27 April 2005

Brisbane and Anzac Day

Monday was Anzac Day. Dawn procession of soldiers old and young, and lots of family members and others. We didn't attend; not our thing. Back in the late 70's and early 80's, I was part of a feminist protest group who attempted to march each year "in memory of women raped in war". We were, of course, not welcome, but we gathered quite a bit of media attention, especially if the authorities started arresting the protesters. We went to the airport in a taxi (no shuttle buses on weekends or holidays). Upon paying the fare (less than $20), I remarked to Eric that this confirmed my contention that the taxi driver who had taken us from the airport to the hotel the previous weekend had deliberately taken a roundabout route and thus overcharged us by quite a bit. I had failed to confront the driver at the time, and forgot completely to take his number so I could report him to the taxi authorities. Instead of going directly home, we were staying two nights in Brisbane. We couldn't get a cheap fare out of Canberra that would connect to a flight to our home airport, so we decided that rather than spending just one night in Brisbane, we'd make a shopping trip out of it as well. The weather that afternoon was most pleasant, so after checking in to our hotel (the Soho, on Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill), we strolled down the hill to the Queen Street Mall -- full of people enjoying the day, as we were -- and ate a huge meal at the Sizzler's restaurant, where I enjoyed not only the salad buffet, but this time the dessert bar. (Apple crumble with soft-serve ice cream is not recommended for low-carb diets any more than pancakes are.) On Wednesday we set out again, visiting Silk Road, the "adventure outfitters" where I buy my good hiking boots. Eric needed a lightweight jacket to replace his silk one, which is literally falling apart; he found one there on sale. Then we walked around downtown Brisbane a bit more before gorging ourselves once again at Sizzler's. Thursday we flew home.

25 April 2005

Conflux -- Canberra Science Fiction Convention

This weekend Eric and I are attending a science fiction convention, Conflux 2, being held at Rydges Lakeside Hotel in Canberra 22-25 April. We're impressed by the turnout (around 200 attendees), more than many Australian National Conventions manage to attract, even when held in much larger cities. I confess that I didn't attend much of the con itself, being busy with other things, but I did catch up with several old friends. Eric says the con was well run and had interesting discussions. I enjoyed the disco -- the one time of the year when I endure loud music and do a bit of dancing (free-form). The weather was very pleasant for the time of year. I lived in Canberra for 10 years, so I know that late April can vary from cold and wet to sunny and reasonably warm (around 21 C -- cool by my standards, now that I live in the tropics). One day Eric and I took a walk along part of the shore of Lake Burley Griffin. As I commented on how much the lakeshore had changed from my memory of it, I realised that I moved away from Canberra 17 years ago! (How time flies...) More about the Lakeside Hotel: I wasn't at all surprised to find that the lighting in the room was woefully inadequate, and the one comfortable chair was nowhere near any light, nor was space available near a light so one could move the chair. On the plus side, the buffet breakfast was quite good, and not a bad price if one chose the book-in-advance option for breakfast ($15 vs. $22 if you didn't book in advance).

22 April 2005

More notes from the OOo MiniConf

I wish I had taken more photos. The scene outside the lecture halls was as I had expected: hundreds of people typing away on laptops, taking advantage of the wireless connection that was provided to attendees (some ethernet connections were also available). Every powerpoint (including those in the lecture halls) had a multi-outlet powerboard attached, often daisy-chained to other powerboards, allowing many people to recharge their laptops. In come contrast was the situation at the hotel where we're staying, Rydges Lakeside. Choices there were modem dial-up, ethernet (at extra cost, $50 for a week, the most economic option when staying more than a day or two) and wireless (neither convenient nor affordable). I chose to pay for ethernet, despite discovering that the one ethernet outlet was next to the television set, on the opposite side of the room from the desk -- too far away for my cable to reach; and when I borrowed a longer cable from the hotel, theirs didn't reach either. Closer inspection revealed that quite a long cable was behind the TV, carefully coiled and tied so it was both out of the way and impossible to stretch across the room to put the connector in a convenient spot. My choices were to cut the cable tie or move the desk (finding a store with a suitable connector wasn't a choice at the time). Note to self: add an ethernet cable connector to the travelling communications kit. (I wrote a detailed complaint about this on the hotel's feedback form.) On Sunday, when searching for some place open for an evening meal, we happened upon the Pancake Parlour on Alinga Street and took advantage of their early-bird two-course special. Very tasty, though not at all good for those of us on low-carb diets! On our way out, we spotted a man typing on a small notebook computer with a wireless card. We struck up a conversation and learned that the Pancake Parlour had free wireless (we learned later that this was very new).

21 April 2005

Ubuntu 5.04 works on my laptop!

The Linux conference was handing out some of the first available (anywhere) CDs of Ubuntu Linux V5.04. The set included one live CD and one installation CD, so I promptly tested the live CD in my laptop. I was delighted to find that it came up with no trouble at all and recognised the display screen -- unlike the previous version (reported in my blog entry of 30 March). Upon discovering this, I lept up and shouted "YES!" -- much to the amusement of everyone else. I had brought my old laptop with me to give to Ian Lynch to take to Daniel Carrera. Daniel's preferred Linux is Ubuntu, so I tested the live CD on the old laptop and it worked perfectly too. Smiles all around that day! (I added a set of the CDs to the collection of stuff going with the laptop, but left full installation as an exercise for the recipient.) I haven't yet been able to get the communication devices working under Ubuntu (more accurately, I'm not sure how to do that), but I haven't spent much time on it. Several people have suggested that a full installation is more likely to work if the live CD doesn't, so we'll see how that goes later.

20 April 2005

OpenOffice.org MiniConf Downunder

After only three weeks at home (during which I failed to catch up with the accumulated snail mail, among other things), I set off on another trip. This one is relatively short: only 11 days, and all within Australia. I'm starting in Canberra with the OpenOffice.org MiniConf, associated with linux.conf.au. The Linux conference runs from Monday 18 April through Saturday 23 April. The first two days are for a series of miniconferences, of which OpenOffice.org is one.

This conference is quite different from the RegiCon in San Diego, because it has no associated trade show; it's all talks, held in lecture halls at the Manning Clarke Centre, Australian National University. So I had no place to display and sell my collection of books about OOo. In fact the conference did not allow book sales, on the grounds that they had an official bookseller. This argument would have been more convincing to me if the bookseller had actually been there during the two days of the miniconf (they didn't show up until Wednesday) and if the bookseller had any books on OpenOffice.org on display (they didn't). Not to worry... I displayed my books on a table outside the OOo lecture hall but did not sell them. Lots of people expressed interest in the books, and no one from the linux conference came by to complain.

The talks ranged from case studies of companies switching to Linux and OpenOffice.org, to macro programming, to discussions of the work of the OOo developer community, and much more. I gave my talk on technical and academic writingusing OOo.

A highlight of this conference for me (as in San Diego) was the chance to meet people whom I knew only from email and the lists, and the chance to talk more with Ian Lynch about his INGOTS (International Grades in Office Technology) certification scheme, which is expanding rapidly from its UK base into other countries. After hours we retired to a nearby pub and continued socialising until far too late; an important part of any conference!