Wow. Now I know what the apocalypse would feel like.
( First: Anyone who needs help with storm damage, please call and ask if you see this. Be warned that the storms are not over according to the BOM. )

It hailed inside the office today. Big, plum-sized hail stones smashing through the skylights and bouncing around the office, followed by an incredible torrent of rain. I got hailed on indoors while running around trying to get things covered up.

It rained in the server room, too. That's going to be exciting tomorrow, even though I think I got everything covered up and unplugged in time.

At the peak of the storm, hail was stripping the trees of leaves and absolutely shredding them. It was an incredible rain of green and white accompanied by a world-ending roar. Quite something.

Many of the cars near the office look like they've been attacked with a ball-peen hammer - absolutely covered with pea-sized dents, windscreens cracked, wing mirrors smashed. Well, once you wipe enough shredded foliage off them to see them as anything more than green-and-white mounds sitting in the lake that was the car park.

The road outside the office is in a low point in Shenton Park, and flooded thigh-deep. It was covered with floating wreckage, shredded leaves, and a carpet of white hailstones, and looked downright incredible with a river of hail and water flowing into it from down the hill.

The hail piled a good foot high around the corners of all the walls, too.

Oh, and for those of you who know of my curse: Yes, my phone got wet, as is traditional if I or Molly are on holiday for any reason. Amazingly, it still works. In my defense, it did get wet when I got drenched to the bone by indoor rain, so it's not like I went SCUBA diving with it this time.

I love storms. I can't help but grin and go all bouncy. Even though this one is going to be a nightmare tomorrow, it's still just awesome. Glad I wasn't out walking in it, though, given that an hour beforehand I'd been walking for an hour or so sweating in the awful heat.

Some scary quotes from the BoM:

Hail to 6 centimetres in diameter was reported from Wembley at 4:00pm and
golf-ball sized hail was reported from Craigie at 3:50pm.

Cunderdin Airfield recorded a wind gust of 128 kilometres per hour at 7:14pm.
Ocean Reef recorded a wind gust of 120 kilometres per hour at 3:48pm.

Wanneroo has recorded 63mm of rain between 3:00pm and 5:00pm.

(Wembley is just up the road from work - and I'm pretty sure the rain was at the same sort of 5cm-in-two-hours levels too).

Australians all let us rejoice...
Australians all let us rejoice
for we are young and free.
-- 8cake

Well said - and we're certainly working on it. Say no to Internet Censorship.

AU bandwidth pricing WTF
I just switched hosting of large files (12Mb or so PDFs) on my employer's website from the existing Australian host to one in the USA. Why? Because it's cheaper to send data from the USA to Australian users than it is to send it from within Australia..

About 100x cheaper, in this case, when comparing Anchor Networks per-Gb pricing to SimpleCDN's.

SimpleCDN doesn't have any Australian node(s). Data gets requested by their US nodes on first request, cached, and sent back to Australia. Yet they're incredibly, vastly cheaper than anything local I can find.

The root of the problem appears to be that Australian hosting provdiers charge all IP traffic as if it were to go via an international link. There's no provision made for peering or intra-country traffic at the majority of hosts. This may be an issue with the hosting provider its self, or it may be with their upstream bandwith suppliers, but I don't care. Internet routing is designed to solve this sort of problem - thankyou BGP - and peering points exist for a reason.

It's actually way cheaper to store your data in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, or pretty much anywhere except Australia even if your users are 100% Australian. Isn't that kind of sad?
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Windows 7 pricing is obscene

The pricing for Windows 7 is absolutely obscene - and rips Australian users off even more than the US. Pricing comparison for Win7 Pro, with US dollars converted to current AU$ equivalent:

  US AUAU % premium
New OEM $110(?)$19563%
Upgrade $221 $39964%
New Retail $333 $44957%

As a software developer myself, I try to respect others' licenses. This, though, is hard to take seriously. (The "home" version is just as bad).

Retail sales of Windows are less than 5% of OEM sales, and few people upgrade Windows, preferring to buy a new computer instead. Any guess why? I can get a new, albeit crap, PC for less than twice the retail price of Win7Pro.

Pirating Windows wouldn't be worth most people's time and hassle if the upgrade was $50 - $100. But for $400? Yarrr!

$100 is a lot better than $0. They must have a reason for doing this - MS is not stupid when it comes to making a profit - but what that reason is completely escapes me.

but wait, it gets worseCollapse )

Palak Paneer success

On try #2, I succeeded so well with my palak paneer making attempts that I don't think I'll ever make it this good again. The first one was ok but lacklustre; this is better than what I've had at most restaurants. You folks know I don't tend to think much of my cooking most of the time, so if I'm this happy about something I cooked that should tell you something.

I tend to cook in a rather off-the-cuff, make-it-up-as-I-go style. The downside of this is that it's hard to replicate things when I do end up making something that really, really works. Writing it up promptly seems to help. So - here 'tis. All quantities are extremely approximate.

By the way, this is a vegetarian meal - there's no meat of any sort, and the cheese doesn't contain rennet.

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Commercial software "support"
The Anchor Networks head sysadmin has an opinion on commercial support for software that's pretty similar to mine - it's garbage. Both of us have learned this from painful experience.

The post is well worth a read if you're in a sysadmin/tech line of work. It mirrors my experiences with several vendors very closely, except that this particular case doesn't include any inter-vendor buck-passing or blame games. There's a reason more and more of the systems at work run on software I have source code to and can rely on myself to maintain - because that way, things actually get fixed.

If you think Anchor's experience with dedicated commercial support organizations is bad, you should try contacting tech support for incredibly expensive commerical software you've licensed and asking them to support their product! I've had totally disinterested or completely useless support from vendors of ten thousand dollar software packages. After all, just because I paid for it doesn't mean I should expect it to work as advertised or expect them to be interested in fixing bugs, right?

Adobe, Quark, MYOB, Apple. This means you.

Anyway, the downside of doing all the support work in-house is that you need to have the skills to undestand and run the systems you use. You can't run a DNS server if you don't understand DNS, can't run a mail server if you don't understand IMAP,SMTP,POP3 and TLS, etc. However, given that vendor support seems to be totally useless except for problems a retarded monkey could figure out, it's beyond me how people with no understanding of the systems they work with ever get anything done, whether or not they're paying for support.

Maybe they don't? It'd explain a lot about many of the businesses I work with...
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The best eBook reader for Linux is currently....
Microsoft Reader run under WINE.

Sigh. Not only is it the best, it's practically the only one unless you're content with fixed-format PDF. Few eBooks are available in, or reasonably convertable to, HTML, and even if they were there aren't any HTML renderers that can do half-decent H&J. None at all can hyphenate even poorly, and justification support tends to be limited to clumsy expansion-only justification that is ugly and not very nice to read.

So, to get a decent result one would basically have to hand-convert a plain text or HTML format book (possibly after pdf-to-text conversion) to TeX and typeset it for a particular display. That's not exactly a nice, convenient way to sit down for a good read. Even then, unless you use pdftex and read with Adobe Reader it won't even remember your place!

By contrast the Microsoft Reader .lit format is fairly widespread, supports automatic and somewhat decent H&J (though nothing on TeX / InDesign ), remembers your place in each book in the library, tracks and manages the library without forcing a particular on-disk structure on it, supports easy drag-and-drop of a book onto the program even from Nautilus, etc. It's friggin' emulated* Windows software that hasn't been updated or improved since it was practically abandoned by MS in 2003 and it's still better than anything available natively for Linux.

The situation is just as dire for Linux-based ( and Symbian-based ) phones and tablets. Given the spread of Qt to more and more devices, as well as all major platforms, I'm increasingly tempted to start work on a Qt-based reader with decent H&J, library management, place tracking / bookmarking / margin notes, etc. But how can there not be something out there already? Am I just blind, or is there really a gaping hole this big in free software capabilities?

Any suggestions? Anyone interested in working on one?

* I know, I know; I just don't care that W.I.N.E.

Kill me mk II - Glandular Fever
Throat infection day 4 Glandular Fever. Kill me. I get 2 hours pain-reduced sleep from ibuprofen, 1 hour from paracetamol. Yes, it's safe to interleave them, for which I'm eternally grateful. You wouldn't think something like this would be so spectacularly, unrelentingly painful.

There's a rent inspection today, and I've been good for nothing much, so Molly's been slaving away heroically on the garden (since the property manager has a real thing about it) and the house. Thankfully we both did a lot of housework before her 30th, but that doesn't mean there's not plenty to do. She's been amazing, and has repeatedly shooed me inside when I stagger out to try to help. Being so stoic about it all and looking out for me at the same time - well, I'm sure impressed.

property manager grumbling againCollapse )

Ocean trash
I went for a walk along to the end of the main Koh Tao beach. The end past the boat piers, the part that isn't full of dive shops and restaurants.

It's absolutely covered with washed-up rubbish. Rubber bands, polystyrene food trays, drink bottles, plastic twine, more cigarette butts than you've seen in your life. I had a chat to a lady who was operating a windsurf/catamaran hire operation down that end of the beach, and she said the reason the main "tourist" beaches are clean is because the operators clean them daily. It's kind of sad to see.

On the other hand, she says much of the rubbish comes from the mainland. When the mainland floods in the rains it pours down the rivers into the ocean and the prevailing currents/wind wash some of it up here.

I did my little bit, and it's good that operators do clean things up to reduce the load staying in the ocean, but it's clearly a tiny part of what's going out there every day. Nasty. Most of it appears to end up here.

Night diving rocks. Way less disorienting than I expected and awesome fun. Saw a nice big barracuda, sea urchins out and feeding, all the coral polyps open to feed. Sweet stuff.

It really shows that Koh Tao isn't a marine reserve. Compared to Ningaloo it's dead and in particular there's not much larger fish life. Coral damage is also apparent, probably due to high boating and diving activity plus fishing - and careless divers. I don't feel great about indirectly being a part of that damage, though I'm certainly not careless when diving and don't do direct damage.

Thinking of doing some enriched air dives now I've improved my air consumption a little.

Haven't done much but dive here so far. Today's going to be quieter so I figure I'll hire a pushbike and cruise around a bit.

We've had a couple of strong rain squalls recently. The squalls are incredible to be out in - they come out of nowhere and drench the place with rain driven by sudden gusts that then just vanish leaving the place saturated but peaceful again. Going diving in one was awesome. It pushed the dive boat around so hard we ran aground against some rocks (oops) and all had to stand on one side of the boat so the captain could maneuver it off the rocks ;-) . Then for the dive we had to swim hard to the bow of the boat and hang on to the anchor line because the wind and the surface current it created was pushing us back quite quickly. Going from that wild surface with the rain pelting down on you to the unchanged peace only a couple of meters under the water was amazing - and flipping over to look up at the rain-thrashed chop above was more so. Very cool.

As well as the diving, I'm loving the freedom to do my own thing, not have to plan much or in detail, the flexibility to occasionally change my mind without fuss or upset, and the ability to just go and do things. Paul and I can sort things out so painlessly - it's frickin' sweet. Hell, we only have the one room key and we're both out different places much of the day, but it's proved easy to handle mostly because neither of us stress about it. We just get on with it - and neither of us are going to be hugely pissed if we can't get into the room for a couple of hours either; we can just go do stuff for a bit. I'm absolutely loving it. I can feel myself relaxing and unwinding, though a few things are still stressing/worrying me some.


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