Eric Lindsay's Blog November 2010

Monday 1 November 2010


I walked briskly up George Street towards Circular Quay just after 7:10 this morning, from our hotel at Valentine Street. The streets were unpopulated, the stores all closed, except for the odd cafe, mostly fast food chains.

My destination was the iPhone order queue at the Apple Store at the corner of King Street. I had been told yesterday to join the queue at 7:30. I reached it before 7:25, and became number ten in a queue that reached around 25 before an Apple employee told the last person that they were the last to be served today. Imagine a product still so popular that people queue to buy it. When was the last time you had to queue to buy a consumer product?

I waited in the queue for about a quarter hour before I reached the attendant to confirm my appointment time to buy an iPhone. My appointment was for 10 a.m., rather than later in the day, as I still had fading hopes of managing a few other visits to see people. It was not until I experienced the agony of setting up a Telstra mobile account that I realised why Apple were doing so few appointments each day to enable iPhone accounts. The whole system for setting up phones needs to be changed, if that really is the best that can be done.

Sydney Morning

While up that far end of town, I had breakfast at McDonalds. This time I could not find a newspaper to read, as is commonly the case there. Also, I had not brought my iPad, nor my reading glasses, so even the alternatives for reading were a bit of a problem.

As I walked back down George Street at a more leisurely pace, I could not help but notice how obnoxious the city streets had become. The incredible racket of buses at close range, the stink of diesel exhausts, and all that without even having to put up with actual people on the streets. The streets were sparsely populated, although busier than at seven.

The stores were all still closed, despite it being after eight! Only a few fast food chains appeared to actually be open. Dawn was at six. Why were the streets so deserted two hours after it was light? This seems crazy.

Bub Wurth and Willie Phua

When I reached our hotel I reported to Jean that the ABC Store being in the basement of the ABC building. I had thought the ABC store in Dymocks bookshop had books, but it seemed to only have DVDs. I did not want to visit the ABC that morning. That would take me even further from my next destination, where I was due at ten. I was also uncertain that the bookshop would actually open at nine, rather than some time somewhat after nine.

Jean decided she would try to buy the Bob Wurth book Capturing Asia, about Asian cameraman Willie Phua, who worked with so many ABC correspondents. We had met Bob and the delightful Willie during our Trans-Siberian railway trip in August.

iPhone 4

I got rather more walking done today than I expected. It takes between 15 minutes and a half hour to walk from our hotel to the Apple Store. I was soon sitting on a stool chatting with Apple staff member James, who was interrupted often, as he turned out to be the point of reference for most issues in getting an iPhone 4 set up. There was a card reader attached to one of the MacBook Pros. James had to fire up Windows 7 and Internet Explorer to use Telstra's Siebel accounting system. Getting in to the Telstra stuff was a bit time consuming. The baroque nature of what you had to do reminded me of old fashioned COBOL based terminal accounting. It seemed pretty hideous, from a user access view.

Jean had by this time arrived from her book buying. After a while she borrowed my iPad so she could sit and check stuff. It is a pity she arrived soon after me, as getting the iPhone accepted into the Telstra system took most of an hour. Very little of that was anything to do with Apple accounting systems. However eventually I walked out with a brand new iPhone 4, all working, but mostly empty.


Jean and I took the train again, underground from Town Hall to Bondi Junction. We must have been doing the right things, as when we emerged from the combined train station and bus interchange, we could see the large Westfield shopping centre.

The Bondi Junction Apple Store is interesting in that it has a small collection of trees at the back of the store, under a gigantic glass roof. The ceiling for the store must have been about three floors high. Wonderful spacious feel to the entire store.

We had lunch at the food court at Westfield at Bondi Junction, for lack of a better idea. I never did find anything else on my shopping list.

ADSL Modem

I bought a Netgear DM111P v2 ADSL modem from Orange Computers. This despite at least one very negative review from 2007. I wanted a pure ADSL modem as a bridge, without any router component. While you can turn routers off, sometimes I suspect side effects of running a router into a (switched off) router. This way I should be able to run most of my network via an Apple Airport Extreme router and wireless access point.

This setup also means that when (if) the National Broadband Network or anything else ever connects our fibre to the home to the internet, I only need to remove the ADSL modem, and the rest of the network can remain unchanged.

I had to go though about a dozen computer shops to find anyone who still stocked pure ADSL modems, without also having the router and wireless access point components. Took ages to find them.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Leaving Sydney

We waited until there did not seem to be much rain before leaving the hotel. We were able to cover the few blocks to Central Railway without getting wet or having to struggle with umbrellas as well as luggage. Although peak hour was in decline towards nine, the station was still busy, and I could not see the departure boards, so we had problems.

I thought there would be ticket machines close to the far entrance, some of which would have Domestic Air Terminal as an option. This was the situation at the train station at the airport. However that was not the case. Jean went to the (mostly unused) human staffed ticket issuing stand, and got our $15 train tickets.

We went down the escalators to platforms 24 and 25. However we could not see any indication of trains to the Domestic Air Terminal. The convenient diagram of the train network seemed to indicate a totally different line. We went back, and I asked one of the rain staff. It seems the above ground platform 23 is what you need for the airport. This required struggling up several flights of stairs with the bags.

After that our transport situation in Sydney ran smoothly. Not so our actual flight.

Flying High

I was pleased to see JetStar flight JQ912 to Townsville boarded on time. The aircraft was a new Airbus, that had far more comfortable seats than the Boeing that Virgin Blue had used. We took off pretty much on time.

Partway through the flight, the pilot announced a minor problem, nothing to worry about. However instead of going direct to Townsville, we would be flying a further 300 kilometres to Cairns to get the fault fixed. Groan! Jean and I made a rush for the loos, before the implications of this became clear to most of the passengers. We knew it would mean an extra two hours on board the aircraft.

Landed at Cairns, and sat in the aircraft. At least we could fire up our mobile devices and post to Facebook. Some engineer certified the computer fault was now cleared. Pilots did paperwork. We arrived in Townsville about two hours late.

Strange co-incidence in Townsville. Sue and Jill were waiting to board the flight. We had met these bird watchers a few months back on an Outback Spirit tour on the interior. They were just returning home from a Cape York tour. They were both looking very happy about their trip, and planning more travel.

Melbourne Cup Day

I had expected to return to Carlyle Gardens in time to visit the restaurant and participate in the Melbourne Cup festivities. And get a lunch. Lucky I had not organised to pay for a meal. But it was basically an excuse to watch a horse race and get pissed with people I know.

It was with a tiny particle of regret that I realised that there was no way to get back until the entire social event was over. I never watch horse racing under ordinary circumstances. Why should Melbourne Cup be different? Yes, it is inspiring to stand beside a track and watch race horses thunder past at close range, like some primeval force of nature. But to watch it on a TV screen? Not the same at all.


I notice 38% of Australians contacting government use the internet. This exceeds in person (32%) and telephone (30%). Only one in ten used mail. This was the fifth annual survey of Australians’ use and satisfaction with e-government services figures from Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). The 2009 figures were similar to 2008, so trends have been stabilising. However Internet contact was most used by 18-44 year olds previously, but now the 55-64 age group joins them with Internet the most used form of contact. Links to the full report on Australians' use and satisfaction with e-government services, plus previous editions, all as Creative Commons.

As someone who loathes the use of a telephone for anything, I am obviously pleased to see alternatives to the telephone. Not that I am actually willing to contact the government about anything.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Carlyle Gardens

I pulled weeds. The crop of weeds has been astonishingly prolific since the gardeners fertilised and top dressed the lawn out back. So the weeds have sprouted. I know from past experience that if you make one big effort to get rid of them, relatively few appear next year. So after the sprinklers ran at 5 a.m. I went out and started pulling. Now my back is wrecked.

Allan came by with the latest list of residents in his ensmalled block for the Emergency Response folks. We were away during the meeting to organise that, and do the radio checks. I guess we will eventually get around to organising closer to the same block. Holger and Alexis are going to take over this block. All seems good.

The giant parcel of books from Galaxy Books in Sydney arrived sometime in the morning, when we were not paying attention to the front door.

Carlyle Gardens Rain

Soon after I returned from the restaurant, it started to rain. Then it got heavier and heavier. It was still raining well into the night. I expect it will stay raining overnight.

Iain stopped by well after eight to drop in his old Apple iMac. It was one of the white CRT models, so it could I guess be up to ten years old, or as new as seven. Once I get model numbers, I need to find if there is any way to recover old files from it. Not much chance that it runs OS X, so my knowledge of it will unfortunately be very limited.

A closer look shows an eMac A1002, probably from around 2003.

Internet Use in Australia

I see the statistician has released internet activity in Australia, based on all ISPs as at the end of June 2010. There were 9.6 million active internet subscribers. Dial up continues to decline to 800,000, with 92% of connections not dial up. DSL is still the major connection at 44%, or 4.25 million, declining from a December 2009 high of 47%. Mobile has increased to 3.5 million, a 21% increase since December 2009. There were a statistically insignificant 15,000 fibre connections, and 113,000 satellite connections.

71% of connections offer 1.5 Mbps or greater. Excluding dial up, close to 2 million connections are slower than 1.5 Mbps. 3.5 million are nominal ADSL1 speeds under 8 Mbps. 2.6 million are nominal ADSL2+ speeds above 8 Mbps. 635,000 are above 24 Mbps.

Dialup downloads used only 280 TB, mobile 13,330 TB. Fixed line accounted for almost all downloads, with 141,892 TB.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Carlyle Rain

I started weeding at six, and did not give up until nearly seven. I had looked in the bucket I had left outside. The overnight rain must have spilled 70mm of so into the soil, and so the weeds came out easily. It was too good a chance to pass up, despite neither my knees nor my back appreciating the effort.

Later I persuaded the grass mowing crew to leave the strip along the back alone for a while. They would have sunk the mower well and truly into the mud had the attempted to run it on that ground.

I put in the batteries, and used the tone oscillator to trace one of the internal phone lines to the Hills Home Hub. That seemed a reasonable test for whether I can use it to trace the phone lines from Carlyle Square into reception. I ducked into the head end room, but as I thought, it was too much of a mass of cables to have any chance of manual tracing. I sure hope that some of the lines are documented. I seem to recall mention at one stage that they demanded each line be documented.

Pension Fund Lies

It seems that some US pension funds have been lying about notional future returns on their investments. Some have been projecting 8% returns, in an environment where the USA interest rate is close to zero. If invested at 8%, over a decade you would have a return over 110%. However the S&P 500 went down over the past decade! Opps!

If you calculate your pension liabilities based on post GFC reality, many pension funds need huge additional contributions to offset their future liabilities. Since many of these liabilities are city and state government, they will attempt to raise their taxes. That will go down real well with tax payers.

Computers in Schools

In June 2010, then Education Minister Julia Gillard delivered the 300,000 computer to an Australian school. This was a 2007 election commitment by Rudd before taking government. It was expected to cost $1 billion. The idea was to have a computer in school for every Year 9-12 student in Australia by the end of 2011. The Computers in Schools plan also calls for replacements every four years. The Digital Education Revolution is on track to waste $2.4 billion over seven years (2008-2014), with School Computer Fund getting $2.3 billion of that.

Friday 5 November 2010

Green Washing Machines Suck

I was up early, but until Jean emerged around 6:45 a.m., could not start the washing machine for laundry. As usual the front loading Simpson EZI Sensor washing machine took forever. It was well after eight before we could hang clothes out on the line. This was a contributor in making us late for going shopping.

We started a second load of laundry before nine, and it was still running when we returned from shopping after 10 a.m. It did not complete until 10:40 a.m. These new front loading washing machines may save water, but they are a total waste of time and effort. I loath them. Just why do new devices need to take so much longer to do their job than the old ones did?

The old fashioned top loading Simpson washing machine models could complete a wash in thirty minutes. It does shake the house a bit, and mangle some things, but at least it gets it all over with fast!

Telstra T-Life

I took my new NetComm MyZone 3G to WiFi device to the T-Life store. They were uncertain what sort of 3G Data pack they could sell me. Too many new products, they complained. Plus who knows how you get something through the Siebel accounting system, if you do not already know how to get to it.

However since I last visited T-Life a few weeks ago, they had been sent some Telstra Pre-Paid Mobile Wi-Fi. This is a battery operated 3G to WiFi device, just what I asked them about a few weeks ago. $149 including 5GB of data over 90 days. Recharge packs include $30 for 700MB over 30 days, $50 for 3GB of data over 30 days, $100 for 6GB over 90 days, $150 for 10GB over 365 days. Naturally it is locked to the Telstra network only.

Unfortunately the Telstra Getting Started Guide regarding the Telstra Connection Manager does not seem very relevant to a WiFi device. Luckily if you ignore the above link Telstra provide, and use this Telstra Pre-Paid Mobile Wi-Fi Getting Started Guide link, you at least have the correct manual.

Book Industry

I see book publishing trade feel they are in trouble. Consumer spending down. Booksellers going broke. Turnover down, profits down.

Perhaps the problem is that books no longer offer value for money. Jean and I last weekend bought 25 paperback books between us, at a cost of around $700. I would get far better value spending that money on gadgets at Apple, or 70 or so DVDs at JB HiFi.

Books are overpriced by booksellers. Look at the prices at Amazon. Even better, look at Book Depository, which changes significantly less than local booksellers and ships free. Luke Slattery points to Booko, an Australian site that finds the cheapest online sellers.

Finally, the only people essential to the book transaction are the author, and the reader. However the entire publishing, printing and distribution system ensures that authors receive only single digit percentages of the price at which books are sold. eBooks on the Internet mean the entire middleman chain between author and reader can be bypassed. I believe it will increasingly be bypassed.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Apple XServe Dumped

I see Apple will no longer offer rack mount XServe from the end of the year. I thought that was a pretty marginal business line. However it seems pretty clear that no-one with a room full of rack mount servers is likely to move to a Mac Pro line of servers. Size makes that impossible. On the low side, the Mac mini server is not in the same performance class as XServe. Even the hard drives are slow 2.5 inch models.

Does it matter? I am not sure that it does. For household and small business needs, a Mac mini server is probably just fine these days. You do not really need all that much raw CPU performance in most small business server situations. You may need massive I/O, but nothing Apple make has that in any case. Nor is OS X and HFS+ up to the performance you need to handle massive I/O demand. Rack mounts, redundant power supplies, fibre channel, hot swap RAID, Infiniband, hardwear monitoring and all that cool stuff make system administrator happy, but low end business could not care less. They do not have an administrator to care. They just want ease of use.

The entire enterprise server business is being squeezed by better, cheaper chips from the low end. I am not sure it has anywhere to go. There are a heap more small businesses than there are medium scale enterprise. Sure, there are a bunch of enterprise situations that need expensive administrators and better servers, but are they actually worthwhile as customers? Enterprise and government are half of all personal computer sales, and Apple recently had deals with companies like Unisys for system integration into business.

This whole change with XServe seems like it is somehow missing the reason for Apple to drop the server hardware. Virtual servers seem like a good place to really save costs. Run up server hardware utilisation to 90%+, instead of having a bunch of underused stand alone servers idle part of the time.

What Musicians Think of Music Publishers

I quote science fiction author Spider Robinson, as quoted in an unauthorised text of Mind Pressure.

In writing Mindkiller, I discovered that I wanted to quote a verse from Tom Waits's song $29 (and an Alligator Purse). Problem. Several times in the past I had tried to quote a song in my work and learned to my dismay that the suits who own music-publishing rights routinely charge writers hundreds, even thousands of dollars for the privilege of promoting their property for them. Why, I've given up trying to grasp. This time, however, inspiration struck: I got my hands on a copy of the Musicians' Union directory – and mailed my request directly to Mr. Waits himself. I plaintively explained the finances of the freelance novelist, enclosed a chapter to show him the context in which he would be quoted, and asked him to cut me his best deal.

His splendid scrawled reply hangs on my office wall today. It reads, in part: Although I am currently approaching the possibility of litigation against my publisher and my manager, I am going to go ahead and grant your permission, considering they're all bloodthirsty scumsucking flesh peddlers, and I'm flattered that you asked

Enclosed was a signed release for the song $29 (and an Alligator Purse) –stating a purchase price.


Of course I mailed him a cheque for US$29 at once (suppressing the urge to throw in an alligator purse). But here's the rest of what I owe him. You're a gentleman, Tom, and I hope to jam with you in The Mind some day.

Sunday 7 November 2010

4G Bullshit

There is no cellular phone technology that is even close to providing 4G network speeds. The ITU have defined 4G as around 100 Mbps for mobile, 1Gbps for fixed wireless. Nothing out there from the mobile phone companies is even close to this performance. Not the IP based WiMax, not LTE, not UMB, nothing. Any phone company writing about 4G is just advertising lies and bullshit.

I mention that 4G is bullshit because T-Mobile USA is falsely claiming to have a 4G service. They do not. The T-Mobile 4G claim is an outright lie.

Sometime around 2015, you may find someone has LTE-Advanced or next generation WiMax 802.16m. ITC say LTE Advanced and 802.16m may reach 4G status.


I pulled weeds in the wet corner of the grass by the bedroom window. A medium sized spider emerged and acted mildly aggrieved before wandering off. I think I need to put down more top soil in yet another attempt to smooth out the water flow, and reduce permanent damp spots. Looks like there must be some low spots.

This activity did not reflect itself in any weight loss when I weighed myself. Grump. I fear a some dietary restraint is in my future.

Some kids on noisy dirt bikes road up the drainage ditch. When they got stuck after going under the bridge, a whole heap of neighbours came out to remonstrate with them for the noise. Not at all sure where they could legally ride, but it sure is not on private land where we are. The one whose bike would not start ended up swearing at everyone, including his female friend.

Nellie told me that the plants we wanted for the garden strip were lillipilli. She showed me some growing as a hedge behind her house. They looked like they would make a nice hedge plant.

Went to Willows seeking lunch, but everything seemed either crowded or unhealthy. Unhealthy I can do well enough by myself, without needing a chef. Got some bread rolls instead during my long walk. No luck with CR2016 batteries, although I found two more places (chemist and JB HiFi) that did not have the battery I needed.

Power Outage

We had a power outage at 3:43 p.m. Luckily it lasted only about ten minutes. The previous power outage was some time in August, as far as we know. This is much better electricity service than when we first moved in.

I noticed my 30 inch monitor was not connected to a UPS, so I had to swing the power lead over before I could continue. The Mac mini stayed up on its UPS. For some reason the backup hard drive was not on a UPS. I am not sure of my reasoning in not connecting that hard drive. Of course, these days the UPS is probably drawing more power than the computer or the hard drive. The 30 inch monitor is however very thirsty for power.

The feed from the solar panels dropped out when the regular power failed. That is partly a safety feature. Otherwise your household panels would be feeding power into some power line someone may be attempting to repair. It is however pretty annoying to have sufficient power coming in, but not be able to use it.

Monday 8 November 2010


Shopping expedition. We were able to return the broken steam cleaner (it cleaned well, once, and then parts jammed so we could not change heads and one part jammed entirely) to RetraVision. They accepted it fine. One of their strong young men was even able to pull it apart, except for one jammed part, something we could not manage. We bought a Bisell steam cleaner from them to replace it. Far less chance of things going wrong, or so we hope. Several people have recommended this brand to us.

Jean wanted plants at Bunnings. I found the missing CR2016 batteries. I also bought spare batteries for the solar lights, so I can see if any can be repaired. I found a timed garden watering control. The helpful Bunnings staff assure me this one can be set different for every day of the week, to deal with council regulations on watering. Jean found several lillipilli and a bottlebrush. Also a blueberry and a sub-lime tree.

Jean phoned the air conditioning place. They had our replacement filters, so we drove over to Ingham Road to collect them. The package sure seems large.


I set the multiple timers and installed our new garden sprinkler controller late this afternoon. If all goes well, our garden will start getting watered just after five a.m. tomorrow morning. I should be up in time to check this.

Come twilight, I identified five different solar lights that were not operating. Uprooted them and put them on the back porch for further work. I set one of the battery chargers to work recharging the new AA batteries I bought. It will be interesting trying to see what the problem is with the solar garden lights.

Chevy Volt

It is interesting to see that the Chevrolet Volt is the only plug in hybrid vehicle that makes sense today. Most plug in vehicles lack the range to make sense as an only car. The Toyota Prius makes a great low fuel consumption vehicle, but it is not a plug in (it lacks sufficient batteries). You can get better mileage from a modern small diesel anyway.

Our typical use from day to day could be satisfied with a 40 km range pure electric vehicle. However we regularly take a 300 km trip, and return. No pure electric is even close to handling that. So we would be looking at a second vehicle. But having two vehicles makes no sense to us. We hardly have enough use to justify one vehicle. However letting the internal combustion engine of the Volt propel the car (via the generator motor) when the battery is under 25% and the speed is over 70 MPH (should be lower) means you can use one vehicle for short shopping trips, and for highway cruising. This is smart design. The only thing wrong is fuel capacity, which is seriously low.

Tuesday 9 November 2010


I checked a little after five. No sprinkler system working. Even walked out to inspect the mute grey box. However at 5:15 a.m. the garden sprinklers started operating just like I had programmed them. I had just forgotten what time I had set them. They also turned off 30 minutes later, as scheduled.

We planted a bottlebrush in the community garden alongside our dining room windows. That was a little after six. I don't think I want to plant the lillipilli this morning.

It rained all afternoon. Washed my top soil into the grass real well. So after six I went out, sunk into the wet grass, and spread a bunch more soil in the low spots on the grass surrounding the house. I will need to keep doing this for ages. What I have done so far seems hardly noticeable.

Is Petrol Price Inelastic?

That is, does a large price increase in petrol reduce use proportionally, or does petrol use change very little? This question is at the heart of using price signals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from petrol vehicles. If inelastic, raising prices does little. In any case, cars last a long time, so the effects will take a long time to show up.

You can find a spreadsheet of Australian fuel sales. Petrol consumption went up about 8.6% from 1998 to 2007. Diesel and aviation fuel went up 22%. The population increased 11%. So the change roughly followed population, with some alteration in fuel mix. Or take 1990, with 4168 Megalitres of petrol (2364 Ml of diesel). By 2006 it was 4923 Megalitres (4418 Ml of diesel). Aviation fuel went from 841 Ml to 1519 Ml. This was despite massive price increases, and more fuel efficient vehicles.

Fossil Fuel Use

Fossil fuel use (oil, gas and coal) in Australia from 1990 rose from the equivalent of about 85 million tonnes, to around 115 million tonnes in 2005, 36.7% more. Basically a very steady rise in fossil fuel use of around 2.3% per annum, mostly in aviation, and diesel. By 2012, fossil fuel use will be 53% above 1990 levels of carbon emissions, which is not exactly meeting Kyoto targets.

Fuel prices were basically flat for a decade or more until 2003. From 2003 to 2008, real petrol prices have increased 63 per cent in real terms, but are now lower. In the short run, car fuel use declines about 1.5 per cent for a 10 per cent increase in the petrol price. This rises to about a 4 per cent decline when long-run demand and technology adjustments are made, over say 15 years. Car sizes have dropped. Car fuel efficiency has increased.

Truck fuel use is basically price inelastic. There is very little substitution of rail for road freight.

Wednesday 10 November 2010


Filled Jean's car with fuel mid morning, as there was an 8 cent per litre fuel coupon to hand. Some sort of extra discount at Coles, or so it appears. However as far as anything else went, the entire day was a waste of time.

NBN Monopoly

I see the NBN is under attack from Optus as a monopoly, after proposing 14 points of interconnect (POI) in capitals. This would strand multiple backhaul already installed by telecos. I gather Telstra wanted up to 1000 POI. See the ACCC NBN Points Of Interconnect paper.

Who objected to the NBN POI proposals? AAPT, ATUG, CCC, Energex (wants PoI for each 50k), Ergon, iiNet, Michael S Cox, Nextgen, OPENetworks, Optus, PIPE Networks, Powerlink, Ross Lowrey, South Australian Government (wishy washy), Tasmanian Government, TPG, Vodafone, Great Southern Development, Internode, Telstra.

Who supported the NBN POI? Primus.

Thursday 11 November 2010


I cancelled my trip to Airlie Beach. Too much threat of rain. Perhaps next weekend will be better, although I have even more things on my schedule.

The grass mowing contractors came through starting around 7:15 a.m. I went and spoke to them about our now very long grass out the back. They tried taking the mower in, but it started to sink, so they had to once again give up. Mark had turned the sprinklers off to allow them access, but the rain did not co-operate. Holger will not be impressed.

Remembrance Day, with the ceremony in the Carlyle Square. I once again plan to avoid the area. I joined the RSL as a social member, to show support for their efforts. Unlike many folks in Townsville, I have no military background. I feel that this is a special day for those with a closer connection to the armed forces. While my mother was a war widow, I do not see a connection via a father I can not remember makes it appropriate to attend the ceremony. I would prefer a period of quiet contemplation alone of what might have been. This view is apparently not always shared by some politicians.

Four propellor aircraft came in low over Carlyle Gardens from the north mid morning, and performed a missing man formation over the Remembrance ceremony at Carlyle Square.

There is a pile driver pounding away at the bridge across the river. It is not as annoying at the one at Airlie Beach, mostly because it is distant, and thus not as noisy.

Getup Banks

I am embarrassed to note how idiotic the GetUp campaign against banks is turning out to be. They ask the government for real competition and effective regulation. Sure, you can give the ACCC increased powers to promote competition. Samuels has been angling for that for a while. Maybe you should be checking how effective ACCC actually is, against, say, Telstra?

If you look at the figures, banks are below their historic margins. The only real competition came when fringe banking could get hold of money for loans. Maybe no-one has noticed that overseas lenders are much more scarce, and the funds are not available cheap.

If you go back to old style banking (and I think we should), then about 40% of the people asking for housing and business loans today will not get them. If a few percent decline in trade makes a recession, what do you think 40% will do?

Banks used to check your statements for at least two years for increased savings equivalent to loan repayments minus rent. They wanted to see between 10% and 20% deposits, saved steadily over several years. They looked at only one breadwinner for loan repayments. They wanted loan repayments to be less than 30% of income. Do you think anyone these days is going to get a loan under those conditions?

There are lots of things wrong with banks. However there is heaps more wrong with the inflated prices of housing in Australia. We are in a bubble. No-one is willing to admit it. Housing is not an asset. Housing is mostly a liability.

CD Baby, iTunes and Apple

A nice little piece of media history. Independent music company CD Baby founder Derek Sivers on CD Baby's first encounter with iTunes back in 2003. Turned out Apple were pitching to a hundred or so small music publishers. It seems CD Baby managed to upset Apple twice in the subsequent events. One of these events was blogging about the talk with Apple. The other event appeared to relate to money. Apple have a reputation for acting when they have a viewpoint on things. Classic tale. Read it.

Then read Derek Sivers from 2008 on Why I gave away my company to charity. He really did.

Two items I enjoyed were how Tom Williams became the youngest contractor at Apple, at the age of fourteen. The youngest employee was probably Chris Espinosa, who also worked for Apple at the age of fourteen. Eventually left to go to collage, but was Apple employee number eight. I recall writing manuals much the same way, and using LetraSet for headings. If you want more, see links to Apple computer history.

Yet another, a 1986 Bellcore talk on You and Your Research by Richard Hamming. Yes, that Hamming. The one that Hamming Code is named after.

Friday 12 November 2010


It rained. Which was why I had cancelled all sorts of things I was planning to do. I still do not like excessive rain. The eastern side of the house was sitting in water. That thing needs proper drainage, as the grass on the side is on earth that is higher than the house. The original top soil was too high, and the water has no place to drain.

I started downloading Apple's OS X 10.6.5 update. Got it installed on two computers, but the download is very slow on some. Finally installed it on my main computer.

During a gap in the rain, Jean drove out to get eggs. I got bread rolls and sausages, as I am not likely to walk to the restaurant in the rain.

ISBN Waste of Time and Money

I see publishers are still stuck in the 20th Century, wasting their time arguing about whether a different ISBN number is required for each ebook format, or even each DRM applied to a format such as ePub. I will give you a hint. You do not need any ISBN for an eBook. Unless you want to give it the same ISBN as the dead tree book.

It is perfectly obvious to any computer system which format is being used. Just drop this ISBN nonsense. Second hand bookstores have managed to cope with heaps of books that totally lack ISBN. Publishers can manage to do the same. Especially since most use their own internal process numbers for most production.

Library eBooks Are a Waste

Library eBooks are a waste of effort. If they are in ePub format, they do not work on a Kindle. If they are in ePub, but have DRM, they do not work on an Apple iPad or pretty much any other cheap eBook reader, because most cheap eBook readers will not accept DRM files. Plus there are multiple varieties of DRM. Adobe make a pathetic one, that libraries often use. Apple use a different one.

I will go a bit further. In another decade, most people will realise that libraries are a waste of time. They ran head first into the Internet, and are being ground down to being meaningless. With the Internet, every library is local. You only need a handful of libraries in the entire world.

Digital Underclass: What Happens When the Libraries Die? asks Jason Perlow, suggesting a slow decline in Public Libraries will ensure a digital underclass, unless we act to avoid that. Libraries are already being outsourced, as costs for good library staff increase. This impacts the poor disproportionately.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Baen Books

I found Allen Smith's description of Baen Books epublishing sources very handy. The annotated list of Baen Free Library books is dated but handy. So is the annotated list of Baen webscriptions, although it ends mid 2006.

The official Baen Books web site can be a little confusing initially, but points to sample chapters of new books. Baen make CDs of books available in some of their first edition hardcovers. Unfortunately, the CDs in the hardcovers I bought were broken (in two, during transport - I live thousands of kilometres from the capital cities and bookshops).

The easiest way to download copies of the Baen CDs is at Fifth Imperium site.

You can buy Baen Books from their Webscriptions site, which has links to the Baen Free Library and their forums. Arnold Bailey, the former Baen Webmaster, did a good job setting it up before he fell ill.

What I would like to do is buy some webscription ebooks. However although I have joined (after great difficulty) in the past, Baen no longer recognise my login. So I got myself another login.

Offensive Items

I like how to offend everyone with one picture of a world full of stereotypes. For good measure, there are two additional drawings of stereotyped worlds.

Free taxpayer-subsidised solar-roof panels are a dream for middle class Greenies wanting to ponce their ecological trendiness. However panels are impossible to justify economically. They are another unneeded middle class handout. Plus solar panels cost the poor a fortune in increased electricity charges. Poor electricity users pay for the generous input tariff on solar panels.

More religious idiocy in the USA. Some Roman Catholic bishops are saying they need more exorcists.. Luckily much of the church remains skeptical.

Phone Books Disappear

I notice that phone books are starting to disappear in the USA. At least, Verizon have been getting permission this month to not print residential phone books in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. Other USA states that do not require white pages include Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The first telephone directory was said to be issued in February 1878, for 50 customers in New Haven. Now, many phones are not listed. I have never seen a phone listing for mobile phones. Many people I know will not normally give out their cell phone number to strangers.

Anybody who doesn't have access to some kind of online way to look things up now is probably too old to be able to read the print in the white pages anyway, joked Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University.

Buying Baen Books

I mentioned visiting Galaxy Science Fiction bookshop last month, and spending $376 on 19 paperback books. Today I visited Baen Books Webscriptions online, and as a trial, bought 47 eBooks for US$110. Basically I bought their December 1999 and year 2000 output, minus a few. So yes, I did get some duplicates of items Baen gave away free.

No postage, no taxes, no customs fees, and no delay. It was a 25 MB download to get 47 eBooks in ePub format. Baen does not use DRM. If Baen they did use DRM, I would not be writing about buying them (unless I was sure I could remove the DRM). Other publishers need to come to grips with not being able to stop their products being stolen. Some readers will always steal. Lean to live with it.


I had breakfast at Willows. Since Tony's refuse to open before nine, I again had raisin toast from Muffin Break. The Muffin Break have better hot chocolate than Tony's, but it is really close to a draw. However the Muffin Break raisin toast is inferior. How can raisin toast be inferior? It is the butter. Tony's have bulk butter at a spreadable temperature. Muffin Break have individual serve butter (normally a great idea), but it is straight from a commercial fridge. There is no way you can spread the nearly frozen butter before the raisin toast has gone cold. Damn!

During the hottest part of the rainy threatened day I suddenly decided to pull up a bunch more weeds from the grass. Some sort of weird grass had spread into the perpetually damp parts of the lawn. I noticed it while I was adding soil to raise the surface. After emptying yet another tub or two of soil onto the ground, I filled a tub with this weed like grass I pulled out. What a pain!

ISPs Under Government Attack

I see Australian ISPs are again under attack from government, this time over Trademark infringements by their customers. This is part of the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is foolishly negotiating. ISPs need Safe Harbour provisions similar to those available under the Copyright Act regulations. Personally I think we would be stupid to sign ACTA. We are already being shafted by technical protection measures - locks such as DRM (digital rights management).

Read the leaked secret ACTA documents for yourself on James Love's Knowledge Ecology International blog.

There is also an Australian government proposed data retention law, which has been slammed by the Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim. The Australian Federal Police support data retention by ISPs. Basically the Government wants records kept of what you browse on the web, and your emails. I am not sure how all this squares with being annoyed at Google maps cars for retaining publicly broadcast WiFi network information. Maybe only governments think they should snoop? Naturally the Government says wiretap laws are fine, despite complaints by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone about Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill. This requires giving the government 30 days notice of changes to equipment.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Y Combinator

I like following what smart people do. Paul Buchheit, who wrote GMail, did the prototype for AdSense, and was the original don't be evil person at Google. Buchheit left Google to start FriendFeed, which Facebook grabbed. He also wrote the beta data downloader that lets you grab all your Facebook contributions. Now Paul Buchheit is joining the four people who run angel venture capitalist Y Combinator, which funded Loopt, Reddit, Clustrix, Wufoo, Scribd, Xobni, Weebly, Songkick, Disqus, Dropbox,, Heroku, Posterous, Airbnb, Heyzap, DailyBooth, WePay and others.

The usual spokesperson for Y Combinator is Lisp programmer and essayistPaul Graham, deviser of Bayesian spam filters, co-founder with Robert Morris of ViaWeb, the first web based application. ViaWeb became the basis for Yahoo! Store. Paul Graham has some great essays on his site.

Trevor Blackwell developed self balancing bipedal robots at Anybot. He also reverse engineered a self balancing scooter, like a Segway, writing the software in one day. Not to mention the self balancing unicycle.

Grep Paragraph

I request the addition of a grep -p option (to output the paragraph containing the search pattern, rather than the line or filename) in the Terminal grep utility. This used to be available in IBM AIX and elsewhere. Extract of man page below (this is feedback I sent to Apple)

Displays the entire paragraph containing matched lines. Paragraphs are delimited by paragraph separators, as specified by the Separator parameter, which are patterns in the same form as the search pattern. Lines containing the paragraph separators are used only as separators; they are never included in the output. The default paragraph separator is a blank line.

Who is Who in Gillard Government

I recall after Kevin Rudd was stabbed in the back (politics is a contact sport), we heard much about the inexperience of his political staff, and the issues with their advice. Little has been said about who advises Julia Gillard and her ministers in the Australian government. Luckily Business Spectator have looked into this, without much help from the political side, so the minions are faceless no more.

Wireless Bluetooth Mouse Batteries

I had to replace my rechargeable wireless Bluetooth mouse batteries with fresh charged ones. Now to find my last note to see how long the rechargeable batteries normally last. I received the batteries on 13 September. I replaced my keyboard batteries on the 18 September. However I did not replace the Magic Mouse batteries until 18 October. It took about five hours to charge the depleted batteries.


I did a little more weeding, however I can not really put much more soil out to keep water away from the house. I need the existing soil to get rained in nice and hard under the grass. I did get another few boxes of soil ready to shake over the grass, this time in boxes light enough for me to lift.

I had email about renewing my membership in FAPA, something I have contributed mailings to for several decades. I realised I was not looking forward to contributing every three months. So I emailed back that I was dropping out.

Jean cooked herself a turkey. I tried to mostly ignore it. Actually I tried to mostly ignore food all through the day, but it was not working. I am still hungry. However despite having paid for pizza at the Social Club event after their quarterly general meeting, I could not raise my interest in actually attending. That it was sprinkling rain was merely an excuse. I just did not want to see anyone, and I especially did not want to have to talk to anyone.

Monday 15 November 2010

Selling Paper (1)

They hoped the iPad would save the book industry. Annual sales were up a mere 1.6% between 2002 and 2008, and profits down. The book industry had slashed expenditure, fired experienced editors, and were avoiding unknown authors. They hoped the iPad would bring electronic books to the masses, and make profits. So the publishers were there when Apple's Steve Jobs stepped on stage on Wednesday 27th January 2010 to launch the iPad.

Apple announced they would take a 30% cut, and give the publishers 70% of the sale. The same deal that Apple gave the music industry. Apple had 125 million credit cards on file, and a one touch impulse sale model. The first book Jobs bought on stage cost $14.99.

However eBooks on the Amazon rival Kindle eReader were selling at $9.99, and Kindle had 80% of the eBook market. Amazon were selling at lower prices than they paid the publishers, to build volume and work towards a monopoly. Customers were increasingly seeing books as being worth no more than $9.99. The book industry were devastated. They wanted, they needed, far higher prices. Apple were their last, best hope.

Macmillan told Amazon they wanted to move to an agency model, where publisher was the seller, and Amazon an agent. Amazon was to take a fixed cut of a cover price set by the publisher. That price would not allow a $9.99 eBook. Macmillan would remove their eBooks from Amazon. Amazon responded on Friday 29 January by removing all Macmillan books from sale.

The entire big six book publishers also wanted to move to an agency model, and five of them were signing up with Apple. By Sunday afternoon, the Amazon revolt was over. For now. eBooks were being sold at prices set by the book industry, not by Amazon as a book seller.

Selling Paper (2)

Apple destroyed the music CD business, by destroying the album as the unit of sales. Individual songs became the selling quantity on the iTunes Store. The music industry had previously been unable to make much money from individual downloaded songs. Now they did get download sales. However it was at the expense of more valuable album sales, which listeners often purchased to get the one or two good songs in a bunch of dreck.

The book industry do not sell books to readers. They sell books to bookshops (or to distributors). There were 3250 independent booksellers in the USA in 1999. Less than 1400 remain. They are worth less than 10% of sales. The big book chains make 30% of the USA market. The supermarkets make 45%, although their range of books is tiny.

Publishers generally have no idea how to sell to readers. That is not their business model. The brand name for a book is the name of the author, not the publisher.

See Gizmodo explains how you are going to get screwed by ebook formats. See how to find (or make) free eBooks.

ePub and ePubCheck

Apple iTunes U has supported ePub since 1 November 2010. Books needs to comply with ePub specifications, pass ePubCheck 1.0.5, include only files listed in the manifest, and use UTF-8/16 characters.

Kovid Goyal, author of Calibre open-source library manager to view, convert and catalog e-books. Kovid notes epubcheck is completely useless. He also notes come up with an automated way to take arbitrarily bad HTML ad produce standards compliant XHTML from it while still preserving its meaning to human readers and I will be happy to implement it. Since ePub specs require XHTML1.1, and this must be well formed, I think a preliminary check of well formedness and XHTML validity by authors is essential. ePubCheck does not do this. Like web pages, most ePub is invalid. Kovid sees this as less of a problem than not having a tool to convert eBooks to ePub. I have to agree.

Writers Can Be Replaced

Remember Max Headroom? Now automated news comes to sports coverage via StatSheet, which covers 345 sports sites covering USA basketball teams. You can receive sports news on the web, email, RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook or on your mobile phone.

I can't imagine anyone using it as an actual replacement for even semi well-written content. They aren't. They're using it as a replacement for the output of sportswriters.

Why I Do Not Fly to USA

I gave up travelling into the USA or via USA territories after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) started security theatre in their airports. I used to visit the USA once or twice a year as a tourist, and to see my many American friends. However I do not like being treated as a criminal and a terrorist instead of like a tourist. So the travel industry can get stuffed.

Here is another encounter with the TSA, very well described by John Tyner who declined a Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) back scatter XRay. He also refused to be groped. He also recorded and filmed the entire incident, by placing his working phone in the scan tray.

Next there is Michael Roberts, a (possibly former) pilot with ExpressJet airlines. Denied boarding on his way to work after refusing to be AIT scanned or groped. He seems to have a website Fed Up Flyers for thoughts about TSA issues at airports.

There are many adverse comments about the intrusive TSA search on news sites.

Tuesday 16 November 2010


I went out with Jean to Willows Shoppingtown. After our morning walk, I stood in the queue at the Post Office, and sent off an Aussiecon Book to Robert. Boy, postage is savage these days.

I wonder if anyone knows how to work a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone? Allen had a new one, but said he did not know how to run it. When I got home I checked on the Samsung web site for Samsung Galaxy help, and mostly got blank pages. This was not a good start. I asked the Applix gang if they knew anything.

Lunch was with the the usual gang for Tuesday. Lots of silly things, and bad puns.

Telstra called!

I got to fix yet another TV antenna problem today. Mary brought over a new neighbour, just moved in, and unable to get a TV signal. I switched the power on to their fibre optic link box in the garage. Once they retuned the TV, they had multiple digital channels.

The ants invaded the kitchen. Damn. We did a needed and overdue cleanup, and I deployed surface spray. Then I went around outside spraying ant sand over the approaches to the house. I don't mind the ants in the grass and garden, but not in the house.

More Baen Books

I ordered another bunch of electronic books from Baen Books. This time it was many of their 2001 output. I decided to start again at the other end, and also got their entire 2009 output. I downloaded them in ePub format. This came to 132 items, as a single zip of 75.7 MB. I love the high Aussie dollar!

By the time I had unzipped them and deleted duplicates, it was the next day, and I had 115 items. The next few steps are to modify the titles of the file names to include author surname and other names first. That generally takes looking through the Baen site again. This is however needed, as I also want to include the cover artwork in the file metadata. This makes a more attractive collection on the computer. That will take days.

Telstra Calling

I had a phone call on my new iPhone 4 from Danny. Telstra's Mobile Mentor wants to help me. Slight complication in setting a time to talk (the initial call was mid lunch). Their software did not tell them I was in a different time zone. We got that straightened out.

It is no secret that Telstra have been trying to be less obnoxious to customers lately. For example, Telstra removed the unlock fee on iPhones recently. I rather wish they had done it a week or two earlier, as I had a very unsatisfactory conversation with several Telstra T-Life employees on that very topic. We have an iPhone 3G, now two years old, out of contract. Jean was going to take over my iPhone 3Gs, and I was going to get a new iPhone 4. That made the iPhone 3G surplus, but we did not know whether it would be used in a Telstra area (we are country, and only Telstra makes sense for us). So we wanted it unlocked. But a $150 unlock fee means it simply was not going to be used.

Telstra is on Twitter. Who expected that? Or this $150 for 12 GB with a 365 day expiry for iPad. Pretty handy for someone with intermittent use when travelling.

Basically Danny from Telstra was offering lessons on using a new mobile phone more effectively. Mobile Mentor support iPhone, Blackberry, HTC Touch, and more.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

I Believe In Yesterday

I see that the big change Apple put on its front page was they now (finally) have The Beatles on iTunes, with iTunes LP additions. I was surprised to learn they still sell very well (1.3 billion albums), but I recall The Beatles rock band were very prevalent while I was growing up. The local ice skating rink played them interminably. Doubtless getting The Beatles was a pet project of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

The value proposition does not seem to be there, for Australians. The USA prices for albums were $12.99 and $19.99, songs $1.29, the box set $149. However here in Australia at a time when the Australian dollar is close to par, A$20.99 albums and A$35.99 albums, songs at A$2.19. The complete box set at A$259. What a rip off.

Most people who have heard of them will have the records, or the later (badly recorded) CDs, ripped to iTunes. They are dead Jim. Or at least, half of them are.

On the other hand, look at how well Apple played the tech media. One (unannounced) teaser cover graphic a few days ago on the Apple web site. Feverish speculation all over the media. One changed cover graphic when the announcement was made. A Beatles page at Apple. Apple basically spent nothing promoting this, and got millions in publicity.


I went with Jean to Willows Shoppingtown, so we could have a walk. Jean had been telling me she did not want to be doing any more shopping (except for food) until February, due to crowds and children. There were a few exceptions, like hardware and office stores, but the BigW and Target and KMart, she wanted nothing to do with. I agreed, of course.

So what happened during the walk? Jean stopped to check on repairs to her treadmill. Bought shoes and socks. Bought a novel at the bookshop. I had to take the goods back to the car boot twice. She did get a fairly decent walk however.


I see Internode appears to have reached some sort of accommodation with Telstra to supply ADSL2+ from around 1300 Telstra phone exchanges, using standard Telstra equipment. Internode Reach ADSL2+ is listed as being available at Kirwan exchange, which is what we are connected to.

We are far too distant (4.6 km is my guess) from Kirwan exchange for ADSL2+ to work for us. However it appears Telstra may have CMUX equipment nearby, with a fibre optic connection to the exchange. So the question becomes, does Telstra sell this connection to Internode? Or is the ADSL2+ connection only available via Big Pond?

Lead Acid Batteries

I had been neglecting my lead acid gel battery collection. On a preliminary set of tests, it looks like about half of them have bad cells. At least, the charger is very unhappy with them. The meter shows low voltages. Only one of the 7.2 AH ones seems to have survived. The rest have bad cells.

Thursday 18 November 2010


I had an early morning phone call from Geoff about providing microphones for Blue at the 1RAR concert. Went over early. The 1RAR band was already all organised (as I expected). No sign of Blue.

Tried to trace a bunch of phone lines to the switchboard. The Craft room lines 18 and 19 soon showed me I was getting a lot of interference from the existing Ethernet feed from the ADSL router. I think I will need to trace the lines sometime when I can switch off the modem. Seemed that line 19 went to A7, but that was plugged into D9. No idea why. I never could identify where 18 came out. I tried a line from the library, and could not trace that either.

Blue turned up. No need for a microphone, he would use one from the band. They have a full time sound operator, with good gear. I decided I would go home and get a few other things organised before returning for the end of the concert.

The temperature is extreme, and the humidity over 80%. Feels horrible outside. Lucky I got a lift part way to the restaurant in time for lunch with some of the band members. Blue says several concerts next year.

Solar Thermal Power Cancelled

I see the non-existent solar thermal power station I attempted to see earlier in the year has now been cancelled. The Queensland government have been bragging about solar thermal powering a whole town since 2007. It was going to be complete early in 2010. When I visited, there was a fake tower, and four mirrors (which meant the Cloncurry solar thermal power was 7996 mirrors short).

Queensland Natural Resources Minister Robertson defends Government's solar energy efforts after cancelling the Cloncurry solar thermal power station. Now they say they will be doing a solar power station. This reminds me of NSW Government announcements about new train lines. Announce before elections, cancel, and then announce again before next election. It still doesn't work.

Bank Bashing

Did the Australian labor government create a moral hazard by giving the big banks an AAA rated deposit guarantee? Of course it did. However what choice did Rudd have? The Australian banks were sound, but they borrowed short term and lent long. Plus $800 billion of their funds were sourced overseas, and half a trillion of that was short term. And the American AIG was in the firing line because it had insured a half trillion dollars of sub-prime mortgages. Who would be willing to refinance debt? Remember the mess here when insurer HIH fell with a mere five billion loss.

However customers were leaving small banks for the security of larger ones. Plus they were taking out cash money. The banks do not hold much cash. Maybe $200 million. The Reserve Bank is not saying, but it probably holds $4 billion. The Mint ran the printing presses for $10.5 billion, as customers took out over $5 billion in cash. My own take was that Suncorp was about to run out. Rudd did the right thing, starting with banning short selling, and continuing through the guarantee. By the time it was all over, Treasury had made $1.1 billion in profit from the fees for the guarantee.

So the banks spent up big with their new credit. Westpac bought St George. The Commonwealth bought Bank West (which owned by HBOS would probably have otherwise gone down the gurgler). And so on. My own take was that Suncorp was about to run out, and that the government guarantee (on a Sunday) short circuited that happening on the Monday. The Banks had new credit. Great for competition, especially as the second tier pseudo banks did not get as good a deal.

Just how good is an AAA rating? Didn't the rating agencies give Lehman an AAA rating just before it fell over?

Friday 19 November 2010

To Airlie Beach

I was awake at 4:30 a.m. so I got ready and was driving by five. No fuel needed, as I had a mostly full tank. I made really good time, with little rain until I approached Bowen. The road was awash at Merinda, with shallow water flowing freely. Despite the weather, I pulled into Centro at Cannonvale just after eight.

Most of the shops were still closed. Got some ham, tomato, banana and chocolate milk (it was on special) at Woolworths. I could not recall what I wanted at Harvey Norman, so I did not wait for them to open. A search of the industrial area did not reveal where the stainless steel welders were. I felt somewhat gratified when I got home to find the stainless steel airing rack was in use, so I probably would not have been able to snatch it away for repairs in any case.

Airlie Beach

I noticed Jim's renovations were continuing. Although the builders said they were just about completed. The Port of Airlie had heaps of workers swarming around the two apartment buildings. The grounds are still a muddy disaster of a building site. I put the shopping away, and checked the fridge for what else might be needed (nothing).

I went off to get my regular haircut, and was once again lucky in my timing. No need to stop at the chemist this time. Reception had a couple of letters for me, which was unusual. I had already told that (most disliked government department) that the Post Office did not deliver. The newsagent had several magazines put away for me, plus the newspapers for the time I was away. Plus P&O Sun Princess was offshore, but not many market stalls were awaiting the tourists. Too wet.

Jim invited me to lunch at Capers. We had a few things to discuss about web sites. I am again trying to eat better, and had a Caesar salad instead of a chicken burger.

Spent the afternoon trying to catch up on mail and other reading, plus cleaning the place. The Port of Airlie construction continues, despite rain. Michael turned up, seems he was working absurd hours. I later heard that his car had blown up at Centro, and would probably be stuck all weekend.

I got a walkthrough of Jim's renovations. The open areas above the hallway and kitchen were neat, took air conditioning pipes through, and let lights in one room add mood and shadow to the main room. There were a heap of cupboards. Way more than usual in these room. I could not think of anyplace else cupboard space could be put in so compact a manner. I was impressed.

Jim suggested we get a pizza for dinner (he had no food on hand, due to renovations). Pete and Dawn wanted to come over to talk about web sites, so I invited them for pizza also. Beagle Brothers delivered just as they arrived. Doing any sort of major change to their web site will be messy, since it was intended to run a whole different way. I will just try to rip out all the graphics, and simplify the navigation.

eBook Sales

I keep coming across reports of eBook sales increases. Association of American Publishers say January to August sales were up from $89 million in 2009 to $263 million in 2010. Say 9% of consumer book sales were eBooks, against 3% in 2009. Amazon claims it sells more Kindle books than hardcovers (143 to 100 in the three months to October).

There was an eBook reader price war this year. The standard Amazon Kindle was US$259. In response to Barnes and Noble Nook price drop to US$199, Amazon went to US$189. Sony dropped their eReader from US$169 to US$149, as did the Nook. Amazon announced a Kindle WiFi at US$139. I think sometime early in 2011, a plain eReader from most sources will be under US$100.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Airlie Beach

It rained. It became obvious there would be no markets today. Or at least, not much. The rain did not ease until nine, when I went out to collect the newspapers. I sat around at the Whitsunday Terraces just relaxing.

Interview with Steve Jobs

I was impressed by how many interviews out there show just where Apple's boss and co-founder Steve Jobs is coming from. A lot of them also show just how well he could see where the computer industry was headed.

The Playboy interview with Steven Jobs was first printed in February 1985, when Jobs was 29 years old. Here are a few quotes.

We're living in the wake of the petrochemical revolution of 100 years ago. The petrochemical revolution gave us free energy - free mechanical energy, in this case. It changed the texture of society in most ways. This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy. It's very crude today, yet our Macintosh computer takes less power than a 100-watt light bulb to run and it can save you hours a day. What will it be able to do ten or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now? This revolution will dwarf the petrochemical revolution. We're on the forefront.

A computer is the most incredible tool we've ever seen. It can be a writing tool, a communications center, a supercalculator, a planner, a filer and an artistic instrument all in one, just by being given new instructions, or software, to work from. There are no other tools that have the power and versatility of a computer. We have no idea how far it's going to go.

In education, computers are the first thing to come along since books that will sit there and interact with you endlessly, without judgment. Socratic education isn't available anymore, and computers have the potential to be a real breakthrough in the educational process when used in conjunction with enlightened teachers.

The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people—as remarkable as the telephone.

The way it's going to work out is that in our business, in order to continue to be one of the major contributors, we're going to have to be a ten-billion-dollar company. That growth is required for us to keep up with the competition. Our concern is how we become that, rather than the dollar goal, which is meaningless to us.

Playboy Interview Steve Jobs

I just could not resist a few more quotes from the Playboy interview with Steven Jobs when he was 29 years old.

We think that computers are the most remarkable tools that humankind has ever come up with, and we think that people are basically tool users. So if we can just get lots of computers to lots of people, it will make some qualitative difference in the world. What we want to do at Apple is make computers into appliances and get them to tens of millions of people.

Wait till we do it (smaller portables) - the power of a Macintosh in something the size of a book!

But the next thing is going to be computer as guide or agent.We're going to be able to ask our computers to monitor things for us, and when certain conditions happen, are triggered, the computers will take certain actions and inform us after the fact.Simple things like monitoring your stocks every hour or every day. When a stock gets beyond set limits, the computer will call my broker and electronically sell it and then let me know.

I'll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I'll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I'm not there, but I'll always come back. And that's what I may try to do.

Well, my favorite things in life are books, sushi and.... My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. As it is, I pay a price by not having much of a personal life. I don't have the time to pursue love affairs or to tour small towns in Italy and sit in cafes and eat tomato-and-mozzarella salad. Occasionally, I spend a little money to save myself a hassle, which means time. And that's the extent of it.

It's a very interesting challenge, isn't it? How to grow obsolete with grace.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Leaving Airlie Beach

I was awake before five, so I shut everything up, took the last few items to the car and set off. I did not have enough fuel, so I put in $20 at a service station at cannonvale (naturally the next 24 hour service station was much cheaper). It rained from time to time, but I basically had good visibility most of the time. Was able to use the cruise control most of the time. Had a bit of a delay behind an extra wide vehicle, but eventually came to a place that was decent for overtaking. Despite that, I reached Carlyle Gardens about 8:20 a.m.

Between religious services and a lack of news, the Sunday morning radio entertainment during the drive was really sparse.

Luckily after I arrived I could watch Insiders and Inside Business (on ABC TV), and complete reading The Financial Review. They were much more entertaining than ABC radio.

Learning About Browsers

I see Google have a new web site 20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web. It is a nice, non-threatening illustrated story book attempting to explain a little of how the web works. I think I will recommend it to several people.

As you would expect from Google, it uses the latest techniques for producing web pages. Lots of advanced HTML5 and CSS3 techniques, and takes advantage of the new, faster Javascript engines in modern standards based web browsers. For example, it probably works way better in Google Chrome and Apple Safari than in some other web browsers.

So why does the display still break when you enlarge the font size enough to read it?

Monday 22 November 2010


I went out for an early walk, and delivered some Whitsunday Times to Neil. Also a long promised CD of photos elsewhere. Then I had to walk to the mail box to get rid of a letter. Jean decided we needed some shopping today, so we drove to Willows Shoppingtown and took a walk before doing the limited food shopping.

Jean decided she would walk to the restaurant for their cold buffet salad lunch. I was surprised to see fourteen people there on a Monday. Robyn was visiting so I said hello. Leigh was with her, so Jean complained about the rain water and drainage (while acknowledging we knew she had no direct control at the moment). Got rained on while walking home.

John dropped over during his evening walk, and had a chat for a while. I had been spreading more earth on the grass in an attempt to keep the water from lapping the house. I discovered the garden plants had eaten my solar lights.


I am trying a new lightweight text editor from Jean Francois Moy called Fraise. It is basically a fork of Peter Borg's nice open source Smultron editor (still has the Smultron icons and manual). Peter had to give up further development a while ago, and requested the name change to avoid confusion.

Unfortunately, Fraise puts just as many (if not more) errors into my console logs as Smultron did. Does not seem to crash anything or cause instability, but I worry about all the errors.

Finding Apps

I was looking for places to find iOS apps. Chomp is one. Appolicious is another (also lists Android and Yahoo apps). Apps Fire covers iOS and Android. Get Jar also seems to be general phone applications.

Tuesday 23 November 2010


I started the laundry before six, as the forecast was some showers, and the skies were clear on three sides. When I went for a walk (with the sun in my eyes) around six, to deliver newspapers to Neil, I saw a pair of plumed ducks in the drainage ditch. Unfortunately my walk was fairly short, just over and back, so probably only a kilometre.

Lunch with the usual little Tuesday group. I had the Ploughman's lunch, but spoilt the low intensity eating by munching everything.

Computer Club end of year Infonite was very light hearted. Wally had a series of short videos, mostly funny. However two were just plain different. Two Chinese dancers, the female missing an arm, the male missing a leg. They performed with grace and style, at times using their disability as a prop, just as the male used his crutch as a prop. The other was Stacey riding a horse, and demonstrating great control, without a saddle or bridle.

Kevin had a few items, but complained a lot about the colour produced by the projector. It was way off from what he expected. I noticed the committee talking about it afterwards, so I emailed them a link to Dell projectors, which at that time had a 25% discount on three models.

Peter was growing a splendid moustache to raise money for men's health, so he was seeking donations for the cause. I note that he raised $130 at the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club meeting.

Verizon FiOS

I see that phone company Verizon in the USA is offering a fibre optic network connection called FiOS. This is basically what the National Broadband Network (NBN) proposes to offer in Australia. The FiOS system offers 130 Mbps downloads, and 35 Mbps uploads. However the price, with a one year contract and a wireline voice service, is $195 a month. Is your internet connection worth that much to you?

Foxcon Expands iPad

I see Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry subsidiary Foxconn Electronics have already opened their new production line at Chengdu, inland China. Although output at a mere 10,000 iPads a day (300,000 a month) is minimal compared to the 2.5 million a month of their main Shenzhen plant in coast China, Chengdu will expand. Expansion to 50 iPad lines, producing 40 million iPads a year, is possible. Labor is cheaper in inland China, as is land cost. There have been reports of Foxconn labor problems, despite Apple Supplier Responsibility guidelines and compliance checks.

Apple contract manufacturers have not been able to produce sufficient iPad to allow Apple to even launch in all countries of the world as yet. It was not until 28 May that iPad launched in Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland. Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Singapore were added 23 July.

Wednesday 24 November 2010


I started a backup of my iPad, ready to start the updates. Did some situps while waiting for the next step. While the iPad update was downloading, I went for my morning walk, with more Whitsunday Times to deliver for Neil. I needed to be on my way well before six to avoid the sun getting in my eyes. This time I walked the two kilometre course.

The lawn mowing contractor went through again today. Cutting the grass real short, I suspect in fear the wet season will really hit and further mowing would not possible. I have to catch them sometime later on an afternoon, and give them some beer for the festive season.

Apple iPad Update Fails

I tried updating my iPad to iOS 4.2. However iTunes seems to be stuck in backup mode. Since I was not here, I do not know what happened. After an hour of iTunes not responding (according to Activity Monitor), I tried to quit iTunes. Could not do so, and had to force quit to get out of iTunes. I am not impressed.

iPad is not responding at all. It seems to have a partial install of the iOS. I looked up Basic iPad troubleshooting. Tried to get the iPad to respond to the sleep switch. No response. Finally tried to reset the iPad by holding the sleep switch and the Home button for a period. That seemed to do a reset. However the iPad can not complete the reset. It just sits with the progress bar stalled. Not impressed.

Looking at the iPad backups in ~/Library - Application Support - Mobile Sync - Backup shows ten unidentified backups, however I have only ever had about five devices. They occupy over 37 GB of precious disk space. I believe disk space may be the problem. There is not enough of it to handle a backup that large.

So I deleted 25 GB of photos by other people on my Mac mini as a first step. If I really need the photos again, I have an external backup. Guess I better start thinking about thinning what is on iTunes as well.

My iPad started operating again after about 90 minutes. It seemed to be working, but Video and iPod were not able to be used, with a message they were cancelling sync. At 11:47 a.m. I started another sync of the iPad. Backup was complete in three minutes. It started the sync. Everything seems to be back to normal again when I walked to the restaurant for lunch.

Apple iOS 4 Changes

I was looking at the changes in Apple's iOS 4 for iPhone and now (finally) for the Apple iPad. Lists of new features are in Apple's general description of iOS 4.2. There is also a new iPad iOS 4 manual out from Apple.

Apple iOS 4 AirPrint

I see Apple's AirPrint uses Apple's Bonjour version of zero configuration networking to discover network connected printers. The idea is to let the Apple iPad print without being connected to a printer.

I am not keen on printing (printer failure in the humid tropics) but I noticed a while ago that Apple use the free GNU licensed Common Unix Printer System (CUPS) as a print spooler and scheduler. Apple acquired the CUPS source code and developer Michael R Sweet in 2007. See the Wikipedia article on CUPS for an outline. CUPS uses Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) to decide which types of file it can accept. At present that seems to be application/pdf, image/jpeg, and an unknown type, image/urf.

CUPS in turn uses Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) to manage print jobs and queues, as does Windows.

Ryan Finnie explains about AirPrint and Linux, and what is needed to make Linux work. Based on that, I expect printing without print drivers is only being delayed by technical hitches on this initial release.

Thursday 25 November 2010


I was pleased to see that although overcast, it was not actually raining. After doing 40 situps, I went on a morning walk. More than two kilometres this time, as I also collected the mail we failed to get yesterday due to rain.

Now I have an ANZAPA deadline, and I will be lucky to get the thing written in time. SoI have to ignore everything else and just keep writing.

Jean had a hairdressing appointment just after midday. We walked over, and I visited the medical centre to get an appointment, plus I gave some stuff to Meryl to assist her packing. Jean got out not too long after, so we each had a healthy lunch. Just managed to avoid getting collected by the rain as we walked back as part of our exercise program. I went out later to collect the mail and got a little damp.

Still later, the rain came in heavy. I need to get more dirt scattered in the lawn to raise it in certain places, but it is too muddy to try.

Iain dropped in the missing Apple disks, so I can now attempt to salvage content from his old eMac. I sure hope the operating system is new enough to get programs for it.

The Apple Store started running their Friday sale at 11 p.m. (they are on Daylight Savings). So I connected via my Velocity account (to get frequent flyer points) and ordered a few items the Apple store had on special. They seem to be running about 7% discount on a few items.

Young Browse Using Phones

I see Opera in their State of the Mobile Web claim that younger people, especially in developing countries, are increasingly browsing the web using their mobile phones, rather than using computers. The report is biased by the use of Opera Mobile. The trend to using mobile seems to be higher where smartphone use is higher. However in poorer countries, with fewer smartphones, the trend to use phones is also much higher. This leads me to wonder what happens in the next few years when new chips make far cheaper (if less capable) almost smartphones widely available?

Top mobile countries include Indonesia, Russia, India, China. Nokia and its Symbian operating system is by the far the most used.

NBN Disclosure

I see the National Broadband Network Business Case Summary has escaped. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said 50 pages. It is 36 pages, in big type, at one and a half line spacing, with the equivalent of six or seven blank pages, and with ten pretty diagrams (many of which we have seen before). It covers July 2010 to June 2013, and the corporate plan will be updated annually. Unfortunately, it contains absolutely no hard information about the business case.

It does have confusing estimates of the capital expenditure. The first figure is $35.7 billion of Capital Expenditure. However there is also $13.8 billion for Telstra. Construction Capital Expenditure of $34.4 billion to achieve targets of 8.3 million premises connected and 12 million premises passed by fibre or covered by fixed wireless or satellite. It estimates a Telstra deal will save $1.7 billion. NBN estimate a government equity funding requirement of $27.1 billion, with debt funding for the remainder. It is a very bold plan, Minister, as Sir Humphrey might say.

It is basically a broad stroke plan of what NBN intends to do. It makes no business case for whether doing it is a good idea or not. That said, it all seems technically plausible. NBN should be able to build something pretty close to what they describe. I have doubts about the cost and the time scale, but these often buckle when projects hit reality. I have even more doubts about it being financially viable. I have doubts about it being sufficiently more use than slower access.

I can not see any particular reason it would convince anyone of anything. If that piece of crap actually persuaded an independent that it had anything to do with supporting Telstra structural separation, then they should be ashamed. I can only think something else persuaded them.

Friday 26 November 2010


I went for my usual walk before six. We started laundry when I returned. I started my iPhone 4 updating to iOS 4.2 before breakfast. When Jean was ready to leave at eight, the laundry had not completed, so I did not go with her. It took me until 8:30 a.m. to get it out. However I spotted our neighbours doing laundry, and was able to take Garry a slab of XXXX Gold for the filing cabinet he gave Jean. They seem to be installing a satellite dish, and tell me the Carlyle Gardens one is obsolete. They tell of bad video with Austar and SBS.

Somehow pressure was applied for me to do cleanup. Put the second security camera up out the back, which means the first is covered. The laundry finished about then so I hung it out. I even polished my shoes (last used in August) so I could store them in a cupboard.

Uninstalling Flash

I find the Adobe Flash Player plugin works pretty badly on my MacBook Air. Apple are no longer installing Adobe's Flash plugin, claiming it will be out of date. Mostly I block Flash with Click to Flash, but then web sites believe I can play Flash content. It also seems to me that whenever you try to update Flash, something messes up. So it is best to completely uninstall Flash before installing a new version.

You can not just uninstall Flash the way you would any other application. It seems to demand special treatment. I do not understand why, but I do not see any good reason for Flash to demand special access to my computer. So I decided to just totally remove Flash. You can find the Adobe Flash Player uninstaller here. I never could locate it via Adobe's search. You have to close all programs that might invoke Flash (including Safari where your instructions are) before running the Flash uninstaller. This time it ran from a DMG and did not complain about not being in an Administrator account (it did need the password, of course).

Saturday 27 November 2010


I went out with Jean for a walk in the air conditioned Willows Shoppingtown. It was already too hot to take a walk in the open. Before we left, I bought numerous newspapers, including the local Townsville Bulletin.

Our neighbour Gary was digging in the garden. I asked if he was burying bodies. He asked a nasty question. When were we going to plant the shrubs we had bought? Jean made a very non-committal Real Soon Now noise. Gary offered to plant them (he seems to avoid killing plants the way I do).

Iain's eMac was using Panther, OS X 10.3.9, which was a more hopeful thing than I had feared. Means it has Journaled HFS+. Now to locate some suitable file rescue software, that will still run on Panther.

Townsville Bulletin Printing Plant

I notice historical records that 27 October 1997 was the date the Townsville Bulletin (well, probably News Ltd's North Queensland Newspaper Co Ltd) new printing plant was inaugurated and the newspaper changed from broadsheet to tabloid. I looked this up because the Townsville Bulletin has bought a new $55 million Manroland Geoman four colour press, imported from Augsburg, Germany. This can produce 160 page editions. The Bully will release a twelve page colour sample of its work in December, and change fully to the new full colour press in January 2011. The Townsville plant will produce full-colour versions of the Courier-Mail and The Australian, which had previously been constrained by the capabilities of a Manroland Uniman 4/2 press, which was previously housed at News Limited's Bowen Hills site.

Newspaper printing plant is massive. This press needed ten 37 tonne low-loader semi-trailer loads to bring from Brisbane. The new specially-built building it is installed in is beside the old printing plant. It took 45 trucks almost five hours to pour 210 cubic metres of concrete for the foundation.

What are the newspapers selling? I think they are selling paper … with marks on it. The same way Spotlight sell cloth with patterns on it. Sure, you look around a bit for a pattern you like, but basically the only thing that changes the price much is the form of the material. Just as paper sells for different prices if it is a hardcover or a paperback book, regardless of the quality of the writing within it.

Gutenberg made scribes redundant, and made one to many transmission possible, thus creating a mass media. The Fourth Estate is basically in the business of keeping printing plants in action without loss long enough to depreciate them and build another printing plant. I am not sure that is viable in an internet age. The unregulated internet is merely another means of one to many transmission. However the World Wide Web made blogs, messaging, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts and other one to one or one to many transmissions easy. It can subsume text, audio and video. Everyone can be an author (blogger), musician, movie producer, whether they are good at it or bad. What is lacking is editorial sensibility.

Townsville Power Supply

A three stage upgrade to the North Queensland electricity power grid. Basically 500 km of new high voltage transmission lines, at a cost of A$500 million (this is a very typical million dollars a kilometre transmission cost). There are 1200 new transmission towers and 5000 km of wine. This line is between Broadsound in Central Queensland and Townsville. North Queensland has had a somewhat precarious power grid for some time. Work on the transmission line and the substation at Strathmore near Collinsville completed late 2008. A new 275 kV transmission line between Nebo and Strathmore in late 2009. The final stage was 180 km of new 275 kV transmission line between existing Strathmore and Townsville substations was completed in November 2010.

Sunday 28 November 2010


I awoke late. The internet connection was not working. Restart WiFi on my Mac mini. Not that problem. Logged into the ADSL modem router, and restarted it. Did not clear the problem (and it thought it had a connection). Tried a ping to an IP address, and that worked. A couple of minutes later the internet all seemed to be working fine. This happens frequently on Sunday mornings. Still not sure exactly what the issue is.

While Jean had her conference call I drove to Willows. The outdoor market was in fine form, but I could find nothing on the list, especially macadamias for Jean. Got some iron bark honey since I was there. Checked plants we might want for the garden, but was not impressed with their condition. Bread roll for some meal. Sunday newspaper. Back in time for Insiders, and Inside Business.

Laurie dropped in to ask for help with his iPod Touch. After he described the problem I made a few suggestions. He was dubious. I said I would drop in when going to lunch (too busy at the moment). He phoned later to say one of my suggestions helped him find the problem.

I am still attempting to complete my article on the National Broadband Network, and the deadline gets closer. Typing and researching occupied most of the day. However the ACCC determination for Points of Interconnect is not until the end of the month, and needs to be included. Likewise, the Telstra separation legislation does not go to the House until Monday.

I suddenly realised the iPad prepaid mobile 3G data expired at the end of the day. Since I had almost 5 GB of retained download capacity, I needed to extend the date. However the TLife store is not open for a coupon. After fighting Telstra's web site, I finally found one path through to a credit card renewal. This time I took the 365 day option.

I took a break to put more dirt down in the lawn, to keep water away from the sides of the house. This is taking way too much time, but we can hardly have water lapping the brickwork all the time when it rains. I can see having to dig a proper drainage trench. I did not live in a retirement village so I could dig drainage ditches. Pissed off about the landscaping not following the original plan levels. It started raining steadily tonight, so I seem to have put the dirt down just in time. I hope it gets washed in well overnight.

I made a backup CD of Peter's web site, and started looking at what had to be changed. As I suspected, the sort of changes needed will be very messy. I was hoping to automate some of the changes.

Crap Apple Store

A blog by a disgruntled U.K. Apple Store employee, or someone who can fake being an Apple Store employee. Seems to have started in August. Interesting it was on Blogger, a Google property, but probably does not mean much, except it is easy to be anonymous on Google. Actually powered by hate, it says.

I notice the author managed to spell Yearly Reiew wrong during a little rant about being unappreciated. I wonder how many undetected typos I have in my blog? No staff discount on iPad (when Apple could not even cope with full price demand). Some of the photo cartoons are funny.

Complains about advertising to graduates as store leaders. Considering around 40% of USA 18-24 year olds attend college, that hardly seems totally unreasonable. USA High School graduation rates have been faked for a while, with the inclusion of General Educational Development as high school graduates, when they are basically dropouts (and perform like dropouts). Promoting to graduates is just a preliminary screening.

He thinks their EasyPay portable terminals are shit (I tend to agree). Doesn't like emailing receipts, rather than printing them, as that is trying to turn everyone (even fossils) into digital fucking Human 2.0s. Some of us fossils prefer electronic receipts. Recent EasyPay Touch does not have a chip and pin card reader. Opps! Why is the US market so far behind?

A rant about printers. I feel exactly the same about printers. The sooner everyone gives up on the crap printer makers produce, the better. The only way I have ever found to get a working printer is to throw it away when the cartridge is empty, and buy a new one.

Outdoor queueing rant. I never did understand the logic of that on. Much easier to check the freight delivery site to see when your expensive gadgets will arrive. However the new product queues always make the evening TV news, so I can see why Apple does it.

A wonderful AppleTV poster that tells it all. I might be more tempted if I actually had a TV.

I wonder when anyone (except born salesmen) started thinking that working retail anywhere was an enriching career? That is one reason I try to be polite to sales people. They cop enough shit, without angry customers abusing them.

Queensland Motorways Tolls

We are going to be visiting Brisbane soon, and I hear about these toll roads. I used to just toss coins in a basket, but I hear that is not available. Not sure why not, when cash is legal tender for all debts.

So I did a Google search for Queensland Motorways. The web site has lots of blank patches labelled Flash. I don't have a Flash plug in. It does not come with my computer, and only produces annoying advertising on other computers. Luckily there is a big headline. Click here to pay your tolls.

That takes me to GoVia, which wants me to sign in to my account. I don't have an account. I don't want to have an account. Luckily they have a frequently asked questions to tell me which is the right toll product for me. Person, less than once a month, pay by cash. It says Go Vividea Pass, available from retail outlets and Customer Service Centre. Expensive tolls, aren't they?

Maybe I will just try to avoid those areas after all.

Monday 29 November 2010


I was up late, having retired late. Did 30 situps, and then went for my 2 km morning walk. Did another 30 situps before breakfast. Then I had to continue with my National Broadband Network material. Just waiting for the House vote, and the ACCC Points of Interconnect determination so I can complete it. I finished ANZAPA in the meanwhile, and generated the PDFs.

The first delivery arrived, two books. Just when we were contemplating lunch, another delivery arrived, of computer bits and pieces. The same TNT courier was also collecting the CardioTech motor for return. As they were backing out, the post office courier arrived with about ten packets of books. Sure was a busy morning before we got away for lunch at the restaurant.

Galaxy charged A$16.95 (US$8.99 cover) for The Praxis, first of Walter Jon Williams' Dread Empire's Fall set. They charged $19.95 (UK£7.99) for Conventions of War, the third. Did not have the second. So we sent off for The Sundering, which listed as US$8.99. The Book Depository charged A$8.66, with no postage or handling charges. How come booksellers in Australia are not doing well? They charge well enough.

Did another 30 situps before dinner. I also finally completed my NBN paper. That makes 14 pages of double column material on hand. This means we can probably take it to the printer tomorrow.

Super Fraud

I want to know why Queensland Investment Corporation bought Queensland Motorways. I would have thought even a Government owned superannuation fund that should be attending to the welfare of 80,000 state government employees would not accept the transfer of something that has nearly $3 billion in debt, and had been losing money. That is equivalent to the existing assets in QIC. This looks like a slimy ploy to get QML off Queensland government books so they can declare their sale completed. It also looks like a government raid on superannuation money.

Raids on superannuation have happened before. President Fernandez of Argentina took over $30 billion of private pension funds in October 2008. Hungary makes private pension funds give their assets to the government. They nationalised private pension. If you opt out, you lose any potential state pension.

I wonder when the loser Labor governments in Australia start looking at the trillion dollar private superannuation industry here?

Tuesday 30 November 2010


I did my situps, but failed to take a morning walk. We wanted to leave even earlier than we managed to get printing done at Office Works. Stopped at Sunland for groceries as we returned, as we had no milk, no orange juice, and were short of salad. No time to do anything. At least we have the printing all packaged up ready to mail. Then Jean discovered some of the printing was not in the package. Had to completely redo all the packaging.

Every time I look at the amount to change on the web sites I go away and do something else urgent. Went to lunch, and found Geoff and Margaret from the Theatre, as well as Dot, Ray, Pat and Sue. I had managed to overlook the Disaster Planning meeting that the Townsville City Council put on. Way too many things happening.

Recover OS X Files

I am trying to recover files from an older model Macintosh eMac. But there seems a distinct lack of free software for doing that. Since I am not sure the files even exist anymore, I am not enthusiastic about high price packages. I also suspect the files may have been written in AppleWorks, which has no support these days.

The first recovery package I found was the US$90 SubRosaSoft FileSalvage. However, the current version only works from Tiger on, not with Panther (10.3.9).

Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery quotes Panther 10.3.9 as acceptable. It also has a raw recovery mode, which without the file names would be the only option. That assumes it can identify content in an unknown file type. It is US$100.

Another that seems similar is Data Rescue 3, also $100. However it does not indicate which versions it can handle. It does get high marks in comments in various reviews.

File Recovery Professional for Mac is another US$100 package. Information is inconsistent, as at different points it says it handles OS X 10.3.9 and at another the lowest available is 10.4. It is not clear that it can attempt to recover disk segment information, so it may only handle deleted files that have not been partially overwritten.

Boomerang Data Recovery is $100. It can scan for fragments of disks. Works with OS X 10.3. Seems very complete, and has appropriate warnings about the risk of destroying files.

Eric Lindsay's Blog November 2010