The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

When you trackback a Japanese blog …

Saturday 30 September 2006 at 9:37 pm

… you end up with downright amusing quantities of spam in Japanese!

[Thunderbird screenshot with lots of spam in Japanese]

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A few observations …

Monday 25 September 2006 at 9:21 pm

… now that I’ve finally finished (w00t!) my first thesis draft. Well, mostly. Almost all of it. Okay so maybe it’s not quite there yet, but anyway.

  • Happy Ramadan, which starts today. In the current climate of fear and distrust, it would be nice if there was some acknowledgement of this fact in the mainstream Western-world media :-(
  • Speaking of Muslims (ahem, all migrants, but of course we really just care about Muslims): you know the kerfuffle in the media about a possible citizenship test for new Australians? This is actually in response to a discussion paper that is open for public comment until 17 November. I encourage you to say something!
  • Like many other nerds, I’ve been eagerly following word from the blog of the latest space tourist, Anousheh Ansari (she of X-Prize fame). Aside from the whole geeky millionaire going into space thing, it strikes me as interesting that many of the American reports about her, such as the press release from her old uni, seem to bring up how she came to America with (almost) nothing and built a life and fortune for herself. “Never mind that she’s Iranian, she followed the great American way, so she’s one of us now!”
  • Last week the State Government announced new railcars for what will be the Clarkson — Mandurah line, adding on to the batch that the same supplier has just finished delivering. Finally, some acknowledgement that there’s a capacity problem on the northern line — and also that the current number of trains is hardly ideal for servicing a 107km route!
  • Speaking of the State Government: last week they introduced an amendment bill to bring some sense to our horridly restrictive liquor licensing laws. I’ve not yet read it but it seems to be a significant step forward, albeit still far short of fixing problems like the silly noise complaint rules. It remains to be seen if it’ll pass the upper house, but amazingly, there’s actually a website created by a bunch of Perthonalities trying to drum up support for the changes in a petition. (Amusingly, they’re running Joomla and previously had comment-spam problems; now they’re being bitten by escaped quotes in comments.)
  • And concluding with other public transport related matters: I’ve posted a few times about SmartRider, which will be the first deployed system of its kind in the country, and the PTA’s dude-in-a-suit marketing tricks for it. (The ERG readers in both Melbourne and Sydney speak RFID, but are only used by some travellers, notably most Sydney school kids.)
    It turns out that SmartRider Man pales in comparison next to the flashy website and converted truck “discovery centre” set up for myki, Melbourne’s forthcoming answer to SmartRider (or should that be “Metcard 2.0”?) … which should be an entertaining budget-burner!
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Feedeye’s first round of fixes and features!

Saturday 23 September 2006 at 9:34 pm

Yay! I am finally making progress on the thesis-writing front (which is not to say I’m behind schedule or anything … not at all! honest!). Anyway this means I have a little time to occasionally do other things, like actually post to this blog (woohoo! I hear you exclaim), and toy around some more with my RSS-reading pet project :-)

It’s still a somewhat untrustworthy beta, but it’s clawing its way towards the world of trustability. So far, the fixes and new features are:

  • [Feedeye's new ‘newspaper’ view] In the “display options” dialog, there’s now a third view mode: “newspaper” view draws your sets in a page that is meant to vaguely resemble a traditional news site. It’s still a bit buggy, but if you like to just quickly browse your feeds I find this view a great way to do it. (The template is inspired by TechMeme.)
  • If you stick to the default two-pane view, you can now mark posts as unread (yay for basic functionality!) and view a list of all similar posts in the database, even those from feeds that aren’t part of your set. However the database is still small, so results are somewhat limited for now.
  • Also in the two-pane view, there’s now a very simple (but AJAXy!) search field. (Currently only works in Firefox, though.)
  • Logins are now persistent, i.e. you’ll no longer be logged out just by closing your browser window. That was sloppy coding on my part …
  • The database and crawling scripts (i.e. the bits you don’t see) have been almost completely reworked to be very much more efficient.
  • As a result, sets display much more quickly than they used to (though there’s still optimisation to be done)! The tradeoff is that they update a little more slowly than they used to, but I doubt you’ll notice.
  • Finally, there’s some minor interface tweaks and miscellaneous small bug fixes, mainly just typos in the HTML.
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Mr. Jobs finally plays his hand

Wednesday 13 September 2006 at 2:37 am

I was going to resist, but the nerd in me just has to post about this.

Steve Job’s big “Showtime” media event has just finished, and aside from some major (but hardly earth-shattering) software upgrades to iTunes and the iPod, he announced two very significant new bits of hardware. If there was any doubt that Apple were going after Sony’s turf and transforming into a consumer electronics company, it is put to rest as of right now.

[Tiny new iPod Shuffle; note that Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image] Announcement one is the ridiculously tiny, and very aggressively priced, new iPod shuffle. Expect to see buses and trains near you absolutely littered with these things in a month or two.

[Apple media centre, code name iTV; note that Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image] Number two: the “iTV” is so new it lacks a real name, but it’s basically a device that plugs into your TV and runs an upgraded version of Front Row. In other words, it’s an Apple media centre.

It’s due for release early next year, looks like a Mac Mini, and has Ethernet, HDMI, and wireless. The networked home-theatre PC world has so far solely been the preserve of geeks with homebrew setups; for Apple to move into this space is a very big deal.

If it takes off, I dare say this thing is going to be big, like iPod big. And even if it doesn’t, Steve has now played enough of his hand that we know his new plan for world domination, summarised nicely in this slide from the talk.

[Apple is in your den, Apple is in your living room, Apple is in your car, Apple is in your pocket; note that Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image]


Random sights of a railway construction site

Friday 8 September 2006 at 5:07 pm

Aside from recently completing their tunnelling, the merry band of construction contractors has just re-started track laying on the bits of the southern railway closest to my house. As part of this, there are crazy trackwork machines parked at random spots in the middle of the freeway — weirdo sliding gantry cranes, machines that thump the sleepers for (I’m guessing) joining purposes, and ordinary-looking goods carriages that have holes in them to drop gravel under the tracks.

And freight trains. When Murdoch Station is finished I doubt you’ll see one of these parked there on a regular basis …

South Spur Line diesel freight engine sitting in the Kwinana Freeway median near Murdoch station