Friday, 8 February 2008

Telstra, you bunch of cock-suckers.


I have, recently, gone through the highs of realising that ADSL2+ was available, and the lows of realising that no, it wasn't, in
my area and that it was only being offered through non-Telstra. WTF? Had they... On second thoughts, just go here to read my thoughts about it.

Well, today news came through that Telstra was considering
activating ADSL2+ on their exchanges because the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, or whatever the fuck ACCC stands for, wasn't planning on regulating it, which means that they were holding back. You have got to be fucking kidding me.

Put your hands up if you still think that making Telstra a private company was a
good idea for Australians. Anybody? You? Wrong! Stay behind after class and I shall attach the electrodes personally.

Now this: Helen Coonan, who is
ex minister for telecommunications, because her government got fucked in the ass by the electorate a few months ago, has weighed in to bitch about this, classic behaviour for an ex-Howard minister, and say... Oh fuck it, I can't be bothered. Go here and read it for yourself, courtesy of Australia's most arrogantly named newspaper, The Australian, if you care.

Jesus fucking Christ, are they serious? They were denying a service to customers because the ACCC might make it difficult for them to compete as a business? I'm going to ask that question about do-you-think-it-was-a-good-idea again, and this time if you insist that privatising the main provider of telecommunications services in this country was good I am going to shoot you. But I warn you, I will start with the kneecaps and work my way up.

"His touch was electric..."

Biomechanical power generation! Harness the power of the human body! Get fit with a resistance workout, be good for the environment and never have your PDA go flat away from a powerpoint ever again! All at the same time!

Scientists make knee-brace power generator (ABC News Online).

Given my knees, I could probably get one of these on private health cover. "Really, my physiotherapist told me I needed to maintain the exercise to stabilise the joints!"

I'm wondering about the "generates enough power to charge up to 10 mobile phones at once", though. What sort of ding-bat unit of power is that? Enough power to charge one laptop is useful. But even if you have one mobile phone for work, one for personal and a PDA, plus a bluetooth headset, you're still 6 devices short of making it worthwhile. Although maybe you could also be carrying a high-capacity battery pack for when you stop moving.

Of course, if you don't want to stop moving, I suggest you fit up a treadmill, stair-climber or exercise bike to a generator and plug your computer into that, so that if you don't keep exercising your computer crashes, you lose all your work and the IT officer swears at you. Or, alternatively, takest he pre-emptive approach of prowling the office with a whip.

*CRACK* "Keep moving! Your amperage is dropping!"

Maybe this is why Hiro Protagonist kept himself so fit: He needed to be to power all the hardware he ended up carrying!

The Archbishop of Canterbury is a loon. (Updated)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, despite lacking a title with quite the same self-assured arrogant sense of authority, is the Anglican equivalent of the pope.

I seem to recall that he's been in the news a fair bit lately, but I can't recall why. So I can't really pass judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence. I am, however, quite prepared to pass judgment based upon this:

Sharia law 'unavoidable' in UK: Archbishop (ABC News Online)


What the hell is happening to the UK? I don't mean terrorist activities, I mean daily life. I have mentioned in these pages before the lunacy of allowing islamic medical students to not touch female bodies. Now the nation's top religious authority is saying that another religion should be allowed to introduce their own legal system?

I'm not convinced (to put it nicely) that allowing separated enclaves of aboriginal Australians to maintain tribal law is a good idea or even working, but this is lunacy. Which bits of sharia law, and who gets to decide? If imams argued that a Muslim man in Britain should be allowed to marry multiple 13 year old girls because the prophet did that, which legal system would you involve? Complaining about that would mean meddling in that culture's legal system, and you have allowed them to maintain aspects of their legal system because that's their culture!

I have been, over the years, steadily losing faith in the whole concept of multiculturalism, and no longer have any time for it. Australia has pockets of ethnicity where first- or second-generation Australians don't fit in with their anglo-saxon peers because their parents have maintained "tradition!" and wouldn't even fit in if they went back to "the motherland" because their little enclave of "culture" reactively froze itself, and the motherland did not. Recent Dutch moves requiring all prospective immigrants to view material that they might find offensive, in order to demonstrate that they can live in the culture to which they are moving, make more sense than ever.

There was an episode of the Indian-English sketch comedy show Goodness Gracious Me where a battered Indian wife went to a female refuge only to have the social worker exhort her to return to her cultural roots and accept her heritage, while the wife is standing there in disbelief saying "He's hitting me!" I laughed, sarcastically, at that sketch. Now I think I might just curl up behind the sofa.

There is "culture" which is specific to the nation and to individual units within that nation, including ethnic groups and religious groups, various combinations of both, and a bewildering array of classifications of mostly "youfs".

Then there is "law" which is decided by (if you're lucky) a representative parliament. There are already social responses open to people who believe that the law has failed them, and many of them are even legal. But there are many instances where the nation, if it is to not become a farce, has to make a moral, ethical and ultimately legal decision. Removing children from situations of sexual abuse is not racist. Enforcing local laws onto a cultural sub-group who emigrated to that locality is not racist or religiously intolerant. If customs fit within the law, so be it. If customs are allowed to become law because there are points of disagreement, why have the fucking law in the first place?

If the Archbishop of Canterbury comes out any time soon and declares that it should be illegal for Anglicans to divorce, don't say I didn't warn you.

Edit: The really, really sad part about this is that I find myself agreeing with that prat Brendan Nelson.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Why are we only warned about L and P drivers?

Here's an idea, courtesy of my partner:

Traffic police will be issued with paintball pistols, and a range of coloured balls. When they see anybody blatantly breaking any road rule other than speed - not indicating, tail-gating or sitting in the right-hand lane at under the speed limit are favourites, here - they get to shoot the car. Ideally, this paint can only be removed with proprietary solvents available at transport department offices, after you've paid the fine.

This will not only allow traffic cops to make many more bookings of dangerous drivers, but will, until the paint has been washed off, warn everyone else that here is someone who is not to be trusted.

And here's another idea: There are already special parking spots for the disabled (this I support) and parents with prams (why? Why do people who choose to breed get given dispensations because they have decided to inconvenience themselves?) and there is motorcycle parking available in many areas, which saves a lot of parking space. How about we set aside special parks for 4WDs, well over the back of the carpark away from everything, as they are clearly outdoorsy people who won't mind the walk, and this way they don't mix with people who won't be able to see what's coming when they try and pull out of their park?

"I see you've discovered the water. Powerful wet, isn't it?"

Large parts of Queensland appear to be flooding, or to have their roads cut, or be about to flood, or are in danger of getting all their dry topsoil downstream, inside someone else's house.

The Brisbane River still seems to be safe from flooding. I mean, Wivenhoe Dam itself is still only at 19.33%, according to South East Queensland Water. Huh! There is a lot of water downstream of the dams!

This was a few months ago at Mt Crosby weir, where Brisbane's water supply is extracted:

And this was today (this photo has been artificially lightened for clarity):

Let's have another angle, shall we?
That's the spillway at the side of the weir, and it has not been flowing in two years. Water is pouring in a steady stream over the top of the weir, and that hasn't happened for even longer. The individual little compartments in the spillway, which is supposed to be a fish ladder, were rank and festering for, ooh, about two years.

The sound of all that water had to be shouted over, and not only was the water upstream at least a foot higher than it had been for, ooh, say about a year, but the level downstream of the weir was the highest I have ever seen it, in my three-ish years of living here. Bring it on!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Linux: Your best defence against idiocy

Some scammers just don't go to enough trouble.

Take this situation: Visiting a random web page, I find it redirected to a "Warning! You may have spyware installed!" page. Which then proceeds to fake scanning my system, with a long list of Windows DLLs flashing by, and a message saying that I have problems, including three worms. As a finishing touch, at the top of the page it tells me that I need to install ActiveX controls, and should click the icon at the top of the screen... And so on.

News flash: I run Linux. I don't have windows worms on my system, they're not binary compatible. For those of you who don't know what that means - it's like trying to run a petrol car on diesel. I don't have dlls at all. Or ActiveX controls. And because I am not using Internet Explorer (a fact which website servers can and frequently do determine using UserAgent identification), I don't have little buttons popping up to helpfully inform me that if I turned on ActiveX controls, it would be easier for utter bastards to hijack my computer and turn it into a zombie spam relay, sorry, enjoy an interactive web experience!

There is a famous quote that the most damaging thing that Microsoft has done is to lower people's expectations of the computer industry. It also seems that the market dominance of Windows and Internet Explorer (and Outlook), quite apart from making life easier for virus and worm writers by offering standardised security holes, offers a nice standardised way of conning the gullible, as well.

If you are on Windows, I recommend AdAware combined with AVG antivirus. If you are on a Mac or any Linux or other *nix machine, you don't need to worry about that stuff. Yet. But you do still need to worry about other security holes, and if updates are made regularly available, particularly for your web browser - do so.

Hey, a new cool toy!

A rare post that isn't a rant.

About, not surprisingly, mobile phones. To recap, what I want from my next mobile is: A powerful Operating System, preferably either one of the Linux alternatives or Symbian, and with a lot of native applications available. I also want it to have the fastest available networking, and WiFi for cheaper data when available.

And a really good camera would be nice, too.

I have been thinking for a while that I may be stuck with fucking Nokia, a company who has replaced design flair with voracious design promiscuity. Motorola: Uses Symbian to make mobile jukeboxes and uses a Linux that can't do HSDPA networking. Samsung: Seem to have been floundering, with an attempt to do a superphone that uses a proprietary OS based on fucking flash, and an obsession with Windows Mobile. Sony-Ericsson will do either music mobiles or camera phones, but can't seem to do a decent smartphone. LG? The Viewty is nice but flawed, and they haven't done a smarphone yet.

Well, Samsung have dusted off their design flair again, and produced something really swish. It even appears to have a decent-sized camera lens, with a cover. Pity it's not a flip, but oh well.

There's just one problem: They haven't even introduced the G800 into Australia. My chances of easily getting my hand on a G810 seems pretty meagre indeed.

Monday, 4 February 2008

How bad is bad enough to make Microsoft look good?

Ah, the old days. I remember when StarOffice was a product of StarDivision, had the lion's share of the office suite market in Europe, ran on Linux, presented a complete replacement desktop with file browser, web browser and email client, and looked just like Windows 95. Or 98. And then Sun bought StarDivision, then spun StarOffice off to create the open-source OpenOffice (well, if it seemed to be working for Netscape...) and now, years later, OpenOffice is a poster-child of the open-source movement, running on all major and publicity-seeking platforms, compatible (mostly) with Microsoft Office and still gloriously free as in beer as well as free as in speech.

So what, you are thinking, have I found to complain about? For clearly I
have found something to complain about, if I'm writing this at all.

Well, you see, the thing is: Over the past two years and two months (ish) of gainful employment I have spent far more time than I would like with Microsoft Office, and I have grown to know it. Not love it, by any means, as my rants in this forum have indicated, but know it. And although I would still get caught out by stupid little inconsistencies, I got quite fast and efficient with Word, reasonable with Excel, competent with Access and as good as was necessary with Outlook.

Which gives me a good overview of what, and does not, work well and gives me a comparison point for now, when I am updating my resume in OpenOffice. Not even a particularly complicated task, you would think.


Let's start with the Stylist. Which is the list of available formatting. In Word, this pops up in a side pane which, on a reasonable monitor, sits comfortably to one side, gives you access to everything you're using without needing scrolling, and lets you create a consistent document easily. Which panders a little to pedants, but does make professionalism fairly simple.

On OpenOffice, the equivalent pane comes up as a window which sits on top of whatever it is you're working on. You can dock it in a side pane, by double-clicking on a blank section of menu bar area, while holding down Ctrl. Gee, that's intuitive! You have to use buttons to select type of formatting, which is mildly annoying, and you can't search for all occurrences of a style from the Stylist - that requires you to use Find and Replace, which doesn't even offer you a complete set of options. Not something that most people would need to worry about, but having worked in an environment where I was responsible for public documents, cleaning up said documents was made immeasurably easier by the ability to quickly and accurately find and eliminate all rogue formatting.

And then there's the tables toolbar. For reasons known only to the developers, it seems to only exist when the focus is actually in a table. Which would be almost fine, given that there is an insert-table button on the standard toolbars, except that when it appears, up top, it shoves all page content down. Which makes the entire program blink, which is disconcerting and potentially migraine-inducing, and which also moves your visual and mouse cursor focus. Which can lead to clicking in a table, clicking again (can't remember why i had to do this, but bear with me) and, due to the first jump, having the second click land outside the table, which deactivates the toolbar, which leads to another jump, leaving you confused, migraine-y and infuriated. I eventually had to reposition the fucking toolbar on the right of the screen, where I don't like controls to be, just to minimise its nuisance value.

Minor point: In Word, you can remove page breaks in page layout view, having text flowing seamlessly with borders showing you where the breaks are. In OpenOffice, you can't. The value of this for any situation (i.e. not LyX) where you have to do your own formatting is immense. And not available in the world's only major alternative to Word (I'm sorry Mac users but: really).

Anything else? Oh yes. The font colour command works inconsistently and, to me, nonintuitively. Unless that was a bug, of course.

(P.S.: I have finally instituted a "rant" tag, as of this post).

Coffee Man says Die, Spawn Of Satan!

Now that I am slightly steaming (see previous post to explain the connection between mood and posting anything here), I will return to a realisation I arrived at about a week ago now.

I have, frequently, and will continue to do so, just as frequently, sworn at, been sarcastic about or even sardonic towards, excess packaging. Safety concerns have dictated occasionally ridiculous levels of foil or shrink-wrap security around medications and standard food items, but there are times when even that seems to go too far (foil seal on a bottle of two-stroke oil that already has a sealing, child-proof cap on it???), and this is without even going into individually wrapped snack packs, cheese slices and those single-serves of nurofen, guarana and berocca that you can buy at service stations now (for fuck's sake people, every car needs a proper first aid kit!)

Now I admit to some hypocrisy in this - I use a razor that takes replacement heads with four blades each - but I have found the one thing that pushes me over the edge from sarcasm into abuse.


Fuck with coffee, and you are bound to get me riled up. I still criticise my friends for drinking instant coffee in my house, and they've been doing it for four years now. But Nespresso takes the idea of throwaway packaging to a ridiculous extreme.

What it is (and I'm not even going to provide a link for this) is an espresso system that uses an otherwise standard high-pressure espresso coffee machine and (this is the good bit) individual little cups of grounds. In a normal espresso, you dump a spoonful of grounds (spoons are provided with every machine, plunger, or set of steak knives - I have about five floating around my kitchen now) in the bowl, tamp it down (optional, and I welcome all rational arguments about why it shouldn't be), and attach it to the machine. Afterwards, knock the grounds out into a bin, rinse the basket under hot water, and it's ready for the next one. Or storage. Use hot enough water and you don't even need to wash the bloody thing bescause all the oils that spoil badly made coffee will be get rinsed off.

But this is, apparently, too dirty. It is too messy. It is too complicated. So instead you buy a box of individual packets, pop it in, draw your coffee, and then you can just take the packet out. Some machines will even eject it forcefully into a little bin so that you don't have to touch it.

What a colossal wank. You could a.) buy ground coffee, measure it to your precise requirements, shift between single-shot and double-shot seamlessly, play around with grind coarseness and roasts, and enjoy the effort that goes into making a brew that, in all likelihood, forms a key part of your day or b.) Pay someone else to measure grounds into little cups, pay for the packaging, pay for the gross inefficiencies of space that is required here, find the storage space in your kitchen, be unable to moderate the strength of the cup and be restricted by who stocks it and what roasts they deign to offer.

The fact that Krups was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon I see as even more evidence that this is coffee for those who don't care about coffee but want to be seen to be drinking it. Nespresso is the Hyundai Coupe of coffee. And if you should be so unwise as to visit the nespresso website, your ears will be assaulted by a foul elevator-music background track with, it seems, no way to turn it off. They're the AOL of coffee, as well.

But wait, there's more! While walking through our local supermarket the other day, I discovered... Little individually wrapped nespresso-style cups for stovetop machines. Who do I have to kill, to make the madness stop?

Stress: Motivates what happiness doesn't.

It has now been over a week since I typed anything in here, despite several impulses which I shall now try and catch up on.

There are two, interconnected, reasons for this: I have spent much less time in front of a computer this past week, and I have been annoyed far less. As a history of rants, grumbles, complaints and abusive tracts of steam-of-consciousness insult on these pages demonstrate, I generally add an entry when something has riled me up.

The connecting factor between those two factors is that just over a week ago, on the Friday I made my last entry, I resigned from my job. It was highly unexpected, and related to factor two: Stress. I had, finally, had enough, and after many discussions with my manager about work output and responsibilities, I declared that I would no longer be trying to make that department run under those conditions.

I have, over the course of this blog, done my best to keep my employer secret, making only references to the field in which I work. I'm glad of that, for I still wish them well and will be watching (from a distance) with interest, because they are going to do well, and do well, if you see my double meaning.

But I am now ungainfully unemployed, and seeking to change that. Again. Oh well. Anyone know where I can get a well-paid job as a gadget critic?

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