Eric Lindsay's Blog 2008 March

Saturday 1 March 2008

Laser Printers Dangerous

It appears many laser printers emit pollutant particles as dangerous as tobacco smoke, according to tests of 62 laser printers by Queensland University of Technology's Air Quality and Health Program, led by physics Professor Lidia Morawska. Seventeen emitted toner particles, some of which are potential carcinogens. Hewlett Packard rejected claims of danger from its laser printers. Abstract of Particle emission characterisitcs of office printers.

Rechargeable Hybrid Battery

CSIRO and Cleantech Ventures are working on a rechargeable hybrid battery for stationary energy storage. For the stationary power market, the UltraBattery would be based on 2V, 1000 Ah cells. Each string will have 12 cells (24V, 1000Ah) with four strings in each system (48 cells). It uses a CSIRO Ultrabattery, an asymmetric supercapacitor, and lead acid battery. They hope for 50% greater discharge capacity and three times the life of conventional deep discharge batteries. The ultrabattery has also been tried in hybrid vehicles.

All I can say is ouch! I priced some conventional 2V, 200AH deep discharge gel cells at around $10,000 for that number. UltraBatteries are bound to cost lots more. In addition, in small apartments, you have nowhere to put a half tonne of batteries, let alone two or three tonnes.

Sunday 2 March 2008

Intel Atom Mobile Internet Devices

Intel Centrino Atom mobile internet device processors" are intended for a new range of mid sized mobile internet devices (MID). Intel Centrino Atom is the new name for the 64 bit Silverthorne (mobile internet) and Diamondville (low cost laptop) codename computer processors, and Paulsbo chipset from the Menlow platform.

Intel Centrino Atom has new low power use, Core2Duo compatible instructions. 47 million transistors on a 25 square mm die in a 13 x 14 mm package using 45 nm construction, 40% of the chip is a 512K, 8-way set associative L2 cache. It is around the same transistor count as the Pentium 4. It is the smallest Pentium compatible yet from Intel. Thermal design power (TDP) is aimed at the 0.6 to 2.5 Watt range. Idle power may be as low as 30 mW. These devices are aimed at computers, however they use far too much power for mobile phones. Clock should scale to around 1.8 GHz. The chips are aimed at Internet centric netbook and nettops devices.

Performance will probably be slower than the old Pentium M, given the 16 stage in-order execution of instructions. Good description of Intel Atom architecture from Jon Stokes. I tend to agree that others like ARM own this particular embedded space at the moment. Despite this, I like the Intel reach into the third screen area, between a cell phone and a full size computer. I know PDAs died in that space, but I think that was a software failure. In case anyone hasn't caught on, these Atom chips are no use in a cell phone. They take too much power.

The Atom chips probably wouldn't be all that much use for set top boxes. No need for Pentium compatibility in most set top boxes. Apple use OS X in most of their devices. Apple could use Pentium compatibility, however unless the Atom performance exceeds Pentium M, I can't see this getting into AppleTV. I do wonder however about some future Airport base station, or Time Capsule.

Final comment. Why is the Intel Pressroom making it difficult to watch their movies about their new chips? Providing them only in proprietary Flash and requiring cookies seems stupid.

Monday 3 March 2008

IE8 To Use Standards

In an abrupt political turnaround, Microsoft say Internet Explorer 8 will use Standards mode by default when rendering web pages that purport to use web standards. This will break a large number of badly written web pages, something Microsoft were trying to avoid. However it is the first move in years that helps push W3C web standards forward. This is the first time in ages I have liked a move by Microsoft. They say they are going to do the right thing.

Next step is to kick vast numbers of web site designers into actually writing web pages, rather than broken bits of tagged text like they usually do. Which reminds me, I had better check all my web pages are still actually completely valid HTML 4.01 Strict. I wonder if there is any chance IE8 will support application/xhtml+xml MIME type?

Slow Intel Atom

The Intel Atom (Silverthorne) CPU is really slow. A test that took 1:48 on a 1.6 GHz Atom took 1:55 on a 1.13 GHz Pentium III-M, 1:23 on a 900 MHz Celeron M (Dothan 512), and 1:08 on a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 (which shows how much of a dog the Pentium 4 turned out to be). The 1.8 GHz Core2Duo is in under 40 second territory.

On the other hand, Atom power consumption is really low, for a Pentium grade CPU. Not down there in ARM country, so it is no use in a mobile phone as yet. Maybe not ever.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Avoid USA Domain Name Registries

A British tourist company lost its domain names, thanks to being put on a US blacklist, according to the NY Times. The owner lives in Spain, and amongst other trips, promotes visits to Cuba (for Europeans). However he used a USA domain name registry. The US Treasury department told the domain registry to remove the domains, and they did. Stealing domains sucks.

Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly suggests business have as little contact as possible with the USA. I think we are all getting the idea these days. If it were not that I know most of my US friends can't wait to get rid of the present day administration, I would be even more worried about the various efforts of the US government.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Adobe Flash Sucks

I was delighted to note in a recent talk by Steve Jobs that Apple had no intention of adding Adobe Flash to the iPhone or iPodTouch. In fact, I no longer have the Flash plugin on my Macintosh. True, I can't view YouTube. When will those Google people start using H.264 like they claimed they would?

However removing Flash from my computer means that I can turn on all my other plugins. That was something I never did previously, because Flash slowed down everything so much. Now I can watch videos, but never be bothered by idiotic Flash advertising. I never play online games, so that other use of Flash doesn't bother me. The Web looks a whole heap better without Flash. Advertisers (and web sites) using Flash can get stuffed.

I note also that all my web sites work just fine with Safari on an iPod Touch. I wrote my web sites to web standards, not to some proprietary Adobe product that doesn't work everywhere. iPod Touch works just fine if you write well structured, valid web pages. Isn't that what web site designers are supposed to be writing?

Turns out I am not the only person who thinks Flash makes no sense on iPhone.

Assassinate Bad Leaders

The American has an article about Ben Olken and Ben Jones, who point out in hit or miss, that you are more likely to see democratisation following the assassination of an autocratic leader, whereas there was no substantial effect following assassinations – or assassination attempts – on democratic leaders.

This suggests that democracies may find paying for political assassination of totalitarian leaders in aggressive countries may be more cost effective than having large military forces. Do you think anyone has thought of that before? Yes, well, maybe.

Thursday 6 March 2008


Jean had a busy day, with three trips. The active one was to Sports Scene, who had phoned to say they now had the new treadmill in. We went there and checked it out. Jean got new walking shoes, and the new treadmill. If she works as hard on that as she has on the stationary bicycle, she will soon get her legs working correctly. Plus the treadmill lets her exercise without having to put up with twelve flights of stairs to get to the main street from the Whitsunday Terraces. Those twelve flight daunt me, and with two artificial hips, sure slowed Jean down.

Friday 7 March 2008

Smoke Alarm

The stupid government mandated smoke alarm in unit 62a of the Whitsunday Terraces went off around 9:30 p.m. No-one home, no way to get access, no way to turn the idiotic thing off. I wonder how long a smoke alarm battery takes to run out of juice? Seems like at least an hour. Now there is a non-functional smoke alarm, with no indication that it has failed. Good going.

Intel Mobile Chip Price Cut Schedule

Graphic list of Intel mobile CPUs for 2008, includes price schedule, thermal design power rating, clock, cache and front side bus speeds.

Nothing much available in the low power end until 3Q 2008.

Saturday 8 March 2008

Applescript Resources

Apple script collection is a good start. Save scripts you like in ~/Library/Scripts Install The AppleScript Utility (in Applications, AppleScript) will let you place a script menu on the right hand side of the Menu Bar, for easy access to scripts you have saved. If you don't want to use scripts from the Script Menu, you can change many scripts into a Droplet. Droplets are scripts that let you drop a file on them, and then act on that file. You can also create scripts using AppleScript Studio (for developers), which then act like full applications with their own GUI.

Doug's Applescripts for iTunes has over 400 iTunes and iPod scripts. Try Joe's iPhoto for iPhoto scripts from Joe Maller (donation requested via PayPal). Another source of Apple scripts is Jonathan Natham, which has some nice examples. Also AppleScript Studio examples. Andreas Amann has mail scripts. There are a bunch of helpful scripting hints and examples at MacScripter's Scriptbuilder. There are also Apple scripts hidden at Mac OS X hints.

Sunday 9 March 2008

iPods in Space

So who left the iPod in the space shuttle Endeavour window? Better watch out for drive by smash and grabs by Klingons. The photo was taken from the international space station using a 400 mm lens, during the STS-123 mission. The photos are now routinely taken for assessing damage possible damage to the shuttle thermal tiles.

Monday 10 March 2008

MacBook Air Can Not Install Windows

You can not install Microsoft Windows via Bootcamp on a MacBook Air. The Bootcamp install is not compatible with the Remote Disk feature. In general, anyone wanting to use Windows on a MacBook Air will also need an external optical drive. Luckily I never had any intention of installing Windows, for any reason, under any circumstances.

MacBook Air Can Not Run CD or DVD

The MacBook Air can not play audio CD or DVD video. Well, dah, it hasn't got an optical drive, so this isn't unexpected. The Remote Drive feature is only intended to support limited optical data for installing regular Macintosh software, not act as an optical disk player. The last piece of software I can recall that I got on an optical disk was iWork. Indeed, apart from OS X, I can't recall using other software on DVD or CD. It is all downloaded over the internet.

While I am some time away from ripping all my DVD video to hard drive, I have basically completed this move to all computer access with my audio CDs. If you have hang ups about using optical for everything media, the MacBook Air is not for you.

This is a first generation Apple product. It lacks a whole heap of things it should and could have. One major reason for buying it is to encourage Apple to continue heading in that direction. You don't want a MacBook Air as your first computer. The MacBook Air will probably be a disaster as an only computer. However as a second or third computer, used mainly for travel, for internet access and email, it will be a dream. Well, except for synchronising. It needs more help on synchronising.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Applescript Update

Applescript language document guide revised, and after only nine years. Lots of people were hoping that Apple would eventually update their description of Applescript. The scripting language is very handy, but has long suffered from dated manuals. Which reminds me, some of Apple's software could do with a little more scripting help also.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Intel Nettop

Intel suggests low cost solid state drive computers using their Atom (Diamondville variation of Silverthorne) chipset. Costs between $100 and $300 for complete system. By implication, no DVD, no rotating memory. Most or even all functions internet oriented. Designs would lack sockets, fans and have an optimised (cheap) power supply, probably well under 10 watts. The Diamondville should be shipping in May. Intel forecast 60 million unit sales by 2011. The machines would run either Linux or Windows.

Savings come from cheap, small silicon chips (lots of them per wafer). Voltage regulation complexity and power is reduced. No socket required. No active CPU heat sink, no system fans. Optimised clock, so you probably have a phase locked loop from a very simple clock circuit. Optimised supply chain means Intel will sell you most of the parts (and take a good profit). Motherboard planning savings make up almost half the $11 of savings over a $48 motherboard. This is designed for cheap.

Atom has at best the performance of a 700 MHz Core2Duo. Less go than a Pentium M. Their forte is low power. Realistically, this means Linux (that is what cost optimised operating system means), not Windows (unless it is an older version of Windows). This isn't going to be of interest to the extreme games enthusiasts. Looking at embedded market, for say GPS maps, and consumer electronics set top boxes. Looking at small internet appliances and mobile internet devices. Think PADD from ST:TNG.

Thursday 13 March 2008

QER Survey

Survey of local feeling about shale oil mining at Proserpine airport. Seemed to be at behest of Queensland Energy Resources (QER), who have form on shale oil mining tests at Gladstone. The survey company had booked a room at the Shingley Beach Resort for the morning. Did a bunch of word associations via computer. I imagine their spreadsheets were taking times as well as scores. Put oil terms next to words at times, and reversed response keys. QER had a set of around five information sheets, pushing the idea that shale oil needed to be started now, to meet needs in a decade (due to development time). Also pushed the idea that shale oil could meet 13% of Australian transport fuel needs.

Friday 14 March 2008

Sync Two Macintosh

Another possible product to synchronise the material in two Macintosh computers is FoldersSynchronizer. This has pretty detailed list of folder and file synchronising actions that it can manage. It is a Leopard compatible Universal binary that sells for US$40 via Kagi.

Saturday 15 March 2008

Queensland International Airport

Lisa Allen reports in AFR that the Queensland state government is about to announce three short listed bids to make a $70 million third international airport in Queensland, situated near the Whitsundays. Both Mackay Port Authority and Whitsunday Shire Council (Proserpine Airport) are reported to be already excluded. The remaining bids include Queensland Airports (Gold Coast and Mt Isa), Seymour White Consortium, including the Egis construction group. One long term bid is from David Marriner with Brisbane Airport Corporation. Marriner already has a $20 million airport site at his Laguna Quay resort, marina and golf course area on the coast near Midge Point, south of Airlie Beach.

State Premier Anna Bligh supported an international airport in the Whitsunday area when she was infrastructure minister.

New York based Ziff brothers own oil shale reserves in the Proserpine airport area. If the Proserpine airport is closed, the State government would be free to turn the area over to mining. The Gladstone oil shale test plant was sold following community objections. Operation of the Gladstone plan seemed to be part of Queensland Energy Resources (QER), which had extensive grants from state and Federal governments.

Sunday 16 March 2008

It appears that British organ makers can use lead in their pipes, all the lead they like for church organs. This despite the European RoHS on removing all the lead from electrical goods. This reminds me, apparently it is also OK for the military to use lead in their electronic equipment.

How We tell tories

Review of The Seven Basic Plots, How We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker, and the seven basic plots used in literature. Is it Jung or junk? Overcoming the monster, rags to riches, quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, rebirth.

Monday 17 March 2008

Airport Express Upgraded to 802.11n

Apple upgraded its small Airport Express mobile wireless access point and wireless extender from 802.11b/g to also include the considerably faster 802.11 pre N. While not needed for most purposes, this change does mean that you can now make your entire wireless network run at the faster 802.11n speeds. Previously, including an Airport Express would slow down an otherwise 802.11n network to 802.11g speeds.

Specifications for the Airport Express base station appear unchanged other than the speed increase. A single 10/100 Ethernet port. Up to ten users. USB port that works for printers but not for hard drives (thus not making it a rival for Time Capsule). However you can use the USB port to charge your iPod, thus avoiding carrying an iPod charger as well. Combined 3.5 mm analogue stereo output or optical digital audio output, that works in conjunction with Air Tunes. Just right for piping music around an area.

The Airport Express base station is a very handy gadget for turning a hotel or motel Ethernet connection into your own private wireless network while travelling.

Joel on IE8

Very nicely written piece at Joel on Software on why IE8 can't win, whether Internet Explorer 8 uses standards, or not. Explains why the whole web standards thing is such a problem. You will sympathise with the Microsofties, and the web designers.

Personally, I would let the whole old web disintegrate. Most of the good sites will survive, because they were written correctly. Write to standards, or die! The mobile browsers in cell phones, iPods and mobile internet devices will outnumber desktop computers in a few years. If you want these customers, you need to write web pages that can be displayed. That means, write to web standards. That is, if you can understand what the web standards are actually trying to say (lots of luck).

I have no intention of writing browser specific code in my web pages. If a browser has bugs, the browser maker should fix those bugs.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Multi Function Printer

Looked for a multi function printer to work with Macintosh OS X and with Ubuntu Linux.

Lexmark X500n is a large colour laser printer, copier and scanner, however no fax. Can be shared via 10/100 Ethernet. The Lexmark X502n does have built in fax. The MacWorld article fails to mention there is no printer driver support for Leopard (however it is expected soon).

HP 7140xi multifunction printer scanner fax copier bought in 2004, did not work wirelessly with OS X. Only via USB from one computer. After failure, installed gimp-print. Printing worked, but too dark. However after reinstalling HP printer drivers, it did work.

Brother MFC-7000 multifunction laser printer includes a wireless and an ethernet model. Print, copy, scan, fax.

Canon Pixma MX7600 all in one inkjet with Ethernet, sheet feeder, fax, scan and copy.

OS X Syslogd takes CPU

OS X syslogd started taking over 90% of my CPU time. Seemed to be collecting (35 MB) of out of memory messages from Safari. Typical 18/03/08 10:00:34 PM [0x0-0xaf7af7][19772] (timer):Out of memory

Various reports blamed Time Machine, but in my case, it looked like I managed to open so many badly done web pages that Safari got lost writing complaints about memory. I tried killing off syslogd, but it just restarted and went wild again. With enough pages closed in Safari, and syslogd killed off a few times, the CPU dropped to normal. Seems like a bug to me.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is serious problem, according to an editorial by Dr Jerald J Block in The American Journal of Psychiatry. he wants it added to DSM. A footnote mentions Dr. Block owns a patent on technology that can be used to restrict computer access.

Solid State Drive Unreliable

Avian Securities analyst Avi Cohen is reported as saying that solid state drives are unreliable. The analyst claims SSD hardware failure rates were 10 percent to 20 percent, compared to 1 percent to 2 percent for traditional hard drives. Also claims customers returning drives due to lack of claimed speed advantages.

Dell deny SSD drive is unreliable, in a Direct2Dell blog posting by chief blogger Lionel Menchaca. Dell specifically deny return rates of 20%, and claim an order of magnitude less than press reports.

I might add that tests I have seen show greater performance by SSD in random access reads, lower performance in writes. Battery life is probably improved in the order of 5% or so in tests. However my understanding is that standby current in a SSD is higher than in a spun down rotating drive. I would imagine SSD would take more battery life in non-test situations (say, infrequent use, charging once a week or so). I wish SSD was ready for prime time, but I do not believe that it is.

Disclaimer. I have been using VGA display, keyboard based PDAs since 1997. These rely totally on solid state memory, and (slow) solid state Compact Flash drives. I really want fast solid state drives to appear. However unwarranted performance claims do not help.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Safari 3.1

Updating my iMac for Safari 3.1 and the new security update involved about 8 minutes of wait time, a lot longer than usual. I guess that means two reboots (I didn't stick around to watch). Build number is 9C31 for OS X 10.5.2. Copyright and trademark date is 1983-2008. This becomes relevant after the next update, for Airport, with has a Firmware update for Airport Extreme Base Station.

Safari has lost the very handy debug menu I enabled via Terminal a couple of versions ago. However it does now have a Develop menu, which includes a very pretty web inspector. Amazingly pretty web inspector, with a heap of nice features. Showing file sizes and download times should help me convince a few people that my method of hand writing web pages isn't such a bad idea after all.

Safari WebKit Database

Webkit mentioned it does HTML5 client side database storage some time ago. The WebKit client side database example of HTML5 local sql databases now seems to work in Safari 3.1. The local sqlite databases are stored in ~/Library/Safari They can be viewed using SQLite Database Browser from SourceForge. Not sure how to make use of it as yet, but it sure looks interesting.

MacBook Air

Suckered in by the prospect of a really light notebook computer, I ordered a MacBook Air. I had seen the latest 15 inch MacBook Pro, and set one up for a neighbour. Really nice, but very like my four year old 1.25 GHz Powerbook G4. The new MacBook Pro would make a superb replacement for my Powerbook. No doubt at all. The only problem was whether to get a 15 inch, as a replacement for my Powerbook, or a 17 inch with the high definition display, as a partial desktop replacement for my iMac. The 17 inch is really too large for travel. The only reason I even considered it for a moment was I don't want an iMac with a glossy screen. I want an iMac with a matte display, like my current model (only larger). However at the moment, that is not one of the options.

I realised since I got my iMac that I really hadn't used the optical drive on the Powerbook. My music is mostly already captured from CD. I could take a few DVD images with me if travelling. I do have a Firewire backup drive, but AirDisk and TimeMachine can handle backup wirelessly. I don't connect any other Firewire devices, except my cam corder. The iMac is a better option for cam corder work, with more disk space. Also, it is unlikely my next video camera will have Firewire.

While Apple may have gone too far in removing peripheral ports, the only one I saw as critical was Ethernet. Too many hotels simply do not have WiFi. So I ordered the USB to Ethernet adaptor, just in case. What I will actually try to use instead is my Airport Express base station.

Friday 21 March 2008

Keep Windows XP

PC World survey shows support for retaining Windows XP. Even for a media beat up, there was still a lot of mail associated with the survey.

iTunes Pushes Safari

Apple Software Update pushes Safari on Windows, even to people who have not previously downloaded the Safari browser. Apple Software Update is a optional addition to iTunes for Microsoft Windows. It normally offers updates to iTunes, and to QuickTime (QuickTime is installed by iTunes). Apple announced this plan to push at WWDC in June 2007, however Safari 3.1 is the first Windows version not labelled a Beta. I am not sure whether the Firefox browser people complained then, but Mozillas CEO John Lilly is complaining about Apple Safari now. I tend to agree. The automatic download option should not have been ticked for Safari. However if the application were renamed Apple Software Download Service, that would be different. It would accurately describe what was being offered.

If you don't want to be bothered again by Apple Software Update, you can select Never, or you select Ignore checkboxes to ignore specific products. In any case, the Apple Software Updater will not pop up over your work to district you, even if you do let it stay active. It stays in the background.

Apple are making good use of their foothold in Windows territory to push a standards based web browser. It can't happen too fast for me. I am tired of writing web pages with kluges to work with Internet Explorer. For the last few years, I have used only standards based HTML. Being able to say download Firefox or Opera or Safari really suits me. Now if only Firefox would render one of my tricky CSS logos the way I want, the way Opera and Safari do…

No Chocolate for Easter

Yes, I know Easter is a religious holiday. Death and resurrection, and all that stuff, if you are into Christian beliefs. When you are retired, every day is a holiday. Well, actually, who has any spare time for holidays? But what is really important to me is the chance to indulge in excessive chocolate without guilt. However the local chemist shop in the main street of Airlie Beach was flooded in January. It won't get back into business until mid April (actually it was to be early March, and I figure May is more likely). It was also the only shop within 150 km that normally stocked chocolate Easter Bilbies! No way a fair dinkum Aussie would eat a chocolate bunny for Easter. Bunnies are vermin, and should be exterminated. So no chocolate for me over Easter.

Come to think of it, the hare was the symbol of Eastre, Saxon fertility goddess. Eggs have been symbols of fertility since the ancient Greeks and Romans. The dour, sour early Christian clerics took over more lively celebrations when the pagans wouldn't give up their Spring festival, according to the Venerable Bede. OK, so I had a misspent youth reading obscure ancient classical texts.

Saturday 22 March 2008

People Don't Read

Steve Jobs said Kindle would fail because people don't read books. Actually studies are now showing that people read on the internet, rather than reading paper media. The same site also noted the coming death of paper. Meanwhile, US bookshop chain Borders made extensive losses in 2007. Borders may be sold off. It was already sold many of its bookstores outside the USA.

Solar Silicon Shortage

The shortage of solar silicon for photovoltaic cells will probably start to ease in 2009. This should help lower prices for a period of a few years until demand catches up to installations. Lux research did a summary of a study of five different solar technologies. What I take from this is that I should look for some solar panels around 2009 or 2010.

Sunday 23 March 2008

No Metric, We Are British

It seems according to Christopher Booker that the European Union were going to ban all non-metric measures in Britain, even for greengrocers selling a pound of bananas. Then someone noticed that it also applied to items like TV set measurements. With the USA as a large consumer (and producer) that would mean different world wide packaging. Some sanity prevailed.

Monday 24 March 2008

Venture Capitalists Know Business

One of the oldest venture capitalist companies, Bessemer, lists the triumphs of venture capitalism. Nice to see a bit of humour from a company who missed some humdingers in its time. Apple, eBay, Federal Express, Intel, etc.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Geodynamics Hot Rocks Test

Geodynamics conducted flow tests of its hot dry rocks energy project this weekend at its Habanero drill site at Cooper Basin near Innamincka, South Australia. Geodynamics already had a hydraulic link between Habanero 1 injection site and Habanero 3 (4221 metre) wells. The new test should tell whether there is a pressure drop between them. It is a proof of concept test of the new hot rocks energy source. Geodynamics also started their Jolokia 1 well, 9 km away, seeking to establish the extent of the hot granite site. A demonstration power site may be in place by the end of the year.

BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine site 490 km away should have a power requirement of up to 800MW of electricity for its expansion. It will eventually need over 40% of South Australia's power generation. Although the transmission lines would be expensive (typically around a million dollars a kilometre), Olympic Dam is also a remote site. There is also little incentive to build more coal fired power stations when carbon emissions trading makes an uncertain future for investment. If this power is required within ten years, building needs to be planned well ahead. Gas power plants take around three years to build. The Kogan Creek coal fired power plant in Queensland's Darling Downs took four years to build.

Boycott the Olympics

China invaded Tibet 50 years ago. It is interesting to see Tibetan protesters still pushing for freedom from China. Not that I think Tibet would be a viable country. It is even more interesting to see how effectively Tibetan protesters have managed to target the first Olympics ever held in China. China didn't help much by declaring the Dalai Lama was some sort of existential terrorist. Personally I think the Olympics are a waste of public money. Give up supporting the Olympics. I haven't supported them since Dawn Fraser got in trouble with a flag umpteen years ago. The Olympics are just more commercial claptrap. However I think all sports are a total waste of time and effort. If someone wants participate, fine. But don't expect the public to pay for it.

Apple MacBook Air

My MacBook Air arrived late on Tuesday. I have to admit that pictures (especially of the entrails) just don't really show how gorgeous they look.

One advantage is that you don't actually need to pull it apart (some would argue this is a disadvantage). Despite the slower 1.6 GHz processor, it is the fastest computer I own. The very limited IO does mean you shouldn't even think of a MacBook Air as being an only computer (not a problem in this crowd, I would imagine).

The only peripheral I bought was the USB to Ethernet adaptor. I expect to encounter lots of hotels or motels that have managed to provide an Ethernet access point, but not wireless. I suspect I will be mostly using an Airport Express portable wireless access point in those situations, if I can. Actually in country Australia, I may regret not having an old fashioned modem.

Installing the MacBook Air was easy. It was running on my wireless network within a minute or two. Haven't had a chance to do battery life and other tests yet. I deliberately didn't use the Setup Assistant to move my accounts - PPC to Intel doubts, plus worries about relative disk size. A 400 GB desktop drive wouldn't fit into an 80 GB drive. I will probably use either rsync or more likely one of the commercial sync products like ChronoSync to synchronise things I need.

Wednesday 26 March 2008


In other news, on Wednesday, Jean got herself an Asus EeePC (Harvey Norman gave us a price break, when we were buying a printer, and another TB drive). So far she seems to like it, except for not having enough time to play with it.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Tiger Moth Flight

I took a flight on a Tiger Moth over Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. Various aerial views of the Whitsunday Terraces where we live. No photos while we were actually doing the acrobatics - I was too busy holding on after the first loop. Tiger Moth flight over Airlie Beach. There are a number of aerial photographs of parts of Airlie Beach.

Friday 28 March 2008

Color profiles for MacBook Air display

Brian Caslis posted on Apple forums I've color profiled the MBA display using the x-rite color display2 hardware and the coloreyes pro software. Included in the zip are six profiles:

MBA D65 18.icc (6500K white point, 1.8 gamma)
MBA D65 22.icc (6500K white point, 2.2 gamma)
MBA D65 L.icc (6500K white point, L* gamma)
MBA Native 18.icc (Native white point, 1.8 gamma)
MBA Native 22.icc (Native white point, 2.2 gamma)
MBA Native .icc (Native white point, L* gamma)

Note L* is a gamma used by the coloreyes software that tries to retain the darker colors shown by the 1.8 gamma and the brighter colors shown by the 2.2 gamma. It works well at that but is overall less contrasty than the other gamma points.

Saturday 29 March 2008

Earth Hour

What a pile of idiocy! Luckily at least one commentator said it was silly. Thank you Andrew Bolt and The Australian. Earth Hour is a typical symbolic gesture from trendies at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald who mostly don't seem to understand what they are doing. A triumph of wishful beliefs above actual results.

Amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved by turning out lights for one hour between 8 and 9 this evening? Almost nil. Coal fired power plants (which are almost all we use) can't be turned off in less than about 8 to 40 hours. I imagine like last year the organisers will then, imitating Al Gore, jet off somewhere else to tell other people how they too could be green.

The emissions problem is caused by two things. Over consumption (which is a characteristic of capitalism and advertising), and over population. Cut the human population by around five billion people (give or take a billion) and you solve the greenhouse gas emissions problem. Fail to cull humans, and you will not. Since the government accepts this logic with regard to excessive kangaroos around Canberra, I wonder why they remain silent about population targets?

Sunday 30 March 2008

Marriage Contract

If marriage is a contract between two (or more) people (or their families), just why does the government need to get involved? In most Western societies in the past, the families agreed about who could (or could not) marry whom. Many societies attempted to preserve family lines, and reduce social conflict, while prohibiting incest, as this ancient Hebrew marriage outline suggests.

Roman marriage was mostly arranged by families, however the individuals had to have a right to marriage, the connubium. All Roman citizens could marry, as could some Latins who were not citizens. Patricians and plebians could not marry each other until around 445 B.C. The consent of both patres familias was required. The participants had to have reached puberty (this was later standardised at 12 for girls, 14 for boys). An existing marriage precluded connubium, as did certain degrees of family and legal relationships. Eunuchs could not marry (as they didn't reach puberty). Marriage was very much about preserving family lines. Property treatment in Roman marriage was elaborate, and most certainly not communal.

Until relatively recently, marriage was essentially a career decision, and was about family advantage and alliances against others.

The Catholic church accepted this for at least nine centuries, giving its blessing to whoever claimed to be married to each other. The Justinian code formalised marriage laws sometime after 500 A.D. It was not until the 12th century that marriage regularly had a formal religious component. In 1563 the Council of Trent required Catholic marriages to be celebrated at a church by a priest and have two witnesses. Church marriage spread throughout Europe by the 18th Century. The status of women through this entire period was generally very low.

The French Revolution in 1792 introduced compulsory civil marriage. Bismarck introduced a similar charge in Germany. Eventually civil marriage became the only valid form in most of the Western world.

By the early 20th century, in the USA many states had laws against mixed race marriages (12 had laws against marriage to drunks, drug addicts or the mentally defective). These type of laws were mostly removed in the USA around the mid 20th Century.

However governments worldwide increasingly used civil marriage as a criteria for distributing social benefits to dependants. Social Security, inheritance, pensions from employers, and so on. At the same time, the decreasing concern for legal marriage has left dependent children at risk unless they are recognised by governments, regardless of the marriage status of their parents. As a matter of pragmatism, most governments now do so recognise the rights of children.

Monday 31 March 2008


Apple seem to have added Mid West Australian Time to their /usr/share/zoneinfo/Australia directory, under the name Eucla, just like OpenBSD and Linux. Still no way to access it via a GUI, but each step forward is accepted. Even if there is never cause for more than a few hundred residents (and some anal tourists) to use it.

Now, can anyone explain why both LHI and Lord Howe exist, when they are both the same? Or why there is an entry for Lindeman Island, when it is just on Queensland time anyhow?