Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 February

Wednesday 1 February 2006

Copying DVDs

During the past year and a half I have been collecting DVDs of science fiction films. This is at least partly because the offerings on TV are now generally so pathetic that I will not be replacing the TV set when it breaks. I can see no good reason to buy one of the new digital TV sets when there is nothing to view. Hence, buying DVDs of things I might enjoy seeing (or, often, seeing again).

Local sources are limited, although the VideoEzy store sometimes has DVDs for sale. The newsagent has a magazine series that is gradually providing most of the StarTrek TNG episodes (I missed a lot of them as they ran too late in the evening for me). Mostly I buy from BigW and KMart, when they happen to have some science fiction DVD on special.

However I didn't start buying DVDs until I could copy them. I noted I had replaced my records with cassettes. Then I replaced my cassettes with CDs. Now music companies seem to hope I will replace my CDs with something else like downloads. Well, you fooled me three times, but now I have had enough. I am not going to be caught doing that sort of stuff with movies. Luckily I only had a handful of movies on VHS. If I can not make a perfect bit copy of a film, then I am not going to buy it.

Enter Mac the Ripper. This lets me copy a DVD, despite the Macrovision copy protection. That means I can have a copy of a movie on my hard drive, and can view it without the DVD. Since Mac the Ripper removes both copy protection and zone settings, I can even buy DVDs from other zones, rather than just the restricted range available in Australia. Perfect. You can (I am told) then burn your own copy of a DVD, as people with young children tend to do. I have never actually burn a DVD movie, because I don't see any need for that until DVD players start getting displaced by whatever format replaces them. At that point, I will convert my DVDs to that format.

Piss on Macrovision

We have been contacted by Macrovision, who claims this violates their property and are threatening to sue us if we don't remove the links to it. We are checking with our legal advisors to find out what our options are. -VersionTracker Editors

Cartoon pissing on Macrovision. This page has been closed due to legal threats by Macrovision.

Thursday 2 February 2006


Today was my birthday. I had to organise my own presents, and then misread the web link about when the courier arrived. Finally reality struck me, and I wandered down to reception to see if they had signed for the missing package.

A copy of iLife 06 and iWork 06. Now I just need to get my older photos into better order before upgrading.

Also got Applecare for my iMac G5. It is basically just a giant notebook computer, and no more easy to repair, so insurance seems a reasonable idea.

I also went to Woodman's Mitre 10 hardware, and got a $50 brushed chrome floor lamp on special. I am not all that keen on halogen lamps because of the heat, but needed a reading lamp I could easily move.

We went to a restaurant for dinner, first time in ages. Hog's Breath Cafe, for steak (4 out of 4 hogs say eat more steak). It was just as good as I remembered. Indeed, it may have been somewhat better. Just managed to choke down a chocolate mud cake afterwards.

Friday 3 February 2006

Commonwealth Games Fireworks

Fireworks at 8 p.m. The people running the Commonwealth Games (wherever that is on) ran a torch through town, so they had fireworks to celebrate. We watched this from the balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces. We cheered for the fireworks, and asked each other where this sporting event was happening. Neither of us knew. Turned out it is a couple of months away.

Digital TV Again

I looked at large TVs at Betta and RetraVision in advance of our trip to Townsville. If I don't, I get too impressed by the price drops seen when you haven't visited a large town in half a year. Plasma at A$3000 and A$4000 for 106cm, including HD tuner, speakers and stand, but no details of resolution, from LG, plus a 127cm for A$5000, but that only had an analogue tuner. LCDs at 68cm under A$2000, but 80cm was A$2800, with HD tuner. That at least listed 1366 by 768 pixel resolution. Isn't all that impressive compared to computer resolutions, is it?

Bunch of advertising for notebook computers between A$1300 and A$1900. Usual stuff to reduce production cost. Celeron M, not enough memory, small hard drive, but lots have camera card readers, and wireless. Amazing how much they can get the price down to, although I am sure by USA standards these are still very high.

Network storage. I love the idea (if it works). Maxtor offer 300GB for A$500, but don't say how it connects, nor the speed. Netgear network storage at A$240 says plug in hard drives. Pity they have no information about them.

Saturday 4 February 2006

Seeking Digital Camera

Since we visit the big city on Monday, I tried reading up on digital cameras. My Pentax Optio still works, but has the continued Maker Note problem. However I am not sure I can even find a camera that meets my specifications.

Naturally I want it to use AA batteries. My existing 3 times optical zoom would need to go ultra zoom to make a change worthwhile. However that means you need a way to keep the camera steady, which implies optical image stabilisation. Plus I live in the tropics, where it is very bright all day. An electronic viewfinder just doesn't cut it. You can't see a thing in daylight. So that means an optical viewfinder. Even that set of features is hard to find. However all my other gear runs on Compact Flash cards.

I might be persuaded to move from Compact Flash, but I have a big investment in the cards. I would never use Sony Memory Stick (proprietary), nor XD (also proprietary. Most of the other memory cards disappeared (which is part of the reason getting non-standard ones is a really bad idea). I am not sure anything is left.

Sunday 5 February 2006

Apple on TV

I saw the Intel inside Apple advertisement on Australian TV. Well, Austar cable, on the Discovery Channel. Astonishing. I didn't think Apple advertised here (except for iPod).

Monday 6 February 2006

Townsville trip

We are up at an absurdly early hour (even for us, and we usually arise at dawn), so we can get an early start from the Whitsunday Terraces for the drive to Townsville. It isn't so much that we need to be on the road early - we probably won't leave until 7 a.m. It is that we have to ensure we really have everything packed.

While I am returning soon, Jean continues on to Sydney, and then the USA. Conference, and visiting her mother.

We finally reached Townsville around 11 a.m. after a stop at Inkerman to pick up some sandwiches for an early lunch (just fruit for breakfast prior to leaving). Jean was able to put her shoes in to the cobbler in Cat and Fiddle arcade for stitching repairs and replacement of the heels. He originally said they would be ready on Tuesday, but kindly agreed to get them ready by 3 p.m. since we wouldn't have the car on Tuesday.

At Office Works we didn't find nearly as much of interest as usual, although Jean did manage to replace the clipboard she had forgotten to bring. No luck on office furniture replacements, as most of their furniture is way too large for my available space. Jean managed to find an 512MB SD card for her camera. We later confirmed that almost all cameras now use SD rather than CF memory cards, an unwelcome change I find highly annoying. I had sort of hoped to find interesting designs in paper for my printer, to use as part of apa covers. Alas, the samples were expensive (I expected that) and just didn't grab me at all.

The Office Works catalogue lists a Netgear Storage Central with a 120GB hard drive for A$329, while Leading Edge advertise the same without a drive for A$240. Much the same on price once optioned the same. However I haven't seen many reviews of that model as yet.

We looked around the big shopping centre, but didn't have much luck there on much. Jean found a hiking store and got a fancy walking stick for her Kimberley coast trip in June. I did get a pair of $99 floorstanding tower loudspeakers at Dick Smith when we dodged traffic to get there. They are amazing value, at that price. We headed for the Cedar motel on Natham Street and unloaded the car. After a little rest, it was time to collect Jean's shoe repairs, and then off to Sizzler for a very late lunch or dinner substitute. Jean has a Seniors Card, so we got the two salad bars, drinks, and a nice bottle of Houghton chardonnay for just over A$33. Jean had brought a wine bottle stopper, so we smuggled most of the bottle out for that evening. Since I was driving, I got only one very small glass.

Back at the motel, I walked through the heat to Stocklands, and did a quick check of the shopping centre before they closed. Did get a book about XML. Failed to find any DVDs I wanted.

Dick Smith Loudspeakers

At Dick Smith electronics I was able to buy a pair of their A3099 speakers for A$99. The box was much more massive than I expected (for the price), and filled the entire back seat. Luckily the young sales guy helped carry it to the car. I nearly collapsed taking the box up our stairs back home, as each speaker weighed 10.2 kg. I have a pair of the Dick Smith A$50 bookshelf speakers (A2067), and they really impressed me (for the price), so I'd been interested in checking the larger ones for a considerable time. Silicon Chip magazine reviewed the Dick Smith speakers in January, and basically asked how they could do it for the price. I could buy the chipboard for that price, but each speaker box has a one inch tweeter, four inch roll surround mid, and two 200mm roll surround woofers, with a rear port, plus the crossover. Good gold plated binding posts also. The specifications say 48 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but without a dB tolerance that means nothing. Sensitivity was listed as 88dB +-2dB. Power handling was listed as 20W to 120W. The dimensions were 970mm high, and 235mm wide and deep. Looks like 10-12mm MDF construction, with a black vinyl simulated wood veneer. Relatively unobtrusive approach to the finish, given it can't really look top end.

Thirty years ago I would have built my own speakers, but it is a lot easier to simply see how I like this pair. The failings will be resonance from the thinner panels when you throw a lot of power at them. Given I live in a small apartment, I am unlikely to get near the top of my 80 watt Dick Smith amplifier (A2760) output (not that I think it is likely to be able to delivery a sustained 80 watts, despite the weight of the toroidal transformer in it). If I played more music I would look at getting speakers from one of the fine Australian speaker companies, and they would be four times as heavy. However given our climate here will wreck speakers quickly, these should be just fine for my tin ears.

Tuesday 7 February 2006

Townsville trip (2)

I walked down to the nearest garage just after 6 a.m. to collect the Australian newspaper. Somehow Jean persuaded me to drive the Subaru over to Key Motors after breakfast to turn it in at 7:30 a.m. for its service, while she stayed at the motel. Note that the Subaru is Jean's car. I don't even like cars. Although I got there before the official opening time, there was already a ferocious queue of cars blocking much of the side street. After they checked the paperwork matched the car, I sat in their waiting room until the first batch of customers were called for a lift back. Luckily the first car was headed my direction, so I was back at the motel by 8 a.m.

We rushed to Stocklands at 9, so Jean could get US passport photos from someone who knew how to make them to the rigid specifications. Did some wandering around while waiting for them to be printed. We had just collected the photos and were looking at a Canon camera when the motel called to ensure we got back before their 10 a.m. checkout. We just made it. Left Jean's luggage, and headed back to Stocklands to continue looking around. This time between BigW, Virgin and Blockbuster, I managed to get three DVDs. Plus we finally found the shelf paper I wanted. I had used newspaper to line some bathroom drawers, and when the basin overflowed after a blockage, decided newspaper wasn't the best choice. This stuff seems mostly plastic. We had been looking for it in Airlie for several weeks without luck. Then back to the motel around 11.

Jean took a taxi to the airport. Naturally her plane was then an hour late. She did however find a WiFi hotspot that would charge her mobile phone number for a connection. I didn't expect WiFi at a regional airport, but it is nice to know the infrastructure is gradually expanding. Seven years ago the connectivity of our whole town seemed to be a half dozen or so modems on the desk of the local ISP.

I walked to KMart, across from Stocklands. No luck there on DVDs, but I did find some silly presents for Jean. Then a taxi to Key Motors. I had hoped being there might encourage them to more speed, more speed, not that it had ever worked before.

My ulterior motive however was that when getting the lift back to the motel at 8 a.m., I had noticed a shopping centre across from Key Motors, and it contained a Harvey Norman store. We just hadn't found time to get to a Harvey Norman during the trip so far, and had figured no chance this trip. So I walked across to it, despite there not being any footpaths. Just what is it about industrial areas that they figure no-one walks anywhere? Although only about three block, I felt like I was going to melt in the midday sun.

Just past the Harvey Norman was a Nick Scali furniture store, so I checked there first. New store, only 8 weeks old, so the furniture was spaced out and displayed to the best advantage. It was great. Alas, most of the stuff was way too large for the space I have available. They had some interesting recliner chairs, but way too large. They were very helpful, so I'll try checking them each time we go to Townsville, in the hope of finding suitable stuff. They didn't know of anyone making the sort of computer table I seek.

Neither did Harvey Norman, whose web site is so useless that I won't bother listing it. I think I will have to give up buying a computer table of the sort I want. Clayton, one of the salesmen, was very helpful about Jason Lazyboy recliner chairs. Quickly checked which ones would fit my space. I was able to eliminate several as too deep for my leg length. The El Paso was one of several that might work for me. With a category B fabric like Delta in Steel or Graphite I think it would fit in. I want to have the optional swivel action. Alas, finding the Lazyboy site seems impossible. I've wasted about fifteen minutes unsuccessfully trying to find the web site of the maker of Jason Lazyboy recliner chairs. I know they are at 1111 Toorak Road, Hartwell, Vic 3124, but can't find a web site to find how to get a swivel version.

Next stop was Bunnings hardware. First time I have been to a Bunnings, and it was awesome. I have to visit again, but with a long list of items I want. I was able to quickly find furniture hardware and casters and wheels. I have been seeking smaller wheels locally for many months without success. Bunnings had 30 mm casters that were 36 mm high, much smaller than any others I have found, so I bought four sets. They also had SlideGlide Teflon furniture glides from EHI with a much larger surface area (and better prices) than anything I can find locally, so I got some of the 55 mm square ones. I use the glides on my recliner chair, but they get wrecked after a few months of being slid right across the tile floor several times a day.

Alas, the sausage sizzle at the entry to Bunnings ran out of snags just as I joined the queue. I shouldn't be eating snag sangers anyhow. Back at Key Motors I got a very nice and much more health conscious salad sandwich from the Key Largo cafe on their premises.

The car wasn't finished until 3:15 p.m. but looked wonderful. As well as the first service in a year, Key Motors had washed the Subaru, cleaned out the interior, and squirted it with new car smell. I only made one brief stop, to collect a drink, on the way home. Made good time, and got home at 6:45 p.m. just before the fading light made the back road hard to see.

Wednesday 8 February 2006

Home maintenance

Instead of working on web pages, I seemed to spend lots of time on minor tidy up junk around the apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces. Replaced the previous bookcase speakers with the new floor standing models from Dick Smith. They don't occupy all that much more space, and work just fine on a preliminary listen.

Then I had to find a place for the bookcase speakers (which won't fit on any bookcase I have). I put them on top of the high kitchen cupboards. Not at all sure just how I am going to drive them up there. I do have a spare Dick Smith stereo amplifier, but that is way too deep to fit on the kitchen cupboards.

Thursday 9 February 2006

Home maintenance (2)

Despite misgivings about the mounting method (screws through double layer Masonite), I managed to put up two wooden supports for Jean's clamp on desk lamp. This was outside the bathroom, in the entry way at the Whitsunday Terraces apartment. This area is poorly lit. No problem if you are walking through, but difficult to read book titles on the bookcase in the corridor, or find umbrellas and things next to the door.


My neighbour Jim kindly invited me to his farewell dinner for Erik, who was leaving for an architecture firm in Brisbane. I was amused to note last minute changing of computers by Erik while we waited for dinner at the Deja Vu Courtyard restaurant (the venison lasagne was splendid). I also met the new people working at the firm, and the partners of some of the other people at the firm. Normally I tend to see only Jim and Nick, if I drop in.

Must have enjoyed it, as I didn't get home until 11. I also didn't get to talk with Erik as much as I had hoped, as I had trouble hearing anyone except my nearest neighbours over the noise.

Friday 10 February 2006

Video Connectors

I find the number of video connectors confusing. I guess for most of us, the first connector we encountered was actually an RF antenna lead for a TV. Technically not really a video connector. Plus the ones used here in Australia are different from the F type connectors I saw for cable connections in the USA or the IEC Euro TV connector. Antenna connections are the last choice for quality, used only when nothing else is available.

When video recorders appeared, they had an antenna connection, and their own TV tuner as well. However they also had a composite video connector. This uses a single shielded 75 ohm RG59 or RG6 coaxial cable lead composite video connector, with the centre pin carrying the signal. This uses an RCA connector (like the ones used by many audio connectors). Pretty much any coaxial cable will work for a few metres, and good quality cables may manage 100 metres with some loss of quality. All the luminance and colour signals are combined, and they can not be cleanly separated, so most other connections look better.

A TV camera typically produces red, green and blue signals. These are high bandwidth, not suited to travelling long distances. They are usually converted to something else once out of the camera.

S-video (Y/C) uses a 4 pin mini-DIN connector, and separates luminance and colour. Better than composite, as there is less interference at the edges of strong colour or intensity changes. Not as good as component, as the colour signals are combined. Computers may use proprietary connectors, such as 7 pin mini-DIN.

Component video uses three RCA connectors, with Y, Pb, and Pr. Y is luminance (green cable), Pb is blue minus yellow signal (blue cable), and Pr is red minus yellow signal (red cable). Often used in the USA.

SCART 21 pin connectors seem to be used by some European equipment. They may include stereo audio, composite, S-video, RGB. Never seen it in the USA, and rarely in Australia.

VGA (video graphics adaptor) as used by many computers uses a 15 pin D connector. It includes red, green, blue, horizontal sync (sometimes composite sync) and vertical sync signals. It also often has Vesa DDC serial data line and a clock line for DDC, and an optional monitor ID. DDC supplies monitor feature information to a computer system.

DVI (digital video interface) is the best interface available from computers, as signals can remain digital through to display by an LCD.

Farewell (2)

I hadn't had much of a chance to talk with Erik at the farewell party the previous evening, so I volunteered to drive him and his luggage to the airport for his departing flight. So we had a half hour to chat during the drive, and another half hour before he went through security at the airport. The local airlines change serious money for excess baggage, so when you are moving to another city, it is pretty noticeable. I'll miss my infrequent chats with Erik, as he was about the only person I knew here seriously into computers. I hope he makes a name and a good career for himself in architecture.

Saturday 11 February 2006


Kurt and Ingrid saw me at the Airlie Beach market in the morning, and invited me to their place for a swim and dinner that evening. Great meal, with a port and salad dish. Also a sort of flaker pastry pizza dish first, which satisfied my craving for pizza. Plus I got to see a few more of Ingrid's videos of their travels to Christmas Island, and also of local wildlife around their home. I wish I could do videos even a quarter as good.

Sunday 12 February 2006

Life, The Universe, and Nothing

I keep hearing about the cartoons about Mohammed that Danish newspapers printed. Have you looked them up on the internet? They were really badly drawn, and not even funny. Plus the protests in Arab countries happened months after the event. Talk about spin doctors. The Arab world has us beat on talk and spin. Lets face it, if it were not for oil, we would let the Arab world starve to death or die of thirst, just like we ignore famines and dictators in Africa.

An Australian cartoonist Bill Leak did an interview with Mohammed. An outline figure saying to the cartoonist I refuse to be drawn on that subject. Now that was funny! The cartoons I came up with were pretty close to the bone, so I may never produce them.

Pete dropped in to deliver more material for their SheltersRUs web site. I guess I'll add that on Monday. Plus an invitation to dinner on Wednesday. So in the eight days since Jean left on Tuesday last week, I have had three invitations to go out for dinner. I love this! My diet isn't so keen. I guess I better go swimming at the lagoon first thing on Monday. Maybe some more walks as well.

Airlie Beach property prices

I saw recently that Airlie Beach is now rated as the 13th most expensive property market in Queensland. Meanwhile, top end developers are finding it harder to sell. Aquiplan from Sydney cut back the scale of their 42 Ivana Trump luxury apartments. They were to be A$3.5 to A$6.5 million, but are now likely to go somewhat downmarket. Whisper Bay from Rory O'Brien is also on hold. Next time I wander past I'll take another photo of that.

Monday 13 February 2006

Bloody Microsoft rewrite web pages!

I was hoping to have a small business here rewrite their own web pages when they had minor changes. So I showed them how to get Internet Explorer to open the web source page (it opens in Notepad), and showed them how to change the text.

Today I got a CD from them with the single page they have changed so far. Somehow between the nice clean HTML I put on their web site, and what I received from them (and they don't know enough to do this rewrite, so it isn't their fault), Microsoft managed to:

Change the DTD from HTML 4.01 Strict to 4.01 Transitional! Why on Earth would you do that? The box model is stuffed when you do that!

Add a comment about where they got it (OK, that isn't unreasonable)

Lost the line feeds I had, replaced with apparently arbitrary ones (maybe just confused by Unix line endings)

Changed all the HTML elements from lower case to UPPER CASE (why, when XHTML at least expects lower case?)

Rewrote most of the METAs (many of them incorrectly). Why would you do that?

Changed all my entity values into non-SGML characters (em dash, copyright symbol, etc.)

And finally, managed to change validated HTML into invalid HTML! Nice going!

Council to be sacked

Alas, not our council. Pressure is mounting on the Queensland government to sack the Gold Coast council, after bankrolling of campaigns by developers was revealed. Plus maybe some will be caught in a tax investigation.

Tuesday 14 February 2006

Decimal currency

Today is the 40th anniversary of Australia moving to decimal currency. I bet you thought I'd mention something else?

In with the dollars
and in with the cents
out with the pounds
and the shillings and the pence ...

Apple and Intel

I see from the Apple shop that Intel managed to produce slightly faster chips than Apple originally expected. The slowest MacBook Pro will be 1.83GHz (one step up from the bottom of the speed range), with another model at 2GHz (twice the video and regular RAM, slightly larger HD). Then an option of spending lots more to get a 2.16GHz CPU.

I guess that means the .65 production line worked better than Intel originally expected. The most curious bit to me is that the non-Duo version of the chip isn't all that much cheaper.

Intel's January 2006 pricing in 1000 off trays were:

T2600 2.16GHz  US$637
T2500 2.00GHz  US$423
T2400 1.83GHz  US$294
T2300 1.66GHz  US$241
T1300 1.66GHz  US$209 (Core Solo)

While Toshiba offer the Core Solo chip in some of their Tecra models, and others also offer the Core Solo, I find myself wondering about the long term availability of the T1300 chip.

The T1300 is a regular T2300 dual core chip, in which one of the cores has been switched off by Intel when they validated its operation. Since a certain percentage of CPU will fail, it is a way of getting some cost recovery when only one core fails. If say only one chip in 10 has both cores working, you push the price of the working duals very high. We can see from the prices that Intel don't expect a lot of 2.16MHz chips at this stage. However if say only one dual in 10 fails, then you wouldn't want the price of the Core Solo to be so low that everyone wants to buy that for their low end computer.

It all makes me wonder whether Apple will really use the Core Solo in a revised iBook. I could see them going straight to the Core Duo, at the lowest speed, after the next Intel price break occurs (probably April). Maybe put the Core Solo in the Mac mini.

Wednesday 15 February 2006


I just ordered a new computer monitor from Dell, as they had a 20% discount. I suspect Dell are about to launch a new model with an HDMI connector. However the monitor I ordered should connect with my VCR (composite), my DVD (component), my iMac (SVideo) and my Powerbook (DVI). In fact, I bought this monitor instead of replacing an ancient TV with a digital TV. I figure I can probably watch a TV feed on the monitor via the VCR.

What it will not connect to is the next generation video players. These are stalled, arguing about copy protection. So consumers do not know whether HD DVD or Blu-ray will be the winner, and will not know which to buy. Plus they include copy protection.

HDMI stands for high definition multimedia interface. It provides no consumer advantages not provided by the digital visual interface (DVI) already supplied on many computers. HDCP is a proprietary High bandwidth Digital Content Protection scheme devised by Intel for Digital Rights Management.

I am already thoroughly pissed off about DVDs with zones, and with Macrovision copy protection. How pissed off? Pissed off enough that I never bought a DVD (or a DVD player) until I could remove the zone and copy protection. In the past few years I have accumulated a nice little collection of stuff on DVD, all bought when something was less than the price of a paperback novel. I imagine I will continue to do so for a while longer.

So what do you think consumers will do when they find new version video will not play on their old equipment if it doesn't have HDCD? I think they will turn to sources that do not have copy protection. If it is harder to view a purchased movie than a pirated movie, then the home entertainment industry have just put themselves out of business.

Thursday 16 February 2006

MalWare for OS X

Not exactly the first (there was a rootkit script), not exactly a virus, and also not exactly a trojan (although that has been claimed). It is a Trojan virus worm :-) The Apple trojan started at MacRumors. Good detailed description by Andrew Welch of how it works (and why it fails). See latestpics.tgz is malware. Sophos say OSX/Leap-A virus. Intego say Oompa-Loompa is a Trojan Horse. Apple mention precautions to take, dating back to 2004.

Since this would spread (were it actually spreading at all) via iChat, turn off the option to accept (and send) file transfers via iChat.

While there were some errors in this Leap-A malware, it actually seemed fairly sophisticated. The important thing about it is that it demonstrates to head in the sand Apple users that they need to take precautions, and to learn enough not to be tricked into spreading malware by social engineering. In particular, don't run as administrator by default. It isn't needed, and it isn't smart. Maybe I am just paranoid, but when I got my first Mac a few years back, that was the first thing I did when I set it up in my hotel room. It never even occurred to me that other more experienced Mac users didn't automatically do that.

Friday 17 February 2006

Macintosh iBook Predictions

Given the general lack of information from Apple, anything anyone says has to be a guess. However Intel managed to provide more faster chips from their .65 line than anyone expected, and the Core Solo price difference isn't as much as I expected (about $35).

I think Apple can let the Mac mini sit for a fair while on the G4. They didn't bother to even announce internal upgrades when they happened. However they sell it at US$499, and a Core Solo is about US209 in 1000 off quantity. It doesn't make sense to use that expensive a chip in your low end computer, so I think Apple will wait for at least two more Intel price drops. I guess the first price drop comes in April.

[Apple fooled me. Instead of awaiting a price drop, they increased their Mac mini price by 20% when the new model appeared on 28 February.]

April might be a sensible time to release an iBook with a 1.66GHz Core Duo, especially if there are even faster Intel chips by then for the Powerbook. Although I think Yonah will peak at 2.33GHz, and Apple will be waiting for Merom (end of year) for substantial speed increases. One question is whether a 1.66GHz Core Duo iBook would have a severe impact on MacBook Pro 15 inch sales. I am not sure how Apple would justify the price difference they need.

In another few months perpendicular recording hard drives might be readily available, so Apple could consider taking some of the Powerbooks to 160GB to differentiate it from an iBook with say 60GB. The other thing is that a top of range 17 inch Powerbook would increase the return to Apple even on lower sales figures.

I also think the 12 inch Powerbook has tended to be neglected in the past. I keep wondering if Apple will try doing something really different in that size (or even smaller).

Saturday 18 February 2006

Inqtana.A Bluetooth worm

Aimed specifically at unpatched OSX 10.4, this is a proof of concept that goes via the OBEX Push request. User has to specifically manually accept the worm. Sounds to me like the anti-virus people were tired of not being able to sell their products to Mac users, and started a little publicity campaign. Apple patched this in June 2005 in security update 2005-006.

Sunday 19 February 2006

Table bashing

I am still seeking a table for my computer. Were it not a Macintosh it may not matter, but a Mac seems to say use something elegant. While at Townsville I got some 30mm casters, which I used on my wooden table. That table survived my 25kg stress test. So I guess I should use it.

However crude wood stuff doesn't seem sufficiently elegant for a Macintosh. Metal and glass and marble seem more Mac sort of stuff. No idea how to get them, but Pete says see a different one of the marine fabrication guys.

Monday 20 February 2006

Sony Playstation Late

The advanced Sony Playstation 3 games player looks like being delayed, perhaps until the end of the year. Just as well Apple didn't actually go ahead with the IBM Cell chip. However the reason for the delay is that games consoles tend to be subsidised by the maker in their early years. One analysis of the Playstation indicates it might cost Sony US$900 to produce, falling to US$320 after three years. It has a US$230 Cell chip, and a US$350 Blu-Ray DVD (for which the copy protection specifications haven't been agreed as yet). The price they sell at is well below cost.

I wonder how much the highly similar XBox will cost Microsoft? Microsoft can afford losses for a lot longer than Sony.

Tuesday 21 February 2006

Table bashing

My new Dell 24 inch (60cm) monitor unexpectedly arrived in the afternoon. Didn't have any idea where to put it after I unpacked the box. I finally plunked the monitor on the table I intended for the iMac. Fitted fine.

The monitor worked just fine with a DVI feed from a computer. So I tried a composite video lead from a VCR. Worked fine as a TV, once I set the VCR up to fed the separate sound system.

Looked around for a larger table, and thought perhaps a piece of white melanite covered MDF chipboard on a larger table I was making. Luckily I didn't act on this vague idea, because it is actually a bad idea.

Wednesday 22 February 2006

Table bashing

All my tables are on wheels. However I had a small one, about 57cm wide, and 35cm deep. It was basically buried in junk. That already had some pull out shelf surfaces. I moved the runners for one of these to give better spacing between shelves. I repurposed some old wood, and made a reasonably robust shelf at the bottom. Should have space to put my 80 watt audio amplifier at the bottom, where there is a bit of support for the weight, and some air flow. The VCR can come next, where I have some height. The next shelf can take the DVD player, which isn't very high at all.

The construction can take my weight, so it should be fine with the gear I want to put on it. Cables should end up with the antenna lead from the cable socket, plus some speaker leads from the amplifier. And a lead to power. Seems like the easiest solution without major reworking of my room.

Minor problem. No volume control when used as a TV, since the VCR has no volume control.

Social Event

Pete invited me to dinner again. I'll give him and Dawn another lesson in doing web sites, but they are doing pretty well, considering it all started as a mystery. At least, they are getting paragraphs correct, which at this stage is all they need.

Thursday 23 February 2006

Shrinking Audiences

US box office audiences declined 6% in 2005. This was the third year in a row that cinema audiences declined. Unspecified is whether the number of screens decreased or increased, which surely would also make some difference. Also, no survey of what people did with their time instead.

Personally, I suspect the decline is probably closely related to how many apparently bad movies now exist. Especially the ones that are basically The Last Remake of Beau Geste deja vu all over again. If it was bad the first time, why remake it? If it was good the first time, why believe you can do better?

Friday 24 February 2006

Cocoa better for you

Foods containing cocoa lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function in men. Those with the highest cocoa intake had half the death rate from heart disease, according to Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006;166:411-417. I am willing to eat more chocolate. The study of 470 men over 20 years didn't mention whether diabetes was a problem for the chocolate eaters.

Saturday 25 February 2006

Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis awards for books were held during the tenth anniversary celebrations for Brisbane's Pulp Fiction bookstore. Garth Nix got the gong plus best young adult short fiction award for Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, Across the Wall. He also got best children's novel with Drowned World. Slow and Ache by Trent Jamieson of Brisbane got best science fiction. Grant Stone from Murdoch got the Peter McNamara Convenors Award. I hadn't even realised the awards were due.

Sunday 26 February 2006

An End to Books

Mention of book awards reminds me that I have been exceedingly disappointed by most books I have seen over the past few years. In particular, I rarely found science fiction I enjoyed (despite some bright points). I was pretty much convinced the problem was me. That I had become a grumpy old man, and didn't like anything. So I deliberately re-read several older books I had once enjoyed. I still enjoy them! So I am going back to claiming that most of the stuff being published isn't worth using as toilet paper.

Monday 27 February 2006

Plasma TV a Sham

Plasma TV in Australia is a total sham and delusion. While the politicians urge us to embrace the digital age, many of the TVs sold by major consumer electronics stores such as Betta and Retravision are not even suitable for standard TV. Their resolution is 852 x 480 pixels, while PAL broadcasts used in Australia have 576 scan lines. In short, they are a fraud.

Suggesting these are HDTV ready is likewise a fraud. Yes, they can accept a signal from a HD set top box. However they can not display high resolution. They can only degrade the HD signal to something they can display, always with 480 pixel vertical resolution. This is pathetic. No wonder people in Australia are rejecting the entire digital TV con game.

Tuesday 28 February 2006

Apple Intel Mac mini

Apple announced an Intel based Mac mini contrary to my expectations that an iBook would be next. I thought that due to the (high) cost of the Intel Core Solo chip that Apple would leave updating the Mac mini until the chip costs were lower. Instead they raised the price 20%, and cut their costs somewhat by using shared graphics memory (the same trick used on most cheap Windows boxes). I just hope that the memory that remains is sufficient for running Tiger in a satisfactory manner. Personally I'd prefer a separate video card with its own memory, but I am not sure I am in the Apple target audience for the Mac mini anyhow. The only feature I seriously like is the (lack of) size.

Australian prices for the low end Mac mini are A$999, and the Core Duo model A$1299. That will probably be a bit of a hard sell against Windows boxes. Most people don't see where costs have been cut on regular PCs (nor should they be expected to).

Serial ATA hard drives, which is interesting, and not something I expected. Still obviously notebook sized drives, given the 60GB smallest size. Ethernet extends to Gigabit speed. I can sure see storage area networks getting more and more important.

However Apple did include 802.11g WiFi in the Mac mini. True, most laptops do these days, but a lot of desktops do not. They also included Bluetooth, so the option of a wireless keyboard and mouse is readily available. That seems a way to partially differentiate their product from the me-to Windows boxes, although I am sure the price will be seen as having increased (it is the same as the previous model if that model was optioned in a similar manner). Having four USB ports is welcome.

Including the Apple remote with the Mac mini seems to say this is partway to an entertainment centre, especially with Front Row and Bonjour. Also, the video is 1920 x 1200 DVI, which is very welcome, with a DVI to VGA adaptor also included. The audio includes optical input and output, which does seem to say good audio support.

I could see using it as an (audio) media centre. Mostly for the convenience, not because of the hardware. I can do much the same sort of thing with Windows or Linux. But then I have to do more of the work. Regarding pricing, is there any other dual processor machine on the market at US$799?

I am also very impressed at the way Apple have kept the iMac, the MacBook Pro and now the Mac mini appearing almost identical to the previous G4 and G5 based models. I could see them doing the same with the PowerMac. This seems a really smart way to deal with transition shock. I was expecting an Apple computer sales slump in 2006 as people held off while awaiting new software. Maybe that will not be as apparent as I expected.