13 April 2007

OpenDocument News

I've posted a longer article of recent OpenDocument news on my O'Reilly weblog. The list of applications supporting the OpenDocument Format is growing so rapidly that the team at the OpenDocument Fellowship is having trouble keeping their Applications List up to date, and it's a daunting task to review all the additions. I hope to do some work updating the list this weekend. Daniel Carrera briefly reviews one of the new additions, Peepel, a web-based office suite that competes with Google Docs and similar services. Politics continue in the ODF-vs-Microsoft/Ecma OOXML arena, with Microsoft apparently urging California voters to lobby against a pro-ODF bill and Microsoft UK setting up a web-based petition to lobby the British Standards Institute to vote in favour of Ecma Open XML as an ISO international Standard. This petition follows an older one (begun by John Imrie) to the Prime Minister in support of ODF in the UK.

07 April 2007

Shade sails at shopping centre carparks

In private correspondence I mentioned in passing the shade sails at our local shopping centres. I was asked what a "shade sail" is, so here are some photos. I believe the material is similar to that used in the sails of boats (hence the name). You can see that the designs differ quite a bit. They have some use as shelter from rain as well as sun, though the rain often blows under them. The photo below was taken at the new Centro shopping centre, which opened last year. The second photo was taken at the older Whitsunday shopping centre, which is being upgraded; the shade was added in the last few months.

04 April 2007

Meet the Easter Bilby

As part of a campaign to eradicate wild rabbits from Australia, in 1991 the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation of Australia (now the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia) developed a campaign for the Easter Bilby, to highlight the damage done to Australian wildlife by rabbits, and to raise money for research and wildlife conservation.

The Foundation licensed the production of many 'Easter Bilby' products, including books, CDs, T-shirts and the first chocolate 'Easter Bilbies' in 1993 as alternatives to 'Easter Bunnies.' They were a success, and it's now quite common to find chocolate bilbies in the supermarkets in the weeks before Easter.

The Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is a member of the bandicoot family. Bilbies are also known as Rabbit-Eared Bandicoots. The Greater Bilby is on the endangered list; the Lesser Bilby is believed to be extinct.

The Greater Bilby, usually referred to as 'the' Bilby, is the largest of the bandicoots, measuring up to 55cm in length (body only) with a tail up to 29cm long. Adult males weigh up to 2.5 kg.

Greater Bilbies used to live in more than 70% of mainland Australia. They are now found only in the Tanami Desert (NT), the Great Sandy Desert and Gibson Desert (WA) and in south-western Queensland. The Greater Bilby's habitat has been destroyed by cattle and rabbits, and they are prey for cats, dingoes and foxes. (You'll note that the problems have come mainly from animals introduced by white settlers.)

For more about Bilbies (and some photos), see:

Australian Bilby Appreciation Society Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland Burra Nimu - The Easter Bilby, Jenny Bright's children's story and also some excellent Bilby information Queensland Museum page on the Greater Bilby

Below: Chocolate "Easter Bilby"

02 April 2007

Tsunami alert but no wave

Earlier today, Eric came in from collecting the mail and said, "Have you heard about the tsunami threat to the Queensland coast?" Me: "What? Is this an April Fool's joke?" (At that time it was still April 1 in Hawaii, where the warning came from.) Eric: "No, it was a genuine warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, because of an earthquake near the Solomon Islands, but no reports of significant sea level rises have been received, so no tsunami is now expected." We then looked it up on the web, which said "some rises of about 20-30 cm have been observed". So we kept an eye out for any sea level rises here, but we didn't notice anything (not that we expected to). A very small rise was recorded on the instruments at Sydney Harbour. According to the evening news, schools were closed on much of the east coast and lots of people headed for high ground, as a precaution, remembering the Indian Ocean tsunami. By the time we heard about it, the wave (had it existed) would have been on us. Fortunately our apartment is well up on a hill, so we'd probably not be washed away, but a true tsunami would wreck havoc on the town and the road out, and the power supply etc. At least our cyclone preparations (food, water, camping/cooking gear) would serve us well in such a situation! [Edit] In the Solomon Islands themselves, big waves (up to 10 metres?) did occur.