By the way.... For anyone who doesn't have a Blogger account, you are no longer required to sign up just to post a comment. You can now enter a name and URL much the same as any other blog app. Hurrah!

Also, for the sake of repetition: comments on the LiveJournal feed of this blog are only ever read via sheer dumb luck. I do not get notifications due to limitations in the way lj handles feeds (essentially nobody can 'own' a feed, which does make a kind of sense). So if you reply to something more than a day or two old (basically once it drops off the first page or two of my friends list), there's basically zero chance that I'll see it. If you want to comment on a post, ideally follow the link through to blogger and post there. I realise you may not have the time or inclination to do so, but I'm just telling it like it is :) I submitted a feature suggestion to LiveJournal a long time ago, but realistically they're never going to implement it.

news bits

  • Trafficker would kill Corby: witness - World - Schapelle Corby's would-be saviour says they would both be killed if he named one of the traffickers he blames for the marijuana stash that has left her at risk of the death penalty for drug smuggling in Bali. He certainly looked like he believed what he was saying. I didn't really think this could get any nastier, but apparently I was wrong. I can't help thinking if Corby isn't acquitted it would destroy already-shaky relations between Australia and Indonesia, if not amongst politicians then definitely amongst the Australian public. Unless Corby is a) an extraordinary actress, and b) the world's most inept drug mule... I just cannot believe she is guilty. No drug smuggler in their right mind would hide drugs in such a pathetic manner nor risk their life for such a small amount of drugs (in dealer terms).
  • US to free 38 Guantanamo detainees. 30/03/2005. ABC News Online: The Pentagon has decided that 38 detainees held at its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay are not 'enemy combatants' and will set them free without charge. After how many years?? Leaving how many?? Why isn't the UN stepping in here? It's a nation openly flouting the Geneva Convention - if it was another nation, America would be leading the (military) charge to intervene. Assume there's oil involved of course.
  • Memo shows US general approved interrogations. 30/03/2005. ABC News Online: The former top US military chief in Iraq authorised the use of dogs and other illegal techniques during interrogations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
  • The Australian: Hunt goes on for escaped killer [March 30, 2005]. The question of course is how this guy was ever allowed to transfer into a minimum security facility. State governments always insist that escapes won't happen, dangerous crims are always kept in high security, etc etc. It's all bullshit.
  • Exposed: drugs price scandal - Health - Generic medicines are costing Australian taxpayers up to 19 times what New Zealand taxpayers pay for the same drugs ... The Federal Government has [released] a three-country price comparison for nine generic drugs, which reveals that Australia pays significantly more that New Zealand and Britain in most cases and could be missing out on $100 million in savings for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Remember those smarmy TV ads about the PBS, where we were basically told it's our fault for daring to use PBS medication? Apparently the real problem is out of our hands. Imagine that.
  • It's snakes and ladder as Locky tops Joey - League - Time for a reality check - and we might as well start at the top: Andrew Johns will never again be regarded as the world's best player. Darren Lockyer was already just about level-pegging with Johns before the Newcastle halfback was hurt, and Lockyer has only improved since then. GASP! This is published in the SYDNEY Morning Herald... never thought I'd see the day they had anything nice to say about Lockyer or anything less than glowing to say about Johns.
  • Clubbers to get into the silent groove - Music - For those seeking tranquillity at Glastonbury Festival, a dance tent packed with clubbers is not an obvious sanctuary. But this will be the silent disco - 3000 festivalgoers are to be issued with headphones this year so they can turn up the volume without waking the neighbours. Damn cool idea, particularly if they will have volume control (some people like it louder/softer than others you know). We tossed a similar idea around for clubs... everyone gets a set of headphones and tunes in to a broadcast. One event could have multiple DJs and people could pick the tunes that get them going. Ambient music could be put through the PA at low volume so people can take off the 'phones and chill out or - gasp - be able to talk to other people without screaming.

busy busy

Comments pages should look much better now; plus the archive index matches the rest of the site (wow!). Changed to monthly archives too, it was getting out of hand with the weekly archives.

You know, one day I'll remember to remove the stats counter before I hammer away at the page for an entire evening. Oh look, a traffic spike! Doofus.

Nothing like some good goa to really get into this sort of stuff :) [Man With No Name's Earth Moving the Sun, to be precise... need to get hold of his other albums too...]

tinker, tinker

I finally got around to fixing up the design of this blog (exceptionally keen readers might remember it went to hell a while back when blogger added the little toolbar thing up the top). A few little CSS quirks still to figure out, but overall it seems reasonably stable. Then I might finally get around to fixing the archive page design ;)

Update: IE6 users... I'll hack the CSS for you later. Until then, a) links will look ugly, and b) you should go get a better browser anyway ;)

geek stuff

  • The Real Reason Microsoft Won't Support CSS2 in IE7: Microsoft won't support CSS2 in IE7 because they can't. Not with that "summer release date" anyway. Blunt but probably true. It's unlikely MS had any serious plans to work on IE until Firefox started gaining marketshare faster than any other browser for several years.
  • CorporatePR: Ten Ideas for Corporate RSS Feeds. As with all technology, you should be able to show a clear benefit to your business before you buy into it. XML news feeds (RSS, Atom, whatever) have some clear benefits over other existing distribution methods.
  • Colorization Using Optimization. Assuming these images were actually colourised using the described methodology.... WOW. Knowing a modest amount about how images work, it certain seems feasible to use this method.

errr.... holy fucking shit

Talk about longevity. A guestbook created in 1998 is still online and responding, despite being unattended basically ever since! martin college 98 guestbook (umm, probably not worth looking if you weren't there at the time*). wonders will never cease.

Perhaps just as surprising... I've talked to two of these people in the last month or so.

* You know the phrase 'you had to be there'? That applies to basically two entire years of my life :) Ahh it was grand. Apart from a lot of the food.


around the traps

axl rose - tortured artist?

The New York Times > Arts > Music > The Most Expensive Album Never Made: [Axl] Rose began work on the album in 1994, recording in fits and starts with an ever-changing roster of musicians, marching through at least three recording studios, four producers and a decade of music business turmoil. ... Along the way, he has racked up more than $13 million in production costs, according to Geffen documents, ranking his unfinished masterpiece as probably the most expensive recording never released.

This is actually a fascinating read, whether you like Guns'n'Roses or not.

news bits

  • The Australian: US can't go it alone: Annan [March 23, 2005]: A DAY after releasing his blueprint for comprehensive UN reform, Kofi Annan has appealed for US backing, saying no country, however powerful, can face the future alone. Realistically the US only needs the UN to create a thin veneer of legitimacy for its military actions. Even that need is lessening now that the US (or the Bush administration at any rate) seems quite happy to act as world bully and simply brazen out the backlash. Annan is just trying to keep the UN ship afloat and not end up like the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations (which arguably failed because the US never joined).
  • Gunman drove police car to school. 23/03/2005. ABC News Online: Reports described Weise as a loner who wore a dark trench coat to school every day and who had used the names 'Todesengel' - German for 'Angel of Death' - and 'NativeNazi' when signing on to extreme right-wing Internet sites. The media is already working on a 'trenchcoat' aspect to this. What the kid used to wear was not the problem. The problem was that he was an extremist racist with access to guns (at least based on the reports coming through at the moment).
  • Australian IT - Hackers loose worms on Apple (Chris Jenkins, MARCH 22, 2005): Symantec, says it discovered 37 high-severity vulnerabilities in the Mac OS during 2004. They also found vulnerabilities in Mozilla based browsers, although there's a grey area surrounding how to compare their severity with bugs in IE (IE bugs are often much nastier since they're intertwined with the operating system).
  • The Australian: It's all over for Hopoate, says Manly [March 23, 2005]: The Manly winger was suspended for 17 games by the judiciary ... but the Sea Eagles board had already decided by that stage he was too much of a liability and had terminated his one-year contract. From the reactions described in this article it sounds like Hopoate knew he'd screwed up one too many times to save his career.
  • Roaming alarm clock keeps snoozers on their toes. 23/03/2005. ABC News Online: The clock ... is equipped with a set of wheels and after the snooze button is pressed, it rolls off the bedside table to another part of the room.

news bits

  • Detainees who find Christ may be allowed to stay - National - Thirty of Australia's longest-term immigration detainees are having their cases reviewed and could be freed because they have converted to Christianity since arriving. ... It follows strong lobbying efforts by several Government backbenchers, churches and the powerful Family First party. This is stunning on just so many levels.
  • Annan rewrites the UN rule book - World - The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is today expected to propose establishing new rules for the use of military force ... A 63-page draft report represents Mr Annan's most ambitious effort to restore international confidence in the organisation.
  • Bye bye, Hoppa - League - He's got to be gone this time. If the league doesn't ban him, his club will probably sack him. Ehh, who knows - maybe some UK team will take him on despite his problems.
  • Google sued over copyright 'infringement' - Technology - Agence France-Presse has sued Google Inc for copyright infringement, alleging that the internet search engine included AFP headlines, news summaries and photographs published without permission. No details but this would have to relate to Google News and probably the image search as well. It will be interesting to see how the courts handle this - Google doesn't publish anything itself, but it does collate and present information with its own branding.
  • | Beattie chastises parents (21-03-2005): QUEENSLAND Premier Peter Beattie has told parents at an Ipswich community meeting to give their kids 'some bloody discipline', in response to criticism over juvenile crime rates. Priceless! :)

around the traps

one in fifty, do you like those odds?

I discovered yesterday that Australia Post feels it's just fine to fail to deliver one parcel out of every fifty it handles. Well, specifically they said "98% success rate". They also told me that since the parcel in question wasn't sent by registered post, in short I could stick it up my arse.

Apparently it doesn't matter that the parcel was addressed correctly and had sufficient postage. It didn't arrive, yet it got returned to sender as "unclaimed" and the sender was charged a fee for that privilege. They will have to pay again to resend the parcel, even though they did everything right the first time.

I actually went in after about two weeks and asked if they could check out the back in case the parcel was there but the card hadn't been placed in my PO Box (you know, because people are human and shit happens). They refused point blank to walk the three metres and check. I made the tactical error of mentioning Ebay and after that the already-sour expression went to sucking-ten-lemons-all-out-bitch-stare. I hate the new staff member at my Post Office, she's a slack bitch who shouldn't be in a customer service job. But I digress.

In essence, Australia Post don't care about Parcel Post. If they lose your parcel they won't even try to find it (that's their official policy). If you want AP to actually make any guarantees, let's say you think perhaps they might deliver it, you have to pay quite a bit more and send everything by Registered Post. Express Post *might* be better, but they were pretty cagey about whether the tracking number can actually be used to track anything.

No matter what you do, never admit that the parcel has anything to do with Ebay. Apparently if you have ever so much as looked at Ebay, AP will immediately refuse to help you. Probably not an official policy, but the staff attitude is pretty clear since I got that from the manager as well (lemon-face did an immediate flick pass to the manager when I came in to discuss the problem). Doesn't matter that the origin of the parcel makes no difference to whether it can make it through the post - to them Ebay = all bets are off.

So... all up, I'm not really surprised. I think it's stupid but not surprising that AP actively promotes the risks of its cheap service. Why stupid? Well, they're saying 'our service is so unreliable, you better pay for insurance for when we fuck up...'. Why then should I trust the same people to get things right, just because the satchel is a different colour? But it's not surprising - they want you to pay more to send stuff.

Ahh well. I guess I shouldn't expect people to do their jobs any more. I am inconveniencing them, after all. They should just get paid for turning up.

Now I wait and see if the parcel arrives the second time around, since the Ebay seller was a bit too enthusiastic and has already resent the parcel. Would have preferred to get it sent by Express Post but hey.

Update (2005.04.17): On the second attempt, the parcel turned up almost immediately. Parcel Post, addressed the same way, same everything just a different day. My gut feeling: the bloody thing DID sit out the back of the Post Office, mislabelled or something; but they didn't want to admit to it.

the inevitable: student unionism to become voluntary

With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, a key point is being lost: the proposal is for union fees to become voluntary, they are not being abolished. The objections all make the assumption that no student will voluntarily cough up the money. Think on that.

If nobody is willing to pay, does that suggest that nobody feels like they're getting their money's worth? Most students don't know where the money goes and those that do know are generally pissed off about it. For example, when I was at uni 2/3 of my fees went on sporting facilities which I never used. Two bloody thirds! Sport is not a critical service and should never be grouped with health services and child care.

Elsewhere student unions have been caught blowing million dollar budgets and being unable to produce any documentation as to where the money went. Frankly the unions brought this down on themselves.

None of this makes the government's approach valid, though. It's too much to make fees voluntary AND prevent universities pitching in the money (or charge the fee and administrate themselves). I've always thought it would be much better to leave fees as mandatory, but let students choose where the money goes (or a portion of it). Have the health services, counselling, food outlets etc funded by a set fee; then let students choose whether the rest of their cash goes to sport, clubs, etc.

There's a certain level of enforcement required to make students pay up for non-glamourous services. During O-week, no student is going to agree to pay a large amount of money for a health service. Ask them again when they're sick and broke during exams, it'll be a different matter.

I'm surprised that the government would do something so hard on student unions though, since they serve as a breeding ground for politicians. Most student union groups have a political affiliation, whether overt or not. Take away student politics and pollies will have to cut their teeth in 'real' politics. Don't be fooled for a second into thinking that only left-wing groups take part in student politics... that's crap.

Anyway, if the students really give a shit about "having a voice" then I guess we'll see them turn out in record numbers to protest... or we'll see them all pay the fees, right? Right.

apple: fast, responsive, modern.

AppleInsider | Sources: Apple developing updated AirPorts, two-button mouse: In other news, Hell has not frozen over yet, but it very well may. According to sources who have so far filed accurate reports on Apple's future hardware plans, the company is feverishly working on a two-button wireless optical mouse that it intends to release. ... Insiders warned that anticipation may continue to build for months as the company perfects the product. ... 'Jaws will drop,' said one insider.

It's going to take them months to "perfect" a two button mouse? It's a mouse. It has two buttons. Every other company has been making them for years...!

gmail = non accessible crippleware with workarounds and neat features

a few days ago i logged into Gmail using Opera 8 beta2, expecting the full features as usual... after a moment i started wondering 'where the fuck did all the features go??' where indeed. Google even knew that's what I'd be thinking when I followed the link to use a fully supported browser, more info here... - the page heading is "Where have all the features gone?". Now, they could have scored serious points if they'd said "But... why are the features gone??" (capnjacksparrow@gmail? :)).

Gmail/Google have rolled out an HTML version of the service, which is a seriously cut-down interface. You can check, send and label email and that's about it. At least you can use it though, previously you were screwed if your browser didn't support XMLHttpRequest and JavaScript (realistically not that many browsers are excluded). Good thing? Well, sorta.

Some earlier info posted around the traps by Gmail developers cited an HTML version of Gmail as the solution to accessibility problems with the default version. I sincerely hope this isn't it, as it's a mess of tables and font tags (publishing that sort of thing in 2005 is the web equivalent of entering a stock Trabi into the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race). At this stage Google is only saying that it's for times when you can't use your own computer.

So anyway... I'm sitting here with Opera 8 beta 2, which I know handles Gmail with no real hassles (a few rendering bugs, but no show stoppers). Thankfully, unlike Blogger, there is a way to log in anyway: is your friend.

So... My thoughts on Gmail as it stands today?

  • + excellent features for sighted users with supported browsers
  • +/- cut down HTML version is better than nothing as an alternative
  • - rotten accessibility in either version
  • + HTML version does at least work without JavaScript, the way it handles dropdown menus actually complies with a key accessibility requirement (no automatic submission, you click 'go' when you're ready). So, while it wouldn't pass any validation checks, it may be usable in a screen reader.

The key thing to watch now is whether they update either version to be accessible, or if they claim the HTML version is their 'accessible alternative' - despite the fact you can't use most of the neat features.

Overall... It's disappointing that Google/Gmail would build a font/table "HTML" version in 2005. But it's not surprising given that Google's search tool is still a font/table piece of crud. Google could have been a flagship for good web development, but instead they're yet another example of 'great features, crap accessibility'.

around the traps

this month in What Browser?

  • Netscape Browser: Download The Netscape Browser, v8.0 BETA. WTF are these people playing at? Last we heard, Netscape was not going to be developed any further. Now we're getting a rebadged Firefox being rolled out as 'Netscape Navigator 8'. It's pretty pointless, but the annoying thing is that various lazy-arse large application vendors will now have an excuse to trickle on for a few more years supporting the 'big two'; instead of doing any real work on cross-browser compatibility. Yeesh!
  • Meanwhile, we see the end of Mozilla... Future of the Mozilla Application Suite: No Official Mozilla 1.8, Community Transition Plan Unveiled - MozillaZine Talkback: The announcement confirms that there will be no official Mozilla 1.8 release ... However, the Mozilla Foundation will offer infrastructure support to a community effort to continue development of the Mozilla Application Suite, probably under a different name. So what does that mean? Well, instead of splitting things up, the Mozilla foundation is concentrating on just one browser. If the Mozilla user community feels strongly enough about it, they are welcome to take up management of the product themselves (it's open source, after all). Good thing? Well, hardcore open source types shun Firefox for the much more geek-l33t Mozilla. Plus there are some grumblings that the Firefox project isn't going so well. The flip side of course is that Firefox has reignited browser wars - something most people didn't really expect to see again.
  • Some more on Mozilla - adot's notblog*: mozilla product futures: Firefox and Thunderbird are the Mozilla Foundation's premier applications. ... There is little doubt that these applications have achieved more in terms of industry acceptance and user adoption than anything in Mozilla's history. They are where our future lies -- and so our focus.
  • Netcraft: Firefox, Opera Updates Address IDN Spoofing. Opera and Firefox have to issue updates, just like anyone else. They just don't have to do it quite so often. So anyway, if you use Opera or FF, go download the latest.
  • Finally, an odd one... hacking Firefox to look like IE. The things people do! I can imagine a few people disguising FF to fool adamant IE users into browsing with something better...

quiz time

It's monday and my eyes and brain hurt from being at work instead of asleep (you think i'm joking). So, what else could I do?

You are Foamy.
Congratulations, you are a rage filled squirrel who spouts his views at any given moment. You know what you like, (bagels with cream cheese) and what you don't. (everything else) Chill out before you give yourself an ulcer.
Which Neurotically Yours (Foamy) Character are you? if I was going to be any other character :)

As an aside, Quizilla really needs to make spell checks a mandatory part of the quiz creation process.

around the traps

because i didn't feel like i'd conformed enough today

I am a d8
No use trying to fight it, you're an eight-sided die, a d8. A fine example of simple elegance, the d8 is one of the least appreciated types of dice, and is often neglected. You are known to be quiet and shy, outward traits that conceal viscous sarcasm and mean wit. You are very smart, yet wise enough to hide your intelligence the quicker they found out how smart you are, the sooner they'll put you to work, which is something you can do without. People call you dark and pessimistic, or moody and cynical. You find little point in arguing.

Take the quiz at

There we go, my quiz quota is all taken care of - I'm allowed to keep my blog now ;)

silly quiz time

Calvin and Hobbes Character Quiz

English Genius
You scored 93% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 77% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

[The Commonly Confused Words Test], although I'm kicking myself because I think I know which beginner question I answered incorrectly. typical for me though, all through high school i'd get tests where i would get things wrong in the simpler areas, most likely because i'd rip through the questions too fast.

around the traps

random observations while on holiday

  • heaping shit on nin fans and/or Trent Reznor is, like, sooooo 1999.
  • you can still heap shit on manson/nu-metal kiddies though, since they still wear full-length leather coats at midday in a brisbane summer. twats. stinky, sweaty twats.
  • Coppermine Photo Gallery claims to have IPTC support, but enabling that option appears to do nothing. the FAQ gives out an 'untested hack' which also appears to do nothing. it's this kind of shit that holds open source back.
  • similarly, Thunderbird's online support doesn't work - links from the client go to broken links in a Wiki. when you do find support material, it is often inaccurate.
  • cinnamon is good. cinnamon tictacs are good. cinnamon mentos are good. penguin reds are good. big red gum is good (when you can find it). the shop in the city with ten different cinnamon gums and mints is goooood :) having to pay $3.50 for a pack of tictacs, not so good. why the hell don't they stock cinnamon tictacs in normal shops?? they stock those weird-arse orange ones that nobody buys, why not the cinnamons? australia must stop fearing the cinnamon.
  • why has apple nobbled the iPod Shuffle by dropping the price of the mini?? $50 more for 3 more gigs and full interface... you'd have to be keen to get a shuffle at these prices. unless you're really specifically buying it for jogging.
  • lots of new music. damn you jb hifi, i am powerless to resist your 'buy me now, i'm cheap!' stickers. but good! new music. well actually quite a bit of back catalogue too. you see, if i like it i will go buy it when i can; even if i have a burned copy.