I got about six hours of sleep, but then awoke around four. Got up and found out why the old Apple Airport Extreme (Generation Two) had a flashing orange warning light. It needed a firmware update, and complains when it is not up to date. I had expected that to be the issue, but had not been able to think of the update password the previous evening.
Downloaded 34 iOS app updates. Plus a set of Macintsoh updates. That was running so slow on our distant ADSL connection that I grabbed the surplus Whitsunday Times newspapers and took them along to Neil, thus having an excuse for a two kilometre walk around five.
Jean did scrambled eggs for breakfast, while I scrambled to make toast from frozen bread, having not thought to do so until time was short.
A walk around Willows did not find many of the items on our much reduced shopping list. We did get some outstanding food items at Coles.
A couple of workers appeared at the house directly behind us around ten. They tell us they have to cut through five metres of rock, and pump concrete to stop the house falling into the sewer. The story I had been hearing elsewhere was insufficient time was left either for the fill to settle, or for the concrete to set, when some Carlyle Gardens houses were built.
The workers had done at least one, and possibly two houses on the other side of the drainage ditch. I recall seeing the extensive work involved. They are doing foundation work on four houses in Stage A.
So the workers will probably be running cutters and noisy tools for some time. We closed up all the doors and windows, and put on the air conditioning, to mute the noise. Any desire I may have to remain here at Carlyle Gardens any longer is evaporating even more quickly.
Speaking of work, Ian the plumber was supposed to be here about three weeks ago. Still no further sign of him. I hear on the grapevine that some houses have real interior plumbing problems, and that has taken priority.
So Jean and I drove through the heat to the restaurant, intent on escaping the noise. Only four people there in total.
Mark, the head gardener, arrived. He looked hot (although Jean tells me it was worse a few days ago). As he left, he told us they would be cutting the new turf in Carlyle Square … with a nice noisy power mower. The gardeners had also done some nice work on the planted area surrounding the pool. Lots of mulch. This area looks much more open now much of the old metal safety fence has been outflanked by the new glass safety fence.
I tried sending Jean a PDF via Apple's AirDrop, mentioned in the OS X Lion specifications. It turns out only some recent Apple computers can use AirDrop. My 11 inch MacBook Air from 2011 is OK, as is Jean's 13 inch MacBook Air. However although my 2009 Mac mini can accept Lion, it does not have Airdrop. You basically need a WiFi card that can handle peer to peer WiFi.
I was put on a trial of a proprietary beta blocker called Carvedilol about a decade and a half ago, after a heart attack in which I lost about 30% of my heart muscle. Beta blockers reduce the work of the heart, by blocking beta-adrenergic receptors on cells. So my heart rate (and sometimes energy level) is pretty low most of the time.
There are multiple types of primary beta-adrenergic receptors. Which you have depends upon genetics. The most common is arg389, with some people having the gly389 variant. Carvidilol is more effective on people with the arg389 variant. There are two other known beta blockers whose activity does not depend upon the variant. Since carvidilol is expensive, testing which variant people have could cut costs.
See Beta blocker specificity: a building block toward personalized medicine by Brent R. DeGeorge and Walter J. Koch, for a detailed article.
I drove to Willows, as Jean was testing her new boots, and did not want to find she was too clumsy in them to drive safely. Jean walks to chiropractor. I went to Woolworths and got flats of 600ml bottles of water for our cyclone season supplies. The flats of bottled water were cheaper per litre than a bulk bottle of water, which was sort of weird.
Over to Sams Warehouse to search for seat covers. Found some after some searching, at $3 each. Not exactly the sort I wanted, but if four seat covers let me use the outdoor furniture for overflow guests, I am not going to complain. I think almost all the old seat covers fell apart, or got too disgusting due to excesive rain last year.
Jean walked back from the chiropractor. I missed her in BigW, but eventually caught her in Woolworths. How we ever synchronised before mobile phones is beyond me. We mostly used Apple iMessage for directions. Worked well.
I was able to catch up with others like Dot and Ray at lunch at the restaurant. I think Ray actually likes the Xmas lights John and I installed. I must remember John's Xmas party on Sunday. I hope it does not rain too much. Geoff and Margaret told me the Social Club were short of people for the Friday evening happy hour. I had not planned to attend any more social events, but decided to see if I could help.
I went to the Happy Hour, and had a drink or two. I helped Veronica sell the social club prize tickets (I don't have problems making change after years in a bank). Sue turned up, so I was not needed for helping count the money.
When the prize numbers came up, some attendees seemed to be seeing a problem with the numbers machine that Geoff had brought in from the Carlton Theatre. It really did look like a range of numbers did not come up at all from the random number generator. I find myself wondering if there is a problem with it, as it is old. Also I am not sure anyone is all that certain exactly how it works.
I went with Jean to Willows, mostly to collect the weekend newspapers. BigW have a one day sale. One sale item was a DVD, but there was no Red Dog available, despite us seeing it previously. Sucks. We did manage to get a couple of unlabelled $20 Laser Brand DVD players from BigW. They look like cheap shit, but I do not expect DVDs to survive the decade, so why bother buying a good player? Also found the under $10 hair clippers, so I now have a spare pair.
I reached the Carlton Theatre before nine, to help with tables and preparations. Xmas party preparations were already well underway. Someone (probably Holger, who attends gym early) had already put out the tables. I was able to help with chairs and stuff.
Geoff had obviously wanted to do the preparations with only three or four people. There must have been a dozen people milling around. Needed a sergeant major. Tables needed an indicator of how many chairs each needed (if you were not doing the default 10 chairs). Got away around ten.
Holger told me we had a bird nest in our gutter. I iMessaged Jean. She said she had meant to tell me about the bird nest. Jean later iMessaged she had removed the bird nest. I hosed out the gutter later, when I returned.
It started raining in the evening. I wonder if this counts as they start of the rainy season. I was expecting that much earlier.
The drainage on the western side of the house has not been attended to, despite being promised (yet again) a month or so ago. If that crap floods again, and I am here, I will dig a ditch through the lawn.
You may need to Reset your Apple router. You can generally do a soft reset to bypass security, a hard reset (to test hardware problems) or a factory reset (to repurpose a router). Resetting an Airport Base Station or Time Capsule FAQ A reset makes an Apple router request an IP address via DHCP. For five minutes, the Password will be
public. The name will be Base Station xxxxxx or Apple Network xxxxxx where xxxxxx will be the last six digits of the wireless Media Access Control (MAC) address. The MAC is a unique network ID for a network port. It is on the printed label at the base of each Apple router.
See Time Capsule Setup Guide for our fourth generation Time Capsule manual. See also Technical Specifications for Time Capsule (fourth generation) for 802.11a,b,g,n WiFi with simultaneous operation on 2.4GHz and 5GHz. It is compatible with NAT, DHCP, PPPoE, VPN Passthrough (IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP), DNS Proxy, SNMP, IPv6 (6to4 and manual tunnels).
See Airport Extreme Gigabit Setup Guide for our older model Apple router.
We went to Willows early for a walk in the air conditioning. Three times around. The Xmas music was horrible. I am thinking of refusing to go there. In these days of cheap personal music from radios, music players and who knows what else, I feel malls should shut the fuck up.
Did not buy anything, as we escaped as soon as we had done as much walking as we could manage.
Holger was doing something to the lawn alongside us when we returned. He had some sort of fancy plastic lawn fertiliser dispenser. Very kindly offered us a loan of it. We must find what sort of lawn fertiliser is appropriate. Of course, that assumes we are here to dispense the lawn food. I must say recent rain (or possibly the wallaby shit) has spruced up the lawn enormously.
It started raining around eleven, and continued for several hours. Not heavy, but steady. The French drain I dug onto the Eastern side of the house seems to be dispersing the water reasonably well. I still want to know what is happening with the promised proper drainage on the Western side of the house, next to Holger's place.
Meanwhile, it seems the concreting people are going to reinforce Gary and Helen's house across the back from us down to a depth of five metres. The word I keep getting is cracks in walls and patios. I have not personally seen these, but I am told Peter and Joan at the far end of the street are getting the same treatment. The workmen said things were falling into the sewer. That sort of stuff is not comfortable news.
No wonder people keep asking me to help set up their TV sets. I decided to test the new Dick Smith 42 inch TV before moving it to Airlie Beach. The manual is close to impossible to read (type too small and badly printed). The connectors are always way under the TV. I can no longer get that close to the ground to see them. Finally was able to identify the connectors using a flashlight and a dental mirror.
No leads suitable for the wall connection to the TV (I am missing one adaptor that would have converted one of the two wrong antenna cables I had).
Tried connecting the new $20 DVD player I had bought on Saturday at BigW. The Laser brand DVD player from BigW is utter crap, but at $20 I expected nothing else. Once I used the dental mirror and a flashlight to find the right connectors on the TV I was able to test it. Turns out The Social Network DVD seems to run a five minute preview or something, and locks out the menu while doing this. What a pain DVDs are. Luckily I do not intend to use them much in future.
I had the Laser DVD player volume at full (15). Even with the TV volume at 20, it was hard to hear the TV sound (from an eight Watt amplifier) over the sound of the rain. I am not too distressed by that, as I never expected the TV sound to be worth using. I have semi decent Dick Smith speakers (they used to import reasonable gear) and a nice 40 Watt amplifier at Airlie Beach to replace the TV stuff.
I grabbed a couple of beers and went to John's Xmas party around 5:30 p.m. For a while there I was concerned with rain, which had continued through the day, but the afternoon was relatively dry. The party was already in full swing, with perhaps a couple of dozen people. I had to leave at 6:15 p.m., but went back around 7:30 p.m. to see it start to slow down. I guess none of us party as hard now as we once did.
I found a very basic NetGear DM111P ADSL Modem in the garage clutter. This is ADSL2+ capable, and has a single USB LAN port, and a single 10/100 Ethernet port. No NAT firewall or other security features. It supports VPN Passthrough, but not much else. You use it with a separate router, such as a Apple Time Capsule. Typically, unless you happen to use a Time Capsule or separate router for some other reason, you would buy a combined modem router, something like a Netgear DG834 (various models) instead.
So the way to get DM111P ADSL modem working is to direct connect it to a computer via an Ethernet cable. Set up the modem as a bridge or a half bridge, by following the instructions (if you can find them). Typically it will be a menu option like
Bridged IP LLC or
RFC1483 Bridge. Your ISP should give you details of what settings they need. In Australia, typically LLC, with VPI of 8, and VCI of 35.
You will probably find the software on CD supplied with modem will use PPPoA (Point to Point Protocol over Asynchronous Transfer Mode or ATM) rather than PPPoE (Point to Point Protocol over Ethernet). PPPoA is marginally quicker than PPPoE (which uses an extra 8 bytes of overhead). This is because the Maximum Transmissable Unit (MTU) default is 1500 for PPPoA, and 1492 for PPPoE. Use whichever works, remembering that popping a 1500 MTU into something (Telco using Gigabit Ethernet backhaul for instance) that can not handle it will cause packet fragmentation, and decrease speed. So you should probably not use an MUTU exceeding 1492. However the Telco will probably be using ATM, which has a 53 byte cell. So really you want an MTU size that fills ATM cells best. This is an MTU of 1462 for PPPoA and an MTU of 1458 for PPPoE.
I could not sleep much past four. Got on the computer. No walk, as the humidity was terrible even that early. We could not stand the thought of walking at Willows, being in dread of the fearsome Xmas music.
We drove to the outdoors Domain Shopping Centre, where Jean hoped to find items at Kathmandu. While she did that, I checked JB HiFi. I had remembered I wanted Wall-E (Glenn had insisted I view it). I also wanted the recent Australian hit Red Dog, for Geoff, having also failed to find it at BigW previously. Not a sign of either DVD. Luckily I was able to get the one item I had really gone there for, an adaptor to let me connect a cable from the wall socket to the TV.
The adaptor I bought for the TV antenna cable worked fine. It took about ten minutes for the new Dick Smith TV set I am testing to go through and autotune all the channels. Of some interest is one channel providing H.264. The TV set can not identify the format. Sounds like another glitch in the change to digital TV.
Jean had found a meal voucher for two that I had long ago won at one of the Social Club raffles. It was about to expire, which was why we made sure we had it on hand. So we went to Irish Finnegan's near the Reading Cinema at Sunland shopping centre, across from Willows.
We each had the petit steak. The food was fine. The service reasonably quick (out again in 45 minutes). The bistro was mostly full and noisy, but it was a buzz of conversation, not obnoxious music. I was able to get a Kilkenny ale on tap (Jean was driving her car). We were both pretty happy with our meals, and will try the place again for lunch. We noted they had a variety of less expensive meals. We also noted many of the main dishes seemed enormous.
I never did get seriously into anything due to torpor after the big lunch. By the time I felt lively, I had to walk over to see the doctor to get a replacement script. Jean walked with me, for exercise. Only had to wait 35 minutes, which for that surgery is pretty good. The doctor is still never getting a chance to get lunch. I am sure that is not good for him.
The rain started around five. Keep up fairly steady through the early evening. The frogs sound like they are everywhere.
I do not see Channel 74, TV4ME, in Townsville. A new channel, started 1 December I believe, at least in regional Queensland areas. This appears to broadcast using H.264/MPEG4 video with AAC audio, not MPEG2 video. However my brand new Dick Smith branded 42 inch TV set can not display it at all. Says
I gather that during this test transmission phase the channel is showing lame infomercials, so I am not too worried about missing 74. However is this the way the future will go? Your brand new new digital TV set is not compatible with what is actually being broadcast. Seems setting up digital TV for a big fat failure if brand new TVs can not show stations.
I slept well, for once. Some scrambled eggs for breakfast. Put the laundry out before leaving at eight.
We could not stand the prospect of entering Willows Shoppingtown, and putting up with Xmas music. So our shopping trip was confined to going to the discount pharmacy at The Avenues, along Kern Brothers Drive. I can get my prescription medications there cheaper than the PBS prices. Jean got some milk, since we were out of it. I got The Australian newspaper. As we returned we diverted via Sunland, where the IGA supermarket had orange juice at an acceptable price.
A large group of people paraded past our side window. To my delight, it was the Lend Lease regional manager, and the lawyers who are the Carlyle Gardens receivers. It seemed our manager Leigh, and the Resident's Committee (I saw Ray and Wendy) had finally managed to persuade higher management that they had to put feet on ground. This two day visit means the higher management will at least have an impression of the Carlyle Gardens territory about which they are making decisions.
The previous visits for a meeting really did not show them much except the offices and meetings rooms. These are not where the major infrastructure problems are (although there are certainly central infrastructure issues, like the unreliable old air conditioning, and freezer rooms that fail).
I joined the usual table at the restaurant. Dot had brought her granddaughters, who were very well behaved. Ray and I did not know what to say to them, but the odds are anything we said would have just been noise.
Speaking of noise, the restaurant was playing an absolutely horrible range of Xmas music, at high volume. They could not turn the volume down (often my first request of staff), as a much larger group of the paper tolle ladies at the far end of the restaurant wanted to be able to hear music. Ray and I suffered. I also noted an even larger contingent of non-resident ladies from the Townsville Garden Club enjoying lunch in the Carlton Theatre.
Jeff joined us later, and had a late lunch. Alas, the rain started during lunch. It was after two before a gap in the rain let me walk back. Thank goodness for weather radar on my iPhone, for dodging the heavy showers.
I had been kept awake last night by crickets fiddling love songs at all hours. I was awoken way too early by frogs bragging they had found a damp downpipe. Nature! Bah humbug!
Willows for a walk. I bought The Australian newspaper on the third turn around the shopping centre, but note they no longer seem to include The Australian Literary Supplement on the first wednesday of the month. There seems less and less reason to buy newspapers.
Back at Jean's place, I packed up the new 42 inch Dick Smith TV set. I put it back in its original box, with great difficulty, so I could take it to Airlie Beach. I would not be able to fit a larger TV into Jean's car, so I must remember not to get too enthusiastic about large displays. Lots of other stuff to pack as well, which did not go well in the heat and humidity.
Jean had put the air conditioning on in the lounge as soon as we got back, before nine. We seemed to spend a lot of time there, with either portable computer or iPad.
The gardeners were around, trimming and maintaining the garden beside our neighbours out the back. Maybe they wanted to get it done before anyone returned tonight.
I went to the happy hour at the bar, and saw the usual crowd there. Sure was hot walking over. Jeff tells me he was recording 360C mid afternoon. It cooled down a fair bit come evening.
A late getaway by my usual standards. We drove off at six, rather than before five. The Bruce Highway is still under heavy repair, so there were traffic delays at flagmen several places along the highway. Luckily for repairs, the wet season has been slow to arrive. Realistically, these patches will not hold if we get a real wet season like last year.
We stopped at Inkerman. Eggs on toast for each of us. I keep forgetting I can order something smaller than their monstrous egg and bacon treats, that are well suited to large truckies.
Chad was shopping at Centro. I haven't seen him in ages. He is still flying the float planes, but spending more time in the office. It was great to catch up with him, and get a working email address again.
We got a few items on the food shopping list at Woolworths, but then Jean declared she could not tolerate any more shopping. So we continued on to the Whitsunday Terraces. Took me about six trips up the stairs to empty the car, but some of that heavy stuff was water and Coke from a bulk stash accumulated in Townsville.
I did some work with the vacuum cleaner and the steam broom, so I could start setting up furniture. Despite being sparsely furnished, cleaning still involves pushing everything to different corners of the room while cleaning whatever is exposed.
I did manage to get an entertainment unit set up to take a TV set.
Entertainment unit is a grand way of saying I repurposed an old wooden bookcase of Jean's that had been sitting upright in a cupboard for the past few years supporting a curtain rod so I had someplace to hang shirts.
Naturally I was still ripping DVDs and transcoding them while working on the cleanup. Transcoding is going well, albeit slowly, despite running 24/7. However the addition of metadata seems like it might be a challenge. Especially as I do not have an ADSL internet connection.
I went to reception at four, to join any available Body Corporate committee members for an inspection of the Whitsunday Terraces. Val was still driving up from Gladstone and arrived midway through, Doug was not able to arrive until Friday, and we had apologies from Ted and Nev. However Reg and Graham and I went around with Greg and Mark.
I do not want to sound too optimistic, as there are still lots of problems, especially with gardens and the ancient sprinkler system. However the number of small items from safety reports and previous committee walkaround that have been or are being finally attended too is amazing. Even the paintwork is being patched up. Given how messy the takeover on 19 August was, and how Mark did not get here until well after that date, I believe by the next meeting, the committee is going to be very pleased indeed.
We did not complete the walk around until fairly late. A bunch of us had dinner at Horace's restaurant afterwards. Committee talk finally turned into socialising around eight or so.
Jean was probably not too pleased with me, as she had originally wanted a dinner at Hog's Breath Cafe. However the heat was getting to her, and she ate at home instead.
I was up early, to continue ripping DVDs. I refilled the transcode queue, which seems never ending.
Jean and I took a walk on the main street of Airlie Beach. Saw Greg, so Jean was introduced to him.
Installed the TV set. For small values of installed. Good enough to tune it to the available stations. This proved that Free to Air TV signals were being distributed through the Whitsunday Terraces. I really can not see any major faults, unless one of the buildings has a distribution problem that shows up only in some units.
The major problem with TV seems to be that owners of Lots appeared unaware of the demise of analogue TV on 6 December. I am convinced a number of people are attempting to view digital TV with analogue only sets.
Another problem is the original deal with Austar satellite TV. The units were supposed to be wired so that Austar could be switched into only those units that paid for it. The installer did not do it that way. Austar (not unreasonably) want to be paid for every unit that could potentially access Austar. Unit owners and even residents are (not unreasonably) not always interested in paying for Austar. In my case, I have not even had a TV set for the fifteen years I have been here. Why would I be willing to pay Austar anything?
I went to the Whitsunday Terraces Body Corporate committee meeting to consider finances just before three. Luckily I was not last to arrive. I can not say much about the meeting, since that is basically for the resort Lot owners. Budgets are inherently pretty boring, except for the need to get the figures right, and get the tasks right, which I believe the Body Corporate committee did. We should see the revised figures circulated well before the annual general meeting.
The various conversations the committee (individually and collectively) have had with Jodie, Mark and Greg from Island Resorts over the past few days leave me very hopeful about the long term improvement and future viability of the iconic Whitsunday Terraces resort at Airlie Beach. A year ago I thought the place pretty much a dead loss, with only a steady decline continuing into the future.
That pessimism is dissipating. I will not pretend there are not issues for the resort, and for tourism more generally. However a resort with brilliant ocean views from every room, and the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep, will recover its popularity. This is especially so if it regains a three star or three and a half star rating. Lots of family tourists are very comfortable with that level.
The committee had a meal together at Horace's restaurant, when we finally got away from the meeting after seven. We still often talked shop.
It is no secret that tourism in Australia is in trouble, following the GFC, and having a high dollar. Competition from Asian areas with low labour costs in increasing. The Asian destinations often also have modern new facilities, often in the luxury range. So many Whitsunday island resorts have closed.
Greet Kepple island closed in 2008, shocking many. Brampton Island off Mackay closed. Club Med at Lindeman Island closes in January, if not before. Peppers Palm Bay resort on Long Island closed, claiming cyclone damage (I call bullshit on that). Dunk and Bedarra islands closed after Cyclone Yasi. I believe Dunk has now been sold to a developer.
Tourism Queensland's Don Morris claims
The Whitsundays is desperately in need of makeovers. However where will you get capital investment from when you can not show a return on investment due to high labour and running costs?
I see two ways to go. Hamilton Island's absolute luxury Qualia resort is getting good bookings despite astonishing prices. However it is backed by Hamilton Island owner Bob Oatley, who has taken the entire island upmarket.
I believe there is still a solid market for clean, tidy, well run mid level resorts. However the draw has to be the sailing the Coral sea and visiting the reefs, especially the unique Great Barrier Reef. Promote the whole town of Airlie Beach as the cheaper resort, but not as the destination. Lots of restaurants to choose from (pity none of them - except McDonald's - are open for breakfast before you leave on a cruise). Lots of shops for idle additions to your beach clothing. The great big safe lagoon on the Airlie Beach foreshore. Plus sixty or seventy pools in resorts.
I helped pack Jean's car, while she checked she had not left anything important behind. Got iMessages from her when she reached Bowen and Home Hill, as I was doing the laundry. The weather is highly changeable, and alas almost certainly going to be worse tomorrow.
I caught up with Rex and Glenn at the Airlie Beach Markets, but the high humidity, and temperature when the sun was shining, was not something I was tolerating well. I soon headed for home, instead of picking up food for the week.
Saw Val and had a chat with her at the entrance to the Whitsunday Terraces. Any excuse not to tackle the stairs straight away. Then I came across Doug and Anne doing their walkaround and inspection. I was pleased to point out the walkway safety issue had been fixed by Mark, one of the new team that Island Resorts have employed. I have wanted that safety issue fixed for years.
I am still busy ripping DVDs and transcoding. In between nursemaiding computers, I used the steam mop on pretty much all the remaining areas in Jean's domain. Just a few areas left where I did not have a convenient power point and would dampen myself into a corner if I had cleaned them. I keep thinking I got all skirting boards and other surfaces during the hand cleaning phase, but then I always find something that I have not cleaned. Once I get the place organised, I am going to see if I can find a cleaner to come in and do it from time to time.
That left me spaces to move the lounge and kitchen table into a better (I hope) layout. I was also able to install and test the speaker system. No way the building construction at the Port of Airlie Marina can drown out the TV set now. On the other hand, I still haven't located anything for playing a CD, unless I use the $20 laser DVD player I picked up at the BigW sale.
Is the fibre to the home National Broadband Network (NBN) doomed by the rapid rise of the cellular mobile phone system? Amongst people renting a home, more and more are using a mobile phone rather than a wired landline phone (the sort that were once known as plain old telephone service - POTS). Indeed, even now some people are saying the only reason they want a landline is for internet access.
The USA sometimes leads as an indicator of our future. The proportion of households that have only a wireless phone has been increasing in the USA. The earliest figures I can get start in 2005, with 7.3% free of a landline. 2006, 10.5%. 2007, 13.6%. 2008, 17.5%. 2009, 22.7%. No figure for 2010. 2011 and it has reached 29.7%.
A brief but very bright and noisy thunderstorm awoke me at 3 a.m. Since I could not sleep, I feed DVDs into the ripping queue each time I got up.
No point in a really early shopping walk around the town, as the Brumby's bread shop does not open until seven on Sunday, although the Night Own and the McDonald's are 24/7.
Today I completed the cleaning of Jean's unit (except for whatever I happened to miss). I think I will be able to move enough stuff to clean the other side soon. I do need to identify more junk and throw it out. But mostly what I need to do is install systems to suit the way Jean and I like to work. This is very different now to what it was a decade or more ago.
I did more attaching of wires to the new TV set, having bought a TV for the first time in 20 years. In fact, I am pretty sure these two new TVs mark the first time I have ever bought a brand new TV in my lifetime. I am certain I inherited hand me downs from my mother when young. Of course, neither Jean nor I have owned a TV for the past several decades. The new TV is working fine.
Well, except for not handling MPEG4 video on TV4ME (Channel 74). It identifies there is a channel there, using an MPEG4 codec. Interestingly the TV does separate out and handle the AAC audio signal from Channel 74. So the problem is a lack of an H.264 hardware decoder.
The Freeview Free to Air TV station pressure group have been claiming since about 2009 that to be considered Freeview compatible, a TV should decode MPEG4. SBS even claimed that TVs lacking MPEG4 should not be allowed to be sold in Australia. I tend to agree. Australia is just being used as a dumping ground for obsolete digital TV sets.
The TV even sounds sort of acceptable, despite a fairly wimpy eight Watt built in sound system. However when the ambient noise level is high (for example, when the Port of Airlie Marina is running machinery - a constant for nearly five years now) you need more volume than the TV can deliver.
The ancient Dick Smith 40 Watt stereo amplifier is working fine as a replacement for the wimpy TV speakers, lacking only a remote volume control. Just as long as I keep it hidden so people can not see how battered and corroded the case is. I am using my old Dick Smith tower speakers, which have a surprisingly good output for such a cheap speaker. I still think their crossover design for the midrange is monumentally weird, but I tried rewiring the way I thought was right, and their version sounds better. So now I do not change them. My sound meters showed decent output down to 30Hz, and up to 16kHZ, and mostly within 3dB from about 60Hz to the top. There is a nice Java web application that lets you generate your test signals, at 1Hz intervals, up to 22kHz. I probably can't hear over 16kHz these days in any case, so only if I want bass do I need to add anything like a sub-woofer.
I finally got to watch TV tonight. The big problem with TV is the Free to Air TV content is utter crap!
I have no interest in watching ordinary people make fools of themselves for trivial amounts of money. Especially when the shows judges seem to specialise in basically being nasty about it. What is the point of deliberately embarrassing contestants?
If I wanted to experience the preparation of fine food, I would go to a restaurant.
I am not into the business of spectator sports. It is basically an advertising ploy. The only sports I would want to follow are ones I play myself. At retirement age, I do not do a lot of sports. Besides, outrigger canoes are not heavily featured on TV sports.
That leaves movies, at the mercy of the channel programmer. Having your own copy of the movie is far better, since you can schedule it when you want. No wonder recorders became popular.
So I strongly suspect that audience numbers for TV stations are pathetic, compared to its peak. In turn, advertisers are no longer willing to pay as much. Which is driving the TV companies into bankruptcy. Looks like James Packer got out of TV at almost the right time.
I was again awoken by a thunderstorm, at 2 a.m. This time I got the doors closed before the rain came in from the north. Put more DVDs in the old iMac to rip. Finally got up for good and had breakfast on the main street. The Courier Mail seems not to care about federal politics. No mention of the cabinet reshuffle that I noticed.
Started laundry. That was a mistake. The old green futon cover shed incredible quantities of cotton all over everything else. I think I have probably ruined a couple of shirts and trousers, at least in terms of them ever looking clean again. The old washing machine also shredded a few pairs of underwear. Grump.
Jim dropped over late afternoon. We had to fortify ourselves against malaria with gin and tonic. It took some time to build up immunity.
I failed to persuade the air conditioning to start, and it was over 300C before eight. I was just up on the ladder about to peer into the indicators when it finally kicked on. Of course, Jean was iMessaging me about then, so I was texting in between reading the AC manual.
Sometime after nine, the Daikin air conditioning failed again. I wasted a heap of time trying to persuade it to start again. I still can not find a main power switch for the air conditioning. I have looked all over the wall next to the main unit, where it is for most multiple head split system air conditioning units. Seems one of the two internal switches also controls the main unit. Not that this helped.
I am really wondering if something untoward was done to the air conditioning during the service at the start of the year. Michael had said he was not sure it was working properly when he stayed here. However since I never use it except in the hottest part of summer, any check I did was only for a few minutes. We got about three days use out of it before it stopped.
Craig from IceCool arrived an hour or so after I phoned. Since the Daikin was still powering up, he was able to extract fault codes indicating a communications failure, which is a broad (and expensive) heading. He picked geckos fried on the board. Two of them, under the main electronics board. Same as on the previous occasion, not long after we bought the unit. I asked about the silicon coating they used to use. Seems Daikin will not warrantee use, as it reduces cooling. So the geckos always manage to get in, despite whatever obstacles you place in their way. I hate geckos.
I have been continuing the DVD ripping whenever I have been awake. Today the last of the bulk material is completed. There are a dozen or so failed DVD rips, and a half dozen DVDs that the software can not handle. However the job of ripping is basically done.
Alas, transcoding takes even longer.
I see there are two cruise ships in port in the Whitsunday area today, for the first time. Rhapsody of the Sea will be in Pioneer Bay, with passengers arriving at Abel Point Marina. Diamond Princess will be at Shute Harbour.
I saw Glenn at the markets, to wish him a happy Christmas, since he will be missing for a while travelling.
Ocean Princess and Diamond Princess will be in port together on 20 March 2012, with 36 cruise ships expected during the year.
I went for a latish morning walk, and hoped McDonald's would have a spare newspaper. No newspaper on any of my visits, so I skipped having breakfast there. No food at the markets. Got a bread roll for lunch at Brumby's.
Some feral grub had knocked the sprinkler tops off every sprinkler on the second level of Anchor Terraces. These arseholes need to be identified, and if living here, thrown out, or the Lot owner charged for repairs. Maybe we need to take a bit of a list of where the problems mostly exist (probably lowest and second level under Anchor Terrace and Barnacle Terrace). Then we should add additional security cameras, which are getting distinctly cheaper these days. Installation will as always be the difficult and costly thing.
IceCool emailed me a quote for repairing the air conditioner. I phoned them to ask that they go ahead as soon as possible. I just hope replacement boards are in stock somewhere in Australia.
Mid afternoon a spectacular thunderstorm. Lots of lightning very close, hitting the hillsides around Airlie Beach. I had rain in both front and balcony doors, before I could close some of them. The cloud was sufficiently dense that I could not see the Marina. It would not surprise me if the cruise ship took a lightning strike. Looked like it from here, as the cloud started to lift.
I had permission to try to get an internet connection via Jim's ADSL modem. So this morning I configured an older Apple Airport Express (802.11g) wireless access point to pass through his Ethernet switch to his ADSL modem. It worked first go. Most of the time was spent trying to find an empty power point. Eventually a found an old power board I could use to get power.
Alas, some time between when I tested this connection, and the evening, it stopped being able to connect to the internet. The wireless part works, as far as 10.0.1.1, but the signal disappears after that, without any indication the ADSL modem is there.
Jim had been complaining that his connection disappeared often. For that matter, Glenn (distant connection, different ISP, but same Airlie Beach Telstra exchange) had also complained about the ADSL connection simply disappeared from time to time.
I think I will still have to get my own ADSL connection. I can't see how I can track and fix the fault without more access.
I had internet access via Jim's ADSL very early in the day. It dropped out for an hour or so later. Came back for a while, and then dropped out again. It was out from around 10:30 a.m., until around 3:30 p.m. Internet was still working late in the evening.
An early morning walk, before the heat built up. Despite the mostly clear sky, the heat did not build until after eight. Lack of air conditioning doesn't stop me doing work around the apartment, but it sure slows me down.
Washed most of the floor to my room with the steam mop finally, except for the areas where I could not unplug and remove computers that were transcoding video. There is still over three terabyte of DVD rips to transcode, which will take a lot more time.
A wonderful article in Apple Insider by Bullish Cross fund manager Andy Zaky on Why Apples' Guidance Is Still Conservative. Zaky has consistently been closer to Apple's results than most analysts. It clearly shows most market analysts just do not understand Apple guidance. The analysts seem to believe Apple is playing games with them (or maybe they are on drugs). Andy provides a nice clear article, dumbed down for his audience of fanbois. Apple give conservative guidance, generally 12% to 20% under what they manage to sell. This generally means they guide in a $2 billion range.
If this guidance means Apple predicts well below, or well above Street consensus, that is just the way their predicted production and channel stuffing figures came out. Apple appear not to care about what the analysts (or the market) think, so they do not spin. Stock buyers who believe some of the weird stories from the analysts are crazy.
Basically Apple will do very well. AAPL may not, since the people buying are pretty irrational. Plus Apple does not pay dividends. They keep massive amounts of cash available (this year they had more cash on hand than the US government had towards the end of the attempts to pass the budget). They will need the cash.
In the past decade, Apple have made four
bet the company investments in massive and disruptive change. There is a reason they changed their name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc. iPod. iOS. iPhone. iPad. They have won every bet. Computers are now less than a quarter of their sales, despite Apple having 90% of the profit from the above $1000 computer market.
Intel are building 4K support into the new 22nm line of Ivy Bridge CPUs for 2012. Apple included HiDPI support facilities in their Lion OS X update, without noting it in their feature list. The option is hidden in Quartz Debug.
Apple's Mini DisplayPort can handle 17Gbps video, enough for four simultaneous 1080p60 displays. Apple's (and the slightly cheaper Dell's) highest resolution 27 inch (or 30 inch for Dell) IPS displays at present are WQXGA, or 2560 x 1600. The Dell IPS 24, 27 and 30 inch matte displays are just beautiful (Apple only have glossy displays which look like mirrors, which I loath despite the eye popping colours). As far as I can tell, the only common users of Display Port are Apple and Dell. You can get a Mini Display Port to Display Port cable, so appropriate Dell monitors display Apple fine.
Apple's new Thunderbolt connector incorporates both DisplayPort and PCIe. The port is so fast that even the cable has active electronics built into each end of it. Apple have already released the first version of a 27 inch Thunderbolt display. One cable from the display powers a MacBook. The Thunderbolt cable connects everything else. The Thunderbolt display incorporates Firewire, multiple USB, FaceTime camera, and a very nice digital sound system (for a display). Plus it has Thunderbolt passthrough, for say a Thunderbolt hard drive. Thunderbolt can load an entire ripped DVD in around ten seconds. It is ridiculously quicker than USB2 or even Firewire.
I think Apple will make a small bet on even better portable computers in late 2012. Quadruple display resolution to close to 2800 x 2000 (on the way to 4K with 4096 by 2304 pixels), and charge the appropriate premium. This for displays in which you can not see a pixel without a magnifying glass. It will leave most of the industry a year or more behind, and impossible for them to match prices for the same quality. People who care about quality will pay the premium. The rest will complain they did not need better displays.
I started the hidden Wi-Fi Diagnostics app that Apple keep in /System/Library/CoreServices (use Shift Command G in Finder as a keyboard shortcut to bring up an entry panel into which you can put the above path). The Wi-Fi Diagnostics application can graph how your signal to noise is doing. AirPort Utility seems to draw on parts of this app, but not show the graph, and also it only work with Apple equipment. The diagnostic app is of more use for general WiFi work.
Being at opposite ends to the building to the Apple AirPort Express I put in Jim's place, I wanted to see I had sufficient headroom. Signal strength was way down, at only -70dB. I would have preferred to see something closer to 55dB. However the noise floor early in the morning was also down, around -90dB. So I still had -20dB of headroom. This location is pretty quiet (from an interference viewpoint). Only a few Wi-Fi transmissions within range.
Since the internet connection was also working, I ran the rather primitive upload.sh script I had written for updating my old web site via ftp. Alas, I have not written an appropriate script for the newer web sites. I keep thinking I will find a commercial ftp uploader I like better. So far that has not happened.
I noticed that the Whitsunday Terraces needed better coverage, despite its many security cameras. There are a few blank spots, and that seems to be where a couple of grubs and ferals break parts of the watering system and strew rubbish. It would be nice to cover that area, and get some evidence of who done it.
Meanwhile, I tested the four Swann Pro-555 CCD security cameras that I have on hand. Three are still fine, but one is a bit finicky in bright light. I need to test their infra-red night-time mode as well, in case the IR LEDs gave out. Plus I have to check how long a period the Swann DVR-4 2600 recorder will cover before I recycle file space. Since the recorder saves in the highly efficient H.264 format, it should be good for months.
I had been ripping StarTrek, The Original Series, in the upgraded graphics versions, for some time. So I took the time to view some of the first season, direct from the USA DVDs. Luckily the cheap Laser DVD player from BigW ignores region codes, as it should. The quality of the enhanced DVD was great.
Tonight one of the TV stations had StarTrek, The Next Generation, so I viewed that. Having not had a TV for so long, I had not realised just how bad advertising is these days. So intrusive and obnoxious. There is no way I would want to watch Free to Air TV, given how much advertising is involved. Far better to buy DVDs, and go through all the effort of ripping and transcoding.
As well as advertising, there were periods when the video and sound went completely out of synchronisation. I could not believe any TV station would allow the two to run out of sync. So for the moment I am assuming digital distribution from the local TV antenna is being interfered with so badly by weather that it caused the issue. Neither explanation seem plausible to me.
A rain squall just after one a.m. Just what I needed for sleeping. However with rain at night, and the days pretty much free of rain, the tourists must think there is no rainy season.
The internet connection was still working this morning, so I downloaded news. The season of transcoding I started around ten p.m. had not completed, so I won't need to attend to the queue for several more hours. The internet connection dropped around 7:15 a.m. Pity. Then restarted around 9 a.m. By 10 a.m. it was crawling along, pretty much unusable. Then internet access stopped entirely. Weird. I still think the shortage of IPv4 addresses for ISPs is involved. The world needs to move to IPv6, right now.
As an aside, transcoding a season of StarTrek takes around ten hours of computer time. Another season took closer to eleven hours. I never make the queue longer than a single season (20-30 episodes). So a full seven season complete show takes around three days non-stop to transcode. A lot of time to run a single task.
I see I have another piece of cheap Chinese shit in the form of the Laser HD007 DVD player I bought on special for $20 from BigW on Saturday 3 December. Played about a dozen DVDs rather nicely, and then stopped responding to all the controls. Did not matter whether it was on the body or via the remote. I can not even switch it off. Meanwhile, it still contains one of a set of DVDs inside it.
I opened the case with extreme prejudice. Luckily only a half dozen screws, all sizes I could remove easily. It looks like I will be able to disassemble enough of the DVD drive itself to remove my DVD disk, once I find the right size screwdriver.
Recovered my DVD, but can not see any obvious faults inside the DVD player. Reseated the connectors, but that is a forlorn hope for a fault. I think one of the circuits succumbed to infant mortality, not helped by hot, humid conditions here. I remain surprised about how very small the circuitry is these days. Basically a power board, a display and I/O board, and a tiny logic board.
I was delighted to get a phone call from Craig of IceCool while I was inspecting the DVD player. He had the replacement board for the one fried by the geckos in my Daikin air conditioner. He came over very soon (one advantage of me being home), with a young assistant. Replaced the board, and a few other associated parts. Before midday, I had cool air coming in. That was a real delight.
Mind you, by two p.m., we had a cooling sea breeze, and I no longer needed the air conditioning.
I checked Jim's place. He has a NetComm NB5 ADSL modem, a superseded model dating from maybe 2005, now replaced by the NB6 range. I kind of doubt the NetComm NB5 firmware has been updated (it is running 62.51.1-004), but doubt that is the issue. in any case, the executable program is only for Microsoft Windows.
The NetComm NB5 is probably using an exposed address of 192.168.1.1, so I looked up the Netcomm NB5 ADSL modem user manual online. I guessed the user name and password, and inspected the contents of the NB5 menu system. Using PPPoE, not PPPoA. DHCP is exposing the range 192.168.1.100 - 192.168.1.149 internal to the connected devices, which is fine. The speed shows as 15941/968, which is not bad at all if true.
So I checked the logs. Ethernet is running without errors, no surprisingly. So is DSL. I can not find any relevant error reports, since the logs are not saved past a power down.
I went seeking high efficiency solar fridges, since I figured by now some would be available (the design is well established). SunFrost have some decent models. One dealer said about US$2900, plus about US$2800 freight. Hmm. Maybe not. CoolView transparent door fridge with light switch in the handle seem a good idea, but are not available. Steca solar fridge from Phaesun is not available here. SunDanzer is a DC fridge with good specifications.
I see that my favourite newspaper of record, The Australian, have now made it impossible to view even headlines without enabling cookies. I am disinclined to be tracked by any company on the web. I am particularly disinclined to be tracked by companies (like newspapers and Google) whose entire business model is to sell you (and your behaviour patterns) to advertisers.
A note in The Age says a report for the Australian Egg Industry Corporation, which represents most egg farmers, found that producing free-range eggs increased carbon output by 20 per cent. Free-range egg production used more feed per kilogram of eggs produced than caged egg production.
Pity they did not also include a report on how much owning pets increases carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
I went looking for appliances suitable for solar battery operation. Why solar? Two reasons. One is for temporary use after cyclone and storm damage to electricity distribution. The long term is because I think electricity distribution and reliability in tropical north Queensland will get increasingly unreliable over the next decade or so. Increased electricity production costs from a Carbon Tax will push investments in new power down, and costs up. Distribution networks will go back to underinvesting, because current and future price rises will be political anathema.
The things you need to keep working when power is out are cooling (hence fans) and refrigeration (see yesterday). Cooking can be done for months on a gas barbecue, and these at least are readily available.
The first step for electrical appliances is to buy a generator with an inverter output. The second step is to have your electricity meter box fitted with an isolation switch and a caravan plug by an electrician. The third thing is a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm near where you intend to run your generator. However that sort of generator is for temporary use, for say a week after a cyclone takes out power. There is no guarantee of petrol availability for much longer, since supplies may also be blocked.
A lot of places have DC electric fans. For example, Nextek Power. However obtaining them in Australia is harder.
What you really want for solar and battery operation is high efficiency. Your typical ceiling fan is a power wasting piece of crap. It uses a flat pancake motor that chews up to 60 Watts. A permanent magnet DC motor can be far more efficient. The blade designs are a disgrace. They are basically beating air out of the way, with no attempt at aerodynamic efficiency. Luckily there are public domain low speed airfoil designs, similar to those used in human power flight like the propellors used by the Gossamer Condor.
I basically only get begging phone calls despite being on the Do Not Call register. Alas, this government initiative run by Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) only promises to reduce telemarketing phone calls. It does not include charities, political parties and educational institutions. So, if I get a call from any of these, I curse them and hang up.
The only decent reason to hang on to a phone line is to get an internet connection through it. One advantage I can see from the National Broadband network is you can probably refuse to have a phone connections, and have only a data connection.
A neat set of Bullish Cross predictions that Apple's earnings will exceed Wall Street consensus predictions. Wall Street do not seem to understand Apple. Apple will probably have a blowout quarter, especially from iPhones.
I had a nice walk on a fine but not yet too warm morning. Mind you, at six, it is far more likely that the temperature will be reasonable. I discovered that the Coffee Club opens at seven, so I may try that for breakfast some day. By the time I had walked back around the lagoon and back up to the Whitsunday Terraces, I had covered well over three kilometres.
Before I left, I put out the Florin Terraces garbage bin, which mysteriously was still in place inside despite all the others being out on the street. I think Rusty is picking on me, if that is who is doing the weekend garbage routine. He probably knew I was here, and likely to go for a morning walk, and spot the bin not out.
The only shopping was for milk, which I could have done any time at the 24/7 Night Owl convenience store directly below the Whitsunday Terraces. I also could not resist buying the self heating can of hot chocolate. I know the chemical reaction these things use. As I said to the store keeper, all the previous self heating cans I encountered were prone to blowing up. It will be interesting to test this one.
I got back home just as the garbage truck reached the rubbish bin. For some unknown reason they had the back loading garbage truck, rather than the single operator side loader. So the second garbage guy had to run up the hill connecting bins to the back loader. Ouch! Having just walked up the hill, I felt sorry for him!
I have been told that Crawly Cruncher Household Insecticide surface spray, containing 38g/L diazinon, from Coles or Safeway, kills Asian Kitchen geckos, which are an imported pest species. Choice does not think much of Crawly Cruncher as a long term insecticide, but if it gets rid of geckos, I would use it. Made by National Chemical Pty Ltd, 262 Evans Road, Salisbury, QLD 4107 ph:(07) 3255 5027
Detol and water are said to kill these geckos, like it kills cane toads, but I have seen that disputed. Personally I think they should be declared a pest species in Queensland.
A very nice annual report on Paying Taxes 2012 The Global Picture, describes number of taxes (between 4 and 44), and both average costs and time impact (70 hours to 400 hours) of all business taxes on an average company in all countries worldwide. In the past six years the averages have decreased around 16%. I noted a 1% increase in tax costs tends to reduce subsidiary investment 2.9%. The report argues strongly that making taxes easier to do is the quickest path to increased compliance.
It was raining in the morning, so I took a late walk. This time I remembered to check if the ATM was working.
The place I bought my previous bus ticket was trying to update their system, so they could not sell me a ticket. However one of the people I have known for a decade or so dropped in with coffee, so I had a pleasant chat with them before trying Magnum's for the bus booking. Had to wait ages before any of the Magnums staff were free to make the booking. Quick once they got to me. If I can find a printer that works, I may try booking these tickets over the internet in future.
I knew last night that the transcoding queue for ST-Enterprise would expire in the small hours. So I added the relatively short first season of ST-Voyager to the queue. That went through quicker than I expected, so at 6 a.m. I added the second season to the queue. Seems that longer season will not complete until about 5 p.m. I knew I could not complete all five extra seasons of ST-V, so then I changed to transcoding ST-TOS. Even that seems gigantic, with the JB HiFi version on eight DVDs.
I gather one of the fastest trans-Pacific cables is NTT Communications Corp's updated 600Gbps link between Japan and USA. This was updated to 500Gbps only around August. They had a mere 45Mbps in 1997, and went to 1Gbps in 2000. I wonder how fast this stuff can get?
I notice that Channel 74 TV4ME at Airlie Beach seems to have changed from the more efficient MPEG4 or H.264 encoding to the less efficient MPEG2 used by most TV stations. Most TVs in Australia are unable to decode H.264 (despite it being required for FreeView certification). Don't bother checking the channel out. It is an experimental shopping channel with an unbelievable boredom factor, even by TV's low standards.
I went for a short walk and collected breakfast and a newspaper. The GPS continues to insist the distance is twice what it really is. The GPS gets totally confused underneath the Whitsunday Terraces, although the open areas should mean it keeps contact with sufficient satellites.
I lost the internet connection again sometime in the morning, although the wireless network continued to function. Also I could not get at Jim's ADSL modem via 192.168.1.1 to reboot that via software, as the Airport Express would not seem to pass me through to its IP number. I am back to wanting a connection that I control.
In checking the Airport Utility I found the Airport Express had been assigned 169.254.18.220, so I did a numeric traceroute to that. That tells me
No route to host. I still can not decide where the fault is, but I suspect the NetComm NB5 ADSL modem.
I eventually gave up and went and manually powered the ADSL modem up and down. That seemed to work.
I find it awkward that after operating non-stop for several weeks, Fraise, the text editor I have been using, has started telling me an error occurred while saving. I can not see any error. I restarted Fraise. Did not have the problem on a test document. However as Fraise has not been updated, it makes me think I had better speed up my search for a replacement text editor, with multiple HTML files my main target.
Been busy updating the text on all the files in Whitsunday Terraces. This is a site I started last year because I had many complaints about managers. Now I am converting the site to praise the new resort managers. No, that is not accurate. I am changing it to reflect the fact that the Whitsunday Terraces Resort has one of the best positions on the hill facing north and overlooking Airlie Beach. That was the reason we bought an apartment there a decade or so ago. We have million dollar views over the Coral Sea, despite everything else that is a problem in Airlie Beach.
Intuit never bothered converting Quicken 2007 to Cocoa. Now that OS X Lion does not support Rosetta program translation, Quicken are in trouble. Quicken Essentials is a cut down travesty that doesn't handle investments. I long ago decided Quicken just did not do their job. It didn't help that Quicken were just not interested in an Australian version. Their suggestion was change to Windows. Intuit might just as well have stuck up their middle finger to Mac users. Now they can go to hell.
Mint is useless, as it does not understand anything relating to Australian inputs.
What to use instead? Paper works, but is very limiting. Numbers (or any other spreadsheet) works, but you waste a lot of time formula fondling. It would also be really nice to have a decent finance program that also syncs to an iDevice, so that you actually enter transactions at the time.
Moneydance is not bad, and it has a iOS version. However it is written in Java. Apple no longer supports its own version of Java, and I am just as pleased to avoid even having Java on my computer. Java strikes me as the highest development of
write nice once, run badly everywhere program environment. That said, the most handy portable finance program I ever used was ABP (written in interpreted OPL) on a Psion organiser, and that had a Java version (which ran badly elsewhere).
I was up at 1:40 a.m. thanks to an alarm reminding me of my bus booking. Down at the bus shelter at 2 a.m. A half dozen others were there. We could hear curlews all around, with some walking near to drink water from puddles along the road.
The 2:25 a.m. bus never arrived. I was imagining whether to try to hire a car when businesses opened, or to buy a second car. Eventually, after 7:30 a.m., the 7 a.m. bus arrived. It had the driver and passengers from the earlier bus. Coolant system broke down. The driver eventually got the bus as far as Proserpine.
The rest of the bus trip was tedious as they always are, but otherwise no problem. Only 22 people in a 54 seat bus. Jean collected me at Townsville around 1 p.m.
However at the moment my bus experience is running 50% bad. No wonder people use their cars instead of public transport. It is just in this case we would need two vehicles.
I had some ripped movies on my iPad, for viewing during what remained of the night on the bus. The Apple iPad was close to impossible to view in daylight on the bus. The combination of a dark movie (Terminator Salvation) and a mirror instead of a display ensured that. The amount of reflections from computer displays is terrible. They are an indoor or night time device only.
A millimetre scale computer implanted in the eye for remote monitoring of glaucoma was the smallest computer in the world. Wireless linked, a pressure sensor, battery, solar cell, running the extreme sleep Phoenix chip that wakes a few times an hour to take measurements.
Moore's Law tells us the number of transistors in given space doubles every few years. As a corrolery, Gordon Bell's Law from 1972 tells us every decade a new smaller class of computers appears. Room spanning mainframes in the 1960's, closet sized mini computers in the 1970's, desktop workstations and personal computers in the 1980's, networked laptops in the 1990's, PDAs in the 2000's, smartphones in the 2010's.
Home and body area networks are here for many of us, with even smaller devices we wear or simply spread around us. Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. Clustered computers outperform faster dedicated computers.
I went to the bar around five. Jean walked with me for exercise, but as usual did not enter. Greeted as long lost by the regulars. They have that right.
I wanted some Crawly Cruncher surface insecticide, as I heard it was best for helping kill off the imported pest species, the Asian Kitchen Geckos. Coles had some. Jean took me to Willows, where despite the obnoxious Xmas music, we did a little walk. I also bought some insect bombs, as 'tis the season to need them.
I realised I needed something for the helpful staff at Carlyle Gardens. I also realised I had bought absolutely nothing for Xmas. Not a present, not a card, nothing. Partly this is because I loath Xmas. However it is a handy excuse to make a small gesture to people who serve you all year. Luckily Darrel Lea chocolates had gift wrapped boxes of some chocolate. Bought three, and delivered them to the folks at Reception when we returned to Carlyle Gardens.
Realised I needed another two presents for the Sales staff. I had totally forgotten them. We were going over to Domain for replacement sandals (the sole has started falling off). None on hand, but Kathmandu ordered them from Launceston (sandals are not in high demand in Tasmania). Got another two gift wrapped boxes of chocolates at Willows on the way back, and delivered them to the Sales staff on the way home.
That evening, Dick Smith had another bunch of specials in their emails. Got additional security cameras and a recording monitor. I was also pleased to be able to order a bunch of battery backup UPS at a very low price. That takes care of a couple of long outstanding items.
It appears Apple computer sales may have moved to 15%, passing Dell and Asus, to take second place behind HP's 22% market share in 3Q11. Given Apple sell basically into the $1000 and over market, their revenue and profits would be even higher than unit sales indicate. Overall computer sales are down 8% to 1.61 million units. These figures do not include tablet sales, where Apple probably sold around 400,000.
Android based smartphones at 49% of the smartphone market have overtaken Apple's iPhone at 36%. Samsung, the largest of the Android makers, have overtaken Apple. The smartphone market in Australia is now 65% of all mobile phones sold, despite a 17% drop in total phone sales. In contrast, USA smartphone coverage is 44%, up from only 18% just two years ago. The increased availability of smartphone apps will make fundamental changes in how society works.
I went over to the restaurant with Jean for lunch. Ray, Geoff and Margaret were there so we joined them. Eventually persuaded David to turn down the Xmas music. Allan was doing the meals, and did not have his chef there. Actually I prefer Allan to many of the chefs. Might not be as quick at delivering the meal, but is often more adventurous. I got around to paying for our Xmas lunch order.
I was not impressed by the continued heat into the evening. However by 7:30 p.m. it seemed reasonable to go for a walk through Carlyle Gardens to check out the Xmas lights. Several of our neighbours had family visiting, and were taking them around in their cars. The homes decorated with lights are spread out around the village. One of the nicest is just over the bridge, while John's large display is on the next street over. I checked Ray's new lights near the entrance were on. John organised that display as well. Fewer lights where older residents live, as clambering on ladders is not a good move.
The street behind us, with all new residents over the past few years, had around five homes well lit with some very nice lighting arrangements.
We probably walked over three kilometres by the time we had stuck our noses into each of the streets around Carlyle Gardens.
I was up well before five. After desultory computing tasks, I took a two kilometre walk around the grounds of Carlyle Gardens. Delivered the old versions of the Whitsunday Times, and was back by six.
Ordered some O'Reilly computer books, since they were half price. Selected ePub format for the download. As an O'Reilly author, Jean could probably get them free, but I like to see authors make some money from their work. I think any book that saves me an hour of research to solve one problem has probably paid for itself already.
We went for a walk around Willows after putting out the laundry. Willows had moderated their Xmas music somewhat towards the not as overtly obnoxious end of the scale. About time. I was hungry (no breakfast) and so bought more food than I intended (I only went into Coles to buy Domestos cleaner). We also visited the egg farm store, to get giant fresh eggs for over Xmas. Jean wanted second breakfast, so I was able to have some scrambled eggs on my toast.
Happy Hour was on, with the Social Club giving out 120 or so door prize tickets. I helped Sue count the takings, as my misspent time working for a bank left me reasonable quick at that sort of thing. Had too much Jacob's Creek sparkling wine, purely to check the correct variety would be available on Xmas Day.
I mentioned the tubeless folding bicycle to Bruce while we were chatting. He expressed interest, so we organised that he could have it.
The Fermi Paradox says we should see aliens. The Drake Equation implies even one interstellar civilisation could colonise the galaxy in a relatively short time. Just one civilisation needs to produce Von Neumann probes (self replicating starships) to populate the galaxy.
A new paper by Keith B. Wiley: The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, and the Interstellar Transportation Bandwidth attempts to tackle the apparent lack of Von Neumann probes. Nicely written piece of work.
One possible solution is SETI is looking for waste products of societies. Excess light, heat or radiation. A society may become so efficient it looks just like a natural object. A nice optimistic scenario.
Of more relevance to current human concerns, a society may collapse due to exponential population growth and increasing population density. After such a crash, the society may be so impoverished of resources that it is forever blocked from making a second attempt.
Did such a crash happen on isolated Easter Island? First populated between 700 and 1100CE, although some claim as late as 1200CE. Either the islanders, or the palm seed eating rats humans brought with them, took out the trees they needed to make ocean going craft, which meant they could not leave, nor catch enough fish. The population may have crashed during droughts associated with the Little Ice Age about two to three centuries before Europeans encountered the island in 1722. Fierce wars continued, but there was no way out for the inhabitants. In the 1860's, slave raiders and European diseases killed off most of the remaining inhabitants. By the 1870, only a hundred were left. So the final devastating crash was caused by contact with a more powerful society.
In a global economy, resource depletion happens to the whole world. Unless you manage a population crash well prior to resource depletion, and artificially control breeding rates. Humans are unlikely to do that.
The Renewable Energy Target (RET) has operated for several years. It is yet another carbon tax. Electricity retailers and large industrial users are required to buy at least 20% of their energy from
renewable energy sources by 2020. Essential the victims have to buy renewable energy certificates from inefficient, and costly, green wankers
enterprises like wind and solar. I would include tidal and geothermal, but neither of these work at all, so they can not sell any energy certificates.
Australia can not greatly increase well understood hydroelectric power, mostly due to geography. Back when it was built, the Snowy Mountain Hydroelectric scheme produced about the right amount of power to match the percentage renewable use we now want for 2020. However as a growing industrial civilisation, our power needs have expanded.
Clean coal (what a joke) via carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is unlikely to work well except in a few selected areas. It is a high risk method, and will doubtless cost a quarter or more of a coal power station output. Basically, this method does not exist.
The only method that provides engineering certainty of working past 2020 is nuclear power. Which at the moment is politically impossible (and would take a decade to build).
I went with Jean to Willows to collect newspapers for my disgusting reading habit. Jean insisted we also walk around a heap. So we did. A remarkable number of stores were open earlier than eight, which greatly surprised me.
Bruce dropped over mid-morning and collected the folding bicycle. I sure hope he can find a 20 inch tube that does not deflate upon arrival, as I had absolutely no luck twice. Although I could only find two tubes, not three.
In the early evening we walked around Stage A of Carlyle Gardens. Alas, no Xmas lights that were not already known to us. The first two streets had nothing.
A depression (often incorrectly called a recession by politicians) is the only thing that really reduces oil prices. Supply is limited. We have hit peak oil. Saudi Arabia is the largest producer, and they are hiring more extraction experts. Trying to squeeze more oil from the sands, not exploring for new fields. Their largest field is in decline, although no-one seems to be admitting that.
So oil prices will (mostly) stay above US$110 a barrel. Peaks above US$150 would not surprise me.
Oil is not the only viable fuel, however nothing else is even close to it for transport. Gas (the greenhouse gas methane, either as natural gas, or as coal seam gas) is really taking off. Investment is incredible.
A bunch sovereign countries are backing a common currency, the Euro. However can they really bail out Club Med? The next test is whether these governments who are unable to run the printing press can withstand a real test of their resolve to bail out their spendthrift members through deficit spending. I do not think they can. I do not think the market will trust them enough.
The Euro will survive, as is is too much use to Germany. However countries aligned to the Euro will not. The U.K. is on the way to dropping out of the European Union (but not the common market). Without a major concentration of power in Brussels, the spendthrift countries will not change their overspending sufficiently. Those that do risk a European Spring revolt. However the value of the geopolitical union is so high that the majority of countries will remain in the Union. Call it an E-17, not a EU-27. Britain, Sweden, and Denmark will step aside. The ECB will continue to play chicken with the politicians, and someone will get hurt. Some will be those who own European debt. Some will be the citizens of democracies. There are already three EU countries with unelected Prime Ministers. This may increase.
In local news, Australia can expect a welcome upsurge of professional Greeks wishing to emigrate. We should encourage this.
Bah, Humbug! Overweight already.
We drove over to the restaurant for lunch, having booked some time ago. Had a good time there at a table for ten, organised by Pat and Jeff. Others were Bruce and Geri, Geoff and Margaret, and Michael. There were a little over 40 at the restaurant, slightly fewer than last year. Too much wine disposed of. The chef had included a strange Canadian salad of beetroot, potatoes, and mashed pumpkin. I thought it was pretty interesting. Allan gave me a left over container of it to take home.
A bunch of us ended up in the shade alongside Jeff and Pat's place later in the afternoon, with a handy cooler. I took a couple of bottles along. Bruce and Geri were along. That continued into the early evening, when we were being eaten alive by mozzies.
The Republicans have become so hysterically far right batshit wingnuts that Obama may get re-elected, despite mostly being a limp squib, and despite an inept Congress (somewhat like Australia). Debt deleverage will continue, and many US companies have decent balance sheets again. The same can not be said for government. The USA government spends far more than it earns. There is a limit to how long you can run the printing presses. Sooner or later you either have to raise taxes, or reduce entitlements. Or in the case of the USA, do both. A small recovery 2012, with emphasis on small due to deleverage.
Jean managed five trips around the Willows shopping centre, which must surely have been three kilometres. Some shops opened a bit early. We got the last of the Harry Potter DVDs in JB HiFi. Not much sign of food shops opening.
Checked Overflow at Sunland on the way back, but they did not even open today. I would not mind getting some cheap Xmas LED lights for next year.
Is a recession in China's future? Remembering that for China, that means growth at 5% instead of 9%. Plus a house price fall (there are unoccupied cities in China, a result of overbuilding). I think they have an infrastructure bubble. Since China is a military dictatorship (and the military will have a greater hand in the 18th Politburo in 2012), they will not allow a credit crisis to happen, no matter what they have to do.
If China declines, the BRICs get hit, and Australia as well. So, coking coal, copper, iron ore for construction all get hit. Energy sales will continue to increase (whatever the Greens think), so thermal coal is fine, as is gas and uranium.
Our terms of trade are great. If China stumbles, it will not be. Recession, probably mild, and a government politically unable to apply much stimulus. House price crash (which I think is already happening, but like the future, it is not evenly distributed). A falling stock market (despite already being well down from the over 6000 peaks). Unemployment will rise, but we may pick up a lot of much needed professionals from the European countries like Greece.
The banks will not be able to source sufficient credit, so business will again have an old fashioned credit crunch.
I went to Willows with Jean fairly early, around 7:30 a.m. We managed to walk around in the air conditioning five times again, so Jean is managing the three kilometres pretty well now. Afterwards she took me to the discount chemist at The Avenues to get my monthly tablet supply. She got a bread roll for me in Woolworths, as the Brumbys bread shop was closed (as was the Brumbys at Willows).
At ten we went out in the heat again to check Overflow at Sunland. No Xmas lights at all in their surplus supplies. I guess the great price last year was a fluke. I checked the Jaycar online, without finding any Xmas lights.
A lot of Christmas Cards and also Xmas letters arrived. Al Fitz from Pequannock. Robin and Alicia. Jeanne from ANZAPA. Bob and Margaret in Canberra, also a letter. Skel and Cas. Karen sent a card from Graham. Gerald and Karen. Jeff and Pat at CG, also with a newsletter.
Is the root of all evil. Most countries are addicted to cheap money, at low interest rates. Next comes consumer price inflation, which is why sensible governments tend to delegate inflation control to central banks (without giving them sufficient tools, except interest rate control). Everyone knows politicians can not be trusted to resist the lure of cheap money.
Over the past three decades, cheap money has flowed into asset inflation bubbles. Real estate in the 1980's, tech stocks in the 1990's, housing bloat in 2000, and now into commodities and food. When the prices of each piece of irrational exuberance (tulip bubble, anyone?) decline slightly, governments try to reinflate the boom. They run the printing presses, but call it quantitative easing. Each collapse is bigger than the previous one.
One factor always associated with bubbles is stock turnover. It is many times quicker than in more
normal times. What is high frequency trading except excessive stock turnover? The obvious cooling off mechanism is a Tobin tax, a tax on turnover.
Asset prices during bubbles exceed an asset's fundamental value. Assets exceed fundamentals because owners believe they can sell the asset at a higher price later. Investors prefer a lucrative lie to an expensive truth. See housing prices in Australia for an example.
A GPS is commonplace today. They all use the US military GPS system, which was the first to be orbitted.
However the Europe Union and European Space Agency are launching civilian Galileo GPS satellites. Expected to become operational in 2014, and completed around 2019. It will include a global search and rescue position transponder capability. I gather that so far the costs have blown out by a factor of around ten. Believe it when it starts working.
Russia has a Glonass GPS system, with all satellites launched by 1995. It was not maintained. Vladimir Putin funded a revival, and the system was fully working with 24 satellites in October 2011. It works better in high latitudes. There are not a lot of Glonass GPS receivers, but current GPS chips should support the system.
China has its Beidou GPS system, which seems quite advanced and accurate. It probably cost them around US$25 billion. They are working on Compass, or Beidou-2, with 5 geostationary satellites, and 30 medium orbit satellites. Looks like China has made around ten Compass satellite launches so far, with another six in 2012.
The fundamental difference between democracy and capitalism is one person one vote, vs one dollar one vote.
I have long wanted an efficient ceiling fan, despite the obvious problem of paper escaping your desk. Cooling human bodies by evaporation is pretty useful, except when the humidity is high. At that point, you need air conditioning, but mainly to drop the humidity.
Most existing ceiling fans use an inefficient (but cheap) pancake AC induction motor that draws over 50 Watts. I can find efficient DC motors. A decent design motor and control electronics could be over 95% efficient (solar challenge cars have reached over 98%). My aim is a 10 Watt motor, attainable only were the fan blades designed better. Another reason for wanting low power is to run the fan mostly from a small, low cost solar panel, and batteries in the early evening. However the motor is not really the problem. Efficient motors are available, at a price.
Fan blades today basically bat the air away. Low set modern ceilings do not provide enough head space for decent air flow to the blades. As well, the fan blades direct breeze pretty much downward, right under the fan, instead of in a wide cone of breeze. Finally, most fans are designed so they can run in reverse (for winter), which is basically insane.
Ceiling fans are paddles, rather than having an efficient low speed airfoil design, Aircraft propellor design is way different to what is needed for fixed fans. I thought helicopter rotors designs might help, but although closer, they still are very different to what you need for fan blades. The closest thing is like the propellors of the Gossamer Condor and other human powered aircraft. I found I could not manage the airfoil design, even starting with some of the public domain low speed air foil designs available. I need air foils at least five times more efficient than a typical ceiling fan.
Construction is also difficult, as the design (like any propellor) needs to be different the further you get from the hub. The blades are large relative to your motor power, however they can not be heavy. Basically, solid metal does not work, despite having the required strength.
I drove off at six with Jean. She said she was along because she wanted to have her car in Townsville. Since it was light at five, and there was continuous cloud cover, we had no problems with light in our eyes. Took a short break at Home Hill, since they have good facilities. Eggs on toast for breakfast at Inkerman before eight. We food shopped at Centro at Whitsunday just after nine. Nothing we wanted (or could find) in Harvey Norman or any other store. IceCool were not open, so I could not ask them about sending me an invoice.
I saw Greg as I was unloading. Advised him my Whitsunday Terraces web site was changed, and many pages point to Whitsunday Terraces Resort bookings web site. Greg has been here for four or five days working around the place.
Jean and I walked to Whitsunday Terraces Resort Reception and checked for mail (none for us) with Jodie. Now I finally see exactly which restaurant door is locked. I was imagining the layout completely wrong. What I need is a diagram.
Mark was washing paths that had been impacted by rain recently. Lots covered in mud. The grubs are back throwing rubbish on the paths (we picked up a bunch of garbage on our return), but this month is busy with tourists. You can easily see it in how busy it is in Airlie Beach.
I went to Hogs Breath Cafe with Jean, and we had our usual treat of their slow cooked steak. Brought some left over vegetables back for tomorrow. It took us longer to return home and climb the twelve flights of stairs than it did to eat our dinner. This seems wrong.
We bought five DVDs this week. The last three Harry Potter (although neither Jean nor I have had time to view all of the earlier versions). These appeared to rip OK on my antique version of Mac the Ripper running on a six year old iMac G5.
On the other hand, the Australian feel good movie Red Dog is mastered with multiple fake copies. It reports way more space than a DVD can contain. Mac the Ripper just crashes. However I appear to be able to view it using DVD Player or VLC. Do I feel good about this DVD buy? No, I do not.
Glenn recommended Wall-E. A young staff member in JB HiFi helped me find it in the animated section, so I bought that DVD. Wall-E also has multiple fake copies. Mac the Ripper can not identify the real movie. VLC can play parts of it out of order. This is a Pixar film released by Disney. I seem to recall similar problems with other Disney DVDs. I suspect Disney will end up on my shit list, which means I will never buy from them again.
Sony ended up on my shit list when they put a root kit on their DVDs. I have never bought another Sony product, and never will. I look forward to Sony going bankrupt and disappearing, despite the quality of their electronic gear.
I looked for an efficient ceiling fan. Heaps of hits on Google, but they are mostly bullshit (typical of most Google search results). The best of the commercial bunch in Australia seem to be ecO2 - Energy Efficient Ceiling Fan from Hunter Pacific, available on order via most lighting shops. They are perhaps twice as good as a typical ceiling fan. Judging is difficult, because very few fans actually reveal their air flow rates.
Premier Farnell some years ago had awarded a LiveEDGE design prize to John Noble, a Malaysian based design engineer. Ceiling fan design promises reduced power consumption, with his MyFan high efficiency ceiling fan design. So I started looking for a commercial version of the MyFan ceiling fan. They use a
Electronically Commutated motor with digital inverter drive, consuming 60-80% less electricity than a traditional ceiling fan. That is starting to get in the ball park I want. Alas, even 4 Watts to 30 Watts exceeds the energy budget I wanted.
I went for a walk with Jean mid morning as she tried to find some slip on sandals for the ship mud room. That took us through a wide variety of shops. Luckily the weather was mostly overcast, so although the humidity was not as low as I would have liked, the temperature was down.
I diverted to check the rooms in Cutlass Terrace. The whole architecture of that terrace is weird, in my view. Later I used my copious notes to change the table I made for my Whitsunday Terraces Lots numbers and Unit numbers web site. Getting way too many columns in that table. However it may be handy later, when I attempt to do pages for each individual Terrace.
I found neither
Red Dog nor
Wall-E were reasonably well recorded DVDs. Both had deliberate lies about their file sizes, resulting in them registering as 50+GB sizes (for a DVD that would max at abu 7GB. If I were near the shops in which I bought them, I would return them for a refund. That means 40% of the most recent DVDs I have bought are deliberately made with errors.
Now, sooner or later I will find a way to rip these recalcitrant DVDs. I can locate the actual main feature titles while playing them, so i get a step closer each time I work at them. All these obstacles accomplish is to infuriate me, and make me less and less likely to buy any more DVDs.
In fact, since I have thousands of hours of unwatched DVDs, I think I will simply stop buying anything on DVD at all. If I ever get through all the existing movies, I might think about looking again. The media moguls can go get stuffed, and so can the retailers that sell DVDs.
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining, and the rain was falling, so typical in the tropics. There did not seem many tents erected at the markets, but a lot of the markets folks are away over the Xmas and New Year break. However the town was full of tourists.
Newspapers were lacking, and I ended up after breakfast buying only the ensmalled Australian.
The solar power output figures last month (November) showed it generated 2116kWh over 6265 hours. The figures for December are 2265kWh over 6667 hours. So the total hours operating in the 31 days of December 2011 were 402 hours, during which it generated 149kWh. About 4.8kWh per day, or 370 Watts per operating hour. This is a nominal 1 kW panel. Jean sent them by iMessage. I wonder if I can read them remotely? Only on a very few solar inverters I suspect.
The actual electricity meter in December showed Tariff 11 at 2671kWh purchased, Tariff 33 at 2417kWh, and the export of power from the solar panel at 855kWh since installed. I had imported 2192 kWh on E1, exported 662 kWh on E1/E2, and imported 1873 kWh on E2 as at the end of September 2011. So the electricity meter shows consumption in three months as 479kWh on Tariff 11, 544kWh on Tariff 33 (for air conditioning), and exported 193kWh of solar power. This is pretty close to the meter readings.
The electricity accounts for the quarter [not in as yet] show the solar panels provided 228 kWh electricity feed in 105 days to 14 January. This provided a $100.32 solar feed rebate on our electricity bills.
One of Jim's friends I know was visiting, so I invited her to drop in for a drink. Jean and I had a nice chat her. For someone who lost absolutely everything in Cyclone Yasi, she seems to be coping very well. Her beach house was hit by a nine metre surge, which left nothing, not even a concrete slab. Her boat at Hinchinbrook marina was smashed to pieces. She was elsewhere, and saw the one or two shattered remains of her house contents on ABC news, being picked over by a reporter who declared that someone's life was gone. It was. That was how she found out everything as gone.
She pointed out her replacement boat, a catamaran anchored just offshore. Later she and some friends came over to our larger balcony to watch the fireworks at nine.
I could not manage to stay awake, but the sound of fireworks at midnight woke me, so I was able to watch that display also. The various small businesses who contributed to make the fireworks possible at short notice did Airlie Beach proud.