Eric Lindsay's Blog May 2010

Saturday 1 May 2010


I started the washing machine around 6 a.m. The old top loader is way faster than new front loaders, so I was able to hang the laundry out on the balcont at the Whitsunday Terraces at 7 a.m. before heading for the markets. Luckily there are clear skies so the laundry should dry quick. In fact, each time I have been in Airlie Beach recently, people tell me the weather is fine, but was raining and terrible for weeks before.

Collected the newspapers for the weekend. The Financial Review had gone to Cairns (don't ask), so I took the Friday edition with its magazine. Although circulation still sucks in country areas, The FIN has better coverage of Australian business than The Australia. I blame this on Murdoch saving money by dumping USA oriented articles from the Wall Street Journal into The Australian. I think The Australian must have cut down on the Australian financial journalists, because the coverage is no longer the best in the country.

At the markets, the Google Street View car was passing along The Esplanade at Airlie Beach while I was talking to the picture framing folks. They are moving from the country to Mackay (OK, I know capital city folks do not regard Mackay as a city), and looking to sell the business, especially the fancy antique wood frames.

Business Decline

The news agency say business in Airlie Beach has been poor. As poor as they have ever seen. In the main street, long term leases like ShoeBiz are no longer in town, after perhaps 20 years on the main street. Miss Goody Two Shoes was moving out yesterday. A long term shoe business does not leave the main street unless times are bad. I know ShoeBiz have two other stores, so I am sure they saw the writing on the wall soon enough not to renew their lease.

The other thing is that the estate agents are still trying to increase rents in the main street. Rents were already at insane levels long ago. I see a lot of empty stores in the main street of Airlie Beach. I think I will see even more.

Even some of the sex workers are looking at moving, despite the increased security costs in larger cities. One I know asked about conditions in Townsville. I told him how low unemployment rates were, and ran through the business strengths of Townsville. I am not sure how well conventional business strengths translate into customers for his business.


I held my usual Saturday evening party on my balcont at the Whitsunday Terraces, ordering in pizza from Beagle on the main street of Airlie Beach. Neighbours Michael and Jim were there, with Jim bringing some Hawaiian guitar music and stories of the introduction of the Spanish guitar to Hawaii. Rex from the Proserpine town band was batching so he came. Plus Glenn and Alison walked over from Cannonvale. Glenn is into music also, so the musicians had plenty to talk about. Another neighbour Rod dropped in for a short while.

Both Rod and Jim have boats on the water in Pioneer Bay, while Michael has a trailer boat and takes people on sailing lessons in his job. Glenn and Alison have been attending the Wednesday evening Whitsunday Sailing Club fun sails. Plenty for the sailors to talk about also.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Morning Public Affairs

I watched Meet the Press on Ten, followed by Insiders and Inside Business on the ABC. Although I think the quality of public affairs TV has dropped in Australia since Sunday on Nine was killed, it still sometimes has good coverage. However Insiders concentrating on the U.K. election did not do much for me. So the U.K. will probably end up with a coalition government. Not exactly unusual in European politics, even if new for the U.K. What Britain does hardly matters to Australia these days. The only thing we have in common is an old Queen. I read the weekend newspapers while keeping one eye on the shows.

Leaving Airlie Beach

I had most of the car packed, so it was only a matter of taking my box of junk to the car. I was on the road around 11 a.m. It was a bit different driving in daylight. I usually try to travel from just before dawn.

I stopped at Inkerman, where I got a chocolate milk. I had been thinking of a lunch, but the place was pretty busy when I reached it around 1 p.m. So I simply continued through to Townsville. Jean's car had been pretty economical, so I had not completely used the tank of fuel I got when leaving Townsville. I refuelled at the service station at the exit from the Ring Road. Reached Carlyle Gardens around 2:30 p.m.

We did a bit more cleaning up of mulch, and sticking plants into the garden. The basil is all out of pots. The mulch is distributed. Alas, some of the mulch is stored in our recycling bin, pending our return.

Apple is Doomed

I have met a number of science fiction authors. Most are smart. However I have rarely been as impressed by just how smart as much as when I met Charlie Stross. His recent blog posting The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash mentions the (in my view justified) Apple attack on Adobe Flash. Hewlett Packard buying Palm for WebOS, and killing their Windows Slate, just like Microsoft killed their Courier slate. Finally, the Apple loyalty team, seeking leaks in a notoriously secretive company.

Charlie says I've got a theory, and it's this: Steve Jobs believes he's gambling Apple's future — the future of a corporation with a market cap well over US $200Bn — on an all-or-nothing push into a new market. While I might disagree with the strength of parts of the evidence, I think Charlie is right. The PC is mostly a profitless commodity, with margins under 10%. The PC may not go away, but any profit from making it will disappear. IBM solved their exposure by getting out of selling PCs. Internet access can kill most reasons for having massive computing on the desk. Charlie thinks Apple is trying for a whole new range of hardware that will let Apple remain relevant and enjoying good margins. Most of the other computer companies will struggle to make a profit. They are already struggling. Look at the massive number that have failed, and no longer exist.

Meanwhile, selling services may pay better. A percentage on music and movies. The App store. Apple owns its own sales channel, and holds 100 million credit card numbers. Apple is looking at a five year transition to a new world of computing. I think Charlie is right.

Monday 3 May 2010

Computer Issues

I needed to get all manner of things transferred from my home computer to my portable. However there is insufficient space to do this. Selecting what to take is far more effort. I really need to find some way of automating this better.

Facebook and Privacy

Abandon privacy all thee who use Facebook seems about the case. It seems to me that every time I check again, Facebook have changed their policy so as to expose your data to people you did not specify. This means I get to continually check what has changed, and usually the change is for the worse. See Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options, for Guilbert Gates' NY Times diagram of the bewildering array of Facebook privacy options, and how their policy has expanded.

This is what the Electronic Frontier Foundation report on Facebook's Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline. Each variation of the Facebook policy makes privacy less and less certain, and harder and harder to establish.

Until I drop Facebook entirely (something I think is highly likely), I simply lie about all my details on Facebook. The only truthful bits now are my name and my photo. Obviously this dramatically reduces the value of any social network. It also makes it far less use to advertisers.

Apple is Doomed (II)

My printer is in a closet, and I hardly ever switch it on. My scanner is in the dining room. My router is in the garage. My backup drive is on a bookcase. My media library is on another bookcase. There are several sets of loudspeakers in the house. I don't have a TV set, but we do have two 24 inch computer monitors, a 27 inch and a 30 inch. Any computer can use the screen of any other computer. Everything above (except the displays) is connected wirelessly (and the Apple TV is wireless). I figure I am about halfway to the wirelessly connected, data everywhere future Charlie Stross is predicting.

Sure, there are problems setting it up. I would not recommend it to others at the moment. However it is getting easier and easier to see that eventually this is the way you will be advising others to go. Discrete appliances, each doing doing a few tasks well. The problems of backup, virus attacks and many others can be reduced or eliminated. This is not some distant future. This is using current technology. For many people, Apple already provide a zero administration environment.

What are Apple great at? Simplifying current technology. Making things that are difficult seem easy. That is one of their great strengths. That fits well with what Charlie Stross sees. Don't believe it, but do check the nature of the patents Apple have been granted over recent years.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Leaving Townsville

Pack and panic were the order of the morning. Mary came over to ask about security. I gave her a loan of a spare security camera, since they had stuff stolen from their back patio (ours has two security cameras, placed to cover approaches and closeup). The security company is also making additional patrols. Despite all this, we managed to get away by 8 a.m. after dropping newspapers at Neil's place and mailing Jean's letter to Outback Spirit. Odometer reading 22675 km.

We took the new extension to the Overland Way (A6 or perhaps old Flinders Highway 78) west a few kilometres outside Townsville. The railway tracks are basically alongside the road most of the way west, as are the power transmission lines of the national electricity grid. Before 9 a.m. just past Woodstock, we were in 110 kph speed limit areas. Crossed the Mingela Range a little after nine. We crossed the Macrossan Bridge across the Burdekin River. From past here, the rivers mostly drain inland, down to the distant Lake Eyre in Sound Australia, thousands of kilometres away. The continent is like a pudding bowl, with most of the rain that crosses the ranges heading inland, away from the coast.

We took a rest stop around 10 a.m. outside Charters Towers, where an old poppet head was displayed. We went into town so I could collect The Australian newspaper, as I usually do on Tuesday. I also got the missing copies of the Financial Review. Jean talked about food, as usual around ten o'clock. We also noticed some very light showers as we drove along. So soon after an extensive rainy season, the vegetation was green and lush, by Australian standards. In a few areas where there were prominent advertising signs, and the sun out, we noticed horses taking advantage of the shade from the signs.

We stopped at Balfe's Creek, where Jean had a meat pie and I had a sausage roll. We were amused that the owner was trying to sell a nice Yamaha Classic V twin motorcycle that his wife owned. There we met Hugh, an impressive 80 year old on his 40th day of a ride around Australia (including Tasmania) on a 1500cc Honda Gold Wing motorcycle that must have been 30 years old. He was even hauling a giant trailer. Hugh planned to be home in another 5 days. He had been raising money for prostate cancer. I bought some of his raffle tickets. We were on the road again by 11 a.m.

I drove from Pentland, starting around 11:40 a.m. We stopped for lunch at Torrens Creek, to check out one of our past favourite caravan park general stores. It has changed owners, and the giant Yowie burger is no longer even known. Jean managed to get a quiche, while I had a toasted sandwich. They were pretty good. On the road again at around 12:30 p.m.

We stopped at the Hughenden souvenir shop, where Jean found a purple hat for a person several sizes smaller than her. Hughenden is a town of perhaps 1300 people, named after Ernest Henry's Hughenden Station, which was established in 1863 with about 800 cattle. The town was surveyed in 1877.

The Anything Machine

Several decades ago, science fiction author Damon Knight wrote a story about an anything machine. This was a machine that could build anything, including another anything machine. Mass production in the home. In some respects it predated K Eric Drexler's ideas of nanotechnology. Now hobbyists are building their own machines. The disruptive future of printing introduced a mass audience in the U.K. to 3D printers, in the form of the RepRap. The schematics and design are freely available. Like most amateur 3D printers, it can be built for under $1000. Meanwhile, over at MIT, they have long worked on their own projects. This includes an under $50,000 design intended to eventually be an anything machine. If you think computers are disruptive to society, you haven't seen anything yet.


A fair while ago, we came across some folks from Richmond in one of the Townsville shopping centres. They were promoting an event in Richmond this weekend just gone. We try to avoid tourist events, since we dislike crowds, hence arriving the day after (when you could book a motel room). Richmond is small, perhaps 750 people, and is about two or three blocks wide and seven blocks long. Richmond was founded and surveyed in 1882. The area was explored by William Lansborough while searching for Burke and Wills. One feature is Kronosuarus Korner. Ronb Ievers suggested to Richmond Council they buy the cinema on the corner, and turn it into a fossil museum. It has a large replica dinosaur outside.

We pulled through the small town, and refuelled at a Mobile service station. Fuel was $1.55 a litre so that was not a good indication of really remote prices.

The Entriken Pioneer Motel was a bit old, and the rooms were demountable. However the bed was very comfortable, and pillows OK. We got a good nights sleep while there. It also had really bright fluorescent lights, unlike most city hotels. We could actually read in the room. There seemed a fair bit of road noise when trucks turned the corner, but we fell asleep early despite whatever noise there was.

The town of Richmond looked mostly old and tired. In this climate, paint fades quickly, and dust gets everywhere. I guess many tourist attractions were taking a break after their big weekend. The cafe at Kronosuarus Korner directly opposite our motel was not open. The FoodMart seemed to be out of everything we might have bought. I got two litres of milk, since that was the only size left.

For dinner in Richmond we went to the pub. We had been told it was worth checking the older pub in town, so we did. However their dining room was not open at the time we arrived. We went back to the more modern Mud Hut pub. Service was quick, although we had a minor problem with the accent. We each had their hamburgers, which were giant. They came with heaps of chips, and a salad. Our pots of XXXX Gold beer tasted to me like the pipes had not been flushed properly. Touch of residue, I thought. Despite this, I rather enjoyed the meal, even if it was more food than I could eat.

Back at the motel, I read a fair bit of the Financial Reviews and did a few computer notes before falling asleep early. Jean had gone to sleep probably an hour earlier.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Leaving Richmond

We were packed and left Richmond by 8 a.m. The town does have some amusing dinosaur signs, done as cutouts. They say U Think Theysawus. The electricity lines seemed lighter as they continued along with the railroad track. Luckily the road continued in good condition for nearly 150 kilometres to Julia Creek, with a 110 kph speed limit much of the way. There was a crew working on the road, with an alternate path all done with bitumen. We were somewhat astonished by the size of the radio station antenna for 4JK, about 10 km outside Julia Creek.

Although slightly smaller than Richmond, with about 600 people, Julia Creek looked newly painted and very spruce when we arrived at 9:30 a.m. The library offered courses on various arts, as well as internet access. I was delighted to be able to buy The Australian on the first Wednesday of the month, as it contains the Australian Literary Supplement. Julia Creek was named Hilton when first settled around 1890. It was renamed Julia Creek after the niece of Duncan McIntyre. We noted the Duncan McIntyre museum on the main road part way through the Julia Creek. We left at 10:06 a.m.

We noticed two crows harassing an eagle a few kilometres short of Cloncurry. This was also where we first noticed numerous termite mounds. The vegetation was still green and lush, despite our distance inland. Cloncurry was named after Lady Elizabeth Cloncurry, a cousin of Burke. It has two claims to fame. In 1922, it was the destination of the first paying passenger Qantas had. It also holds the record for hottest temperature in Australia, reaching over 530C.

We took the side street, as we recalled a bakery and other facilities there, near the police station. We had salad sandwiches at the bakery, and they were very nice. By 12:30 p.m. we were back driving along the Barkly Highway.

Cloncurry Solar Power Station

I wanted to stop to see the 10 megawatt solar power station in Cloncurry, at Mary Kathleen Park, for which $7 million funding was provided of the $31 million cost. This 8,000 mirror solar thermal station announced in 2007 was to use graphite as a heat store. It was intended to produce 30 million kilowatt hours a year. Premier Anna Blight claimed 24 hour operation. It was claimed to have 54 towers each 18 metres tall, with motorised heliostat mirrors. It was due to be operational in 2010.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find any local in Cloncurry who could tell me where the power station was. As far as the locals knew, the Cloncurry solar power plant does not exist. I later found that four demonstration mirrors did exist, and a replica of what the tower might look like, if that existed.

So we had lunch at the local bakery we remembered, a street away from the main street through town.

The electricity transmission lines which had mostly paralleled the road for most of the day of driving reached Cloncurry, and continued on to Mary Kathleen mine, well to the west of Cloncurry. One complaint from Mt Isa is why was it not on the electricity grid. The existing power lines of such length make me wonder about that also.

Mt Isa

Mt Isa is not that far from where the country gets more rugged, with the plains and grassland gone. Like the plains, the soaking rain from the rainy season had brought out a lot of green vegetation on even the most inhospitable rock areas. The mining town has a population of 23,000, and is the largest town we will encounter until we reach Darwin. Prospector John Campbell Miles discovered zinc while seeking his missing horse Hard Times.

We stopped at Outback at the Isa to make a booking for an above ground mine tour. The tourist centre is as we remembered it, and is most impressive in size. It is alongside a restored mine site, now Hard Times underground tourist attraction. Alas, the existing mine tour starts at 11 a.m. and takes two hours. The underground mine tour starts at 1 p.m. Doing both on one day seems just about impossible even if you can manage to go without lunch.

We settled into the Burke and Wills motel, in a nice corner suite, which perhaps explains the higher price. Like many mining areas, the motels tend to be booked out. The dining room needed reservations, so we decided to shop for something we could snack on for dinner.

Walking around the business centre was easy, but a bit warm. Only the mostly shaded sidewalks and the low humidity kept the heat more bearable. Seemed like the government centre was on Isa Street, two blocks from the back of our motel. There was a large Woolworths near the government centre. Jean found a Telstra store, and checked whether her mobile phone data pack was enabled. Despite signing up online, it was not in operation, according to the store. They said they had fixed it up, but now we simply do not trust any Telstra account.

Jean found a K Mart and a Coles two blocks east of the motel. We got some salads and a half chicken to share for dinner, plus a little more for other days.

Around 5 p.m. Jean sent me out to look for wine. The Thirsty Camel bottle shop at the hotel across the road could not sell to walk in customers. You had to be a club member. I had never encountered such a situation with a franchise liquor store brand. No idea whether it is some weird Mt Isa idea, or some company not having a pub bottle shop license. I had forgotten to bring my Whitsunday sailing club or my RSL club membership cards with me on this trip. I must try to put them on my packing list.

I went to a different pub, and got overpriced but decent quality wine for the next few days of the trip. I am sure we will have far fewer choices over the next four days of travel. Maybe this is all beer country?

Thursday 6 May 2010

Mt Isa Morning

Mt Isa is far enough west that dawn comes late. Six thirty and not enough daylight to count. We had breakfast in the room from stuff in our food box. Our morning walk took us to the Leichhardt River. Basically any place where we seemed able to get a decent photograph of parts of the town. There is a walk the tourist places promote, with engraving of rodeo events inset along the footpaths. We took photographs of a number of these but did not attempt to collect the entire set. Mt Isa does seem to be promoting its rodeo events. I also went out later for a short walk looking for a fabric shop. It had moved to a road and location I never did discover.

A bit after 10 a.m. we walked along the highway past the Hard Times mine to Outback at Isa for our 11 a.m. bus tour of the surface workings of the Exstrata mine. The Hard Times underground mine had a bunch of ancient million dollar Toros muckers (front end loaders) parked outside. Most were the older models, but one was new enough to be the first that had air conditioning.

Ron was our driver. He seemed to know heaps about the mine operations. We also seemed to spend a heap of time driving between one giant mine feature after another. Everything was on a massive scale. One private internal road was for the trucks from another mine about 20 kilometres away. These included five trailer road trains hauling 500 tonnes of ore.

The statistics of the mine are astonishing. It descends to 1900 metres. The original open cut is shallow, only a few hundred metres. They plan another open cut, to go down 850 metres.

Isa Afternoon

Jean wanted lunch when we returned from the tour promptly at 1 p.m. I think Pizza Hut are not nearly the best, but it was nearly on the way back to the Burke and Wills motel. We could not use our iPhones, as the Telstra 3G and NextG data networks were out of action. We later found this was a Queensland wide problem. We both thought we had seen a Dominos or Eagle pizza. Check phone book. The even hungrier Jean sends me out to the Eagle pizza. Who are closed. Luckily Dominos are even closer to the motel, and are open for lunch. I collect a supreme and take it back to Jean. By this time it is 2 p.m.

I went for another walk around Mt Isa. This included returning to Outback at Isa to pick up the pamphlets Ron mentioned. The folks at the counter said they did not exist. They did however give me some statistics and history about the mine. I guess I will need to pick the rest up on the internet. I never did find the fabric shop I was seeking, but did get a replacement belt in KMart. My belt had decided to start to fall apart, and I could just see trying to find a replacement belt in remote towns.

The gigantic lead stack chimney that dominates Mt Isa was built by Tileman (Qld) P/L starting in January 1977. The first 1600 cubic metres of concrete for the foundation were poured starting in August 1977. When not interrupted, the pour went up 5 to 6 metres a day. The lead stack is 22 metres in diameter at the base, 12.4 metres at the top, and stands 270 metres tall. It used 17,400 tonnes of concrete, and 5,000 tonnes of crushed ice. It was completed 31 March 1978.

Late in the afternoon Jean was scornful of my claim that the street the fabric shop was said to be on had disappeared. She went out for another walk with me. She did solve the mystery of the missing road, but the fabric shop must have been further away (and would by then have closed, despite late night shopping).

We dined on scraps from our food box, and leftovers from the fridge. Good to get rid of the stuff. After the shared lunch pizza, neither of us wanted much to eat. We finished one bottle of wine, which seems a bit excessive for only two days, but I guess there were three meals involved.

Jean pulled the covers over her head about 9:30 p.m., despite a bit of an afternoon nap. I went into the other room and added some notes and read until something after ten.

Friday 7 May 2010

Leaving Mt Isa

I am finding my eyes are suffering and I am coughing excessively (by my usual standards). Despite the mine taking extensive dust reduction measures, and the prevailing breezes, I seem to be sensitive to something in the air. Of course, the humidity in the Outback can be very low. We found low humidity a problem on several trips. At least I got a reasonable night of sleep, for me, from around 10:30 p.m. until about 4:30 a.m.

I got up and continued writing notes just after 5 a.m. We had breakfast from our food box supplies sometime well after six. We left the Burke and Wills motel just before 8 a.m. Jean did a tricky manoeuvre into a Coles Express service station, so we could get another 4 cents off each litre of fuel. Every bit of fuel from now on will cost more, usually heaps more.

We drove off past Lake Moondarra and the George Fisher mine. The sped limit here was 110 kph, which helps. We came upon yet another Lake Eyre water catchment area sign. Around 54 kilometres from Mt Isa we stopped at the WWII site celebrating the establishment of the road. To my amazement, we could still (just) pick up a Telstra 3G phone signal. The new road from Mt Isa to Camooweal is in excellent share, very unlike our memories of it. The last section was done in 2009.

Berkly Highway

The countryside was green, thanks to good recent wet seasons. Also, we are travelling a little earlier in the year, closer to the wet season. The road train signs advise they can be up to 53 metres long.

Around 10 a.m. we reached Camooweal. Jean wanted to book a room for our return trip, but with several buses stopped, we turned back a block to the other service station. Topped up with fuel at $1.65 (it will be worse later). Jean had a bit of an issue with a dog running down the street in front of the car. Too dumb to go sideways. Then we stopped to make our motel booking at the Shell Roadhouse (where fuel was even more expensive). We got a chicken salad roll for later, and Jean had a pie. Meanwhile I managed to fail to get a photograph of a kite that was posing on a power line near Jean. We crossed the Georgina River, and were on our way around 10:45 a.m.

By 11 a.m. we had crossed the border into the Northern Territory, where clocks needed to go back 30 minutes. Road trains could now be 53.5 metres long. The road got a little worse, in contrast to Queensland using being worse. The speed limit was now 130 kph. We continued driving through rolling grasslands (Mitchell Grass) with scattered shrubs and very small trees.

Stopped to stretch our legs at Avon Downs, just across the border, with police station and not much else. The waterless toilets were made by Clivus Multron.

We stopped at Wonara bore around 1:10 p.m. We both thought this was where we saw a heap of small birds on a previous visit. The windmill here was missing, and there was little real indication of a seep from the bore.

The 1:40 p.m. lunch stop was Barkly Homestead, to eat snacks. I got myself an ice cream. We wandered around looking for changes, and did not get back on the road until 2:10 p.m.

41 mile bore, with lots of bird life, at 3:10 p.m. We both agreed this bore must have been where we saw the flocks of birds previously. This time the waterhole looked like water was flowing. Jean had been driving most of the way, so I took over driving.

Roadside Encounter

As we approached Threeways, where the Barkly Highway meets the Stuart Highway, we saw figures on the road. A single vehicle with an aboriginal group. An elder, around three other adults, and a fleet of children. They explained they had run out of fuel, and wanted to get to a phone or an internet terminal for access to their bank. The explanation of what they wanted seemed a little confused to me, but you can blame language barriers. We were still a little out of the Telstra connection area for Tennant Creek. We rearranged luggage and offered to take one of them to Threeways, where the service station and motel had landline phones (and possibly internet access). After some mulling around, one of the ladies and a baby came with us to Threeways. We turned out to be even closer to Threeways than I expected, and reached it in a few minutes.

We left the lady to make her enquiries of the service station. When we were done, we noticed the car that was out of fuel had somehow managed to bring the entire group of aboriginals to Threeways. We left and continued on our way. Genuine breakdown, or a gentle attempt at scamming some fuel money? I never know with aboriginals, and never pass out money these days anyway. My general impression is you get told what they think you want to hear.

Tennant Creek

We drove into Tennant Creek. I refuelled at the United service station, since that brand is often cheaper than the major oil companies. Certainly way lower than prices at our previous few remote stops. The Eldorado motel was a little further into Tennant Creek. We were quickly settled into a comfortable deluxe room (newly painted, TV, and a comfortable new bed) by Jason. Jean had booked this motel because it offered free wireless internet access. We had a little discussion of wireless internet issues with Jason, since I had helped a couple of motel owners I know decide on WiFi as an inducement for guests. Alas, neither of us could connect to the internet. I found motel owner Jason, who by this time was working in the restaurant. He rebooted the router for us. Then we could connect.

Around six we wandered to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. Jason suggested a Grey Nomad Shiraz, and offered a couple of matching hats from the wine company representative. We bought the bottle, and it was very acceptable. The $25 dinner in the Eldorado restaurant was a buffet, with a range of dishes. This was set up for the contractor workers living at the motel. Tasty enough, and the portions were so large Jean and I shared a hunk of chicken rather than each take a serve. Must say the curry was authoritative. The dessert choices were just the way I liked it. Gooey stuff I should not eat. I had a little pavlova, some of Jean's cheese cake, and a chocolate brownie with some jelly and cream on the side. Wonderful. These appear to be prepared by a pastry cook who did these the previous day.

The thirty or so workers living at the motel, and more across the road at the caravan park, are contractors building the new Aboriginal town camps. There are about eight of these camps being constructed around Tennant Creek. I have to wonder about the effectiveness of all this expenditure. I know how poorly communal homes in the north are treated by aboriginal groups living in them. I estimate the life span of a new home before major structural repairs are needed to be nine years. A lot of aboriginal society is driven by obligations to relatives, skin groups and so on. A clan is essentially a communist group. It is not a good fit in a nominally capitalist society. However my biggest misgiving comes because it looks like the aboriginals were not really asked what they want. Many do want a suburban home. Other may prefer a sturdy utility core, and sun shelters for outdoor living. I do not think these people have been consulted.

Despite the internet connection at the motel, we could hardly stay awake after ten o'clock. We are simply no longer used to driving long distances. Not that many people think 600 km is such a long way.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Tennant Creek

I realised around 5 a.m. that I had neglected to take my tablet collection in the evening. I started using the computer, however the Eldorado motel internet connection from last evening was again not working. I guess my dinner portions were reasonable, despite the dessert, as I was hungry again just after 6 a.m.

We waited until the contractors and the tour bus had ended their breakfasts, and then attended at 7 a.m. We also wanted to take some photos of the Eldorado motel, but inadequate light meant that had to wait until after breakfast. The cook was happy to make us poached eggs, bacon and tomato, to go with everything else. We were satiated when we drove off just after 8 a.m.

We drove through Tennant Creek to check out the main street. One interesting sight was a gaggle of geese walking along the footpath. Graffiti abounded on walls. Many stores in the southern end of town were heavily reinforced with bars or steel mesh. So for that matter was the Eldorado restaurant bar. This is not a happy look for towns across the top end. The news agency was not open, which sort of signalled that the Saturday morning papers did not arrive Saturday morning. We turned around when we reached the motel at the other end of town in which we had stayed when we last passed through with David's air tour.

North On the Stuart Highway

We drove north on the Stuart Highway, mostly in 130 kph zones. We stopped at Threeways (Barkly Highway intersection) to take photographs of road trains and check fuel prices. $1.98 a litre. Ouch! Left before 9 a.m. We reached the nice little plateau overlooking Renner Springs around 10 a.m. Jean made a booking here for our return journey. I photographed more road trains.

At 11 a.m. we reached Elliott. We stopped to walk around, but did not find anything to buy. The United service station had reasonable prices ($1.80) for the area. I did not manage to identify Jason's brother, who works there. Outside the town we saw an eagle crouched over some road kill. It hopped off the road, clearly intent on defending its meal.

I got a little extra fuel, only 15 litres, but enough to ensure we could at least get to Mataranka.

We checked the Highway Inn, just before Daly Waters. The part next to the bar had been recently extended into a very nice grassed beer garden. It seemed to me the motel units had also been extended.

We turned off the road to visit the historic pub at Daly Waters. The interior does not change much, except for having an ever increasing number of business cards pinned to the walls, and an ever increasing array of underwear hanging from the rafters. The outside is, if anything, even more eccentric than ever. Wonderful place to visit. I asked about the weather station. After some delay, I was told to try the airport. We went to the historic WWII aerodrome (I have landed there on a past visit), but despite some searching, I was unable to locate the weather station box. That is a pity.

The former fuel station at Larrimah was destroyed, collapsed like a giant had stood on the galvanised iron roof. I have no idea when that happened. We did not bother to stop, despite the potential of Fran's home made cakes and pastries.


We reached Mataranka around 3:30 p.m. It looks like the United fuel station is out of fuel on all bowsers. Luckily the small town has two fuel stations. Whether they will be open on Sunday (or even early Monday) is another thing. We collected our room key at the Territory Manor Motel and Caravan Park, just a little north east of Mataranka. A very pleasant thick walled room constructed of something that looked a bit like adobe. As is often the case, the room lighting was inadequate, except in the bathroom. Luckily Apple laptops come with illuminated keyboards, so you can type in the dark.

When I recovered from the drive I lurched across the grounds (just avoiding the peacock which seemed about as unfocused as me) to the bar and collected a couple of bottles of Coopers Original Pale Ale to take back to the room. We will have to remember to carry torches with us to dinner, to avoid the camp ground obstacle course. Jean tells me she gave me an insect repellant, however I neither recall this nor can I find it.

Jean naturally had the wild barramundi for dinner, and there was such a slab of fish that she shared some with me. I had a vegetable and salad plate from the buffet, which was more than sufficient. When we finished our meal we were interrupted by watching the Toodles, the office chook, who was inspecting the outdoor dining area.

Since the mosquitos and other bugs were biting, we pulled out our torches, and retired to our room early. There we encountered a wolf spider hiding behind the tea cups. Maybe it can eat some of the biting insects? Opps, I better finish my beer before the spider gets into that.

When we retired for the evening, I was annoyed to find a flickering light every few seconds. It was one of the two compact fluorescent light globes on the wall fixtures. Flick, flick, flick, every few seconds. So I got up and removed the globe. Let's see you flick now, I said. So the other CFL light fixture promptly started flickering. Grr! This is all because well meaning politicians set rules without considering consequences. An electrical engineer would have told them about this potential problem.

Sunday 9 May 2010

Mataranka Morning

I was up late by my standards because the room was so dark. Went to the the reception shop, where I was able to by clothes pegs. So I took our clothes to the laundry and handed them over to the tender mercies of a Maytag commercial washing machine. It took five days worth of clothes fine. They were ready to hang on the line by the time we had breakfast in the room from our food box scraps.

I went for a walk into Mataranka, before it heated up too much. Got some fine photographs of the commercial (western) side of the street, lit by the morning sun. I also took some photos of the We of the Never Never figures in the park, using a fill in flash. Found the airfield and photographed that, and took more photos of the water tower. I never did find where the power station was.

The big event for us this morning was the barramundi feeding. The owners of the Territory Manor have managed to get barramundi eating pilchards, rather than live fish. So they do a feeding demonstration at 9:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Jean and I got some good photos of the fish eating from the owners hand. He also demonstrated catching and lifting a barramundi from the water. They seem used to this, since it happens twice a day. He called for volunteers to feed the barramundi. After a couple of children had a go, Jean fed some fish to the barramundi. She reports sandpapered fingers as the barra sucks its food from you with a great splash of water from their gills.

We drove to Mataranka homestead to look at how much has changed. It seemed perhaps a little older. The famous Mataraka thermal springs in Elsey National Park seemed to me to have had some additional work. There were a lot of people sitting in the water. The water was a lot clearer than I ever recall seeing it. It appeared floods and red bats had removed a lot of vegetation. You had a clear view of the thermal springs, and they were not nearly as shaded by vegetation. My camera abruptly ran out of battery power. Luckily Jean had a set of charged up batteries, which she lent me.

As we returned we took photos of some of the many termite mounds in the area. There is a reason you do not want permanent timber structures in the tropical north.

We had time to check the laundry and gather it from the clothes line when we returned to the Territory Manor. I also set some batteries to charging, since the new pack of rechargeable batteries did not seem ready for use. Then it was lunch time.

Mataranka Afternoon

After a great barramundi lunch we returned to see the afternoon barramundi feeding, to get photos in the somewhat better light.

We each put our collected photographs on our computers for safe keeping. Some of them looked pretty reasonable. It is a bit of a pity my Kodak Z740 is only capable of 640x480 when in video mode. That is just not sufficient these days.

Late in the afternoon we drove further up Martin Road. We made a visit to the Bitter Springs cabins place we had stayed at previously. They seem to have extra cabins, and a lot larger caravan park now. Jean tells me it is for sale. On to Bitter Springs, for the more natural and less known thermal springs there. We swam at Bitter Springs (well, relaxed in warm water really) for about an hour. Jean took her camera, but I suspect did not take any photographs of the natural springs.

The only choice for dinner Sunday night is the roast, so we had the roast. It was pretty good. We also bought a bottle of Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Our neighbour Jim seems to be happy with Pepperjack, which is why it caught my eye. About the only thing wrong is we now have a fair variety of partially consumed bottles of red wine in our travel supplies.

Later in the evening I remembered I had put our wet swimming costumes and towels out on the clothes line, so I had to go out in the dark to rescue them. They were not even close to dry.

Internet Operating System

Publisher Tim O'Reilly usually manages an interesting take on technology. In State of the Internet Operating System and Handicapping the Internet Platform Wars he summarises his many other items touching on this. Essentially, the internet is effectively an operating system. However will some vendor manage to get a feature lock in, or will multiple companies use standard means of access?

Amazon are strong on cloud storage, and there are a number of competitors. However Amazon are weak on search, and do not have the finances of others. Apple are strong on media and payment systems, but make their money on hardware via vertical integration. Apple are a very focused company. Facebook is very strong on social applications. However I am not sure they have a decent way to make money. Google is incredibly strong on search, and make their money via advertising. They will be strong on location based advertising. Microsoft have a lot of money and talent, and their income is almost all Windows and Office. They may be challenged by smart phones, despite long having their own. Nokia are big in phones, but seem to me to miss targets. Tim points to a variety of interesting contenders.

Monday 10 May 2010

iPad Order

I was awake just after six, despite our room at Mataranka not being exposed to the morning light. As expected, Apple had started allowing pre-orders for their new iPad that was scheduled to be released on 28 May in nine countries. The USA experience was that deliveries of later pre-orders were deferred until a later date than advertised. Hence I put my order in as early as I reasonably could.

I must say that actually negotiating their web pages to order an iPad was a bit more of a challenge when using an iPhone. Technically the Safari web browser works well, in that it displays the pages as they are written. In practice, web pages simply can not be read on the small display. Apple try to solve this by allowing pinch magnification. However this in turn forces you to repeatedly scroll horizontally. In short, the web page experience is one of utter frustration. Usability advocates have pointed out this problem for decades.

The solution would be for the webmaster to write their pages so the design is fluid, and changes according to the display size. Unfortunately that trick seems to be beyond the ability of the webmaster at most sites. Or more likely, the people paying for the design do not like pages that change design according to the size of the display or of the text. It probably also costs more, as I have seen very few template sites that manage a fluid display.

Mataranka to Darwin

We breakfasted in the room, despite being partial to a big breakfast at the cafe. It was simply quicker and easier. Packed Jean's car. Paid for our two rooms nights, the three meals we each had, and what seemed like a lot of beer (well, we bought a half dozen, and a bottle of wine, and a bunch went with us in the car). We were away just after 8 a.m. for the 420 kilometres drive to Darwin.

The sky was overcast for a brief time to the north. I eventually decided that it must actually be smoke haze rather than rain cloud. We had a bit of hid and seeking to find a functional service station in Katherine, 105 kilometres north of Mataranka. However we eventually refuelled. I was able to buy the Weekend Australian, and the weekend Financial Review at the newsagent at the Woolworths supermarket complex. The Australian was about three times the cover price this far north. Despite this we were away well before ten.

There were a lot of road works, from one of the federal programs about to be killed by budget changes. We were stopped by construction traffic lights for a while. We swapped drivers at Hayes Creek around 11:30 a.m.

We had to stop at Adelaide River. The Inn there has the stuffed water buffalo from the first Crocodile Dundee film. Alas, the hide is now old and rather fragile. I inspected the open air markets (very tempted by Devonshire Tea) but we were sensible and got sandwiches for lunch instead. Despite this, we were away again by 12:30 p.m.


We were driving until we reached the Esplanade and the harbour. The Australian Online Documentation Conference in Darwin was being held at the Palm City Resort. Jean thinks Palm Caravan Park, on the outskirts, is where we once stayed in our 4WD Hino truck.

Alas, the desk staff at the palm City Resort would not give us a second key to the room. We returned after unpacking, and tried to explain that Jean does not hear anyone returning later than her at night. This leads to excessive noise when attempting to rouse her. This time the other staff member went and saw the manager. I could have a second key if I paid a $50 deposit. While mildly annoying, that is far better than not having the key at all. However I really think motels should rethink their key policies, and having done so, explain them to staff.

The rooms were little villa type things, two per building, set in confusing paths with lots of shrubs (a tropical specialty). There was a sheltered outdoor deck with a table and chairs. That was very pleasant any day the weather was not too hot. They could have used a fan on the verandah, as many resorts do these days.

We walked around the downtown, especially Mitchell Street and the backpacker's row. Stopped at the nearby Coles to get food supplies like milk and more cereal (the Weetbix Wild Berries was on special, so we bought two).

I was feeling very poorly by then. I had not had much food for dinner, nor breakfast, and had not drunk enough water for the tropics. I felt like I was coming down with a flu. So over the next few hours I drank a couple of litres of water, before going to bed around 8:30 p.m. That was absurdly early for me.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Darwin Morning

I was feeling somewhat better after a much longer sleep, but did not get up until almost 8 a.m. That sleep seemed to help somewhat. I had been up several times in the night discharging all the excessive water I had been drinking, in case the problem was dehydration. In the early a.m. I got a bad cramp in my left leg, possibly a salt deficiency thing.

The shower seemed mostly cold to luke warm water. Not really a problem in Darwin temperatures (300C). I was obviously not feeling up to working out that it was an instantaneous heater, and thus needed a copious water flow to switch on the heating element.

Jean and I took a short walk up and down the Mall a few blocks away, seeking food places. Near the Parliament House end there was a place that served Eggs Benedict, a favourite of Jean, so we had that for breakfast.

Darwin Afternoon

I was feeling a lot better by midday. We took another walk in Darwin, ending at the Mall in the early afternoon. There was a well equipped Angus & Robinson's Bookstore in Galleria Arcade. Jean bought a book on using Twitter for business publicity. She had me carry it back to the room.

Neither of us could decide what to have for lunch, so we separated. Jean got a sushi, which she found satisfactory. I had a roast pork and vegetables, which was far too salty (but salt was probably good for me). I thought the pseudo Chinese vegetables were fairly horrible. Jean ended up using most of the pork with left over sushi rice for her dinner that evening (the room has a microwave).

We took another walk in the late afternoon. Jean had spotted a Chinese massage place, and wanted laying on of hands. I went back to the bookshop, and bought David Pogue's Missing Manual on Snow Leopard. Then to the news agency for the Tuesday edition of The Australian newspaper (they do not arrive in Darwin until around 3:30 p.m.)

We never did manage to spot any of Jean's friends from the Australian Online Documentation Conference. Not that there was any central place to congregate. The restaurant was only for breakfast. There was no bar. That left the pool as about the only spot to find people, and that did not work.

iPad Considerations

I do not know if I can type well enough on an iPad. A notebook you do not use for notes is less impressive. A one month retrospective on typing on the iPad by Dan Moren in MacEorld.

Another matter is just WiFi, or do you pay the larger monthly phone company costs of 3G data? 3G or not 3G comes down in favour of 3G access. With the observation that there are some other alternatives (of which phone tethering would be one of the best).

The iPad is the future of computing. Apple have rethought what computing is about (for most of us). Especially in relation to the ever falling costs of full size computers. These are now mostly a profit free commodity item.

The iPad mostly feels fast, despite being underpowered by modern computer standards. No massive windowing GUI, few background processes, no virtual memory, stunning battery life, silent, cool operation. It is a battery and a stunning IPS display with a computer built around it.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Darwin Morning

Jean was headed for the Australian Online Documentation Conference meeting room for her many sessions. Take notes, I urged. She said Tony arranged very good presentation documents. I left her finding various old friends and acquaintances.

Although I had eaten cereal for breakfast, I thought a second breakfast would not go amiss. I went to MacDonalds. Managed to forget my Akubra felt hat, and had to rush back a few blocks to collect it. MacDonalds here does not appear to have WiFi, but did give me a free local newspaper. I took a walk through Darwin, since I was feeling a lot better. This took me a couple of hours. I gave up when the temperature started getting a bit too warm for walking in the sun.

I did manage to make a few phone calls I had been meaning to do. Mostly to answering machine, but I hate phones anyhow. Caught up with Dawn, and got the latest on how Craig was recovering. Sat on the balcony and wrote a bunch of notes to John Hertz, who had sent stacks of one sheet fanzines over a long period.

Darwin Afternoon

I caught up with Jean at lunch. She introduced me to Joe, a USA speaker at the conference. I got to hold an iPad for the very first time. Not as heavy as I expected from the comments in the USA. Seemed to work quickly enough. Joe was not sure as to its place in the computing world. I said I thought retirement village residents would take to it. It was really nice to get an idea of what the gadget I had signed up to buy was actually like.

I had to go for another walk around 4 p.m. to buy The Australian and the Financial review budget editions. The morning newspapers do not arrive in Darwin until after 3:30 p.m. hence the delay. While out, I bought some more snacks, if you call honey and a banana snacks. OK, I also bought some chocolate biscuits.

Wasted a lot of what remained of the afternoon reading the budget papers. First impression is that it is a mess. Spending is not as out of control as I feared, but that hardly helps much. I had to give up reading the papers as the light faded. Reading newspapers or even books by hotel room lighting is a lost cause.

I dropped in to check the conference about the time it ended for the day. Jean seemed to be having a good time this first day. She had a large bundle of conference notes. Sounded like some dining out was planned later that evening. I had a nice chat with Hans, and another more brief chat with Mick.

Darwin Evening

Dave, Hans, Mick and Amber were having a swim in the motel saltwater pool. Dave invited me to join them, so I did so. Very relaxing, with the water a welcome relief from the tropical heat. Later we all met and headed off to Mitchell Street, seeking a restaurant. Uno Italian restaurant seemed suitable for all of us.

Dave says sweet chilli dipping sauce, fancy chips chips and sour cream is not available in restaurants in the USA. I was astonished at learning this, as I thought it came from there. It is very common in Australia as a snack or table dish. So I got that and a trio of dips for the table, so there was some snack food aroud. I was sure I could not manage a full meal. Dave shouted me a Mercury cider, a fine choice.

Mick turned out to be a C J Cheryh fan, and science fiction reader. I told him about Aussiecon 4, the World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in Melbourne in September. I also made sure Jean knew about his interest, so she could talk to him. She is more of a C J Cheryh reader than I am.

Later in the evening, as conference attendees wandered past on the street, we would greet them, if they noticed us. Choco noisily arrived from one such passing group. He seemed to be having a little trouble grasping that you ordered beer from the desk at the entrance, and not from the bar. Soon no more beers for you. We headed back to the motel, with Choco, Mick and Hans deciding to pause at another bar. Mick and Hans get Choco home from Irish pub around corner much later in the evening.

Federal Budget for Sports

Governments like wasting money on popular but pointless items that benefit a noisy minority. This always shows up clearly in the Australian budget. Take sports funding. Elite Australian Olympics Committee sports got two thirds of the funding boost, despite being little actual use to most citizens. The government's Crawford Report on Sport had recommended extra funding to encourage increased participation in mass sports. It encouraged a preventative health agenda through sport. It recommended cutting funding to elite Olympic sports. Most of the Crawford recommendations were ignored or rejected. Bugger all was done for mass participation. Typical of this Labor government.

For that matter, why not get rid of the anti-siphoning laws relating to showing sports by advertising funded television businesses? The fear is that cable pay TV will bid for and get various sports shows, presumably by paying more than the advertising funded TV business is willing to pay. So? If sports viewers are so keen on being couch potatoes, then they will pay to watch. Just why do we need any such laws? When they are up for review at the end of the year, this set of anachronistic protections of media proprietors should be discarded.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Darwin Morning

I was up a little late. I did drop over to the conference venue, before things started. Later noticed Choco looking seedy in restaurant with late breakfast. Wearing dark glasses in an unlit room is a giveaway. Jean returns to the room, takes her iPhone charger as iPad charger for Joe, as he had lost his iPad charger during the trip. The iPad worked for several days before giving up.

I went for a walk along the foreshore and parts of the Mall. Took a bunch of photographs, without ever capturing the images I most wanted. That was a bit annoying, as when the sun is out and not cloud or haze shrouded, the light in Darwin is astonishing.

I wasted a bunch of extra time reading the newspaper and internet reports the Australian budget papers. Federal Treasurer Wayne Swann did a better job than I expected. Maybe Kevin Rudd is still distracted by his silly health plans. However when you look at it, basically spending is up in a bunch of areas. The only way the government sees of getting around that is hope like hell that tax income increases (as predicted). Plus a couple of great big new taxes. Specifically the increased excise on tobacco. When is a tax not a tax? When it is a levy. Plus, sometime in the future, a supertax on mining profits. Without actually doing anything of use about the royalties owed to the state.

Darwin Afternoon

I caught up with Jean after lunch. While satiated, she was annoyed at the vast amounts of left over salad going to waste. Speaking of waste, I kept reading budget papers during the afternoon, until they put me to sleep a couple of times. Then I thought to hell with it, and read a computer manual until that put me to sleep. I had not brought any printed fiction with me, but my iPhone and my MacBook Air are full of science fiction eBooks. So I read a trashy SF novel on my iPhone.

Darwin Evening

It seems that Jean's iPhone USB charger did a better than expected job of charging Joe's depleted iPad. It took perhaps 5 hours to bring it from flat empty to an indicated full charge. Seems inconsistent with reported charge rates from an iPhone charger, which should be limited to the usual USB standard of not exceeding 500mA. I estimated this would take between 12 and 15 hours to charge an iPad.

We snacked on leftovers of cheese, wine and crackers instead of either going to the market or going to a restaurant. On the other hand, we had more open wine bottles than I thought. Attempted to remedy this terrible situation. This may explain why my notes are not all that coherent. later in the evening I took another swim in the motel pool.

Friday 14 May 2010

Darwin Today

I discovered my morning task was doing the laundry. Luckily it was close to our room. I had coins for the washing machine, but had to get more coins from reception for the dryer. The dryer ran 75 minutes, and I belatedly decided it ran too long and to hot.

Not lunch for Jean at the conference today. She had arrived clutching about four large sausage roll slices, left over from morning tea. I went for walk with Jean to collect lunch. This a a large plate of barramundi and salad, too much even for Jean. So we put the remains in the room fridge.

The budget waste continued, as I kept reading budget papers during the afternoon, until they put me to sleep a couple of times more times. So I again read a computer manual until that put me to sleep. Then I read another trashy SF novel on my iPhone.

We ate left over barramundi and sausage rolls for dinner. That was bound to happen with the quantity of spare food we kept getting. We can not very well take much of it with us.

Since Jean had time left of her Internet WiFi connection, I connected my computer using it. Caught up with a bunch of email and so on. It is far easier to use a computer for web stuff than it is to use an iPhone, although the iPhone is not impossible, and generally has a considerable convenience factor. That is, you use it when you think of it, not when you are sitting at a desk with a computer all organised to be used.

MobileMe Mail Beta

I note Apple have a new MobileMe Mail web application beta available. This looks similar to what I recall of the view that seems to be available for Mail on the Apple iPad. It has mail rules to organise incoming mail. Single click archiving. Rich text (actually HTML) email formatting is available via click buttons. This seems like a decent set of improvements. Needs Safari 4, Firefox 3.6 or Internet explorer 8 for best results. I wonder how Google and their GMail will respond, since they are already pretty good?

iPad Teardown

As is usual when Apple release a new product. iFixit pull it apart. With spudgers, pry bars and other tools. Even better, iFixit publish photos of the whole messy process. iPad #g teardown, part 1 notes the only physical difference from the WiFi model noticed is the black plastic window for the 3G and GPS antennas. The iPad 3G supports UMTS/HSDPA on 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz and GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz. This means in Australian country areas, only Telstra has decent support. The model number is A1337, or l33t (the rest of you can look it up).

iPad teardown part 2 shows differences between 3G and WiFi model circuitry. Heaps of the circuitry is basically identical to the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3Gs. The Broadcom GPS chip is on the 3G communications board. The remaining few photos are at iPad teardown part 3.

Saturday May 2010

Leaving Darwin

Took several loads of luggage to the car soon after I arose, mainly to get those bags out of the way. We had really messed with our luggage organising. We also needed to organise some final travel arrangements, including internet access, bank transfers, and sending cheques off to Southern state travel agents. It all took time.

We were very late, well after eight, when we went off to the cafe we had used on Tuesday, and had another Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Took a lot longer to be delivered with the busier day, and alas was not as good. Still a very acceptable start to the day. It was however well after nine before we returned to continue packing. Eventually I had it all in the boot of the car. So I could finally organise check out, and get a refund for the extra key. This confused matters. We were in room 224. However the second key was on a Room 244 tag.

We had not bought supplies for the next few days. Walked to the nearby Coles, to get milk and banana. With a Liquorland nearby, we also got a few bottles of a cleanskin wine. We hope it is the West Australian variety we favour. The bottles look about right. Jean went off seeking a Postal Box so we could mail our travel letter. I took the loot back to the car.

When only a short distance from the hotel, on the Stuart Highway. we spotted a discount service station at which we could refuel, just as we passed the entry. Had to do a U turn a little up the road to get back. Luckily Darwin traffic is light, even mid Saturday morning. Still, it was around 11 a.m. before we were really on our way.

Aviation Heritage Centre Darwin

We stopped Aviation Heritage Centre Darwin, home of the B52 bomber. This small hanger of a museum is totally dominated by an enormous B52 bomber donated by a USAF loan program. I wonder that they got the B52 in the space. Maybe the built it after the plane arrived. However not discouraged, they then managed to fit many other full sized planes, helicopters and aviation equipment around it. I really enjoyed this museum, and took a heap of photos. Alas, the planes are so large that flash photographs can not illuminate them. However the available light was insufficient for digital photography.

Jean had us stop along the Stuart Highway to a former WWII landing strip. This was one of many within easy dispersal distance of Darwin. This one had three pretty much life size cutouts of the sorts of planes that were used here in WWII. We had to take photographs.

Berry Springs Afternoon

We were staying at a villa at Tumbling Waters Holiday Park, just past the Berry Springs township, and on the Blackmore River. It took us longer than we expected to get settled in

Drove to Litchfield Pub for a very late lunch. Jean had a chicken and mushroom fettucini, while I had the barramundi burger. Jean helped with my salad, but as usual I could not eat the entire meal. Very nice (and rather large) pub. Jean was supplied with a very generous glass of house wine. I had a small beer. It turned out to have a bottle shop, so we stocked up on a little more Coopers Pale Ale. We also bought a few frozen Mrs Mac pies at the Trading Post next to the hotel.

The Litchfield Pub had a decent position for Telstra 3G reception, unlike Tumbling Waters, which had marginal reception for iPhones. While at the pub, we both collected our email, and anything else that did not need a continued connection to read.

We drove further away, to the Crazy Acres Farm Shop, to collect home made passionfruit ice cream. That we took back to Tumbling Waters for the evening meal. It was delicious. So delicious and filing that we never did get around to eating our frozen pies.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Tumbling Waters Early

I had a very poor night. Not sleeping at all well. The dry air from the room air conditioning in Darwin had started my nose bleeding several days before. The touch of flu I had did not help. So I felt half suffocated for half the night.

I took a morning walk around the Tumbling Waters camp ground. They may have only had 8 villas and about 10 cabins, but they had a lot of caravans and campervans in the grounds. Saw a few guinea fowl wandering around. At the entrance to the park, there was a large aviary. While there was a peacock and two peahens outside the aviary, it seemed to contain a rabbit and three guinea pigs. I had a chat with a lady who was driving around Australia. She had been here for several weeks, as had several others. I eventually reached the billabong, but could not see any crocodiles during my early morning stroll. On the other hand, the mosquitos did pretty well drinking my remaining blood.

Territory Wildlife Park

We drove towards Berry Springs, to the Territory Wildlife Park. This impressive, award winning tourist attraction is set in large grounds. So large they have a train type trailer to take people around. They told us there was about 6 kilometres of walking tracks.

We visited the Nocturnal House first. This was larger than we expected, and had a great range of northern animals. Trying to take photographs in the low light conditions was impossible. I did snap the illuminated signs explaining which animals we were seeing.

Another place we got eaten alive by mosquitos was the monsoonal forest, where still waters help the critters breed. This area even had a simulated tropical thunderstorm, part of which I recorded on my iPhone video. We were in this area for the many bird viewing points. The most impressive was the giant walk through aviary. this was sufficiently large that you sometimes lost sight of one side or another.

We were lucky to get a train towards the Flight Deck area. The staff put on an exhibition with various trained raptors flying and getting fed. The non-raptors included a sulphur crested cockatoo, a black cockatoo, and a slightly different pair of lorikeet. The show even had a dingo, digging up fake crocodile eggs. The buzzard demonstrated how it uses a stone to crack open emu eggs. They had a young Brahminy kite in training. They also had an osprey, which was reluctant to fish, but eventually did so.

Bird handling later included a barking owl, which actually did bark. Jean got to hold one of the birds, rather gingerly despite the leather glove.

As the show started, we found we were sitting next to folks we had last seen in the thermal pool at Bitter Springs near Mataranka. Then at the bird handling, Jan (from trips with Dave) recognised me, and came up to tell me she had seen someone with an Avalook T shirt. That was, of course, Jean.

Berry Springs Afternoon

We went searching for Berry Springs. While we went in the correct direction, we did not recognise the entrance. Then it transpired that Jean thought it was between the Wildlife Park and our motel, so we figured we were going in the wrong direction. We actually passed the place twice, and rejected it.

So we went to the Crazy Acres Farm Shop, to collect four packets of home made passionfruit ice cream. We took them back to the room and shoved them in the freezer.

Our next stop was again the Litchfield pub, where Jean had the barramundi burger, and I had barramundi based spring rolls with Thai sauce. We also managed a glass (or two in my case) of wine. The giant wooden tables were all occupied, so we shared one with a couple who were there house minding. We found from them that the road through Litchfield National Park was fine for regular vehicles, with only a little water over the road. We also took advantage of the good Telstra signal there to update our email again.

Back at our room at Tumbling Springs mid afternoon, where we each collapsed. My relaxation was reading another few chapters of a Snow Leopard book. During the evening, I also read the slides from the AODC conference Jean had attended. I thought the material sounded interesting. Especially Structured Technical English used in a controlled vocabulary environment. I also liked the idea of using XSLT to transform XML documents for multiple purposes, or to generate automatic page Table of Content. While hand written in XHTML 1.1, my blogs are essentially almost in a suitable form for generating from XML. I have just never really seen tools that I liked.

We each had one of our passionfruit ice creams, as a late afternoon treat. We also eventually used up the frozen meat pies for dinner. As anticipated, microwaving is not a good way to heat them. Also, the West Australian cleanskin wine we had bought turned out not to be one of our favourites, but more just a cheap wine. At least we will not drink as much.

Monday 17 May 2010

Berry Springs Nature Park

Since we were ready to leave Tumbling Waters Holiday Park around 8 a.m. we had time to look at Berry Springs Nature Park. This involved driving a little way back towards Darwin, past the Territory Wildlife Park we had visited the previous day.

Berry Springs Nature Reserve was another spring, but the low waterfall fell into a series of impressive sized pools. We walked to both Main Pool and to Lower Pool. At that hour of the morning, there was no-one swimming, and the water was totally smooth and undisturbed. We took some photographs of the reflections of the surrounding on the water.

When walking in the park, we noticed a cane toad. The ugly brute was sitting in the path leading up the steps. This means there would be a heap of other cane toads ready to destroy native wildlife. Since it was sort of posing, I took a photograph. I would have preferred to hit it with a stick.

We left around 9 a.m. and continued driving down Litchfield Park Road towards the northern entrance to Litchfield National Park.

The road into Litchfield is said to be 42 kilometres of dirt. However we travelled for 7 minutes at good speed on excellent new bitumen, and then another five minutes on good new gravel with no line markings. There was a team working on part of the road. There was also a lot of new road base graded into place. It seemed very likely they were upgrading the entire road. We also saw a couple of army vehicles, with a driver in training, with one broken down. Soon after this, we started to hit showers, and then actual rain. It remained overcast for most of the day, with rain forecast ahead of us.

After 28 kilometres of dirt road, we came to an actual creek crossing. I walked it, just in case it had a giant sinkhole, but it was fine to drive around the end of it. Luckily the rain stopped around this time, as we entered the park.

Litchfield National Park

Inside Litchfield, and our first excursion was a little detour to Bamboo Creek. This was a former tin mine, and still had the three ruined building from more than a century ago. We took photographs, but did not want to take a long walk.

Walter Creek had facilities, however the actually tourist swimming areas seemed a long walk.

We stopped at the main viewing area for Wangi Falls. This was spectacular even from the road driving in. Before walking to the best viewing area, we ate our still mostly frozen homemade passionfruit ice-cream. Although not open for swimming (active currents and possible crocodile sightings), the plunge pool below the Wangi Falls was a wonderful size. We took a bunch of photos here. We did not manage to leave until 11:30 a.m.

We passed on visiting the Aboriginal Sacred Site at Greenant Creek.

Tollmer Falls was a 400 metre walk from the parking area. That had some great falls, in a gorge area, with some attractive surrounding gorges. This area us reminded us of Karajini National Park in West Australia. Jean was not happy with the walk uphill back to the car, especially in the oppressive humidity now apparent.

We skipped Buley Rockpool, as it was a 900 metre walk, and we did not intend to take a swim in any case. It did seem a very popular spot, to judge by the number of cars.

The nearby Florence Falls also has a nice plunge pool at the bottom. This also seems a popular swimming spot with those willing to descent 135 steps to the pool. We took photos from a much higher viewing platform. We were away by 1 p.m., as we were feeling hungry.

The last stop was the termite mound field. Although termite mounds are common, in this area the ground was mostly cleared of trees, so you really could see how extensive they were. The height of some larger termite mounds must have exceeded six metres. It was an impressive sight. It also shows why building in timber is not a great idea in the tropics. Speaking of tropical weather, it rained again as we drove off out of Litchfield National Park.


We reached Batchelor Resort, on Rum Jungle Road, rather too late to get lunch from the Rum Jungle Motel bistro. However the cabin we had ordered was ready, and we had an ice chest of leftovers. We made do with biscuits and brie, apple, dried pears, and the remains of a nice red wine. We are also aware we need to empty most of the ice chest before crossing the West Australian border in a day and a half.

One amusing thing was finding all the plates were French made Arcoroc glassware. More than a decade ago we had searched all over to get some extras of Arcoroc for Airlie Beach. We eventually found a highly similar set in a chain store midway up the NSW coast. Never did see Arcoroc again, except rather scratched specimens in op shops. By this time, our set was all scratched, and we left them at Airlie Beach when we moved.

I read my book while Jean slept for part of the afternoon. She had done all the driving today. I did walk over to the shop to try to find a newspaper (try the general store, rather too far to walk in the afternoon temperatures). The bottle shop had a few reasonable choices, but not at reasonable prices. I also saw the bistro menu.

When we tried for a dinner that evening at the bistro, we found the bar was running a very noisy TV, and the outside dining area had rather too many bugs and a lot too noisy a juke box. The bar here has a series of murals, depicting the finding of pitchblende at Rum Jungle, right through mining operations, and restoring the mine site to a native landscape. We ordered take away, to reduce the time we had to suffer the noise. That actually worked fairly well. On walking back along the path in the dark, torches at the ready, we encountered myriad cane toads gathered beneath each of the path lights. As you approached each light, it was as if demonic shadows departed the base of the lamp.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Leaving Rum Jungle

Actually we are leaving Batchelor Resort, formerly the Rum Jungle Motel, on what was once Rum Jungle Road. I just wanted to use the term Rum Jungle in a header. The room here was a former demountable building, but was organised for a family of five, so it had a fair amount of space for us. We shall probably suffer small motel rooms from now on.

Dawn is late this far west, and it was not light until after 7 a.m. This throws off our sense of timing, as we usually get up as soon as it starts to get light. At home, that means before 6 a.m. Luckily we only have a short drive today. Basically Katherine is too close, but there is nothing much where we would want to stay between it and Kununurra.

We tried to get the Weekend Australian newspaper at the General Store (and Post Office) in Batchelor. We were offered a read of a copy being held on special order for a resident, while we sat and had a coffee. We rejected this spontaneous but rather well designed offer, as we did want to continue now that it was 10 a.m.

To Katherine

Jean drove to Adelaide River. We topped up with $20 of mildly expensive fuel from the United service station, to ensure we could reach Katherine. Once again we were tempted by the Devonshire Teas the locals put on in a public space opposite the Adelaide River Inn. We did make a visit to the well laid out war graves cemetery for victims of WWII, which we had last visited in 2004. This was still being looked after in splendid fashion, and was a credit to the war graves commission. We left the area around 11 a.m.

There was a side road, the rather unmarked highway 23. We thought this might be interesting. Mainly it was very curvy, did not seem to have a lot of interest to tourist. Plus it rained on us. We did see half a house being transported on this minor back road. Plus it rained on us a lot, which was annoying now the forecast was possible afternoon showers.

We stopped at Hayes Creek pub to share an mildly strange hot chicken salad sandwich for a pre lunch snack, before continuing.

We did refuel at Katherine, since fuel will be more expensive from now on. Stopped at the Woolworths for paper tissues, and insect repellant. We could not resist snacks at Brumbies bread, as a continuation of our small lunch.

Our final stop was at the All Seasons Motel at Katherine, where Jean had booked a room online via Wotif. For some reason the Accor booking system had been unable to cope, so she had to book via a different online company. The staff asked why we had not simply phoned them. Jean explained that neither of us use phones to talk with people, unless no other option is available. And usually we still do not phone. Which reminds me, I still have at least one phone call to make, if we are ever at some place with mobile reception during business hours.

The room at the All Seasons was enormous, and very comfortable. A Queen and a single bed, a long desk, and a breakfast table. Two very comfortable arm chairs, plus a writing chair. I was impressed.

We had dinner at the All Seasons steak house restaurant and bar, Galloping Jacks. It was not open when we attended around 6 as the hotel suggested, but the door signs said it opened at 6:30 p.m. Service was initially a bit slow, as one person was attempting to attend to a lot of people. It improved when more staff arrived. We were able to quickly order pork cutlet (Jean) and pork ribs (me). The service from the bar was timely. However we waited around an hour for our meals to arrive. The food was excellent. I even managed to eat a whole side of port ribs, something I normally could not manage. Better yet, Jean's Accor hotel frequent customer card brought us an exceedingly good discount on the meal.

Alas, just before I went to bed I discovered the tiny ants had invaded our food box. I sprayed everything I could with surface spray, but fear we will be throwing out a bunch of stuff.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Leaving Katherine

As anticipated, the tiny ants had been a problem, despite the surface spray. We recovered as much as we could of sealed items, but had to throw out the box and a few open packets.

My nose is still not healing, so every time I use a tissue, I leak blood all over it. This is getting annoying.

We had the continental breakfast at the All Seasons, since it was included in our room price. The $11 cooked breakfast looked good, but we lacked the space to eat it after the gigantic dinner last night. We drove away around 8:30 a.m. with an odometer reading of 25905 km. The weather was fine, blue sky, and little sign of the forecast overcast and rain.

The first sign we saw on the Victoria Highway was next service 193 km away, at Victoria River. It also showed the only other town on the way to Kununurra was Timber Creek, about 280 km away. Luckily the Northern Territory speed limit outside towns is 130 kph. The countryside continued verdant green. we kept seeing very nice displays of wattle.

By 9:40 we had overcast skies, with only patches of blue sky, and the odd bit of rainfall from time to time. We took photos of the Neil Buntine memorial at 10 a.m. at the unpaved Buntine Highway turnoff from the Savanna Way. 160 km on our way and we entered the Victoria River area, and the Gregory National Park, with its panoramic ranges, still 150 km from Timber Creek. I had an ice cream and Jean had snacks at Victoria River service station, and later took more photos of the surrounding ranges. We wanted to compare with the photos we took when we stayed here at Victoria River in 2004. We also added $30 of fuel, to ensure we had sufficient. I took over the driving at Victoria River, so the quality of the notes evaporates.

We continued on to Timber Creek. We could recall all the parts we walked or drove to during our previous stay here. Fuel was even more expensive here, despite being a larger town. We used the toilets at the local council, which are about the only public toilet block in the area.

The next stretch was 225 kilometres, and took us into Kununurra. But first, we had to cross the West Australian border. This meant a quarantine check, to find any nasty fruits we were carrying. We had put our suspect fruit stuff and honey into a single bag, and the quarantine officer was very pleasant (we were told nasty stories back at Batchelor). The border officer also reminded us to put our clocks back an hour and a half. Luckily the Apple iPhones (like so many mobile phones) do so automatically.

Kununurra Afternoon

We got lost in Kununurra. Or at least, without a map, we had no real idea where we were going. Not that the town is that large. Jean had rejected the Hotel Kununurra, based on ancient past experience with their other guests (a noisy tour bus group). However we soon found the tourist information place, collected a map, and they kindly explained where the All Seasons motel was. We had driven past the All Seasons Kununurra, and had not noticed the very small sign on the distant wall. Checkin was efficient, and the same person later turned up on the waiting staff at the restaurant. At the tourist information centre there was also an El Questro information area. The staff said the road was open. They had driven it this morning. It would stay open … as long as it didn't rain much.

At the motel, I was again on laundry duty, mainly because I noticed the nearby laundry area was empty. Although we had scheduled laundry for Sunday, when we had an entire day free, I could easily foresee us getting splattered with mud at El Questro and running short of clean clothes earlier. So I started a load. One of the dryers was not working, and stole my coin. Luckily the other worked. I was also a little earlier to the laundry than other arriving guests. By a bit after four I had provided us with clean clothes.

Time to seek yesterday's newspaper. Took my map and walked into the main section of Kununurra. The local IGA grocery is also the only newspaper seller in town. To my astonishment, they already had today's newspaper (unlike in Katherine). I had been hoping to get the Tuesday Australian, or even the Weekend Australian. I did manage to find the Tuesday Australian. Despite changing times on phone and computer I had forgotten that with a 90 minute time change to West Australian time, sunset was around 5 p.m. No wonder places were closing early. One cafe I noticed had home made Italian ice cream (the other sign said home made gelatti), and offered free WiFi. That seemed a perfect deal for Sunday, if it is open.

Once the motel restaurant opened (late by our sense of time) we dined at the All Seasons restaurant. We both had the barramundi. I think Jean was tempted by the steak, but at 400 grams, that was simply too large. Despite having hardly eaten during the day, I could not finish eating my delicious tender barramundi. I was about ready to collapse by the time we returned to the room.

Apple Takes Control

Apple seems intent on total control of the vertical integration of its latest range of computers. iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad will all run a single unified operating system, based on OS X, which is controlled by Apple. The new Section 3.3.1 prohibits external code other than as supplied via the Apple SDK. Ars Technica's John Siracusa sees this as a massive bet by Apple that the iPhone and iPad platform can be grow so fast that developers will sign on despite massive restrictions.

Over the past decade, product development at Apple has been stymied time after time by slow moving third parties. In hardware, it was Motorola and IBM, and their CPU chips. In web access, Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser, and it was this situation that forced the development of WebKit and the Safari web browser, and iWork. In program development, Metrowerk's fine software development did not move to OS X fast enough. In the 1980's Apple ceded the productivity market to Microsoft Office. It ceded the desktop publishing market to Aldus and Adobe. Both moved to Windows in the 1990's. In particular, these two most important program developers, Microsoft and Adobe, were slow moving to Cocoa (although this was not clear until 2007). This in turn meant Apple could not abandon Carbon compatibility as quickly as they probably intended. Making things worse, although tolerable under Windows, Adobe's Flash plugin for Safari runs like a dog on Apple.

With the new iPhone OS platform, Apple will not permit any middleware company to have control over any critical part of the system. Even if this means a head on collision with Adobe, and pissing off independent program developers. Apple are going to make their new computing appliances totally stand alone from the rest of the industry. Apple will have the only totally independent, vertically integrated computing appliances available, from anyone. Every other computer company has to rely upon Microsoft (if using Intel or AMD chips) or Adobe for support.

A lot of developers will be sufficiently pissed off at not having freeedom that they will drop Apple. The open source folks will all hate Apple. However I think a good percentage of developers will look at the potential money. I think Apple have a good chance with their gamble. Apple have to realise they are betting the company on the transition away from commodity computing.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Kununurra Morning

We were up when it got light, before 6 a.m., which to our sense of time was 7:30 a.m. This is the sort of time we always arose in Townsville. On the other hand, I slept poorly, and could probably have just as easily got up at 3 a.m.

We enjoyed their continental breakfast. If the eggs had not looked somewhat tired, we probably would have had the $11 hot buffet add on. Especially since we are unsure where we will have lunch. At breakfast, I was advised the Hootchery now makes whiskey, and that it was very good. As we returned to the room, a sunbeam broke through the overcast and lit up the swimming pool, a helpful sign for avoiding rain a little longer.

Before we leave this All Seasons motel, we needed to check that the Gibb River Road to El Questro was still open, despite the rain. Luckily it was. So we left just before 10 a.m.

We did some tourism shopping this morning, in case places are closed on Sunday when we are next staying in Kununurra. We drove out to Kimberley Ornamental Stonework, intent on buying some zebra rock. However although there were some nicely sculptured bits of rainbow rock, we simply could not spot anything that would really work for our place. This was a disappointment. We could also see how muddy everything was. Trying to park runs you into mud holes. This made us more nervous abut the Gibb River Road.

As we left town, we had scouted out service stations. Only one was listed in the phone book, but there were actually several. The one at the Coles express seemed cheapest. We refuelled on our return to town. We also happened to notice the service station had 500 gram packs of Chocolate Obsession ice cream. We bought one, and put it in our ice chest around 11 a.m.

El Questro Afternoon

We drove up the road to Wyndham, noticing places we recalled from our previous trips. After one minor wrong turn, we reached the Gibb River Road turnoff. 26 kilometers to Emma Gorge and the El Questro camping resort there. There were dozers working on the road. There were minor creek crossing. It was muddy. Plus many stretched of road past El Questro were closed by rain.

Checked in, unpacked the car into our tent cabin (raised solid floor and waist height walls, canvas A frame roof shelter, fly screen ceiling and canvas and fly screen end walls). While we had electricity, this time there was no fridge. Luckily the ice cream was only just starting to melt when we got stuck into eating it at 1 p.m.

Light rain and the bad road conditions made us reluctant to drive off to some of the other gorges. The temperature (and humidity) discouraged walking to nearby gorges.

I could not eat a full dinner. Had crocodile brochettes entree, dusted with wattle seed. Jean had kangaroo tenderloin and spicy smoked chorizo. Both were delicious. We ended the meal sharing their chocolate mud cake with wild berry ice cream. Drinks were Secret Stone Pinot Noir from new Zealand, and a West Australian Sandleford cabernet merlot.

We did not get much done after dinner. Naturally there is no easy internet contact here, although reception has a computer with a connection. Mobile phone is out of reception range, probably by a very large margin.

Internet Appliances

I have noticed a few reviews of Internet appliances. That is, computer tablets that do not run Microsoft Windows. Such appliances are intended for email and web browsing, amongst many other applications.

The Entourage Edge is a large booklike tablet, with a 9.7 inch 1200 x 825 eInk display, and a 10.1 inch LCD display. As a result, it is oer an inch thick, and weighs three pound. It has a notebook like range of peripheral ports, and a camera (that does not actually have software support). The Edge runs Android 1.6. Flash Lite is promised, but at the moment you can not run YouTube videos. With both displays on, you get 4 hour battery life. On eInk only, 16 hours standby time. At the moment, the software does not sound ready for prime time. Several peripherals have no support. At US$499, you would want to check it carefully prior to purchase.

Archos have been making audio and video players for some time, and also tablets (they make Archos 5). They seem to make a solid attempt at decent functionality. Archos 7 home tablet is only a half inch thick. The smaller 7 inch 800 x 480 resistive touchscreen makes for a handy size, and the weight is 13.7 ounces. It runs a touch over 6 hours showing video. Plus the price is US$199. What is not to like? Alas, it runs an even older version of Android 1.5. Worth keeping an eye on it, as the Archos 5 has been demonstrated running Android 2.

Friday 21 May 2010

El Questro

We took a walk early in the morning, getting back to the tented cabin around 7 a.m. There were a number of bus tour groups getting an early breakfast, including Kimberly Expeditions and Outback Spirit. We waited until 8 a.m. for breakfast. Ate heaps of hot breakfast. One menace was bower birds, trying to steal food. Actually, succeeding in stealing food. It started to sprinkle rain just as we started walking back to our cabin. At least that moderated the temperature.

Back at the tent cabin. Rain, rain continues, road way too muddy to take the car to any of the other gorges or walks. We grumped, and read our books. And put pillows over our ears to hide the sound of the rain. This was not working.

The food box contents were now more that slightly suspect, and we had no fridge. Throw out milk, some water. We shared some now very runny brie on biscuits for a latish lunch. Actually, we ate almost everything we would otherwise have to throw out.

An afternoon walk for Eric, when the rain stopped, and the sun came out. It was horribly humid, but I was able to take some photographs of the surroundings. Better at least than photography through the rain. Upon returning to reception, I had an ice cream and bought a Coke to take with me to the room.

Read more while sitting in the tent, until it was time spray ourselves with insect repellant and go to eat. Dinner for me was pumpkin, chilli and honey soup, while Jean had rump steak. Neither of us can fit in a dessert this time. Back at the tent, on our computers. A tent with electricity, and a fan. If it were not for the unseasonal humidity, it would be perfect.

Are Browsers Ready for HTML5?

The question for anyone interesting in changing their web site to HTML5 is are web browsers are ready for HTML5? As this (HTML5) graphic shows, in 2008, not a chance. In 2009, Google's Chrome web browser had appeared and was doing a good job. Apple's Safari web browser was continuing its support. Opera web browser had started early, and had expanded its existing support.

In 2010, Chrome, Safari, Opera and Firefox all have decent support for much of HTML5. Indeed, Firefox 44 will have a native HTML5 parser. The HTML5 specification can be used to directly write an HTML5 parser, which is a fundamental difference from earlier HTML specifications and their mooted SGML basis.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Leaving El Questro

We were both up reasonably early. Jean wanted breakfast, while I wanted photographs. While she ate a hot breakfast, I walked to some lookout points on the Emma Gorge trail. This time I was able to take photos of the other side o the cliffs surrounding us, in the morning light. Just as I started, the mist started rolling in, so despite it being too early in the morning for great light, I had to get my photos while I could.

Back at reception, I bought a Mars Bar for breakfast, and caught up with Jean. I went ahead to the tent, while she collected the car and drove it to the tent. We packed pretty quickly, hoping to escape before rain made the road more difficult. We were on our way by 8:35 a.m.

We were lucky with the drive out. The road was in better condition than when we entered. Only a few minor mud holes to negotiate. We also did not have to dodge construction equipment for the roadworks. We stopped several places for photographs, basically whenever sunbeams broke through and lit the hillsides.


We turned north once we left the Gibb River Road. Since walking into the Grotto involves many steps, we decided we did not need a return visit. About 20 km from Wyndham we had good views of the surrounding countryside and took photographs there.

Wyndham itself, and the port area, looked somewhat more rundown than we recalled. Even the pub where we had eaten once seemed less kept than ever. The tidal area had one ship loading. There was also a small and very neat three decker that appeared to be a tourist boat. We took a variety of views from the Anthon Landing site. Some Aboriginals wandered along. One of them was wanting to sell painted tree nuts.

On the way out of town, we stopped at a park with a large crocodile status. Some Aboriginals there also tried to sell us a painted tree nut, remarkably similar to the previous item. We left Wyndham at 10:45 a.m. for the 100 km drive back to Kununurra.

Jean's iPhone had a just about flat battery, probably from trying to pull a non-existent signal in at El Questro. We tried our car to USB charger for the first time. We also discovered that the tray in the centre console on our Subaru exactly fitted an iPhone and connector. The charger worked fine, and Jean declared it the first time she had ever used a car charger, despite having owned them for Nokia phones.

I had run out of camera batteries (AA Lithium) in my Kodak Z740 camera, so I put in a set of rechargeable NiCd AA. It will be interesting to see how long the 12 hours of charge they had lasts. I still have 195 photos available on the camera card. A Lithium gives me 400-500 photos, but costs are fierce.

The Hoochery

We passed through Kununurra briefly at 11:50 a.m. on our way to The Hoochery. This is West Australia's oldest, continuously operating, legal distillery. After what seemed a long drive we were settled at a table there, eating chocolate rum cake and having our beverage. Then came the rum tasting. I started with their whiskey. This was a trial for them. Alas for me, it had been so popular that they had completely sold our the previous day. I did get to have a taste, of what was a fine sipping US style corn mash whiskey. It will be three years before the next batch is ready for sale. I would be willing to pre-order right now.

Jean had settled our usual order on the Ord River 40% rum. We had once had to buy the slightly less potent variety, but it was not as much to our taste. We tried the overproof, which is a lot smoother than you would expect for that alcohol percentage.

Then we tried their premium barrel strength single barrel rum. This is not blended at all, nor is it watered down. It is what comes out of the barrel after ageing. The workers all taste the rums, and vote on which barrel is the best of the bunch. That becomes the single barrel. However at $125 a bottle, it is not a cheap nip at all. The alcohol content is enough to knock your socks off, being something between 65% and 72% alcohol (whatever comes out of the barrel). It was also by far the smoothest full strength rum I have ever tasted.

Neither of us were taken much by the melon liquor, although I could see it as a mixer. Jean outright rejected the aniseed liquor. That left her ordering a half dozen of the chocolate coffee rum liquor. We also got a half dozen bottles of our regular 40% Ord River rum.

We dropped in at The Sandalwood Factory near the Hoochery. That was an interesting upmarket sales point for sandalwood products, various trendy fragrances and the like. They had been open only a month, with the original site being in Perth. It is amazing how glamorous you can make an old tin shed look with paint, and decent interior decoration. Someone did a really excellent job. They also had a small, but unfortunately noisy, cafe on the premises. One of the staff told an interesting tale of how sandalwood is a parasite on other tree, and how they plant appropriate companion trees (initially fast growing), then slower growing trees, as the sandalwood matures. You could see the two lots of trees planted nearby, and we had seen some (but not recognised them) at other places in the Ord River irrigation area.


We were staying at the Kununurra Country Club resort, near the Tourist Information place, and across from the Police station. The room was conveniently located near the pool, and there was even easy access from the car parking area. The room was large, with sufficient space to put all our stuff inside. We would need some rearranging of the luggage to fit everything conveniently in the car.

Took a walk with Jean to Coles for milk, orange juice and bananas for breakfast. We did a fairly long walk, and the humidity bothered us both by the time we got back to the spacious room, and turned on the air conditioning.

Dined at Kelly's, in the Kununurra Country Club resort. Good service. My rack of lamb was excellent, and Jean's barramundi received no complaints either. I had a New Zealand Momo Pinot Noir. The trouble is, after all that eating, we basically sat in the room reading our books and did not do much else.

Sunday 23 May 2010


I woke up about 2:30 a.m. and could not get back to sleep with the noise from The Cool Life air conditioner, even on low fan. It also hunted its temperature setting, and varied by several degrees. As soon as I decently could, I started doing our laundry (the staff had already started using the giant industrial laundry machines). Modern industrial washing machines and dryers have a built in timer, so you can readily see how long each stage will take. I set my iPhone timer to warn me when each stage was complete. Laundry was complete by a little after 8 a.m. as was breakfast.

My early morning walk through Kununurra did not reveal anyone selling a newspaper (or anything else). I went for another walk around 10 a.m. The humidity was draining, but I did get photos of much of the town. Even the caera did not like the humidity, and it kept baulking at actually taking the photo. The IGA only had Friday newspapers. The Coles had a Weekend Financial Review, so some papers had reached town. I got us some honey for breakfasts, since we had lost ours crossing the border into West Australia.

We drove out to check the lake and Ord River views, and I also took photos of more parasitic sandalwood trees destroying their host trees.

Zebra Rock Art

The good luck was Bruce and Dianne Livett's Zebra Rock Gallery Cafe on Packsaddle Road, 14 kilometres south of Kununurra. We saw the sign and decided to investigate. This did turn out to be the shop we had last dealt with in 2004. Still had the stone cutting workshop out the back, and the peacocks wandering around the gardens. We had Devonshire tea (well, milkshake for me) while we considered how much rock we could fit in the car. A couple of packets of the rocks from the workshop for carving and final polishing. Two very nicely selected roughs already shaped as fish, and which we would use for bookends. A half round piece with slots that I thought would fit an iPad as a stand.

In the main gallery, Jean kept returning to an elegant tall and thin piece giving the impression of a wading bird with upraised bill. We both thought that would work well in our art niche. Jean got a pair of stud earrings. Then she kept returning to one of the tall carved vases that had really nice detail in the rock. Eventually Jean decided that we needed that as well. It was a sort of expensive day by the time we had all that packed in bags and boxes. Not to mention that I have no idea how I will manage to arrange our luggage now.

On the way back into Kununurra we refuelled the car ready for the morning. We also bought another half litre of the chocolate obsession ice cream we like so much, since that service station stocked it. That did not last very long after we got back to the room.


I took another afternoon walk through Kununurra in yet another futile attempt to find the Weekend Australian newspaper. The IGA were best for giving hope. Usually today, or maybe tomorrow. We open at 6:30 … but the papers don't arrive until eight or nine. Right!

After all that ice cream after lunch, I could not manage dinner. I had the tomato and capsicum soup of the day (well, actually soup of the week), and that was enough for me. Jean had the rack of lamb, which seemed entirely different to the rack of lamb I got the previous day. I had the Momo Pinot Noir again, since it had been excellent.

We organised to pay our bill that evening, in the unlikely event we manage to leave early. It turned out that Jean had pre-paid our room nights via one of the booking services. We were back in our room, checking out our photos (1590 so far) on our computers soon after eight. I also carried about four loads of newly reconfigured luggage out to the car. There is no way all this will fit well.

The poltergeist in the bathroom turned out to be a green tree frog. It had knocked the small containers of shampoo and conditioner off the shower stand onto the floor of the shower. I caught the frog and took it outside to a large pot plant, in the hope it would find that a more congenial home. I have no idea how the frog managed to get inside the bathroom, as there is no window.

Monday 24 May 2010

Back To Northern Territory

I could not sleep past about 3 a.m. what with the noisy The Cool Life air conditioner in our room. It sounded too loud even on fan low. We were both up at a reasonable time, and were away from the Kununurra Country Club before 7 a.m. for the 510 kilometre drive to Katherine. Alas, Jean refused to allow me to buy some chocolate obsession ice cream, on the illogical ground that she would have to help me eat the half litre. The West Australian portion of the drive has a speed limit of 110 kph, but we were at the border by 7:30 a.m. Change our clocks to Northern Territory time, by moving them up 90 minutes.

There is not much to say about the drive. Plenty of spectacular scenery. Keep River National Park was closed. Jean got me to drive at our second rest stop. We crossed Pint Pot Creek, and Quart Pot Creek, but never found a gallon pot. The weather cleared up soon after we left West Australia. In the Northern Territory we encountered four verge mowing tractors, which seems a lot of equipment. A quartet of motor bike riders passed us, but had to stop frequently for fuel. We saw one lone bicycle along the road. We also saw a recently burnt out trailer.

We stopped at midday at Victoria River for a small amount of fuel, and large chicken and salad sandwiches for lunch. Back on the road at 12:30 p.m.


I pulled into the shopping centre at Katherine before 3 p.m. To my delight, the newsagent had The Weekend Australian. However here instead of $2.20, it costs $4.80. Jean also let me buy some cans of Coke. Jean is better with traffic, so she took us to a service station where we refuelled. Second last cheap fuel for three days, I suspect. Then off to the Accor All Seasons motel outside Katherine, where we stayed on the outward trip.

The Accor All Seasons Katherine has lovely large rooms. Alas, someone had cleaned the carpets very recently. We ran the ceiling fan at high seed and did other tricks to try to dry the carpet. We did not like the fumes we encountered.

Had dinner at Galloping Jacks at the All Seasons. Jean again had the plain (giant) pork cutlet. No pork ribs available for me, so I had my first steak of the trip, their rib fillet. That was very nice. Jean's Acard also got us a very substantial discount (50%) on the meal (although not the wine), which was nice.

Got to sleep around 10:30 p.m., about the equivalent of 9 p.m. West Australian time. Got a very good night sleep also, for once.

Crushed Tree Papers

I notice newspaper proprietor Rupert Murdoch enthused about electronic readers meaning no paper, no printing plants. It's going to be great, he is quoted as saying in the Financial Times. I would link to the original quote, but it is behind a pay wall. Murdoch says all his papers will end up behind pay walls (and he will not let Google index them in future). Way to go if you want to become totally irrelevant, instead of just right wing obnoxious.

Now The Australian says it will launch a monthly subscription for the iPad, at $4.99 introductory price. I generally buy The (dead tree) Australian twice a week, for the Tuesday computer section, and the Weekend Australia. Plus first Wednesday for the Australian Literary Supplement. Cost of these works out to $15.50 a month. Newspapers make their money from the rivers of gold, their advertising. The Australia reports they have already sold out of iPad advertising, which will be served via DoubleClick (for those of you wishing to block advertising at your router).

I predict this iPad application for The Australian is going to be one gigantic cluster fuck of annoying advertising content. There is already a real good way to distribute readable media. It is called a web page. The problem for newspapers is people expect web pages to be free.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

To Renner Springs

I was awake at 5:30 a.m., which for me was a good night sleep. We went to breakfast around 7:30, once again getting a 50% discount on the $11 All Seasons hot breakfast. We were well fortified for the drive by the time we left on the long and somewhat boring drive along dead straight roads. With the Northern Territory main roads being signposted at 130 kph, we made good time. Were it not for all the stops to get the kinks out of our bodies, we would have made excellent time.

We left Mataranka at 9:40 a.m. We took most of our rest breaks at little rest areas along the Stuart Highway. However we also stopped at any interesting looking roadhouse. The Larimah roadhouse was totally collapsed, so I took photos of it (and also of the Telstra fibre optics line warning). We took a rest break at the Threeways near Daly Waters, where there was a five bar Telstra 3G phone signal. There were cattle, mostly brahmen, wandering alongside the road. Also, unfortunately, one dead cow along the road. We saw a couple of eagles eating roadkill, or soaring, as we have on many days.

We had lunch at Dunmarra, with Jean getting a giant chicken and salad sandwich, and I had an ice cream. What I should have done was refuelled at Dunmarra. Fuel was much more expensive 100 km further south at Elliot. Fuel was even more expensive at Renner Springs, almost $2 a litre.

Renner Springs

We were stopping overnight at Renner Springs, despite arriving mid afternoon. We went for a walk to the springs and lagoon. Jean got attacked by bull ants. Jean's shoes got partly eaten by the mud. It seems it has been raining here at Renner Springs for the past three days. I was all set with my camera for Jean to be menaced by the gander and a few large geese, but she wisely ignored my invitation to visit the large birds.

Jean had a steak sandwich (bread made on the premises) with the lot, while I had steak sandwich with salad. Both were large. Jean got additional bacon, eggs and pineapple in her steak sandwich. We got a bottle of cleanskin South Australian cabernet merlot to complement the meal. Total cost $35, which is not bad for a meal for two.

Internet access was not so easy. No Telstra phone connection. NomadNet had a $10 for 20 MB card, which Jean bought. At least she caught up with her mail. I am not really expecting another Telstra connection for a day or so.

Literature as Kindling

I notice headline writers conflate literature with books. Not the same thing at all. Books are what are sold in mass at 30% off at Woolworths and Coles. Literature is books that hardly sell at all, in any one year, but may be available a hundred years from now. Spirit of Literature Turns to Kindling is Louise Adler's take on e-books.

She concentrates on flaws in the Amazon Kindle business model, rightly pointing out the content is insular and American. Amazon is American. Their publisher contracts are from the USA. Terrestrial copyright is the problem. The world is now global. You can no longer squat in a corner and overcharge because there is no global competition.

She says you hire the work. Absolutely spot on, as long as you buy anything infested with Digital Rights Management. Which is why any publisher who does not move to an open format (like the music industry did) is going to be ignored. If pirating a book gives me a better product than buying it, just what is my incentive to buy?

Get down to cases. The local, highly protected, book selling industry are already in trouble. They will soon be in a heap more trouble. Their overpriced, late appearing, badly produced books will be somewhat displaced by badly produced (but cheaper) e-books. If you are in the book trade, think about your future career prospects when sales drop 30%. You have at most half a decade. I sure will not miss you.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Leaving Renner Springs

I was up around 5:30 a.m. taking notes about the trip on my computer. Jean had suffered badly from some sort of insect bites at Katherine, and was showing angry looking bite marks. Jean was also on computer, since she had paid for 20 MB of WiFi connection from NomadNet. The cloud cover had reached the ground, with a low mist that covered the place in white. We decided we had plenty of time to get a hot breakfast. The bacon and eggs were gigantic, with tomato and hash browns and a bunch of toast. I could barely manage to eat it all. We did not leave Renner Springs until around 9 a.m.

Jean drove south to the ThreeWays turnoff, where we refuelled, so as to have a full tank for the long stretch to Queensland. We stopped at a few bores, basically to stretch our legs. Unfortunately hit a large wading bird that flew in front of the car, about 60 km before Barkly Homestead. Jean bought a sandwich at Barkly Homestead, to have later. She ate that at Saudan bore, where the trees and ponds seemed full of willy wagtails. The wagtails and I got some of the leftovers. It sure has rained a lot around this area. It was not until we approached Queensland that the country again appeared dry.

At Avon Downs, an isolated Northern Territory police station, the police were breath testing motorists. No need to pull off the road for testing, as there was not enough traffic to worry. The timing would have been about right for people having a liquid lunch at Barkly Homestead, and then continuing their drive. We had wondered why one vehicle had flashed lights at us about 50 km previously, but had seen no police nearby. I never drink at lunch if I am even possibly going to drive, and we use the cruise control extensively while driving for speed control. The Avon Downs police did have a message for our Avalook web site readers. Don't steal their driver reviver coffee. Don't wash your cutlery in their hot water.


Jean took over the driving into Camooweal, where we were staying overnight at the Shell Roadhouse. There is a painting crew staying onsite, changing all the signs to BP green. They offered an overspray of Jean's car, which she declined. Meanwhile, the BP service station in town is about to become an independent, although no-one knows where they will source fuel.

We had stayed in Camooweal at least once previously, across the road at the Post Office Hotel. This was when we parked out motor home in their camping ground. I went to the post office and general store, in case Jean wanted additional supplies. Naturally they close at 5 p.m. so I had to phone Jean to ask if I should buy milk. She said no, which was good, as while I was asking, someone used the last litre container. Luckily Telstra had phone connections in Camooweal, although the signal strength at our motel was low. The connection dropped out frequently. No Australian newspaper available. As the agent said. Someone bought the copy. Was that perhaps the Tuesday issue? No, that was the Weekend Australian.

I was somewhat saddened to notice that the museum and the old fashioned general store next to the service station are now closed. So is the independent service station a little further along. Many country towns now seem to be supported economically only by travellers and grey nomads. It is a real pity.

Jean eventually decided to get a steak sandwich for dinner. As with lunch, I made do with scraps, namely motel biscuits, and a small chocolate bar. After all the eating on previous days, I may not eat much until breakfast. We did each have a Magnum ice cream for dessert. Packaged foods like ice cream are expensive here ($5), while the home style cooking is very economical and typically far more food than I can eat.

The room was comfortable enough, and had bright lighting. Bit of noise from the painters surrounding us, as State of Origin was on that evening. I had not really even been aware which day it was on. I never did find which side won.

Reclaiming Your Living Space

I see the major advantage of electronic media to be their size. Sure, a computer takes some space (an iPad far less). However it is not a matter of the computer replacing one movie, or one CD, or one book. It is a matter of the electronic versions replacing all of them. My music CDs occupy shelves of space. DVD shelves run to around 20 linear metres. We do not even want to talk about the 40 or so bookcases. These too can be replaced. By a very small (and reasonably cheap) computer storage device.

Moving my books took an entire furniture van. The books and bookcases occupied an entire room, with just enough space left over to squeeze around the edges of the room when trying to organise it. Moving an iPad is just picking it up, and sticking it in your carry bag. There is a certain convenience factor there.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Leaving Camooweal

We were late arising, but eventually we could hear the painters getting about. I was actually awake soon after 3 a.m. I read news on my iPhone, and later brought my computer notes up to date here in Camooweal at the Shell Roadhouse.

We had the small bacon and eggs for breakfast. I asked about the difference between the $9.80 small and the $11.90 large. They waved their hands vaguely, and explained it was bigger. More bacon was mentioned. The only way they could have fitted more bacon on our plates would be to change to an even larger plate.

We got another $25 of unleaded fuel (about 15 litres) at Camooweal as we left around nine, to ensure we could reach Mt Isa. Jean was concerned the fuel gauge did not budge. Fifteen litres should have moved it by a quarter tank. It seems likely something is now wrong with the fuel gauge calibration. The fuel gauge also had hardly changed when we reached Mt Isa, 190 kilometres further east. We refuelled, and filled the tank at Mt Isa. Fuel at Mt Isa is $1.30 a litre, far different to the $1.99 in the middle of Australia. Jean had me take over the driving here.

We continued on to Cloncurry, around 125 kilometres further east, arriving just after 1 p.m. We knew there was a very nice bakery there. Jean had one of their pies. I had an apple turnover with cream. After that breakfast, I should have tried to avoid lunch. At Woolworths we collected milk for breakfast, cheese for Jean's dinner and snacks, and some bread rolls and apple turnovers, also for dinner.

The countryside is fairly dry, and very boring. Mitchell grass as far as the eye can see. Very few scrubby bushes, mostly scattered and isolated, except by dry riverbanks. There is cattle here, and it has obviously rained fairly recently, as the cattle are putting on weight pretty well.

Towards Richmond

I was driving from Mt Isa on. Cloncurry was an easy drive. Continuing on to Julia Creek was fundamentally boring. There are a lot of road trains on the roads, but speed limits tend to be 110 kph, so you move along fairly well. Continuing on to Richmond there is a fair bit of road construction. This leads to slow travel. By the time we reached Richmond after 5 p.m. I was getting tired of driving, tired of boring Mitchell grass, and tired of avoiding road kill.

About the only incident was overtaking a road train that we could see was loaded with copper anodes from Mt Isa Mines. We had seen the red hot copper anodes being loaded during our surface tour of the mine in Mt Isa.

We checked in to Entriken's Pioneer Motel, where we stayed on the outward trip. The owner was having problems with Quicken, however it has been far too long since Jean or I used Quicken (they do not make Australian versions of Quicken for Macintosh or Linux) for us to contribute much advice.

Our dinner was bread rolls from Cloncurry ... but first we ate our apple turnovers. We were even too tired to drink a beer or the Oak chocolate milk I had bought back at Woolworths. No chance we would have managed to lurch along to the pub to buy a proper meal.

iPad Delivery Status

I had an early morning email from Apple. It seems Apple have shipped my iPad today, according to their web site. TNT knew nothing of it as of the morning. However TNT did have a listing up in the late afternoon. It seems the iPad was collected at Mascot on 24 May at 9:21 a.m. This was probably direct from the flight in. Held by TNT depot from 15:22 on the 24 May. Reached Brisbane at 8:56 a.m. on Thursday (today). However the paperwork was not electronically lodged at Mascot until 15:33 on Thursday at Mascot. Seems TNT pre-position for deliveries. The Townsville depot had their paperwork printed at 16:10 Thursday (today). That was the status when I updated from the TNT web site via my iPhone at 8:30 p.m. this evening. I must try again in the morning.

Meanwhile, we are still 500 kilometres from Townsville. We are not fast drivers, nor do we typically get away early each day.

Friday 28 May 2010

Home Again

It got cold again so far inland, despite being in the tropics. I sure did not realy want to brave the shower. The sulphur fumes from the bore water were also a distraction early in the morning. We made a hasty breakfast from our fridge supplies, and were on our way before 7:30 a.m.

This is mostly pretty boring country. I drove the first 112 kilometres to Hughenden, where we refuelled at a pretty reasonable price. There were a lot of road crews out, with flagmen and traffic lights, so it was a bit of a slow trip. At Hughenden, we came upon an entire goods train loaded with copper anodes from Mt Isa Mines. Jean took over the driving (she actually likes to drive) from then on.

We had another 243 kilometres to Charters Towers. We reached Torrens Creek at 10 a.m. and paused to drink our chocolate milk while it was still cold. Another very short break at Homestead at 11 a.m. Refuelled in Charters Towers at midday. We finally reached Townsville just after 1 p.m.

Settling Back In

There sure were a heap of items stowed away in out of the way corners of the car. Must have taken 20 minutes to find the last of them. It took a lot longer to put them away. We had a mailbox crammed with material that will take several days to get through. Mostly stuff is a bit old, and we missed several events. We also missed several items of mail. Duncan brought over a couple of pieces of mail that had been left at the front door, one of them from the day we left.

There was a note on the front door from TNT, to say my iPad parcels had been left at Reception. When we were a little more organised, I walked over to reception to collect them. Caught up with Jo-ann, Meryl and Penny. Seems I need to catch up with Ann for advice on the next bit of the solar energy paperwork, if Dwayne has actually connected the panels.

On checking the zebra rock sculptures, we realised that our art niche is larger (well, taller) than we thought, and the zebra rock smaller (shorter). Maybe we need to also use a plinth?

Saturday 29 May 2010

iPad Data Plans in Australia

I asked some phone company stores at Willows Shopping Centre about iPad data plans and pre-paid data. When T-Life opened, the Telstra folks had to check back office. They said they would have something on Wednesday about Telstra Pre-paid MicroSIM for iPad.

The Optus folks had on hand a $50 unlimited data pack. That was a good start. However their area coverage is poor. Telling us to stick to coastal areas does not cut it. They could not give me a copy of their price print out (internal company store). I later tried Optus online. The web site has no visible content whatsoever. Do'h!

I checked Vodafone coverage online, and found that their MapShed map web site basically does not work at all. Also, they only have UMTS 2100 MHz and 900 MHz coverage. Outside 2100 MHz areas, you will have (slow) GPRS service only.

I checked 3. Their map application gave a location over 2000 kilometres away as their nearest store. These phone companies have to be joking!

These were the only iPad data plans listed by the Sydney Morning Herald when they did an article on the iPad.

I want 850 MHz coverage for iPhone or iPad in country areas. Unless you live in a major city, you can forget anyone except Telstra. Who usually overcharge relative to everyone else.

iPad Applications

I spent a fair amount of time buying and downloading applications for my new iPad. These are mostly magazine subscriptions, to see what the iPad is like as a magazine reader. I am kind of expecting most to be either a PDF equivalent (instant fail), or a rewritten web page (pointless). I rather fear I will be wasting considerable time deleting some of them.

APC Magazine, from ACP Publications. This is basically their monthly computer magazine, at an in-app cost of A$8.99 (the printed magazine is $9.99, if I recall rightly). The free application is a placeholder for subscription content. It seems a functional equivalent of briefly glancing at the cover and table of contents in a news agency. I can not see any advantage (to me as a potential consumer) of an application vs simply looking at a web site. An RSS feed would make far more sense. I realise magazines are scrambling to find a way to get paid for content they put on the web, but that is not my problem. There are plenty of free computer news web sites (a few of them not too bad). Selling a web site as an application just does not interest me. Maybe an initial free sample issue (perhaps with even older content) would have persuaded me to try a subscription, but I do not think it would. Deleted without subscribing to the content. Rated * (it didn't crash).

Financial Times (U.K.) is a Murdoch newspaper, most of which is behind a pay wall. This application acts more like a sampler. About a dozen stories (with first paragraph) on a typical newspaper front page with vertical scrolling. The stories seem complete, on another page that scrolls horizontally. I guess they figure the highlight is three videos you could view. So far it looks like a very incomplete (and not particularly consistent) user interface. This is advertising sponsored, until July sometime. Rated * (as it may have more content in the future).

Power Bills Up

Electricity prices to rise yet again, following privatisation. The government appointed independent Queensland Competition Authority approved a 13.29% electricity price rise from 1 July 2010. Energy Minister Stephen Robertson would not use his veto powers to override the rise. This is the fourth electricity price rise since 2007. The 2007 increase was 11.37%, 2008 increase was 9.06%, 2009 increase was 11.82%. Now for 2010-2011 the increase is another 13.29%. The cumulative increase in electricity prices since 2007 is 54.23%

When opening the electricity market to competition, the Queensland government claimed competition would put downward pressure on prices. In 2005, Premier Peter Beattie said we can guarantee that no one will pay any more in the deregulated market commencing in 2007.

Only a third of the price factors for electricity suppliers were rising coal and gas prices. 60% was network and transmission costs as the electricity grid was expanded to new areas. Nine percent was retail selling costs, including advertising. Frankly, I can not see why such selling costs should be considered by the QCA.

Sunday 30 May 2010


I was much happier with the weather today. The sky was clear, rather than overcast and dark like Saturday. As a result, I was up early. Got back from my two kilometre walk around 6:30. Alas, what I should have done was start some computer updates while I was away from my desk. Maybe Monday? On the other hand, I did start the last lot of laundry left over from our trip. The clothes were all hanging out on the line to dry a little after 8:30 a.m.

Today was also the first time this month that I watched television. Meet the Press on Ten, plus Insiders and Inside Business on the ABC. About the only TV shows I watch these days are public affairs programs.

I hid inside most of the day, failing to get enough junk out the door. Late afternoon, Duncan came over with a pot of basil for us (two varieties at least). His looking after our garden had done wonders for it. Looked far better than when we left. I gave him a little liquid gift, as partial reward for his fine efforts.

Ray rolled up on the trike. As we were all chatting, Allan and Mary arrived home. Mary brought a radio over so we could hear how the ABC is now getting interference. Sounds like 100 Hz. Seems very local to her house. Ray showed her how to switch off the hot water heater, so she can see how the solar hot water works. We need to test that for everyone. Then Iain the security guy rolled up. We were having a real block party before long.

Oil in Gulf

What makes anyone think the Gulf oil blowout will ever be capped? Exactly who has the expertise to cap a well that far under the sea? The increasingly shrill United States government? Not likely. The military, as some former military leaders have suggested? Not their area of expertise. Sure, both could eventually organise the same level of expertise as currently exists in the oil industry. However at the moment, only the oil industry has much of a chance. To do something never before done. You can not put odds on how likely they are to succeed.

Before you dismiss me as a Cassandra, remember Darvaza in Turkmenistan has been burning for 37 years. The Centralia, PA coal seam fire has been burning since 1962. Engineered environmental disaster has a long history.

Magazine Charges

I see you have your brand new e-magazine. Now, how much will you charge for it? When the web appeared, magazines ended up rushing into putting content up for free. That was the existing model of how the web worked. However, for a business, free content does not pay the bills. Changing from web sites to tablet applications is a way of changing that pricing model.

Bill Mickey writes on Pricing Magazine Apps. Robust pricing, around the same as paper, is what is being attempted. Several Australian magazine publishers are charging news stand prices, or very close to it. I am sure the publishers will get these prices, from early adopters, for the first few editions. However will initial sales bring repeats?

Besides which, there are probably three billion devices that can display web pages, mostly badly. There are two million iPads. Puts the sales figures in perspective, doesn't it?

Will e-magazine publications eat paper magazines? I doubt it. I think you will end up with essentially the same circulation. However your costs will be increased by doing three editions. The paper, the e-magazine, the cut down web site. Magazines need a different work flow, where all three editions are generated (mostly automatically) from the same source. I do not believe most are there yet.

Monday 31 May 2010


It is cold (by tropical standards) this morning. I got back from my (belated) morning walk about 7:15 a.m. I could hardly feel my fingers. Luckily the sun is up now, and that is warming things up nicely.

Showed the iPad to Clive and Helen at lunch. They seemed surprised at how nice ebooks are on the device. This is not an unusual reaction.

Tried doing some printing, following a phone call from Geoff. First page worked fine. Rest were blank. I could just see faint impressions on some of the pages. Looks like my luck with printers gumming up is continuing. I hate printing. I have not owned a reliable printer in the past decade. Maybe they would be better if I used printers more than once every few months, but I have no need to print anything normally.

iPad Magazine Applications

I notice comments that Bonnier's Popular Science did a good job of their app. However at twice the price of the USA paper edition, I am not seeing the consumer value here.

Wired Magazine announce their new Wired Magazine iPad application. Not sure why Wired ever was a smashed tree edition in the first place. However it is over a half gigabyte, so watch your download limits.

The Monthly is a public affairs magazine covering Australia.

2 million iPods Sold

Apple today announced two million iPods sold to date, since its USA only release on 3 April. This is less than 60 days. Sales outside the USA commenced on 28 May, although pre-orders were accepted. Apple also say 5,000 iPad specific applications available. Apple sold over 300,000 iPad on the first day of sale. Apple sold their first million iPad in 28 days. It took the original iPhone 74 days to sell their first million. It took iPod two hears to reach two million sold. I did not have figures to hand, but I believe these results also exceeded the USA launch of either Microsoft's XBox game console or Sony's Play Station 3.

The Apple iPad has been criticised for just being a big iPod Touch. This is true, but only in the sense that a swimming pool is just a big bathtub (not an original observation). The Apple iPad has been criticised for having fewer facilities and a higher price than a cheap Windows netbook style portable computer. This is also true, but only in the sense that complexity is not the same as functionality. There have been tablet computers for a decade. Most people do not even know their names.

iPad RSS Newsreaders

Net News Wire is an RSS news reader that syncs with Google Reader, so all your feeds are identical no matter which device you use. I have versions on my Mac mini, my iPhone, and now on my iPad. The syncing via Google is the bit that is most handy.

The Early Edition is a RSS news reader that does not (yet) sync with Google Reader. However it does let you customise your feeds, plus web pages, blogs and Twitter, like a daily newspaper. Visually interesting.

Pulse News Reader from Alphonso Labs is yet another news reader for RSS feeds. Uses Google Reader. Can only handle 20 feeds. This was a Stanford University Launch Pad project, I gather, by two graduate students. Put together in five weeks.

Recycling Waste

It is no secret I think recycling is mostly a waste of time and money, except in large cities. However it is probably also a waste of energy in smaller cities. Townsville has a recycling bin collection every two weeks. Visy Recycling again have the five year contract, at a cost increase to residents of $540,000 a year, to $2.7 million a year. The increase reflects freight costs to Brisbane, over 1000 kilometres away, where most actual recycling occurs. Just how much energy is used to take waste 1000 kilometres or more?

So, when you dutifully and carefully sort your rubbish into waste and recycling, what actually happens to it? Glass is removed, and taken to landfill. Glass demand is currently so low it is not worth recycling it. I wonder what other recycled materials go straight to landfill?

Eric Lindsay's Blog May 2010