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June 2007
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Friday, 1 June 2007 Echunga
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My fears about battunga are confirmed: the disk is on its way out. I have plenty of others floating around, but anything I do will require a bit of reshuffling. It might be time to buy another, larger disk, especially since the price of new 320 GB drives has now dropped below $100 including taxes.

Spent most of the day chasing up people relating to moving house. The building inspector went out in the afternoon, and in the meantime I needed to find a conveyancer. Finally settled on John Curwen-Walker, one of the soliciters whom Bram had recommended.


Saturday, 2 June 2007 Echunga
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I'm still trying to come to terms with the prospect of moving. Spent a lot of time on the web looking for things which we'll need, in particular Internet connectivity. It's unlikely that I'll get ADSL right away, so satellite is the only option. Spent a lot of time looking at web sites that purported to show the complete picture, such as Broadbandguide.com.au, which displayed a remarkably broken list of only Telstra connections. Finally, after far too much searching, I found the DCITA site, which described the subsidized Australian Broadband guarantee, for which I am eligible if I can't get ADSL. It refused to accept the address 47 Kleins Road:

image

I've seen that on the title search as well; it seems to be a well-established misspelling.

It would be too easy to have the stuff easily accessible for comparison, so I ended up writing up my own overview:

Harbour IT, NSW

    Speed   GB  Price   excess  Install Term    Comments

    512/128 .5  $34.50  $0.15   $154    18
    512/128 1   $49.50  $0.15   $154    18

Newsat

    256/64  .5  $45.90  $0.12   0   ?
    512/128 1   $69.40  $0.12   0   ?
    512/128 2   $110.00 $0.12   0   ?
    1k/256  5   $215.00 $0.12   0   ?
    1k/256  10  $275.00 $0.12   0   ?

IPStar
    Static IPs

    512/256 .5  $29.95  .   200 18
    512/256 1   $49.95  .   200 18
    512/256 3   $110.95 .   200 18

Elders

    256/64  .5  49.95   S   ?   18
    256/64  1   64.95   S   ?   18
    512/128 1   79.95   S   ?   18

DCS internet
    No coverage

HaleNet
    No coverage

Optus

    256/64  1   $66 S28.8   $99 24  StatIP
    1k/128  1   $176    S28.8   $99 24  StatIP
    Many more

Reachnet
    Static IP for $180
    NetPhone for $10 per month (?)

    256/64  1.5 $49.95  $0.12   $160    18
    512/128 1.5 $49.95  $0.12   $160    18

Gobush

    256/64  .5  $29.95
    256/64  1   $44.95
    256/64  2   $59.95

    512/128 1   $45
    512/128 3   $60
    512/128 5   $75

    1024/256 2  $99
    1024/256 3  $109
    1024/256 5  $139

This is incomplete, of course, but it gives me a better overview than what I can find on the web. It's interesting that Telstra is missing; I know from Broadbandguide that they're too expensive, but they're not on the list. Maybe they don't want to be part of the scheme, but it's difficult to see how they can get out of give, given their universal service obligation.

The good news is that Gobush's prices and speeds are comparable to what I'm paying now and what I was receiving until last month. The bad news is that it's almost impossible to find anything on their severely broken web site. In particular, I can't find installation costs, excess data costs or minimum contract length, and it's not clear whether I can get a static IP, which would enable me to find somebody to maintain an IP-IP tunnel for my class C network.


Sunday, 3 June 2007 Echunga Images for 3 June 2007
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Quiet day, spent mainly preparing paperwork for the impending move. Will I be glad when this is all over!

A sign of the times: my ancient Eizo 9500 monitor, which was made in November 1989, has finally shown signs of dying: the sound of frying eggs from inside the casing suggests a defective electrolytic capacitor, a relatively easy thing to fix. Should I do so? Its maximum horizontal frequency is 78 kHz, which along with the relatively large dot pitch limits its display to 1280x1024. On the other hand, it's a good example of how software has limited hardware development. Even today most people probably use only 1024x768, and as I've observed, larger resolutions serious challenge a large number of web sites.


Monday, 4 June 2007 Echunga
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The phone rang this morning even before we got up: proved to be John Spencer, the building inspector, who was surprisingly happy with the building. About the only thing of interest he saw was that it would need a coat of paint come summer. Bram sent over scanned versions of the inspection report and also the purchase contract, In the meantime, phone calls from the tax people—a whole hour discussing the matter—and John Curwen-Walker, the conveyancer. Got the contracts signed and sent off; things are moving relatively quickly.


Tuesday, 5 June 2007 Echunga Images for 5 June 2007
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Another power failure this morning, only a couple of seconds, but the UPS for echunga couldn't handle it; probably it's been killed by earlier surges. I couldn't look at it immediately because of a doctor's appointment that took a couple of hours: after some anomalous results of a blood test last week, they decided to give me a glucose tolerance test to see how well my body handles sugar. You give a blood sample, then swallow 75 g of dextrose and take more samples after one and two hours.

Back home, spent over an hour recovering echunga's network configuration, for which I had not updated the configuration files, and also took the opportunity to put an old 17" monitor in in place of the Eizo 9500 that died a couple of days ago.

Monitor resolutions

I got a surprising amount of mail about my comments on monitor resolution. Michael Hughes writes:

I think there are still a lot of people that use 640x480. It drives me nuts when someone asked me to look at their computer and find it set to that low of resolution. I think there are a lot of people that don't understand how to use a monitor at a higher resolution with Microsoft Windows. They don't know that you can up the default font size. I am running at 1400x1050, but would really like a little more real state.

Admittedly, 640x480 is very low nowadays, but Michael is wrong to assume that Microsoft can scale well. I have Microsoft on my laptop (pain.lemis.com), and I normally access it via rdesktop from a FreeBSD machine. At 2048x1536, I need to set “Internet Explorer” to the highest font size, but it doesn't work across the board; the menu fonts don't change:

Internet Explorer URL entry

The h in the URL text is 5x9 pixels large, about 4.5 pt on a 130 dpi screen.

Internet Explorer URL entry, detail

Possibly there's a way to change it, but I've already drawn a blank on web browsers that are barely in the UNIX space, such as Mozilla and firefox. And yet this resolution is too low to display photos from just about any modern digital camera in full size.

Thomas Maynard wrote:

I have my monitor set at 1024x768, even though it's capable of 2048x1536. There are several reasons. It's just easier to read; the alternative is to set it higher and increase font sizes - but that doesn't work everywhere and ultimately may lead right back to about the same appearance.

This is Thomas' choice, of course, but it's really a capitulation to the status quo: the “doesn't work everywhere” is the clue.

So, for those reasons and the fact that I rather tend to be a dinosaur in general I am well behind the curve on monitor resolution. I reported a bug recently and attached a screenshot and the steps to reproduce it. I got a response back from the developer: “My screen looks just like yours (only more pixels).”

In fact, I think Thomas is doing himself a disservice here: most people do still use 1024x768, and I'm continually complaining about web sites that don't render correctly at even slightly higher resolutions. I'll watch with interest what happens when 1920x1080 becomes the de-facto resolution; I suspect that too many web sites will simply adjust to the new resolution, breaking things for people still using 1024x768, and leaving things broken for people who use significantly higher resolutions.

Achim Patzner writes:

X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.752.3)

Das ist einer der vielen Gründe, mit Macs zu arbeiten: "Resolution".
Einer der mindestens genausooft mißbrauchten Begriffe wie
"Zeichensatz" (fast
jeder sagt "Zeichensatz" (character set), meint aber
"Schriftart" (font) damit).
Gerade bei Anzeigegeräten mit fixed dot pitch (LCD, TFT, Projektoren
- alles,
was keine Röhre mehr hat) drehen sie dann an der simulierten
Pixelgröße und
meinen, damit die Auflösung zu verändern.  Genau aus diesem Grund mag
ich Mac OS
so gerne - solange Du ein Anzeigegerät verwendest, das dem Mac genau
sagt, welche
Auflösung (!) und welche Pixelgröße geliefert werden, dann ist alles
immer exakt
so groß, wie man es erwartet.  Nur mehr oder weniger schärfer.

I'm leaving the original here because it shows another issue with Apple, the mutilation of mail. Achim uses Apple Mail, which tacitly reformats such breakage, so he can't see it. The gist of his message is that people confuse terminology, but that the nice thing about Apple is that it's resolution independent. Unfortunately, that's not the case either. It's true that Apple dithers low-resolution fonts, but that's a band-aid rather than a solution. And it doesn't address the issues of photo size and layout. Apple allows you to increase the the text size far beyond what Microsoft does, but the results still highlight web site breakage in the same way that they do under open source browsers.


Wednesday, 6 June 2007 Echunga
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More administrative stuff today; discovered we're eligible for Health Care cards, which despite the name have little to do with health. They do offer a number of benefits, however, so downloaded the forms from the web site of Centrelink, the singularly inappropriately named social security agency, and spent several hours filling them out. The complexity reminds me of the German system.

Then off to Mount Barker with Yvonne to hand in the forms, Yvonne not very happy about having to go there in the first place: she didn't have good memories of Centrelink. In fact, both of us were pleasantly surprised: within minutes Belle, a bundle of joy, came and handled the case quickly, efficiently and friendlily, being more than surprised that I had actually done my preparations correctly. I suppose I can thank years of dealing with the Germans for that.


Thursday, 7 June 2007 Echunga
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Into Mount Barker today to hear the results of Tuesday's blood tests. The diagnosis: I have diabetes. Not the most serious case, but it's pretty definite: the limit for fasting sugar is 7.0 mmol/l, and after two hours it should be below 11.0 mmol/l, though even that would suggest impaired glucose tolerance. I was OK on fasting (5.5 mmol/l), but after two hours I still had 11.7 mmol/l. Probably I'll be able to keep it under control with my diet. In fact, I suspect that I've had it for some time: it would explain lots of things, including my dislike of sugar. And if I had only ever had blood sugar measured during fasting, the problem wouldn't have been discovered.

Spent some time playing with Google Maps. It really makes things a lot easier, but they've got a surprising number of bugs:

Since I wrote this, Google Maps have changed the directions (to something only marginally better). See the entry for 28 June for more information.

So how do you report this kind of breakage? After searching the help and feedback pages for some time, I still have no idea. If you select “Help” at top right, you get a page which offers troubleshooting and leads you to a link I found incorrect information in Google Maps. How can I get it updated?. Unfortunately, following that link only gives you the opportunity to add or change business information, not map information. Contact us allows you to “Report a problem”, which does not such thing; instead, you end up with a page offering a solution to the maps not loading correctly; there's no way to report anything. Finally I found Feedback and Suggestions, which required me to live in the USA, Canada, UK or China, and gave me a typical tiny window to enter a message. Sent off one anyway with a fake location (USA); I wonder if people will do anything. It's interesting to note that Multimap doesn't have most of these problems; it does misspell Kleins Road as Kliens Road, but that seems to be an error in some public database. Looks like I'll have a bit of fixing to do there.

So: how do I report bugs in Google Maps? If anybody from Google reads this, please let me know.


Friday, 8 June 2007 Echunga
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Somehow spent the whole of the day chasing up things, and at the end didn't have that much to show for it. Put in an application to Internode to move my ADSL line, though the chances that that will work are minimal. In the process discovered that the poor response times from the Internode web site—up to one minute per page—were not general, but in some way related to my installation, though the problem only ever occurs with Internode. The help desk responses were the usual: What browser are you using? Have you tried IE? (what's that?) Please reconfigure your network to use only the address we supplied you, and not the network for which we're charging $150 a year to route.

The last request may make sense: it's very possible that the problem is related to routing the /24 network, but how much work on my part can Internode reasonably expect? Since I'm moving in a month, I think I'll just live with it.

Also contact GoBush about a satellite connection. For some reason, though they offer VoIP services, there's no normal land-line phone number, just mobile and 1300 numbers (which aren't accessible via VoIP gateways). Got hold of somebody pretty quickly (unlike Internode, unfortunately). Things don't look too bad: their prices have changed since they put the stuff up on the web (the prices there are still the same): they now have 1024/512 plans that cost $49.95 for 1 GB, $104.95 for 3 GB and $159.95 for 5 GB per month, all with static IP. I asked about the phone numbers (no, we don't have normal numbers) and whether they could route my /24 (stunned silence from the other end). I then explained that it was a network block, so he said, yes, they can apply network blocks. Which ports would I like blocked?

Finally found out the numbers on Whirlpool: 02 9007 5700 or 02 6804 9921. Also established that yes, indeed, I can route my /24 via satellite, so unless I get confirmation from Internode that I can get ADSL, it looks like that will be my choice.

I'll be heading for Dereel again next week to look for financial people, and in the process I'll do some other stuff, including finding a new doctor. How do you do that? I started with the Royal Australian Collect of General Practitioners, where I found nothing. Called them up and was told that they weren't allowed to list doctors, but they pointed me to mydr.com.au and Australian Medical Association Victoria, both of who have functional but singularly difficult to use lists of doctors. If I were to believe them, I can get no medical treatment whatsoever if I live in Dereel. I have to guess where there might be a doctor in the area and search that area.


Saturday, 9 June 2007 Echunga Images for 9 June 2007
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I think we're going to have to accept the fact that there are too many reeds in the pond. Five years ago it looked like this:


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Now the reeds have taken over, and the same view looks like this:


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The result? Ducks who arrive in the winter take to the trees, like the kookaburras that sat in the same place a year ago today:


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So I suppose it's time to remove some of the reeds. But that will be the decision of Tony and Michelle Brewster, the purchasers of Wantadilla. Tony came along today to take a look around, and spent some time discussing some of the more interesting things. I'm glad to hear that they don't intend to tear out the division between the kitchen and the dining room; I'm sure they'll find it better the way it is.

Somebody decided to do some crop dusting today, the first time I've seen anything like that here. It looked for all the world like somebody joy-flying, and I called the police and we had some discussion before we were able to identify him as a crop duster.

Now that we will no longer live so close to busy traffic, we're thinking of buying a new cat or two. Discovered to our surprise that there's a breeder of Bengal cats in Dereel; if we end up buying one, that will mean three households in Dereel alone, which might be the highest population density of Bengal cats in any town in Australia.


Sunday, 10 June 2007 Echunga Images for 10 June 2007
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Today, of course, I wrote my diary entry for yesterday, and in the process went to look for the photos of the ducks. Discovered that my photos for 2002 were a real mess: half of them weren't there at all, many hadn't been classified, some hadn't even been looked at. I found two sets of photos that I had never seen before, one taken by Yvonne, the other by Yana. Spent half the day tidying things up, and ended up uploading 177 MB of photos to the external web site.

After that, searching Wikipedia for cat descriptions. It's very imbalanced; you'd think that nobody outside the USA breeds cats, and the US categories are incompatible with international categories. Spent all afternoon doing that.


Monday, 11 June 2007 Echunga
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It's not as if I have nothing today, but today I couldn't be bothered doing any of it. Instead continued with Wikipedia, where I discovered that some idiot had reverted all my changes to the cat breeds page because they didn't fit his preconceived notions. Swallowed my anger and did some work on the German Wikipedia, adding my first new page in any Wikipedia. There's a link in there to the entry in the “Deutsches Wörterbuch” (German dictionary) of the Brothers Grimm, which caused firefox to completely blow the mind of the X server: just finding the entry and linking to it used about 20 minutes of CPU time, and took me about an hour. On the Apple with Safari it was slow—several seconds—but bearable. I wonder what's wrong there.


Tuesday, 12 June 2007 Echunga Images for 12 June 2007
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Another power failure this morning at 7:04, while I was listening to the news. This one was only 4 seconds, but it took out two UPS, including wantadilla, echunga and boskoop. wantadilla was 18 hours into a 22 hour backup at the time, so I had to start that all over again.

Decades ago we bought an electric meat mincer, and it has served us well. Diane Saunders used it and liked it, so decided to buy one as a going-away present for her. Found a good-looking one on eBay and bought it last week. It arrived today—without the most crucial component, the blade. The second photo shows a cutting plate and a couple of blades for the old machine.


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The blades scrape the meat against the holes, and as the instructions state, without it it just won't work. The worrying thing about this is that the photo on the box also doesn't show the blade. Hopefully it hasn't been forgotten altogether.

One of the things I couldn't find in the paperwork for our new house in Dereel was the area of the land. I sent Bram a message asking about that, and he came back with the information:

On the Title Plan in the contract under "A26" is 20A,2R,4 3/5P. There are 4 roods in an acre and 40 perches in a rood. The land size is actually 20 acres plus 1/2 an acre plus another small portion of an acre.

The Middle Ages aren't over! I can't believe that in Australia, which has been metric since 1966, they still use such archaic measures. Converting (one square foot is exactly 0.09290304 m2), I discover that this is:

Unit Square feet Square metres Quantity Square feet Square metres
Acre 43,560 4,048.86 20 871,200 80,937.1
Rood 10,890 1,011.71 2 21,780 2,023.4
Perch 272.25 25.29 4 3/5 1,252 116.4
Total 298,077.4 83,076.9

Spent the day planning another trip to Ballarat, this time to talk to financial people, and ended up with a full day of appointments on Thursday. It wasn't until the evening that I realized that that meant that I would have to leave tomorrow, and I'm not really ready. All this stuff requires so much planning.

Diane Saunders has bought herself a new TV, by Philips, which claims to be high definition. How high? They don't say. They don't even print the specs in the handbook; they refer you to their web site (generic URL) for that information. I suppose it'll do at least 720p, since that's the minimum allowed in Australia, but it certainly doesn't improve my opinion of Philips that they deliberately hide the information. Went over and installed it for Di—not difficult, but the on-screen menu stuff could be a whole lot better.


Wednesday, 13 June 2007 Echunga
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Spent much of the day planning next week's journey to Dereel, including setting up a map of Ballarat health care facilities and another, to be worked on, with other places of interest in Ballarat. Health care looks like more of a problem than I thought. Rang up the Sebastopol Medical Clinic and was told that they weren't accepting any new patients. Later got through to the Queen Elizabeth Centre, which proved to be connected with the Ballarat Base Hospital, where they had had a phone outage, and discovered that they had a 3 month waiting list. Was recommended the Eureka Medical Centre, who don't do appointments—just “rock up”. Not everything looks good in Ballarat.

Creating Google Maps is a pain! Gradually I'm coming to the conclusion that the tools I'm using are coming to the end of their utility. Google Maps on a 2048x1536 display (really too low-res to be useful) uses CPU power like it's going out of style, and just typing in text into a marker reminds me of the bad old days running MINCE on a Z-80: you can type in multiple characters before they start to echo. One of the obvious things to do is cut and paste into the labels, but that only works about one time out of three. Watching the CPU usage with top shows it maxing out the CPU, mainly the X server. I tried opera instead, but if anything it was even slower. Ended up typing things in myself, because it was faster.

Another bloody power failure! This time it was just after we went to bed, at 22:45 and lasted for 1 hour, 25 minutes. Before that time I decided that I'd rather sleep than keep the generator going all night, and turned off the main server machines. The days of echunga, wantadilla and battunga are numbered anyway. This time next month they'll be on the way to Victoria, where I'll have to find other names for them.


Thursday, 14 June 2007 Echunga
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Off to a slow start today after yesterday's power failure, and took advantage of the fact that both wantadilla and echunga had gone down to remove the UPS destroyed by the ETSA power failure of 10 January. That meant taking down the machines again, of course, but battunga was still on a functional UPS and didn't go down.

I had planned to go into town to visit AfA Communications in the afternoon, but while removing the UPS, Yvonne tripped and tore out all the phone lines. Spent some time fixing that, then discovered that my ADSL line speed had dropped to 2624 kb/s. I have this suspicion that the modem learns when it has too high a speed, and drops back to a slower one to avoid future problems. In this case, of course, the problem was a hardware one, so it didn't need to remember its effect. Turned the modem off and on and—it performed a factory reset! Possibly I turned it on too soon after turning off; in any case, spent another hour remembering what to do to get the thing set up the way I want. I've described my final configuration elsewhere, but if you have to do a factory reset, there's more to be done. This relates to my account with Internode and my AG241 modem, but the principle applies elsewhere too:


Friday, 15 June 2007 Echunga Images for 15 June 2007
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Into town to visit AFA Communications this morning, with a view to setting up some communications infrastructure to the Black Box. The first thing Kym asked for was to set up the ADSL modem accordingly; amusingly, it's an AG241, exactly what I had documented above just before leaving.

It turned out that we didn't need to change anything in the modem; somehow I don't like the idea anyway. But we did have the question of what the IP address of the black box was. We suspected that it had got an IP address from the AG241 DHCP server, but which? It didn't have a keyboard, so we couldn't just ask it. Finally tried a spray technique:

$ for i in `jot 256 0`; do ping -c 1 192.168.1.$i & done
That results in mainly failures, of course, and after that arp shows:
$ arp -an
...
? (192.109.197.160) at (incomplete) on xl0 [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.161) at 00:0e:08:ca:40:23 on xl0 [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.162) at 00:0e:08:ca:41:f5 on xl0 [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.163) at 00:30:65:43:b4:16 on xl0 [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.164) at (incomplete) on xl0 [ethernet]
? (192.109.197.165) at (incomplete) on xl0 [ethernet]

The (incomplete) entries disappear pretty quickly, leaving behind the “real” entries. After that, we disconnected the Black Box, did an arp -d -a to remove all entries, and tried again. The one that was missing the second time round was obviously the Black Box.

Well, that's what finally happened. As the printout shows, this was done on my laptop (eucla.lemis.com). Before that I tried it with Kym's Fedora Core box, where arp didn't report any addresses at all. No idea why not.

Back home, got the replacement part for my meat mincer:


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The one in the front is the one that came with the machine; the one behind arrived today. No blade. Sent off a mail and got very prompt reply: apologetic phone call within 10 minutes, and later an explanation that there were two different diagrams of the contents, with different lettering. That, and the fact that their email system doesn't seem to transfer the images I sent, suggest that this really is a one-off comedy of errors.

Spent yet more time planning my trip to Dereel over the weekend. Why does it take up so much time?


Saturday, 16 June 2007 Echunga Images for 16 June 2007
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Gradually the move is coming closer; only 25 days to go, and when I go to Dereel tomorrow I'll take the first load of garden plants and equipment with me:


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Spent quite some time loading up the horse float; I'll be glad to get most of this work done by somebody else.


Sunday, 17 June 2007 Echunga –> Dereel
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Up early this morning with intention to leave at 9:00, which I almost managed without too much trouble. What a difference towing the float makes! I've done this often enough before, but this time it seemed particularly bad; the car almost never changed into 4th gear. First petrol stop was at Tintinara after only 180 km, and I estimated that I used about 27 litres/100 km, driving at the legal limit of 110 km/h. Finally decided to slow down a bit, and the fuel consumption dropped to about 24 l/100 km, still very high. Normally on this sort of run the car uses about 10 l/100 km, so over the 1200 km return journey this is going to cost about 180 litres of petrol just for the float, or about $250.

Got to Chris' place at about 16:30 after driving past the Kleins Road property, and unloaded all the garden stuff. At least it came out a whole lot more quickly than it came in.


Monday, 18 June 2007 Dereel
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Into Ballarat early for a very full day of appointments. First to the Eureka Medical Centre, about which I was not very positive because of the lack of appointments. That's certainly the case, but the treatment is good, and the fees are covered completely by Medicare. Didn't have to wait too long before I was assigned to Dr. Neil Philips, who was more thorough than the people in Mount Barker, and who of course wanted me to supply more blood for additional tests—fasting, so tomorrow morning. Also suggested I get hold of a blood sugar measuring device, and pointed me to a pharmaceutical chain with the unlikely name UFS, who offer a 20% discount for members. Membership costs $10, so the purchase of the blood sugar measuring device should have recovered the price.

Next round the corner to Chancery Lane to talk to John Cornips of BJT, who gave me quite a detailed discussion about the alternative investment schemes, and brought home to me that I had only seen part of the picture so far.

Then off through the rain by foot to the Queen Victoria Medical Centre, several blocks away, to apply for membership of the National Diabetes Services Scheme, which provides subsidized supplies for diabetics. Got there and discovered that Neil had to sign the form too, so back to the Eureka Centre for that, after which down to UFS to buy a blood sugar measuring device. Neil had thought they would cost round $150, but UFS had a bewildering number of devices costing between $49 and $109, and though they were very helpful and ultimately even showed me how to use the box, nobody could tell me what the advantages of the more expensive ones were, so in the end bought the cheapest and saved only $9.80. Amusingly, the first blood measurement showed only 4.4 mmol/l, which seems almost on the low side.

By that time, contrary to my expectations, the time to the next appointment had run out, and I still hadn't had any lunch. The next appointment was with Michael Kearney of Kearney and Crowe—clearly Ballarat is full of Irishmen—who gave me another perspective on investments for retirement. It's interesting that little of what he told me coincided with that John had said.

Finally got something to eat, a “kebab” that was really a pita roll. I didn't say anything, so he gave it to me as a takeaway, which is not a good idea. By the time I had got through that and wiped my hands, the next hour was up, and off to search for Raj Muker of WHK Prescott, the only one of the four I'm seeing who isn't in the middle of town. Finally found that and got another completely different perspective on the whole business. Raj is more “hands on” with the investments, and one of the attractive differences is that there are far fewer fees involved. I'm quite impressed by the people I've seen today. I was worried about changing my advisers, but I think the real problem now will be which one to choose.

On the way home finally got round to filling up the car and doing some shopping at Safeway, a food chain that we don't have in South Australia, but which appears to be an alternative spelling for Woolworths. They don't have the choice of foods that there is in Adelaide, but I did find a few things that I hadn't seen before and that might be usable.

Got home later than expected, and too late to have dinner before my 19:30 appointment with Cliff and Carla Taylor, the current owners of the Kleins Road property. Managed to put that forward a bit, and spent the intervening time playing with my new digital toy, which proves to have a really primitive user interface. The setup menu turns the device completely off after every setting—fortunately there aren't too many of them. Managed to waste three test strips before getting it to work right; fortunately the lancing device doesn't hurt too much, but of course managed to smear some blood around before coming to terms with it. Then, round 19:00, to Kleins Road and met Cliff and Carla. Managed to clarify most of my questions, and was given a plan of the house that will come in very handy. Back home for a late dinner, and late to bed.


Tuesday, 19 June 2007 Dereel Images for 19 June 2007
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Up a little later this morning and back to the Eureka Medical Centre for a blood test, then to a Greek Cafe on Sturt St that I had seen before for breakfast, then (finally) to the Queen Elizabeth Centre to get some more test strips for the blood measurement device. They proved to be cheaper than expected, but it occurs to me—too late— that the cost of the device is not the primary financial criterion when buying a blood glucose device: it's the cost of the test strips.

After that, did a bit of looking round the shops in Ballarat, then to Lydiard St to talk to yet another Irishman, Peter O'Connell of Prowse, Perrin and Twomey, who for a change didn't come up with something different again; instead, his approach was very close to Raj's, but the differences will take some analysis. It was clearly a good idea to talk to four different people. I almost think that I should try some more, but enough's enough.

Next took a look at a cheese shop on the corner of Mair and Armstrong Streets, cleverly hidden inside a bottle shop, which Chris had recommended. They have quite a choice of cheese there, and also some sausage. I can see that we'll be regulars.

Then back home, stopping in Kleins Road to take a look at the outside, along with a number of new photos. There's still plenty to think about before we move in.


Wednesday, 20 June 2007 Dereel –> Echunga Images for 20 June 2007
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Woken early this morning by a bloke picking up a horse, and ended up leaving correspondingly early. Before I left, the tilers finally showed up—Chris has been waiting for them for several weeks, and it's been holding up the move into the house.

Uneventful return journey; the good news is that the fuel consumption was much lower than on Sunday. That would suggest that I had had a headwind on Sunday, but I didn't notice one.

Measuring blood sugars

I've now had my new toy, a blood dextrose (why does everybody still call it glucose?) measuring device, for a couple of days, and I've made a couple of discoveries that I haven't seen in the instructions.


Thursday, 21 June 2007 Echunga
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Into town this morning to talk with Ramana about investments. The interviews I did earlier this week certainly make a difference to my understanding. Ramana came up with some interesting variants on the ideas of the others, which doesn't make my choice any easier.

After that, into town to look for some stuff. Books on diabetes all seem to addressed at complete idiots (especially, I suppose, “The Complete Idiot's guide to diabetes”). Many concentrate on recipes for low-GI food, and some suggest you can cure it. None tell me anything about the medical background of the disease (how does lævulose (sorry, fructose) get metabolized?). Ended up buying none.

Then to look for a bottle of ink, for pens, not printers, the sort of thing you used to be able to buy at any stationery shop. I found it in a boutique pen shop at boutique prices ($7.60 for 57 ml, the cheapest I could find). How the times have changed!

Back home spent more time catching up after the trip to Dereel. I still haven't had time to get round to looking at the investment alternatives, let alone starting packing.


Friday, 22 June 2007 Echunga
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Finally got round to my sorely neglected mail this morning and discovered that there was an ADUUG lunch today, the first for nearly a year, and since it's a monthly event at best, it's the last I can make. As a result, changed my plans and planned to go. First, though, I had to go and bring Yvonne some petrol (“I think the battery's failed. The lights all went on on the dashboard, and the car won't start, just goes rat-a-tat-a-tat”). There seems to be something wrong with the fuel gauge: it used to show “empty” long before it was. Now it seems to run out when showing 40 km to empty. I wonder what causes that.

The lunch had a touch of melancholy, not helped by the venue (Jasmin in Hindmarsh Square, who do a reasonable Thali at an unreasonable price): it's located in a basement, so the light is quite subdued. Mark Prior, who organizes the lunch, has not been in the best of health and is also out of work, and we also pondered how the Internet scene has changed since I first started coming to these lunches nearly 10 years ago. Like with AUUG, the faces don't seem to have changed, just got a little older. Spent some time talking about the current “broadband” schemes, which not surprisingly are more related to politics than to technology, though Mark Newton did talk about the plans to lay fibre down the street, with only the house connection being copper. That's exactly the scenario we discussed two years ago, where I predicted the arrival of fibre, and Mark said it would never happen. Today we decided to agree that my definition of never lasts longer than his.

Spent much of the afternoon with preparations for Internet access. Internode confirmed that I currently can't get ADSL, so finally got some application forms from Gobush and applied for their service. Hopefully they'll have it ready by the time I move, but for the transition I've arranged to point my mail at ozlabs.org, so I should get by without any loss of email service.


Saturday, 23 June 2007 Echunga
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Had intended to go riding today—I won't get many more opportunities to ride in Kuitpo forest—but Yvonne wasn't feeling her best, so instead went into town to get some ideas for furniture for the new house. It's amazing how difficult it is to find anything, and we were easily able to resist buying anything (which wasn't our intention; we'll do that after the move). Light fittings are particularly easy to resist. They're generally expensive and ugly. It's also interesting how you can buy fittings at Ikea for a fraction of the price that others ask.


Sunday, 24 June 2007 Echunga Images for 24 June 2007
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Another bloody power failure this morning, the 23rd this year; that's almost exactly one a week. Once again lost my main machines. Hopefully this will be the last one, but based on what I've seen, there's no reason to believe things will be better in Dereel.

Tony and Michelle Brewster came along today to ride Carlos; Michelle is thinking of buying a Paso. I spent most of the time trying to clean out the Augean Stables, and made a little progress, even to the point of being able to bear throwing out some old cruft. Gradually the move seems to be becoming more real.


Monday, 25 June 2007 Echunga
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Only 15 days to go until the packers arrive! High time to get things sorted out. Spent the morning looking at the various things that are needed to get the property transfer sorted out; the intention is to simulate an atomic transaction, but the transfer of the money from South Australia to Victoria will probably not be possible on the same day, so we need to find an alternative solution.

We also still haven't decided on a removal company. It's beginning to look like a Ballarat company will be cheaper than anybody here, but we've had the final company come in and take a look at the goods. Another day or two and we'll be able to make a decision.

In the afternoon spent too much time trying to compare the offerings of last week's investment advisors. That's one of the few things where a spreadsheet is of use, but it's been such a long time since I used a spreadsheet that I didn't have any installed. Decided to take a look at Emacs-based spreadsheets, and found SES (Simple Emacs Spreadsheet) and Esheet. Installed both of them and discovered that I couldn't use them: I had almost forgotten how to use a spreadsheet. They're not very promising anyway: neither comes with proper documentation, and though Esheet looks more polished, there are statements in the documentation (which for some reason is full of <font size=+1> and <font size=+2>) that indicate that it's not properly integrated with Emacs:

Saving is a little more complicated.  The normal XEmacs save feature will lose the critical data that Esheet keeps in text properties.  In esheet mode, C-x C-s and C-x C-w are correctly rebound.  Also, the toolbar functions are rebound.  However, other methods of saving will not work.

Finally, after some swearing, gave up on both of them and installed the old “favourites” sc and ss, both of which are so old that they don't seem to have a web site. In the pkg-descr file for ss I read:

  Jan 24, 1994
  Art Mulder  (email: art@cs.ualberta.ca)
  Department of Computing Science
  University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: For all purposes and means this project is suspended, but many
people do prefer SS over Oleo.

At least with ss I was able to do my work, and it doesn't require three hands. I'm sure that OpenOffice would just have elicited more swearing. I did try boskoop, my Apple machine, but it doesn't seem to have a spreadsheet program.


Tuesday, 26 June 2007 Echunga
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Continued working on cleaning out the Mike Smith Memorial Room today, and it's becoming amply clear that I can throw out lots of stuff. Ten years ago, when we moved from Germany, I was in India, so I couldn't tidy out stuff, and since it was being packed for us, we brought all the junk with us to Australia.

This time is different: I'm here, and we have to pack it ourselves, so the alternative of throwing things out becomes very attractive. Unfortunately, that brought another problem to light: where do we put all the rubbish? We filled up several large moving cartons with paper, but that makes it difficult to move around, and of course we need the cartons for other things. Called up a rubbish service, who will deliver a 6 m² container on Friday.


Wednesday, 27 June 2007 Echunga Images for 27 June 2007
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The time of the move is coming uncomfortably close, and somehow we're not making much progress. Finished some of the paperwork, including documents for change of ownership and lists of people to inform of our change of address. Did a bit of tidying up, but not much. Things should improve when the rubbish container arrives.


Thursday, 28 June 2007 Echunga
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Why is it so difficult to get quotes for moving? On the one hand, we have a quote for $5,600 from Max Reynolds Removals, but we had a bloke in last week from All Star Removals (who apparently don't have a web site), and another from a company whose name I forget on Monday this week, and until this morning neither had sent a quote, though the first bloke did send an email of an insurance certificate for some reason. After several calls back, he finally called and left a message on Yvonne's mobile phone, rather than the more obvious email or fax. The price: $16,600, just shy of 3 times as much as the quote from Max Reynolds. I can only assume he didn't want the business, but it doesn't say much for the company. The other bloke promised a quote by midday, but it didn't come at all today. At midday decided that enough was enough and went with Max Reynolds.

That in itself was relatively complicated by the fact that they're in Ballarat, so they couldn't get any packing cartons to us. Instead I had to go into Adelaide to pick some up, which took most of the afternoon. Our plans are gradually becoming more concrete: they'll come along with a big truck and trailer on Saturday, 7 July, pack all weekend, and leave, bringing another, smaller truck on Monday, 9 July. It's not quite clear when I'll leave; either Sunday or Monday, depending on when they plan to unpack in Dereel. Chris Yeardley will come sometime during the coming week to pick up three horses.

First, though, on Saturday, 30 June we'll have a farewell barbecue. Part of planning the barbecue was sending out a map, which reminds me that on 7 June I noted that the instructions took me via a dirt road in Hahndorf and then expected me to jump 20 metres up to a freeway bridge. I don't know if it has anything to do with my diary entry, but they now no longer do that (thus invalidating the link I left there). Instead, the new directions search out new dirt roads, including Bailey Road south-east of Echunga, which is a real roller-coaster:

Roller coaster

One improvement is the ability to change the route; here's the corrected route from Echunga to Mount Barker:

Roller coaster

It looks as if Google maps don't have enough (or any) information about the relative quality of the roads, as a search in Dereel shows:

Roller coaster

In this particular case, for the most part the roads shown don't exist. Coming from the north, Kleins Road runs into Swamp Road, and there's no connection to Swansons Road, which stops shortly before Savage Hill Road is indicated. Savage Hill Road itself also doesn't run into Swansons Road; it stops quite a bit further south.


Friday, 29 June 2007 Echunga
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Things are finally moving with our preparations, though it could be faster. I had intended to deal with electricity and phone lines today (both our old and our new home don't have mains water or gas supply), but the phone was enough work: I spent over an hour on the phone changing the phone connections. One of the issues was that Call Australia, my previous provider, is no longer taking on new customers, so I had to go back to Telstra.

Dave, one of the myriad consultants who handled this seemingly simple operation, told me that the phone would be disconnected on 12 July between 12:00 and 12:30, then it would normally be reconnected the next day. He arranged that it would instead be reconnected between 13:00 and 13:30 on the 12th. I asked him why they needed to disconnect at all, and he explained that the line was in the name of the old owner of the house, and that just updating the database was a “no-no”: “The database doesn't have the flexibility to just change the name of the subscriber”. I don't know whether he was making fun of me, or whether he just doesn't understand the issues, or whether Telstra really is that completely out of touch with standard software operations. It seems hard to believe the last.

In the afternoon, finally put together some book boxes and packed some boxes. We'll have to do a whole lot more in the next week.


Saturday, 30 June 2007 Echunga Images for 30 June 2007
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Going away barbecue today, which took up the entire day. Interestingly, a number of people came for the first time; the only “regular” was David Newall.

The Australian barbecue tradition is for the guests to bring the food with them, a tradition that we normally ignore, since the meat is better if it's marinated in advance. This time we did ask people to bring some food themselves, to avoid being left with too much food so shortly before the move. That backfired: they brought even more food than we normally provide, leaving us with enough food to keep us going for the next 3 days.

Managed to get rid of a lot of hardware in the process, though there's still a lot of work to be done before we have the Mike Smith Memorial Room cleaned out.


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