Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 December

Friday 1 December 2006

Spam Increases

Spam is getting worse. Ironport systems report 61 billion messages a day by October 2006, an increase of 100% in a year. By now it is 78 billion a day. Increased image spam has increased spam message sizes. Spam now uses 819 terabyte a day of bandwidth. Mind you, an anti-spam site would say something like that, wouldn't they?


I used to have a T shirt that I wore to meetings at work that particularly annoyed me. Eventually it shrank (or I swelled) until I couldn't use it. I sort of wish I could find another shirt just like it. Said something very close to this:

Are you lonely?
Work on your own?
Hate to make decisions?
Rather talk about it than do it?
Then why not


You can get to see other people,
Sleep in peace, Offload Decisions,
Learn to write volumes
of meaningless notes,
Feel important, and
Impress (or bore) your colleagues

And all in work time!


The Practical Alternative to Work

Saturday 2 December 2006

Sony being Weird

Sony have a weird Sony Vaio advertisement in Australia. A straight copy of the Mac and PC characters from the Apple advertising, done in Flash (ugh!). Flash is the pits on the web. The characters emit inarticulate noises when prodded and pinched. The female Sony Vaio character giggles when pinched, combining implied sexual harassment with idiocy, plus looking like a hooker. Great combination! Sony are just plain lame in this attempt to make their Vaio brand appear to be anything except yet another Windows PC.

Plus the advert shows the Vaio in five colours. That shows a lot of innovation. Let me see, did anyone else ever do computers in five colours. Oh yes, about five years ago, Apple did that.

That said, Sony often make good hardware. Pity that it runs Windows. It is also a great pity that their corporate culture includes proprietary interfaces, and building DRM and rootkits into their products. As a result of Sony's attitude, I will never buy another Sony product, regardless of any technical excellence.

If you want an innovative, small and especially light Windows laptop, check out Fujitsu instead.

Sunday 3 December 2006

4Ps are Dead

Slackermanager note Don Schultz says 4Ps (product, price, promotion, place) are dead because they are product-centric, not customer-centric. That very neatly encapsulates the potential change of emphasis I had failed to understand, from product to customer. I am not interested in marketing anything, and suspect that as a customer, I am a total pain in the arse.

The American Marketing Association used to say

Marketing was the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of goods, ideas and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.

Now they say

Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.

Following up this, Tom Nies says businesses ask how can we sell more of what we already have, instead of asking what the customer wants, why do they want it, and how can a business best provide it.

Monday 4 December 2006

4Ps are Dead (Product)

There are very few products for which a substitute can not be found. If a company refuses to produce what I want, I refuse to buy their own substitute. I just thought I was being stubborn, not that I was part of a change from product based to a customer based economy. Sometimes I drop a whole class of product. For example, I haven't bought a car in several decades. When a decent, low pollution car appears I will reconsider.

Arnott's, largest selling biscuit maker in Australia, were hostile taken over by Campbell Soups many years ago. I had two reasons for buying Arnott's biscuits instead of say Nabisco (which bounced when it tried the Australian market) or one of the other hopefuls. One was that Arnott's biscuits tasted good, at least to me. The second was they were Australian owned. Nabisco lost out on taste. Arnott's under Campbell made some taste changes, but mostly left the taste alone. Now there is no way that Arnott's can satisfy my conditions, since they are unlikely to be Australian owned again. So I only buy biscuits when they are on special (and I don't actually check for sales). My biscuit consumption is probably less than a tenth what it once was. The substitute for a biscuit isn't a different biscuit, it is some other variety of food, usually seasonal fresh fruit (non-seasonal fruit probably isn't fresh, especially in supermarkets).

Big Pharma is putting enormous effort into drug research, but the cost of safety testing is increasing. However many drugs essentially have a statistical effect. That is, they help some people, and not others. Customers know that eventually medical researchers will know enough to target specific cures by genome. No more mass sales, although a higher unit charge. If you happen to have a rare genome, maybe no health products. This will eventually flow into insurance and health coverage. Once human genome scanning gets down to the thousands of dollars range (and it will eventually) everyone who can afford to will do it, and expect custom medical health.

Tuesday 5 December 2006

4Ps are Dead (Price)

Selling on price alone is a dead loss (no margin), as is buying on price alone (little support). You can always find someone on the internet who is cheaper. Unless all your dealings fall into the category of one off confidence tricks, for repeat business a seller needs a relationship with a buyer.

No Advertising in Cinemas

I just read this plea to stop advertising in cinemas by Jackie Huba. I absolutely agree. Why should I be subjected to advertising when I have already paid to view a movie?


We drove the 300 kilometres to Townsville. Excuse was a book launch, but naturally we did shopping. First stop was OfficeWorks, dropping masters off for photocopying.

Spotlight had disappeared from where we expected, as had PillowTalk, so Jean couldn't get the material she was seeking. However there was a Curtain Wonderland. To our delight, they had suitable curtains ready made. Jean says she will need to cut them vertically, and we have to get curtain rod and perhaps supports, but it still appears a lot easier than making the curtains in the first place. Plus they had weights for vertical drapes. The weights in our vertical drapes have busted after 9 years of use. I bought 40 weights (and curtain chain) for testing, and that turned out to be the exact number I need for the vertical drapes in front of one set of doors. Been looking on and off for equivalent repair parts for years.

Dick Smith Electronics were a bit of a waste of time. The kits I planned to get were not available. I didn't bother trying Jaycar before we sought the Hotel Ibis on Palmer Street. Got a good price in what looked like a interior designer makeover room. First hotel I've seen in ages where there was desk space for two people. The whole street by the waterfront appears to have moved upmarket and trendy. We managed to get away from the hotel in time for a very late lunch at Sizzlers, escaping just before the dinner crowd. By then OfficeWorks had completed my photocopying.

Wednesday 6 December 2006

4Ps are Dead (Promotion)

How do you promote anything, when advertising has left an entire audience cynical. When the internet lets the audience check what other people think of your product?


First thing after breakfast was getting the car in for its service. Took a bit longer than we hoped, but Key Motors came through with a loan car for the day. The loan car was a very nice Subaru Outback, a lot sleeker than the Forester. Very nice indeed.

We discovered most of the missing shops from the previous day had moved right near the Key Motors, into something called Domain Central. Spotlight and Pillow Talk were there, so I was able to get a replacement Starwell pillow. Didn't seem as nice as the worn out Innovations mail order pillow it was to replace, but was substantially cheaper. Besides, I didn't find anything else suitable, within the time I was willing to spend looking.

I checked Harvey Norman for a replacement Jason LaZBoy recliner chair. The Lazboy web site is utterly useless, but I have been using the chairs for 20 years, and expect to be happy with a replacement also. Harvey Norman had a new model without the bulky arms. It was a Charleston recliner, in a light leather. I admit I am not thrilled with leather for the tropics. You could special order it with a swivel base for an extra $200. The model in the store was very comfortable. Alas, Jean told me it would not fit into her car boot.

Tropical TV, a Leading Edge computer dealer, had a Powerware 5110 UPS line interactive battery power supply, so I was soon set up for the cyclone season. The other gadget was a battery backed line powered twin fluorescent lamp. Jean and I already have one such lamp each, but mine is possibly over a decade old. Not sure how much longer the battery can survive, so having a replacement before the cyclone season seemed sensible. Actually if the shop had more than one, I probably would have bought two. Still, three lamps should give us close to 9 hours of battery life between all three, if we run them in single tube mode.

When we picked up our car after its service, we found a little extra ready for us to use. A fuel additive from Subaru, apparently re-badged from BarsLeaks. No idea about what fuel additives are good for, but we followed the directions when we next refuelled.

Roadkill Book Launch

Our reason for travelling to Townsville was the launch of Len Zell's new Wild Discovery Guide called Australian Wildlife Roadkill. An entertaining book launch for an entertaining and informative car glovebox book with extensive photographs about a continuing problem, roadkill. Includes a few recipes.

Thursday 7 December 2006


Took most of the morning to drive to the Whitsunday Terraces from Townsville.

4Ps are Dead (Place)

The Internet has no Place. For many smaller items, location of the vendor is now almost irrelevant. You can't compete on location.

Friday 8 December 2006

Water Treatment

Massive state government raids on the profits of water supply bodies, and almost criminal neglect of infrastructure means that despite predicted and predictable population growth in many areas, no new water supplies were provided. New dams are like hens teeth.

Nor were new developments required to provide quadruple water piping to ease conservation. Drinking water, grey water, sewerage, and stormwater. Dams and increased construction costs are both too unpopular politically.

In Airlie Beach, the sewerage outlet out in Pioneer Bay is called the Stink Pole. Take a boat past it and you will learn why. At Coconut Grove, in downtown Airlie Beach, visitors to the Saturday Markets are heard complaining about the smell. You might notice a revised pipe by the pump.

The State EPA requires sewerage plants to tertiary treat sewerage by 2008. So for that matter does the Commonwealth GBRMPA. Less than 5 mg/l total nitrates and 1 mg/l total phosphates by 2008. So what do council hope? They hope they can negotiate a later deadline. Given upgrading the Proserpine and Cannonvale sewerage treatment plants will cost $20 million, no wonder. Especially as grants will not even cover half of this.

Ocean outlets have to cease by 2010, and treated effluent disposed of on land. In fact, sold as irrigation water. This is an enormous problem. Sewerage arrives all the time. However irrigation customers are not willing to receive water except when they need it. So lots of water needs to be stored. Large ponds breed mozzies, so you don't want fresh water above ground near populations. Plus it evaporates.

Council appear to hope to store the treated sewerage and drainage in underground aquifiers. Proserpine area has suitable sites. The coastline almost certainly does not.

Council actually have a very good web page with links to their reports on these matters. Alas, the URL comes from a database which contains characters such as & not permitted in URLs, so I can't give a link.

Saturday 9 December 2006

Characters not permitted in URLs

The characters permitted in URLs are listed in RFC1738 and a more readable account of characters allowed on the web from Tim Berners-Lee is available from W3c. The only really safe characters are lower case a-z, numerals, + (plus) . (period) and - (hyphen). That is it.

Unsafe characters include < > # % the quote mark, { } | \ ^ ~ [ ] ` and spaces. Reserved characters include ; / ? : @ = and &

Sunday 10 December 2006

No Liquid Carry On

More airline security theatre, with restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols as International hand luggage. Must be under 100 ml, and carried in a transparent, resealable one litre bag. What a pain in the arse. Probably can't find toothpaste, for example, in tubes smaller than 100 grams.

Monday 11 December 2006

OSX Address Book Pictures

While adding images to address book cards, I couldn't find a way to quickly tell which cards already had associated images. In the Column and Card view, little icons show which cards are people, which are companies, and which is your own card, so obviously the icon could be altered.

I thought perhaps I could do a smart address list, however there was no test for whether an image existed or not.

Austin Kinsella kindly sent me this Applescript which lists which cards have (or don't have) a photo.

tell application "Address Book"
	set HeadnShoulders to {}
	repeat with APerson in people
		if (count of image of APerson) is not 0 then
			set HeadnShoulders to HeadnShoulders & name of APerson
		end if
	end repeat
end tell

Takes a fair while to run, but the results are basically in CSV, which is a handy format. I guess when my photos are a little better organised, I'll extract a list of appropriate photos I have from iPhoto, uniq and sort them, and compare the two lists.

Unrelated, but check Apple's Address Book help files if stuck.

OSX Address Book Maps

Right clicking an address on a card provides a context menu that includes obtaining a map in your browser. However since the maps come from Mapquest, this is of limited use for Australian addresses.

Brian Toth does a Macintosh OSX Address Book Google Maps Plugin. Seems to be updated recently, and universal. Adds Google Maps and also directions and Google Map preferences to the context menu for addresses.

On a first, very brief look, this is most impressive.

With so many of my addresses being outside Australia, I had to change the default country in the format on many of them. In Edit mode, click the label next to an address, and check the drop down list that appears for Change Address Format. I don't recall whether this facility was available when I first set up my addresses. Brian has a good faq on his Google Map plugin.

Unfortunately for those of us who set minimum font sizes of 14 in our browser, Brian's web pages about his address book plugin are not actually readable since the text overwrites itself. If I don't set a minimum font size, I still can't read the page, but that is just because the type is too small - luckily OSX can do something about that.

I really need to find some acceptable way to get a PayPal account, so I can contribute to people who do good work like this.

Tuesday 12 December 2006

BAT against Cancer

The British American Tobacco company threatened legal proceedings against the Cancer Council of Victoria. This is to prevent the Cancer Council disclosing material from leaked documents from BAT lawyers Clayton Utz. Judge Geoffrey Eames of the Victorian Supreme Court awarded cancer victim Ms Rolah McCabe A$700,000 after finding that BAT had deliberately destroyed potential court evidence. This finding was overturned on appeal.

This drug pushing bunch of scum should not be permitted to sell their addictive and poisonous products in this country. No tobacco company should be able to sell their product in Australia (if you want to smoke, grow your own).

Wednesday 13 December 2006

OSX Address Book Pictures

Since I couldn't manage to do anything that took concentration, I brought up all the photos for friends I could quickly find in iPhoto, and started adding them to Address Book. Talk about boring. Only managed to find 160 photos to cover 550 address cards.

Thursday 14 December 2006


I keep forgetting how to use SIPS, the scriptable image processing system to query and modify raster image files, built into Apple's OSX. What I would mostly want would be a way to automatically determine image pixel size, and to convert large images into thumbnails and small web page images. Man sips is only of minor help. sips -h is often better.

sips -g key imagefile or sips --getProperty key imagefile, where some of the handy keys include all, and specific items like pixelHeight or pixelWidth or format (tell you if it is gif, jpeg, png, tiff, etc.)

Image modification functions: 
    -s, --setProperty key value 
    -d, --deleteProperty key 
    -e, --embedProfile profile 
    -E, --embedProfileIfNone profile 
    -m, --matchTo profile 
    -M, --matchToWithIntent profile intent 
    -r, --rotate degreesCW 
    -f, --flip horizontal|vertical 
    -c, --cropToHeightWidth pixelsH pixelsW 
    -p, --padToHeightWidth pixelsH pixelsW 
    -z, --resampleHeightWidth pixelsH pixelsW 
        --resampleWidth pixelsW 
        --resampleHeight pixelsH 
    -Z, --resampleHeightWidthMax pixelsWH 
    -i, --addIcon 

sips image-modify-function imagefile ... --out file-or-dir is how you should modify things.

Friday 15 December 2006

The Culprits

Local Airlie Beach band The Culprits, which seems to consist of Paul Killingly's multi-talented musical children, are reported to have released their second CD. Next time I spot them at the Airlie Beach markets I will buy the new CD, and report what it is called.

Saturday 16 December 2006

Aboriginal Death in Custody

Mulrunji Doomadgee died on 24 November 2004 at the Palm Island police station in the custody of Chris Hurley, after a fall that may well have been accidental. The Deputy Coroner Christine Clements found that Chris Hurley was responsible for the death. Despite prosecutions and jailing of Aboriginal people for their actions in the riots that followed, the Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare has declined to press charges. This leaves Senior Sergeant Hurley with moral equivalent of the old Scottish verdict, not proven.

The stronger burden of proof for criminal charges means much of the coronial evidence would not be accepted in court. It is highly likely that a prosecution would fail. However to have yet another Aboriginal death in custody swept under the carpet has to raise questions about the competence of Public Prosecutions, the power of the police culture, and the apparent lack of concern of the Beattie government. Justice must be seen to be done. Especially it must be seen to be done by Black Australians, who have a long history of persecution by the law to look back upon.

If there is no justice for the weak, then there is no justification for supporting the law. Do we really want that to become the prevailing view throughout the community? That the only thing that matters is whether you get away with it?

Sunday 17 December 2006

Port of Airlie

Port of Airlie construction closed up a massive number of car parking spaces at Muddy Bay along Coconut Grove. Developer Windward's managing director Peter Marshall said the company had ensured 200 spaces were available around the Whitsunday Sailing Club, with gravel laid in some areas. Lions Airlie Beach Markets assistant manager Coral Salmon was concerned about parking spaces. Stall holders I talked to said they had problems.

Monday 18 December 2006

Renters Hurt by Rising Prices

Homes in good suburbs like Blacks Beach in Mackay rose 30% to reach a median of A$435,000 as the mining boom continues. Vacancies are below 1%. people are using cabins and converted shipping containers in caravan parks. The population of Mackay may exceed Townsville within a few years if growth continues, and within two decades may be the second largest regional centre in Queensland.

Downsides are new construction is taking up to a year to see builders available. Home renovation is totally stalled for lack of anyone available to quote. Median weekly rent for a three bedroom home is A$310 a week, higher than many Brisbane suburbs. Commercial and industrial developments are being built on spec.

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Port of Airlie Fish Study

Port of Airlie developer Windward was required to compensate for mangrove destruction. Managing director Peter Marshall claimed he offered to build a $300,000 interpretive mangrove boardwalk from Hermitage Drive along towards Mandalay, extending the Bicentennial Walkway. I note here that boardwalks from Airlie Beach on towards Cannonvale have been very popular indeed (at least to judge from the number of local people we encounter using them). Windward will spend a total of $770,000 for mangrove compensation. We should be able to see all this from our home in the Whitsunday Terraces resort.

Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries instead requested money for a fish habitat research project to monitor the effects of Port of Airlie. It will be conducted by a James Cook University post graduate student.

Wednesday 20 December 2006

Surveillance Cameras in Airlie Beach

It seems it isn't only resort management. Police say they support the use of surveillance cameras in the main street of Airlie Beach. Council have been considering this for much of the past year. Council is waiting for additional security company quotes. Chamber of Commerce also thought it a good idea.

Totally unrelated, but Zonta installed a coin in the slot binoculars at Airlie Beach lagoon. $2 for 90 seconds, and the money goes to Zonta fundraising. I think the ladies are on to a good idea here. The binoculars came from the same design used at the Blue Mountains.

Thursday 21 December 2006

Computer Give Away

Used IT's John Powell and The Computer Doctor, Mark O'Donnell combined to restore ten second hand computers from Proserpine High School. The computers will go to needy students. Whitsunday Times Newspaper accepted requests. Great effort by some small local businesses.

Friday 22 December 2006

IP Phones Kill Conversation

The availability of Skype and other IP based phone systems that allow phone calls to cost pennies or less, mean the end of the telephone as a useful device. Any sufficiently cheap communications media gets taken over by advertisers and even worse, by spammers. This makes the marginal utility even lower for recipients. Especially if the recipients have to pay for part of the calls, as is the case for USA cell phones.

Result is like email, where you now never publicise your email address. I now kill off any email address I have when it gets its first piece of spam. So obviously I never want to be able to find my email address on the web.

Home phone permanently connected to an answering machine to filter phone advertising. Mobile phones not listed in any directory. Eventually you start insisting anyone who calls you use some means to establish their identity, or they simply get hung up. Nice going. The only people who will continue to use phones will be those in business who can't give them up.

Saturday 23 December 2006

Coal Power

During the past 20 years, electricity use has doubled. Demand will continue to increase, 70% to 2030, but will supply increase? If we need another 8000 megawatts by 2020, that means between 8 and 10 major coal fired power plants. However, if there is uncertainty about carbon trading, no responsible power plant operator will invest the A$30 billion needed for the plants and transmission networks. Gas use will increase, but we use 55 million tonnes of black coal in NSW, Qld, and WA, and 66 million tonnes of brown coal in Victoria and South Australia. That is 180,000 gigawatt hours of the 213000 gigawatt hours generated.

How much would an effective carbon trading scheme cost? Depends who you ask, but some estimates say electricity costs go up 600%. See why no-one will invest until there is regulatory certainty? See why everyone is keeping old plants in operation, no matter what?

Sunday 24 December 2006

Affordable Housing

As the chaos in our apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces resort increases, I note our former cleaner kindly sent us some presents to be opened at Xmas. She left because there was no affordable housing in the Whitsunday Shire. Back in October, Whitsunday Shire Council minutes note that Mr Frank Hornby of Social Planning Services would prepare a report to assist a council advisory committee on affordable housing issues.

There is much previous material from island resorts on their staffing issues. If your staff turnover is 250% a year, it is likely there are some issues. Check the price of commuting to any of the islands. Check whether you can actually park a car anywhere near a ferry terminal.

Monday 25 December 2006


Lee sent us weird stuff. Finger puppets of lizards for Jean. A snake in a transparent ball - Jean promptly tested to see if it lit up as well when bounced. Very suitable. Australian Geographical schedule and todo thing. Transformer petrodactyl egg for me.

Tuesday 26 December 2006

Wind Power

Not a total dead end, but close. Maybe 43 wind farms, with 600 turbines, producing way less than 750 megawatt peak, less than one coal fired power station. About 23000 gigawatt hours a year. But without subsidies, wind isn't competitive.

Wednesday 27 December 2006

#^*!? Word

I have a feeling Microsoft's #^*!? Word 2007 is going to frustrate and annoy a lot of long time, experienced Word users. It seems very different. Commands, menus, everything. I can't help wondering whether it is just a massive face lift, or whether a lot of the items underneath have changed so much (as reports suggest) that new problems will appear outside the interface.

Luckily, I don't have to find out. I have no Microsoft products on any of my current computers.

Thursday 28 December 2006


A few days after Xmas, but not the last day before the New Year holiday. We reluctantly restocked at Coles. Saw Kurt there. He was complaining bitterly that the new floodlights in the car park were blinding at his place at night, despite being a half kilometre away. I checked the lights, and can see why he is pissed off. What idiot thought lights like that are acceptable? I also have to wonder why Coles flyers keep advertising items they don't have?

A Tandy flyer had arrived. I couldn't resist a home theatre 5.1 audio amplifier, reduced by half to $99. Not as good as their old 2 channel 80- watt model, but I couldn't build the equivalent at that price, nor anything like that price. Also ordered a Kodak Z650 digital camera, as they had good reviews, and I like the earlier Z740. Jean can have the Z740, if she wants it. Since deliveries are weird here over New Year, the odds of any of these devices arriving remain low.

Friday 29 December 2006

Changing the World

If you have a complex problem, then the more bright people who try to solve it, the more chance of a solution. Countries with good education systems increase the chance of having such people. Knowledge workers are changing the world. Much faster than the politicians are. With one exception. A crooked politician can stuff things up quicker than knowledge workers can build up better conditions. Check what happened to southern Rhodesia, when it became the cesspool that is Zimbabwe.

Saturday 30 December 2006

2006 Retrospect

Centro shopping centre opened on 2 April. The traffic lights didn't work for months after. Nor was there a bus shelter for shoppers for so long that shopkeepers installed a temporary shelter each day.

Airlie Beach loos opened after renovations with murals of pretty girls over the urinals. Hits state wide news, tourist bodies say nothing.

Sunday 31 December 2006

Xmas Cards

I would like to thank everyone who sent a Xmas card or New Year Newsletter. As always, I apologise for being so disorganised again this year. Such large hopes, such small results.