Eric Lindsay's Blog 2008 July

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Class Reunion In Sydney

My ancient Ericsson SH888 mobile phone had pretty much totally failed by now, despite being on charge all night. I got one call while it was plugged in, and the phone failed half way through. Every now and then it worked long enough to check for SMS, but mostly didn't stay on long enough for messages to get through. It kept failing whenever I picked it up. Not good.

I walked to the Apple Store and collected email via their WiFi using my MacBook Air. I took a bunch more photos inside the Apple store Sydney, while it wasn't as crowded. Some of my previous photos left something to be desired, so I did a little offset pointing to fool the camera sensors into doing the exposures I wanted.

As always, the folks at the Apple store were cool about someone just wanting to use their WiFi. I don't feel very guilty about using the Apple store this way. I have a Powerbook, an iMac and was carrying my MacBook Air. While I would like a replacement iMac, the reflective display isn't suitable in the brightly lit room in the tropics where I live. I have a couple of Airport Express for AirTunes. AppleTV is no use to me, as I don't own a TV, and don't have decent internet bandwidth. I am tempted by Time Capsule, but my portables are not my main computers, so having a direct connected terabyte backup drive for Time Machine is no great problem.

Walked down George Street to UTS, and visited the School of Mathematical Sciences. The faculty board showed just how many staff had changed since my days there. I caught up with Ray (who had his PhD). He said retired Head of School Barry was there at the moment. While Barry was chatting to me in the staff room, Layna walked in, and so did Brian. Then Gordon from Comp Sci came looking for me (despite the mobile phone problems). Head of department Tim was snowed under, but wanted to see me next time I was in Sydney in October. The rest of us ended up at the DAB cafe for lunch. John and Diane had made the long trip to Sydney from the Blue Mountains. John made the right guess about where we would lunch, and they caught up with us all at DAB. Despite all the communication problems, it was great to catch up with so many people. It was around 3 p.m. before I left to see how Jean was going.

Shopping In Sydney

At George's Camera Store on York Street. I had earlier advice they might have a Canon Powershot TX1 converged camera. I had been hoping that Canon would make a TX2 this year, and fix the numerous problems with the TX1. The guy at George's thought Canon would not do so. I asked for a discount from the A$495 price, since the TX1 is end of line. Went down to $440, which I could beat elsewhere, but only by mail order. They tried an upsell to a case. Instead I went for a spare battery. One major fault of the TX1 was low battery life, less than 200 shots. I ended up with the camera and three batteries for $500. I hope that is enough batteries.

The Canon TX1 is a reasonably compact, upright still and movie camera. It has a dreadful grainy LCD, and no optical viewfinder. The controls are almost impossible for anyone to use without having very strange (and tiny) fingers. It has lousy battery life, by comparison with the AA powered models I prefer. So why buy it?

Air tours where I have very limited luggage (9 kg for 16 days). The Canon TX1 can replace (with compromises) several other cameras. It is small and lightweight. It has 10x optical zoom, with optical stabilisation, for those distant wildlife shots, while being a lot more compact than my other ultra zoom. Like most recent digital cameras, it has a super macro mode. It has an MJPG movie mode in limited (1280 x 720) high definition, so at a pinch it can replace a HD movie camera. You can use it as a tape recorder, for up to two hours, if you have to. There is no way I can take an ultra zoom and a movie camera on an air tour, not with a 9 KG luggage limit.

In Sydney

Jean had returned to the hotel room from lunch with her friend. I had time for a rushed trip to the JB HiFi under the Strand Arcade, where the Duty Free used to be. I was a bit disoriented, but eventually found the SF TV shows section. Got copies of Farscape seasons 1 and 2 cheap, to go with the seasons 3 and 4 I had found a few months previously. My collection of SF TV series is going well. Alas for Glen, I could no longer see Lost in Space, seasons 1 and 2, which I thought was in this store. The price I had originally seen had given me pause, so I may not have bought it even if I could find it.

George's Camera Store at 56 York Street was next. After a bit of negotiation I got the Canon TX1 I needed for the Air Tour, for A$500. Since that included three Lithium batteries I was pleased enough. One (of many) major weakness of the TX1 is lousy battery life, and even with three batteries I will be lucky to get 400 shots. I can easily do that number of photos in one day while on an air tour.

Heading back to the hotel, I collected a sandwich at Woolworths so Jean could have some dinner before her evening meeting.

Train to Strathfield. We were collected at the station by Jean's friends. Jean seemed to enjoy the meeting. There were a few visiting partners sitting outside the meeting. Comfortable surrounds, and a cafe so I could get dinner. I watched an episode of The Gruen Transfer on my iPod Touch, and read part of my book on getting Google search position while waiting for the meeting to end. We got a lift back to the station, and reached the hotel around 10:30.

Democrat Hicks

So retiring Australian Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja invited David Hicks to her farewell to politics. This sort of idiocy is part of the reason why the Australian Democrats were totally destroyed as a political party during her leadership. I think David Hicks should have been shot years ago when he decided to throw in his lot with Islamist religious fanatics (but I repeat myself). Maybe Hicks has changed, and will become a decent member of society. I hope so, for his sake. However I don't see any reason to forgive and forget. He was a stupid arsehole, and back then it wouldn't have been any loss if some Northern Alliance soldier had shot him. In an overpopulated world, I don't see any reason to encourage arseholes.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Return to Airlie Beach

Up well before six (groan), and we were in a taxi (luckily directly outside the Park Regis hotel) not long after six. Had a great run through the pre rush hour streets of Sydney, with the taxi costing less than $25. Bit early at Sydney domestic airport. The scanner at Virgin airlines didn't have any problems with Jean's printout of our booking, so we got the boarding passes for DJ211 printed before heading for baggage check. That worked pretty well, and I think is the first time we have used it in Australia (I used it in the USA about five years ago). The security staff must have a lot of experience with travellers with joint replacements. Jean was only delayed about thirty seconds while she was scanned. I had been a bit worried about officiousness at the larger airport.

Uneventful flight to Brisbane. Boarding was at 7:30 a.m., with arrival at 9:25 a.m. During the flight, I managed to finish reading my new book on getting Google search position. The flight DJ1115 to Whitsunday Coast at 10 a.m. was late from Melbourne, so our one hour stopover extended to about an hour and a half. I have to say the Byron Bay cookies were not nearly as good this flight. Must try to avoid being tempted next time. Another uneventful flight, with great viewing conditions. Clean windows, and clear air. Closer to the airport we saw a large structure on the coast, looking like a giant keyboard. Must try searching Google Earth and see if I can locate it. We got the usual shared taxi at Proserpine (sorry, Whitsunday Coast) airport.

While in the taxi, we saw a fire engine returning to Airlie Beach. I remarked to Jean that I wondered what had happened. There was a horrible crash between an empty coal train and a semi trailer at a level crossing 15 km north of Proserpine. It seems two locomotives and about five empty coal wagons were derailed, and the semi trailer totally destroyed in a fire following the accident. A small car was also damaged. The semi trailer driver was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Got home around 2 p.m. Jean fairly promptly sent me out for a walk to get her a Subway for lunch, and some milk for breakfast. I also collected the mail for the week, and the local newspaper for last week.

After unpacking, my room looked like a bomb had gone off within it.

Future Air Tour

The mail included a letter from Flight Through the Spectacular Land of the Dreamtime, the unusual but fantastic outback air tour specialists. As usual David had sent the mail express overnight. As usual, that didn't do any good (since we had been away). However I was close to the deadline for sending my remaining payment for his West Australian wildflower air tour. So I had to find my cheque book (the hardest part of the exercise) and a stamp, and get my final payment into the mail straight away. Another trip down the twelve flights of stairs (and, somewhat slower, back up them).

Thursday 3 July 2008

Back at Airlie Beach

An early walk produced the two local newspapers. Continued complaints about shale oil at Proserpine. Continued complaints about construction noise from the Port of Airlie Marina spoiling Airlie Beach. I simply could not recommend that any tourist stay at any resort or backpacker place near the eastern end of Airlie Beach in the daytime during the working week.

I did manage three loads of washing during the morning, since the weather was perfect, as is often the case during tourist season. However the interior of the washing machine was filthy with construction dust. Every surface in our apartment gets covered with dust from the Port of Airlie Marina construction site, no matter how often we clean it. In fairness, it may be some of the dust also comes from the Mount Whitsunday construction site on the hillside adjoining us, at Hermitage Drive.

Walked to the western end of Airlie Beach, where the construction noise was not noticeable, to get my haircut. Despite it being school holidays, my regular hairdresser had taken a week off, so I hadn't been able to get a haircut before we escaped from Airlie Beach. Despite the full plane when we returned to Airlie Beach, I knew the tourists were not visiting our end of the town. However the hairdresser said she had spent three days in Cairns and three days in Port Douglas, and these were also both dead. Despite it being school holidays.

When the pounding of the pile driving got too much for us, we headed off to Coles to do the weekly shopping. At this rate, we will find somewhere else to visit outside town next week.

iPhone in Australia

So the Apple iPhone will be available in Australia, not only from Optus and Vodaphone, but also from Telstra. The important item, for me, is that Telstra will have the iPhone. A few weeks ago at the local Boat Show, a Telstra rep asked when I wanted to update my ancient (and now dead) mobile phone. I told him I was waiting for the Apple iPhone. He dismissed it, on the basis that it would cost A$1000 to buy.

Fast forward to now. If you live outside the big cities, you don't have any choice about using Telstra. They are the only phone company with a decent network in country areas. They are also the phone company most people hate. I am a shareholder, and despite that, I want Telstra broken up and the wired network structurally separated. I don't care how much my shares lose as a result.

Telstra are the network whose entire range of equipment is set up to work only with Windows. If you want to use anything else, you better be aware of how to install everything from scratch. Telstra's range of media services work only on Microsoft's Windows computers. Their DRM is Microsoft Windows only. Their movies and music work only under Windows. It is all one giant obnoxious monopoly working hand in glove with another giant obnoxious monopoly.

The mobile phone network is expensive monopoly for wireless connections via iPhone. There is no indication anyone will offer enough bandwidth to make an iPhone even mildly useful for data. Australia is being set up so it will never be a player for mobile data. Just don't rush into a contract with any of these arseholes until they come up with a decent data arrangement.

Friday 4 July 2008

Software Update

Since I was awake at 4:45 a.m., I started software update on my three year old iMac G5 ALS. Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.4 was available, and I hadn't as yet done the 10.5.3 update. Quicktime was 60 MB. However the combined 10.5.3 and 10.5.4 was a massive 560 MB. I had the whole ADSL bandwidth to myself, 59 K/s, and all running at the little used early morning file limit. At that rate, getting a faster ADSL was getting more and more attractive.

Segway Designer Moves to Apple

Head of the engineering team at Segway from the start, Doug Field, the chief technology officer at Segway has moved to VP of product design at Apple. There is a bit of a history with Steve Jobs and Doug Field, from 2003 when Jobs first got a preview of the Segway Ginger project. Not that Doug Field was at that meeting. The problem with the Segway is that you can not legally use one. In most countries, you can walk (but not on roads), and use a bicycle. However if you want to ride, your only choice is a car. The automobile makers have a lock on legal transport on roads. You won't be allowed to use an electric vehicle. In Australia, for example, there is a 200 Watt limit on motors for electric vehicles.

So just what does Apple want with an lead engineer with lots of experience in control circuitry that interacts with human movement. Segways have accelerometers and gyros for their movement control. iPhones have accelerometers. I wonder if there is anything going on there.

Saturday 5 July 2008

Updated MacBook Air

Since I was up before 5:30, I started my MacBook Air downloading Leopard Mac OS X 10.5.4. This 87 MB download was complete by around 6:15 a.m. Even minor operating system updates seem way too large. I can't imagine how people still on dial up manage.

I really must get a faster ADSL connection on my phone line. However the thought of paying those scoundrels at Telstra even more money annoys me so much I keep neglecting to look into how to get the least annoying speed increase. Telstra insist you need a phone. However the reality is that almost the only people still phoning me are advertisers I do not want to listen to. No-one uses fax any more. What I want is a naked DSL line, no phone connection. Communication is something that comes via the Internet, not something special that phone networks supply. The only reason Telstra can insist on you paying for something you do not want is because they have a monopoly. It is way past time Telstra should be structurally separated. Telstra can not be trusted not to abuse their Government originated monopoly power.

Port of Airlie Marina Construction

The Port of Airlie Marina construction folks were not making much noise this morning. While some diggers were working for a while, there did not seem to be any noise from the pile driver. It may just be broken, or the construction operators may have decided to reduce the noise during the school holidays. People at the local markets said that the noise was bad last week. I am told Paul Killingly gave up his music playing after a few songs the previous week.

Meanwhile, I have heard of tourists cancelling their stays at places as far away from the Port of Airlie Marina as Martinique (up Golden Orchid Drive), Waters Edge, and even Coral Sea Resort at the other end of Airlie Beach. At the Whitsunday Terraces Resort, four different apartments are currently up for sale, more than I recall seeing up for sale for years. They were units 23, 30, 49 and 52.

I tell people do not visit Airlie Beach. The one exception would be those who want a holiday out on the water, or visiting the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands. If you are away from the town all day, then the construction noise would not be a problem. A peaceful day relaxing by the resort pool is not something you can expect in the construction zone of Airlie Beach.

Rubbish Bins

I can see no evidence that the rubbish bins were put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. It is a school holiday, so perhaps staff levels were different.

Sunday 6 July 2008

Earth Images from Space

A selection of 30 incredible abstract images of Earth from space, using public domain NASA Landsat images selected around the year 2000 by NASA, and presented again by Environmental Graffiti. Some great images here, with Australia included with the Great Sandy Desert, the MacDonnell Ranges, and Lake Carnegie.

Javascript and Web Canvas

ContextFree.js for artwork on Canvas web element. This makes it easier to do simple drawing on web pages using Javascript, on the Canvas element. Any modern web browser (except Internet Explorer) should work fine, although Firefox is a good choice (the author, Aza Raskin, used Firefox). Lots of nice examples of the results on the site, with tutorials.

Monday 7 July 2008

The Oil Economy Explained

Perfect example of the oil economy explained. Only thing is, it is about the economics of POW camps in WWII, and is RA Radford's 1945 essay, The Economic Organisation of a P.O.W. Camp. When supplies fall, chaos ensues. Figure your oil alternatives now.

Airlie Beach Hard Times

James O'Loan, writing in The Courier Mail for the weekend says Tough times hit Whitsunday businesses hard. Commonwealth Bank moved, KFC closed, Ridgy Didge closed, Tropical Dive closed, and now reports that Don Algie's Jamaica Joe restaurant in Airlie Beach will close, to concentrate on Cairns.

The only comment on the article, by Lynette, said A town that has destroyed itself. All that reclamation going on and overdevelopment has destroyed what made the town attractive. Greed has destroyed the goose that laid the golden egg. Tough. I agree absolutely. Airlie Beach has been destroyed by developers. I would not have written my critical Airlie Beach Bum Whitsunday web site had the town of Airlie Beach not been stuffed by developers. If I am putting up with shit from developers, then they are going to cop shit from me!

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Apple Keyboard Not Responding

Why did my iMac G5 ALS stop responding to my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse? I was away for a while, and my display (but not my computer) entered sleep. I couldn't get the display to awaken with any keyboard combination I could think of, nor with a mouse click. I even shut the keyboard off and on again a few times. So I wirelessly connected from my Powerbook G4 to the iMac. That showed the CPU and hard drive were working. Since I had a failed video card back in January, I brought up screen sharing. That showed my iMac display just fine. Around that time, the iMac display came up again. Still no indication as to what the cause might be, at least in Console.

Bill Gates as Geek

A nice little story by Joel Spolsky about Bill Gates reviewing Excel back in 1992. It relates to the off by one error in Excel dates for January and February 1900 (probably for compatibility with the Lotus 123 error). It clearly shows Bill Gates was a proper, card holding geek. Good for him.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Microsoft Advertising

Microsoft changed advertising agencies in March, and now seem ready to hit back at Apple's Mac vs PC advertising if Hotshot Ad Guy Alex Bogusky Can Make Microsoft Cool. Using Crispin Porter + Bogusky for advertising is a risk for Microsoft. The agency have a reputation for taking products to the edge. In an even more delightful irony, they use Apple Macintosh in their advertising agency. Bogusky has a shiny new silver MacBook Air on his desk.

How to install Windows Vista in 2 minutes

The real deal How to install Windows Vista in 2 minutes. Mind you, the shredder did have a minor problem installing the actual disk.

Speaking of another thing that sucks, Adobe's Flash redlines my CPU. When the browser hits some stupid Flash movie, my CPU jumps from 5-10% to close to 95%. Looks like OS X 10.5.3 restored my Flash plugin. At this rate, I will have to remove that crap Adobe Flash plugin again. I don't have any CPU pegging problem with H.264 movies.

Thursday 10 July 2008

Sacred Kingfisher

A colourful sacred kingfisher was sitting on a branch by the Flametree above the Whitsunday Terraces parking lot when we returned from shopping for groceries. It looked very pretty, with the iridescent blue back. Luckily the bird stayed put on the branch, in the sun, while we grabbed binoculars and cameras. That is the first time I recall seeing a sacred kingfisher at the resort. Must have been confused by the recent cold weather so far north, as I think they migrate to avoid the cold.

Rubbish Bins

I can see no evidence that the rubbish bins were put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. It is a school holiday, so perhaps staff levels were different.

Friday 11 July 2008

Software Updates

Software updates for iDVD, iMovie and iTunes 7.7. This is the update that allows access to the Apps store that will show which applications are available for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. Seemed a reasonably interesting thing to find out about.

Less than a minute into the update, my connection to the internet dropped. This seemed to be caused by a dropout on my WiFi connection to my Netgear 834 wireless access point. Came back, and I restarted the download (it continues from the dropped point). However I have had a lot of dropouts (once ever few weeks) of late. Wish I could pinpoint a cause. I suspect some sort of problem with the Netgear Router, now several years old.

Apple iPhone and Telstra

I barely use my current phone, so it is hard to justify getting another, however my phone died at the start of July. However a mobile phone can occasionally be handy. Plus she who must be obeyed may insist I carry one when we are travelling. If I need a phone in an emergency, or even to call a taxi, then I will need a replacement phone.

Living in a country area, and mostly travelling in country areas means you have one choice of network for internet access. Telstra NextG. It has by far the best coverage in country areas. The other Australian phone networks are a dead loss especially outside major cities. For example, in Northern Queensland, Vodafone data would be useless, and restricted to GPRS only.

For iPhone purposes, Telstra is also the only network that has 850 MHz HSDPA (Telstra NextG) used by the iPhone. Telstra have pushed 850 MHz HSDPA because the lower frequency has better range than Telstra's limited area older 2100 MHz 3G system used in only a few city areas. Use of 2100 MHz cells is really only practical in built up areas, due to the poorer range. It works well in densely populated areas, like much of Europe. Use of 850 MHz is important for country areas with fewer cells.

The iPhone doesn't even work at high speed with the other phone networks, except on 2100 MHz UMTS 3G, as used in Europe. The iPhone frequency range does not overlap most Australian high speed phone frequencies. The iPhone provides UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). Both Optus and Vodaphone have small 900MHz 3G networks in country areas, not compatible with iPhone.

The problem with the Telstra NextG iPhone price plans is data. Or rather, lack of data. Telstra are set up for mobile phones that are horrible to use for data. Telstra have never supported Apple very well, and the iPhone is no different. The Telstra BigPond walled garden data sources and their Windows Mobile DRM fail to work on an iPhone, so there is no point in them even existing. Most of the special features of an iPhone rely totally on having a data link to the real interest. As long as the data prices suck, there is no point getting a phone that handles internet data in a beautiful fashion.

The big concession Telstra made to Apple was free access to WiFi hot spots. Great if you are at an international airport, or in the CBD of Sydney or Melbourne. Your chance of a Telstra WiFi HotSpot is way less in a country town. Not many Starbucks in country towns. Telstra (locked) spreadsheet of WiFi access points have the McDonalds at Airlie Beach listed.

Commercial Phone Calls

Just got my second phone call for the day, again from someone trying to sell me something, or some charity with a bludging message. This was while lunch was burning, and I was trying to stop the smoke. I got very short with whoever was phoning.

OK, rule of the house. If you are a company or a charity and you phone me, I will attempt to extract a clear name from you. If I succeed, I will put you on a little list. So I will have a little list, of people who will not be missed. I will never again buy anything from your company, nor will I ever contribute to your charity. Fuck off, arseholes! I hope your clients have the decency to justify Darwin and die before reproducing!

Saturday 12 July 2008

iTunes Update

I had no problems that I could identify with the iTunes update, ready for using it to access the new Apple Apps Store. Indeed, subsequent use of iTunes Store seemed to me substantially quicker than I recall previously. So far I have been happy with the update.

Apple App Store

During the evening I downloaded the (A$12.99) update to iPhone version 2 software for the iPod Touch from Apple's iTunes Store. Since I don't need push email, nor to intersect with Microsoft Exchange (I would rather rip my head off and feed it to the chooks), the direct advantages of the iPod Touch version 2 update are very limited. The calculator is much nicer now it includes a scientific version. Contacts search faster. Multiple calendars, as well as showing all. Mail management is much improved. I didn't notice much else changed. The main advantage, outweighing all else, is the Apple App Store.

There is some chance that third parties will eventually add sufficient applications to the iPod Touch or iPhone to make up for them being almost as useless as any other phone as a PDA out of the box. In the past 11 years, since the Psion 5 came out, there has been nothing on the PDA or Smart Phone market that came close to replacing a Psion as a stand alone PDA. Over the next few months, I will look at some iPod Touch applications, and check why most of them are not much use (mostly they assume a non-existent connectivity to the web).

Sunday 13 July 2008

App Store Not Worldwide?

Just because an iPhone application exists does not mean that you can access it. For example Jott for iPhone, a mobile notepad, produces a rejection notice from the App Store, saying the item you have requested is not currently available in the Australian Store. Whether this is temporary is unknown.

iPhone Applications I Hated

Hated may be too strong in some cases. Not worth the memory space. I would guess 95% of the iPhone applications on offer at the App Store are not much use to me. Some because they are too trivial. Some because they rely upon web connectivity that will not exist for many people. Some because connecting to a web site should be easier than using a separate application (except some web sites are pathetic). On the other hand, there are some applications that I will find real handy.

Trivial or silly. All the AppEngine eBooks, which incidentally should be put under their own Book category [less than a week later and Books had their own category in the Apps store - good to see a quick response]. I like the idea that they are available, but ... especially since by Sunday they had already exceeded 100 books. Most eBooks should be done as an off line web page (or pages), stored in a file system (although Apple hide the file system). In a web page you can do even more things about the font, size, colours, and so on, and display improves as Safari improves. Hmm, I wonder whether the iPhone version of Safari can open a Safari Web Archive? I wonder whether you could stuff a whole Web Archive in a URL Data link? I am looking for an eBook application that works off line with Baen Books HTML books.

Applications that rely on web connectivity. AOL Radio or Pandora internet radio are examples. Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever where I live. If I am home, an Internet connected computer has a better sound system. If I am away from home, I won't normally have internet access. This is not a problem caused by Apple. This can be blamed entirely on excessive Telstra data plan costs, which are the only 3G connection in country areas. The $1 a megabyte cost totally destroys iPhone web use, except when a monthly data pack can be justified for special purposes.

Bloated and slow variation on web sites. NY Times application, for example. Use from your iPhone instead. On the other hand, NY Times does seem to cache the day, so perhaps I am too hasty dismissing it.

Rubbish Bins

I can see no evidence that the rubbish bins were put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. It is a school holiday, so perhaps staff levels were different. This is three times garbage collection has been missed in the past seven days (Saturday, Thursday, and now Sunday). This is not a good sign.

Airlie Beach Weather

The weather in Airlie Beach sucks. You expect July to be fine. Instead, it has drizzled pretty much all day, with low cloud all over the area. You can't see the horizon from my balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces. I am desk bound, and don't want to go walking in the rain. Boo, hiss. I bet the school holiday tourists are hating the poor weather. BOM Radar isn't showing any rain, and the false colour infrared satellite shot isn't showing cloud. Despite which, Hamilton island topped the state for rainfall.

Pope Arrives in Australia

Pope arrives in Australia, but does much anyone care? I gather Sydney is subject to a large number of disruptions due to pilgrims or something wanting to attend some gathering. Glad that I don't need to be anywhere near Sydney at this time. It might be interesting to hear what the protesters manage to get up to, but I don't really care about what they are complaining about either. Religion: invisible friends for grown ups.

Monday 14 July 2008

Apple iPhone Applications I Love

It looks like one of the first things I better do is connect my Airport Express to the sound system again. Luckily this is dead easy. The free Apple iPhone Remote from the Apps Store really seems a killer application. WiFi control of iTunes application or Apple TV, with full access to media you hold in either. The iPhone makes very neat remote control (although it has been done before).

Unread Email

When syncing my email to my iPod Touch, I found I had unread email dating back to 2006. This is surely a symptom of my email being out of control. I knew I had been neglecting email, but nearly two years really does seem a bit excessive. Unless I want my portable email submerged, I had better take care of all the outstanding email. What a drag.

What if it had been something like an important letter from a lawyer. Oh wait, there is a letter from a lawyer to which I haven't replied, despite it being to my benefit to do so.

eBook Readers

What a difference a few days make. Just noticed Stanza, an eBook reader for Macintosh. Said to be happy with HTML, RTF and PDF. Exports to the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch as bookmarklets. I don't know what the size limit is on bookmarklets - they would be converted into Data URLs in Base 64. Also produces MobiPocket format, for other PDAs. Sounds like a great start. Beta product with a two month lifespan, final version expected to be around the $20 mark.

eReader is restricted to some sort of proprietary DRM ebook files from Fictionwise. Although free, it seems pointless if you don't want to read DRM files.

Bookshelf is a A$12.99 iPhone application for text, HTML, FB2 (FictionBook), Plucker, PalmDoc, and MobiReader. Other formats on their ToDo list. Looks like their ShelfServer is a Java application, bypassing iTunes restrictions. Probably sticks texts on the iPod Touch someplace, and then the application knows where to find them and does all the file system stuff. This roundabout crap wouldn't be needed if Apple would expose the confounded iphone file system.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Rubbish Bins

The rubbish bins were again not put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. It is no longer a school holiday, so any special circumstances no longer apply. This is four times garbage collection has been missed in the past two weeks (Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, and now Tuesday). This is not a good sign for habitual handling of tasks. During the day I caught up with resort management, and mentioned my concerns regarding the failure to handle the bins.

ADSL Internet Fails

Jean's iiNet ADSL internet access failed sometime in the early morning. We noticed it about 9 a.m. Rebooting and restarting the router did not help get ADSL access. Ping from router to a numeric IP address does nothing. I tried setting the DNS to automatically use the ISP, instead of the DNS IP address ( I had been using for months. No indications of a cause for the ADSL failure. I must check on the main street about whether this is a wider area ADSL failure, or local only to us.

When I went for a walk in the late afternoon, I did hear a radio announcement about Optus in Queensland being out of service for 5 hours when a line was cut. However as far as I know, iiNet has nothing to do with Optus lines, so this seems more a coincidence. The Channel 7 TV news is saying Queensland Optus meltdown disconnects thousands. Brisbane Airport, Mackay hospital switchboard, etc. Landline, mobile and some internet were out when an optical fibre was cut in the Gold Coast. Sure does not seem to me that TCP/IP is routing around problems.

At least one Internet Cafe on the main street was still up and running just fine. At home, the internet was still unreachable at 4 p.m., which didn't help my bad mood. After my long walk, I finally resorted to comfort food, and bought us a cheap Tuesday Domino pizza for dinner.

Our internet connection came back up around 9:30 p.m. after being out of action for more than 12 hours. I still don't see why an Optus outage should be killing off an iiNet connection via a Telstra phone exchange. Unless it took out the Radius servers.

Port of Airlie Marina Construction Noise

Port of Airlie Marina construction noise continued, with not one but two pile drivers pounding away from a few minutes before 9 a.m. I saw some tourists going to rooms around 11 a.m. I have to wonder how many will stay. My advice is that tourists stay away from Airlie Beach, and especially the eastern end. I can not see how you can in good conscience offer resort rooms in Airlie Beach to anyone who will not be away from the township during the day. It is impossible to relax in Airlie Beach during the day due to the noise.

Free WiFi

There is a list of Free WiFi, except they are not all free. I have seen a number of free lists, mostly very inaccurate. Adelaide is said to have 70 city wide WiFi hotspots.

Telstra charge a fortune at their commercial WiFi wireless access points, at Qantas Club, Starbucks, McDonalds, near some payphones, etc. Telstra do have a list (in spreadsheet format) of the locations. The down side is the spreadsheet won't open. Try opening the spreadsheet in OpenOffice, remove the lock, and then save it. That should let other applications open it fine. One sweetener Telstra offer is free WiFi to Telstra Apple iPhone subscribers.

I have mentioned Tomizone and FON free WiFi hotspots before. David Frith claims this New Zealand outfit has 450 outlets in Australia. They want $3 an hour, $4 a day, or $20 a week. Like the FON startup, they encourage you to set up your own Tomizone router. Tomizone are offering Apple iPhone users access for free for three months, to encourage the spread of the network. Sounds good to me.

Marree Man

Update on the Marree Man hoax in the Weekend Australian Magazine 12 July 2008 page 10 by Mark Whittaker. TV producer Glenn Adamus claims his old mate sculpture Bardius Goldberg had drawn the figure three years before it appeared. Bardius said he was doing a big painting in the desert. Funding of $10,000 from a businessman in Hahndorf ion the Adelaide Hills. Retired drilling contractor says he loaned Goldberg a GPS, and gave him 600 litres of diesel. Goldberg had a falling out with traditional owners Herman and Mavis Malbunka.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Airlie Beach Weather

Mid July, and rain is falling in Airlie Beach. There are showers all over the area, according to the Bowen radar. A few days ago we got only about 5 mm. I suspect we will get far more rain this time. Anyone contemplating a sail to the Whitsunday islands will probably be out of luck. Peter Faust Dam past Proserpine is showing -4.91 metres below the spillway on the BOM site, which is the highest it has been in ages.

iPhone Applications

Lists of favourite iPhone applications are starting to appear. Many are so country specific as to be pointless if you live elsewhere. Others make assumptions about data availability being the same everywhere. For example, My 10 Top iPhone Applications by Matthew Miller contained nothing I would even trial, let alone use. A better iPhone top 10 application list. Lockergnome have a popular iPhone application list blog. Starting to look like the only iPhone applications worth checking would be those that also work well on an iPod Touch, since these do not assume an unlimited data pack.

Seems I am not the only person who thinks iPhone might be a dud for some of us. Top 5 iPhone Gripes by Dave Caolo on TUAW. Hits lack of multimedia messaging, and no video mode, poor area coverage, and no copy and paste. Readers add lack of landscape mode keyboard, mail search, no voice dialling, no tethering to computer via Bluetooth (nor any other way). Ringer isn't loud enough to hear when in noisy areas. Notes do not sync. No way to save files, no access to the file system (third party applications like DataCase offer iPhone file system access). The Alarm does not wake the phone (you have to leave it switched on). No email to groups.

Rubbish Bins

Yet again the rubbish bins were not put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. This is five times garbage collection has been missed in the past two weeks (Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, and now Wednesday). Yesterday I mentioned my concerns regarding the failure to handle the bins to resort management, but it seems the message has not yet been passed on. The overfull bin I put out at 6:40 a.m. was brought back in around 8 a.m., after the garbage truck collected it, so that was something.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Qantas Promotes Smoking

Qantas staff have been told to pile cigarettes on their duty free carts. Qantas management are a pack of arseholes to put selling tobacco before the health of their customers. It may be legal, but it should not be. Companies should all be prohibited from selling tobacco, and other addictive drugs.

If you want the liability protection of company status, then stop pushing dangerous drugs. It is way past time that companies were held to far stricter standards than individual morality. Corporate citizens should not have the rights of real human citizens. Corporate citizens all too often behave like sociopaths.

Gore Goes Mad

I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources within 10 years, Gore said, speaking from Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., where he called for a full switch to solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

Friday 18 July 2008

Port of Airlie Marina Construction

We had beautiful weather today (at last) so I was up early. Did laundry, and took a walk to check the mail and take some photos. At 8:56 a.m. the peace of Airlie Beach was ruined by the start of hammer pile driving from the Port of Airlie Marina construction. The vibrating pile driving started at 8:59 a.m. 82 decibel on my Whitsunday Terraces balcony, a long way from the construction zone. I was awake anyhow. But I wonder about the person I saw arriving home by taxi at 7 a.m.

Do I need to mention that the vibration and the hammering pile driving continue through the lunch hour. Any reference you have seen in print in local newspapers or in the community reference group about not pile driving between 12 and 2 p.m. is utter bullshit. That is not the way the construction workers do things. The newsletters that appear from time to time are mostly well and truly out of date.

Remember Everything

When people ask why I want 97 terabyte of storage space by the end of 2010, I think I will point them at this Charles Stross article on future memory. Stross points out that we will be able to record everything that happens to us. He points to the millions of camera already in Britain. I got my 97 terabyte figure by assuming I would have a low definition camera always running (at least when anything changed).

I knew I wanted to do this before I read about Microsoft's MyLifeBits project, which is also a save everything that occurs idea. There is a decent article available via ftp on MyLifeBits: A Personal Database for Everything by Jim Gemmell, Gordon Bell, and Roger Lueder. MyLifeBits is a system that began in 2001 to explore the use of SQL to store all personal information found in PCs. This is a really cool idea.

As a side note, I already have a terabyte of general movies, a terabyte and a half of SF movies. Real soon now I will start ripping all the TV series I have cluttering up a closet here. 97 terabyte isn't too much.

Rubbish Bins

Yet again the rubbish bins were not put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. This is six times garbage collection has been missed in the past two weeks (Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and now Friday). The bins were put at at night once, on Wednesday night (putting them out at night can provide entertainment for drunken louts). I put an overfull bin out at 6:30 a.m.

Saturday 19 July 2008

Location Awareness

It looks more and more like I need to change any of my websites that can benefit from location (GPS) information. I have already done this with a considerable number of my websites. However the advent of the Apple iPhone 3G (which can handle regular web sites, rather than some mobile variation) and which (finally) has a decent GPS receiver, means presenting location information becomes more important.

I think I will initially go with

meta name="ICBM" content="-20.26,148.72"
meta name="geo.position" content="-20.26;148.72"
meta name="geo.region" content="AU-QL"
meta name="geo.placename" content="Airlie Beach"

Jet Powered VW

Jean mentioned that File 770 had told of a Ron Patrick's Street Legal Jet Powered Beetle. Not a terribly recent web site, but I love the photos of the VolksWagon. Apparently street legal in California. At least, they haven't been able to find a reason not to allow it. Figures, doesn't it. Living in Australia, I don't think I would even be allowed to put an electric motor larger than 200 watts in a vehicle. Boo, hiss.

Rainwater Tank Bursts

The small 200 litre rain mate water tank on our balcony burst. Jean said she was putting out laundry on the Whitsunday Terraces balcony. While attempting to get the drying rack, she bumped the water tank. It must have rocked off its base. The interior plastic bag promptly split. Luckily Jean didn't get hurt. I doubt the tank can be salvaged. We had bought the RainMate rainwater tank round December 2007, so its life span was pathetic.

My experience of using the tank was it made minimal change to our water usage. Having only pot plants on balconies means you simply don't have much garden watering. The other obvious place to use tank water was to flush the toilet. However it is simply too awkward. The thing that would make a big change to that would be if the top of the toilet tank had an inlet so you could easily fill the cistern. Plus you would need an indicator (some sort of stick on a float would do) for when the tank was full.

I eventually found a replacement plastic liner for the Rainmate water tank. Alas, it was from a British company, so I probably can't get one. Another item gets thrown out instead of being reused.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Oil Shale Protest

Oil shale mining protest on the Airlie Beach foreshore near the Whitsunday Sailing Club. This protests plans by Queensland Energy Resources. Save Our Foreshore were able to get support from Greenpeace, plus a number of other community organisations against oil shale mining. Whatever misgivings I have about Greenpeace, they do pull environmental publicity. Channel 7 news, by far the best for local coverage, had a cameraman there. I think they also got photos of the Greenpeace vessel entering Pioneer Bay with a flotilla of local craft in its wake. Lots of protest signs on the boats. ABC TV had a brief mention of the oil shale mining protest on the evening news.

Rubbish Bins

I believe the rubbish bins were not put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces. This is seven times garbage collection has been missed in the past two weeks (Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and now Sunday).

Hot Rocks

New hot rocks discovery. Major clean energy discovery in north-west Queensland, according to the Courier Mail. The Millungera Basin, a 15,000 square kilometre area about 100 kilometres east of Cloncurry, is being compared with the Cooper Basin in South Australia.

Monday 21 July 2008

iPhone Data Prices

Excessive prices for iPhone data in Australia clearly show the monopoly phone companies once again intend to use this as a way of gouging their customers. Telstra are especially trying to protect their stuff with Big Pond content (that doesn't even work on an iPhone). Get an iPhone from Telstra. Get 5 MB of data per month. This isn't even enough to connect to a web site.

As far as I can see, the only solution is not to buy an iPhone. However that doesn't hurt Telstra. So either not buying an alternate Telstra phone contract, or getting the cheapest contract possible on an alternate network is the only rational response. Stop using mobile phones. radiation from mobile phones is probably turning your brains to mush anyhow.

Raining Again

It was raining again at Airlie Beach this morning, despite this being one of the least likely months in which to have rain in the Whitsundays. So much for Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next. It is like Save Our Foreshore have been saying about shale oil mining. Beautiful one day, buggered the next. Although the Port of Airlie Marina construction site may not have had sand and rock trucks coming through the streets, they did do some digging in the mud. The pile drivers were running pretty much full time, making the usually horrible noise.

Rubbish Bins

Yet again the rubbish bins were not put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces when I checked at 6:30 a.m. This is eight times garbage collection has been missed in the past three weeks (Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and now Monday). Both bins in Florin block were totally full, one to overflowing, so this is not a case of bins being empty so there was no need to put them out. Even if it was a rainy morning, and people didn't want to get up early, this is getting beyond a joke. I put the Florin Terrace bins out at 6:30 a.m. Monday morning. I plan to check the other blocks later in the day.

When I checked around 8 a.m., the bins were back in their normal position, all empty. The bins in other buildings here were also empty and back in their proper places. I obviously am getting up too early. Looks like the bins may no longer be a problem.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Apple Q3 Financial Results

Best June quarter ever, with 2.5 million Mac shipped, 41% growth year on year. Desktop Mac sales up 49%, sales of Mac portables up 37% year over year. CPU units YOY: Americas up 38%, Europe up 47%, Japan up 26%.

11 million iPods sold, 16% growth. I thought iPod had peaked.

US$7.46 billion revenue (up 37%), US$1.07 billion profit (up 31%) and $1.19 per diluted share. International sales were 42% of total sales. Apple remains very much a US company. Back to School promotion will affect margins (MacBook margins smaller, iPod with purchase typically). Guidance for next quarter revenue was US$7.8 billion and earnings per diluted share of about $1.00. As usual analysts will consider guidance conservative. However I suspect Apple are going to guide closer to results this time.

iPhone sales were 717,000, but since everyone knew the version 2 phone would appear in July, and iPhones were unobtainable for a month before, this does not appear to me much of a sales problem. iPhone will be available in 20 additional countries on 22 August. iPhone income was not brought to account for this quarter.

Apple retail stores had 58% growth in sales, US$1.44 billion, including 476,000 Macs. Up 44% in Mac sales YOY. Eight new stores, for a total of 216. 248 stores by end of financial year.

Some reports mention Steve Jobs not being at the conference call. As far as I know, he has not done so in years. Doh! Don't Associated Press reporters covering scheduled news items do any homework? Financial FUD from the press seems more like stock price manipulation.

Apple Chief Financial Officer, Peter Oppenheimer repeatedly mentioned a future product transition, but mostly when prompted. Seemed a bit more of a build up for something new than usual. Could just be an Intel chip transition, as expected. Guidance was for lower margins, which may just mean LED backlights on lots more monitors, like in the popular MacBook. However competitors can also have LED and new chips.

Will Apple do more with their iPod line? Not until after the Back to School clearance of older models in August. Much though I would like a much larger Touch, or a paperback book sized dual touch screen portable with solid state drives, I don't think the chips are there yet, nor probably the demand. Besides, the lighter on memory Snow Leopard is still some time away. However the high cost of solid state drives could well hit margins. Plus Intel have new SSD scheduled soon. I call solid state drives in a new product in 2009. Intel will have a 45 watt quad core available soon. Way too hot for a portable, but possible albeit expensive for an top end iMac. However that implies Mac Pro is all dual quad core.

Graphic Processors and OpenCL

Harnessing the power of graphic processors will be hard. However graphics chipmakers are interested in OpenCL, as a general path to using graphics processors for more general tasks. This is not just for computers, but also for smaller devices like mobile phones (it may help battery life). OpenCL is being developed as royalty free APIs by the open source Khronos Group from the original donated Apple specification via the Heterogeneous Computing Working Group. The graphics chip manufacturers are all on board, as are AMD, Intel, ARM, IBM and Nokia. Graphics heavy industries like architecture are closely following the OpenCL effort. There is also discussion of OpenCL on Ars Technica. Apple have been working on Grand Central, more easily using parallel processing from a programming viewpoint, and should be able to leverage OpenCL on graphics chips.

Rubbish Bins

Yet again the rubbish bins were not put out for collection today at the Whitsunday Terraces when I checked at 6:40 a.m. This is eight times garbage collection has been missed in the past three weeks (Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and now Tuesday). No other bins out when I went out for newspapers at 7 a.m. The garbage truck had been through by 7:30 when I brought the (now empty) bin in again. No sign other bins had been put out. The load in the bin was light.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Raining Again

I am not sure what it is with Queensland weather this July, but after two days of overcast and drizzle, it is raining yet again. Enough to stop me going outside to check whether the garbage bins ever got taken out (I don't think they did). The whole Queensland east coast seems to be getting rain, although not as much far inland. I wonder what this will do to the dam levels at Peter Faust Dam? They were -4.90 metres this morning. My own rain gauge was showing about 15 mm since the weekend (the last time it was fine and sunny). During the morning I got another 25 mm. Another 35 mm by 11 p.m. Peter Faust Dam was at 4.84 metres at 7:45 p.m.

ABC Internet TV

ABC News tonight announced five channels of ABC TV streamed over the internet. Looks like you need over a megabit per second connection. Most standard ADSL (512 kbps to 1.5 mbps) is well below this for anyone who hasn't upgraded to a more expensive plan.

Most country people can't get ADSL2+, except via Telstra (if then). However Telstra BigPond tend to charge way more for your data than anyone else, and give you much less of it. So you may be able to download video stuff, but will probably exceed your monthly download limits rather quickly.

OK, that isn't the fault of the ABC. However using the proprietary Flash format is their fault. Adobe's Flash is not an internet standard. That means it will not work with any sort of mobile device, including an iPhone or iPod Touch. This might be a loser. Not as much of a loser as the equally proprietary and even more restrictive) BBC player, but really silly. There are open standards for doing video. Use one of them.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Law of Accelerating Returns

Ray Kurzweil's article Law of Accelerating Returns is a bit old, but does a great job of pushing his view of The Singularity. OK, true, The Singularity is the Rapture of the Nerds, and is probably as unlikely as Frank Tippler's Omega Point. Kurtweil's article is still great. He especially deals with the subjective impression that change proceeds at a linear rate, rather than the exponential rate he sees.

Friday 25 July 2008

Yahoo Music Dies

Yahoo abandons music buyers. Since Yahoo Music is infested with DRM, when the authorisation servers are turned off, you can't play the music. Luckily you can back up to regular audio CD, as long as you do it prior to 30 September when the store closes. How many times do people have to buy an 8 track player before they start getting the idea that DRM sucks? If a company uses DRM on anything, refuse to buy the product (unless you can crack the DRM easily).

For example, regular CD is just fine (no DRM). SACD and DVD-Audio are DRM, and should be avoided (but at least you can play them as long as players exist and you don't break the silver disk). iTunes music under DRM (a lot of their more recent music is standard AAC) is annoying, but you can at least save out to CD (until someone changes the rules). Better to avoid buying any of the DRM music, and favour companies that don't insist on DRM. MP3 music is fine, from those sites offering music that way. Most other music stores have some form of proprietary DRM. Just totally avoid them.

Personally, I've decided it would be better if the music recording companies disappeared. The only music I buy regularly is stuff I can get directly from the musicians.

Sunday Closing

Channel 9 is closing their once great Sunday current affairs program, and also their Nightline news program. There goes the neighbourhood. Sunday was one of the last decent current affairs programs left. Not departing at its peak, as the quality of Sunday had plunged in the past two years. Twenty seven years, most of them doing a great job. The show didn't struggle because of a change from 9 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. It struggled because Channel 9 totally lost the plot a few years back. Link to Courier Mail report on Channel 9 closes Sunday news.

Australian television is getting less and less use. I got rid of my TV set several years ago. However I did watch news programs on my computer monitor (at 24 inches the computer display is larger than my TV was). It is increasingly obvious that it isn't worth having a TV. At least, not for what is shown by the TV channels.

Noise and Garbage

One of the cleaning staff was putting out the Whitsunday Terraces garbage bins around 6:40 a.m. when I went out to put out our one. That is good, considering they were missed for several days, and some were overflowing. Didn't see them being taken in, so I got ours in around 10 a.m. when we returned from shopping.

The Port of Airlie Marina percussion pile driving started for real around 11:30. At least the noise didn't start until Jean had finished the conference call she had been on since 10:30. You basically can't hear the phone when the pile driving is full on. Luckily we rarely use the phone.

Jean decided that if the Port of Airlie Marina pile driving was continuing, then we would leave Airlie Beach again. The entire eastern end of Airlie Beach is unliveable thanks to the Port of Airlie Marina.

Cairns had some hotels that claimed to be five star, as did Port Douglas, at good prices on Wotif. We decided if we were leaving Airlie Beach, we might as well go a upmarket from our usual level of accommodation. On the other hand, most upmarket hotels overcharge for their internet connections. Seems to be a matter of handing the keys over to some outfit that figures they can make a fortune out of business travellers.

Saturday 26 July 2008

Airlie Beach Markets

Jean went for a walk with me to the newsagent to collect the weekend papers. Took the car to the bottom of the hill, rather than walk the whole hill. I could not help but notice the number of shops that were vacant. Some had real estate posters in them, but in reality were never open. If business finds the rents too high, maybe the level of rentals should be reconsidered. But wait, you paid too much for the property, didn't you?

The Saturday Airlie Beach markets seemed very slow in the early morning. On the other hand, with a chill wind blowing, who wanted to wander around early? I only had to collect bananas, rather than a range of vegetables and fruits, since we were leaving town.

Glenn had told me of computer woes, possibly the result of a power surge. I had a couple of old APC brand UPS that had died (replacing the battery didn't help) but they still had decent quality power line filtering - better than the $30 surge protectors in the shops. Glenn and company visited to collect them after the markets. They wanted to show their visitor what the Port of Airlie Marina construction looked like from above. Basically a mess, and they did not get to hear the noise this time.

Sunday 27 July 2008

Running Away

We plan to run away from the Whitsunday Terraces again on Monday. Too much chance of the Port of Airlie Marina construction noise continuing. Jean has made us bookings in Townsville, Cairns and Port Douglas.

iPhone Availability?

It turns out that Telstra are listing the Apple iPhone as being available in at least two places in the Whitsundays. TLS Cannovale Shop 2021, Whitsunday Shopping Centre, Shootharbour Road (nr Island Drive), Cannonvale, and TLS Whitsunday Shop T21, Centro Whitsunday Shopping Centre, Shute Harbour Road, Cannonvale. Notice that although the same road, they get the spelling wrong in one of their database entries.

Monday 28 July 2008

iPhone Availability

Telstra list TLS Townsville Shop No. 2, Castletown Shopping World, 35 Kings Road, Townsville as having iPhones. Not that we stopped there.


Anything to escape the noise of the Port of Airlie Marina construction. We set off from the Whitsunday Terraces in Jean's Subaru Forester around 8:30 in the morning. Naturally Jean had a bundle of mail ready to send off. Equally naturally, I had one scrawled letter to some lawyers I should have answered months ago. I also failed to prepare any PDFs of apa mailings for printing at Office Works in Townsville or Cairns. I think the material I should have responded to is buried under newspapers alongside my chair at home. Real Soon Now I will catch up.

At the Bowen rest area, Jean got me to take over the driving. We stopped at Inkerman as usual for a shared chicken salad sandwich around 11. We resisted the new Magnum ice cream bars, with dark chocolate coating. It doesn't count until they bring back the chocolate ice creams. Jean took over the driving at the Townsville information centre. She knows Townsville way better than I do.

First stop was Carlyle Gardens retirement resort, to check what they were doing. It looked very like Panorama City, the community that Jean's parents had lived in for a decade and more. We took away the fancy flyers, for further study. They didn't actually have a lot of information, but at least had floor plans. I was later to do my own Carlyle gardens retirement resort website.

Managed to recall we needed maps and travel books from RACQ. Checked into the Banjo Paterson Motel, which we had used on visits several years ago. Then we sought Spotlight. After several fruitless visits over the past year, this time I found a half dozen lengths of fabric suitable for making into shirts. Jean wouldn't let me get the fabric with (very) orange flowers. Nor would she let me get the tropical fabric covered with women in bathing suits. However I did manage to get away with two knock your eyes out bright fabrics, and two rather more subdued (almost tasteful) items that will make great Hawaiian shirts (if Jean is willing to make them sometime). Alas, her own quest for patterns for Prohibition Era dresses failed. She wanted them for the Canberra Conflux convention fancy dress.

An early dinner at Sizzlers around 4:30 p.m. For some reason my medium petite rib eye filet is always served medium rare, or just plain rare. This time it wasn't even very warm. Good meat, but not treated right. We probably arrive at a bad time, possible while there is a shift change for the night staff. It was still a pretty reasonable meal for the price.

We took most of the bottle of red wine from dinner back to the motel (I was the designated driver). Like many lower cost motels, WiFi access is free, you just need a password. Alas, Jean's Dell with Ubuntu didn't want to link to the WiFi. My iPod Touch worked (once I got the password correct with that tiny on screen keyboard). The MacBook Air connected straight away. Must admit the WiFi signal is pretty feeble. Being right above the office, I thought we might get a better signal. But perhaps the WiFi is not in the office. but in the residence.

While Jean was using my MacBook Air to get email, I checked my Google email with my iPod Touch. Got some very unexpected news, since after 54 years, I wasn't expecting any speedy resolution. Had another glass of red wine each. We may need to buy more red wine sooner than expected.

In trying to charge my iPod Touch, my MacBook Air got poisoned. Applications wouldn't boot. This started when my iPod Touch with version 2.0 software connected to my iTunes with a version prior to 7.7. I decided to Software Update iTunes. And the shit hit the fan. I finally resorted to a reboot. Then used Software update to load iTunes 7.7, and then charge the iPod. The Console log shows Apple have been sent details by Crash Reporter, so I imagine this eventually will not be so fragile.

Seems to be working correctly now. I took the opportunity to update iCal and Address Book to the latest archive from my iMac G5 ALS, transferred just before we left home. I really should write a script to automate the transfer of stuff to the portable when we are leaving on a trip. I moved copies of all the web sites I was working on over to the portable. Apple's Mobile Me is their way of handling it, but going via the Internet seemed really fragile to me. What if you don't have Internet access? I would prefer to do it all over a local area network. It is quicker as well.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Leaving Townsville

I was annoyed that my iPod Touch didn't know my location at the motel, despite us being able to use WiFi. Apple's How to update or correct Maps location information tells you to connect to Skyhook Wireless. They have a Captcha form with a Google map, so you can add the latitude and longitude of the Banjo Peterson Motel (-19.298841, 146.799263), and its Wireless Access Point MAC address. A Macintosh will give the MAC address of a WiFi connection if you hold down the option key while you open the wireless icon. This gives the address as a colon separated set of hexadecimal numbers. For reasons totally unclear to me, Skyhook want the numbers as hyphen separated, like 00-11-50-91-b2-2e

We refuelled the car before leaving Townsville, in case the mooted truck strike cut down fuel supplies. Jean did a heap of driving. We stopped at Ingham. I was able to use Jean's phone to call Karen, to see if Graham could do some planning for us. I need to phone him with more information after we return home.

Took some photos of Hinchenbrook Passage from well south of Cardwell. Had some meat pies for lunch at Cardwell. We turned off the Bruce Highway onto the old road about 30 km south of Innisfail.

Jean wanted to go to Paronella Park, to see the partly ruined Spanish castle at Mena Creek on the old Bruce Highway. We had bad weather the previous visit almost a decade ago, but this time the weather was perfect. I must have taken a hundred photos of this magnificent obsession. One man, who wanted a castle, and figured out how to do one that was perfectly located by a river and waterfall.

We reached Cairns after 5 p.m. Jean's directions got me right to the Cairns International Hotel. Very swish, with valet parking and all that fancy stuff. We usually stay at less upmarket motels. Mighty hotels have to fall on hard times before they drop their prices so far that we stay at them. Still, I must take some photos of the room. It is such a size that the bathroom is almost as large as some motel rooms we have used.

Jean wanted old fashioned fish, chips and salad for dinner. She remembered a food court. We wandered, and finally found it was actually the night markets area between The Esplanade and Abbott Street. The problem was that Jean remembered the food court as being on an entirely different street. Still, we did get dinner, so all ended well.

Wednesday 30 July 2008


Breakfast in room, from stuff we took with us.

Its Extreme had some zip leg pants that Jean wanted. No backpack for me, but they suggested their Cairns Central Shopping Centre store. We contemplated a self inflating air mattress to replace our broken one, but eventually decided to find a wider model.

We walked up to Cairns Central Shopping Centre, at the corner of McLeod and Spence Streets, not far from the railway. AllPhones had a decent magazine of who had which deals, and they had a battered demo iPhone on the counter. As expected, Telstra mobile call charges are high, and their data plans absolutely suck. 5 MB in this day and age. Then $1000 a GB. Some buyers are in for a nasty shock. However Telstra are also the only phone network with decent country coverage, so we are stuck with them, if we want a mobile phone. I and tending towards just not bothering with a mobile phone. Sure, they are handy, but only very rarely.

Jean found more clothes, probably at Katies. We checked BigW. Jean did OK, but I failed to find the few items on my list. Took me about 15 minutes even to locate where they might have been. I ended up with a bag full of shopping, almost all from Jean.

Telstra claim TLS Cairns Shop 105, Cairns Central Shopping Centre, Corner McLeod and Spence Streets, Cairns have the iPhone. I had to check. They did, but only in the 8 GB model. They were helpful, and seemed well informed, but ... They tried selling a $59 voice plan, despite us both saying we don't make calls. Told us the lower cost plans like the $29 (plus upfront charge for the phone) didn't include WiFi access via Telstra hot spots (although with most Starbucks in Australia closing, a bunch of hot spots also disappeared). I basically don't believe the phone store saying the lower cost plans don't provide hot spot access. I want to check what the mealy mouthed Telstra web page says. The store was also evasive about using a data plan on a monthly basis, rather than as a sign up contract item for years.

I tried the Its Extreme store, and eventually found myself a nice day pack. Most important, it had a heap of pockets for organising my stuff. However it was soon mostly full of clothes Jean had found. I failed to find any new DVDs or books.

On the way out of the Cairns Central Shopping we stopped at an R M Williams store, and bought new hats. Jean a kangaroo skin leather hat you could squash into a travel bag (I had one). I got a nice felt Australian Akubra hat, The Territory model with the largest brim available. About time I found that model hat. Like wearing a portable sun shade.

I went seeking Macintosh shops. The iPod place had some keyboard covers with large type letters. I hadn't seen them before, and could see their use. They also had one of the Griffin wireless loudspeaker systems, with a docking base for your iPod. I loved the idea, but don't exactly need another speaker system.

We went off along The Esplanade to Barnacle Bills for dinner, to take advantage of their 30% off offer for early dinners. We each had a very nice barramundi, each prepared in a different manner. We tried a new to us Goundry Offspring chardonnay with dinner. Promptly decided to see if any bottle shops stocked it (we failed to find it anywhere else over the next few days).

After dinner, I went back to Cairns Central Shoping to the movies. Saw The Dark Knight. It was a long movie, but not tedious. While it was non-stop action, and I enjoyed this homage to the comics, I thought Jack Nicholson did a better Joker than Heath Ledger.

Thursday 31 July 2008

Cairns (2)

Search for breakfast marred by not being able to locate the breakfast place I had spotted the previous day. Plus the Adventure Camping store wasn't open yet. Back to Cairns Central Shopping Centre. Ignored everywhere I went. Food court, or the phone store. At 8:30 I could accept that, but when it is well past 9, I expect to be serving whatever their product is. I stomped off in disgust. I never did want to buy a phone via a phone store, and wait in a queue for someone to sneer at me. So buying a replacement phone is yet again on hold, until I really need one. I really look forward to being able to buy a phone via the internet, and not having to put up with any wait in a phone company store.

I checked an Apple dealer, but they had only the 8 GB iPhone. Pity. Back to the hotel.

Jean walks over 5 km along The Esplanade path starting around 10 a.m. I was impressed when she continued on past each half kilometre marker, until she reached the 2.5 km market near the end of the path. There were a variety of interesting things along the walking path. Several playground for children. There were exercise stations alongside the path, with each one having a variety of different exercise equipment. Most of the obvious exercise gear had instructions. However the one that was least obvious (at least to us) did not have instructions. Lots of views of planes taking off from the airport, and them banking away from the CBD. We saw a sea eagle, a bunch of pelicans, way too many ibis and seagulls. There is a lot of construction going on.

We stopped at the Night Market food court slightly later than our usual lunch time as we lurched and staggered back. New Zealand Natural Ice Cream turned out to be inferior to some other ice creams. Not bad, just wimpy. It was probably also overpriced at $6 for three generous scoops. That was lunch. Not sensible, but we enjoyed it. Plus it gave us the energy to limp the rest of the way back to the Cairns International Hotel.

Collapse back at hotel. Wondered whether we were getting too sunburnt.

More walking for me. However I couldn't find a new small notebook with soft covers but without ring binding for Jean at several newsagents and stationery stores. Nor could I find a cushion for our outdoor sun lounge at the Adventure Camping store (that was a long shot).

Off to Verdi's for lamb shank, with James Squires beer to accompany it. Pretty good. We also found a helpful bottle shop manager at Crown Hotel that had bottles of Goundry G, although they couldn't help with the even better Goundry Offspring chardonnay we were seeking.