sell. But the main reason is the sales staff here are nice people, and I think some of the directions from down south are not very good. Or at least, do not take into account local conditions.

Testing ePub eBooks

I notice complaints about iBook not reading some eBooks. I suspect this will be because many eBooks are not valid ePub as per International Publishing Forum Standards (IDPF). Every eBook done in ePub needs to be tested for validity. Testing your ePubs with Bookworm, from O'Reilly. This uses epubcheck, which is mostly from Adobe, and not much use to non-programmers. Threepress make available an online ePub validator.

Checking an ePub eBook

I downloaded David Weber's The Apocalypse Troll from Baen Books as an ePub. The Threepress online ePub validator listed 149 errors. Since an .epub is basically a zip file, I changed the extension from .epub to .zip. Attempting to unzip it on Macintosh OS X by double clicking produced a slightly more compressed .zip.cpgz file, which is not what is wanted. So I renamed the book, and used the command line unzip utility. This let me see the files making up the structure and content of the ebook.

There is a META-INF folder with a small container.xml file. There is a 20 character mimetype file containing application/epub+zip (no line termination) that was included in the zip, but not compressed. There is a toc.ncx file for the table of contents. The purpose of these files are mostly described in OEBPS Container Format (OCF) 1.0.

The ePub validator shows the file metadata.opf (Open Packaging Format), which is an XML file, has an incorrect date. This is despite it following W3C recommended Date and Time Format (which is essentially ISO 8601). Basically the Dublin Core metadata included 1999-01-01T00:00:00. According to Dublin Core Elements 4.12, it may have been better to have stopped at either month or day. However I think Adobe's ePub validator is simply wrong about this one.

The conversion to ePub was done using Calibre, a free open source library manager, eBook reader and converter written by Kovid Goyal. This guy certainly knows what he is doing.

Checking eBook Validity

I continued to check the ePub eBook The Apocalypse Troll. All the other validation errors are in the Contents folder. This should follow the Open Publication Structure rules. This folder essentially contains a web site of the ebook. Like most web sites, it is not written in a valid manner. It is only remotely close to the specification. This is probably because most eBook viewers are so pathetic that they can not display to the specification.

Essentially, Calibre produces HTML files for the contents, labelled internally as XHTML. However it is not compatible with the ePub standard of using XHTML 1.1. I manually converted the first file to valid XHTML 1.1. I was also spending a lot of time reading the Calibre blog posting, with special attention to those by Kovid Goyal. The general impression I get was that it was no use writing to XHTML 1.1, because most eBook viewers are unable to cope with it. There seemed substantial evidence many can not even cope with Cascading Style Sheets. I think this sucks. Someone needs to point out which eBook viewers are so badly written that they can not handle valid XHTML correctly.

I think what I will do is a quick (for large values of quick) and dirty (for very dirty values) conversion of the other 26 chapters to XHTML 1.1. Then I will reassemble the eBook. It looks like I may not be able to use Calibre to generate the ePub, because it will probably make changes to the contents. So I will probably have to write my own scripts to do the work. Then try the newly created version on any eBook viewers I can find.

iPhone OS Press Event

I notice Apple have invited the press to an event to showcase a sneak peak of the next generation of iPhone OS software on 8 April. This will be the long awaited iPhone OS 4.0. A name change would not surprise me. Maybe iOS? Then they could have another trademark fight with Cisco.

So the speculation begins. Multiple user accounts? No way, not with a single user security model. Plus the idea of multiple users on a phone is plain silly. They are a single user device. Fast User Switching? Not unless you have multiple users. Adobe Flash support? Get real. Flash would break everything in sight.

Multitasking? Beyond the existing Apple defined background tasks. That is mostly something only geeks want, or even notice. Besides, a 256 MB ram device is not ideally suited to multitasking, unless applications are careful about memory use. I wonder how many applications use push notification? I switch it off, because I don't want it wasting battery or download capacity. Plus push notifications are really crap. However I could see Apple doing something about minimalist multitasking of limited applications, in a sandbox. Maybe something like Expose on Macintosh. However, despite all the rumours, I still think it unlikely.

I hope they improve the home screen. I also hope they improve the methods of browsing apps. Geeks need ways to cluster like apps, and get to them quick. However you need to hide this capability from new users.

I wonder if they will bother switching on the FM radio? The hardware supports it, but Apple seem to have little interest in enabling that. There also is not a decent FM frequency antenna.

Universal inbox in Mail. That is very likely. Lots of people have complained about it. Plus Mail on Macintosh has always had it.

Ability to use iPhone upside down, so the headphone socket is up the top. That will come, and be very handy. Especially if you plunk your iPhone on a stand.

A printing system. Since drivers will be a problem, maybe via a printer networked to a Macintosh.

iPad Unboxing Video

I loved this neat video of the unboxing video of an iPad. It is a self unboxing iPad! This one minute video is by Brian Stark. The music is Up the Spout by Mateo Messina. There is no voiceover or anything to distract. I guess it was all done via stop motion animation, but I do not know how he managed the X-ACTO blade wandering about. Being on Vimeo, the video can be viewed using HTML5 techniques. No Flash required.

Or try this paper iPad Pad from TechRestore.

Tuesday 6 April 2010


I went out for my walk. Promptly got rained on (again). Returned home early. We headed out in the car. I dropped my Open Day response in at Reception. Jean was unhappy at how long I was taking. She appeared at the door and beckoned fiercely, so I had to run off. At BigW at Willows, we found some small plates to supplement the four we have, that seem to always be in the washing up. Jean found some more stuff for her costume. I got my newspaper, so I was happy. On our return, checked the mail. Very little mail for a four day break.

Our Carlton Theatre Committee had another meeting (and document exchange) over lunch. That seemed to go pretty well. Pity emailing of documents is not very compatible between Mac and older Windows and Microsoft Office. I would love to send some of the fancier stuff I can do, but older computers just can not cope with it. The afternoon ended with a ferocious exchange of email missives, which I hope covered all the stuff we did not cover over lunch. As well as getting some new stuff done.

Apple iPad Sales

Apple announced first day iPad sales, including pre-orders, of 300,000. Some analysts (Gene Munster of Piper Jafray) started with that sort of number, and then doubled up. I wonder if some analysts are writing science fiction, or just got totally taken by the last minute rush? I am sticking with my guess of 6 million to the end of the year, if Apple can get production that high. The rumour sites would do better to quote Brian Marshall of Broadpoint Amtech (although his Verizon prediction has not happened), or Andy Hargreaves of Pacific Crest Securities. But they would not sound as spectacular.

Lots of businesses would kill for over 1.5 billion dollars turnover on their first day. 300,000 is very respectable first day sales. For comparison, iPhone sales on the opening weekend of 29 to 30 June 2007 in the USA were 270,000 units. It took 74 days for the original iPhone to reach 1 million sold. It sold 1.2 million in its first full quarter. iPhone 3G sold 6.89 million in its first 81 day quarter which included Xmas, 4.36 million in its first full quarter. iPhone 3Gs sold 5.21 million in its first 11 days, 7.37 million in its first full quarter.

The techies will hate the iPad, and find everything wrong with it. Many fail to realise quality sometimes comes from throwing away everything that does not contribute to the result you want. Word of mouth from casual users will drive sales higher the longer it is available. Plus the 3G model is not available yet. Nor is it available anywhere except in the USA.

I have wanted an internet appliance for ages. It is a companion device, especially for anyone who has WiFi in the house. However most internet appliances were Linux crap where no-one did a decent software packaging job. The ones that were not crap (iPod Touch, some Nokia phones) were too small. Web surfing on them is like swimming laps in a bathtub. Sometimes you need a larger pool.

The biggest problem is still an almost total lack of WiFi infrastructure in Australia. However this thing will be a tremendous success with grandchildren (two and a half year old first encounter with iPad) and grandparents. The people who have partially mastered Windows will hate it.

iPad Temperature Limits

The Apple iPad operating temperature limits are strict. Between 00 and 350 is the operating range. Living in the tropics, I am already near the upper limit. Even the storage limit is low, a mere 450, often exceeded in the interior of Australia. If the temperature limits are exceeded, iPad will stop charging, dim the display, and reduce the cellular signal strength to reduce power drain. A warning will appear. iPad needs to cool down before you can use it. This indicate protective circuitry has taken action.

This issue got reported all over the web, on what must have been a slow news day. The iPhone has much the samne limits, and much the same warning message. We learnt not to leave cassette or video tapes in a car in the sunlight. Not much of a trick not to leave a computer in a hot car. D'oh!

Same problem in direct sunlight. The surface area of an iPad is .046 square metres. Direct sunlight can provide close to 1000 watts input. The normal power consumption is 2.5 watts. So sunlight alone can easily heat an iPad way more than its own operation.

Wednesday 7 April 2010


I went for my usual early morning walk. One of the regulars was carrying a little flashing LED that looked like it was intended to clip onto the peak of a baseball cap. That was different to a banana (although she had that too). When I got back I bundled clothes into the washing machine, and started the laundry. These modern washing machine with their slow, water saving cycle are pathetic. It takes hours for them to finish. I did my sit ups before getting started at the keyboard.

I did not have any committee duties to attend to when I went to lunch. That was nice. So was the beef pie I had at the Carlyle Gardens Ball & Wicket Restaurant. This was what was needed as a beef and Guinness pie for Saint Patrick's Day. Alas, there was no way the restaurant could produce 200 shallow pie plates. The crust was enjoyable, and the contents delicious. I also liked the new style chips that accompanied it.

In the late afternoon, with the sun no longer so fierce, I pulled a heap of weeds out of the garden. It is however very obvious that we will need a bunch more ground cover if we are not to waste heaps of time pulling weeds. The BlueEyes are coming along nicely, and spreading well. They tend to discourage weeds, and look pretty enough.

Property Managers Resign

The property managers QResorts installed (after a previous change of manager, who took over before the first promised manager ever got there) that were looking after the Whitsunday Terraces Resort have resigned. This does not make me very happy. No doubt having to cope with the aftermath of Cyclone Ului did not help ease their decision all that much. This is a real pity, as the managers who are now leaving have been the best we have had in some time. Things were back to slowly improving while they were there.

I am also not impressed that, having been on the Whitsunday Terraces Body Corporate committee again for several months, I am still not receiving email for the committee from the Body Corporate Manager. In fact, I am thoroughly pissed off.

Luckily I had intended to drive to Airlie Beach to check the Whitsunday Terraces property tomorrow. So I can add some additional checking of the place to my visit. Also luckily, I am pretty much not dependent upon anything that the Whitsunday Terraces Resort Management may or may not be doing about the property.

Hearing Loop

I decided to check whether putting an inductive hearing loop into Carlton Theatre was practical. There is an Australian government department called Australian Hearing with an office here in Townsville. Their Assistive listening devices page does mention audio frequency induction loops, mostly in the context of a personal neck loop. Explaining induction loop hearing systems, while this provides advocacy for assistive hearing loops. Basically we need a current amplifier to drive a loop.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Travel to Airlie Beach

I was astonished to find that we managed to get away to Airlie Beach by 6:20 a.m. Jean had estimated somewhat later than that as the earliest possible departure time. We even managed to ask our neighbour Holger to bring in the garbage bin. I love it when neighbours are walking their Doberman at 6 a.m. Mind you, I was once out early in the morning, and felt I was being watched. Yes, it was Zena, who was obviously wondering who was wandering around her area early in the morning. There was a palpable aura of menace, until mutual recognition occurred. Luckily I get along very well with Zena.

The Inkerman pub is open! We were shown through the magnificent corrugated iron structure. I took some photos of the interior. The opening event went well, with the deputy mayor attending. There was even a plaque on the wall. I must make a CD of the photos I took while the pub was being built, and drop them in next time I drive through.

Both Harvey Norman and the Sports store are back at Centro Whitsunday, now repairs to the smoke damaged buildings are complete. I bought a half price Philips SBC HN110 noise reducing headphone. This for use when I want to watch TV public affairs programs Sunday morning, and for during our travels. Not sure how good they are, but noise reducing headphones are scarce in country areas. I asked the nice folks at the Sports store about folding bicycles. They knew about the Origami model folding bicycle I have, and are not impressed (they assembled one for BigW). Comments from shop owners make it sound like Port of Airlie Marina construction has slowed down. No one seems to be expecting anything to be completed except the two apartment buildings.

BigW had HPM MoonGlow night lights, with a really obnoxious smiley face. Despite the cheap price, I could only bring myself to buy one. Never did find the microfibre track pants I wanted for while travelling. That had been my main purpose in stopping at Centro.

MacBook Air Crashes

MacBook Air needed to be crash restarted. The mail application wanted to use the Mac mini Keychain Access password, but could not complete the entry screen. Mail locked up when it did not have an internet connection. I finally had to do a manual power down to get it out of the log jam this caused. I have never had that problem previously, and I am surprised it locked up so badly.

Airlie Beach

The rubbish bin at the Whitsunday Terraces was out, but still full. So it must have missed the garbage collection. Later, the bins were in, still full. We walked down to the chemist, where I got my tablets. That expires my existing prescriptions. I collected my magazines at the newsagent. Dropped in to see Jim. Luckily no computer fixes were needed. Dropped in at reception to collect mail. Could not see Brett or Kylie to ask about their reputed resignations.

Our bathroom at the Whitsunday Terraces was a mess, with leaves. But only needed cleaning. Cyclone Ului damage was minimal. Our garden shed was damaged when it blew over. I guess we need to get rid of most of the crap that is in it. I took a bunch of weights (30 kg) down to the car, just to remove them. Michael had visitors, although I could not recall the name of the second. Jean managed to organise with them for our WiFi to turn on.

Jim turned up with a mug of gin and tonic on hand after completing work. Told us how his boat had twice the mooring weight a twenty tonne yacht needed. However it did not drag during Cyclone Ului. He had some damage from the anchor chain jumping out of the runner previous. So this time he wired it in place. So the waves ripped the whole runner out, and then cause the same damage. He can motor in it, but until repairs are complete, can not sail it.

We went to the original Hogs Breath Cafe in the main street of Airlie Beach for dinner. Slow cooked steaks, a lite size for me, and the avocado full size steak for Jean. Had a glass of wine each, but there was no way we could manage a dessert. Jean took a taxi back up to our apartment, while I walked up the twelve flights of stairs through the Whitsunday Terraces. I think Jean got the best of that deal.

Michael turned up after we returned from Hog's Breath. It seems work has gone to seven days a week, which is a bit of a change from how it was a month ago, before Cyclone Ului.

Friday 9 April 2010

Airlie Beach Morning

I got up early, and started clearing out the freezer. About four bags of stuff to put in the rubbish. Since the garbage bins were not collected yesterday, I also took the bin out to the street before 6 a.m. Pulled all the shelves from the freezer, and washed the interior where things had leaked during the 43 hour electricity outage around the time of Cyclone Ului. It was pretty clean, because Michael had already cleaned up the initial leak.

Walked to the doctor with Jean, and then headed to the twenty four hour MacDonalds at Airlie Beach for breakfast. Lots of backpackers hunched over computers using the free WiFi. I read the morning Courier Mail newspaper while I was there. Climbed the twelve flight of stairs back to Whitsunday Terraces. Packed the extra crockery, cutlery and clothing in a box for Vinnies store.

I drove Jean's car to Cannonvale just prior to 9:30 a.m. Collected free coupons for the Whitsunday Times. The Government Agency had no parking, so I drove to Vinnies and dropped off my donation. I notice Crazy Clarks has closed down. The Home Hardware store had HPM MoonGlow night lights, so despite the price, I bought two. Got myself some plastic brochure holders at the office supply place in a possibly futile attempt to domesticate magazine arrivals. Also a few different coloured clipboards, continuing the futile theme of getting organised. Further along, at Centro, I failed to find any DVDs I wanted. Had to be satisfied with a container of surface spray insecticide, to replace the empty one. Woolworths had the Chocolate Obsession ice cream I love. I phoned Jean to tell her, but we mutually decided to be brave and not fill the freezer with them. Stopped again at the State Government Agency, since it had a parking spot now. They say my drivers licence has the correct address, which sort of confuses me. They did not have the form for the Electoral Rolls. Maybe I will try their web site again.

Michael was determined to give the big bed back, especially since Jean was here. I suggested he see if Glenn still had his van empty. Michael and Glenn turned up in the afternoon having been to the storage shed, and brought stacks of bed pieces up the stairs. I moved our futon out of the way. We moved our original bed into the lounge area. Then we hauled the big mattress from storage up the stairs. Glenn took off to pack his van for the markets. We assembled Michael's bed (found a hex head in the security tools) and dumped the mattress on it. Although larger, it did not really overshadow the bedroom. Moved the original bed from the lounge into the studio, and dumped the mattress on it. Moved the futon where some of the tables had been. Now have a surplus of tables getting in the way. The studio needs more reorganising. Or even just organising in the first place.

iPhone OS 4.0 Preview

Multitasking, via new APIs. Double tap Home button for access with four applications showing in a dock, swipe for all running applications. New APIs enable audio with controls, Voice over IP, location services, and location via cell tower, push notifications, task completion, and fast application switching. I did not think Apple would allow unlimited multitasking, and they did not. You have to do it via their limited APIs. This might keep performance levels reasonable.

Folders, so you can group applications. Mail has a unified Inbox, and better attachment handling. Smaller version of iBooks on iPhone, with syncing between multiple devices.

100 new user features in the new iPhone OS preview, including QuickLook support, 1500 new APIs for developers, 2000 APIs for hardware accelerated mathematical functions. Now includes support for Bluetooth keyboards. Encryption for Enterprise users. Social gaming network called Game Centre. See transcript of iPhone 4.0 Preview from iLounge.

iAd advertising system, for applications, built entirely in HTML5. Includes interaction and video, and does not make you leave the application. Apple will sell the advertising direct, and take 40% of the billings while developers who includes advertising will get 60%.

For reasons not clear to me, my download of the Keynote locks up at about the 20 minute mark. Did something go wrong on download? It thinks it has over 50 minutes. Yes, bad download. Better version was up later.

Bypass Australian Firewall

I like the way ComputerWorld published How to ByPass the Great Australian Firewall. The Pirate Party Australia member David Campbell, from Newcastle IT shop ClearComputers released his PowerPoint slides. This presentation was at the request of Exit International, whose Peaceful Pill assisted suicide site was reported to be included in the hated Minister for Broadband Disruption, Senator Stephen Conroy's secret web censorship filter. Senator Stephen Conroy was considered Internet villain of the year in 2009. The Pirate Party contribution was a Seniors Hacking Masterclass to show senior citizens how to bypass the Australian Government mandatory internet filter to access Philip Nitscke's euthanasia sites.


We wandered down the hill to the Sailing Club. Jean wanted to check her membership card, but it appears whatever I did to update our family membership applied to both our cards. The tables were mostly reserved, so we had to put up with one where sound from the TV sets intruded. It later appeared the sound was from a different channel. I am not sure how that works.

Got stuck into a Boag's Draught beer. Jean promptly found soft shelled crab on the menu (second time she has found that treat in only a couple of weeks). I made do with fish and chips, which was enormous. We ended up taking a piece of fish home.

I got through reading all four issues outstanding issues of the Whitsunday Times, and so did Jean. One more thing into the box for distribution elsewhere.

Saturday 10 April 2010


I went down the stairs a little later than usual. Collected three daily newspapers, and handed my new Whitsunday Times coupon book in. Then off to the markets, again a little later than usual. I found Rex at his stall. Just about got sun struck talking to him, despite my wide brim hat. Rex has branches from trees down all over his place. He is hopinh for some WWOOFers to help remove some of them. Bruce was not there at the markets, and I I hear the banana crop was ruined. Airlie Beach itself seems remarkably untouched by Clyclone Ului. Glenn had a large run of Airlie Beach Bum Tee shirts. I got one to publicise my Airlie Beach Bum web site. Then I got one for Jean. Got myself a bacon and egg burger before heading off to talk with Rex again. Later collected another one for Glenn. Talked with other stall holders, whop were unhappy with building development in the area. They fear it is stalled, and that projects will not be completed.

Walked up the twelve flights of stairs in the Whitsunday Terraces, and collapsed in a chair. Picked the wrong size Tee shirt for Jean, hadn't I? Plus Glenn had some ear rings I described to Jean. She was not sure she wanted them. I walked back down the twelve flights of stairs, swapped the Tee shirt, bought her another one. Got back up the twelve flights of stairs in the Whitsunday Terraces totally exhausted.

Flash Cookies

I was annoyed about Local Shared Objects (LSO), commonly called flash cookies. Even when you switch cookies off in your web browser, web sites that use the Adobe Flash Player plugin can place flash cookies on your computer. Adobe has security vulnerabilities that make me reluctant to run any of their products, including Flash. However many misguided web sites still make content using Flash. Regardless, I am certainly not going to tolerate cookies that are not under my own control. Going to an online Adobe site, and using a Flash player to set Global or per Website Flash cookie settings is not acceptable. There are privacy implications of Flash cookies. In the U.K., the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations of 2003 say that, when storing a cookie or any other information on a visitor's computer, the visitor must be given the opportunity to refuse the storage of or access to that information.

My computer had Flash cookies from Scribd, Msnbcmedia, roguesheep, s.ytimg, and the Flash Blog. These were in ~ Library Preferences Macromedia Flash Player. So I deleted the Flash cookies, and then set the Flash Player Shared Objects folder as Read Only. I had to do the same in the Macromedia sys folder. We will see whether this stops Flash cookies. I also sent a feature enhancement request to Apple for a Safari Preference to block Flash cookies, in addition to the usual cookies.


Jim brought some bottles of a very nice soft red wine, labelled Schwarz Nitschke. Jokes abounded about not finishing the bottle. Jean had not wanted to share the room with the party, so we used Michael's balcony space. I had some pink champagne from the Airlie Beach Hotel line. Michael produced more sun dried tomatoes on crusty bread squares, and a very sweet sparkling wine that I found undrinkable. Glenn arrived, somewhat late, and worn out from the long walk from his place. Since Jean wanted something with vegetables, when I phoned Beagle Pizza I ordered a Meat Lovers, a Supreme, and a Vegetarian, as well as the garlic bread. We finished the meat lovers, had a slice remaining of the Supreme, and half the Vegetarian remained. Jean joined us for the pizza, and talked for a while, then ran away to hide.

Sunday 11 April 2010


Biggest laugh of the morning Atheist Barbie shown on Boing Boing. The original came from Blag Hag, a blog by Jen McCreight, an interestingly outspoken atheist feminist.

Julian Assange, International Man of Mystery, says the Sydney Morning Herald, in reporting on WikiLeaks, which reports things governments would prefer you did not know.

Jean let me listen to the Sunday morning current affairs programs. The problem was that we did not have appropriate connectors on hand for me to use headphones on the amplifier output. So Jean had to try to ignore the sound from the programs. She does not like talking in the morning.

Monday 12 April 2010

Leaving Airlie Beach

We managed to get the last items crammed into Jean's car. We were on the road only a little after 6 a.m., which was not bad. Sunrise as we headed towards Bowen. Jean did not feel she should drive so early in the morning. We refuelled at Guthalungra, which was about 5 cents a litre cheaper than most other places along the road. We shared a bacon and egg breakfast at Inkerman. Only two eggs this time, but my share was still more than I could eat. Lots of construction crews out on the road. Delays at construction lights. There was even a police escort stopping traffic as some giant construction item headed up the wrong side of the road to get around a corner.

We got home mid morning, but unpacking and checking mail seemed to go on forever. I did eventually go to lunch at the restaurant, somewhat late.

Carlyle Gardens

I wandered over to the restaurant for lunch. Not a lot available at home in any case. Bob was there. I found what sort of electricity usage we suffered in the Carlton Theatre. Even worse than I expected, but no separate meters. Not a good start to economising.

Even got home early despite that, so I looked for things we had needed at Airlie Beach. My attempts to locate an audio cable with a pair of RCA plugs and a stereo 3.5mm socket did not work. Eventually realised we had already used it to connect Jean's Nintendo Wii to a speaker.

Leigh phoned to ask if I could check a TV not receiving signals. It was the expected lack of optical fibre feeds on the half dozen most recent houses. There was also a minor wiring issue. Luckily Ray had a spare rabbit ears TV antenna, so the TV is working for a while that way. That was the newcomer's first day at Carlyle Gardens. So they met a fair few neighbours.

Tuesday 13 April 2010


I went for my early morning walk. Even dropped a bunch of issues of the Whitsunday Times off at Neil's place. When I got home I checked my weight. Somehow I gained over 1.5 kg over one week. This is not a good start. I am not sure how many more meals I can skip.

Lunch, great crowd. Bob, Ray, Dot, Pat, Jeff, Sue. Leigh came through later.

Internet Speed and Opera

I downloaded the free Opera Mini web browser from the Apple App store, to check its speed and quality. For some time there were bets about whether Apple would allow that browser into its store. I always thought Apple would allow Opera, as it poses no threat to their own Safari browser.

Opera Mini gets its speed by using a proxy service to Opera's server farm. The server farm grabs pages Opera Mini asks for, and works out how to simplify, reduce the download size, and ease the task of displaying them. It reduces picture size. It also handles any Javascript on the servers. This means AJAX methods need to be rendered again for any change. The server farm also introduces a single point of failure. You should never use Opera Mini for secure transactions, like with a bank.

There will be some pages that Opera Mini will display much faster. For example, MacRumors will display much faster. In general, if a site displays much faster, it will be because the original web page was badly written and full of extra crap, which the Opera servers strip out. On a carefully written page, Opera Mini will not be able to extract any speed benefits. What you need to do is check it on some of your frequently viewed pages, and see if there is sufficient speed advantage. There will be no advantage on my web pages, for example, and they display rather badly due to limitations in the rendering. Initial reviews of Opera Mini are not bad, with a suggestion to download the free Opera Mini, and try it yourself.

Opera Mini is not ready for HTML5. On HTML 5 Test Opera Mini scores just 14 out of 160. Opera 10.10 on the Macintosh scores 49 out of 160. In contrast, Safari on the iPhone (and Safari 4.0.4 on the Macintosh) score 113 out of 160. The test itself is not all that well designed, with several items unrelated to the HTML 5 requirements.

Opera Mini is a good solution for phones that lack the power to do otherwise than handle simple web pages. It is less of a solution when you have most of a full capacity web browser on hand.

Light Bulb Goes Out

One of the items I brought back was our remaining stock of incandescent light bulbs with bayonet cap fittings. Our rarely used porch night light had failed, for the second time in less than a year. The porch had been fitted originally with a bulb type compact fluorescent lamp, which failed after very little use. So I had replaced it with the same kind, a bulb style compact fluorescent. Which had also failed, probably after less than 100 hours of use. We only turn the porch light on if one of us is away in the evening, and this happens rarely. Compact fluorescent lamps are said to have up to 8 times the life span of incandescent bulbs. In my experience, this is utter bullshit.

The most recent compact fluorescent globe to burn out is a Philips Ambiance A55 11 Watt, warm white, with a rated output of 570 lumens, or 51 lumens per Watt. As with most such bulbs, it was made in China. This bulb has the advantage of being as compact as an incandescent bulb, and thus fitting in a small luminaire. Unfortunately, in small luminaires, compact fluorescent light bulbs tend to overheat. In fact, I suspect such use may not be correct, but can not find anything about the legality of it. Since the luminaire is rated for 60 watt incandescent bulbs, that is what I have used as a replacement.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

New MacBook Pro 13 Released

Apple have released new models of their MacBook Pro line of notebook computers. Battery life is 8-9 hours, 10 hours for 13 inch model. Weight is up slightly (50 gram) on the 15 inch models, mostly due to the larger battery (77.5 vs 73 watt hour). All have 4 GB of memory standard, and Intel GMA HD integrated graphics, with an automatic changeover to a discrete Nvidia graphics card, except on the 13 inch model.

The 13 inch model is still Core2Duo, but now with GeForce 320M integrated graphics. This is not the GeForce GT 320M, so it is not discrete graphics, regardless of rumour site misinformation. Holding on the Core2Duo was a gutsy decision by Apple, since the specification enthusiasts will be wanting an Arrandale dual core i3.

Luckily, Apple engineers have more smarts than the enthusiasts who are complaining, so I will try to explain. Using an i3 forces use of Intel integrated graphics. That is the way the Arrandale chipset works. It is apparent that Apple think the Intel integrated graphics still suck. Especially since Intel probably do not have support for OpenCL, at the heart of Snow Leopard. So if Apple want graphics performance, they would have to add a discrete graphics chip (like they did on the 15 inch and 17 inch models). However this forces a price increase, possible hotter running (i3 is 35 watts, Core2Duo is 25 watts), and occupies additional board space on a very slim notebook design. So you give up the 10% performance boost of an i3, in favour of the better graphics performance of the Nvidia integrated graphics. It is partly an engineering call. It is also partly a market call. You charge a lot more for the 15 inch and 17 inch models, and they will have substantially better performance.

This poor Intel integrated graphics performance in turn means there is little hope for an updated MacBook Air, unless they go with the GeForce 320M replacement for the 9400M. These are interim solutions, because eventually Core2Duo will no longer be available.

New MacBook Pro Released

Larger model have the mid-range laptop GeForce GT 330M discrete graphics, which has forced up the prices of the low end model. All models (except 13 inch) have the new mobile Arrandale dual core CPUs with hyper-threading and turbo boost (these are not quad core, regardless of what sales people and enthusiasts think). They all have Intel integrated graphics. 15 inch with 2.4 GHz and 2.53 GHz Intel i5 is A$2200 and A$2500. The 2.66 GHz i7 model is A$2800. The 17 inch 2.53 GHz i5 model is A$2900, with a i7 option.

Anti-glare is $50 on the 17 inch model. However on the 15 inch model, anti-glare is available only if you also get the higher resolution 1680 x 1050 display. People who like reading specifications keep screaming for 1920 x 1080 displays. I hope their eyesight can cope with that. Since OS X still does not have resolution independence, this makes text on screen too small for my ancient eyes. I am happier than ever that I bought the previous 15 inch MacBook Pro with the anti-glare option on the lower resolution 1440 x 900 display back in December when Apple were giving discounts for one day. On the other hand, I sacrificed maybe 25% to 40% of CPU performance relative to an new i7 at about the same price (A$2900).

Now the low end 15 inch model has dedicated graphics, that is the sweet spot for someone wanting a 15 inch model. The previous (slightly cheaper) model had the GeForce GT 9400M integrated graphics, and optionally the GT 9600M dedicated graphics. It seems obvious from this move that Apple think the integrated Intel graphics simply suck (so do I). However with the new Intel chipsets, you can not use the integrated Nvidia support. I was afraid Apple would be forced to use the Intel integrated graphics, but they have turned it into a positive with the automatic graphics changeover.


I took my morning walk, and dropped more newspapers over to Neil. Beautiful weather today, after rain overnight. I should be planting stuff in the garden, but want to catch up on stuff inside.

It was rubbish day, and recycling collection day on Thursday. We went searching for cardboard and paper we did not need, and dumped it all in the recycling bin. In the late afternoon, when it got a little cooler, I pulled way too many weeds from the garden.

Thursday 15 April 2010


One feature Apple are launching with iPhone OS 4.0 is iAds. This is Apple selling and serving space on mobile devices to advertising agencies. They give 60% of the income to application developers that allow advertising. Apple have also made it much tougher for outside advertising agencies to incorporate data gathering in advertising, so iAds will probably get most paid for advertising on iPhone and iPad. There will be a big cost for advertisers. Higher production costs. Plus Apple are a premium brand, and will demand premium prices for advertising space.

Ilya Vedrashko, VP of media design at Hill Holliday advertising, blogged about iAd directions. His comments were based on a presentation by former CEO of Quattro Wireless Andy Miller. Quattro was purchased by Apple earlier this year, for their mobile advertising experience. Apple iAds seem to be aimed at the iPad and iPhone purchasing demographic, not aimed at specific application matching … yet. The iAd banner will have an iAd logo, so you know exactly what it is. Closing any iAd you open brings you straight back to your place in the application you were using. No getting pushed out to an external web site. This is expected to avoid discouraging checking advertising. I have to admit the two demonstration advertisements Apple built were pretty stunning in how well they interacted.

Each iAd is written in web based HTML5 and CSS3, with JavaScript for interaction. The early advertising will be built by the iAp team. Later there will be an SDK. This ensures advertisers get experience with using web standards. It is another blow against Adobe Flash on the web. I tend to expect that Apple will demand minimum standards from advertisers. Since Apple do not need the income, and sell to a premium audience, I expect Apple to maintain high standards, and believe they will. This may cause a lot of pain to advertisers. I predict many screams of outrage.

Behavioural advertising will be a later addition. Apple will know what apps you use, at what times. Once you start using payment systems built into the iPhone, Apple will know your spending patterns. I expect Apple to become one of the best behavioural advertising experiences available. I expect them to do well targeted advertising. This is the sort of innovation we should have expected first from Google. However Google tend to lack focus.

Friday 16 April 2010


I did my usual morning walk, and again dropped off newspapers. Neil stopped by my table at lunch, and said he had not had time to read the latest papers. Jean had headed out to get eggs, but had not reached the hardware store for a drill bit for the Ikea imitations. I had lunch with Bob, Dot and Ray. Geoff was smiling when he went to lunch, so I imagine the Morning Melodies had gone well.

Went to the bar again for happy hour. Sat and talked with several people, including geoff and Margaret. At various times Ray and the other Ray came and sat and talked with us. Bought my usual assortment of ticket from Duncan for the Social Club fundraiser. I once again won a BBQ meat pack. We have not consumed all the previous meat pack I won.


I got an older copy of an image editing application from software company Flying Meat called Acorn 1.5 via a MacHeist promotion bundle about a year ago. Got email from Flying Meat saying they had half price this weekend on their new updated version 2. For reasons unknown, their website would not accept my serial number for the update offer, despite cutting and pasting it several times from the original MacHeist receipts. There actually did not seem to be any real place for the serial number to be pasted in. I am not going to waste my time chasing a few dollars savings on a scarcely used application. Removed myself from the mailing list, deleted Acorn from my computer. Life is too short to chase fixes for update methods that fail.

I think I know what might have caused the failure to update Acorn. Much earlier in the day, I was annoyed by blinking winking web advertising that got past my pop-up blockers, and my Click2Flash block. So I switched JavaScript off as well. Maybe Flying Meat needed JavaScript?

Sunlight Displays

I live in the tropics, and do most of my computer work during the daytime. I also have an excellent outside view, and good sea breezes, so the full length doors to the balcony on the sunlit side are always open. The glossy mirror displays used by computers today produce intolerable reflections during daylight hours. To the extent that when I replaced my iMac G5 ALS, I bought a Mac mini and a 30 inch Dell monitor instead of another iMac as I would have preferred. When I replaced my Powerbook, I got a matte MacBook Pro. I am pretty much anti-reflective displays.

However the number of times I would use a computer outside, in direct sunlight, is just about nil. I pretty much always have shade available, whether on the sidewalk at a cafe, or elsewhere.

I had Psion PDAs from a decade or more ago, which had B&W transflective displays that were far better in bright light, without turning on the backlight. They were useless in mid level light conditions (not bright enough backlight). They worked in bright daylight, if under shade. In direct sunlight, the display heated up so much it disappeared in ten minutes and you had to wait for it to cool. I believe the Kindle can withstand direct sunlight.

That said, I can almost always position a MacBook Air so that reflections are minimised, and so the display is sufficiently bright to be able to read. Likewise, under most circumstances, I can read my iPhone display.

The exception is when taking photographs outside, when you are typically in direct sunlight, with the sun behind you and illuminating the subject. The iPhone image under those circumstances is more guess than view. This is also the case with every camera display I have used (which is why I like cameras with optical viewfinders).

When travelling, I get the most use from MacBook Air or iPhone at night, in (mostly) poorly lit hotel rooms. Since my partner sleeps longer hours than I do, I do a lot of my reading sitting in the dark, so as not to disturb her. The Kindle does not shine at night, and for me, that is pretty much a category killer.

National Broadband Network

The National Broadband Network is a big black sinkhole for money. It has no economic reason to exist. This is the message NBN chief Mike Quigley took to a Senate enquiry. A 20 to 30 year time frame to perhaps make a return on investment, with an unknown rate of return. This is not an investment. This is spending money like a drunken sailor. There is no evidence most people are willing to spend one cent to get faster internet access. Yes, sure, they will probably be sorry they do not have it, later. But that is later.

At the moment, NBN is just like the BER school halls construction money sinkhole. Mostly a waste of money. This is just throwing money at builders, many of whom are obviously not competent. Meanwhile, those tradesmen who are competent are not available for real world commercial and residential projects.

Saturday 17 April 2010


I woke up early, after sleeping poorly, and being awake past midnight. Spent about an hour at the computer doing nothing worthwhile. Took my 2 km 6 a.m. walk as usual. I must say the number of homes with solar panels is increasing rapidly. Very impressive. I just hope they are all connected to appropriate meters and reducing electricity costs for residents.

Our shopping included visiting the hardware store. Jean bought a 6mm drill bit for the pseudo Ikea uprights. I got 6 gauge 18 mm metal screws, for screwing brochure holders to walls. The food shopping at Coles was boring, but I did find all four of the daily newspapers at the news agent.

We started finding items for one of our future trips. This saves scrambling just before we leave.

Grandchildren and Grandparents

I think the reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well together is that they have a common enemy. Grandparents are easy marks for grandchildren. They do not have to put up with the results of feeding a grandchild red food dye. Parents have a built in tension between having (and raising) children, and making their mark in the world. You have the energy to cope with children at 25, but probably not the money.

iPad DHCP Lease problem

It appears that there is a problem when an iPad connects to a WiFi network. iPad/iPhone OS 3.2 Stops Renewing DHCP Lease, Keeps Using IP Address. Basically it looks like an iPad will retain its DHCP lease, and thus its assigned IP number, past its negotiated expiry time. This can lead to connection problems in other devices assigned the same IP number at expiry of the lease. The problem seems to be associated with an iPad being put to display lock (sleep wake button) before the lease expires. Then waking from display lock after its lease has expired. At this point it continues using the old expired lease, instead of renegotiating for a new lease.

Goldman Sachs Fraud

The USA Securities and Exchange Commission has launch a civil case charging Goldman Sachs with undertaking a US$1 billion fraud. S.E.C. claim Goldman Sachs created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly devised to fail. Goldman was one of many Wall Street firms that created complex mortgage securities — known as synthetic collateralised debt obligations — as the housing wave was cresting. This fraud charge could not happen to a nicer bunch than Goldman Sachs. A more recent bit of bank manipulation of markets is carbon trading.

If you think this has nothing to do with Australia, you might note Malcolm Turnbull was chair and managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia (1997-2001) and a partner with Goldman Sachs and Co (1998-2001). Remember Turnbull's reckless support of an emissions trading scheme. Goldman Sachs owns 10 per cent of Al Gore’s Chicago carbon exchange, and Gore’s three partners in his Generation Investment Management hedge fund in London, David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Harris, are like Turnbull, all former Goldman Sachs executives.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Testing Children

If taxes from the public are being used to educate children, then the people paying should be able to see the results. NAPLAN is the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy. It started in 2008. Each May it attempts to measure how children Australia wide are going in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. By implication, it also measures how schools compare, and possibly how teachers compare. The government has made the bulk results available on the web, as they should. This information can also be used to prepare school rank tables, and newspapers have done just this.

It appears Australian Education Union are against the distribution of test information, and so they are boycotting supervising the NAPLAN tests. Obviously tests that are wide of curriculum requirements tend to promote special training just to do better in the tests. In addition, the NAPLAN tests are not exactly full on examinations (45 minutes a day over three days). Personally, I would have run the NAPLAN tests immediately after a long school holiday, to reduce cramming by schools. Also, children away on test days need to be tested as soon as possible thereafter (or treated as failing all tests). This is to eliminate schools packing the tests with the better students.

Testing Teachers

To a large extent, teachers provide a child minding service. There is probably little educational reason for children to be at school prior to the age of six or seven. It should not be that way. The best of teachers make an incredible difference to how well children grow up. The worst of teachers do not just hinder learning, they destroy the desire to learn. However, each teacher receives the same financial rewards. You could substitute parent for teacher throughout this paragraph.

Teachers need to be accountable for their results. Tests like NAPLAN are merely the first tiny step in measuring those results. I suspect the main reason children fail to learn is because the average teacher is not competent. If I were an incompetent teacher (and I think I would be), I would certainly oppose releasing results of any test that demonstrated my own failure.

eBooks Are DRM Crap

I think the current crop of ePub based eBooks will be wrecked on the rocky shores of inconsistent and arbitrary digital restrictions management (DRM), flat out lousy eViewers and an equally lousy eBook standard in ePub from IDPF. The IDPF are out of touch, and only now realising they need better standards for ePub. Many eBook publishers are lazy and are not doing correct table of contents or indexes, they are not even checking book content for quality.

The Amazon Kindle does not seem to use the upcoming ePub standard, but rather AZW which seems like the older .mobi format Amazon now owns. Many other eViewers do use ePub, but have wrapped ePub in proprietary DRM from Adobe on the eBooks, backed by cloud based content servers. This probably means that if the content servers go away, so does the ability to read the books. Luckily Adobe Adept DRM for ePub has been cracked. Barnes and Noble did their own eReader social content protection technology DRM wrapper for ePub for their Nook reader.

Monday 19 April 2010

Apple eBooks are DRM Crap

Meanwhile, Apple's new iBookstore for iPad and iPhone wraps Apple's own Fairplay DRM around standard ePub. Apple add DRM even on eBooks whose publishers do not request it, as Smashbooks found out. Luckily the iPad itself also accepts ePub without DRM, via iTunes. In fact, since iBook is just another application, the Apple iPad allows Adobe DRM ePub books using Stanza app, Adobe DRM ePub books using the Barnes & Noble app, Kindle DRM books using the Kindle app, Courseware DRM books using the Courseware app, and probably others. However iBooks is not good enough. It looks lame. The ePub format is lame. I can not imagine Apple being willing to stay lame. How Apple will open the digital floodgates makes one suggestion. Once eCrap ePub FAILs, Apple can make a case for its version of digital books.

In short, at present the only ePub items you can be certain of reading easily anywhere are those written without DRM. In turn, that means the only eBooks I will buy will be those that do not have DRM. Publishers need to become aware that DRM is not a solution to the problem of piracy. It is the direct reason that most people will avoid eBooks. That and making purchases difficult.

eBook Covers

Some eBooks viewers are not showing book covers for eBooks. Mike Cane says IDPF screws up book covers indicates there is no standard for book covers. This seems the case. You really need to include something called cover.png or cover.jpg. iTunes does not display eBook covers. Another set of examples of iTiunes not displaying cover art. It also appears that if you do add cover art to iTunes, then iTunes modifies the eBook contents to add iTunesArtwork and iTunesMetadata.plist. It also seems iTunes display of book covers are damaged by bad metadata. Basically iTunes still only knows about music metadata.

ePub metadata is stuffed in iTunes as well, partly because it is stuffed in the original eBooks. The limited range of fonts allowed in iBook is pathetic, compared to the full range of fonts in an iPad. You can test iPad and iPhone fonts.

eReaders and eBooks

I think Ibis Reader from Liza Daly at Three Press Consulting may be the first commercial iBook reader on the iPad.

More public ePub books from InfroGrid Pacific, who claim XHTML is right for ePub. They are created with their IGP:FLIP (Front List Interactive Publishing) application or eScape, the Open Office to ePub Convertor.

A French depiction of what eBooks readers should do.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Are All eBooks Crap?

I have discovered some small publishers are speaking out for quality eBooks. Walt Shiel asks E-Book Design – Do Readers Care? Nimbupani Designs tell what web designers need to know about ePub. Harrison Ainsworth has an ePub format construction guide that summarises ePub, as long as you understand XHTML, CSS and XML. There is another ePub tutorial on making an entire ePub book. Storyist will output ePub from your novel.

Liza Daly at ThreePress Consulting is working on cloud based Ibis Reader, perhaps the first decent online ePub eReader for iPad, iPhone and web browser on your computer. It uses the storage facilities of iPhone and Droid for offline reading. Keeps track of where you are up to.

The Tunecore folks at Bibliocore will put your ePub on iTunes, for a fee, but no commission, as long as you have an ISBN and generate ePub correctly. Lulu will charge more (20%). Another publishing option is SmashWords (check out their SmashWords ePub Style Guide. An online ePub generator ePub Bud, from one of the Dreamhost folks I believe.

Apple A4 CPU

The custom Apple A4 APL0398 system on a chip used by Apple in its new iPad is confirmed as a 45 nanometre Samsung produced ARM Cortex A8 variant. This single core A8 was originally reported by Jon Stokes in Ars Technica about a month ago. This will be the Cortex-A8 implementation, code-named Hummingbird developed by Samsung in conjunction with Intrinsity (Apple are rumoured to have bought Intrinsity). The iPhone 3Gs uses a similar but earlier Apple APL0298.

Further Chipworks X-Ray analysis shows ~190nm gate pitch, an 83nm metal half pitch, so it is almost certainly using 45nm geometry. There are 8 layers of copper, plus an aluminium bond area. Die size of the 7.3 mm square SoC is 53 mm2. The previous 65nm die was 71.8mm2, giving a 26% shrink. As the die size is maybe 40% larger than you would expect, just what is the extra transistor count used for?

Given Apple also bought P. A. Semi for their design skills two years ago, is the A4 a result of that buy? While I am sure they contributed, I doubt it. Buy price is too high just to save a little on one set of custom silicon. I suspect there are a bunch of P. A. Semi engineers and new hires working on unreleased custom silicon to go with an ARM A9 dual core system on a chip. It is just a little too early for that to be ready as yet. Also, there is no need to go past a well established chip like the A8 at this time. From all reports, the performance is just fine.

HTML5 Video Codecs

A little while back, Google paid US$133 million to buy ON2 Technologies. One of the assets of ON2 Technologies is the VP8 video codec (ON2 had VP3, which became Ogg Theora). ON2 claim VP8 is more efficient than H.264.

This is important to presenting video on the web using something other than Adobe's proprietary Flash. At the moment HTML5 can not specify a video codec, due to competing claims. Browser makers Opera and Firefox (Google's Chrome also supports Ogg Theoora, along with H.264) want to use open source but non standard Ogg Theora, which may have submarine patent issues. They refuse to use H.264 due to patent and licensing issues. Ogg Theora certainly has performance issues, there is no hardware encoding support, and there are potential patent threats. Apple and Google want to use H.264, which is an international standard, but MPEG LA holds (currently royalty free until 2016) patents on its use. It does have hardware support. Apple and Google have paid licence fees. Microsoft say Internet Explorer 9 will use H.264. There is no way H.264 support will go away, as it is used in digital TV, video toolchain production, and is built into Apple OS X and Microsoft Windows 7.

Wild speculation. Google transcode YouTube (the largest video site) to use VP8 in addition to H.264 and Flash. Google add VP8 to their Chrome web browser. Google Open Source VP8. This allows Firefox, Opera and others to add VP8 support. W3C add VP8 to the HTML5 specifications. Adobe Flash support drops even more. Meanwhile, Google get a more open web, which is what they need for serving fancier advertising than text. Google have supported open source before, for example Andrew Morton's kernel development for Linux (Google server farms run Linux). Plus Google's Android runs SUN's Java, and ON2 and SUN were going to bring a good video codec to JavaFX.

VP8 was written to optimally support NEON SIMD decoding using an ARM Cortex A8 chip. What say the extra silicon in the Apple A4 is the start of a VP8 hardware decoder? Probably way too wild a speculation.


Jean went out shopping in the morning. At least she bought my morning paper (which I did not find time to read). She also ordered a cubic metre of dirt and a cubic metre of mulch. Fear and loathing in the garden.

Alas, the delivery driver actually found our address, and dumped the soil on the driveway. I fear I will be shovelling shit tomorrow.

I had a nice chat with Ray and Annie. Ray is trying to write an education piece for the residents, which seems to me a massive task. I wish him the best of luck with that. Now I just have to remember to download a heap of MP3 phone ringtones for Annie. I hope Nokia phones have a sync connection to Windows. I am so used to the ease of use of an Apple iPhone I have no idea how other phones do things.

iPad and Media Queries

I notice that both iPad and iPhone are aware of their orientation. They also all Using CSS Media Queries to Style Your iPhone and iPad HTML with (orientation:portrait) and (orientation:landscape). This was also reported as iPad Orientation CSS with the implication iPhone did not support it.

Apple suggest Preparing Your Web Content for iPad. This includes how to use the viewpoint meta. Do not use Craig Hockenberry's pixel count hack. You could use Allen Pike's maximum-scale=1.0 suggestion, as long as your web site is fully fluid (mine is) and will work at 320 pixels (the smallest iPhone display dimension). Apple also point out CSS fixed positioning does not work (damn), because the viewpoint is the entire display, not a window.

The Apple Safari web browser team have been considering high DPI displays for some time (four year old article). They say your content needs to be capable of zooming. You need fonts to become larger, rather than magnified. Turning to a pixel is not a pixel is not a pixel we see the difference between CSS pixels and device pixels when we zoom. The device-width media query and the <meta name="viewport" width="device-width"> tag. Both work with device pixels. In contrast, the width media query measures the total width of the page in CSS pixels. Nice to see such a great explanation of this, so I suggest heading to QuirksMode and reading PPK's entire article.

Wednesday 21 April 2010


I expected this. Up before the crack of dawn. Before I could escape for a walk, Jean had me shovelling piles of dirt into the garden. We must have worked moving earth for around an hour. Jean planted some more of those strange purple and green plants I brought from Airlie Beach. I wish I had thought to take a photograph of the piles of dirt blocking our driveway.

I saw Geoff and Margaret about various letters. Saw Leigh after lunch about various future events. Got some background which helps me understand where various things are coming from. That was helpful.

I should be printing FAPA, and did eventually get around to printing the masters ready for Office Works. I should also work on ANZAPA, since the mailing arrived. Had another go at the application for a donation. I am missing something, which is why I am stalling. Late at night I wrote a batch of notes to Geoff.

Online Games

Online games have long been run in proprietary Macromedia Flash from Adobe, for lack of a better alternative. However there are examples of games running in Canvas on HTML5, styled in CSS, and written in JavaScript. Unlike proprietary software, JavaScript is an international standard. HTML is also an international standard, as is CSS. The latest version, HTML5, is on track to be accepted as a standard, although that may be a year or more away.

HTML5 Canvas Examples

I see more and more examples of experimental web sites exploring the use of the HTML5 Canvas element. Canvas Mol shows molecules from PDB, SDF or MOL files. You can set them turning or change your viewpoint. There are a number of HTML experiments on the Altered Qualia web site. For example, CSS Spotlight, which is a CSS2 remake of CSS3 spotlight.

Thursday 22 April 2010


Up early and sent off my emails to Geoff after a final sanity check. Jean and I worked in the garden from about 6 a.m. Moved a heap more dirt, and even spread it reasonably level. We should also be able to fill a couple of large flowerpots for the plants we need to break up. We even took some dirt to the back, to try to level the spot where the lawn is so irregular, where two different sets of turf were laid.

We went to Bunnings hardware, through the rush 20 minutes traffic. Found the curtain fittings we were short of. Not that we have started on the curtains, beyond buying the curtain rods. Found the audio adaptors I needed to keep Jean from hearing music at Airlie Beach. Found an extra iPod data cable for the car. Found another solar spotlight for the garden. This was working well. Jean found another half dozen plants for the garden. Maybe this is not working so well after all.

Geoff and Margaret were at the restaurant with Chris, the singer entertainer the RSL used a month or so ago. Chris had been at Leigh's office, and she had finally reached Geoff by phone. I was delighted with this turn of events. Even shouted lunch as a mark of welcome. I had heard very good and spontaneous feedback from several people about how well Chris was received when he sung at the RSL do. That was a fun lunch.

Jean and I put another chunk of the afternoon into moving yet more dirt into the garden. Jean planted the new ground cover plants she had bought. I do not touch plants. I have a brown thumb. Plants die when I touch them.

Geoff and Margaret dropped around in the evening. We got through a bunch of business (and a small tot of rum). They were going to be spending much of the evening doing letter box drops for Allen and the restaurant.

Adobe Sucks

I once thought Adobe were the best of the best. John Warnock's Postscript interpreter was outright awesome. Before we had software to drive our first laser printer, I was able to write Postscript with vi, a Unix text editor, and dump it to the laser printer via a serial port. For many years, I did my calendars and all my fancy printing using Postscript.

What killed Adobe for me was the performance of Macromedia Flash from Adobe on a Macintosh PowerPC. Flash web sites were basically unusable. I started blocking Flash. And I liked the results, because that also blocked many annoying pieces of advertising. There are claims Flash is not a CPU hog on Windows or Intel. That if Apple gave access to the graphics hardware, Flash would work faster. I am sure that is true. The other side of the card is that Flash keeps crashing Safari. Whenever Safari is giving problems, it always turns out to be the Flash plugin that is the cause. Now Adobe are promoting Flash 10.1 use of Core Animation, however that too is a work around.

Applications are supposed to work through the exposed CoreVideo APIs used by Safari and Quicktime, not go to the hardware. Adobe use a read back strategy that is not available from Apple. However it is not available from Microsoft's DirectX either. Adobe go straight to the graphics hardware drivers in Windows, using features added only because Adobe complained. Just how portable do Adobe think that is? Adobe and Microsoft refused to move to Cocoa while other vendors were doing so (Opera and Firefox also partly use Carbon). I want nothing to do with either when I do not know which CPU my computer may have moving forward.

I applauded when the iPhone did not support Flash. I think Adobe's failed mobile strategy of using a CPU heavy proprietary method ignores standards based web development using HTML, CSS, Javascript, and H.264. Personally, I will have none of it.


Ever wondered what became of Nicholas Negroponte's now failed children's computer One Laptop Per Child? Past Ubuntu and Linux Bitfrost security specialist Ivan Krstić, who now works for Apple, tells part of what happened to OLPC in Sic Transit Gloria Laptopi. Not a happy story.

Friday 23 April 2010


I could not sleep. Got up at about 3 a.m. Sat at the computer and tried to get some work done. These notes do not count as work. Nor do the snarky emails I sent out.

While I started my morning walk, a rain shower made me decide to curtail it. I did manage to deliver newspapers to Neil. Back home, I put more dirt onto the garden, and then filled all sorts of containers to reduce the remaining pile even more.

Jean went off to Willows. She was kind enough to mail my contribution to FAPA, and even remembered to get me a few extra overseas stamps.

ARM Takeover?

Way back in 1979, Dr Hermann Hauser and Dr Chris Curry founded Acorn computers. They made some ripper gear for their time. The Acorn Atom, and then in 1981, the BBC Micro that Chris Turner designed, and Sophie Wilson wrote their BASIC. I recall reading an article about the design details in the BBC Micro. That real was a nice piece of computer equipment. They figured they needed their own microprocessor, and designed Acorn RISC Machine by 1985. RISC standards for Reduced Instruction Set Computer. It moves complexity away from the silicon, making it possible for small teams to design a microprocessor.

In 1990, backed by Apple, VLSI Technology and Nippon Investment and Finance - with Acorn retaining a 38 per cent stake - the microprocessor group was spun out under the name Advanced RISC Machines. Apple grabbed PA Semi a couple of years back, and probably Intrinsity very recently. Intrinsity managed to bump ARM clock speed nicely. Staff who exited PA Semi formed Agnilux, and Google has acquired Agnilux a day or so ago. Now the rumour is Apple may acquire ARM. I kind of doubt it. Maybe buy a large stake, I could sort of see this, as a blocking move. However part of ARM popularity comes because it is not owned by major rivals of its users. In 1999, Apple still held 14.8 percent of ARM, and I do not know when they got rid of that stake. However this sounds like a pump and dump stock scam to me. ARM shares rose to an eight year high on the rumours.

Company Revenue

I love the little Chart of the Day that Business Insider produce.

The Google most of us know is a search engine. All its income is from advertising on its own sites, and most of that is from its search pages rather than YouTube or GMail. There is less than a billion each from advertising on other sites, and from other enterprises. Let us remember Google's revenue comes from advertising. And advertising is the rattle of a stick on the swill pail at the pig pen.

In contrast, Microsoft makes its profit from Windows. Mostly from sales to computer manufacturers, rather than sales to individual buyers. Microsoft was convicted for abusing its monopoly. Microsoft long gave purchase discounts to computer manufacturers only if all their computers came with Windows, and no other operating system. In Australia, this is forbidden under the Third Line Forcing provisions of the Trade Practices Act. However try buying a computer without Windows on it! Microsoft stole intellectual property from numerous companies. The number of legal cases against Microsoft is high.

Microsoft also make a considerable but declining proportion of their money from MS Office. A smaller profit areas is servers and tools. Microsoft is now making a small profit from entertainment devices (X-Box).

Apple revenue comes 40% from iPhone, which increased 124% over the year. The next big chunk is Macintosh computers. The third is iPod, with the iPod Touch share increasing rapidly. Peripherals, software and iTunes between them total about the same as iPod revenue. In short, even more multiple income streams than Microsoft.

Solar Panels

The solar panel installation crew arrived just before 9 a.m. and dropped off mounting rails and six 170 Watt solar panels. I opened up the garage so the foreman could take a look at the best place to position the inverter. It has to be on an inside wall, both for wiring and so they can get at the studs for mounting it. However I do not want any sort of inverter mounted on the wall adjacent to an occupied room (the inverter may hum when operating). The installation crew expect to work on our house on Tuesday, after the holiday.

Drug Culture

Traditionally Western society has used alcohol, a depressant, as its drug of addiction. Alcohol cut a path through indigenous society, who lacked a 10,000 year European history of coping with drugs. However society is different now, far more hyperactive. Drug desires have also changed, in the quest for a quick fix.

The New Yorker reports on Brain Gain: The underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs, where off label use of stimulants as steroids for the brain is common, especially among students. However obsessive tidying of music collections is not precisely the aim. From the article, and its hints at dosages, it does not look like we know enough to pop pills as a solution to poor study habits.

Given alcohol went from home brew to giant corporations selling drugs, the sale of neuroenhancers by corporations seems likely. Companies are being formed to do just this. Given the use such drugs as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine)on children for ADHD, commercial public sales in the lifestyle-improvement market or even the job market are likely close. Should these drugs be resisted? We allow caffeine, the low end of the speed spectrum.

Read some articles from science journals such as Nature for background. Or for some actual articles, see Enhancement of cognition.

Saturday 24 April 2010


We did more planting of plants in the garden. I went off to Willows a little after 8 a.m. to collect the newspapers, and to have raisin toast for breakfast. Folding the papers into a green environmentally sound recyclable bag revealed that papers weigh a lot. They are also really bulky when folded. They are bulky when unfolded, and took much of the day to read.

During the day I continued to work my way through the recently arrived ANZAPA mailing. I was within two fanzines of completing the mailing comments by the end of the day. That was not too bad.

I have a feeling more stuff was done in the garden. Perhaps this was the day I rolled the large rock up some sticks and into position in the middle of the bare patch within the garden.

Keynote for iPad

I came upon complaints about compatibility issues between the full version of Keynote on the Macintosh, and the less capable initial version of Keynote on the new Apple iPad. First How to get started with iPad links to all the getting started items, including the Getting Started Guide and the User Guide. iPad Frequently Asked Questions lists many of the features and limitations of Keynote on iPad. Keynote for iPad: Best practices for creating a presentation on a Mac for use on an iPad gives hints about compatibility.

If presenting from a Macintosh, this MacWorld article lists sites with additional Keynote themes.

Talk to Us

If someone does not talk to you, what do you do? Surely it is their choice who they wish to talk to? An Open Letter to Apple Regarding The Company’s Approach to Conversation with Its Peers and Its Community by John Battelle tries to persuade Apple to talk to them at the Web 2.0 summit he and publisher Tim O’Reilly founded and co-chair.

This is a cheap shot. Why should Apple talk? They are a business. Their business is not talking about their business. As far as I can see, their financials are stunning, their customer rating is sky high (except among geeks, some of whom loath Apple, and clearly do not get it). Apple appear to regard themselves as artists. More than that, artists who actually ship products, rather than spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their rivals. Apple do product announcements. Sure, they hype their products. What salesman doesn't? However when they announce, it is because products are in the pipeline to delivery. Other commentators defend Apple's lack of openness.

Is it arrogance to be careful about what you say? When Apple talk, it pays to listen carefully to what they say. It pays to watch what they do even more carefully. Which company audits the conditions of their contractors workers in China? Which company tops even the Greenpeace lists for actually making power conservative and recyclable computers? Look at what companies do, not at what they talk about doing. As for customers, money talks. If you do not like what Apple are doing, stop buying their products.

Things Apple talk about. Blocks in C, Bonjour, CalDav, Canvas and CSS3, Darwin, HTML5, launchd, libdispatch, LLVM, OpenCL, WebKit. Is that geeky enough?

Sunday 25 April 2010


As I type this, the RSL members will be at Carlyle Square having a gunpowder breakfast prior to their 7 a.m. ANZAC day ceremony. Not having any military connection, I would feel out of place attending the ceremony, although they have places for guests. Jean and I did join the RSL here at Carlyle Gardens as social members, but that was basically a gesture of support. The restaurant will be open for a traditional ANZAC breakfast at 8 a.m. The bar here is open until midday for the RSL.

When I took my morning walk, the clouds had cleared and the sky was looking wonderful. Many residents were headed by car to the ceremony. I was very happy to see the weather was good for the ceremony.


Heaps of fanzines seem to be on hand, and I wanted to move them to Jean's to be read pile. So I started doing LoCs. First off was Andy, Randy and Carl's Chunga 16. Then there was Chris and James The Drink Tank. This one turned out to be The Drink Tank Hitman Spectacular.

Banana Wings probably does not appear on eFanzines. Mark and Claire seem to prefer to stick with paper. I had issues 40 and 41.

ePub eBooks

I notice there is a lot of material out there on designing eBooks. Joe Clark has Web standards for eBooks. Unstoppable robot ninja explains how to make images fluid (hint, use max-width: 100%; in your CSS). Here are some fluid image tests, multiple images test, and more multiple images. Richard Rutter explains How to size text in CSS. Ethan Marcotte explains fluid grids.

Monday 26 April 2010


I was at the computer well before 6 a.m. However the later sunrise meant I did not take my walk until nearly 6:30 a.m. By the time I started moving mulch off the driveway and into the garden bed, it was starting to get unseasonably warm. Despite this, I moved a bunch of mulch under the shrubs. The hottest task was changing the orientation of the concrete blocks that made up the path through the garden. That still needs a lot of work. However the hardest bits were moving more large rocks to the entry spot in the garden. Alas, there is still rather a lot of mulch to move.

The restaurant was open for light lunches. Allen made me a hamburger that couldn't be beat. Even had the traditional beetroot and pineapple. I sat and talked with Ray, Geoff and Margaret. However it looked like there were only eleven customers, so I am not really expecting the restaurant to be open next Monday holiday.

Late in the afternoon I went out and shovelled a bunch more mulch around the garden. Looks like I need to do that morning and evening if I am to complete it in a timely manner. Lex kindly gave me some avocados and limes from their block, for Jean.

Web Design Hints

Lots of new web design hints seem to be appearing in Smashing Magazine. Soh Tenaka presents Useful web coding solutions for beginners. 50 CSS3 and JavaScript code techniques. Or CSS and JavaScript techniques. Also CSS for layouts, forms and visual effects.

Stolen 4G Apple iPhone

On 18 March an Apple engineer celebrating his 27th birthday at Gourmet Haus Staudt, a German beer garden in Redwood City, is said to have managed to leave behind an unreleased prototype 4G Apple iPhone. John Gruber has a concise summary of the Gizmodo prototype iPhone story. Or just read Scott Adams' Dilbert blog, where Wally loses the prototype phone.

Brian Hogan was seated near the Apple engineer. Hogan took the phone home, and discovered it was not a current model iPhone 3Gs. What Brian Hogan should have done was not touch the phone at all. After all, he did not own it. Failing that, hand it to the bartender, as is common practice in bars. If Hogan then compounded things by taking the phone from the bar, then he should have handed it to the Apple engineer, Apple or the police. Under California law, taking a lost item is theft. I think this is pretty clear cut. It is not a children's game of finders keepers.

Around 17 April, Hogan or someone he knew or who represented him tried to sell the iPhone to Engadget, according to Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of Engadget, which is owned by AOL Inc. On legal advice Engadget declined to buy. Engadget did publish some poor photos of the prototype iPhone.

The lost iPhone eventually turned up at Gawker Media's Gizmodo technology website, who pulled the iPhone apart. Blogger Jason Chen reported what they found. It later appeared that Gizmodo paid US$5000 to get their hands on the prototype iPhone. At this stage, journalist or blogger, you have to be pretty sure you have just bought stolen property. So, Jason Chen got raided by REACT (Apple is one of 25 companies advising the REACT police), as John Cook reports on Yahoo. Perhaps reporter blogger John Cook should mention leaving Gawker Media the same month. This seems to be his first day at Yahoo.

To get a search warrant, police have to convince a judge to issue the warrant, listing what they are seeking to find. This isn't some movie cop deciding to bust down a door. Personally, I hope Gawker Media get nailed to the wall for their checkbook journalism, as a receiver of stolen goods. Between outing the name of the engineer who lost the phone, and generally showing they have no morality whatsoever, Gizmodo are acting like creeps. I have no time for them, and will not be linking to them again.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Advertising in RSS Feeds

I think the main reason to get a feed from a website via RSS is to reduce bandwidth demand, especially on mobile phones. So what does Wired Magazine online do on their RSS feed? They include winking, blinking advertising! That is a real good way to have people unsubscribe from your RSS feed. If I do not see your RSS feed, I will probably not be clicking through to your web page. I wonder which other companies think this is a good idea?


As it gets later in the season, the sun rises later. So despite rising a little after 5 a.m. it was after 6 a.m. before I took my usual 2 km morning walk. I saw some rather large wallabies, but few of the smaller ones. I hear that the dingos are back, and that a couple of half eaten joeys were found. Of course, it could be the pig dog from outside, as that is known to trot in the driveway.

Back home I shovelled more mulch under the bushes and onto the garden until the sun rose enough to make it too warm to want to continue. The mulch pile is diminishing at a satisfactory rate. The path I made looks just as bad as ever. I am not good doing concrete block paths.

Had a phone call from John, whose brother Ken had contacted me a few years ago. It seems every time I hear from distant relatives I have not met, I am about to travel. Or have in some way managed to be almost inaccessible. Takes note, must try to do better.

Late in the afternoon I went out and shovelled a bunch more mulch around the garden. Looks like I need to do that morning and evening if I am to complete it in a timely manner. This daily garden report is getting very boring!

Games Apples Play

I do not play computer games, and regard them as a waste of time. However they raise a lot of money in sales. While the technical press are carrying on about stolen prototype iPhones, and the what is happening with Flash, Apple have been hiring market people with experience in games. The Apple App Store already includes more games than every other computer game platform combined. Now I suspect most of these games are crap, from the viewpoint of games enthusiasts. Real gamers tend to buy the desktop equivalent of supercomputers.

However casual games that can be produced quickly, and sell for a few bucks, may well end a larger market combined than the super games of the major games manufacturers. Apple may be eating the lunch of yet another market.

Wednesday 28 April 2010


I was up at 5 a.m. So were the builders of several houses at the adjoining Riverlea Estate. I could hear their concrete mixers arrive and the concrete pouring starting. I am sure council do not normally allow construction work to start at 5 a.m. Not that it bothered me, as where I am it was not noisy. I did take a walk once it was a bit lighter, to check the new sites.

Happened to see Clive, so I asked him about iPads and seniors in computing. Will see him upon our return to see what can be done within the computer club in support of increasing the interest of seniors in the club.

In the afternoon I put the solar spotlights with the people detector out in the garden. This was mainly to illuminate the new rock feature. Seems to be working OK.

Solar Power

The team that have been at the village installing solar panels reached our house this morning. They started the install around 9 a.m. Couple of installers on the roof putting in metal supports. An electrician in the garage getting set up for the inverter to go on an inside wall. The young guy that had the hard job of pulling power cables through the roof cavity. Luckily it was overcast, so the roof space was not as hot as it might be. The last of the installers left on the dot of 10 a.m.

This does not mean the whole thing is installed. It still needs to be connected to the electrical switch panel and the Ergon electricity meters. I have a bad feeling about dual meter homes, since we have separate meters for Tariff 11 and for Tariff 33, however one online search indicated the inverter was connected to the Tariff 11 meter only.

Can Old Media Survive

I was reading an interesting account of the way book publishers saw the differences between Amazon and its Kindle eBook reader, and Apple with its iPad, which can also be used as an eBook reader. Writing in The New Yorker on Publish or Perish, Ken Auletta asks Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business? It sure seems Amazon was intending to make publishers irrelevant, by dropping prices so low that paper could not survive, and running direct publishing to electronic formats. Since Apple make their money on hardware, they do not have the same incentive to ruin publishers that way. This does not mean publishers will not be ruined some other way.

Automator, Scripting

I need to find some sites about using Automator. Mac OS X Automation covers Automator, AppleScript, and the services menu. Luckily variables are now available in Automator. Alas, they are not always compatible with different applications, however you can fake using variables anywhere. TUAW have Automator tutorials that make handy workflows.

Thursday 29 April 2010

iPhone Development

Anyone can sign up with Apple as an iPhone software developer. However how hard is it to learn Objective C, and the extensive iPhone software development kit? How to start, build and launch your first iPhone applications by Garry and Ken Seto attempt to answer that question. It took them 28 days from not having a Macintosh, to having their first application. The first stage is whether to be an individual or a corporation. If a corporation, the paperwork and tax forms are next.

Preparation includes having a Macintosh computer (the Mac mini would do), learning Objective C and the SDK. They note you can use the iPod simulator in the SDK. They recommend some Objective C books, plus the free Stanford iPhone Programming course. They do say you need an idea of what sort of an application you plan to make. They give some hints about games. There is also a great section on doing it easier by writing a webapp.

Next is the app design. The last section is building your application. I was hoping these folks would continue to write up their experience, but I guess they are hard at work coding.

Towards Airlie Beach

I lurched to the shower before five, and was on the road soon after. Luckily fuel was around $1.25 a litre at the all night service station just prior to the Ring Road entry. I had fuel for 200 kilometres, but was sure Bruce Highway prices would be higher, so I filled the tank.

Reached Ayr by dawn. Stopped at Inkerman, to drop off a CD of photos of their new pub as it was being built. I did not think I could really manage one of their giant breakfasts, even if I had not been a bit early.

I stopped at the Centro Shopping Centre at the Whitsundays. Not much luck with Harvey Norman (although I did not know they might be selling Singer sewing machines - Jean's sewing machine is … fragile). Not getting DVDs at BigW. I did get a couple of containers of Chocolate Obsession ice cream at Woolworths. Then it was head for the freezer, as I had not brought a cooler box with me.

Airlie Beach

I had to rush about a bit when I walked down the steps through the Whitsunday Terraces to the main street of Airlie Beach. Collect computer magazines at the news agency. Put my prescriptions in to the chemist. Stop at the ATM to restock on cash. Get a haircut or at least a trim, since the hairdresser did not have anyone waiting. Visit the doctor for a long appointment to get the medical paperwork done for a public passenger vehicle driver permit. This is so I can drive the shopping bus at Carlyle Gardens, if they are short of regular drivers. Since both Jean and I have truck licences, it seemed a reasonable thing to do. Collected tablets from the chemist.

Visit Jim and Nick at their office. They promptly found I needed to fix a computer. I have no idea what they did, but I managed to get it started from the correct drive. Tomorrow they want me to transfer the contents to a different drive. I wish they would stop fiddling. I especially wish they would stop putting old drives in computers, although I understand why they did it. Or else let me set up the computer correctly (which would probably take several days). Jim offered me lunch tomorrow if I can fix the computer (I think he still has lunch coupons).

Visited Airlie Beach Hotel to collect my second prize in the Run for Life charity draw. Talked with Jill about our respective problems setting up the Biggest Morning Tea charity events. Jill showed me the very nice tea cups the organisers have found. Grab a bread roll for lunch. Visit Terraces reception to collect any mail. Luckily there is none for me. Something must be working right. Still no sign of new resort management, which seems unfair to the people filling in.

Discover can opener is missing from my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces, so I can't put salmon on my bread roll. Eventually locate a solitary C ration army style can opener. Butcher salmon tin in a 60 second or more odyssey of hacking metal out of the lid. Phone Jean to complain about missing can opener. She phones back later to say we have two good can openers and two lousy can openers at Carlyle Gardens. She phones again later. We also have two champagne stoppers. About a week ago we bought a champagne stopper especially, because we did not have one here. Nor could we find a second one at Carlyle Gardens. Why is it everything is always at the wrong house? This is like it was when we had homes in Ryde and Faulconbridge.

Thoughts on Flash

The floppy disk is dead, and Apple helped kill it. In 1998, the Apple iMac G3 launched. To the horror of computer enthusiasts, it had no floppy disk drive. Sony, inventor of the 3.5 inch floppy disk, say it is finally dead. Well, they stop selling floppy disks in March 2011. It took long enough the drive the nails into that coffin. Now Apple sell iPhones and iPads that do not allow Macromedia Flash plugins.

Apple's CEO Steve Jobs published his Thoughts on Flash. Basically, Flash is yesterday. Move to open standards HTML5, CSS and JavaScript on the web. Use patent encumbered but standard and hardware supported H.264 for streaming video.

Adobe, who own Flash, protest. They say you can do things with Flash you can not do with open standards on the web. True. Also irrelevant. Flash is proprietary, and not a standard. Adobe were warned. Flash is a crash magnet. On a Macintosh or Linux computer, Flash sucks. Flash was something in its day. That day is passing. Now Flash is mostly used for advertising crap, and trivial games. Like many other Macintosh owners, I simply make Flash content optional with ClickToFlash. This block does not show up in site statistics, it simply makes many web pages fairly plain and dreadful looking. Not my problem.

Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's General Manager for Internet Explorer writes on HTML5 video. The future of the web is HTML5. Microsoft is deeply engaged in the HTML5 process with the W3C. HTML5 will be very important in advancing rich, interactive web applications and site design. The HTML5 specification describes video support without specifying a particular video format. We think H.264 is an excellent format. In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video only.

There is one future video format for the web. That is H.264. I have hardware support for encoding in H.264. So H.264 is what I will be using in future. Will I also encode in Ogg Theora for FireFox and Opera? I will not. Encoding Ogg has no hardware support. Ogg does not work on my phone or media players.

Friday 30 April 2010


I wasted a lot of time trying to copy some accounts from one Apple PowerPC to another for a friend. The problem is basically history (and likely some hardware issues). Stuff transferred from old computers to newer ones, dating back to … well, prehistory. A techno geek who worked for the company made an attempt to make things better. Had he remained, I think his attempt may have worked just fine. However, he did not stay with the firm. I encountered Apple computers with no Admin accounts, but they had root enabled. I had to resort to booting from a DVD to bypass that. Then the saga simply continued. The problem with fixing old computers is the need to do no harm. It is not always obvious what the best method of avoiding harm might be.

I spent from just after 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on that effort. To do a proper job would have taken days. And be disruptive to the real business. So it is unlikely to happen. On the positive side, I did score a nice lunch with great people.

iPad Killers

I think the first one was the Hewlett Packard Slate tablet running Windows 7 for touch. This was briefly demonstrated by Microsoft head Steve Ballmer at CES in January 2010. Now HP are purchasing Palm for US$1.2 billion. Palm have experience with and patents for PDAs and now Smart Phones. HP seemed a bit reluctant to confirm what they were doing with HP Slate at their analysts call. However if they are contemplating a change to Palm WebOS, they will not be starting until July. Also, just what does that say about relations between HP and Microsoft, who supply Windows for the Slate? HP used to have a heap of experience with Unix operating systems, so why not simply use the open source Android? It seems HP are looking at owning their own operating system. They also have always looked at the Enterprise for their sales. I think this could be interesting. However hardly an iPad killer if they are seeking a different target audience.

Microsoft had a very neat technology demonstrator, in their Courier folding booklet style dual 7 inch display tablet concept video. Rumours now is that the development team have been told the project is not going ahead. In short, Microsoft are rumoured to not be going ahead with the rumoured tablet.

Then there was TechCrunch guru Michael Arrington's Crunch Pad, dead from greed and jealousy. Fusion Garage subsequently called it JooJoo Tablet. After the legal shit hit the fan, sales of the US$499 JooJoo are reputed to be low. How low? That is the $64 question.

Thoughts on Horses

See Henry Ford's Thoughts on Horses, about choosing the gas engine, after seeing horses and steam engines were not good enough for the future. You might also read these other quotes from Henry Ford. Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black. That seems like the Apple range of products. History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today. Apple are building their own future.

You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do. So why does everyone except Apple want to talk about what they are going to do? If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse. Apple and Steve Jobs become a lot easier to understand if you read Henry Ford.

Apple are trying to build the future. Adobe are trying to keep flogging a dying horse by building buggy whips.

Eric Lindsay's Blog April 2010