Over the past year I have been busily buying DVDs, if the price is right. But they are a right pain. My DVD player often stalls on the dual layer phase transition. Before you get to that, you have the cute menu. Also the cute stuff you can't bypass, about copying a DVD being a crime under USA law. Who cares about USA law on a DVD set for Zone 4? The only time I need to put a DVD in a computer is when I can't play it properly on my DVD player. However once you do put it in a computer, you might as well copy it to bypass the stupid menus and crap. It is like an engraved invitation to break copy protection.
Hollywood is rapidly heading the same way as broadcast TV. The shit they serve on Australian TV got so bad this year that I gave away the TV set. Maybe I'll just download and watch amateur films from now on. I actually like spectacularly bad pratfalls captured on video. With some fill-in viewing from my DVD collection when I want a movie.
My music is all going on the computer (I just bought four CD filing boxes so the CDs can go in the back of a cupboard). Much more convenient there. It seems like it would be more convenient to keep the DVDs on the computer as well.
IDC's White Paper on the Economic Benefits of Microsoft Vista is a wonderful attempt to persuade the European Commission to stop being critical of the product. Especially, to allow Microsoft and its partners to make around forty billion Euros of sales over the next few years. IDC expect Microsoft to sell 100 million copies of Vista, 30 million in Europe, in the year after it launches. They expect XP and earlier version sales to end by the end of 2008. In fact, the entire article seems to be about the additional costs of introducing Vista.
Glyn Moody of Linux Journal calls it Microsoft FUD. Glyn points of that much of the hardware expense comes from replacing systems incapable of running Vista. However they would have continued to run with older systems for a number of years. The forty billion Euros is a cost, not a benefit.
Neither of the above articles are worthwhile. One doesn't have the long term figures to back what it says (IDC data didn't go back far enough to compare the change from Windows 98 to XP, as was needed). The other is mainly the often seen Linux user reflex hatred of Microsoft and anything related to it.
See the parable of the broken window for an 1850 account of the merits or otherwise of economic action that leaves something broken.
To whom should Australia sell uranium? Obviously, not to any country that is not a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. This excludes India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. Equally obviously, not to any country that breaks article one, on not transferring or assisting countries in obtaining nuclear weapons. This excludes Pakistan, had it been a signatory, and would have excluded China in the past. Not to countries that restrict inspection under article three, which excludes Iran and would have excluded Iraq. Not to countries that fail to negotiate in good faith on article six, on general and complete disarmament. This excludes Britain, China, France, Russia and the USA.
So to whom can you still sell uranium? Seems more and more like an export with no potential buyers.
Smoking breaks will be banned in the workplace in West Australia, according to state health minister Jim McGinty. It robs productivity he said, and it is unfair of smokers to leave workmates to carry the load while they ducked outside for a smoke every hour.
The new policy is expected to start in hospitals, and be progressively rolled through all government workplaces. Private industry is expected to follow. Some NSW government departments have already banned smoking breaks during office hours.
Soft drink recipe stops you eating. Or so this decade old patent from Opokua Kwapong and Valerie Fedun-Jackson of Pepsico laboratories in Valhalla claims. I wonder whatever became of any potential product from USA patent 5310570 or USA patent 5472716?
Well, you can see how popular a working appetite suppressant would be received by restaurants. Well, maybe the fixed menu, all you can eat ones would like the idea.
Mark Hurst of Good Experience blogs about a bad customer experience with a bank. I can relate to that. The only reason my bank hasn't lost me from the most recent changes is that the bank I asked about moving to reminded me that changing automatic payments was a pain.
Telstra had their big talk to the business community today. They didn't get very far before the sprinkler system drenched pretty much all of them. Seems sort of like a metaphor for their chances. The T3 stock goes on sale Monday. I'm tempted to sell.
Telstra phoned me today to tell me about fast internet access. Does that mean you are finally supplying ADSL2, I asked. No. This is new mobile phones. I told them I wanted my internet over the phone line, and decent speed, not on a mobile phone. They terminated the call shortly after.
Australia must by now be last among the industrialised countries in terms of internet access speeds. No point worrying about downloading movies or anything. Home users have neither the speed nor capacity to do so. Thanks loads Telstra. Still, at least you pay decent fully franked dividends (for the moment).
Biofuels are great if you are a farmer looking to cut your fuel costs. Or a sugar farmer hoping for another cash crop. As a substitute for petrol, I am not so sure. We use a lot of oil. How large a monoculture would you need to replace oil? How much energy does it take to plant and harvest biofuels. How much carbon dioxide do you release while refining biofuels. I don't know, but critics have astonishingly claimed biofuel production releases more CO2 than oil!
Some say that biofuels leak more carcinogenic fumes than oil. Mind you, car makers would prefer you to continue to use internal combustion engine cars rather than move to electric vehicles, take up bicycling, or change society so that people didn't need to drive most places.
Television is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Australia this year. Perhaps the public should celebrate this industry reaching maturity (and a bit more) by not protecting it any longer. The owners of the TV networks always want more government protection against competition. Isn't it past time that they had to bid for scarce spectrum space, like mobile phone companies? When TV started, there was space for only about five channels at most in the VHS band in any area. Compression makes it possible to run four or five times as many channels.
Government policy is to encourage TV consumers to move to digital. Why would you bother? Digital TV offers nothing new (in the event you can even receive it). Same old crap the protected commercial companies have been serving up for years. Why are these wanking TV companies being protected?
My own solution is simple. I got rid of my TV set. The internet provides far more entertainment, and I don't have to put up with any of the commercial networks that way. Of course, what Telstra offer as a connection wouldn't even be called broadband in most countries, but that is another gripe about government policy, and protected monopolies. I'll get rid of my Telstra shares also.
The Australian business section reports Telstra preparing to offer ADSL2+ by Christmas. A new range of broadband products with sweeteners to encourage people to keep their fixed line phone. There have long been reports that Telstra have ADSL2+ capable equipment in their exchanges (just as I believe my router needs only a firmware upgrade to handle ADSL2+).
The most interesting point was an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission statement by telecommunications commissioner Ed Willett last week that Telstra should not necessarily be forced to allow rivals access to ADSL2+. Mind you, he didn't say they wouldn't. Plus Telstra hasn't asked.
I wonder what the hell a sweetener for phones lines might mean? All I want from Telstra (or any other internet service provider) is an ADSL2+ line that is fast and reliable, and to keep out of my way. Well, and maybe a fixed IP number, but I'm not going to pay extra for a fixed IP number when I can get around that other (free) ways. So what could Telstra possibly offer that I would want? Stuff like their music and similar services only work on Windows computers, and I'd build my own computer before I'd use Windows again. I'd even use Linux in preference to Windows.
On the front page of the newspaper, Telstra are said to be planning to offer untimed mobile calls. That seems a guarantee of low returns, although perhaps not as low as capped bills have been. Makes no difference to me, as I don't put the battery in my mobile phone unless I want to make an emergency call (they can track you if the mobile phone is switched on).
Glen Craig (Glenbo), of three loose coconuts, a design, photography and publishing outfit, was in Airlie Beach checking what images, books, postcards (and other printed material) they could do relating to the Whitsundays. I had a chance to look at some of their books over a drink at Mangrove Jacks. If they come up with the concepts they want, they will do nice things for the islands. They aren't into web stuff, they are into printed material, but keep an eye out for anything they publish. I think I need to take a creative photography course (not that courses make you creative).
Jean phoned around 9 p.m, from the taxi from Sydney airport. I'd had a mid morning email from Singapore reporting her progress from the U.K. Amazing how much difference email and mobile phones make to following the progress of a traveller.
Prior to the Intel models, Apple consumer computers (iBook and iMac) lacked the extended desktops of the professional (PowerBook and Power Mac) models. Consumer Macintosh could mirror their screen contents on an external display, but not extend their desktop. This was an artificial limitation set in the boot firmware.
A German program lets you easily add an extended desktop to iBook or iMac. Although there are warnings about dangers, it does work for most people who need it. The Apple hardware is certainly capable of supporting extended desktops. I finally got around to downloading the dmg today.
Apple no longer limited the consumer model extended desktop when they moved to Intel CPUs. Given most Windows PCs easily support extended desktop, this seems a wise decision. Why annoy the relatively few people who really need that feature?
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen says 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users do most postings. The ratio is even worse for blogs. Don't make the mistake of thinking participation means you are hearing a representative viewpoint.
Nielsen gives examples of participation inequalities from Amazon review, and from Wikipedia. More importantly, he makes suggestions for easing the imbalance.
Some aspects of hearing music are in the mind. I rediscovered a 1986 note of an experiment by psychologist Diane Deutsch of the University of California at San Diago. This was demonstrated to the Acoustical Society of America meeting in Anaheim, CA in December 1986. Tritone paradox. Pairs of tones, half an octave apart. Some people consistently hear the pairs as ascending, others as descending in pitch. If played back at different speeds, the pattern of notes can be ascending or descending, for any listener, depending upon the playback speed. This effect occurs when listening to sine waves, not when listening to complex notes, such as from a piano.
I was delighted to discover that not only was an account of this on the web, but that Professor Diane Deutsch had accounts of various other musical and audio illusions available. Now I want to get copies of her two CDs.
Yet another report that HDMI cables are a bad idea, this time from Bill Whitlock of Jensen Transformers, together with reasons why this is the case. If you have to use computer digital cables, stick with DVI. If you stick with DVI, keep it to the sort of lengths typical between a computer and a monitor. We would have been a lot better off if TVs had IEEE1394a (FireWire) connections in the first place. HDMI is utter crap, and isn't even compatible from version to version. Typical committee compromises.
Australia has run enormous foreign exchange deficits over the past few decades. Our overseas liabilities have increased 3.5 times over the past 14 years, from 45% of the 1991 GDP to 60% of the 2005 GDP. Annual servicing costs are 4% of GDP. However instead of the overseas debt being equity (as in the past), it is now debt, mostly the A$335 billion owed by banks. By some trick I fail to understand, the banks (and thus Australia) are borrowing in Australian currency.
This dodges the foreign currency exposure implicated in the collapse of many Asian banks a while ago. The risk is not to Australia, but to the overseas holders of the debts. In many ways, we get the best of everything. Debts where the risk is mostly with the lender, plus we get to use the goods our own exports can not cover. However in the long term, you do have to stop being a deadbeat, and export as much as you import.
The Australian Wheat for Iraq bribery scandal reminds me that people perform better when bribed. Compare waiters in the USA hoping for a tip with the surly contrast here where tips are almost unknown thanks to minimum wage laws. One solution is to bring back the backhander, so everyone on the job takes an underhanded cut of whatever passes through their hands. Very hard to keep that under control, since everything ends up being able to be bought for a price.
Better to get rid of employees where you don't have metrics for work, and use sub-contractors where results are harder to measure. We have politicians bragging a lot about how many self-employed people there are in Australia. Wouldn't need this if bribes were still allowed.
Apple Macintosh computers with an Intel CPU or an IBM G5 CPU also include an optical digital audio output. Just the thing for surround sound from a DVD. Connect a Toslink optical cable to a Yamaha or Polk audio sound projector, or to an AV receiver connected to a surround sound speaker set.
If you do not have a modern Apple computer, you need either a Firewire to S/PDIF digital audio converter, or a USB to S/PDIF digital audio converter. Since you would be wanting home theatre, you need to avoid any converter that provides only a stereo output.
A good collection of links to digital audio converters is at Harmony. Alas, most are a DAC, not a USB or Firewire converter, most are overpriced, or simply not easily available in Australia. Most USB or Firewire converters are stereo only. Not a good start.
M-Audio Transit passes digital outputs through from a USB port. At under US$100, it is a possible upgrade for an older Macintosh.
Misha Sakellaropoulo reviews AudioEngine A5 on iPod Observer in February 2006.
Christopher Breen reviewed the AudioEngine A5 loudspeakers in Playlist in March 2006. Gave them a 4.5 rating, mentioning no dock for an iPod as a con.
Mike Kobrin reviews the AudioEngine A5 loudspeaker in PC Magazine in April 2006.
Jeff Lawson did the Audioholics review of the AudioEngine A5 loudspeaker in April 2006 giving it five stars. One of their cons was not offered in black, while another was too good for iPod use. This review was detailed, including photos of the inside of the AudioEngine, showing the massive torroidal power transformer and heat sink, plus a nice looking crossover. Gave an outstanding rating.
FreshArrival mentions AudioEngine A5 loudspeakers, and likes them, but does not do a detailed review.
Jason Tomczak does Digital Trends review of AudioEngine A5 loudspeakers
Noah Kravitz reviews Audioengine 5 powered speakers in PB Central in September 2006. Says they beat all the others.
Tony Smith reviews the AudioEngine A5 loudspeaker in Reg Hardware in October 2006. [later note]
Adrian Wittenberg has a product review of Audioengine 5 active desktop stereo speakers in Secrets of Home Theatre and High Fidelity. This much later review notes it is now available in flat black (as well as glossy white). A photo in the review shows the speaker cable clips have been replaced by five way gold plated binding posts. This model also has a set of RCA sub out connectors. Nice update to the model, although neither change is shown on the maker's site. [later note]
Neandertals seem to have been stronger than Homo Sapiens, according to muscle attachments to bones. As some pelvic bones were found, it seems perhaps they didn't have the forward thrust hip joints of modern humans. Humans in effect have a built in shock absorber, which enhances walking and running. Neandertal bone injuries suggest they may have hunted animals up close and dangerous, perhaps in heavily wooded areas. Close up hunting would not have been as effective in open terrain, where modern humans could run down animals. Aborigines in Australia changed the landscape to more open brush by the use of fire. I wonder whether use of fire helped kill off Neandertals?
Nice paleoanthropology weblog from John Hawks.
A GPS receiver collects precise time signals from a constellation of satellites, and from these provides your position on the surface of the earth as latitude and longitude. Latitude is your angular elevation in degrees north of the equator taking the centre of the earth as the measuring spot (if south, the result is preceded by a minus sign). The maximum latitude is 90 degrees north or south. Latitude or parallels are a circle on the surface of the earth, getting smaller as they approach the poles. See Wikipedia on latitude for details.
If instead you slice the earth from pole to pole, you would have 360 degrees of Longitude (or meridian) crossing the equator at right angles. For historical reasons, these are measured starting at 0 from the Astronomical Observatory at Greenwich, England. They go 180 degrees east, and 180 degrees west (west is preceded by a minus sign). Longitude lines are great circles, all the diameter of the earth.
Since the earth rotates 360 degrees in a day, of 24 hours, this is 360/24 or 15 degrees an hour. Hence time zones tend to be 15 degrees wide.
Google Earth is a very popular example of the use of a geographical information system that includes GPS data. Google code APIs allow internet users to access the power of the Google search facilities. Keyhole Markup Language is an XML based language for managing geo-spacial information. Keyhole were bought by Google, and their product became Google Earth. The XML files are sometimes distributed as KMZ, zipped KML files. Google explain KML, and there is a Google tutorial on using KML.
GPX (the GPS Exchange Format) is a light-weight XML data format for the interchange of GPS data (waypoints, routes, and tracks) between applications and Web services on the Internet. I think it appeared somewhat before the Google Keyhole format, and a lot of programs support it. You can also incorporate your data in Google maps.
GPS Connect transfers waypoints from a Garmin GPS to a Macintosh for backup. Needs a serial to USB converter.
GPS Bebel+ is a graphical wrapper around GPS Babel. It does waypoint, track and route data format interchange for connected GPS devices. A sample SPX file for aircraft use. Since it looks complicated I note a GPX file generator is online for geocache enthusiasts. GPS Visualizer creates maps and profiles from GPS data in SVG, JPG, PNG, and also create map overlays and KML files for Google. Plus there are GPS Visualizer tutorials that explain how to create the data files (by hand if need be) for use with Google Maps and Google Earth. GPS Visualizer links are nice. Flighttrack does 3D waypoints on a Macintosh, for pilots. You can download DEM - Digital Elevation Model data files from NOAA to make your own 3D models. GPS PhotoLinker saves location data by co-ordinating GPS time against exif information in photos.
SpringWalker is a John Dick's body amplifier. It recovers energy when you land, and applies it to the next step. About 80% efficiency, against 40% from a kangaroo, the next most efficient. The demo video is pretty neat. On the other hand, I first saw the concept in Scientific American in 1992.
The brain receptor 5-HT(1B) binds to serotonin. If you lack that receptor, you are willing to drink twice the ethanol as normal mice. Plus you are tolerant of massive amounts. More aggressive also. However alcoholism probably isn't a single gene problem. Nor is everything the same when considering mouse and men.
14000 people die each year in Australia as a result of medical errors. The third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. However familiar this note, this comes from a 1995 report released by Carmen Lawrence. So in a decade, not a lot changes. In 1992, 2.83 million people entered hospital, 450,000 had an adverse event, of which half could have been prevented. About 20% suffered disability or death. That is 44,000 people. About half the preventable events were linked to an operation. That report came from Bill Runciman at Royal Adelaide Hospital. I must check the latest figures.
Nice piece by Rob Weir about dates in Microsoft's Excel and the proposed ECMA Office Open XML standard. Dark is the new light. Surely hardly anyone except historians will mind Microsoft re-defining 1900 as a Leap Year?
Google is installing 1.6 MW of photovoltaic panels on the roof of their four main Googleplex buildings. Google hope the EI Solutions installation will offset 30% of their energy use.
I should have known better, but in the past I had really good luck with Hewlett Packard printers. This 2550L is a total heap of shit. Use up the original set of toner. So that is at most 5000 copies. Four new toner cartridges (costing more than the printer) and 50 copies later, it wants the drum replaced. Well, instead of that, I'm changing my workflow so that I will never again use a printer. Fuck you, HP. You and your printers can go to hell. You can join Sony on my list of companies I will never again deal with.
Usual flight to Brisbane then on to Sydney using Virgin Blue. The taxi collected us around 10:30, and we didn't get to the hotel until just before out dinner time. The Metro Hotel on Pitt had a pretty nice restaurant. I thought the portions were enormous.
Jean sent me out to get groceries, like Weet-bix, milk, honey and orange juice for breakfast. The couple of cheap bacon and egg big breakfasts we had during our stay were gigantic. Having them every day would have totally blown our weight.
Jean decided to shortcut to Galaxy via the Town Hall underground to QVB. We had just gone down the steps when my former UTS work colleague Martin hailed us. We had no idea he would be in the CBD. Great to see him, as I had hoped to find time to have a chat with him while we were in Sydney.
Galaxy bookshop rapidly filled our bags with lots of science fiction.
Pitt Street mall, a few blocks from where the Metro Hotel is, is one of the ten most expensive city retail rent areas in the world (it is number eight). Rates average $5465 per square metre. So what I want to know is how can the SugarFix lolly company sell Jelly Belly there? When they sold me a little container of sours (blueberry, cherry, lemon, strawberry, rasberry, grape, watermelon, orange, peach and apple) they also mentioned I could buy Jelly Belly jelly beans over the internet. Dangerous!
The most expensive shopping strip is Fifth Avenue in New York, where you can pay US$1.35 million a year for a 3 square metre unit. Rates average $18853 a square metre.
In our guise as Friends of Open Document, we set up our table at the fourth annual Asia Pacific OASIS Open Standards conference at the Avillon Hotel in Sydney. We had brought about 10 kg of Open Office and Open Document books Lulu print on demand with us for the display. Plus Jean had the large Open Document Foundation banner for behind our table.
Thanks to Jean running the table, and organiser Nga suggesting I view some panels, I did manage to view two of the afternoon presentations.
Russ Weakley of Max Design on ten steps to move from basic web pages to full CSS layouts. I had read many interesting articles on the Max Design site previously, so this was a welcome and nicely compact presentation.
John Allsopp of Western Civilisation, makers of StyleMaster CSS editor, gave a presentation on the use of Microformats to improve the semantics of web pages. I have had a copy of Style Master for some time (although sadly have not used it as much as I expected - old habits of using a text editor die hard). I had forgotten how interesting this technique sounded, so being reminded was great.
The Open Standards cocktail party was at the Star Bar on George Street across from the cinemas right after the last presentation. It seemed a good spot to try to find more about what the various attendees saw as their concerns. Plus we could also push our own organisation. It didn't hurt that the food was plentiful, and very good, for finger food.
Conference chairs Ram Kumar of Sakthisoft and Nick Carr of Allette Systems are to be congratulated, although conference manager Nga Cao seemed to be working everything at the event.
Wayne Mansfield was fined A$1 million, and his company Clarity 1 was fined $4.5 million. The Australian Communications and Media Authority said they sent at least 231 spams in 12 months after the Spam Act started in April 2004. Justice Robert Nicholson did not impose the $9.9 million against Clarity 1 and $1.98 million against Mansfield that the prosecution requested. I would like to toast Justice Nicholson (although I would have liked to have seen the company liquidated and the owner bankrupted).
We spent the day at the Open Standards Conference. Jean did manage to sell some of our books. We had a certain amount of interest in the Friends of Open Document, which was encouraging.
After taking down our display at Open Standards, we dropped everything back at our hotel, and walked to the Society for Technical Communications conference. Jean wanted to test her computer with their projector. After success, I took Jean's computer back to the hotel, while Jean went to the ASTC conference dinner with people she knew.
I returned in time to hear Jean's talk. Afterwards we sat in the bar with other attendees, and eventually had dinner there with them.
Trying to repair my Noise Buster sound reducing headphones with foam rubber had sort of worked, but my cutting techniques were not all that great. Jaycar catalogue AA1999 earpad spares looked like they might fit over my foam, and leave the headphones looking like they were repaired.
Got some more video cameras from Jaycar to add to my security system.
Four simple 1875 based audio amplifier kits from Dick Smith. I plan to change a bunch of my speakers from passive to active amplification. Now that using a computer for sound is more convenient than using a CD or audio stuff, having active speakers makes life easier. I don't want a bunch of amplifiers cluttering up the place.
I hate it when Sydney goes to Daylight saving at 2 a.m. in the morning. Luckily Queensland still doesn't do that.
Larry Nelson pointed me to DayChaser calendar program for Macintosh. This does substantially more than iCal on Apple in some areas. Larry was looking at it to replace the Epoc Agenda on my Psion I mostly use. I have to thank Larry for pointing that out to me.
We had lunch and dinner on our last day in Sydney with friends. Between that and a little last minute shopping, hardly did anything.
The Centro shopping centre finally got bus shelters. Only took the council seven months to do it. They managed to build a library faster than that. Shakes head.
This is the spot where a shopkeeper took to putting out a portable shelter to protect bus customers from the tropical sun.
I rather like the idea of fancy dress for Halloween, even if it was originally a pagan Celtic celebration of the end of summer. Also, it may be the only chance kids have to beg for lollies, in these days of strident stranger danger warnings. Imagine offering candy to a child you don't know on any other day. You would probably be lynched. I blame Robbie the Robot, and his constant cries of Danger, Will Robinson for the entire protection of children movement in recent years. However we all know who really pushes Halloween, and it isn't Satanists. It is all a plot by costume hire companies, and confectionary manufacturers, outrageously encouraged by the USA-Australian Free Trade agreement.
Mind you, the pubs and clubs like The Juice Bar all manage to have Halloween parties.
I would object to Virgin Blue's midday flight DJ231 to Brisbane, followed by DJ 955 to Proserpine more, had the change time on the flight been more than a few minutes. Another time zone change. We reached Proserpine at 2:35. Although half the taxis from town were there, there was no room for us on the early ones. We had time to sink a XXXX before we got space on one of the later taxis. Luckily we did eventually get home to the Whitsunday Terraces resort.
First time the taxis haven't had room. I found this is because the two Brisbane flights for the day now arrive within 20 minutes of each other. A potential 350 passengers arriving at an airport 25 km from a town with a total of 14 taxis. Also there isn't enough space in the terminal for that number of passengers.