Eric Lindsay's Blog October 2010

Friday 1 October 2010

Water Torture

I awoke before 3 a.m. to the sound of a torrent of water bombarding the house. That broken irrigation pipe. The timer had come on. The pipe was spouting water directly at the eaves. The noise was thunderous.

Twenty minutes later, and several explorations outside with a flashlight convinced me nothing could be done until the water was off. I had reported the problem to reception on Thursday, after the grass cutting contractor had reported it to me the same day.

I could not get back to sleep. I drove off to Airlie Beach before five. Refuelled at the 24 hour station at the entrance to the ring road. Stopped at Inkerman for something to drink. Stopped outside Bowen at seven to get 20 minutes sleep, since I could not concentrate on the driving after being awoken so early.

Later in the day Jean told me that Mark and the gardening crew had come by and replaced the broken irrigation sprinkler around eight in the morning. That was good service.

Airlie Beach

I noticed my next door neighbour Rod was moving his furniture out. I know Jim has long intended to get that apartment renovated, and guess he finally got to it. Rod was having problems getting a key for his new apartment from reception. I guess living in the same complex for ten years is not sufficient to be allowed a key an hour before the lease paperwork is done.

Meanwhile, I had minor things to be annoyed about. My crumpets were so thick not all of them would fit in the toaster. Burnt and crumpled crumpets. Lots of crumbs in the toaster. Smoke signals. I really wish Jean had not made me discard my old fashioned drop side toaster. Sure, I sometimes forgot it and burnt things, but at least you could fit anything in it (whether it was a good idea to toast that item or not).

Newspapers a Commodity

I suspect almost every newspaper is now a commodity, except locally. That is, since any one general purpose newspaper can (mostly) be substituted for another, there is little capacity for raising selling prices, except for the problem of transport. However until the Internet, transport basically left each newspaper at least partially local.

This is somewhat complicated by the real customers of a newspaper being the advertisers rather than the readers. The newspaper delivers readers to the advertisers. The readers never paid for more than a fraction of the costs of delivering a newspaper. Advertisers do not believe advertising to readers on the Internet is worth as much as advertising to readers in print. Readers on the Internet are worth very little to advertisers.

Moving newspapers to the internet, where everything is local, means there is little need for enormous numbers of general purpose newspapers. So they all tend to become even more of a commodity. Add to that the Internet as designed for free posting, and newspapers struggle to get any paid readers.

I see little hope for newspapers hiding behind pay walls. What does any one newspaper offer that is so new and unique that I should bother with it? Personally, I usually will not even sign up for newspapers behind a login wall, even if free. Too much trouble. I can click away to someplace else.

Saturday 2 October 2010

iPad Fault

I notice the faulty home switch on my Apple iPad has overnight reached the point where it simply does not work at all most of the time. I first noticed this switch fault a week or so after getting the iPad, while travelling in Outback Australia. However the home switch mostly came good after a few days, enough so I could continue using the iPad. I also got through the Russian trip with only occasional home switch failures.

This means you need to use a trick to switch the iPad on at all. You have no way to change programs. Essentially the iPad is not able to be used. Luckily I will actually be home for most of the month, which finally gives me a chance to get it repaired. This fault surprised me, as Apple has so much experience with the similar or identical switch in the iPhone that I thought all the failure modes of that sort of switch were likely to be known.

Welfare in Australia

There are 2.1 million people on the age pension in Australia. Disability support pension adds another 750,000. Unemployed on benefits 600,000. Parenting assistance, mostly single mothers, 500,000. Over 4 million Australians receive welfare payments, around 27% of all those aged over 15. Government spending on the retired is 37% of government spending, and superannuation is only very gradually lowering this.

The spend is $109 billion, a third of the federal budget, over 10% of GDP. More than is spent in every large food and department store combined. It was 3.8% in the 1970's. It mostly reflects an increase in numbers, not an increase in benefits.


I went to the markets a fair while after seven, clutching my umbrella. Not a lot of stallholders on hand, and those there were often still setting up (usually complete before seven). Saw a bunch of folks, bought some fruit and vegetables. Back to the main street, where I collected the weekend newspapers, and then when the chemist shop opened, put my prescription in for collection. I walked back up to the apartment to drop off the heavy papers and put the food in the fridge.

Back down the twelve flights of stairs, collected my tablets from the chemist, and returned to the markets for casual conversation with various people. I never did see Rex, and hope he has not been overdoing something again.

Fireworks at 8:45 p.m. They were unusual in that it was around to the south east of our building. I could not decide the exact location, as I did not have line of sight. Somewhere in Hermitage Drive maybe, or Peppers?

Sunday 3 October 2010

The Boat Came In

When I scanned the horizon a little after five a.m. I noticed the large tourist boat Pacific Jewel had indeed arrived in Pioneer Bay. So there will be a market today, as stall holders attempt to sell things to tourists. Pacific Sun is due in on Tuesday.

I walked down to the newsagency before eight to collect the Sunday Courier Mail. The assistant there told me she had just bought an iPhone 4. She loves her iMac. I will have to take her some more packets of MacFormat magazine, like I was doing when she was at the now closed newsagency.

Watched Meet the Press, followed by Insiders and Inside Business. With minority government, politicians are sure available to the press in these first days of the new Parliament. In between watching and reading newspapers, I did FAPA mailing comments.

Checked in at the markets after I had lunch. The boat people were indeed wandering around. However my market consultant tells me sales to people other than from the tourist boat were the ones that were going well.


I had an early dinner at Mangrove Jacks with Glenn and Alison. Michael said he was too tired after driving back from Townsville to be wanting dinner. When I arrived, I found we were also awaiting Rose. We ordered a bottle of red wine and one of the sinful pizza as a starter for the table. Had a very pleasant dinner. Not that I could even manage to get through my soup, whereas Glenn polished off a 400 gram steak.

I was back home at 8:30 p.m. having climbed the twelve flights of stairs three times today. My legs thought it was at least three times.

No Adobe on iAds

I hear Adidas have dropped plans to put $10 million in advertising into iAds on Apple iOS devices. It seems Adidas decided it was too much effort after their third attempt at an advertisement was rumoured to be rejected by Apple. Chanel were also reported as cancelling iAds.

I tend to doubt we will ever know exactly what happened. However I do reject media devices that are full of in your face advertising.

Austar (satellite TV) appear to believe that after paying a premium price to get their TV channels, I would be willing to view advertising on TV to increase their profits. They are wrong. That is why I do not have satellite TV.

Internet advertisers appear to believe I will put up with their winking, blinking crap. That is what host files and advertising blockers are for.

Many Windows computers from major corporations come complete with crapware and bloatware I would have to remove prior to using the computer. That is a waste of my time. So I do not buy these computers.

I have to hope that Apple are very aware that if their device is full of disruptive advertising, I will not buy it. I doubt I am alone.

Monday 4 October 2010


I managed to get away from Airlie Beach around 5:30 a.m. Not animals hit this time, but I did zoom right over the top of a bird that stood in the middle of the road. It did look cowed in the rear vision mirror afterwards.

Not at all sure what occupied the rest of the day. Jean had painted another of the wooden geckos, so that went up on the wall at the back.

iPad Fault

I was still having home switch problems with my Apple iPad, even though it had started working intermittently again about 30 hours after failing. I found the box the iPad arrived in, checked the serial number three different places, and found my date of purchase (as soon as it came out).

I phoned Apple's 1300321456 service number. Cindy was helpful, but I was having trouble understanding her. As I expected, she said do a backup and restore via iTunes to factory default, and emailed me a link to the knowledge base pages. However I am supposed to restore the iPad as a new device, and although I had no error messages, that option never appeared. Since the existing attempt took all afternoon, I will have to try again overnight.

Naturally enough, the Home switch on my iPad has now reverted to operating about one time in two.

Tuesday 5 October 2010


I had some shopping to do. Bought a long spirit level to attempt to level the concrete blocks in the garden (stop sniggering down the back there). The level turned out to be too long, so I will need to return it and get a shorter and more expensive one.

Did a heap of walking around in circles at Willows. My only purchases were a newspaper, and some iTunes cards. Target were selling the second of two identical iTunes gift cards at 50% off. I do not mind making a savings on my iTunes purchases. I wish I could buy eBay vouchers.

I discovered at lunch that the judging of the garden competition was on Wednesday. That was direct from the organiser. Tomorrow! That sounds like a disaster. It is very warm, and the humidity is high. Poor conditions for working moving concrete blocks in the garden.

Around six I started hurling concrete blocks and paving stones around the garden. This is basically an attempt to make it look complete, for very small values of complete. All the paving will be irregular and rock. All the concrete blocks will lean at strange angles. By the time I went inside I was totally wrecked. I will be aching for days.

Review of Apple TV

I think the best review of the Apple TV is from Anand Lal Shimpi on AnandTech. The 2010 version of Apple's hobby product is way smaller than the hard drive based original. It does have 8 GB of solid state storage, but is basically for wireless streaming over WiFi (it has 802.11abgn). There is also a 10/100 Ethernet connector. The whole gadget is basically an iPod Touch, without the battery or display. It runs the A4 CPU used in the iPhone and iPad. As usual there is no power switch, but the power supply is only 6 watts anyhow. Apple managed to get the price down to A$129.

It is a walled garden device, taking H.264 content from iTunes, with 720p limitations. In my part of Australia, I am not seeing any point in streaming from the Internet. While you can (now) buy much larger download limits, the download speed under ADSL is just not there. Not much real point mentioning Cable TV or Netflix, as neither are available here. If this happens the way I expect, bandwidth will be king. Owning fat pipes will be worth money.

Airplay, streaming content from any iOS device, will probably be real popular, once it is available. In the meanwhile, AirTunes works just fine. I can see that as a benefit. Connect an Apple TV to your old, limited capability flat screen TV (the cheap one you bought by accident thinking it handled full 1080p high definition). Great in the garage or den.

Apps are not available as yet. I suspect Anand is right about this becoming an ad hoc games app machine over the next few years. The AppleTV (like the iPad) shows every sign of being launched prior to the real build up of software support for it. Not surprising, since software is a lot harder than hardware. Also content providers are hardly likely to be helpful, since they are still trying to protect their revenue streams for as long as possible.


I have disliked most of the eMagazines I can obtain for my iPad and iPhone. They are mostly pale shadows of the web versions of the same magazines. Many also have inconsistent navigation. Most have very sparse content. So I have been deleting a bunch of them, with extreme prejudice.

AP basically wastes most of the available screen space, and then has few items. New York Times Editors Choice is more like dog's breakfast left overs, and the scraps are mighty scarce. Financial Times is little better in the number of stories, and then will usually not show you more as you have exceeded your quota. I still have the feeling most of these newspaper and magazine applications are a total waste of time and space. I suspect instead of saving them, the internet will kill the newspapers and magazines off completely.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Political Crime in Whitsundays

I saw the start of this story a while ago, probably in a local Whitsundays newspaper or the Courier Mail. Then it was about a staff member stealing office money from local State Labor member Jan Jarratt. I recall at the time being concerned about accountability of funds, since you would always hope politicians check how funds entrusted to them are expended. Former staffer Barbara Moody plans to sue Whitsunday MP Jan Jarratt after being cleared of theft charges, puts a more human side to the story.

National Broadband Network

I notice Labor now plans to ensure you connect to NBN fibre, by changing to an opt-out model. We will change law to make sure every Tasmanian home gets NBN hook-up, says Premier. If consumers want a fixed line for telephones or internet access they are going to have to use NBN's line like it or not. The law would allow NBN contractors to enter premises to bring a fibre optic cable from the street to the premises, unless you explicitly opt-out in writing. At present take up of NBN is estimated at 16-25%, however subscription figures are still secret. To be commercially viable, NBN take up needs to be over 80% of premises. Meanwhile, the not yet accepted NBN deal with Telstra will require Telstra to stop providing a land line phone to its former customers.

A protection racket makes money by selling a solution to a problem that the business itself created (or that it intentionally allows to continue to exist), specifically so that continuous purchases of the solution is always needed. For NBN to be commercially viable, it has to be a protection racket.

Hitachi IPS Display

I notice Hitachi have demonstrated at CEATEC expo a new 6.6 inch transmissive IPS display with an astonishing 1600 x 1200 pixels. This is around 302 pixel per inch. It also has a 4:3 aspect ratio, like the iPad and iPhone. Said to have an 800:1 contrast ratio (same as iPad), while still providing 400 nits brightness. No indication as yet of production quantities.

The high resolution display would take a lot of horsepower to push pixels about, and that faster processor impacts battery life. With a dense display, you may also need a higher power budget for the backlight. I am not convinced the tradeoffs would make sense for a battery powered device. The iPad draws 5 Watts when operating, and mostly runs cool with its single core CPU. You can not just shove a 15 Watt processor combination in an even smaller case. Also, to date Apple have only used LG IPS panels in their iOS devices, not Hitachi. However Hitachi probably remain the only viable second source of panels for Apple.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Not Buying iPhone

I went to the Telstra T-Life store at Willows, intent on replacing my iPhone 3Gs with a new Apple iPhone 4. T-Life now had posters advertising it, which encouraged me to think stocks might be on hand. Also, Telstra now seemed to be offering far better mobile phone plans, both calls and data, and not before time.

First, greeting staff did not know if they had any in stock. Next, Jean asked about getting my two year old iPhone unlocked, so she could give it to a friend. Jean had been able to use my old iPhone by simply putting her Telstra SIM card in it. T-Life said it would cost $150 to unlock the iPhone. This is an iPhone whose two year contract had expired in August.

Next, the T-Life staff said that all Apple iPhones are locked to the first SIM used in them. The T-Life staff member claimed this was an Apple condition. Even if you buy an iPhone direct from Apple, it will be locked to the first SIM card you use. The attendant even asked another T-Life staff member. I bought my iphone 3Gs direct from Apple, and I believe it was (and remains) unlocked.

We expressed our disapproval of this, and left the T-Life store without attempting to buy an iPhone 4. To increase my annoyance, the online Telstra help pages did not discuss what fees were involved with an iPhone outside the term of its contract. They did list other conditions under which the $150 unlock fee would be waived. Here is how one Telstra customer claimed a free unlock for iPhone 3.

Now I am going to have to waste time buying a pre paid SIM card from some other network, so I can check the lock status of my iPhone.


I went to Willows. Wasted time (see above) at TLife. Could not find cordial I wanted at Woolworths. Nor at Coles. Stomped out in disgust. When we arrived home, I stomped a box full of Coke cans flat. Even that didn't make me feel better.

The garden watering system had a few gaps, that were apparent when we ran it early in the morning. I cut the main pipe at the corner, and added a right angle connector. I added one more spray head near the house, plus another for the far corner of the house for the neglected plants there. Now I just need a few under the ferocious large green bushes. Might have to trim them first.

Late afternoon we drilled holes, installed plugs, and managed to put the last of the wooden geckos up on the back wall.

iPhone Sensors

The Apple iPhone has a number of sensors, mostly from ST Microelectronics The microelectromechanical system (MEMS) based LIS302DL model accelerometer used in the iPhone and iPod Touch gives a maximum displacement reading of about +/- 2.3G with a resolution of about 0.018 g.

There is an STMicroelectronics gyroscope similar to a L3G4200D with a GK10A MEMS die providing finer yaw, pitch and roll readings of angular displacement (how fast is it spinning) than the accelerometer.

A digital compass is included. The iPhone 3GS and iPad uses the AK8973 chip. The iPhone 4 uses the AK8975 chip.

You can find an extensive list of components in Apple iOS devices.

Friday 8 October 2010


I notice our head gardener Mark was around putting down fertiliser before the rainy season. He plans to top dressing the grass areas surrounding us. I showed him where water pools during heavy rain. I made up a Smart Album in iPhoto, full of photos of water piled up against the sides of the house. I will have to send some photos to Leigh, our resort manager.

I went to the Carlton Theatre, where Geoff was presenting a tribute to the recently deceased actor Tony Curtis. He was screening the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon. Seems nearly everyone liked getting a cup of tea or coffee, and there were some biscuits available. We do need to have some cold water available, especially now the weather is hot. I had planned to arrive in time to help with some chairs, but Geoff had already done it all. He had around 47 people turn up, which was more than expected. Screening old movies did not always get much of a response in the past.

Now Geoff and the Carlton Theatre Group are planning on having a movie on the morning of the second Friday of each month. We expect to have visitors from some of the RSL retirement homes, who will also stay for lunch at the restaurant.

Allan and David at Crickets Restaurant were having their first anniversary party, balloons, champagne and cake included, at six. Local Townsville councillor Deanne Bell was along to give a short speech on the merits of the place. I had ordered the chicken korma for dinner, since I do not get curry often. It was very mild, even for korma.

Solar Climate Forcing

I notice a letter in Nature on the influence of solar spectral variations on radiative forcing of climate. During the solar minimum between 2004 and 2007, solar UV was lower than models predicted, but visible light partly compensated. The effects of solar forcing on climate change may be contrary to expectations. The solar radiative forcing of climate increased by 0.1 [watt per square meter]. This change is not very significant compared to other atmospheric effects from greenhouse emissions. It just means some of the theories were wrong, and need to be reworked.

Honda U3-X

It is a unicycle prototype, with a unidirectional electric motor driven single wheel. Since most of us do not have clown training, it uses a gyroscope and self stabilising to stay upright, just like the much larger Segway PT. You tilt your body to steer. The Honda U3-X is lightweight, 10 kilogram, and small (315 x 160 x 650 mm). Range is paltry, at about an hour from the Lithium ion battery. Top speed is 6 kph.

I found a short description of the Honda U3-X at the home site. Honda themselves say omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System) which utilises a series of concentrically mounted wheels - a larger, forward and backward moving inner wheel and a series of smaller sideways moving outer wheels. Diagonal motion is achieved when both forward and sideways moving wheels operate in tandem. Japan seems to like developing prototypes like this. The two wheel Toyota Winglet was demonstrated earlier.

Saturday 9 October 2010


I went on another shopping trip with Jean. This time I got some Coke first, and the newspapers. We pretty much crossed everything off our list, which is unusual. We did have to travel to the Sunland Plaza IGA to find the Pub Lemon cordial neither Woolworths nor Coles were stocking.

Seems like the garden watering system is going pretty well these days. I ran the soaker hose on the grass verge, and later ran the garden system, with a 30 minute timeout. That all saves a heap of hand watering. Now, if only I could come up with an automatic system to tidy and clean the floor.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Abortion in Australia

Abortion rates are unknown in Australia, as statistics are not kept except in South Australia. Between 70,000 and 80,000 Medicare funded procedures that may have resulted in an abortion each year between 1995 and 2004. Rough estimates are one in three women have had an abortion, around one in four pregnancies are terminated, and the abortion rate is around 20 per 1000 women in their reproductive years. Medical abortion is a relatively safe procedure.

The criminal law is an inappropriate vehicle - both in principle and practice - for regulating the provision of abortion.


The Carlyle Gardens Social Club had their regular monthly barbecue this evening. The bar was open from four. Although the social club cooked the ham steaks at the outside BBQ, they served the meals in the auditorium around six. The meal was ham steaks, pineapple and cheese, with potato salad, gourmet salad, with a small pavlova and tinned fruit for dessert. Not bad for $8. As usually, everything is done by volunteers from the Social Club. They have around 160-180 people attending, so there really is not sufficient room to hold the event around the pool these days. The Social Club folks did a really nice job of tropical decorations around the room, and especially on the stage. A whole heap of the attendees wore sarongs or tropical shirts, often with floral decorations. Very colourful. I always buy about ten dollars of tickets from the Social Club fund raisers. Lots of prizes, and folks at our table won several. I had a nice talk with John, the current Social Club president, after we put some chairs away. I had not had a chance to have a long talk with him previously.

Monday 11 October 2010


I walked over before ten to talk with Jo-ann about the Craft and Trade Fair on Friday. It took a while before everyone was free to attend at Carlton Theatre and find out how many tables might be needed out on Thursday. Sound like the theatre will be pretty full, with maybe 32 tables. Also the forecast is for rain, so we want the people exhibiting outside to be able to get their goods under shelter in a rush if they need to. I did not get away until well after eleven.

It seems I can go ahead with tracking down the phone system wiring, for adding WiFi throughout Carlyle Square. Now I need to get appropriate wireless access point routers, wherever I can. I will probably have to buy a tracer for the wiring.

Jean drove to the restaurant, collecting Bob on the way. Allan had put on a really nice salad, with an excellent ham. He had lots of cold chicken as well as some pressed meat. Fresh fruit salad and cream for dessert. I thought that worked pretty well, despite him having to compensate for Sasha the Monday chef being off ill at short notice.

Mark and the gardeners were doing the top dressing during the afternoon. They laid down a fair amount of soil over the newly fertilised grass. I am not sure how much of a difference it will make to the water runoff problems of last year. I had emailed Leigh some photos of the water runoff from the last rainy season.

Apple Warranty

I note with interest that the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) are trying to force mobile phone services to provide a warranty of the same length as their contract plans. Most phone manufacturers supply a one year warranty. Most phone connection plans require a two year contract. Vodaphone agreed to provide a two year warranty many months ago. Recently Telstra agreed with the ACCC, with Optus to follow, and provide a two year warranty on most plans. Except for the Apple iPhone, which remains one year.

Apple warranty stand-off to drive up iPhone prices. Apple charge an additional $99 for extending their hardware warranty by one year (the support also includes 21 months software support, above the 90 day support provided). Apple do not permit anyone except Apple authorised repairers to service equipment (you can not buy parts). Telstra are not authorised.

This is basically an argument between Apple and phone companies about who will pay for extending a warranty, when phone plans are sold over an extended 24 month period. ACCC can not force a warranty change, because manufacturers are not required to offer more than twelve months. Phone companies could offer a 12 month contract (at higher prices), and avoid the warranty implications. I doubt Apple cares. They are selling all the phones they can manufacturer.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Queensland Shame

I am ashamed to live in Queensland. My interstate friends claim Queensland is still in the 19th Century. The 1899 Queensland Criminal Code section 225, part of Offences against morality includes: Any woman who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or used to her, is guilty of a crime.

The first abortion trial in 24 years in Queensland begins today in Cairns District Court. A young couple face charges for terminating an 8 week pregnancy. This antique law should have been removed last Century.

DCM Solar Visit

It turned out that the 9 a.m. visit by DCR Solar about our solar panels was not to be. Anyone can be ill or not available, but this had all the earmarks of a lack of engagement to me. A substitute turned up at the last minute and gave a talk at around 11:20 a.m. to residents of Carlyle Gardens. I went in and collected Jean's user manuals and paperworks.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Garden Competition and Meet and Greet

Jo-ann and Margaret had an incredible range of prizes available for winners of the garden competition. The business community of Townsville really did wonderfully by us, especially considering the hard times being experienced by many businesses. Even just entering our garden got me a consolation prize, of two TENS return transport tickets. I found Anne at the gate was running a Tupperware business, which might be handy for Jean to know.

I found Leigh is leaving on Tuesday for her well deserved holiday with Ray. For what is probably the first time, she will not be able to be contacted via phone or email. About time she actually got away. I am certain Jo-ann will cope. Leigh introduced a bunch of the staff to new residents, including Mark our gardener, and Meryl and Shelley from sales.

I was the designated photographer for the evening. I sure hope some of the photos are OK. Seemed like the battery on the camera was feeling the strain later in the evening.

We also had a Meet and Greet for new residents. I met several folks I was not aware had moved in, so that was good. The Social Club put on a heap of great finger food. Carol was not available to receive a couple of garden prizes, as she was too busy preparing food.

A hard core of folks, mostly from the west, stayed drinking at the bar until Karen turned off the lights (after giving us plenty of last drinks warnings). I at least only had to walk home, just beating the light drizzle in the evening.

Apple Magic Mouse Battery

I see my alkaline Apple mouse batteries have given up the ghost. Despite whatever Apple say about the Apple Magic Trackpad, I find the mouse a little easier to use for many things. since this was the nth of many warnings, I replaced the old alkaline batteries with Apple rechargeable (really Sharp Eneloop NiMH). As long as the battery life is tolerable, I intend to make the rechargeable my standard battery. It does not have the energy capacity of lithium, and it is hard to measure the voltage, but it is far cheaper than lithium. Why pay money to Energiser?


I checked the UseNet feeds way too late at night. I had over 9000 news items to read! No wonder I do not get my talk notes complete for the computer club.

Labor's Alcohol Problem

As part of the bribes to the independents to get Labor first past the post after the election, Labor sided with ethyl alcohol as a green fuel. There is massive subsidy already, in the form of mandated E10 alcohol levels in petrol. Independent Tony Windsor wanted excise relief for ethyl alcohol for twice the existing period. Ethyl alcohol will eventually be on an excise of 12.5 cents per litre, against 38 cents for petrol.

The three ethyl alcohol operations working in Australia distil about 300 million litres of ethanol a year, about enough for Queensland and NSW. But E10 is available nationwide. So the gap will be filled with ethanol from sugar cane. Great for Queensland farmers. But it probably takes more carbon to produce this fuel than it will contribute. Lots of energy used fertilising cane, cutting cane, processing it, and transporting it by land. I am not convinced it is going to help with green energy.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Apple OS X

I notice Apple have scheduled a press event on 20 October. The text is Back to the Mac and the artwork shows a slightly turned Apple symbol, with a small part of the image of a lion behind it. The artwork background is like an inverted Magic Touch trackpad, so there has to be a lot about touch integration. This suggests Apple intend to preview OS X 10.7, the so far unannounced replacement for Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6). Test computers using 10.7 have been showing in web server logs for the better part of a year, so it was known to be in testing. However I do not know of any leaks about the content of 10.7.

A little later I found additional text accompanied the invitation. Come see what’s next for the Mac on October 20, including a sneak peek of the next major version of Mac OS X. Seems pretty clear previewing OS X 10.7 is a large part of it, but not all.

Now Grand Central Despatch is in 10.6, adding sandboxing would be a possibility. Plus Tiger had the first hints of resolution independence, so I really hope vector graphics appears. Apple had been pushing developers to add high resolution graphics since 2008. FaceTime integration into iChat would potentially be nice. QuickTime X fully deployed into Final Cut and so on. AirPlay on Mac. Everything (except iTunes) to go 64 bit finally. Finder gets replaced.

An updated iLife 11 package of consumer applications would be just about due to be announced. There were hints of a book about it on some sites. An updated iWorks? I doubt it. However with Microsoft Office due for release soon, maybe a work package is irresistible.

Another software announcement may be the exact date on which iOS 4.2 will be released, but just conforming a date is pretty minor, so I do not believe they will bother.

Apple Hardware Updates

Hardware is a harder call. iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini and MacBook are reasonably recently updated. The entire MacBook Pro line is slightly overdue for updates, but I do not believe the Sandy Bridge chips to do so are available from Intel. Indeed, the 13 inch is still stuck on the soon to disappear Core2Duo. AMD Zacate? I don't think so. So, no hardware announcements for the holiday lineup is my call.

But, what about the badly dated and rather expensive experimental model, the MacBook Air? The big, bold change on the original MacBook Air was to totally drop the DVD drive. The MacBook Air has never sold in large numbers, but makes a great test bed for changes (doesn't hurt the bottom line much if nothing much happens to sales). I love my original MacBook Air, but the second model had significantly more capable graphics, thanks to NVidia. Plus the surface area of the case was just a little too large. These days, you might as well get a cheaper MacBook.

Lots of rumours of a smaller screen update for the MacBook Air. However the battery life would suck in that small case. I see an all solid state drive model only (not a big call, given it is one variety of the existing model), to help push the high price tag. Solid state only means you do not need to make a drive spaced shape for your solid state memory. Buttonless glass trackpad, like the MacBook Pro. Build 3g in? No way any of those would be a major announcement. Make the entire keyboard area touch. You can use an external Bluetooth keyboard if you want. That may be worth an announcement, but an all touch keyboard has been done before.

What do you do instead of a new low voltage Intel chip? It comes with the associated no-win problem of slow Intel integrated graphics. Or, hardware like the MacBook Pro, but trying to pack a discrete NVidia chip in an even smaller case. The heat issues would be challenging. Especially if you want to drop the fan.

If Apple decide to do anything worth announcing, I see the big change is using a dual core ARM CPU in the MacBook Air. Rosetta rides again. Accept the performance hit, take the improved battery life. Give Intel a real scare about future sales.

Tote that Bale

I walked over to Reception, and gave Jo-ann a CD of the garden competition photos I had taken last night, with an extra for Leigh. That is about the first time I have used the optical drive in months.

I was headed for the Carlton Theatre to start hauling out the heavy rectangular wooden tables, ready for the Craft and Trade Fair, and Open Day. Jo-ann did not have the table plans ready yet, but I knew the general layout. Hanna's group were just leaving, so my timing was perfect. There are trolleys, so at least I did not need to carry the tables across the floor. Duncan turned up about half an hour or eight tables later. He had thought the tables were to be done much later. Around 11:30 Len turned up, at what he thought was the right time, but had other appointments. We had about 30 table out just after midday.

Had lunch with Geoff and Margaret, and after lunch we put out the signs indicating who was at each table. Leigh came along and gave her blessing to the tables. All good, except it was a long day.

We talked with Vic about publishing Carlton Theatre booking calendars. He mentioned doing it from Outlook. The very different Outlook Express does not seem to have a calendar program. I think Geoff would be best off using Google Calendar. Placed that in my ToDo queue.

Friday 15 October 2010

Craft and Open Day

I went to the Craft and Open Day around nine. Most of the tables were already full of stuff from companies and crafters. I had taken my camera so I could record the event for Jo-ann and the office, so I spent a fair time taking photos of every booth in the Carlton Theatre. EWe had used every single rectangular table, so there must have been over thirty vendors.

Lunch at the restaurant with Dot, Ray and John. Once again, Bob was not feeling up to the meal, which is a real pity. Jean turned up on foot (no parking spaces) soon after. Looked at the neat quilts. Jean talked with the salesman from Key Motors about the diesel Subaru. We had a sausage on a crust of bread (the hard workers at the Social Club were really short on the makings by that time of day).

We were able to start putting the tables away around two, an hour earlier than we expected. Duncan once again came around and helped greatly with the hard work. It took slightly under an hour for the two of us to put away all the large wooden tables. I think I will have lots of aches and pains tomorrow.


I wore the new tropical shirt Jean had made for me from the almost inadequate 2.2 metres of cotton that were all we could find. This was the first shirt to which she had added in the lining a strip of microfibre polishing cloth. Now I can polish my glasses whenever I like, and hope to have them clean afterwards.

I stayed at Carlyle Square all day, between the craft fair and the happy hour at the bar. It felt good to get away from the computer keyboard for a while.

The rain is bucketing down at 8:30 p.m. Soon afterwards the insects outside were in strident chorus. So much for our silent existence here.

Carlyle Villages in Receivership

I found a note from Ernst & Young that they were appointed Receivers and Managers of Carlyle Villages Pty Ltd, the owners of Carlyle Gardens Townsville Retirement Village. Carlyle Gardens land assets are now under the control of the Receiver and Manager. The E&Y representatives are Justin Walsh and Shaun McKinnon. See Townsville Bulletin report on receiver appointed at Carlyle Gardens.

Lend Lease Primelife are unrelated, and continue their long term lease and management of the Village. Present resident agreements are unchanged. All rights are protected under the Retirement Villages Act. What a pain. It will just make residents upset.

I assume Suncorp Medway Bank were unable to continue extending credit, and decided to protect their interests over Townsville, Mackay and Bundaberg. Australian Property Custodian Holdings Limited (APCH) and Prime Trust noted appointment of receivers over Carlyle Gardens, without notice, at the behest of Suncorp Medway. It seems some other financiers also noticed this, and placed their particular retirement village in receivership. The financial press were soon reporting that most of Prime Trust's retirement villages had been placed in receivership.

Prime Trust appears to have owed around $300 million to Suncorp, NAB/BOSI, and Members equity. Prime Trust had been forced to write their retirement village assets down from a billion dollars to around $400 million during the GFC. Founder Bill Lewski is reported to have appointed administrators to Australian Property Custodian Holdings. Stirling Horne and Peter Vrsecky of Lawler Draper Dillon also appear to be administering Prime Trust.

Seems to me someone is going to acquire some retirement villages cheap.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Post Office Profit Down

I have noted being pissed off with poor treatment by Australia Post at Airlie Beach, where I can no longer receive mail. I have also said I expect physical (letter) mail to go the way of the telegram. Email slashes Post revenue as profit plunges 65pc say Tim Boreham in The Australian. Earnings of $89.5m in the year to June 30, compared with $260.5m previously, but there was a $150 million redundancy cost. Mail declined 4.2%, or 200 million letters. Total revenue was down 2.3% to $4.87 billion. There was a previous 4.1% decline in 2008-09. Costs are also up, 4.3% to $4.63 billion.

Australia Post will also not be able to afford its former large dividends to government. Dividend down to $79.1 million, from the previous $222 million, and $446 million two years ago. I also have no doubt that Australia Post has large superannuation liabilities, despite a half billion dollar cash stash.

There has been a minor decline in mail over the past few years, after climbing to a peak. Part of that could be the global financial crisis. However I think a lot of it is the move to email for many items formerly sent by letter.

Australia Post also has the problem that, despite the letter rate being raised to 60 cents, it probably costs closer to 70 cents to handle a letter. They are making their money on parcel delivery (revenue up 4.2% domestically).

Australian Infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure in Australia is pretty sad. Government is broke. Industry generally does it reluctantly. In particular, you need to tackle urban congestion. Brendan Lyons of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia says a tax on road travel, to replace all road transport taxes. Around 10-11 cents a kilometre would be about right for cars. Rates would change according to the time of day, and the road selected. This could be instrumented via GPS.

Brendan also wants incentives for superannuation funds to consider infrastructure investments. Where else would you get the funds to make changes that would eventually be self funding?


The temperature this morning was down to about 200C, and the humidity was likewise down after the overnight rain. We are not used to that sort of cold here in tropical north Queensland.

We made a rushed trip to Willows after eight. Jean had some groceries in mind. After determining the Willows found court still wasn't in action, I went across the parking lot to McDonalds for breakfast. Free WiFi, and a free copy of the Townsville Bulletin. McDonalds do not wreck their bacon and eggs. I dropped the Bully off at Jean's car, and went in to the newsagent. No copies of the weekend Financial Review available. Grump. Bought what newspapers I could and put them in Jean's car. I was returning when Jean spotted me. She had a trolley full of food, and was headed for the eye doctor. She reminded me I wanted a bread roll at Brumbies. I rushed off. When I checked the eye doctor, she was still there, so I took her shopping off to her car, and put the cold stuff in the cooler box.

Sunday 17 October 2010


I tried using some of Jean's Amway upholstery fabric cleaner on her old office chair. Not at all sure how well (badly) that will work.

Still working on my talk for the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club Infonite on Tuesday week. I seem to have sufficient material for three nights.

I had a chat with our neighbour Gary, who was as usual doing good things for the gardens with a hose. In the course of it, I noticed a small two drawer filing cabinet he had put out the back. Turned out he wanted to get rid of it. I called Jean out (I sure do not need a filing cabinet - a garbage disposer maybe). Yes, she wanted it, although could not describe why. I owe Gary some beer.


I notice the Australian National Audit Office has released a report on the home insulation debacle. Advice from the Department of Environment was the scheme should have been for a five year period, for capacity resource constraint reasons. However someone in government (perhaps Kevin Rudd's department) overrode that to push stimulus. However the audit office conveniently found that Minister Peter Garrett was not informed of these constraints, and received overly optimistic advice. Risk management was always going to be a problem.

Who knows how long it will take to fix the mess that has been created? It certainly was wasteful.

Monday 18 October 2010

Bob Huntley

I just heard that my lunch companion Bob Huntley died of a massive heart attack late yesterday. Ray phoned me with the bad news just after nine. I had been having lunch with Bob and a group of other folks for about the last year and a half. In recent weeks, after an operation, Bob had problems walking. On the Wednesday and Thursday when Dot was not taking him to lunch, I had collected Bob, and drove him to the restaurant. Last week, Bob was not feeling well enough to attend on Wednesday or Thursday. Nor did he attend when Dot arrived on Friday. I was going to phone him today, to see if he felt up to having lunch.

Leigh phoned a little later, seeking to check the bad news. I sent an email of sympathy to one of Bob's daughters, the only one I knew I could contact. No further details at this time.

Kill iTunes Songs

I started going through and listening to all the songs I had on iTunes that were protected by DRM. This torture is because of the increasing number of social network and genius type add-ins that attempt to predict my tastes by what I have. So I need to get rid of everything I find tasteless. Since I have a philosophical bias against DRM, I thought I would start with them.

As I suspected, the vast number of free downloaded protected by DRM songs were so distant from my tastes that I decided to just delete them. This was not as easy as it appears. I made a Smart Playlist containing only Protected songs. Deleting them from a playlist does not delete them from your music library. Opps. I had to add the last played date to my music library, sort by most recently played, and then delete those songs. Meanwhile, listening to them is close to torture for most of them.

iPad Home Button Dead

Sometime during my iTunes song destruction, my (unattached) iPad Home button died once again. I had thought to watch a rental movie. Wonder how long before the iPad decides to start again?

I decided to Restore to the original factory state. Not because I expected it to work. This was purely because Apple will want that done before accepting there is a physical fault. So my iPad is now wiped down to its original state. No data, no nothing except the Apple defaults.

The Home switch on my iPad still does not work, despite multiple presses over a period of several hours. This was exactly what I expected. My suspicion is that one of the two screws holding the switch is not in there, so it fails to actually press correctly, despite the switch noise. However it could actually be a faulty switch, despite their long and reliable use in the iPhone. So now I can phone Apple for service tomorrow.

Tuesday 19 October 2010


I know we were up late, almost six, but I swear we started laundry not that long afterwards. So why was it after 8:20 a.m. before it was ready to hang out. Next time I will set a timer. That stupid front loading eco-efficient washing machine seems to be taking two hours to do an inadequate job of laundry. Plus Jean is setting it to heat the water these days, since there are other problems.

I asked Jean to drop me off at reception when we returned from our repair trip. Dot and Ray were at the restaurant, as was Billie. John joined us. Two of Bob's daughters joined us for lunch, along with some of the grandchildren. Bob's funeral is on Friday, which alas is when I am away.

Retail Therapy

I went to Willows with Jean, late because of the slowness of the stupid washing machine. Jean helped me find paper CD covers in BigW. We seem to be giving away an incredible number of CDs of photos these days. I took three over to Reception on Monday.

Since it was nine by then, I took my newspaper and went to Tony's at the Willows Food Court to get raisin toast for breakfast. Stood waiting. After studiously avoiding checking the counter, someone came out. Said they did not open until nine. I pointed out it was after nine. Not according to their clock. Maybe they should have a sign showing when they open, and what time they think it is now? Well, this is the last time I ever go to the Willows Food Court, for anything, under any circumstances.

I walked across the parking lot to McDonalds, despite that not being what I wanted. They were open, happy to serve me quickly, and had free WiFi and free copy of the Townsville Bulletin to go with my meal. That sort of thing is why McDonalds keep expanding, and some other food places that don't bother opening early complain about how badly they get treated by potential customers.

Got back into the Willows in time to collect Jean's bags from Coles, while she checked the Post Office (the queue was too long). She stopped on the way back to the car to get Morton Bay Bugs from the nice seafood place.

iPad Repair

I finally got around to making my second iPad repair call to Apple, since my iPad Home switch went dead again last night. I hate intermittent hardware faults. No problem with Apple, since I had done all the required tests, restored to factory condition and so on. Apple said take it to Townsville or Cairns (these city folks really do not have a lot of an idea of country distances). The Mac Doctors are the people in Townsville. Their phone system was as efficient as the Apple one. So we drove off after ten.

Air conditioning parts was our first stop. We will need filters for the air conditioners, and buying a bunch at once makes sense. The outmoded ordering system took a long while, but finally our order was placed.

Parking place right in front of the Mac Doctors. Not much extra work, once they had a quick look at the issue. Electronic pen for my signature. We were soon headed off.

Stopped at Jaycar to buy a cable tester with an audio oscillator. I hope to trace the various phone lines around Carlyle Square to the switchboard at reception. Then I should be able to subvert some of them for use as Ethernet lines, since they are all Cat 5 or better structured wiring. Might finally be able to get started on adding more WiFi around the resident's area.

Apple Quarterly Results

Another record quarter for Apple. Sales US$20.34 billion, profit US$4.31 billion, or $4.64 per diluted share. Gross margin down to 36.9%, with 57% international sales. 3.89 million Macs sold (27% up on last year), 14.1 million iPhones (up 91% for revenue of US$8.8 billion) on constrained supply, 9.05 million iPods (down 11% for revenue of US$1.4 billion). The new iPad sold 4.19 million (against 3.27 million Q2 2010), double the iPod revenue to produce US$2.8 billion, also on constrained supply.

American sales were US$7.2 billion, Europe US$5.4 billion, Asia Pacific was US$2.7 billion. Retail sales were US$3.5 billion, and included 874,000 Macs. Sixteen new stores, for a total of 317, 84 outside the USA. Revenue per store was US$11.8 million.

In an unusual admission, Steve Jobs said the new US99 AppleTV sold 250,000 in it first six weeks of sales. I can see a big appeal in streaming content from iOS and iTunes to a big screen in the house. I say that even though I do not have a TV.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

No Small iPad Tablet

I notice during the Apple earnings call that Steve Jobs said there would be no seven inch iPad tablet. There are clear limits to how close elements can be on the screen before users can't touch accurately. We believe 10-inch screen is minimum necessary. He concludes ten inches is the minimum size (note, not the only size). Now, a CEO can not lie during an earnings call. However they do not need to lay out all their reasoning.

Everything Jobs said about a seven inch iPad being 45% of the area of the ten inch model is true. Doing an iPad application in that smaller size means it probably needs to be far closer in user interface to an iPhone app. Seven inches may be a good size for another iPod Touch. Jobs did not say they would not make a seven inch iPod Touch, but it does not seem to make a lot of sense.

A seven inch device targeting Kindle e-book readers may make sense, but only when you have the fiction book publishers on board (it is too small for illustrated textbooks). Publisher co-operation seems unlikely.

Apple have probably bought up every IPS display available in the larger size. Also, Apple have a fairly aggressive price point for the iPad. Other manufacturers will need to cut corners to match. Smaller, worse displays are one typical place to lower costs. Watch out for really bad user interfaces. So what else is left unsaid?

I suspect battery life is one. Kindle gets away with seven inches partly because it has button controls, like many phones, not a hand capacitance touch screen. Seven inches is paperback size, and e-ink is not bad for reading text (although close to useless for anything but reading text). Plus e-ink is very economical on batteries, which means a Kindle can be much lighter than an iPad. A slim seven inch tablet with a bright IPS display and a 1 GHz ARM CPU would hit battery life very badly. Depends on the weight of batteries you could accept, but I would expect it could be shockingly dense to get anything like nine or ten hours. Closer to half that battery life would be more realistic. I can see not wanting to go there at this stage.

Now, if you actually had resolution independence … The trouble is, most producers would probably fail to handle it well. You have resolution independence in web browsers, and not one web site in a hundred can handle it.

Infonite Preparation

I wrote up a bit of a history of computers for my talk at the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club. However I wanted some illustrations to liven it up. Before long I had a directory full of photos and graphs. I have never been good at using illustrations, so I did not have any tools with which to add images to my web page.

The web page is written in XHTML 1.1, so it has to be served as XHTML. However, if served incorrectly as HTML, using the IMG element would mean I would have a self closing bracket. So I decided the only realistic alternative was to use the object element. First I found htmlhelp shows image dimensions without quotes, which is not permitted in XHTML.

It turns out the illustrations also need the image/jpeg MIME type, as per RFC 1341, and not the MS-DO oriented jpg, as in all the illustrations I had. So I wrote a little script to change the file extensions from .jpg to . jpeg in one go. I really must write a general tool to make illustration file names sane in one go

Modified an existing script to generate a complete set of web links to all my illustrations, as objects rather than images. I had to also extract and generate the dimensions of all the images as part of the script, to make things easier for the web browser. Plus it seems the alt attribute (required in img) is not permitted in object, so I changed that to generate title instead. I can just paste each link into my web page where I need them.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Network Connection

I was awake early, disturbed by the rain. I got up and tried to use my computer. No network connection. However a wireless link to the Belkin router worked, so it is nothing to do with the wireless network in the house. I didn't want to wake up Jean by fumbling with doors to the garage, so I logged in wirelessly. Restarted the router using the remote restart. Sometimes that is enough to provoke the Telstra connection into getting back into action.

That software reset was enough to kick the router back into action. This was real good, as the Apple Back to the Mac even had been held a few hours earlier.

Back to the Mac

I was up early to view the Apple Back to the Mac event. Preview of OS X 10.7 Lion, for release mid next year, as I expected. Apple demonstrated only a few items, mostly ideas back ported from iPad. It seemed sensible enough stuff, as long as you can still use keyboard shortcuts as well as gestures. Lots more to come from Lion over the following months. New Launchpad home screen for all applications, with virtual folders. Multitouch gestures for navigating between applications.

An optional one click Mac App store, within 90 days, with free or paid apps being able to be used on all your Apple devices. That Mac App store will arouse emotions, but I think it will be a very big thing. Developers pay US$99 a year for store and update tool access.

FaceTime video conferencing for Macintosh. I am not sure why this is an advance over iChat (except I have never found a use for iChat, as no-one had an AIM identity, so what would I know). Beta is already available. I am sure that I will use it, once I have an iPhone 4.

iLife 11 available immediately, with updates to iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand. Sounds like a solid update.

MacRumours crashed under the download hits. I moved to Appleinsider.

MacBook Air

I was pleased to see not one but two size models of the MacBook Air. Aluminium unibody case and LED backlit display. No optical drive, as usual. As I predicted, no rotating hard drive, solid state only, on the motherboard. Comes with a bare read only USB reinstall drive with the operating system and iLife, so you do not need an external optical drive for anything.

Webcam naturally, like all Apple portables, but I suspect low resolution FaceTime only, not like an iSight. Full size keyboard, as usual, but they now have the glass trackpad. On board memory is 2 GB, as usual, but optionally 4 GB. Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR. WiFi is 802.11n. Mini Display port, with optional adaptors for DVI, VGA or dual link DVI. External display up to 2560 x 1600. Full audio port compatible with Apple remote earphone and mic. Usual wonderful MagSafe power connector, for the 45 watt power supply. Finally has two USB ports. No surprises here.

A dated Intel Core2Duo CPU, and the nicer Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, with 256 MB of shared memory. That was expected, as Intel have no suitable CPUs available after their anti-Nvidia graphics fiasco. A newer i series Intel ULV CPU with lower power consumption would be clocked slower at 1.2 (i3) to 1.47 (i7) GHz. The associated Intel integrated graphics would have about a third the speed of the Nvidia 320M that Apple actually have used.

The 13.3 inch display is 1440 x 900 pixels, and comes with 128 GB or 256 GB (US$300 extra) of storage. 1.32 kilograms. CPU is Penryn 45nm 6MB cache 1.86GHz SL9400 or 2.13GHz SL9600. Battery life is up 40% to seven hours. This model includes an SD Card port.

The 11.6 inch display is 1366 x 768 pixels, and comes with 64 GB or 128 GB. A nice 1.6 kilogram. CPU is a rather slow Penryn 3M ULV 45nm 3MB cache1.4GHz SU9400 or optionally 1.6GHz SU9600. They must really be having problems getting the five hour battery life.

Opps! Possibly a show stopper for me. The MacBook Air keyboard is no longer backlit. In a hotel room at night or early morning, that illuminated keyboard makes the difference between being able to work in the dark to avoid awakening your partner, and not. I may not be buying an updated MacBook Air after all.

iPad Repair

A text message just before three from The Mac Doctors, to say that my warranty replacement iPad had arrived. Good service, since we only put it in on Tuesday. I got lucky, at three Jean's exercise alarm went off. She volunteered to drive me to The Mac Doctors, despite the overcast and rain. I was soon back in the car, with a brand new looking iPad.

First step was to copy my old backup from the Desktop back to the Backup folder from which I had copied it before my original restore some days ago. This replaced the almost empty backup generated when I restored my original iPad to the factory settings for test purposes.

Then when setting up the new iPad, just let it know you want it to use your previous backup. It should set up your new iPad with all the stuff you had previously. I had to enter some passwords. Quota had lost its passwords for iiNet, as had NetNewsWire for Google. I had to re-establish sync for Bento and Things.

Friday 22 October 2010

Drive to Airlie Beach

I was up early for the drive to Airlie Beach. This was mostly because I had awoken around 2;30 and could not get back to sleep. Despite that, I did not set out until five. Refuelled at the 24 hour service station just off the river along the Townsville loop road. Setting off at five was a mistake. The sun was in my eyes for a fair bit of the trip. I should have started at around 4:30 a.m. to avoid some of that. Stopped at Inkerman for a drink.

Stopped at Centro to collect food from the Woolworths. Too much ham for one person, and I forgot to buy Coke. Luckily no-one had DVDs that I wanted. Happened to see Allison, who tells me they will ring Amanda with them. Did a quick check of the Harvey Norman. They had portable air conditioners, decent large capacity ones. I wonder about using them in Jean's garage? They can have a temporary connection to the window for venting. I grabbed a brochure to show Jean when I next see her.

When I left Centro at Cannonvale, I was amazed to notice a brand new McDonalds store established where the Harvey Norman had been temporarily. Seems Mike Muller really does have faith in the area. His new McDonalds had opened on Sunday 10 October. Not sure how I managed not to notice it earlier.

Airlie Beach

I notice the Whitsunday Times a few weeks ago reporting that there is still no Post Office in Airlie Beach. They say it is now twelve months since the Post Office closed. There was an article this week from the local Federal parliament opposition member saying no-one has complained to him. I thought the idea of government owned commercial enterprises was so the government could ignore complaints, so I never bothered to complain. Instead I closed my (twice moved) Post Office box, and told everyone that I could not receive mail. Maybe the current drop in first class mail has a slight element of protest to it.

Jim's renovations were well and truly underway. His changes to the interior were really inspiring. he found potential spaces places I would never have even imagined being able to use. It was very impressive. Looking forward to seeing it complete. Jim said he would come to the party.

Collected a few computer magazines at the new newsagent. They had missed one of the local Whitsunday Times newspapers, and I never did manage to find a copy of the missing issue. I also remembered to get my tablets at the pharmacy, but will need to get my prescriptions filled again.

The Whitsunday Reef Festival was on with lots of sponsors. They had a side show on the foreshore. Fireworks and events at the lagoon. I watched most of these from my balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces.

Saturday 23 October 2010


I wandered down to the foreshore markets around 7:30 a.m. Ordered breakfast, before Bruce could get into trouble if he stomped off to punch out the deputy mayor. Talked with Rex, who said he could come to the party. Glenn was setting up. I collected the weekend newspapers, and rushed back home. I got lucky with the laundry, and the few sprinkles of rain did not get to the clothes out on the balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces.

Rhapsody of the Seas was due in this morning. I gather passengers were delayed by customs finding agricultural imports. The folks at the markets were not impressed, with few extra sales reported.


I had a nice little group gathered on the balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces. Rex was able to come, as no-one else was at home. Glenn and Alison arrived, and brought Amanda. Jim dropped in, with lots of work still to be done on his apartment. Michael and his friend were in and out from time to time.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Airlie Beach

I went off to the newsagent around seven, which was when it opened. However I forgot to get a Townsville Bulletin in addition to the Sunday Mail. Watched the usual Meet the Press, followed by Insiders, and Inside Business. Hated the idiocy Senator Conroy is sprouting about the National Broadband Network. If NBN really is commercial, get the figures out to prove it. If it is not commercial, stop lying to Parliament about it, and put it in the budget figures like it should be. Then we can guess which decade a Labor government will balance the budget.

At the Whitsunday Shopping Centre there was a (closed) shop labelled Airlie Beach Computers. This seemed to be an Apple dealer. First time I have seen that in the Whitsunday area. I checked due to the number of people who had mentioned it to me.

Visited Harvey Norman at Centro. Vaughn was there, so after he completed his tech help and escaped from the phone, I asked him about the Canon colour laser printer he had pointed out on Friday. Jean had done a quick internet check on it, and it seemed to have reasonable facilities for a small business printer. Connects to an Ethernet cable as well. Looked like it takes only the four cartridges, so no drum to replace. We quickly came to an agreement on price, so I bought it. That should work to replace Jean's broken HP LJ2550L.

Monday 25 October 2010


I was awake at 2 a.m. Finally got back to sleep. Next discover it is after five, and I am usually up and driving by then. I got away late, as it was light, and must have been at least five thirty.

Google Editions

I do not see Google Editions. This was Google's take on copyrighted eBooks to read, probably online with a browser, possibly direct from book retailer sites.. Google Editions were announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported again on these in May 2010. WSJ claimed Chris Palma from Google said they would launch mid year. Now Google say they will launch when ready, probably this year in the USA. I imagine the problem is still permissions from publishers.

You have been able to read out of copyright books at Google books for some time. Google Editions is for books still on sale. Publishers will be able to opt to have Adobe DRM applied to their books. Many eBooks have Adobe Content Protection DRM. This makes them useless in iBooks on an iPad. Sounds like Google Editions will be another fail. See Gizmodo explains how you are going to get screwed by ebook formats.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Telstra Structural Separation

I notice Malcolm Turnbull has managed to redirect the Coalition into a more mannered opposition to overspending on the National Broadband network. The opposition objects to some sections of the forced structural separation of Telstra, in the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010. In particular, exclusion of Telstra from bidding for spectrum for expansion. This is another example of sovereign risk for business in the current Australian political environment. While Labor is in power, I will not invest any further in Australia. If the rest of the world were not a disaster zone, I would be withdrawing my Australian investments right now.

The opposition would not attempt to immediately block the entire bill. Turnbull even endorsed structural separation of Telstra. Everyone knows it should never have been turned into a corporate structure without structural separation by Kim Beasley. Having done so, when John Howard sold it, he should have structurally separated it. Thus making it worth about half what it was sold for.

However the present bill to create a government monopoly will contractually oblige Telstra to pull out its copper network, and contractually oblige Telstra not to use its HFC network to compete with the NBN. Plus the ACCC will be obliged to turn a blind eye to this new monopoly, because NBN will be exempt from the Trade Practices Act. This seems like many of the worst problems with the Telstra monopoly all revived in another government monopoly. Especially one by a government that appears unable to build a sand castle.


I did my Infonite talk to an ensmalled audience at the computer club. As I expected, I had far too much material on my web pages, and had to skip some points. Wally was not doing short funny items that evening, so that made the entire talk an hour. I don't think anyone fell out of their chairs asleep, but it must have been close at time.

I tried to cover the history of computers, of the internet and the web, and the coming convergence with what for want of better we call mobile phones. Really it is more internet appliances.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Audio Line In

I went to the Carlton Theatre before the receivers from Ernst & Young talked to us. Several people had wanted to record the entire event, so there was no dispute about what was said.

Geoff and I could not seem to get a line out feed from his splendid mixer console. So my original plan of just letting QuickTime record whatever came into Line In on the MacBook Pro came to nothing. I did record everything with the built in microphone, but that was not nearly as effective.

Luckily I also had the Apple iPad with me, so I put that out on the tables for an audio capture. I did a simultaneous capture with the iPhone 3G. They worked well enough for the residents committee.


On 15 October Suncorp appointed Ernst & Young Receivers and Managers of Carlyle Villages Pty Ltd, the owners of Carlyle Gardens Townsville Retirement Village. Carlyle Gardens land assets went under the control of the Receiver and Manager. The E&Y representatives are Justin Walsh and Shaun McKinnon. Together with representations of Lendlease Primelife, they gave an explanation of what they expected. Basically, steady as it goes, no changes.

Thursday 28 October 2010


I was awake at around three, and got up around four. I expect to feel lousy the rest of the day. I was even upright early, despite efforts otherwise. My bags were basically packed.

Jean ordered the taxi, which arrived without too much trouble. It was somewhat astonishing to note that a seven foot taxi driver could fit into a Toyota Prius. He was chatty, telling us about weather phenomena and his efforts to photograph them.

We were on the big red Virgin Blue flight DJ1520 non-stop to Sydney at 11:20. The older model Boeing really has uncomfortable seats compared to Embraers or Airbus. The ridiculous daylight saving kick the southern states are on meant our arrival was at nearly three Sydney time. We took the overpriced ($15) train from the airport. It is quicker, more convenient, and cheaper than a shuttle bus to the Valentine on George Street hotel Jean had picked.

Arriving in Sydney

Check in at Valentine on George was quick, however the room not as nice as the first one we had. It was still more than adequate, especially in size, despite a tendency to have fancy, fully electronic light switches that remained a puzzle throughout our entire visit. The lights were pathetic for reading (luckily the windows are fine). Why do hotels figure no-one needs a decent reading lamp? Luckily we read on an iPad these days.

We walked up George Street to the underground Coles in World Square, to get milk and orange juice and cereal for breakfasts during our stay. We also bought a bottle of Evans and Tate Chardonnay. I took all this stuff back to the hotel while Jean continued further into town on this Thursday late shopping night.

I met Jean at Galaxy bookshop. She had piles of science fiction books up on the counter already. By the time I added another five or so, we had nineteen books, nearly four hundred dollars of books. The folks at Galaxy advised they could ship books home for us for free, for that amount of purchases. We took a book or two each to read during our stay, and had the rest shipped. That was good.

By the time we had that shopping done, it was time to go out again to order kebabs for dinner from the 24 hour Oz Turk place a few blocks up George Street. Jean continued on to the hotel, while I stayed to collect the dinner and try to catch up with her. Despite having had a relatively relaxed day, I was already exhausted.

Friday 29 October 2010


I hastened up George Street to the Apple store for its opening at eight. I had a bunch of equipment I wanted to inspect, and take note of. Luckily I managed to complete my notes before I had to dash off to Wynyard station.

Train to Parramatta, which seemed to take forever outside peak hours. Then the long walk up Church Street. Despite that, I managed to arrive a few minutes before my appointment. Social amenities taken care of, it was time for accounting. Disappointing results, but not exactly unexpected given the way the world economy has been behaving. Made some minor changes to investments.

Late return to Sydney. I was still thinking of trying to chase other people. Jean phoned me from the Technical Communicators conference during the meal break. I reached their hotel in time to see her and Jill, one of the people I knew from the conference.


I visited the Apple Store again, in an attempt to find out how they could update you to a new phone, using your old number. They had the right gear, and were agents for all the regular phone companies. I was told you needed to attend the store at 7:30 a.m. to get your name on the list of buyers. That seemed reasonable.

Darryl Lea chocolate store. That had not been on my shopping list. Looked at books at Dymocks and elsewhere. Especially at that giant (but out of date) bookstore in the Galleries near Town Hall. Made another little list, and remembered that Jean had a Dymock's card, so I wanted to have that on hand prior to buying more books. I think I have basically found a text book on each of the topics I wanted (HTML5, CSS3, web standards, Javascript, and somewhat reluctantly, AppleScript and another on Google SketchUp). I just have to do a little online checking to see if any of these have a bad reputation for some reason not obvious from the table of contents.

Later in the early evening I went out to get some food for Jean. Chicken and Kaiser rolls. She got stuck into them when she returned from her conference, instead of going out to dinner. I had bought them so she could make sandwiches for her meeting the next day. Luckily there was enough left over for her following meeting.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Sydney Shopping

I looked in York Street for computer stores. There are fewer than there used to be. No luck there at all on my shopping list. I failed to find the book Jean wanted in the ABC section of Dymocks.

I bought more books at Dymocks, since I had Jean's loyalty card and she will be credited. These were all computer stuff. Introducing HTML5 (not that it is out). HTML and CSS, to see if there is something interesting I have missed in my informal attempts to keep up to date. Google SketchUp 7, because who knew they would keep updating it so often? Simply Javascript, since it has made a big comeback on web related sites. Designing with Web Standards, third edition, because that is how everyone should do web pages. They gave me a discount for being old and decrepit.

Ted's Camera Store had a spare battery for my Panasonic Lumix camera. I also returned to Capitol Computer to get an SD Card memory, with a built in USB connector. An unknown brand, but I can never find the SanDisk ones I am seeking.

NetComm My Zone

Went to Central Square, to the computer shops upstairs there. At least most of them understood my questions. However with nine shops, I hoped to have a bit more luck with gear. Finally found a NetComm MyZone in the street level Capitol Computer store at Capitol Square. I had left that store to last, as it is not always the cheapest in that complex. But they have several guys there with real good knowledge of what they sell.

The NetComm MyZone is a fairly small (smaller than an iPhone), 77 gram 3G UMTS mobile data receiver, and 802.11b/g wireless access point. It can be Li-ion battery (four hours) and USB powered. It handles HSPA, HSUPS and EDGE on 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz, making it perfect for Telstra mobile data. Many similar devices are better suited to Optus or other networks that do not have good country area coverage.

It basically means you can set up your own WiFi network wherever you go, as long as you are within range of the mobile phone network. Given the prices city hotels charge for Internet access, we only need to use this two weeks in the year and it will pay for itself in the first year. The original price when Apple had a two month exclusive was $299. It cost me $229.

I could always tether my iPhone to my computer, but then Jean would not have access when I take either phone or computer with me for the day. I can also connect to 3G at a reasonable price with my Apple 3G iPad, but that does not allow other computers to tether. Having a 3G mobile WiFi hotspot is the most versatile choice when more than one person is travelling. However Telstra pre-paid data plans are just miserable.

Sunday 31 October 2010


I went upstairs at the galleries near Town Hall to Kinokuniya bookshop. They had an AppleScript book that sounded interesting, so I bought that. So that brought the book buying in Sydney to over $700. I noticed that the counter staff were all done up in costumes for Halloween. There seemed to be a zombie and a wicked witch. I was served by a very pretty Snow White.


I keep wondering when we will see Lightpeak? Intel started to develop this in 2007, as a single universal connector. Apple appear interested (but contrary to Wikipedia Apple did not ask Intel to develop Lightpeak, although it was demonstrated on Apple hardware and software). It was expected at the end of 2010, which is where we are now. It is not associated with a communications protocol, unlike say USB, Firewire or Ethernet, but is a different cable structure. Detractors do not expect to see Lightpeak on mass market computers, but the major advantage over say USB3 cable is the greater cable length optical fibre can handle. Optical also has the disadvantage that you do not send power over it.

Hmm, Lightpeak cable wrapped in a low voltage MagSafe connector, running Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire or USB3 protocols. Wonder what you could do with that? It is probably still not quick enough to replace DisplayPort to a monitor.

Eric Lindsay's Blog October 2010