Ken Rockwell’s Updates

I have really enjoyed immersing myself in Ken Rockwell’s amazing Nikon web site. I know some of the Nikonarati think Ken is lame, but I’ve found his site a great source of info.

And as much as I wanted a D80 or even a D90, I got at D40 kit from JB Hifi for $593 – if you look in the latest Dick Smith catalogue you will see they are only $540 or so. This is great value. The ebay 2nd hand prices were getting upwards of $450.

Having taken over 1000 shots with the camera in over 2 weeks, it is amazing how much better a DSLR is than a compact digital. And given my wife is an old-school Nikon fan, it is good to make her happy. I only hope I can improve my skill at photography now, it is a very enjoyable hobby.

Hey – hold on – the price of the brand-new D40 and 18-55mm kit has dropped to $449.95. Wheeee!

The Nikon D90 is the new best camera for most serious photographers like most of you folks reading this, but costs over double what the D40 does. The D90 is twice as good if you know what you’re doing, but for my mom, the D40 is still the camera to get.

Ken Rockwell’s Updates

Nikon D90 and 18-105mm VR kit lens: Review – ThinkCamera News

I like it!

The D90 is a trophy of a middleweight camera, with the D-movie HD video mode tagging on an extra medal or two. No other DSLR in the world has a video feature to match; which no doubt opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Nikon D90 and 18-105mm VR kit lens: Review – ThinkCamera News

Facebook Friends

I have two types of facebook friends:

1) those I’m interested in their status updates

2) those good acquaintances for whom I’d like to see their profile/photos/posts/groups, but DON’T want to hear their status updates

I’m now only adding friends for (1). The question I ask myself: “Am I interested in what this person is doing today?” Only if I can answer yes do I add them.

I love facebook status updates, they are a fascinating window into the lives of many. I read them in my RSS feeder. But I’ve got a few “friends” where it feels like too much info for someone I hardly know.

When Google Owns You

If Google disabled my accounts I would be in some trouble.

I have all my google email backed up, I just pop3 it to my desktop mail client. I would lose all my GTD “next action” lists which are stored as labelled emails in gmail. I’d have the emails but they wouldn’t make sense out of Gmail.

But I have lots of great stuff on Google docs. But there is no easy way to backup google docs?

If I were disabled I have to ask the question: Do I simply create a new gmail account and somehow import the data back?

One of the comments in that blog posts talks about how quickly Google will shut down your AdSense account as soon as they detect fraudulent clicking. This is needed because you could just pay people, say in a poorer country, to click on your ads. AdSense is the backbone of Googles billion dollar revenue stream, so it makes sense.

But, why couldn’t you simply just pay (or write software) to fraudulently click on the ads of your competitors? You could get their AdSense accounts disabled very quickly and that traffic would then flow to your ads?  As long as “tracks were covered” and couldn’t be linked back to your company, it would be a great way to sabotage your online competitors.

Ahhh but someone might say that Google would simply restore the competitors adsense account when they made such a claim. Then you could simply go back to strategy A and click on your own ads, and when you get caught, claim it was your competitors act of sabotage. The cat and mouse game continues.

Though I detest governments interfering in everything, it would seem this industry would need some kind of regulating body, if only for transparency and accountability.

Kids and Email

Josiah asked me today for his own gmail account. I told him not for a few years yet.

He has been watching me process my email. He has a fair idea of how to use it. And he will have an understanding of “inbox zero” from day one. I’m a bit scared to have another person in the house with an email addiction.

So I’m really not sure, what do people think, when is the right time for kids to get an email account?

The conversation ended like this:
Dad: “Why would you want an email account anyway, who are you going to email?”

Josiah: “My friends overseas” [occasionally Josiah writes a message to missionaries or other friends kids overseas]

Dad: “Why don’t you just write them in openoffice and then Mum or myself will email them?”

Josiah: “I have done that already”

So I look in Josiah’s folder in our home computer, lo and behold, he has already created a folder called “GMail” and drafted one email already!

Internet speed and productivity

The wireless internet at HTD is incredibly flaky.

I have tried four different wireless routers from the best position I can place them.

Currently we are using a Linksys WAG325N.

My productivity takes a nosedive, frustration multiplies.

Unreliable wireless is worse that dialup internet. At least dialup internet was a constant 28.8kbps.

Wireless that deassociates randomly in the middle of gmail sessions is very trying.

Guilt by Association

Enjoyed a great school holidays, the wireless network at church behaved itself, I moved my ugly black behemoth PC on top of the edge of my desk to get better reception.

But now that Chris B has returned and the ESL classes have begun outside my office, our Linksys router at church won’t associate with me anymore. It doesn’t like things coming between us.

Samba Team Releases Samba 3.2

I remember compiling my own samba server, whilst working in IT back in 1998. It ran as a backup system for an NT 4.0 server. Even then it was more reliable than Microsoft servers.  It is a great project that everyone uses without knowing it somewhere on a network or NAS. There is much free software like this.

Samba 3.2 builds upon the success of Samba 3.0 by modernizing and enhancing the code whilst still retaining compatibility with all existing Samba installations. Samba is the leading technology choice for Windows file serving on UNIX ® platforms and in embedded Network Attached Storage (NAS) solutions. Samba is used by vendors selling NAS solutions ranging from high end clustered business-critical systems, to low end consumer devices, and everything in between.

Samba Team Releases Samba 3.2

Martian Skies – The Big Picture – Boston.com

Mars is a beautiful world. God has done all things well.

With an amazing number of six current live probes exploring Mars (two rovers, a lander, and three orbiters), there are many thousands of images available. Only a few, however show atmospheric phenomena. Presented here are some of the best images of Martian atmosphere (and beyond) in action.

Martian Skies – The Big Picture – Boston.com

The Citadel and the Open Space — Will the Library Survive in the Internet Age?

Though I love technology, I’m a big fan of the printed book.

The future will be digital (or whatever replaces digital media), but the future will also need the library. The library will remain as a citadel, where books need no batteries and reading requires no Bluetooth or wireless technology. The spirit of scholarship will always be most at home among books, and the soul committed to learning will always find nourishment in the library.

The Citadel and the Open Space — Will the Library Survive in the Internet Age?

In related news, Helen and I had been waiting for Officeworks to put their nice bookshelves on sale from $199 to $99. This seems to happen a couple of times a year, and we currently need more shelves at home. This months catalogue has the full size bookshelves at $89. At Doncaster Officeworks they scanned in at $55. The store-man said: “We have to sell them what they scan at”! I bought two.

The Schuller library citadel expands…

Official Gmail Blog: A need for speed: the path to a faster loading sequence

Why would anyone use webmail and not use gmail?

Why would anyone not use webmail?

We hope that some of you have felt the change, but performance improvements often go unnoticed, and that’s okay. We’ll keep working to make Gmail faster — there’s a lot we’re doing right now — and we’ll give periodic updates as we get improvements out. (And hopefully you’ll notice some of them too.)

Official Gmail Blog: A need for speed: the path to a faster loading sequence

Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron)

I love linux. I’ve been using it exclusively as my desktop for 10 years.

Ubuntu is a great distribution of Linux. Every 6 months I get a whole new version of my operating system and applications, for zero charge. The changes are incremental and always getting better. If you want the new system before the release, you can simply upgrade into the middle of the development process, which is what I’ve done on the home pc in the last week or so. We’ve been enjoying Ubuntu 8.04 2 weeks before its release date on the 24th of April.

There are hacky awkward elements to Linux, sometimes things just don’t work like they should – but for me that is all part of the charm. And you can always report a bug or fix it yourself. Anyone who likes computers should experience compiling their own kernel at least once in their life, espeically if you are the kind of person who likes to pull things apart to see how they work…

Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more.

Ubuntu Home Page | Ubuntu

Quake gives 3-D control – BizTech – Technology – theage.com.au

This idea really excites me. Not only because they chose my favourite game, Quake (Q3, though for me Quake 1 is best), it is actually a genuinely exciting idea to visualise what is happening on your operating system and networks.

L3DGEWorld can also be used to monitor virus activity, with a network-wide port scan showing up as a ripple travelling across the virtual landscape.

Quake gives 3-D control – BizTech – Technology – theage.com.au

Always connected – Technology – theage.com.au

Go Tony Caruana! Love your work!

Still connected to his mobile phone by a Bluetooth wireless headset hung on his ear, Caruana drives to the railway station and the commuter train on which he can work as he rides, using his MacBook Pro connected via its NetConnect card to the mobile phone network.

Always connected – Technology – theage.com.au

Pocket Mojo – My Wireless World

TLAs [rant]

Dear Acronym ministries,

The glossy A3 poster for the conference you sent me looks fascinating. But I’ve never heard of your organisation. The acronym appears 6 times on the flyer. I went to your acronym.org website, and couldn’t find out what that acronym stood for. I even read the FAQ, mission and history pages of your site. In the end I found it on wikipedia.

Your flyer promises “clear and practical” teaching of the Bible, but at this stage I’m just looking for a clear and practical unpacking of your acronym.

What is using up all my disk space? (Linux)

Running out of hard disk space is a common problem – Linux is not immune!

To see your hard disk usage, open up a shell (eg: ‘gnome-terminal’) and run:

df -h
(the -h option puts the results in a human readable format. eg: 1.5 G (gigabytes), 147m (megabytes))

Here is a great linux command to quickly see who is taking up all the hard drive space:

/usr/bin/du -Sx | sort -rn | more

On a big hard drive this might take 30 seconds or so.

Or to list the files in one directory in order of size do:
ls -S | more

The first command is so helpful I like to make an alias for it.

To do this edit your /etc/bash.bashrc and create an alias at the bottom of the file:
alias dumega='/usr/bin/du -Sx | sort -rn | more'
(I use ‘vi’ as my command line editor. You could use ‘gedit’, but be careful when running it as root)

Now when you are worried about hard disk space, you can simply run ‘dumega’ from the shell and get a summary.

Related links:
GNU/Linux Command Line Tools Summary

Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 5 Release Notes

I am using this right now and am extremely impressed at how snappy my Google Mail is, even over my crusty wireless connection. Google docs is sweeter and snappier also. Thank you Mozilla! Go open source!

[Improved in Beta 5] Speed: improvements to our JavaScript engine as well as profile guided optimizations have resulted in continued improvements in performance. Compared to Firefox 2, web applications like Google Mail and Zoho Office run twice as fast in Firefox 3 Beta 5, and the popular SunSpider test from Apple shows improvements over previous releases.

Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 5 Release Notes

Apple Are Proprietary

They are doing the proprietary thing better than anyone else. They are Microsoft’s worst enemy. They will rule the technology world… until patent-free cost-free code-free modification-unlimited free software does. It could take 30 years. It could take 10 if copylefted software gets a critical mass.

Want to hear your iTunes songs on the go? You’re locked into playing them on your iPod. Want to run OS X? Buy a Mac. Want to play movies from your iPod on your TV? You’ve got to buy a special Apple-branded connector ($49). Only one wireless carrier would give Jobs free rein to design software and features for his handset, which is why anyone who wants an iPhone must sign up for service with AT&T.
How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong

AAPT Tech Support Experience

I’m trying to change plans on our church’s ADSL account. We need more speed as we have alot of new staff using our wireless access from their offices this year. This should be fairly easy, I’ve got a world class mix of technical and people skills!

Step 1 – Log into the AAPT web site. Ok this itself requires some voodoo. You can’t actually put in your ISP email and password, I tried that once before. You have to do the entirely undocumented and illogical step of entering the account number from the bill and an invoice number from a bill from the last 2 months. I know this from last time so I can get in. Unfortunately there is no way to change your plan from the account settings online. (I used to be able to do this with Optus)

Step 2 – Ring the number on the bill. Is this a tech support issue or a billing issue? Kind of both. I have to speak to a computer over the phone, I say “Change plans”. The computer voicemail obviously doesn’t know of my technical and personal ability. I select “Billing” from another list.

11:15am – I’m on hold, the elevator music begins. Switch to speaker phone and try to do some admin work at the desk.

11:25am – Still on hold. Browse through the AAPT web site to see what plans are available. It is unclear from my bill what plan we are even on. Apparently we are “opted into a business line rental saver”, which is $37.23 a month. Doesn’t sound cheap to me…

11:40am – Still on hold, but I recognise Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose”, the elevator version.

11:48am – Still on hold, Chris Isaac “Wicked Game”. Even with hands-free it is difficult to get much work done while on hold. People come into my office but I can’t give them full attention.

12:06pm – I’m through! The call centre guy mentions that AAPT have a press release out last month about their long wait times, I resist from entering into an theological discussion about the difference between regret and repentance. Plus there is a $25 plan change fee – yikes! I asked too many questions about waiving fees, on hold again…

12:15pm Agreed to change the plan to 1500kbit plus 15gig download for another $15 per month + $25 one off fee. Asked for a written copy of the plan details to be sent in the mail. (never arrived)
Well over 45 minutes on hold, not nice. If AAPT could simply do what other ISPs do and allow customers to change plans online without any special fees, I could then give them more money without having to waste call centre time.

In the next installment I will discuss how VicRoads deregistered our car without telling us (this happened to my Dad’s truck also last year).

Postpone Email Sending in Gmail?

Over at Google Blogoscoped there is a discussion about whether Gmail should have a feature called: Postpone Email Sending

I think this is a must have feature for any email client, especially if the interface was simple and quick. Apparently Outlook and some other clients do have it.

You could then email yourself reminders to come at a certain date. Of course all calendar software (both desktop and online) can do this, but the interfaces are so cumbersome (especially on Google Calendar). Currently I can add a todo list item in about 2-4 seconds in my GTD system. It needs to be under 5 seconds to remain ubiquitous. The other problem is that there is a difference between tickler file reminders and genuine calendar entries, which you don’t want to have confused when you open your calendar.

Postponed email would be a killer productivity feature because it would in effect allow a “Tickler File” like functionality for those using gmail labels for “GTD”.

In effect what this does is a kind of reverse prioritisation of action items. The action items that are time based or not important just yet, will not appear on your todo lists until the postponed email item arrives. This leaves more urgent tasks on the todo lists. This is why it is ok David Allen doesn’t like prioritised lists, because the tickler file is meant to clear out currently low priority cruft for you.

I have also explored some of the Firefox extensions and web services (email relays) that offer delayed email. I haven’t found them simple enough to use to be useful in my workflow.

This is a simple idea but the implementation would be difficult. You need a quick an easy way to specify the time period. You also need a way to browse and claim back the items that are in the postponed queue.

A similar feature would be to tell an email client: “Hide this email and put it back in my inbox in N days”. For example, Jetstar emailed me last friday about their 1 cent flights that go on sale tonight (Tuesday). It would be nice to have a simple button to tell the email client to hide (archive?) the email and bring it back to my inbox sometime Tuesday afternoon, when it is actually then relevant to me.

The goal of all this? Maintain a steady workflow, keep track of all my action items, and keep my inbox at zero!

One Laptop per Child

If you haven’t seen it on TV, check out the web site for the one laptop per child project. The best thing is that it is running Linux, so even if the users don’t end up liking the corny interface, they can modify it themselves.

Here’s hoping that the project is more than hype and they will actually distribute millions of them…

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a low-cost, connected laptop for the world’s children’s education

Torvalds pans Apple with ‘utter crap’ putdown – Technology – smh.com.au

“An operating system should be completely invisible,” he said. “To Microsoft and Apple (it is) a way to control the whole environment … to force people to upgrade their applications and hardware.”

Preach it brother!

Source: Torvalds pans Apple with ‘utter crap’ putdown – Technology – smh.com.au