Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 May

Monday 1 May 2006

Jaycar Gadgets

I made up some lists of gadgets I wanted to buy, if Jaycar or Dick Smith had them. At Jaycar I wanted their cheapest miniature CMOS colour camera, so I could test an IP addressed camera controller. Plus an electric strike for a lock, so I can see if that can be fitted to our doors. I also wanted to check out their new amplifier with the remote volume control, as I had never seen it reviewed anywhere.

Tuesday 2 May 2006

Drive to Townsville

We drove off from the Whitsunday Terraces after breakfast, just after 7, stopping to check if mail had arrived (no), and to collect the newspaper as we passed the newsagent. We drove fairly steadily until we reached Inkerman, where as usual we stopped to buy their chicken salad sandwiches as an early lunch. We reached Townsville around 11:30, and went shopping.

We ended up at Jupiters, the casino hotel, around 3:30, where we gave up on any activity for the day. Jupiters was way upmarket compared to the usual Ma and Pa motels we select, but Jean had managed to find a good deal on Wotif over the internet. It was interesting to stay in a bit better hotel, even though the location was perhaps not as convenient as some, unless using a car.

We went to their buffet for dinner. Not a bad selection of foods, mostly presented well. I liked the desserts, which Jean thought too sweet.

Shopping in Townsville

Jean did very well at clothing stores, and other places. I didn't find anything, however we skipped the store I mostly thought would suit me. I think having a nearby BigW is spoiling me for the DVD search. We did manage to get some medical bills taken care of.

Wednesday 3 May 2006

Drive to Cairns

We didn't get away from Jupiters until around 9 a.m. Late arising. A late and large buffet breakfast in the hotel. The bill for dinner buffet, wine and breakfast buffet was impressive by our standards.

We decided to stop at Jaycar on the way out of town, so I could collect a few gadgets. I got their cheapest miniature CMOS colour camera, so I could test an IP addressed camera controller. Plus an electric strike for a lock, so I can see if that can be fitted to our doors. The audio amplifier with the remote control hadn't been released to stores as yet, which does tend to explain why I had not been able to find a review of it. The speaker wall stands looked too wide to fit to my bookcases, so I guess my home made speaker stands remain a while longer.

We were headed out of Townsville by 9:30, despite this shopping stop.

Although we drove north on the Bruce Highway at a steady pace it seemed to take a long time to get anywhere. The further north we went, the more overcast the day. We stopped at Ingham and at Cardwell for comfort breaks. Cardwell was damp and full of annoying little mosquitos. As we went through Babinda and Innisfail we could see many indications of how battered this area of the coast was after Cyclone Larry. Trees down and uprooted in many places. Banana crops destroyed. Many houses with tarpulins on the roof. Many destroyed homes and sheds and businesses. Plus it was raining yet again, in these wettest parts of Australia.

We reached Cairns and the Rydges Tradewinds hotel just before 3 p.m., and parked in their underground car park so the car was out of the sun. We made a couple of trips to unpack the car into our room.

Jean quickly located the people attending the Online Documentation conference, and got invited along to a few events. I wandered off to the shopping area to collect some milk for Jean's tea, real milk being superior to the UHT treated stuff. Couldn't resist getting a bottle of wine, in case of shortages after some dinner while we were at the hotel.

We visited with the online documentation people at the kind invitation of the organisers when their program items ended. One of the people I talked to at length was Jane, who fans may recall by the name Taubman. Jane was actually staying at a different Rydges to the Tradewinds, thanks to confusion from her company when they booked. Turns out there are three Rydges in Cairns, and this Tradewinds one was taken over so recently that some of their signs had not changed as yet. Jane mentioned that Jonathan Scott, who some Sydney fans may also recall, had moved from the USA to New Zealand to take up an academic position. It was great to catch up a little.

When the Online Documentation people went off to dinner, we wandered The Esplanade and ended up at the Coffee Club at the food court. We did notice people from the convention wandering up and down in little clusters.

Thursday 4 May 2006

Rydges Cairns

We had been impressed by Rydges Canberra when we stayed there for a couple of science fiction conventions in the past year or so. When the Online Documentaation conference turned out to be at Rydges Tradewinds (one of three Rydges in Cairns) it seemed reasonable to check them out. Alas, unlike many US hotels, internet access was not included, and cost an extra $20 a day.

The breakfast buffet included with our room tariff was pretty impressive. Cereal, breads, hot food, and Japanese items for the many Japanese guests. I expect to eat well at breakfast.

We deliberately did a fair bit of walking through the town during the day, as part of Jean's exercise program.

Every now and then I encountered a few of the Online Documentation people and had a brief chat with some. Jean saw rather more of them.

After dark we set out by car to collect Alan Bostick and Debbie Notkin from Cairns International airport, although they had flown in only from Sydney after attending a conference near there at Colloroy. Luckily it is fairly easy to find the airport, once you locate the turnoff, although I parked at the wrong end of the car park area for collecting people from Virgin. No great problem, despite the length of the terminal when you exit via Qantas. We don't drive at night even near home when we can avoid it, so we never find it all that easy in a strange city.

After settling Alan and Debbie in the hotel on the same floor as us, we all went out for dinner. We eventually ended up in the food court on The Esplanade. Not top of the line, but at least it was easy to find something everyone could eat. I was sneaky and had ice cream.

Friday 5 May 2006


Nothing for me to do in the morning. I wandered a fair way up Florence or Musgrove Road (the Bruce Highway) trying to locate the Jaycar store Jean had seen as we drove in. It was near the Dick Smith, and turned out to be a local computer store running as a Leading Edge and as a Jaycar stockist. Took me a good half hour to walk the distance, but I got a chance to look at these stores, plus several computer stores. I am getting very tempted to buy an aluminium case for CDs. Then I could get them off my bookshelves, and high up in some closet out of the way - the music is all on my computer anyhow, so I don't need access to the CDs very often.

I think we checked Office Works or perhaps the large shopping centre as part of Jean's walk that afternoon. We did eventually manage to find a half dozen bookshops in the central Cairns area. QBD, A&R, and several independents, one of which was also a comics shop. I only bought two books, both tech related.

Dead dog party of the Online Documentation people in the Tradewinds bar. We went along to chat with people Jean knew. That was a lot of fun, as I do know a few of the people. Plus the bartender put out free bar snacks, pre-ordered by a regular group that couldn't make it to their evening. Sometimes I think fans have strange hobbies, but actually it is almost everyone. I don't spend my time changing the operation of automobile engine management computers (although I know some of the principles), so I had a great time chatting with one enthusiast in this area.

Soon after that all broke up, Alan and Debbie happened into the bar so we sat around talking a little longer. The bartender gave us helpful advice on places and walks to check out on the Daintree drive we planned for Saturday.

Saturday 6 May 2006


I set out well before breakfast to collect the Saturday paper when the newsagent opened at 6:30. Got a blister on my foot from my walking pace. Turned out I need not have rushed.

At their suggestion, I managed to book the same reef trip than Alan and Debbie were planning for Sunday, before we met after breakfast for our drive.

Car problem. Dead battery. It appears one of the interior map lights had been left on from when we collected Alan and Debbie at the airport. Most of the lights get turned off automatically when you turn the engine off.

The car delayed our departure to the Daintree rain forest area by an hour or more, and it is a fair drive through sugar cane and cattle country. We stopped on the way to collect a packed lunch, while one of us took turns to keep the car running. Eventually we had to stop for fuel, but the battery was well and truly charged by then. We were still able to get Alan and Debbie across the Daintree River on the ferry and as far as the beach at Cape Tribulation, despite intermittent rain. We took only the one boardwalk through the rain forest. The commercial boardwalk also looks interesting, but at $25 a person seemed a bit over the top. We didn't have time for the other walk, and we were all fairly tired by the time we drove back to the hotel. This was Debbie's first tropical rain forest trip, although Alan had lived in Hawaii and was used to it.

I think we all simply went to the food court again. Unfortunately Jean was not fooled this time. No ice cream for me.

Sunday 7 May 2006

Barrier Reef

After an early breakfast, we all walked down The Esplanade. Alan, Debbie and I were taking a Barrier Reef trip on Ocean Spirit cruises to Oyster Reef and to Upolu Cay. The scheduled vessel had a broken oven so we were on a different one to usual, and new even to the crew. The vessel was a large catamaran, very lightly loaded with only about 50 tourists. The main deck was one large salon with large window areas, leaving plenty of room, especially as some people sat outside despite indifferent weather. I was hiding from the sun, as usual, emerging into the open only when I thought I might get a photograph.

Reef areas being close inshore off Cairns, we only had to travel around 16 miles. Morning and afternoon tea was provided, and there was the usual refreshment kiosk, although unlike most in the fleet, our particular boat was not licensed.

As usual for reef trips, stinger suits were available for hire at $5, and are a sensible precaution so close to stinger season. This left the entire boat apparently populated by strangely shaped, somewhat unfit looking super hero costumed characters.

Oyster Reef was a shallow reef, especially at low tide, with waves breaking over some parts. There were plenty of areas for snorkelling. The 24 divers in two shifts rarely had any water deeper than 8 metres. I dived down to the bottom a few times, but most of the good looking coral was much closer to the surface. Despite the many years since he last dived, Alan had no problems. Debbie had her first try at using a snorkel, and reported enjoying it. Even with water temperatures of 26 degrees, I get cold fairly quickly and didn't stay out as long as some people. Good range of coral, some with a variety of colours. Plus the fish life was plentiful. All very attractive. I don't think you can ever get tired of looking at coral reefs.

I was pleased to see good lookouts being kept, plus a lookout boat in the water at all times any customers were in the water. Plus the crew did signout sheets after each dive area, and head counts by two people. Good to see precautions being taken.

Smorgasbord lunch with prawns and tropical fruits as we sailed to Upolu Cay. This was a small sand island, with shallow surrounding reef areas. They had a large beach buggy glass bottom boat there for taking customers ashore, and then you could walk out on the sand to the reef areas before snorkelling. The reef had been damaged by Cyclone Larry a month before, but fish life was still abundant.

We returned to port around five, comfortably tired from the swimming.

Jean and I had dinner at Rydges Latitude 137 restaurant (the number is a street address, for those who recall this doesn't work for navigation) as we had a coupon for a discount, and didn't have to walk anywhere. Jean suggested a main salad, and a whole barramundi, as she wanted fish and salad, and we shared the two dishes. That worked well, and the barramundi was great.

Monday 8 May 2006

Rydges Cairns

After breakfast Jean and I set out for a walk. The weather was threatening so a return to the Jaycar area didn't seem like a good idea. Also the distance was a bit of a problem if it started raining. Instead we went to the casino (which was shut until 10 a.m. anyway), and then sought some little arcades we thought we had seen on previous walks. Not many extras to be found.

We stopped at the large central shopping centre, however Jean and I were both too tired to do much looking around. We did however find a Subway where Jean could collect a salad for lunch. I was surprised to note the prices for the sub sandwiches were far higher than at Airlie Beach, being say $10.90 instead of $7.95. Perhaps a factor of the cost of being in the shopping centre.

Jean kindly pointed out an iPod sign with a large Apple, so I got to visit an Apple dealer in Cairns. I had failed to check that an Apple dealer even existed here. This was the iShop, 116 Grafton Street, Cairns.

The iShop was not too busy, so for the first time I got to hear an Apple iPod HiFi boom box playing classical music with which I was familiar. I thought it lacked top end, and said so to the dealer. On checking he saw the iPod driving it was set for bass boost. Treble boost instead was way too bright and lacked bottom end. Running it in normal helped somewhat, but I didn't think the top end was all that good for classical music. The volume and effortless projection it was capable of was amazing for such a small box. Sound image was better than I expected, given it is a single box. Surely they are doing some sort of stereo effect enhancing? If I wanted it for rock music I think I would be very happy, but I don't feel it manages as well on classics. It was still impressive.

We went to the shopping centre, however as on our previous walk, Jean was too tired by then to do much checking of shops. She bought herself a Subway salad for lunch, rather than search further, or try to again find the one we passed earlier.

On our return walk to the hotel I stopped in at the iShop, and bought a 2 GB first generation white iPod Nano (S/N 7L552Z3RSZB), and a few other items. An iWorks book, and a video connector for my iMac. I have wanted an excuse to play with a iPod for ages, despite not thinking they are precisely the right gadget for me (I think a PDA with MP3 player would be a better match). I still don't have any real excuse for getting an iPod, but at least the shopping was convenient.

We all had an early dinner together at Barnacle Bills. This was a place Jean recalled from earlier visits to Cairns. The food was fine, and the prices competitive with restaurants nearby, all of whom gave 20% or more discounts for early dining. The restaurant was very sneaky. Instead of a dessert menu, they brought around a tray of samples. We could resist a menu, but not resist having the sweets shoved under our noses.

We also had a nice Evans and Tate Classic white that tasted excellent. Given that Jean and I consulted regarding the wine list, Debbie asked about our lack of concern about the screw top seal. In the USA, it appears that screw tops on wine are still seen to indicate a low quality bottle. Cork taint related losses of up to 4.9% over the years have accelerated the movement away from corks for wine in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Portugese corkmaker Amorim, the largest in the world, is being sued for selling corks not of merchantable quality. Alcan say about half of the 1.1 billion bottles of wine produced in Australia use screw tops, often Alcan's Stelvin closure. We have had plenty of bad bottles with cork (at one stage it seemed in every case), but never lost a bottle with a screw top closure. Works for us.

We said our farewells to Alan and Debbie that evening, as we planned to leave early next morning for the long drive home.

Tuesday 9 May 2006

Cairns to Airlie Beach

We attempted to leave the Rydges Cairns early, as we had a 650 kilometre drive home. I again walked to the newsagent when it opened around 6:30 to collect the paper. Between final packing, a large breakfast, checkout, and getting fuel, it was around 8 before we got away. Traffic was heavy leaving Cairns at peak hour so the first kilometres were slow. The damage done to the Bruce Highway by Cyclone Larry ensured there were numerous stops for repair crews to let us through. It wasn't raining in Innisfail this time, so we took a photo or two. The park there looked very different, with almost all the trees stripped of everything.

We pulled up in Townsville at the Sizzler at 1 p.m. and managed to get away again after lunch by 2 p.m. We made excellent time towards home. Even with a stop at Cannonvale to collect a Red Rooster chicken we were home at the Whitsunday Terraces by 6 p.m. Unloading the car and unpacking seemed to take far too long.

This turned out to be Federal budget night, so I watched Costello's speech, and then the commentary after it. Lots of giveaways, clearing the way for a set of even greater election giveaways next time. The superannuation changes were the most interesting item, as they help clean up some of the mess of past changes.

Wednesday 10 May 2006

Shopping Budgets

We took an early morning walk, in a desperate attempt to lose some of the weight a week of eating hotel breakfasts had put on us. Got most of the newspapers available.

We managed to get the food shopping done at Bilo at an almost reasonable hour. Leonards surprised us by having filos available, so we bought all eight they had on display. Jean eventually contacted our cleaner, who said she would come on Thursday.

I am not sure I managed to get anything of use done all day. I spent a lot of time reading the newspaper budget reports, for whatever good that ever does. Sounded like good news for self funded retirees, especially in terms of more flexibility about work and retirement income.

Thursday 11 May 2006

Skunkworks Display Arm (1)

Wasted much of the day catching up on email and news feeds. I did manage to start my ANZAPA contribution finally, but didn't get much done.

Our neighbour Jim knocked on the door that evening. He handed me a compact but weighty package which contained a Skunkworks articulated arm mount for a display, the same as they use in their office. Since I never get around to billing him for helping with their computer problems, this was a reward. It is a very heavy duty item, as solid as I have ever seen, while still being an attractive design. It has an industry standard 75mm and 100mm VESA mounting plate, which alas (and stupidly) not all displays accept.

Friday 12 May 2006

Skunkworks Display Arm (2)

There was nothing particularly wrong with the original stand on my Dell 2405 LCD display. It swivels, it tilts 90 degrees, it has two heights (the higher of which is needed when the display in portrait mode rather than landscape). However a fully articulated display arm like the Skunkworks Marco 145 is even more flexible. 180 degree horizontal swing at base, elbow and swivel at display, plus tilt to any angle, fully height adjustable, and gas lift support to make movement easy. The Skunkworks arm can reach up to 730 mm, which isn't bad at all.

That was enough reason to complete the work on my desk and get the room organised with the desks along the front of the bookcases. The 60 cm Dell display sat at one end, where it could connect to the Powerbook and to the VCR and DVD. The iMac sat at the other end of the 2.1 metre long desk. Seemed like a reasonable layout for my work area. Plus I had space for the music keyboard on the 1.6 metre desk.

Saturday 13 May 2006


I collected the Saturday papers, which again had some extra material on the budget changes. A bite for breakfast. I wasn't really expecting too many market stall holders to be around, as rain was threatening. Well, more than threatening. I got wet. However two of the people I wanted to catch up with were there. I took my purchases home, collected the books I wanted to take to the market, and together with Jean took a second walk. Just as well we timed it when we did, for most of the rest of the day it rained on and off, despite not really being rainy season any longer.

Sunday 14 May 2006

Bookcases to Bedheads (1)

Whenever we had been near a furniture store we had checked for a bedhead to suit our replacement bed. Had absolutely no luck. We finally decided we had no choice but to do our own. Early plans for buying lots of wood and doing lots of work rapidly changed to using whatever could be most easily converted into something that stopped the pillows from escaping down the wall, and included some storage space.

We decided that three of my 490 mm wide 240 mm deep bookcases would be pretty close. They were 900 mm high, just about the same height as the bookcases on each side of the bed. I wasted much of the day removing books from all six of them, and even more time trying to find some clear space on the floor to stack them.

Monday 15 May 2006

Bookcases to Bedheads (2)

The modifications to the bookcases were fairly minor. Just one shelf to move in each of them. Electric screwdrivers help. Jean selected the three bookcases that most nearly matched each other and the existing bedside bookcases in height. Jean also marked up where the new shelves went. Modifications didn't take too long, with much of the actual time doing something else while the (non-sonic) screwdriver recharged. The result didn't look too bad, although we would like to get some sort of covering for the top of the new bedhead. It would let us pretend it was designed, rather than just sort of happened.

Tuesday 16 May 2006

Bedheads continued

Just when I thought I was through with bedheads (except for stuffing some of the books into it) Jean decided today was the day to get all the screws out of the old bedhead pieces we removed when the waterbed was taken out. Lots of crooked angle brackets, all holding bits of painted wood together. It seemed every screw had ruined heads. So we had looked for an EzyOut. Didn't find them. A Grabbit kit costs $50. Ouch. Finally found a single screw extractor. Didn't work. We eventually had to drill out just about every confounded screw to salvage the wood. What a pain.

Wednesday 17 May 2006


Apple brought out their Intel replacement for the iBook consumer portable. I didn't realise they were going to do that now, given I hadn't noticed any launch events around this date (except for the rumours, of course). Thirteen inch display, as expected, replacing 12 and 14 inch. All with Core Duo, and good clock speeds. USB, 400 MHz Firewire (but not 800 MHz), Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth, WiFi, VGA camera built in, can run an external monitor. 60 GB or 80 GB drives. 1.83 GHz, or 2 GHz clock speeds. The video is shared, rather than a graphics card. Apart from the video, no attempt at doing a low end model. It sounds pretty impressive. Available in white or black (extra cost). I think they will sell well except for people who are determined to get the lowest price, and that has never been the market Apple aim at.

Interesting model range. The Intel iMac and MacBook Pro look virtually identical to the earlier PowerPC based models, as does the Mac mini. Only with the MacBook does the appearance change, and superficially it is still rather similar. No sign of a replacement for the 12 inch PowerBook, however the MacBook has better specifications anyhow. I would still love to see a really lightweight travel model, like say the Fujitsu Lifebook, however I am not sure it will happen. This leaves only the PowerMac with the G5 processor. That was expected to be the last to change, as twin dual G5 CPUs are pretty quick. Plus it will be a fair while before Intel have appropriate CPUs, and even longer before Adobe CS applications get converted.

Thursday 18 May 2006

Photocasting (1)

According to the Apple photocasting web site, it seems to involve iPhoto 6 creating a website photo gallery from a photo album. The tricky bit is that if someone else has iPhoto, they can subscribe and see changes to your album. The gotcha factor is that it must be published on Apple's dotMac web area. The bugger factor is that although photocasting also involves an RSS feed for non-Apple users to subscribe to, Apple does not appear to produce RSS feeds that others can understand. Houston, I think we have a problem here. However who knows. Some people claim it works fine. Given iTunes works with lots of RSS feeds, I am unsure why Apple decided to do weird things in iPhoto.

Friday 19 May 2006

iPhoto 6 features

I liked the claim it can handle 250,000 photos (up from 2000 in iPhoto 2, 25,000 in iPhoto 4, and broken for my Pentax camera in iPhoto 5 thanks to the exif Maker note problem). So far the performance seems far better. The enlarged transparent scroll guide panel showing which film roll you are viewing is handy. The full screen viewing and editing is really cute on a 20 inch display. The effects mode is sure to waste heaps of time.

Books are not much use when they are not available in your country. However the feature to turn a photo book into a slide show may provide an alternative, as would printing to PDF.

Calendars are no use, nor are the postcards and greeting cards, except in countries where that printed product is available.

Online publishing using iWeb is a disappointment. I dislike iWeb, due to the sort of pages it produces. They are bloated, slow loading, lousy for search engine position, and do not take advantage of semantic markup at all. I think users doing more than a page or two for immediate family will soon become disappointed with the results, pretty though they are. I believe Apple should have left the previous web based option also available from within iPhoto.

Calendar, year and month views are fast and handy. Being able to apply comments to an entire roll of film is nice for organising for future searches. Hierarchical folders are a welcome feature.

Saturday 20 May 2006

Desktop stand (1)

We cut up the plywood to make a corner stand for Jean's desk. Very little waste, although we still can not decide exactly how the legs should best be done to look reasonable. We do not have enough stock of any one size of wood to make all the legs the same.

Walking to Cannonvale

We finally got our walking distance up enough to walk the whole way to Cannonvale. Well, at least to the nearest bus stop, not as far as the shopping centre. The long hot summer really put a cramp in our (pause for laugh) exercise program.

Sunday 21 May 2006

Labour productivity low

If a fruit picker works 12 hours a day instead of 8 hours, they may pick 50% more fruit. If instead they work 50% faster (picking half as many fruit again each hour) they still pick 50% more fruit, but in an 8 hour period. Australia, the former land of the long weekend, now has one of the highest levels of hours worked per year in the OECD. However it also has one of the lowest levels of labour productivity.

OECD figures show we produced US$35 GDP per hour. The USA is US$44, a little ahead of Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Belgium, France and the Netherlands are even higher than the USA. France has 68% of the population working, against our 74%, but they produce over US$47 an hour. Usually higher workplace participation means more marginal workers, and less increased productivity for each additional worker. The Netherlands have about the same labour force participation rate as Australia, the same total annual productivity as Australia, but they work 460 hours a year less!

No wonder some people think we need to continue industrial relations reforms. Just increasing the hours that you work isn't viable in the long run.

iPhoto 6

After finding my camera exif maker note information was not compatible with iPhoto 5, I had been reluctant to move to iPhoto 6. However I finally decided I had so many more photos that I simply had to find out whether iPhoto 6 solved the problems iPhoto 5 created. So I set it to converting the 6500 photos.

Not good. iPhoto 6 locked up after converting thumbnails. All the fans took off, faster than I have ever seen them go before. CPU fan 4400 rpm, hard drive fan 5872 rpm, system fan 4000 rpm. I finally killed off iPhoto 6. I decided to install the 6.0.3 upgrade, just in case there was a first install issue. It was a long time before the hard drive fan started ramping down, and by then the CPU temperature was about 48 degrees, well down from the 56 degrees it normally maintains (CPU temperature had skyrocketed while the iPhoto data conversion was going on). CPU fan is also finally ramping down. Long afterwards, the System fan also started ramping down. I wish I had a better idea of what the Apple engineers decided about how long to run their fans when the system is stressed. These speedups happen so rarely that you normally don't really notice what is happening with the fans from day to day, as they don't often move above their normal low (and quiet) modes.

I decided that I might as well install all the other Apple system upgrades.

Monday 22 May 2006

Desktop Stand (2)

We decided we needed to put a beading on the front of the corner stand, to make it look a little better after paining. Sanding the plywood into a curve didn't seem likely to look good, and doing it would be a pain without a router. Four hardware stores and timber yards later, I was pretty well convinced that you simply could not buy 12mm half round fly bead anywhere in the area. Some 30mm, some 9mm, but no 12mm.

Meanwhile, we did figure a way to make the supports for the stand. Involves another bunch of cuts in the lower of the two shelves, so that all the fixing is hidden from view. I will do that when we get a rain free day.

iPhoto 6

iPhoto 6 seemed to be working OK after the upgrade. It changed all the iPhoto 4 and 5 file storage from being date based folders, to a set of year folders, with film rolls within them. Must be keeping some internal counter of what the film roll number is. However you can change the roll name within iPhoto, and the folder changes. I had long ago used Image Capture to prevent iPhoto from automatically download from a camera. I hadn't put any more photos into iPhoto since my problems with iPhoto 5. I used Finder to put related photos onto a CF memory card, and then used iPhoto 6 to import from the card. A dozen and a half repeats of this import routine and I had my most recent few thousand photos in iPhoto, and I had more sensible roll names for them.

Tuesday 23 May 2006

Google Maps

Google finally have nice maps of streets in Australia. I believe they have not been out for long. So here are locations of some of the places where I lived.

466 Elizabeth Street, Zetland, NSW Australia image and then a map

103 Hillcrest Avenue, Hurstville Grove, NSW Australia image and then a map.

Map of 6 Hillcrest Avenue, Faulconbridge, NSW Australia followed by a move to 43 Chapman Parade, Faulconbridge, NSW Australia.

Golden Orchid Drive, Airlie Beach, Qld Australia low resolution image and much improved but obsolete map

Wednesday 24 May 2006

Apple iPod HiFi

I am not sure that I believe this one. Apogee Audio imitation of the Apple iPod HiFi, even claiming the same iPod HiFi specifications according to this flyer, and adding a radio. Note the weird rear mounted speaker. Maybe the entire thing is a Photoshop trial.

Oil runs out

Late year at the opening of the Australian chapter of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, Swedish Professor Kjell Aleklett of Upsala University pointed out that the 65 oil producing countries would not meet demand when 54 of them already had declining production. One percent of oil fields, in desert countries, produce 50% of all world oil. Current world demand of 85 millions barrels a day would expand to at least 115 million barrels a day by 2025. China's 21% of the world population takes only 8% of oil and gas, whereas the USA with 5% of the population takes 25% of consumption.

Thursday 25 May 2006

iPod Nano easily scratched

Scratch complainant Jason Tomczak didn't actually bring the case. Jason says some ambulance chasing lawyer acted without his agreement. Now Jason is trying to clear his name.

My own reaction to reports that the iPod Nano is easily scratched was to buy a better case for it than the one Apple provides. If it is scratched before the battery dies, I'll consider it too fragile. If not, I will figure I blew a little money on a needless case. Either way, no big deal, except it would make me delay purchasing any new iPod or case until first reports were in. Not buying first release products is simply good sense.

Friday 26 May 2006

Worthless Water Tanks

Is installing a rain water tank worthwhile? In 2005 the Housing Industry Association in Victoria estimated the cost of installing a new rainwater tank in a new home, with plumbing to one toilet, to be $3792. The interest on this in a 20 year mortgage at 6.5% is $2993. This also assumes no annual maintenance or repair costs, which is unlikely. Water is however so cheap that the best water bill cost saving likely is $55 a year. This is only a fraction of the annual cost of a water tank.

You don't want to look at how stupid an even more expensive solar hot water system is.

Saturday 27 May 2006

iiNet stock slump

iiNet stock is expected to slump when trading resumes on Monday, after a profit downgrade. iiNet is the third largest ISP in Australia, and has just received a $10 million investment from the PowerTel network. PowerTel are paying only 85 cents a share and taking a 13% share, although iiNet shares were trading at A$1.69 when trading was suspended several weeks ago. The combined company will be second largest in their number of ADSL connections. iiNet growth over the past few years has included rapid acquisition of other companies, and integration of these companies may have been a problem. Telstra, the giant in the field, are expected to continue to trouble all the smaller telecos by price hikes for access to its last mile network and exchanges.

I am mostly keeping an eye on this because iiNet provides my network connection, via the local Telstra exchange. Which means like all those in country area, my ADSL is so slow it would not even called broadband in many countries. Hosting my own site content is totally pointless die to even slower uploads.

Slow printing

I tried printing two pages each including 9 photos and captions from an iMac to an HP2550L Postscript printer using Pages. The printer receive light flashed for ages, but nothing printed. The Pages file seems to include the original sized photos (18 at almost a megabyte each) making it a monster 17 megabytes. Printing to a PDF revealed a file the same size, so I imagine that is the amount sent to the printer, probably over a USB 1 connection. Still, even a slow USB connection should manage that in under a minute.

I switched the printer off and on, and sent a single page printout instead. Eventually got a printout. It took 9 minutes. Sending the same file with a copy count of 60 still took nine minutes for the first printout, but subsequent ones were fairly speedy. I am not impressed. What if I wanted a 20 page printout?

Walking to Cannonvale

This time we managed to get all the way to the shopping centre, not just to the first bus stop. Then we wimped out by catching a taxi home, thus avoiding the twelve flights of steps up to our apartment.

Sunday 28 May 2006

Abortion lowers crime rates

Not good if you were the one aborted, of course. However economist Steven D Levitt and New Your Times Magazine writing Stephen J Dubner pointed out in an article (and later in a 2005 book Freakonomics) that USA crime rates started dropping in 1991, around 18 years after the Roe and Wade verdict by the USA Supreme Court upheld abortion rights for women in 1973. They claim the 15 fold increase in people in USA jails from 1980 to 2000 (2 million in jail in 2000) only accounted for a third of the crime rate drop. Fourteen percent more police account for 10%. They think the rest of the crime drop was due to abortion. 50% of these aborted children would have grown up in poverty, and 60% with one parent.

Aid Costs

The question is how much should aid cost? After the generous Boxing Day Tsunami donations to aid organisations, may of these organisation claimed their overheads were as low as 3%. If not outright lies, these claims were at the very least based on suspect figures. For example, dividing overheads into total funds received, rather than by funds delivered to victims. I would be interested in how much reached the victims. Overheads are treated as being costs like fundraising and administration. They are not defined as ongoing costs of distributing aid. Again, the figure I am interested is how much was actually received by the victims. When you look at this, overheads expand by a factor of three or four, exceeding 12%. Plus some organisations simply do not report costs outside Australia as part of their overheads. Isn't it about time there was some standard controlling the reports of these charities?

Monday 29 May 2006

A gene for whites

A little old, but SLC24A5, a Putative Cation Exchanger, Affects Pigmentation in Zebrafish and Humans explains about a third of pale pigmentation in European derived humans. As expected, it became of use when humans moved out of Africa, and didn't get as much sunlight exposure, thus increased vitamin D production was of use. Looks like a single minor genetic variation changing only one aspect of melanin distribution.

Is Richard Florida's Creative Class all bullshit?

Steve Malanga argues against Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class, and thinks a lot of the support is based on wishful thinking. Worse, the economics of it do not work.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

Broadband, fraudband

Telstra are doing a FUD political play to make it seem essential that city areas get fibre to the node access to the internet. I am pleased to note iiNet challenge the fibre to the node myth. Running slow 256k to 1500k ADSL connections to the home is enforced by Telstra settings. It is not a physical limit of their wire connections. If you are close to a Telstra exchange, far higher (real broadband, not Telstra fraudband) access speeds are possible. iiNet and Internode DSLAM equipment in Telstra exchanges routinely provides customers with speeds exceeding 8 mbps.

The major reason for Telstra to extend fibre to the node is to lock competitors out of the new wiring. There certainly is a problem with competitors grabbing customers in areas that provide good returns, as in a CBD. The only way I can see out of this is to split Telstra, and make Telstra Countrywide responsible for wiring to uneconomic regional areas. Then these areas either get (politically disastrous) slow infrastructure (or none at all) or else regional areas are explicitly subsidised.

Wednesday 31 May 2006

Strong bones after bed rest

Why do bears that hibernate still have strong bones after resting for months? If humans are confined to bed, our bones get brittle as osteoporosis strikes us. S W Donahue and others report in the Journal of Experimental Biology [2006;209:1630-1638] that hibernating bears parathyroid hormone production increases when they hibernate, whereas in human it does not increase when they rest. They have identified the bear gene responsible for parathyroid production, and produced the hormone in the lab. If it increases bone formation when added to bone cells, it may help osteoporosis, and also space travellers.