Saturday, September 04, 2010

Phone Bill

Present bill.
My mobile $20, $15 free calls and 50 free sms.
R's mobile $20, $15 free calls, free call to a nominated mobile, mine.
Home land line rental, $30, cheap regional calls, to Mother and to Sister, $2 cap on STD calls. Discounted rate for calls to Telstra mobiles.
Caller ID, $6.
Hard to work exactly but high speed cable seems to be $100 for 25GB discounted to $50.

Bill works out to be between $145 and $160 per month for the lot.

Telstra seems to be desperate for customers to keep their land lines, hence a rather good new deal.

Mobiles stay the same, although we could get new phones and better deals if we agree to a two year contract. I hate being tied to contracts but we have gone with a two year one for our home phone and internet.

Total price $158
Includes 2 mobiles, as before, $40
Includes land line rental
Free local calls
Free STD calls
Free calls to Telstra mobiles.
Cheap calls to all mobiles for the first 20 mins.
Cheap international calls to 48 countries.
Caller ID.
100 GB high speed cable internet.

The 100 GB internet was the clincher. We have only just had our allowance increased to 25 GB from 12 GB, but because the internet is working faster, we download more and now are coming perilously close to the 25 GB. 100GB seems excessive, but I expect we will be chewing through in no time at all. R can listen to internet radio without restriction and I can watch ABC's Iview without a worry and see all the You Tube clips I want to. I ain't sayin nuffin about what else may consume bandwidth.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ubunto Friends

Our Brother Friends will readily admit how ignorant they are about computers. I know nothing, as they fling their respective palms upward into the air.

Their computer had a virus. I could not fix it. I told them to bury deep in files any questionable content they may have on their computer and take it to their local computer shop. A mutual acquaintance had a bad experience at one such place, who told him to never return to the shop because of the filth he had on his computer.

They bided their time with their computer only working in safe mode. Eventually the spied an ad in the gay press by someone who fixes computers for a set fee of $100, parts not included. It took two visits of five and three hours and their computer is not only fixed, it is now running on Linux Ubuntu or whatever it is. They plied the repair person with coffee, cakes and kindness and he enjoyed their comfortable home and many of their saved pictures. While I found their new system a bit puzzling, they are very happy with it and have also upgraded to ADSL 2. I gave Ubuntu a shot once, working only off a cd. It did not work for me at all. I don't like change. For all intents and purposes, my computer is set up very much like it was when we first bought a computer with Windows 95 installed. I did eventually embrace Firefox though. In early days I gave Opera a shot. I knew little about file associations then and my computer became thoroughly Operared. How dare they take over everything. I am not at all tempted to start Chroming and I don't get tabs at all? Around nine browser windows can open on my task bar. Aren't they the same as tabs except they are at the bottom of the screen?

This home visit computer repair person sounds like a very useful person to know. They felt guilty that he worked for eight hours for $100. He explained that he wins at times and loses at other times. I get that. Some people's computers could be fixed in two minutes, an easy $100.

So, one of the Brother friends, the particular one who is the first to say I know nothing about computers, has managed to find on the work sales computer a list of what is sold each day, week, month and year, what is paid for stock as against what it is sold for. He knows for standard sales there is about a 200% mark up so he is much less worried about the business closing and losing his job now. But still he will say, I know nothing about computers.

Good god, now they are talking about getting a mobile phone. Henny Penny, the sky is falling.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Tokyo Two on Trial

You could argue that the world does not need beef to eat, in fact most meat. You could argue that the world does not need fish to eat, but I think it does. Yes, you could argue these points. What you cannot argue to me is that the world needs whale meat to eat, or specifically Japan.

But this is not particularly about the rights or wrongs of whale hunting. Pointless preaching to the already converted. This about the Tokyo Two, two Japanese Greenpeace activists. Yes Virginia, such people do exist.

Toru Suzuki and Junichi Sato are in a spot of bother. David McNeill from Japan Times tells what is happening to them. This was written back in 2008.

Six months ago Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were ordinary men looking after young families. But in June they were arrested by a large group of uniformed police, taken to a detention center in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan, and held for 26 days. They were granted bail on July 15 after paying ¥4 million each (AU$52,000), but their release, after an unusual decision by an Aomori judge to hear their case, is highly conditional. Neither is allowed to freely meet or talk to work colleagues, leave home for extended periods or travel abroad. Both are watched by detectives and followed. They can only talk to journalists, separately, in their lawyer's office. Any violation of these conditions will land them back in jail.

It is alleged than whalers on whale hunting ships get to pick the cream of the crop, so to speak, and post it home in parcels where it sells for mega yen on the black market. There are no controls over it whatsoever. Greenpeace wished to expose this, suggesting that some whalers were sending home twenty to thirty boxes with a value of up to US$3000 per box. What a marvellous profit, from taxpayer subsidised whaling expeditions.

Greenpeace decided to intercept one of these parcels to prove their point. It was presented as evidence at a press conference and then handed over to police. And guess what, Sato and Suzuki were arrested for theft and so started a government campaign of harassment of Greenpeace.

This is an absurd over reaction by the Japanese authorities to what is essentially whistle blowing, something that gets some protection in Australia. The Tokyo Two were effectively exposing embezzlement of public money. Why are they being pursued with such zeal by the Japanese authorities?

A court verdict is due on September 6th. Check them out and give them support at their Facebook site, Greenpeace Japan (English) is here.

Toru Suzuki

Junichi Sato

Flash Mob at it again

Say Cheese have been at it again, this time in Sydney's Queen Victoria building. I don't suppose I will ever be lucky enough to witness a live performance. What great fun! Well done all.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ballast Point

One wonderful feature of Sydney Harbour is the 'points'. It has so many jutting out into the harbour and many of them are parkland, although many are not and have houses built on them for the the lucky few.

Julie suggested I take a look at one such park, Ballast Point. I had no idea where it was or knew anything about it. Right, Birchgrove. The last time I looked at Birchgrove was to see Rowntree Street where the tram used to travel. The Birchgrove tram diverted off the more important Balmain line, that is more important if you did not want to go to Birchgrove. The Birchgrove tram was replaced by noisy smelly buses in 1954.

Hmmm, Ballast Point appears to be a construction site with googly satellite. Near Map has a recent photo, but the site still looks raw.

I better look elsewhere. Ah, the park only opened early this year, or officially last year. It was an industrial site. I suppose chunks of the point were cut out and used as ship ballast. There must be bits of Ballast Point in England!

It just occurred to me that at some point there would have been a change whereby instead of adding ballast to a ship for its return journey to England out, the ship would be loaded with Australian exports. Maybe that did not happen in sailing ship times.

Ballast Point had been private land from 1800 until about 1930 when it was bought by oil giant Texaco to be used as a fuel storage depot site and was used as such until the 1990s.

Caltex, the renamed Texaco, sought to make a killing by selling the land to a property developer who also would make a killing, but one of those pesky little activist groups was formed, Save Ballast Point. A no doubt disappointed state government was no longer going to make a killing too compulsorily bought the land in 2002 and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority started making plans. Sites like this always need a lot of expensive decontamination, and this was no exception. $16 million was spent on the clean up and creation of the park.

The park does sound quite spesh. Now, who is silly enough to put photos up on the net for me to steal?

This photo from Landscape Solutions.

So what is there? There is this sculpture to remind us of the park's oil tank history.

Oh, Harbour Bridge views, by Jeremy Hills.

The park has a wetland area to filter its drainage water before the water runs into the harbour. and eight wind turbines to generate electricity. It has all the usual things that a park should have, shelter, barbecues etc, nice walks, local native plantings. I would say it was money well spent.

While doing some research for this post, I came across another point park at Balls Head, proclaimed in 1925 by the Lang government. How progressive. Also from my reading I have learnt a bit about the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and I am very impressed with what it has done over time. Maybe I should learn about what it hasn't done.

A couple more photos by Julie.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Question?

I can't say I have noticed it in city people, but that is not to say they don't do it. It seems to be something Victorian country folk do. I won't say which towns they are as the people concerned could readily identify themselves, but they are two towns, one in the north of the state and another in the east.

The first was interviewed on radio before the federal election. From her name to every statement she made, her voice rose at the end of her sentence as if she was asking a question. I am not talking about a small rise, I mean a big one.

I'm Carla? I lived here for fifteen years? We've seen a huge reduction in water flow? And so forth.

Then another a day's drive away, interviewed on tv, again a woman and exactly the same. Michael sleeps here? Sarah sleeps here?

What is going on here? Is it something new? Something I have never noticed? Is it only country people? Is it only women? Is that how you speak?

Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Topfield 7000 HD PVRt

I was looking at an online forum about Topfield pvrs. That is digital tv recorder in normal speak. We have issues with ours. It is unreliable. Sometimes it gets caught in the start up mode, showing Run and just getting stuck there. Other times it just loses all the stations and has to do a rescan of stations. It is getting old now, but it has always had these problems. R's newer but less sophisticated Topfield pvr works fine.

Our solution to the problem is to never turn it off. It generates a good bit of heat and uses something like 30w of power but what are we to do? The stress of not being able to immediately turn the tv on is worse than the cost of leaving it on. Well, perhaps not for me directly, but if it doesn't work, it must be my fault.

But we haven't had it as bad as some. Some posts on the forum indicate absolute nightmare stuff for owners. Some have just given up. I actually like the machine and what it can do and I feel caught between a rock and a hard place with it. Before anyone knowledgeable about them asks if I have upgraded the firm ware, yes I have, to the latest.

But Eureka! From the forum I have learnt that for about $300 Topfield will replace these machines with the newest model, worth about $700 I think.

For the non tech person, not that I am really, I just have patience, I would recommend the Tivo. You may not be able to skip through ads in five seconds and it may not have the bells and whistles, but I am sure it is an easier beast. Do avoid Freeview machines, whatever you do.

Here are some snaps of the basics of our Topfield pvr.

It is on ABC News 24, which is scrolling across.

Here it is replaying a recorded program, The Making of Modern Australia, also scrolling across.

This display comes up at the push of a button or when it starts or stops doing something. You can see I am watching one program and recording two others.

The tv guide. To record a programme, I scroll to the programme and press record. The information provided from the television stations is much more accurate that what is published in other guides. Although the times are displayed at starting at the published times, what actually records can be quite different. Even so, the end of a commercial tv show can still be chopped off. Where you get into to strife is when you set multiple recordings and for one to start, the other has to be stopped. You can also set the time manually as with a vcr.

There is only one programme set to record as I recently cleared it of all permanent recordings.

Here are a list of recordings. Yes, we are a bit behind with watching The Collectors. I made the folder called Movies to keep things in for an extended period. As well as movies, there are other bits and pieces.

This is the business part of the machine where you do stuffs.

Deeper into the menu. OSD is On Screen Display, EPG Electronic Programme Guide.

Deeper still, pvr settings. Time padding is adding time to the end of recordings so that you don't miss endings when they run overtime. We have the jump back set to 30 seconds to match the jump forward. In about 5 seconds we can get through a long add break. This feature is never included with Freeview models.

There is a myriad of other things it can do, most of which we never use. We only learnt how to use the picture in picture on the day I took these snaps. It was useful to keep an eye on the Tally Room which watching other things. You can move the little picture around the screen or make it larger or smaller.

Where it does fall down is that unlike taking a video cassette out of one vcr and playing it another, you can't easily do this. You can make transfers by cable connection, wifi or connecting an external drive or even USB stick, but although I played with a USB stick once, unsuccessfully, I have never bothered with a proper hard drive.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

There is a song with the lyrics Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, I think

'Toilet Little Jo'.
'No fanks'.
'You haven't been since you arrived. You'd better go.'
'No fanks'.
'C'mon. You haven't been.'
'Yes I have. I went when we were swimming'.

Our faces must have looked interesting as we tried to look stern and chastising but suppressing laughter at the same time. I recall a blank expression came over her face for about 20 seconds while she was in the spa.

Sister had dropped her off as she went to see her team play at the MCG. We fed Little Jo ham and cheese in rolls. She picked the ham and cheese out and then ate a little bit of the rolls.

This is going to be a long day. We had already done our shopping in the morning in Prahran and no sooner was everything unpacked and the sums calculated than they turned up.

After the swim we tried for some quiet time, but Little Jo wasn't having a bar of it.

She likes this song and knows many of the words. I found it on You Tube and gave our newish computer speakers a workout. The three of us danced around and eventually Little Jo lost interest. R and I kept on dancing to the end.

Off to the park for a play on the equipment and home by 4 as a chill arrived in the air. Little Jo found some kids her age to play with at the park. She didn't biff any of them. As usual the children playing in Fawkner Park and their parents were immaculately attired with labels for days. Little Jo also has label clothes, but hers mostly come from op shops and while she has or had a good pram, the stroller we took her to the park in was from a roadside collection raid. Cranky beast it was, it was put out to get rid of it for good reasons.

Back home to try for more quiet time but it was high energy dvds she wanted. Bone Doctor arrived from he stint of looking after football player injuries and we ordered some pizzas. Sister arrived back from football in an excellent mood. Bath for Little Jo and showers for the rest of us and then off to Langwarrin in separate cars.

Sister was giving her old washing machine to Tradie Brother but he was not at home. We wrestled the machine in and then he turned up. He has bought himself a record player and has acquired tons of records. On this night, the night of his ex wife's engagement party, no doubt he will get drunk and maudlin and play lots of sad and meaningful songs. Who could blame him.

We will leave him with his tears and regrets and feelings of injustice and travel on to Cranbourne where Sis in Law is having her engagement party at a large reception venue. Somehow we ended up in an RSL carpark but we still beat Sister and Bone Doctor to the correct venue. ABI Brother and Mother did worse, ending up at a nearby venue where there was a wedding and they went inside.

Sis in Law, her new beau, Snotty niece, Dreaded Nephew and Chainsaw Niece were already there, as was Mother and ABI Brother, and Step Mother had travelled down from the north of Victoria for the occasion. Sis in Law had given us a moral out if we did not think it was appropriate to attend, but while I am not sure why she is bothering, it is cool with me. To see her in love like she is now is a wondrous thing.

What is that in your hand Missy, Sis in Law asked of Snotty niece. I'm holding it for her, said Snotty Niece, as she exhaled clouds of smoke. I give up exclaimed Sis in Law. Chainsaw Niece's bag fell open the other day there were heaps of rollies in her bag. Sis in Law hates smoking, yet all three of her children smoke, as does Tradie Brother and her new beau. It was the first time we had met him and he seemed like a nice ocker bloke. There was the usual, heard so much about you two guys, in reference to R and myself. Our wrists remained rigid and our voices deep.

Sis in Law's beau comes from a large family, so with Sis in Law's large family, our smallish one plus friends and hangers on, it ended up being a party for 180 people with finger food and drinks at bar prices.

Forty years ago hysterical Mother was in a public shopping street calling Step Mother a filthy whore. Step Mother slapped Mother, which shut her up for once. Age has mellowed them and they get on rather well now. They even did the girl thing and went to the toilet together.

Sister and Little Jo were going on to Mother's to stay for the night and Bone Doctor had to go back by train to the Belllarine Peninsula. How lucky were we. As speeches were about to start at 10, we took our leave to take Bone Doctor to Spencer Street to catch the 11.05 Geelong train and then drive her car from the station for half an hour to her home and then be up to umpire a footy match at 9.30.

Little Jo enjoyed herself at the party. Along with the other kids, she ran and danced, ran and danced. She did not sleep well the night before and had not stopped with strenuous activity all day and half the night. She will be in a fine old mood next morning. We told Bone Doctor she was lucky to not have Little Jo around the next day, a small consolation. Poor Bone Doctor did not want to go to the party in the first place. Sister insisted.

I hate driving in the city, for good reasons. After dropping Bone Doctor at Southern Cross Station, we got caught up in King Street nightclub traffic. Gazing around at the King Street night crowds was educative, to say the least.

Too much for a white boy and then today I worked from 10 till 7. The marvellous R cooked a beautiful piece of corned beef, with steaming hot cabbage of course, broccoli, carrots and mashed potatoes and a really good mustard sauce from a recipe he found on the net. It was a seriously huge piece of meat, the corned beef that is, and so I am looking forward to my lunch for a couple of days.