After breakfast I went with Jean to Galaxy bookshop in York Street, Sydney. I guess we didn't get many books. On the other hand, Jetstar only allow you 20 kilograms, and 14 books were heavy. Besides, that was only the start of the shopping.
Jean was off to the airport around 11 for her flight to Broome.
Back to Jaycar to get a digital multimeter to supplement my other model. Their Digitech QM-1324 seemed great at $40. Only 3.5 digits, but sufficient for what I need. DC voltages from 200mV to 1000 volts, AC from 2 volts to 700 volts. DC current from 2mA to 10A, AC current from 20mA to 10A. Resistance from 200 ohms to 20M ohm. A handy capacitance check from 2nF to 200uF. One item I really wanted was the inductance check, from 20m Henries to 20 Henries. Just what I need for speakers and crossovers. It also has a handy frequency counter from 2kHz to 20MHz. Comes with a temperature probe good for 120C to +200C. Plus transistor hFE and a diode test. The great price of gadgets like this always surprises me.
York Street is pretty good. Four bookshops, five electronics or computer shops, all opposite Queen Victoria Building.
Apple dealer store in CBD. I was hoping for something new, but the internet tends to preclude surprises. I think I must be missing some CBD dealer.
Apple dealer store at Broadway. Larger, but sometimes feels disorganised. Being a Saturday it was busy, so after checking there was nothing new, I left.
The shopping centre on Broadway once had a fine bookshop on the top floor, but I knew that independent chain had run into financial problems. Now it was a Dymocks, but the floor area was halved. Workers were doing changes that appeared to be for a different shop in the excised area. The limited range of books remaining was such that I could find nothing. Very sad.
On the other hand, the Coles bottle shop had some splendid bargains. I needed a bottle or two for entertaining on other days.
Graham came into the city, and we had lunch in Chinatown. A little food court about one arcade away from George Street. Had the best lemon chicken I have encountered (although this actually indicates almost everywhere else does it badly). We went looking at bookshops, as you would expect. Did a lot better than I expected, although we somehow managed to miss the Antiquarian bookshop that was plainly obvious the next day in York Street. Actually York Street behind the Queen Victoria building is great for bookshops and electronics stores. We had an excellent time in one bookstore there, closing down. Alas, many former bookstores were closing, or had already closed. Graham unfortunately was not feeling well, perhaps not fully recovered from a previous illness, and had to leave mid afternoon.
I caught up with Ron, Lindsay, Layna, Brian, Tim, Gordon, Martin and by surprise Helen from the people I once worked with at UTS. As on previous visits, much of the catching up was over lunch at one of the numerous University cafes. I had organised with Martin for him to visit also, and this was close to an annual visit for him also, despite working nearby. Helen happened to be lunching at the same place, so as on a previous visit, she joined us.
Before leaving UTS, I went with Gordon to Computer Science, and caught up with tales of IT and ITD from Spug and Peter. I wouldn't want to be working there again, with a bigger merger, given I was more than slightly reluctant about combining with CompSci just prior to leaving. Great people, but I really fear the influence increased size. I am just not a large organisation person.
Rain. But probably not in the dam areas where rain was needed.
I met Gerald Smith and we wandered off to a wonderful cafe at the Grace Hotel in York Street. It was good to catch up with him, given the many changes in his life over the past year.
A meeting with Barry T and Kevin Dawson at UTS, with organic chemistry diagrams on the whiteboard. Too many factors in what Barry wants to do. I doubt I can help.
Layna kindly provided a cake for afternoon tea, so I got to talk with a bunch of the people at Maths again.
Ted Scrivner had told me about Fans In The Pub, at the Civic on Pitt and Goulburn. The people attending included Garry Dalrymple, Ted Scrivner, David Bofinger, Chris Barnes, Zara Baxter. I am missing two names, as the roll call totalled eight people. Alas, the room previously used was being modified for poker machines (perhaps due top the smoking bans?) Hearing anything much in the pub was a problem. However David was headed to the east coast of the USA for a few weeks. Zara was headed for the U.K.
Some of us went up the street for dumplings for dinner after the pub. It was pretty good. Not as noisy as the pub either.
This was my day for frivolous shopping.
After complaining at home that I couldn't find any very small frying pans (for heating up a snack or sandwich toppings) I finally found some 12 cm blinis pans as I was leaving David Jones. I guess they are some fancy brand name (Chef Inox). Plus I wouldn't know a blinis if I slipped on one (OK, sort of like a French crepe, if a Russian does it, and has it with salmon or caviar). I didn't much like the metal handles, even if they are epoxy coated, as I suspect they will get too hot, but I haven't seen any other suitable pans in Sydney. The staff member in that section mentioned to me that there was a discount if I were to get two items. Not having any better idea after another inspection, I just bought two blinis pans. Also, I thought I would be getting very close to my airline luggage weight limits, which rather restricted what I bought. Actually, I probably could have added one more kilogram.
I bought a NiMH AA battery charger at Jaycar. They come with 4 rechargeable batteries, and on special cost less ($12.95) than the NiMH four batteries that were included (disclosure - their declared capacity is slightly less than some other batteries). Somewhat later I realised I actually needed six batteries for the Songbook radio, so I bought another one of the chargers. That left two batteries to replace the failing rechargeable batteries I use in my camera.
I just realised something in which Sydney leads Australia. Car theft. Eight out of ten of the top spots, with Mount Druitt, Blacktown and Liverpool leading the parade. Go Sydney.
I managed to catch up with John Fox at work at UTS for about 20 minutes. On my previous visits I had been discouraged by the closed sign on the audio video store. Also, I managed to deliver Jean's Asimov and Analog magazines to John. This must have been why my baggage sneaked it a kilogram under the weight limit. Just think, I could have packed something else.
Rail travel is something that several of my friends encourage, so in the spirit of experiment, I used the underground Cityrail that goes to East Hills via Mascot and Sydney airport domestic and international terminals. My hotel was only about three blocks from central, so dragging it across the park wasn't too hard. Apart from Mascot, I have no idea the route taken by the train. The train is a normal suburban one (which means no special luggage area for baggage). Plus the price is a staggering $12.20. At Central there was a lift to the platform, something that I believe is now widespread at Central. It worked very well. The train service appeared to be frequent, and I arrived at the airport well before I needed to be there.
The good news ended there. Poor signage left it unclear which terminal I needed. I was aware Jetstar were owned by Qantas, so among with others attempting to decide what the signs meant, I was left pondering whether a JQ flight number meant going to the Qantas terminal, or to the Virgin terminal. I finally decided on the Virgin (and other airlines) terminal (mostly based on what I had noticed of the baggage area when arriving). At the check-in area the departure indicators carried only the next two hours of flights. If someone didn't already know that Jetstar will not accept passenger luggage until two hours prior to a flight, they may still have been confused. I think that could be handled better.
The good news is that the gate areas have been revamped, with a brand new food court. I am much in favour of fast food operators at airports, as it changes your options from expensive bad food to cheap food of a known standard. There was a McDonalds, a Subway, a Sumo Salad. I got a kabab at a Sahara shop that advertised its meat was Halal. It also had some nice looking Turkish sweets. I figure with nervous passengers worrying about any Muslim influence, a franchise place with Halal food probably needs all the custom it can get. It tasted pretty good also.
The plane for the 4:50 p.m. Jetstar flight to Proserpine arrived late at Sydney. It didn't reach Whitsunday Coast Airport until 7:45 p.m. A lot of the taxi folks were off shift or not available, so most of the maxi taxis were at the airport rather than at Airlie Beach. The taxi I got managed to fit 11 people in, which didn't impress a few of the larger visitors. Got home at the Whitsunday Terraces about 9:30 p.m.
I was astonished to still feel wide awake. Took care of my unpacking, and even recorded my credit card expenses, and DVD purchases, usually a task for several days later. Watched some bad TV until way too late. I did however sleep well.
At least, stay away from the new next generation replacements for DVD. The just released HD-DVD, and the soon to be released BluRay video players are having a bad case of Beta vs VHS problems. It is like buying 8 track tapes. Buy now and regret your choice as one or the other disappears. Or perhaps, like SACD and DVD-A audio formats, both will have problems in the market, and not be a success.
Easiest solution is not to buy at all. Besides, your new HD Ready TV is totally inadequate for real HD unless it can handle 1080p. This means your TV must have a resolution of at least 1920 by 1080. Hardly any of them do.
The major reason outright slavery and servitude have mostly disappeared in developed countries is that we have enslaved energy in place of human muscle. The cheap fractional horsepower electric motor means we don't even have to wind up our car windows. Check your home and find dozens of motors. Fridge, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, blender, and so on. Doing the family washing was once a tiring multi hour task. Now it is trivial. Kneading dough for bread took ages. Now you set a bread making machine to the task.
Two hundred and fifty years ago we had almost no energy to play with. Water wheels, wind mills, and similar trivial sources. Fossil fuels like coal made the big difference. We use over 350 billion, billion joules. The 18 fold increase in commercial power use over the past century drove a 19 fold increase in gross global production at purchasing parity prices. Over the past decade or so we have made more efficient use of energy, but despite this, energy demand is still doubling every twenty years or so.
Renewable hydro power produced 6.5% of world use, and nuclear another 6.4%. unconventional sources like geothermal managed a paltry 1.4%. Fossil fuel use continued to increase, although gas is increasingly important and the rate of increase for coal is lower. Developed countries tend to stabilise their energy use, mostly by de-industrialising to cheaper countries.
Developing countries typically expand their energy use by a factor of three or more over a single generation when industrialisation takes off. Taiwan and South Korea are examples. If China and India follow a similar pattern, and half the population end up using the same energy pattern as Japan (half that of the USA) then by 2030 they will use three times the energy the USA uses. Energy demand in the world will be five times present by mid Century.
Why does China bother to purchase coal from Australia and Brazil? China is not only the largest coal user in the world, it is also the largest producer of coal. It has more than two million people working in coal mines (and 6,000 of them die each year in accidents). Australia exports around 120 million tonnes of coal a year, and by 2004, prices for hard coking coal had risen to US$125 a tonne. China used to export 10 million tonnes more than it imported.
I think the iPod could replace the CD player. When Stereophile magazine did an Apple iPod G3 portable music player review in October 2003, that was an early crack in the hi-fi world. Normally high end audio ignores MP3, MPEG-4 AAC and similar, and even lossless formats like AIFF and WAV. All of which the iPod can play, so the user can choose the quality they demand. Stereophile point out the iPod is a data storage device. The obvious overlooked implication of this is that although a CD is a data storage device, it is primarily a data distribution device. As Internet pipelines get faster and cheaper, physical distribution becomes increasingly irrelevant. Of course, tracks available only in AAC, say from the iTunes store, are basically not worth buying except for restricted uses.
The measured audio output of an iPod is excellent, despite some issues. Better than the majority of CD players. On the other hand, this is only the old 3rd generation model. Components have changed in the fourth and fifth generation. Still, if an iPod is hi-fi quality, do you need traditional hi-fi? Actually, for most people, the real question is whether you should care.
Ask the customer if they would recommend your company to their friends or associates. Adage articles says asking this works. Most surveys do not. Too long, so many people will not co-operate. Then the results of such surveys bias towards the seriously pissed off, willing to spend the time complaining.
Ron Mancini's Op Amps for Everyone is a great cheap way for anyone to learn more about how to use operational amplifiers. Great to continue to see technical material freely available on the internet.
I had been looking for foam headphone covers for my Sharper Image sound reducing Noise Buster headphones for ages. I am sure some place in Sydney (Dick Smith at Parramatta?) have some that may fit it, but I do not seem to be able to find them in the catalogue to mail order. I finally noticed the cheap Crazy Clark store at Cannonvale had large XLogic headphones at under $4. The foam covers on these look as if they may fit my other headphones. Probably cheaper than a set of replacement covers, even if I could find them.
The crumbling foam on the Sharper Image headphones was black, sticky, and thoroughly unpleasant. After a while I tried using meths to remove it. That worked, but left the headphones sticky and unusable. I have seen the same reaction in some other electronic equipment, and it seems related to some sort of plastic surface treatment that is simply not robust. I suspect I will end up using a Dremel tool to mechanically abrade away the problem areas. Turned out to just be double sided sticky tape, which I eventually pried off.
Well, no, it didn't work. At some stage the connection was lost to one of the earpieces. No sound out at all. I guess some mechanical damage to the wiring.
Scott Howard's remarkable photo of Sydney Harbour at night has 720 million pixels (40,000 by 18,000) and occupies 1.3GB. Yes, you can zoom in on windows until you can see people in them. Made from 169 stitched together photos. Yes, you can buy various size prints.
After failing to get much at the mostly rained out local markets I collected Jean from the airport just after midday. She had a fair number of photos from her Australian Geographic Kimberly boat trip, and her Kodak camera didn't fail until almost the end of the trip. She also had about 300 photos from one of the photographers who was a tour guide.
Graphic design expert Edward Tufte has a new book out. Thoughtful design, full of ideas, well presented. His work is always interesting, and probably essential to anyone illustrating information. More on sparkline graphics also. Use a Sparkline web generator or this simple sparkline generator to make your own.
Product placement by tobacco distributors has seen tobacco incidents rise to the levels of the 1950's. Despite cigarette use in society halving, in movies use has doubled. See Tobacco and the movie industry by Annemarie Charlesworth and Stanton A Glantz for statistics. Technically the tobacco pushers have not been able to pay directly for product placement in movies for some time, but they seem to be getting around that with gifts.
At the very least, any movie in which tobacco is depicted should receive an R rating to stop impressionable children seeing tobacco use presented as in any way desirable. Let's make it very clear that smoking is unacceptable in public at any time, in any place. If a movie has a smoking scene, then an anti-tobacco advertisement must be screened prior to the movie. The producers of all films must certify, in the credits, that no payments, gifts, loans or other inducements have been received from anyone associated with the tobacco industry.
The tobacco industry are a bunch of drug pushing arseholes. In a sane society their executives would be in jail for manslaughter, and the companies would be shut down and not permitted to continue their deadly trade. There is absolutely no need to give these companies any sort of help in getting children addicted to their lethal product.
Apple AirPort Express Wi-Fi Hub-D/A processor lets you transfer audio files from your computer through WiFi (802.11g) to the outputs of the Airport Express. You get stereo line out, or optical S/PDIF. Stereophile reviewed this back in May 2005. It sounds OK, on any of the 16 bit formats it recognises. It works only at the CD quality 44.1kHz sample rate. Absolutely no point in feeding it 48kHz audio from a DVD, as that will be resampled. It is bit accurate, but the line output has considerable jitter. If you are feeding the S/PDIF output into your own DAC, this will not be a problem unless your DAC loses lock when changing songs.
Independent audio quality analysis of Apple?s portable music players is what users need when considering an iPod as a HiFi component. This test site is a wonderful resource.
Bill Macrone tests five MP3 players. The iPod Shuffle gave the best results. The original iPod Mini was poor under load (fixed in the 6GB model). Basically suggests the single-ended, capacitance coupled output stages are not able to sustain bass when loaded by the headphones. Others suggest the surface mounted capacitors are too small, probably around 100 mfd, instead of around 220 mfd like Wolfson suggest for the WM8721. The Shuffle has a two transistor push pull output stage with a virtual ground, not capacitance coupled with the output. A two transistor output stage wouldn't be all that unusual for a headphone amplifier. Easy solution would be to use a 300 ohm headphone instead of the 32 ohm Apple earbud.
Now what we need are people complaining to Apple about this and any other problem. The iPod could kill off the need for much of the high end audio hardware business, for a few cents per iPod.
I was reading an old Bill Machrone rticle on power wasting gadgets. Bill built himself an AC power breakout box, and measured the power consumption of all the gadgets that glow in the night. Just use a multimeter to measure the amps drawn, and calculate the watts. An astonishing 80 watts of computer gear. 876 kilowatt hours a year, or about A$100 of electricity. Bill thinks we should do something about this power waste.
Media companies continue to expand their internet operations. However fast moving search engines like Google and Yahoo may already be eating their lunch. Time spent by consumers on traditional media hasn't really increased from 1999. More importantly for media proprietors, advertising spending on traditional media is in worldwide decline in percentage terms. Spending on internet advertising continues to increase.
Consumers increasingly arrive at other sites via a search engine. This means advertising revenue is increasingly shared with search engines. Search engines offer pointers to and summaries of news stories, making entry to the news sites not as important for those wishing only a headline and summary. Some newspapers respond by requiring passwords for access. The New York Times may be the greatest newspaper in the world, but because it requires a password, I never link to any of its stories. Indeed, if I see it at the top of a search result, I view the search cache rather than bothering to try to get access to the original.
This is increasingly making search engines my first, last and only stop for news.
I hear Bloomsbury is waiting for an emerging standard for e-book formats and hardware. There already is a standard. It is called HTML. It is the stuff you see when you read a web page. It is an open standard. You do not need a special hardware e-book to read it. A web page written to standard can be read on a Windows computer, using Linux, on a Macintosh, on a Palm or Pocket PC PDA, on a mobile phone. As long as the device has a web browser.
Bloomsbury sells its books in four formats, because it can't decide. It uses Pocket Adobe, Microsoft Reader, Mobi, and DX Reader. Every single one of these is a proprietary format. For ease of conversion, the books start as XML documents. Of course, it would be trivial to release the original XML, if only Microsoft's Internet Explorer was set to accept that (an XML document served correctly will not be displayed by IE, although IE is capable of displaying such documents).
Bloomsbury want control. They want to lock their ebooks up so you can not move it to another device. There is an easy solution to this. Never, never ever buy any ebook in any proprietary format. If it is Adobe, Microsoft, Mobipocket or DX, do not buy it. Instead, visit publishers like Baen books, which trust you with a number of formats, including HTML. Then, do what I do. If you are tossing up between two books to buy at a bookshop, choose the one that comes from a publisher that trusts you to do the right thing. Buy Baen, not Bloomsbury.
Let us get one thing straight. Reading online, or on a PDA or phone, is a right pain in the arse. I keep dozens of books, hell, hundreds of them, in electronic format. It is great when you are stuck between flights with nothing to read, or stuck in a hotel. However reading an ebook is my last choice, not my first. If I like the start of an ebook, and the book is out in paperback, I am just as likely to see if I can buy the paperback. If it is one in a series, well, you can extrapolate the result. Sure, I can pirate books. If I could, I'd have an ebook of every book I own. I just don't want to read them as ebooks. I do way too much reading on displays as it is.
Smartphones were going to take off starting in 2000. Oh yes, and WAP was going to replace the web. I recall noting that WAP was crap. While smartphone sales are reasonably impressive, there is no chance that smartphones will exceed computer sales. For most people, a dumb phone works just fine. Plus location based services through a phone basically suck. Asking any bystander tends to be faster, easier, and frequently more accurate. PDAs still work better than data on phones, at least for the relatively few of us who still prefer a PDA.
Meanwhile, the Symbian manufacturers took a track that dropped PDA users. Fewer business features. What use is a PIM that doesn't have categories or priorities in ToDos, when it was standard in PDAs a decade ago?
I saw mention of a cheaper technique of producing photo voltaic panels without using expensive high purity silicon. Most panels were made with end cap material left over from zone diffusion of electronics grade silicon. Once demand exceeded supply, the cost escalated towards the price of electronic grade. The new material was devised by a team led by Professor Vivian Alberts at Johannesburg University. Cost forecasts are R650/60W panel. Photovolatic Technology Intellectual Property (Pty) Limited was set up to exploit the technology. In late 2005 a German company IFE Thin Film Technology GmbH obtained a licence to make the thin films.
It is made from a perfect recipe that combines five elements: copper, indium, gallium, selenium and sulphide (CIGSSe). That is, cheaper materials, and much less of them used due to the very thin film. I gather a plant may be operating sometime in 2007.
Beattie Labor government to consider piping water 1200 km from north Queensland to Brisbane. The water source would be the Burdekin Basin. A pipeline would cost A$250 million a year to run, and A$7.5 billion to build.
Feasibility study to be done. This is just another pre-election stunt, so as to be seen to be thinking about doing something. However at least if rights of way are organised, something may happen decades hence. For the moment, the cost of pumping probably exceeds the cost of desalinating water on site.
Telstra keep saying they are repositioning as a media communications company. A last desperate attempt at giant profits, instead of commodity equity returns. Who wants Telstra to supply movies, or anything else? They are one of the most hated companies in the country. The government is making a total mistake in not regarding the wire to the home as an essential piece of infrastructure, for which the company owning gets a guaranteed fixed return. Get competition in on what travels the wires, not on the wires themself. The wires are a natural monopoly. Like a road, or a water pipe.
If Australia uses nuclear power (in Victoria, since this uses brown coal), the best price you can expect for power from it would be at least 6 cents per kWh. This is double coal fired power costs. It would save 1.4kg of CO2 per kWh compared to brown coal. At least it is cheaper than wind power, at around 15c kWh. Solar costs way more. Carbon sequestration means finding someplace to put 11 million tons of CO2 a year, and that would certainly have a considerable cost, maybe 8 cents kWh extra.
Bose Lifestyle was the hi-fi I bought when I was moving here. Great spouse approval factor, since they are tiny and tidy. However Bose were a piece of absolute crap. The radio was unable to pull in stations (we are in a bad reception area). The CD section broke. I ended up using it mainly to listen to TV (where it did beat the mono speaker in the TV). Then the amplifier stopped working.
Bose get their sales through advertising, not through quality. The surround speakers are pathetic quality. The woofer is anything but a woofer. Bose is bad web site is one of several.
Toowoomba residents rejected having a quarter of their drinking water recycled from sewerage 62/38, and a good thing that is. There seem to be no specific quality standards for recycled water, no guarantee that all medicine residues and hormones have been removed from the water that emerges from treatment plants. Reverse osmosis does not remove every possible contaminant, contrary to some claims.
Much of the case for drinking sewerage is flawed. While examples are given of some cities, the proportions are very different. A tiny fraction of the water used is returned. Plus this is setting up a system that works only when a variety of technologies all perform correctly. Plus it gives private companies a chance to sell and install water factories, for moeny. In my area, the local council can not manage to prevent brown manganese gunk appearing from time to time in the water supply (not their fault). But why would I trust them to manage an even more complex system? Would you trust a doctor using needles first used on AIDS patients, even if assured they had been sterilised? Mistakes happen. That is why we pay the extra for one use needles.
Purple pipes are used to indicate recycled water. Hardly anyone objects to using it for watering plants and so on. All new construction needs to be quadruple plumbed, instead of triple plumbed. Water, recycled water, stormwater, sewerage. All renovations need to be done the same. Large water users need to be identified, and assisted in making such changes. Yes, it costs more money. As a country, we are rich enough not to drink recycled sewerage.
The cost of non-recycled water needs to go up by a serious amount. At the moment, household drinking quality water is just about free. We really pay only for distribution. Serious water costs would encourage conservation, and alternate supplies.
A government background report on water use in Australia is available.
Make every drop count There's no getting around the fact we need more water sources, reports Asa Wahlquist
With a long drought persisting in much of the eastern half of Australia, town and city water authorities are desperately juggling supply and seeking new water sources. They are drilling bores and piping water from other catchments, investigating desalination and recycling and, in one case, building a dam.
Dammed if we don't take care of our liquid assets Bernard Salt proposes an approach to damming that the whole community should be able to live with
Environmentalists won an important victory in 1982 when the green movement blocked plans to dam Tasmania's Franklin River. Not only did this action save the Franklin, it also set the political agenda for the next two decades: the building of new dams to service metropolitan Australia was officially off the agenda.
It is almost 30 years since the last dam was built in Sydney and in that time the city has added 1.1 million residents.
The nation contains more than 20 million residents; by 2050 it could well contain 30 million. If no new dams are built in the first half of the 21st century, then all Australians in 2050 must use half the water each resident uses today.
If the response by environmentalists is that all areas have equal environmental value, then I ask: What is the point of completing environmental impact statements for any project if all environments are valued equally?
One stage production I would like to see is Casey Bennatto's Keating! the opera. Fourteen songs from soul, country, funk and reggae, with no dialogue, about Paul Keating's career as Prime Minister. Collection of Keating's insults here