Eric Lindsay's Blog June 2010

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Carlyle Morning

I was appalled at the low temperatures outdoors this morning. I am told the overnight low was 100C. Decided that I could just as well take my morning walk at the Willows Shoppingtown Mall. I wanted a Tuesday Australian, since that includes the IT section. In JB HiFi we found a DVD set of the first season of The Circuit, an SBS TV show about an outback court. We found a flower shop with fake flowers and with vases, as a first step to changing our art niche. Found a river pebble decorated bath mat, perhaps as a base in the art niche. I visited darrell Lea chocolates. Jean bought sensible foods at Coles, having rejected Woolworths for inconsistent prices. We also got a half dozen bottles of wine on the way home. As shopping went, it was pretty successful.

Two things were not not available. One was a Weet-Bix tin. I had wanted one of these since I was a kid, but in those days we could not afford them. Checked the Telstra Prepaid SIM pack for the iPad (the Telstra web site says they are available). TLife shop again said they would have them on Wednesday, perhaps even this afternoon. This is the Telstra Pre-paid MicroSIM for iPad.

Web Blindness

If you look at a web page, where does your attention focus? Eye track studies mean we know banner advertising is pretty much entirely dismissed. The right hand column advertising is pretty much totally dismissed. In turn, this means if you have items readers can click in the right hand column, they will often not been seen.

If the reader is engrossed with the main content, they will page down to continue reading. So maybe some of your clickable links should be at the footer of the web page.

Wired Views

I downloaded Wired Magazine's new Wired Magazine iPad application. I remain unsure why Wired ever was a smashed tree edition in the first place. Wired is over a half gigabyte. Why? Because it basically consists of separate pictures of the pages for each article, in both portrait and landscape. There are around 400 MB of 4100 or so static images. There is a small XML base keeping track of content. This appears to be a clean, but very basic, display system. It actually looks rather similar to the cheaper Zinio, which I gave up on long ago. Since Condé Nast use Adobe's InDesign for generating their print edition, they probably continued that for the iPad version. They seem to be missing copy and paste, zoom, annotate, bookmarks, search, intuitive (or at least familiar) navigation, and interaction. The navigation is not terrible. Horizontal between articles, vertical within articles. However you do not have a good sense of where you are, until you press the top right hand corner and get the thumbnails.

Wired is no better than a DVD content system in most ways. I think most people agree DVD content systems suck. I have however seen speculation that having the Wired iPad application appear almost identical to the paper edition may mean it can be counted as part of their regular audited circulation, important to advertising rates.

Like others, I have to also ask, why didn't they just use HTML5 like Time magazine? I have to agree with speculation that Wired was a jury rigged hack to get them out of a nasty deadline situation. This shows every evidence that the problem is precisely the same as for the web. Appropriate design tools simply do not exist. So they fall back on fixed layout stuff more appropriate to fixed size paper. If the iPhone moves to a double density display next month, all the designs customised to the 480 x 320 display will need to be changed. They should have all used a fluid design in the first place. So should iPad magazines. You do not really think the display will stay the same dimensions, do you?

Why didn't Wired just use HTML and make it a web site? Because people will not pay for a URL. People will pay for an application. Once. I think for a lot of us, it will be once only.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Today, in haste

After about three passes past the Post Office, the queue finally was small. I went in to get some new visa photographs. It appears either Russia or Mongolia wants your visa photograph to be less than three months old, according to the travel agent.

Meanwhile, the TLife store now say that although the Telstra iPad PrePaid data pack is in Townsville, it is not in their part of Townsville. Some other store has to forward it on. Plus Woolworths still do not have the WeetBix tin I wanted. Jean had a list of five items to buy. She found only two.

Stuffed up big time in thinking a Yellow Pages entry was a good idea for the Carlton Theatre. I am now pretty much convinced it would be very disruptive. Luckily it probably is not possible to actually get such an entry, since we are not a business.

Sketches 2 iPad App

I am terrible at sketching, so I figured finger painting would be more my line. Turns out that even using LateNiteSoft Sketches 2 I am not much good at finger painting. Had to locate the Sketches 2 FAQ to figure simple things out. Like where the rename menu was (it was under Edit - I must be tired).

All Things Digital

I am not sure how The Wall Street journal manages to get so many computer and media industry personalities to their All Things Digital D Conference. It is now up to D8. However, it is often the launch pad for lengthy and informative interviews with CEOs of computer and media companies. Sometimes you learn a lot more about industry trends by listening to what top executives say (or do not say) than by any amount of page filling extrapolation by so called journalists.

I have no real idea how co-host Kara Swisher goes as journalist (lots of the Wall Street Journal seem to be behind pay walls, and are thus irrelevant). She might well do meaty and deep articles. However she does not seem to pick up things sufficiently quickly to be a good interviewer. Despite this, some of the interviews are really worthwhile. Especially if you can find a version that is not streamed and not fouled by Flash.

It was at D5 in 2007 that Steve Jobs talked up the not yet released iPhone. Asked about Apple software (like iTunes) on Windows, Steve Jobs also delivered the line It’s like offering a glass of ice water to people in hell. Later in D5, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple appeared together for the first time since 1983, in a great interview. You might note at one point Bill Gates clearly understood convergent devices. For example, How quickly all these things that have been somewhat specialised, the navigation device, the digital wallet, the phone, the camera, the video camera, how quickly those all come together, it’s hard to chart out. But eventually, you’ll be able to pick something that has the capability to do every one of those things. Bill Gates did, after all, begin pushing tablet computers at the turn of the century.

Here is a quarter gigabyte downloadable MP4 version of Steve Jobs interview at All Things Digital 8. Look for nuances. Jobs was enthusiastic, and had several points he wanted to establish.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Carlyle Morning

I was awake before five, and working on the computer. Downloaded some large items, like a 99 cent rental movie from iTunes Store. Seems lots of web page things will not co-operate with me. I was hoping to find a very clean method of writing a two or three level horizontal menu for a web page. However it seems I will need to force the positioning, using absolute and relative. I simply can not find a clean markup method for this sort of multi-level horizontal menu. A horizontal with a vertical dropdown is easy, but that does not suit me.

Jean eventually went off in the car to do her shopping. She later reported being ignored at the Telstra store. The Telstra store was too busy to enter when she next tried. Still no WeetBix tins, it seems.

1RAR Band Plays for Carlyle Gardens

I had a call from Geoff reminding me about the 1RAR (the Band of the First Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment) band concert for residents. We wandered around the Carlton Theatre auditorium, taking sound level readings. The wonderfully professional 1RAR band members co-operated in holding down the sound levels (not easy with brass instruments). We have issues with noise levels within the venue. More important, a few residents had said they could not attend due to the noise level at some concerts.

I checked whether the music got muddy towards the rear of the large room. It was still sounding pretty good where the ceiling drops lower. It was only very near the rear wall that you got any reflections. I think if we add two rows of chairs toward the rear, we will have a good spot for residents with sensitive ears to sit. If only there was a good way to cater for those needing a bit of extra aid with their hearing. I am checking T coil hearing loops, but the size of the auditorium prevents an induction loop for the entire floor area.

Had the roast pork lunch with Bob, Blue (organiser of the concert), and three of the band members. As always, the band members are really nice folks. The residents do really like these concerts. We had about 160 attending. Also raised more than $600 in donations for Legacy, the charity that supports the families of deceased defence service veterans.


I had a bunch of sample video I had downloaded. Tried adding various movie samples (they show as podcasts) to my iPad. I also thought I had managed to transfer my downloaded rental movie, Secondhand Lions. I need to do a much better job of selecting content for the iPad. My original iTunes and iPhoto contents are such a mess that I simply can not just transfer everything to an iPad (not that it would fit).

Had to go over to the bar after 4:30 p.m. to get tickets for the Social Club Sunday BBQ. I stayed for a wine or two at the bar. I also rather regret that Allen has found some sort of entirely too tasty crisps for his bar. I think his dinner for unattached residents is a good idea, given there are close to 200 residents in that category. The first dinner is on Saturday. Suggested to Sheena that finding birthdays of unattached residents was a possible way to encourage people to attend at least one dinner. Chatted briefly with Clive and Ron. Chatted with Ray and Sheena, who were comparing JCU courses on English Literature (albeit different decades). That got me back somewhat later than I originally intended.

Friday 4 June 2010

Airlie Beach

I was awake a bit after five. Quick shower, and loaded the last stuff into Jean's car. Refuelled at Riverway at 5:30 a.m. Stopped at Inkerman for a milk drink. They tell me the local population is around 1200, which is more than I thought. Reached the Centro Shopping Centre at Whitsunday just after nine. Got a bunch of DVDs from the DVD shop where I usually chat with the owner. I think what I bought may have counted as a major buy. Alas, the Telstra shop had not ordered iPad micro-SIMs until that morning, so I had no chance of buying that. Bought crumpets and butter and (other politically incorrect) food substitutes from Woolworths to take to my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces.

The main street of Airlie Beach seems to have even more empty stores than ever. The front of the popular Hoggs Breath restaurant is a construction zone. They are moving the bar forward so it is more visible from the street. It appears that the local newsagent is now closed, possibly in an unanticipated manner last Saturday. I guess I will not be getting my subscription magazines, nor copies of the newspapers. There is now no Post Office and no newsagent within walking distance in Airlie Beach. Luckily the chemist is still here. Plus I got my hair cut ready for our next trip.

The phone rang. It was another telemarket guy, with questionable English (not bad, just very unlike Australian English). He said his name was Sam, which I thought even more questionable. Sam was intent of helping me with computer problems. He soon got to the bit where he asked which version of Windows I used? I cheerfully explained that no computer in the place used Windows. He said Oh, apologised for bothering me, and hung up.

However this sales call did remind me that I did not need the landline phone at all. I had been intending to get rid of the phone for ages, since I mostly have my iPhone nearby. I phoned Telstra to disconnect the Airlie Beach phone. Their voice recognition system seemed to get me through to the right area. A few questions, about why I didn't need the landline (since they could tell how few calls are made, the answers are obvious). The chap on the phone was helpful, and told me it would be disconnected that afternoon. I remained a little concerned, because I could still hear a dial tone that evening.

Caught up with Jim late in the afternoon, and invited him to the party at the Whitsunday Terraces overlooking Airlie Beach. Not that his view is any different.

iPad Magazines

I get the distinct impression that magazines on the iPad are already a technical failure, no matter how many sold initially. It seems a return to the bad old days of the web. Everything is an image. In the case of magazines in the iPad, maybe a vertical image, and a horizontal image. With some (usually unclear) method of navigation. It is as if nothing was learn from the experience of the web. Making a fake PDF is not a workable solution to magazines on electronic readers.

Apple currently make two sizes of iDevice displays. For the first three years they made one size device. Two resolutions, each with two orientations. They are 480 x 320 (iPhone, iPod Touch), and 1024 x 768 (iPad). However it seems likely a 960 x 640 iPhone display will appear. Does anyone (except magazine designers) realistically think these displays will remain unchanged forever?

These image based magazines do not permit readers to enlarge text to the point where the magazines can be read. They do not allow you to copy text. They are basically a failure, no matter how attractive they appear at first. Displays are not the equivalent of paper. Paper allows much better typography, and clearer pictures. Displays allow any size type, and interactive pictures. The two have different strengths, and different weaknesses.

HTML5 and Web Standards

I notice Apple promoting HTML5 and web standards. First, we should note that neither HTML5 nor CSS3 have as yet reached W3C recommendation level, despite what Apple says. However browsers must demonstrate potential features for standards inclusion. This site points to a bunch of fancy HTML5 based example sites. I should perhaps note that what Apple call HTML5 is most often shorthand for CSS3 (the HTML5 is usually the video and audio elements).

However why did they restrict the CSS3 to webkit only code? Had they added both moz and the putative W3C standards, it would have been easier for other browser users to test what did (or did not) work. True, various things would break, since Safari supports more CSS3 stuff. Maybe that is what Apple is worried about? Luckily, it appears that Safari Demos at the Apple developer's web site does not block access via other web browsers.

Microsoft also have some HTML5 demonstrations for Internet Explorer 9 on their test drive page. You can keep up to date with changes at the Internet Explorer blog. While hardly anyone would be experimenting with the IE9 technology demonstrator, it is nice to see Microsoft finally making a serious attempt at keeping up with advances in web standards.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Airlie Beach Markets

I saw no indication that the Airlie Beach news agency was open. There was a sign saying newspapers could be obtained at Night Owl. Naturally they had run out of them. At the markets I chatted with Andy, who has changed to a mode modern style of picture frame. The distressed wood he used for frames is now very hard to find, he tells me. Caught up with Glenn, who I will see this evening. Since my favourite breakfast place was missing, I went to McDonalds for breakfast. They had managed to get copies of the Courier Mail. Rex caught me at the markets, and I invited him and Myra to dinner. I had expected him to have had an operation around this time, but it had alas fallen through. Ruth was at the markets. Steve now towers over me. It looks very much like her other two children will do the same soon. It is amazing how quick they grow up.

When I got back home to the Whitsunday Terraces the laundry on the balcony was almost dry. Doing that early always seems to get the day off to a quick start. Naturally I read The Australian on my iPad, since I could not get the real article.

Evening Party

I usually run a little party on Saturday evening when I am around at the Whitsunday Terraces overlooking Airlie Beach. This is pretty much a continuation of the Airlie Beach Saturday night markets bubbles and pizza event some of us used to do. It is a bit of a pity that Michael is not around today. Jim arrived first, with a very nice Pepperjack red. Glenn and Alison were soon after, despite a prior party and walking all the way. To my surprise, Rex and Myra were last to arrive. I had picked them to be first to arrive. Myra was drinking Coke and Lift Lemon.

I ordered a supreme pizza and a meat lovers pizza, and some garlic bread. Since my landline phone actually was now disconnected, I had to use my iPhone. This presumably does not give the pizza folks the same address identification as a landline phone. All except one slice were quickly disposed of. At the end of the evening, I noted we had emptied two Jacob Creek bubbles bottles, and two of the Pepperjack red. Perhaps a trifle excessive for six people. Lucky there are so many taxis in Airlie Beach. That was a lot of fun, at least for me.

Takes note to remind Glenn about Sgt Bilko videos. Takes note to check ABC TV early morning news shows (say 5 a.m. and on). Takes note to rent Silent Running from iTunes.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Early Morning Again

I woke up around 4 a.m. despite the excesses of the party at the Whitsunday Terraces last night. Decided I might as well read a bunch of stuff on my Apple iPad, so that is what I did.

The iPad works fine for convenient casual consumption of stuff like RSS feeds, Usenet feeds, mail, casual web surfing, and a heap of similar stuff, including checking some newspaper and magazine applications. Battery life really does seem phenomenal, with little reason to worry about charging the iPad except overnight. Web surfing and other stuff works better with my 24 to 30 inch monitor, and a full power computer. However it doesn't work so much better as to make the iPad painful. Plus having to go to a desk, or find something to sit a laptop on, is a bit of a pain. The stuff that worked worst was the newspapers and magazines. I think they just don't get it. However they are desperate to make money from their content, in a world that does not care. I can see more and more casual use of the iPad in my life. It seems like a really handy auxiliary internet device.

Social Activities Barbecue

The Carlyle Gardens Social Activities Club held their barbecue inside the Carlton Theatre this time, since the air outside around the pool and barbecue has a distinct nip these evenings. At least, it does to us delicate tropical flowers.

The bar opened at 4 p.m. as is traditional for these events. The 6 p.m. dinner was hamburger, salad, chips, followed by an ice cream. Not bad for ten bucks, especially as the volunteers brought the meal to the table. That is right, no queueing this time. The Golf Club was running the lucky ticket prize and raffles. They had a massive collection of prizes on the table. So many that John paused the call at 20 prize draws, to let people eat their ice creams.

We were all through eating and prizes by around 7:30 p.m. Heaps of people helped the Gold Club and Social Club folks stack and remove chairs and tables. We were back in the bar where Karen called last drinks around eight.

Monday 7 June 2010

Top 20 iPad Applications

I came upon a list of top 20 free iPad applications from ZDNet. Many seem very provincial, and location specific. I can not see them being top anywhere except in the USA. To take them in order:

Netflix does not exist in most countries. iBooks only has free (Gutenberg) content in most countries. Kindle is USA specific, although international sales are available. ABC is USA. Epicurious uses weights and measures used in only three countries (Liberia, Burma and USA). Twitterific does what a web browser already does. The New York Times and USA Today do a bad on screen version of a newspaper you can (partly) view on the web. NPR is little different. Marvell sells overpriced comics. Adobe Ideas lets you finger paint. AIM is instant messaging, if anyone else you know uses it. Kayak is a travel booking application, that seems to cover international flights. Gilt is a fancy, invitation only, time constrained online fashion sample store, that needs to go international. Pandora music is USA only. Shazam music search works in most countries. Evernote need a connection to their servers.

Driving Lessons

I learned that I really do not like driving Jean's car in traffic. I had to avoid wine at lunch (a bit on an inconvenience), come home from lunch early (a minor crimp), and drive Jean to see the eye specialist. Had to collect fuel first as well. My lack of knowledge of the names of Townsville streets meant I was not sure the eye doctor was actually on the street I thought they were on. However Jean gave sufficient directions to get there. No empty parking spaces in the underground garage, however two cars left a minute or two later. We were early. Jean was released with no problems found just 50 minutes after her scheduled appointment.

I sat in the waiting room reading previously downloaded Usenet news on my iPad, and then a part of a novel. Seemed convenient for both.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

iPhone 4

I was up a little later than I hoped to watch the Steve Jobs keynote to 5700 developers at Apple's sellout WWDC. As expected, the stainless steel and glass iPhone 4 was his topic. It moves to the power sipping interim A4 chip also used in the iPad. Like the iPad, it is mostly battery, with 40% more talk time, 10 hour WiFi browsing, 6 hour 3G browsing. Despite a slightly higher weight, the iPhone is only 9.33mm thick, a 24% reduction. Memory capacity remains limited to 32 GB.

The SIM is now micro-SIM, like the iPad. HSDPA is now capable of 7.2mbps download, so I am glad Telstra has a nice network. It is now a four band phone, which will make Optus and Vodafone more use in country areas. WiFi moves to include 802.11n (as well as b and g). Now has a three axis gyroscope, which with the accelerometer and GPS provides integrated six axis motion sensing.

The camera has increased from 3 megapixel to 5 megapixel and has an LED flash (despite both these usually being pretty much a waste of time). Apple say they kept the camera pixel size unchanged at 1.75um, and went to back illumination. The main camera will do 720p video at 30 fps. A new Apple program, iMovie for iPhone, will be sold, enabling some video editing. There is also a front facing VGA camera for video chatting.

Display resolution is now an astonishing 326 pixels per inch, a massive increase from the iPhone 163 dpi. This gives a four times as dense 960 x 640 display, in much the same as the previous display size. Contrast is 800 to 1. This new retinal display uses in plane switching (IPS), just like the iPad.

New software (to be renamed iOS4 - a Cisco router trademark, just like iPhone was a Cisco trademark) will include a new video chat facility called FaceTime. Apple say FaceTime will be an open standard.

There was a glitch with WiFi during the presentation (due to bloggers running over 500 local WiFi access points in the room. How Steve Jobs beats presentation panic analyses and explains. Steve Jobs does great presentations.

iPad Statistics

Sales figures were not mentioned at WWDC. However there are now 8500 iPad specific applications available. The App Store has 225,000 applications. 15,000 new applications are submitted each week. I notice more and more universal applications, able to run on both iPad and iPhone. Five billion application downloads. Payments to software developers (who get 70% of takings) just exceeded a billion dollars.

In 65 days, users downloaded 5 million eBooks, around 2.5 per iPad. iBook sales share by major publishers are now 22% (of all digital books). iBook had highlights. Now it has had notes and bookmarks added, which you can see in the ToC. Plus iBook can now read and view PDF, and put them on a different bookshelf (iTunes has been able to store PDF for years).

Rush Hour Morning

We were late completing the laundry, thus late visiting Willows Shoppingtown, arriving only at 9 a.m. Tried a money machine … twice. No connection. Bought The Australian. Found a working money machine. Jean had a parcel to despatch. I wanted a Telstra micro-SIM for an Apple iPad. I thought that would take ages. Instead it was ultra-quick (now the store had the micro-SIMs). I went seeking breakfast at the food court. No service from the place with raisin toast, for the second time in a row. Stomped off to help Jean with her food shopping.

Jean dropped me at the Carlton Theatre, so I could get lessons from Geoff on how the sound system was set up, during an audio test. All the controls were nicely labelled, although not everything was originally installed in the most convenient manner. Still way better than most I have seen in small sound installations. More testing. Told Ray to swallow the microphone. It sounded much better once he got used to holding the microphone real close.

3G for the Apple iPad

I picked up a $30 Telstra iPad micro-SIM data pack at the TLife store at Willows this morning. Apple have a web page about iPad with 3G and WiFi, but it is not real specific about how to active the pre-paid plans from each mobile phone carrier. MacWorld list each Australian pre-paid iPad data pack. Telstra pre-paid packs have a iPad data pack offer and a special long list of terms and conditions. I suspect the TLife store have activated the micro-SIM already, despite this Telstra instructions on activating your pre-paid micro-SIM for iPad.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Police File

Despite going to the Carlton Theatre early, Geoff and Margaret beat me to it, and had already put out chairs. I got to play with microphones and levels. His publicity was working well, and we needed more chairs. There were 52 people when the local senior sergeant from the Kirwan police gave his talk on police and home security. Seemed to be pretty well received. We get good support from the police, and from our own security services.

Afterwards we talked about things needed for improving the Carlton Theatre. A bit of infrastructure is next on the list, to avoid scrambling up ladders so often. Luckily Leigh also arrived, so we could run some of that past her. Had lunch with the usual suspects.

Multi User Administration Problem

I tried installing the brand new Safari 5 web browser on my MacBook Air, via the downloadable disk image, from my own standard account. It says shut down Safari. What? I did shut down Safari. Fast User switching shows Jean had her account still active after installing Open Office (the disk image of which was still open). She must still have Safari open. So I switched to the Admin account, thinking to shut down Jean's login, like Software Update will do. No such option in Accounts.

Well, I can always use Activity Monitor to shut down Safari, if that is the only problem.

This discovery makes me wonder about my scheme to run multiple accounts on a Macintosh for the computer room. Seems like I would need to set up any multiple account machine to do an automatic logout after some time of inactivity. Don't want inexperienced computer users hitting this problem.

I mostly wanted Safari 5 for the Safari Reader cleanup of web pages. This is very like the Arc 90 Readability bookmarklet that removes clutter from web pages.

Thursday 10 June 2010


I see Google owned mobile device advertising agency AdMob have a mobile advertising SDK for the Apple iPhone and iPad.

On the web, I tolerated Google's text advertising (which is 90% of their income), as it was unobtrusive and often on target. When Google bought DoubleClick, and used obtrusive advertising, I blocked DoubleClick. I block obtrusive advertising in web pages. I certainly hope Internet advertisers continue to use Adobe Flash, as I either switch Flash off, or use Click to Flash.

There is some advertising I love. Flyers from local stores (which are delivered in bulk to near my mail box, so I can decide whether to collect them or not that week). I can toss the irrelevant ones straight in the recycling. I peruse the food store flyers for my shopping list. If I have some special shopping to do, I read the sales catalogue of appropriate stores.

However outside local flyers, I do not want to see advertising. Billboards are a distraction to drivers along roads, and should not be permitted at all. Buga Up did a wonderful job destroying tobacco smoking billboards. Now smoking advertising is pretty much banned. Advertising on television in Australia now occupies so much of the available transmission time that I do not own a TV.

As someone who does not appreciate poorly targeted advertising occupying large areas of screen or print space, I would prefer not to ever see advertising as part of mobile applications. AdMob dislike and protest Apple's restrictions on gathering data. I take this to mean that I will probably like these restrictions.

Mouse Batteries Dead

My Apple Magic Mouse batteries died. I was sure I took the batteries out of the mouse when we went away. Had to replace them with another pair of Energiser Lithium batteries, at vast expense.

This makes me wonder just when I last replaced the mouse batteries? It looks like it was on Tuesday 9 March 2010.


Jean dragged me off shopping. Well, first she navigated to the motor registry so I could put my forms in for bus driving for Carlyle Gardens. Luckily that did not take long, and there were apparently relatively few things wrong with it. The address was one. With no post office boxes in town any longer, we had to fudge that one. Jean was able to get her CR2032 batteries at Dick Smith. At Bunnings hardware, I get a set of adjustable wrenches for the bicycle. Jean found her shelf brackets. I also found a double adaptor for Australia, with a European plug. That may be a good idea for our trip.

The Carlton Theatre was already set up with tables for the Morning Melodies tomorrow, so everyone was sitting around tables. Seemed a much friendlier arrangement, at least if there was a group willing and able to put the tables out.

The Resident's quarterly general meeting was held tonight at 7 p.m. This is mostly informative rather than prescriptive. Leigh gave her report. Ray got through the agenda in 70 minutes, which was not bad. Needing written motions prior to the meeting does reduce time wasting. Except for stuffing up something with the blue microphone receiver, the sound system mostly behaved for me.

Seeking ADSL Modem

We checked Harvey Norman for a replacement for our Belkin ADSL modem router that I dislike. The Belkin limits the number of simultaneous connections (thinks it has an internal denial of service attack), which runs afoul of OS X Snow Leopard, which has increased the number of simultaneous downloads it attempts on graphics heavy pages. Like Google Images! So you get a page with no images. There seems no way to tell the Belkin that OS X 10.6 needs more connections than a Windows or Linux box.

Harvey Norman showed us another Belkin, no model number, called a Belkin Basic Wireless Modem Router. Not many Google hits on that, so I am not willing to take a chance that it does not have the same obscure issue.

Netgear have Broadband DSL Modem, model DM111P, with a single LAN port. It has bridging. However it appears that this needs to be the DHCP server, even though DHCP is off by default. It does not appear to have a Keep Connected option. It also does not seem to have logs, which would not help with fault finding. Plus it is reported to run hot. Our Netgear DSL834G also runs hot.

Netgear also have a fancy WNDR3700 Dual wireless N router with Gigabit router. ADSL modem, router, four port Gigabit Ethernet, and a wireless access point with 802.11b, g, and dual band n (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). Password is WPA2, which is the minimum acceptable these days, even at home. It has multiple SSID support, so you can have dual home networks (for guests say). It even accepts an external USB drive (like an Apple AirPort Extreme does). The big question is how well it works.

Glut of Apps

I had a glut of apps on my iPhone. So many that I did not even know what some of them did. Time to clean it up a bit (spring cleaning the phone) and declutter the applications. A bunch were Russian language trainers for our forthcoming Trans Siberian railway trip. Another bunch were bar code readers I wanted to test. These use the iPhone camera to attempt to scan barcodes. Alas, most then went to Amazon or similar in an attempt to obtain metadata. With no Amazon store in Australia, and old bar codes, this mostly simply does not work.

Friday 11 June 2010


I awoke around 2:30 a.m., despite not getting to bed until well after eleven. By four, I knew I wasn't going to manage to get to sleep, so I might as well get up and use the computer.

Went over to Carlton Theatre around 8:30 a.m. to help Morning Melodies. Set up a few radio microphones for Reg, who has often used them before. Reg seemed persuaded by Geoff that projecting images on the screen would distract from the musical presentation. However I can see events where it might be a good idea. Not sure why the DVD that Geoff made did not want to work as a regular DVD, and still needed a computer. It would work with Reg's computer. I must speak to Geoff about that. Helped Shelley set up a Carlyle Gardens sales table. Since everything seemed to be going well, I walked home so I could continue my work. Luckily it all continued well through the entire show.

Browsers and HTML5

I noticed HTML5 vs Newton. The Newton was a PDA developed by Apple almost two decades ago. The Newton was running Eckhart Köppen’s lightweight, text-only Courier web browser, as well as Steve Weyer’s more capable Newt’s Cape browser. The interesting bit is that clean, modern HTML can still be read in a very old web browser, as text. Sure, you lose all the fancy special effects. However you can still read the content of the page.

This is the way web pages are intended to work. First you write, clean, simple, HTML. That should work on any web browser. Then you add a CSS, to style the HTML, and make the appearance fancy. Only then, and only if really needed, do you add Javascript, to directly manipulate the DOM. Web pages that start with tons of Javascript are not in the race.

Notice that Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash does not even get a mention. Anyone who starts a web page with Flash simply does not understand what they are doing. Unfortunately, that applies to Flickr, who demand both Javascript and Adobe Flash player to see the demonstration set of photos. Little hint, neither are really needed.

Safari Reader

Apple say Safari Reader removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles. Fraser Speirs tweeted Most interesting thing about Safari Reader? It shows how little actual content there is on these busy, long webpages. Google's Chrome and Mozilla Firefox web browsers also make similar advertising removal tools available, in a slightly more geeky manner. It did not take long for the computer press to notice. Apple adds make the web go away button to Safari 5. The Register continues. Ads, branding, icky typefaces disappeared by Reader. Best article on the Safari Reader hysteria is by Nik Fletcher, who points out most web pages now suck.

Let's face it, most commercial web pages are full of visual pollution, with very little meat in their content. I have removed this crap for years, with router filters, a Flash block, and a custom user style sheet. As I blogged several days ago, Safari Reader is based on Arc90's Readability.

The average web user does not usually have options I do for blocking advertising. Well, increasingly they do. Advertisers will need to do a whole heap better. Ad-block, Flash-block, the web may become less accommodating to advertising as the browser evolves. Rightly so. Online advertising declines, which is just as well. In the USA, there were 4.5 Trillion display adverts shown a year. 2000 ads per month per person. Ignoring advertising simply makes sense.

Mind you, while Apple help block advertising on the web, but have iAds on iPad. Apple have no vested interest in advertising on the web, and make no money from such advertising. Google makes almost all its money from web advertising. Apple will probably make money from unblockable HTML5 advertising on iPad applications. So some of us may end up using domain blocking at our routers again.

iPad Browsing

I came across some graphs of iPad usage on the internet. iPad web browsing already bigger that Android or Blackberry. One thing that looks interesting is the spikes each weekend. Absolutely a consumer device.

Daily internet views per device shows Mac users averaging 117, Windows users 67, Linux 41, and iPad 38. So iPad seems more like a desktop system. By contrast, in mobile phones, an iPhone is 18, Android is 9, and Symbian, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry are each two views per day. This probably reflects the issue that most mobile phone web browsers absolutely suck.

From the same set of graphs, we can see a drop in so called Netbook sales in April, when the iPad appeared in the USA. Two months of sales from a company like Apple, reluctant to issue many statistics, does not give much of a basis. I initially predicted 6 million sales to the end of the year, but now believe I am conservative. Extrapolating from a very small base, something between 13 and 16 million iPad in the first twelve months, somewhere around 30 million over two years. At the moment sales are limited by production not yet meeting demand. For the first two months the iPad was available only in the USA. It is now available in only 9 countries. Other countries will be added as production increases.

Tabnabbing Phishing

I note yet another web browser security vulnerability called tabnabbing, which works on all web browsers. This involves landing on a sneaky page. After you tab away from the sneaky page, it uses Javascript to check your leaky web browsing history for potential login pages, and alter its appearance to match a login (say of Gmail). Some time later, you happen to notice the login. You may then decide you might as well check your Gmail. This lets the sneaky page know your login credentials. You have been phished, as per example page.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Concrete Shopping

I went to Willows. Mostly for walking in a mall. Before I located anything on my shopping list, Willows had to do an emergency evacuation. I have no idea of the reason. I walked over to Sams Warehouse. Their automotive section had microfibre cloth, but not the fine variety I seek. Finally back at Willows. Can't find DVDs I want at JB HiFi. Security guard wants to know how to get a shirt like mine (cotton, covered with bright butterflies). Stop at Lowes to check their Tropical shirts. They all seem to be synthetics rather than cotton. Wish shops would sell what I want, rather than what they can find. Buy newspapers, and have raisin toast and hot chocolate for breakfast before returning to Carlyle Gardens.

Moved concrete blocks from garage to garden. Now we may be able to move the storage unit Jean built somewhere more convenient. Not getting much other stuff done during the day, nor is Jean. We decide to measure garden, and find concrete pavers. Inspect pavers at Bedrock. Return with sample concrete block. Decide concrete pavers match. Buy 13 very heavy pavers, place in car, which sags a lot. I placed them in the garden, where I have already dug out a trench. Looking feasible to turn that area into an outdoor living area. My back now makes grating noises when I move. Not happy about this auditory treat. So I treat myself to an early happy hour drink.

Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

An article in Forbes by Colette Martin headed Is Twitter a Colossal Waste of Time? It starts with Instant Messaging. After using instant messaging, you wondered how you ever lived without it, right? Well, no. I never found a single other person who actually used Instant Messaging. I did some text instant messaging, back when you used only a shell in Unix. About once a year I participate in an annual general meeting held via instant messaging. However I have never thought to suggest to anyone I know that we participate in instant messaging. Nor have any of them suggested it to me. If I want to communicate, I send an email.

Next up is text messages via mobile phone. At 25 cents a message, I use them sparingly. Sometimes SMS simply is the best possible notification (since I do not enable push on emails). However that happens perhaps a dozen times a month.

Some people whose opinions I really respect say Twitter is of great use. On the other hand, it is about a month since I last logged into Twitter or Facebook. I still just can not see a lot of use in either.

Text Measure

Text on a page consists of a certain number of words. Typically two and a half alphabets, or somewhere between 50 and 70 characters for novels. Newspapers use fewer characters. This length is the measure of a line of type. If too long, your eye loses track. If too short, text looks busy. You also need large white space gaps to justify (even margins) the line. So in short measure lines, ragged right text looks better. Beautiful lines explains this better, with examples. Not that their blog gets it right as yet.

So, if you want text justified, you really, really need to keep your hyphenation beautiful, with a really good algorithm, such as this hyphenation algorithm, converted into a Javascript bookmarklet, from Franklin Liangs algorithm. Knuth's hyphenation is also one of the earlier versions. The question is, when will Apple include better hyphenation in their iBook and Safari Reader code?

Sunday 13 June 2010

Concrete Life

In between watching the current affairs programs on TV on a Sunday morning, and reading the weekend newspapers, I moved the large concrete blocks against the house wall. That left me space to start digging an even wider (a metre) trench (for shallow values of trench) in the garden. There is a foundation slab that extends around 300 mm from the house at the front garden. I have laid (very roughly) a row of a dozen 400 mm square concrete pavers. I want to make space for a second row of 400 mm pavers. Then I plan to put the 200 mm wide hollow concrete blocks in front of that, as planter boxes. That should give me a paved area about a metre deep (more in some spots, less where the window sill is), with a 400 mm high wall of concrete blocks used as planter boxes.

What I want is a small seating area, under the shade of the front awning. If the various plants in our garden survive all the digging, it should even be fairly secluded, for someone seated on a chair or lounge. Trouble is, the aches and pains are even worse today than they were yesterday. The good news is, the basil in various concrete blocks seems to be thriving, not just surviving. I hope future herbs go as well.

2D Tags and Barcodes

I notice more and more 2D tags on web sites and in magazines. These are two dimensional bar codes, which can be read by mobile phone cameras. They may indicate a URL, or be a vCard. Popular open formats include QR Code and Data Matrix. There are many bar code and 2D readers for phones from Quick Mark, who also let you generate your own 2D codes online for non-commercial online or print use.


I saw this article by Rose Holley on Crowdsourcing: How and Why Should Libraries Do It? It explains what crowdsourcing is. It has some nice examples of crowdsourcing projects, something that is often best done over the web. Astronomers classify galaxies via the Galaxy Zoo crowdsourcing.

Monday 14 June 2010

An Eye on You

I read the The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the 1970's. This was the British edition of D G Compton's science fiction novel The Unsleeping Eye, set in a world where death mostly does not occur. The French filmed it in 1980 as Death Watch. A woman with a few weeks to live is badgered by media. This includes a reporter whose eyes are implanted cameras.

Back in 2008, there was a report of Rob Spence, a potential eye spy film maker. He lost one eye several years ago, and wears a fake eye. Soon the Eyeborg project will implant a camera in Rob Spence's fake eye.

Communications Fail

I notice that idiotic Australian Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy is in the spotlight again. What makes a good Communications Minister? IT News for Australian business seems to think Conroy's colleague Senator Kate Lundy might. When Labor was in opposition, as Shadow Communications Minister, Kate Lundy obviously knew far more about the internet than the woeful communications ministers the Liberals had.

For example, Kate Lundy recently raised concerns about the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a secret piece of USA trade protection crap that makes criminals of many Australians and subjects them to draconian three strike risks. ACTA is something Australia should have rejected out of hand.

Recently Kate Lundy answered 65 questions on Gov2.0 in a live blog session. With more questions than time allowed, she answered the rest of the 170 questions on Gov 2.0 on her own blog.


This was a public holiday. Spent some of the morning digging ditches in the garden. Jean did all the hard work. She transplanted three of the purple plants from near the house to the middle of the garden. She also removed two of the green bushy plants that were getting in the way. I can see why some of the gardeners will not have those ones in their gardens. Roots everywhere. I kept digging ditches.

Now I have to read The Great Escape, so I can learn what prisoners of war did with the dirt from their escape tunnels. We are generating so much dirt that we have nowhere to put it. I started filling in hollows in the lawn and beside the house. These are areas that flooded last wet season, so I am trying to encourage water not to pool against the house walls. However what is really needed is better drains. The original plans had it right. However I think the implementation just did not follow the plans. I know of a couple of house that will flood if we get a really heavy wet season. One was within millimetres of doing so last time, and I have the photos to prove it.

Tuesday 15 June 2010


I went with Jean to Willows, somewhat later than usual. She was intent on food, leaving me to buy newspapers. This division of labour suits our interests.

Bedrock was the next destination. We bought another bunch of 400 mm by 400 mm Santa Fe Sandstone colour concrete pavers, each 50 mm thick. I had again forgotten my leather gardening gloves, and ripped more skin off my palms loading the concrete blocks in Jean's car. Unloaded them at home (using gloves). I still have a fair bit of earth to move before I can even start levelling it for the blocks.

Discovered Time Machine had forgotten to back up my iPhoto Library for the past five months. No idea why this happened, but I am not happy. Did a manual backup to the backup drive, as a temporary patch.

Visy Recycling

We took our first trip in the Carlyle Gardens bus today. This was to the Visy Recycling plant in Townsville. Visy have been recycling waste for Townsville Council for many years, and have just received a new multiyear contract. They basically separate potentially recyclable waste, compress and bale it. They sell aluminium cans locally.

The rest gets shipped south to Brisbane and further for actual recycling. Turns out that paper is the most valuable, since it is easiest to recycle. Treatment time is about an hour, which is not bad.

The recycling accepts most plastic (except plastic bags, food wrappers and bubble wrap). It accepts glass without lids (but not drinking glasses, crockery or pyrex, lightbulbs). Aluminium, of course. Steel tins and food cans, but they should be emptied and rinsed. Paper and cardboard, but not waxed boxes.

Metadata vs File System

I have over a million files on my computer. Consequently, it is impossible to recall precisely where each file resides. I have heuristics about where in the file hierarchy I store files, and what I name them. Apple attempt to move the file system from location based files to a database system, where you do not need to know where a file is located.

On my first computer system, you had to manually decide which track of a floppy disk was used for each file. This did not scale. Now we give files names, and the file system finds names. The file system increasingly becomes remote from the understanding of the user. However, it becomes more use. Apple hide file systems for several of their applications in bundles. iPhoto and iTunes are examples. Inside iPhoto, you can search for Keywords, or Faces, or Events, or Places, or descriptions. Who cares where the photo is stored?

However, outside iPhoto, there is a competing but incompatible search mechanism, in the form of Spotlight. However Spotlight these days does not seem to know about keywords or descriptions. Nor do application photo browsers, such as is in Mail. Mail knows about Albums. However my 25,000 photos are mostly not in Albums. They are in Events. If the Mail Photo Browser shows me 25,000 photos, where do I start? It has a search. So if I labelled photos well (and can recall the search terms or Keywords) I may find them.

Evan Sharp blogged about Document Metadata and the Finder. He points out many more examples of Apple's flat file system databases, including Mail, Address Book and iCal. Use of Smart Folders in Leopard increasingly makes Finder and traditional file management irrelevant. However Finder can increasingly use metadata to locate files. Most searches you could do in iTunes can be done in Finder. These Snow Leopard days, Finder can play the music too in Quicklook. Or Burn a CD. File Management and the iPad points out that an iPad is a device that lacks a visible file system. Does that trap users? Many computer users believe it does.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Backup and USB Issues

Since I was up at 4:30 a.m. having been awake since before 3 a.m. I started making changes to the backup regime. Turned off Time Machine. Added the iPhoto Library to the list of exemptions from automatic backups. Did a backup. Turned Time Machine on again. Waited a while, and then did a backup. When back into Time Machine options and removed the iPhoto Library from the list of backup exemptions. This sometimes triggers Time Machine to keep backing things up that it somehow excluded. Somewhat later, I am pleased to report that my Time Machine backup now does seem to include the latest photo imports into iPhoto. Nice to see old tricks sometimes continue to work.

The USB issues also seem to have eased, since I restarted the external backup drive. Since the backup drive seemed implicated (it could not be seen), I wonder whether its USB port somehow jammed the other external USB ports? The camera cards that I could not read now seem to be fine. I initially blamed the USB hub in my Dell monitor, since my iPhone was also connecting and disconnecting. Now it seems the problem was the Iomega backup drive.

There Goes The Putty Knife

A new Mac mini appears, without leaks of photos on the rumour sites. At US$100 extra, now it has a great looking nice CNC machined unibody aluminium case. Given the power supply is now internal, I imagine the case acts as a heat sink. The internal updates are basically a faster clock speed, and the revised Nvidia graphics card. This means Apple still have to stick with an Intel Core2Duo, rather than the hotter running i3 or i5 series CPU. Personally I think that a reasonable compromise, and that the case will still run very hot. It now includes an SD card slot, which is handy for photographers. Apple replaced the mini DVI video port with HDMI, which is more convenient for connecting to TV, but perhaps less so for a monitor.

iPad Camera Connector

A camera connector kit is an optional extra for an Apple iPad. The iPad Camera Connector kit contains two adaptors that can connect to the iPad dock port. See iLounge review of iPad Camera Connection Kit.

One adaptor accepts SD camera memory cards, for SD standards up to SDHC, miniSD and microSD with adapters, and MMC. SDXC is not supported.

The other adaptor provides a USB A type socket, for connecting to cameras. It supports Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP also known as Pictbridge or PTP/Pictbridge) and Mass Storage Device protocol. unsupported devices like printers are, well, unsupported. Some keyboards may work, if they do not draw more than 100 mA. Some USB headphones may work.

To be displayed, video from a camera must conform to iPad specifications..

H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats.

MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats.

Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format.

My discontinued Kodak Z740 10X ultrazoom camera uses SD and MMC cards, limited to 2GB. Video is 640 x 480, 13 fps in MPEG-4. My Canon TX1 Powershot compact 10X ultrazoom camera uses SD, MMC or SDHC cards, exceeding 2 GB. Video is AVI packaged 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps), as Motion JPEG, with avi packaged WAVE stereo audio.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Retail Therapy

Our shopping expedition went very well. Stocklands shopping centre was our first stop. Jean wanted a Townsville Bulletin so she could enter a contest to win a Harley Davidson. She also wanted $30 spent at Big W (one of three such transactions needed for something else). I wanted replacement batteries for my camera, mouse and keyboards. Big W had the packets of batteries cheaper than average, so I bought enough to pass the spend limit Jean needed. I needed some warm trousers that fit me, for our trip to the cold south next week. Roger David had exactly what I needed. My Canon TX1 camera needed high speed SD memory cards. Neither Big W nor Tandy had that, however a camera store in the mall did. Plus by then Medicare was open, and I could claim a refund. So we managed to find everything on our shopping list.

The motor registry was next, so I could collect my driver's authorisation so I could operate a bus. Since we both had the preliminary truck license, Jean and I got these so we could drive the Carlyle Gardens bus if there was a shortage of regular volunteer drivers.

We stopped at Anaconda Sports. Jean was able to get a microfiber towel for the trip, as they had several varieties. Some were so fine they would even be suitable for cleaning electronics. Jean also found a good quality BlackWolf wheeled travel bag, at a discount. It was slightly larger than my similar bag, at 80+20 litres, rather than 60+20 litres.


I want a remote control flying drone helicopter I can intuitively fly and control with my iPhone. Parrot are making one for sale later this year at US$300. It has an onboard WiFi network (for control), and an autopilot that will land it if something happens.

It has two cameras, the front mounted wide angle VGA camera provides a live feed to your iPhone. Rotors are driven by four 35,000 rpm 15 Watt brushless motors. There is a 3 cell 1000mA lithium polymer battery. Flying time is around 12 minutes. An ultrasound altimeter with a six metre range assists with landings. Computer support includes a 468 MHz ARM9 CPU running Linux. An SDK is being released. Running speed is around 5 m/s (18 kph). Weight is around 400 gram.

Friday 18 June 2010


We were making a quick visit to Willows. Jean got her $30 of groceries at Woolworths, while I got her Townsville Bulletin. Then had to return because of some shelf price problem on one item. We took a walk through the mall. Helpful staff at JBHiFi knew about high speed SDHC memory cards, so I bought a 16GB high speed SDHC card for the Canon TX1 camera. That should cope with 720P Motion JPEG movies.

Jean was in the TLife shop, organising changes to her old phone plan, and reducing her data plan. Not sure how she keeps it as low as she does. She suggested I also ask about a data rechange for the iPad. I did that, and now have to remember to start it just before the original data pack expires on 10 July. We should be able to do it in Birdsville on 8 or 9 July, which is where we will be then. Since we had a very helpful staff member, and no customers, I also asked about changing my iPhone data plan to one of the more favourable plans that had turned up last month. He quickly arranged that. Hope it all works, as the Telstra accounting system always worries me.

iPad Data

I bought Quota for iPad, and installed the free Quota Lite on my iPhone. This was formerly iiQuota. Seems to be a West Australian developer, originally for checking your download limits. I used it to check up our two iiNet ADSL connections. Nice and clean, once you recall what your user name and password are. Then I thought I might as well set it up to check my Pre-Paid iPad data use. The tiny gotcha here is that you need to use the iPad, and you need to be connected via your 3G connections, not via WiFi. This seems to be because the access to the data is via your iPad phone number.

Trying to access my iPhone Post-Paid data was not as easy. There seems to be a fancy Telstra graph. However since the original Telstra My Account page said my account number had been changed, it also was not giving me any data, except on the old account number. This does make some sense. There is a list of Telstra accounts and FAQs available. I tried running one of the Telstra Mobile Usage connections.

Saturday 19 June 2010


I went to the Willows Shopping Centre for the weekend newspapers. Then wasted a lot of time wandering around, only to discover no store in the place still had stocks of AA Lithium batteries. Luckily I had two packets from our previous shopping, but with the keyboard taking two, the mouse taking two, and the camera taking two, I will not actually have any stock on hand when I next run out of juice.

When I returned I found all the downloads I had set up on the computers had come through. I am convinced I need to collect a few other items soon, but if I listed them anywhere, I can no longer find the list.

In between reading newspapers I worked on an ANZAPA contribution. By the evening, I had actually completed the mailing comments. In between all that, I went out in the sunshine and removed more dirt from the garden bed. However I am now resigned to not completing the paving before we leave.

Google is an Advertising Company

I think people sometimes forget that Google is an advertising company, which needs to make a profit. The search engine service came first, but the profits all come from advertising. So people doing searches are not Google customers, any more than newspaper readers are customers. The customers of both are advertisers. It is to the advertisers that both Google and newspapers are loyal.

The history of the Internet was written in Usenet, a collections of newsgroups. Deja News held it for a while. In February 2001, Google bought Deja, and acquired the Usenet archive, which it turned into Google Groups. Unix activist (he seemed to be in every newsgroup) Henry Spencer gave Google earlier archives. Google eventually had an archive of 700 million articles from 35,000 newsgroups, dating back two decades. In 2008, it became apparent that the index that would let you search Usenet was broken. In 2009 Google made some fixes to the Usenet index. The problem is really, will Google someday need the Usenet resources, and throw away the archive?

The Last Library

Google have created the last library. It is probable that no-one will ever again scan the multitude of books Google have, as they try to scan every book (currently over ten million, aiming for every book). Microsoft abandoned their Live Search Books due to legal doubts, and cost. Since most books were published by companies, it is not unexpected that companies like Google would digitise all books. Who else would blow $125 million in legal settlements, plus however many tens of millions the scan cost? Now that Google have done it, who else would ever do it again? As libraries hit more space and cost constraints, the old physical books will be discarded, until the last copy is gone. Except the one Google scanned.

The problem is, the metadata is often terrible. Machine extraction of publication data is simply not reliable. Vast numbers of books dated 1899 (a quarter million used when the real date was not entered). Dates entered incorrectly. Authors writing before they were born. Books classified so they would be found only by accident, or if you already knew what you were searching for. Fiction as autobiography.

BISAC codes applied to books prior to that bookshop classification list. Indeed, why was BISAC used in the first place, if not to sell books? Google sell things. At the moment it is advertising. Later it may be access to books.

Google themselves admit to millions of problems. They have over a trillion items of metadata relating to scanned books. They know of over 168 million books. Part of the problem is a contractual inability to display raw library metadata, possibly as part of a OCLC WorldCat deal.

Crowd sourcing may eventually help correct what Google can not find via software. Crowd sourcing worked for classifying galaxies with Galaxy Zoo, for writing Wikipedia, and for the distributed proofreading of Gutenberg Books. But you can never count on crowd sourcing becoming sufficiently popular to fix book metadata. Especially in situations where what you need is experienced cataloguers.

Sunday 20 June 2010


This is my day for watching public affairs programs on TV (via my computer monitor, since I do not actually have a TV). Meet The Press. Then a gap of 30 minutes I spent wrestling concrete pavers into the garden bed I had dug out. Then Insiders, and Inside Business. In between I read the parts of the weekend newspapers I had not caught up on Saturday. I should stop watching public affairs, and stop reading newspapers. The politicians just annoy me.

Garden Paving

I think the garden paving I laid looks something like the Snowy Mountains. However putting down the pavers is more to get a real feel for the area involved. I know I will have to pull it all up on our return, and actually lay a decent foundation. I must get some transparent plastic tubing to use as levels. I need a slight slope that matches the existing garden slope.

When I put the larger concrete blocks down, it was apparent that the design just was not working. First, the decorative rough face of the concrete blocks is lost on the garden side, due to the raised garden bed. Second, there is enough space on the paving area that having the rough concrete facing the paving would not risk destroying your shins or ankles as you walk past it. Third, some sort of barrier is needed at the far end. In short, I need some more concrete blocks to make a sort of fence at the far end of the paved area. This would also have the advantage that none of the concrete pavers should need to be cut to fit. Given we do not have a diamond saw blade, avoiding cutting seems highly desirable.

Monday 21 June 2010


I continue to fall further and further behind the curve of what I wanted to do before we leave. Leaving on a jet plane is all very well, but my bags are not packed. The restaurant was not opening for lunch today, however I managed to persuade Allen to provide a light meal. Mrs Mac pie with salad. Checked with Jo Ann about something one of the Willows shop owners had asked me about. Visited Leigh to see about Carlton Theatre issues. All the work Geoff and Margaret are doing is really making the Carlton Theatre look great.

Post Office

Twenty years ago, traditional mail accounted for 80 per cent of the Australian Government owned (but corporatised) Australia Post's profits. That fell to 58 per cent a decade ago, and this year the Post Office will record a loss of some $204 million on traditional mail. In 2009, fewer letters were sent, leading to a 35.7% fall in pre-tax profit. There was even a fall in total mail volume.

Australia Post have a monopoly on postage under 250 grams, as rivals are required to change a minimum of four times higher than the basic postal rate. Australia Post owns 50% of Australian air Express and Star Track Express with the remainder of both companies held by Qantas.

When the Post Office in my home town closed, I changed everything I could over to electronic delivery. I am now very reluctant to take the long trip to a Post Office in a shopping centre to mail item. I certainly will not be mailing items that are urgent, because I do not go to the shopping centre all that frequently.

Tuesday 22 June 2010


In the evening I walked over to Carlyle Square, to attend the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club Infonite meeting. After the short and funny photos and video, Wal presented an account of using Google's Picasa photo handler. Given this photo package is free, it does a very credible job. It seemed that many members were impressed, so I hope that heaps of them will be doing fancy things with their photos.

Telstra and NBN

I find myself struggling to understand what is happening with Telstra and the National Broadband Network. It seems the outline of a deal has been struck. The Labor government is going to use taxpayer money that it does not have to (eventually) pay Telstra A$9 billion so the government's National Broadband Network can use Telstra pits and ducts to fibre optic to premises. This fibre optic will, I imagine, be intended to replace the copper wire connections Telstra use. Plus the government will, on our behalf, pay Telstra another A$2 billion of tax money so Telstra can set up a new company to handle this deal.

The Labor government in the form of Communications Minister Senator the right idiotic Stephen Conroy threatened Telstra (which is a stockholder owned company) with structural separation, severing of ties with Fox, and refusal to be allowed to bid on future phone spectrum if it did not agree. Telstra resisted for ages, before bending over and applying the lubricant. From an investment perspective, Telstra was subject to sovereign risk.

This is the same Telstra that was once wholly owned by the Australian government. The same Telstra that was sold to the Australian public by the Coalition government (idiots), so heaps of us could become shareholders in something we already owned. If I understand the plan correctly, after the National Broadband Network becomes the monopoly wholesaler of communications access to homes (like Telstra once had), then NBN will be sold off. Perhaps to Telstra? This is sounding more and more like some operatic farce.

Three Million iPads

Apple have announced the sale of three million iPad in 80 days. I guess I should not have been so conservative in my notion they would sell six million by the end of the year. This gadget is selling even better than I thought (and I thought it would be pretty popular). Plus it looks like sales are still very constrained by supply shortages. Apple have only released the iPad in a handful of countries so far, with more scheduled in a month or so.

Plus it looks like Apple had to turn to Samsung for more IPS displays, since LG must have topped out production at something less than a million a month. This should make a difference over the next few years to the production costs of IPS LCD displays. No one else is using them in tablet devices. Relatively few manufacturers are using them in computer monitors. My IPS monitors cost about two to three times what a more standard TN technology monitor costs. Many people do not seem to notice the difference until you sit them down with the two types of monitor side by side.

Wednesday 23 June 2010


I got a call from Heather, a new neighbour a few doors down the street. Ann at the office had given her my number, and suggested I might be able to help get her TV set going. The connections looked OK. I found that the fibre optic box was not powered up, as the electrician had left the power plug pack dangling in the Hills Home Hub in the garage.

However that was not enough to get a decent picture. The manual for the TV was not available at the time. I think her relatives had taken it off to study it - however they would never get it working properly until the fibre optics were powered up. Jean phoned me while I was finishing up a meeting at the restaurant to say the manual was now available. I dropped in and tuned the TV. Only analogue, so only five channels, but it brought in a good picture from the analogue feed that is piped via the optic fibre.

Mouse Batteries Die

The mouse on my Mac mini died today, and I had to replace them. I used some batteries that had previously been used in another keyboard. However I am suspicious that the life of the batteries had been far shorter than I expected. On checking my blog, I find the mouse batteries were last replaced on Tuesday 9 March 2010.

Forward Mail to a Date

Mail arrives, and I need to respond, but can only do so at a future date. I can set an iCal alarm as a reminder, or maybe write an Applescript to handle it. However it would be really nice if I could Forward a specific email to a future date, so that I can deal with it when it appears in my mail queue again.

So instead of hauling out the Applescript manuals, I sent an enhancement request to Apple. Sometimes they seem to be listening to things I want.

Thursday 24 June 2010


A momentary power outage at 6:43 a.m. while Time Machine was backing up my Mac mini. I hope that the UPS managed to protect the backup drive.

Mailed 31 copies of a six page FAPA, for the August mailing. It seems 500 grams of paper costs $12.60 to the USA. Mailed 3 kg package of future history (of the past) books to Michael (MFG).

Billing indicates that the Airlie Beach landline phone is now disconnected, as I requested on 4 June. I wonder how long before the lower cost iPhone data pack starts getting indicated? The Telstra online accounting system simply does not work at all. Nor can Quota on my iPhone or iPad manage to extract the Telstra data at the moment.

RAR Files

I seem to have accumulated a number of RAR compressed files. This is a proprietary Russian archive format, and I have no idea why anyone uses it. UNRAR 3.20 freeware Copyright (c) 1993-2003 Eugene Roshal. I found that UnRarX is a Universal Binary for Macintosh intended to unpack RAR. Luckily, it is available in ZIP compression, which is a heap more common. This appears to be doing the job of unpacking the .rar files.

Kevin Rudd Dumped

I see Kevin Rudd has been dumped as Prime Minister by the Labor Party before even completing his first term of office. Kevin 07, Gone by 11. This is probably the first time the Labor Party has dumped a Prime Minister before the end of his first term. Stabbed in the back by the NSW factions and Union bosses who control a party in which Rudd had very little support, when all he wanted was to be a despot and practice his spin. And he isn't even a bowler.

Despite how hard working and smart Rudd was, he often seemed tone deaf on politics and on actually completing tasks. Rudd said all the right things, and kept right on saying them until your head hurt. He reminded me of one of those annoying little yapping dogs that bark at cars. He finally caught one, and then he did not know what to do with it.

Two groups in Labor have made Australia unsafe for investors, by invoking the prospect of sovereign risk. First was the worst Minister for Communications that Australia has ever had, Senator the Right Idiotic Stephen Conroy, who threatened Telstra with structural separation, removal of their holding in Fox, and being excluded from bidding for phone bandwidth in future spectrum auctions. As a Telstra shareholder, that alone was sufficient to make me determined not to vote for Labor.

The second sovereign risk was Kevin Rudd and his kitchen cabinet, including Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swann. They ignored over 150 recommendations for tax reform in the Henry report, and selected (and changed) three items. The tax on miners was retrospective, and acted against their large existing investments. This was to fill a fund gap the Labor party had created with its stimulus overspending. That was enough to make me decide there was too much risk in further investments in Australia.

If Julia Gillard manages to win the next election, and becomes the first elected woman Prime Minister, she will be even more dangerous than Rudd was. Rudd wanted power and prestige. Gillard probably actually believes in Labor and socialism. That could be far more damaging to Australia. She still has to sell the public the same damaged package of goods. Labor is still up the same shit creek in the same spendthrift boat, and still doesn't have a paddle.

For the first time in my life, I am actually wondering whether I will still live in Australia and still be an Australian citizen in another decade.

Clean Energy for the Outback

Outback service stations along major tourist routes off the electricity grid spend hundreds of dollars a week on diesel for generating electricity. They also make sure tourists know about these costs!

Intermittent Green energy sources such as wind (across Nullarbor), and photovoltaic or even experimental solar thermal (across the Top End) could partially or completely replace diesel for several hours a day (diesel would run automatically to make up shortfalls). It would be a relatively cheap way to experiment with which systems might be worth considering for more settled areas. It is in an environment where energy costs are already very high, due to transport and diesel costs, so there is no competition from cheap coal. Plus a lot of tourists would be exposed to the sight of these systems, and hear about how they work (appropriate signage for tourists to read and photograph).

I think these service stations should be specifically targeted by a low cost program, similar to the ones that put solar into some Indigenous communities.

25 June 2010

To Canberra

We had a 7:30 departure from Carlyle Gardens. Luckily the taxi driver's mother lives in CG, so at least he knew the right area. He got us to the Townsville airport in plenty of time for our 9:15 a.m. flight. The direct Virgin DJ1888 flight got us to Canberra at midday. An Indian taxi driver soon had us at the Capital Executive Apartment Hotel on Northbourne Avenue. Indeed, the rooms were not yet ready. We left our bags at their overflowing luggage room.

We walked down Mort Street to Canberra Centre. It soon became apparent that Jean's destination was Pancake Parlour. Jean had a Tabriz, I had the Canadian pancakes (bacon and eggs). Our Seniors Card provided a 20% discount, which was rather nice. Wish I had been able to fit in a dessert.

I also went shopping for additional Canon NB-4L batteries (well, inca brand fake versions thereof) for my Canon TX1 camera. Ted's Camera Store had these $10 cheaper than anywhere else I saw. We stocked up with dinner and lunch supplies for the room at Bite Into Life, which had rather good prices. I was later to notice a DVD loan vending machine outside this store. Weird to think a USA vending machine being available in Australia.

We were installed in our hotel room a little after 3 p.m. The room was spacious, but so dark! One anomaly was two fridges. One a mini-bar fridge. The other a small full size fridge where we could stash our shopping. We were just putting the last of the supplies away as rain threatened.

Then we discovered we had no wine. Seek the elusive umbrellas. Brave the rain to the First Choice store across from the hotel. Got a nice bottle of Stoneleigh Pinot Noir from Marlborough to go with our chicken dinner.

Saturday 26 June 2010


I awoke around 5:15 a.m. on a cold and dark Canberra morning, although the reverse air conditioning had heated the capital Executive Apartments Hotel room rather nicely. I sat and read stuff from the Internet on my iPad, and viewed a few Gruen Reports using my Philips noise reducing headphones until Jean awoke. I was pleased that I did not need to use the battery with the headphones, at least until I needed noise reducing to cut in, as on an airplane.

We had breakfast in the room as we had planned, since the room had a fridge and microwave and a mini kitchen. Jean made some sandwiches to take with her during the sessions. I had thought to bring additional plastic bags for just this sort of situation.

I walked down Mort Street with Jean to the Convention Centre. It was a longer and colder walk than I expected. Took a few scene setting photos of the Convention Centre, and also the casino, just in case Jean wanted a record of her visits.

I spent a fair bit of time walking through the Canberra Centre. Kathmandu had expensive gloves that were not what I wan. Target had cheap woolen gloves. Eventually I decided my old fleece lined leather gloves would have to do. Gloves are not exactly a priority at stores in the tropics where we live.

Ted Camera store did not have SD Card holders. I got some biscuits as a snack. Got a copy of the Weekend Australian newspaper as I usually do. Checked the Mac1 store, without seeing anything new. It took me until after midday to get back to the hotel room, where I made myself a sandwich for lunch while I read part of the newspaper.

Eventually I walked back through the Mall to the Convention Centre, take with me an extra jacket for Jean. By that time it was chilly by our tropical standards. Saw some of Jean's friends while waiting for her. We were back at the hotel by around 4 p.m. Jean ended up not going out to the dinner or the evening events. Too cold, too tired. We again made dinner from the chicken and cheese remnants in the fridge.

During the evening I watched another episode or two of The Gruen Transfer. The folding Philips headphones was been very handy.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Boring Canberra

I watched a couple of episodes of The Gruen Transfer early in the morning. Looks a lot nicer on the larger iPad display. The Philips noise reducing headphones work fine without switching on the noise reduction, so battery life is not a concern. Jean says she can not hear them unless the volume is full on.

We had our usual breakfast from the supplies in the room. We figure there will be plenty of fancy meals later in the trip. There will especially be far too many meals that are far too large for us, country meals being what they usually are.

I walked Jean all the way down Mort Street past the casino to the Conference Centre for her 11 a.m. session.

At Dymocks bookshop, I found a Lonely Planet guide to Russia, first we had seen. However it was not great on where we were actually going. Then I struck it really lucky. Trans Siberian Railway. A travel guide specifically for our planned trip. So I bought that in triumph.

It was hard to find a copy of the weekend Financial Review. I eventually managed to locate one at the food store. I also stopped at First Choice and bought a bottle of Mercury cider to have with my sandwich at lunch. Once again that was from supplies in our hotel fridge. Read part of the Financial Review while having lunch.

It was soon time to walk back and collect Jean from the Convention Centre after her last session. We again made a meal of leftovers from the fridge.

During the evening I watched part of Secondhand Lions, one of the three 99 cent rental movies I had downloaded from iTunes for this trip. I seriously doubt I would rent a movie costing a few dollars, but 99 cents just is not worth considering. It is a good deal for both viewer and movie distributor.

Monday 28 June 2010

To Sydney

Virgin Blue keep sending me travel advertising emails that I can not read, but which contain links to their website. What are the chances that you would bother to follow up on advertising you can not read?

The taxi to the Canberra airport at 8:45 was pretty good, and cost only $20. The driver was saying many buildings around the airport are heated via geothermal energy. Must find out more about that.

Canberra airport is even busier than usual, and now that a plane to Melbourne has a fault the Qantas departure lounge is packed.

We were scheduled on Qantaslink QF1468, on a Dash 8, due to board at 10:30. We did not board until 11 a.m. The flight is short, but when the bus from the plane dropped us at the terminal, the other end of the air bridge was locked. Eventually a ground employee (who did not have the required key) managed to get the attention of the inside folks. This made our taxi ride to our hotel even later than I hoped.

At the Valentine on George, I could not figure out how to attract attention to get in the lobby door. The intercom went unanswered and rattling the door did not work. Jean finally found an entrance via the cafe. It also took a fair while to get booked in, once the cafe cash register operator found the room clerk.


I rushed off to Central Railway, had a quick fight with a ticket machine, another with the destination indicators, but was soon on a train to Blacktown.

John and Joyce were kind enough to meet me and take me to the property. I have to admit that I have seen so much Australian bush that I could not bring back any real memories of visits to my grandfather's property when I was very young. The motorbike track is long gone. It was not until I spotted a bull ant nest that any specific memories occurred. The house had burned down, so any chance of that triggering memories was also lost.

Upon my return to Sydney I wandered around seeking some light snack for dinner. Jean had sent an SMS of what she had organised. Jean had gone off with her friend Kathy for dinner. I was however pleased to see Kathy again when they returned.

Tuesday 29 June 2010


I was awake at around 4:30. So I hid in a corner of the room and read RSS feeds until Jean awoke after 7 a.m.

Jean had prepared a parcel of surplus items to mail home, so we needed to visit the Post Office. Meanwhile I collected The Australian newspaper. Central Sydney suffers from wind tunnel effects. It was far colder than I expected, unless you could shelter from the wind.

At Central Station we visited the Railway Heritage Museum. They have nice large models of several recent trains in service in NSW. They also have an astonishing range of books and magazines on railways and model railways. I can see Jean buy and shipping heaps of their material back home on some future visit. Jean also bought a cheap ticket for her proposed visit to the railway museum at Balmain.

Jean headed off to the Apple Store in George Street for her free lesson in using the Apple iPad. She had booked that online prior to our trip. Since I had the iPad, she borrowed that. I kept wondering if the lesson would provoke her into buying one of her own. However she seems content to wait until I buy a replacement, and grabbing the older model from me. It turned out that Jean had more experience with Apple's iOS than the other three attendees, thanks to her experience with my iPhone 3. The lesson had a fair bit of material on setting up the iPad, as you would expect with a mix of beginners in the class. However it seemed they were finding keeping up a bit of an effort. Jean says there is another iPad class, but does not recall it's nature.

We had lunch at Mona's in Pitt Street. It was uncrowded, which continually surprises me given it's combination of good plain food and reasonable prices. Club sandwich for me, smoked salmon for Jean, and hot chocolate for each of us. Even the owners agreed, Sydney is cold!

We separated for our various activities. Jean headed for Galaxy bookshop, where she found a Charles Strauss Merchant Prince book, number five in the series I believe. Plus she managed to visit Haigh's chocolate store. I tried Central Computing shops for multiple SD card holders, but it appears they are no longer stocked. While there, I noticed 2 TB hard drives are now down to $219, a considerable drop. We got together again later at the hotel room.

Jean had a kabob for dinner, at the 24 hour OzTurk place up George Street. I am still trying to cut down my food intake, so I had leftovers. Although we checked the wines at Charlie Chan's, we did not get any wine to have with dinner.

For reasons unknown, it seems Quasimodo has taken up residence in the bell tower of the church opposite our hotel room, and is swinging around like a bat in a belfry, making way to much ringing noises.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Corner Country Day 1 Sydney - Wagga

Meet your friendly and professional tour leaders this morning at 8.00am in Bay number 4, Eddy Avenue, Central Railway Station, Sydney, for an 8:30 a.m. departure. After taking the M5 out of Sydney we stop off at Mittagong for morning tea and then at Yass for a picnic lunch. We continue on for our overnight stay at the Country Comfort, Morgan and Tarcutta Streets, Wagga Wagga, phone 02 6921 6444.

Corner Country Day 1

The Outback Spirit bus was already loading when we arrived at bus bay 4 at Eddy Avenue, outside Central Station just before 8 a.m. This was despite us being early. I do not know how our driver John manage to get every bag into the very limited space provided. I was even more astonished to learn we would be collecting five more passengers as we proceeded. We were on our way out of Sydney by 8:15 a.m. It was a beautiful clear but cold morning. The route past the airport let us see a lot of the gentrification of inner Sydney.

Our first stop was at Mittagong around 10 a.m. to collect two more passengers. A very short drive brought us to a beautiful park in Mittagong, with a lake, and a bunch of ducks seeking handouts. There were even weird cockatoos using a street light as a nest. We had a pleasant morning tea there, from supplies carried by the bus. John and Maxine did a splendid job of setting up the repast.

We bypassed Goulburn. There was a 14 tower wind farm on one of the ridges by the highway near Gunning. Minor, but interesting to see someone thought there was sufficient wind resources in that area of NSW.

Yass for lunch, again from supplies carried on the bus. I managed to restrict myself to a single slice of bread in making my sandwich, a pattern I repeated throughout the trip.

Gundagai dog on the Tucker box. It looked very different, with a different plinth. We also stopped to view and photograph the two very long wooden bridges across the river floodway.

Wagga Wagga Country Comfort motel around 4 p.m., where we got stuck into the small bottle of mini bar red wine. The laundry needed to use two sets of dryer timings, but that gives us a full supply of clean clothes again. Bar opened at 5:30 with a wood fire. I attended and talked with some of the folks on this trip. Dinner was pumpkin and sweet potato soup. Roast beef with vegetables. I think they ran short, as vegetables varied wildly. Fruit salad, but no ice cream, which I should not have had anyhow. More than enough food for me. Alas, I did not sleep well, a pattern I expect throughout the trip.

Eric Lindsay's Blog June 2010