18 December 2009

Garden edging closer to reality

On Wednesday the handyman came by to lay the bricks for the garden edge. What an improvement in the appearance! The garden itself still needs a lot of work, but we're getting there... slowly.

21 October 2009

Ubuntu on new laptop

Installed Ubuntu 9.04 on my new laptop. Vista promptly stopped working. Repair didn't work. Advanced repair did. Back in business, dual boot. Downloading updates to Ubuntu.

19 October 2009

New book: Self-publishing with OpenOffice.org 3 Writer

Self-publishing with OpenOffice.org 3 Writer

My new book Self-publishing with OpenOffice.org 3 Writer is now available in paperback from Lulu.com. Downloadable PDF is coming soon.

The online draft version of the book starts here. I will update the online version when I have time.

07 October 2009

My new laptop computer just arrived! It's a mid-range Dell Studio XPS 13 with great specs.

Oh, cool! My spare mouse has red lights that match the red case of the new laptop.

I must say Vista looks very nice, with its swoopy blue/green background. Had a quick look at Word 2007; didn't take too long to find where most of the bits I use (on the rare occasions that I use Word) are hidden.

23 September 2009

Dust storm

Dust from big storms in NSW and southern Qld was very noticeable as we took our 5PM walk, but it's not nearly as bad as we've seen in photos from southern areas.

Here's a satellite photo.

22 September 2009

New laptop on order

Gave in to the urge to buy a new laptop. Dell XPS 13 in Merlot Red case is on order. (Purple is not available for that model in Australia, alas.)

29 August 2009

Pisco sour

Finally tried making a pisco sour from the pisco I brought back from Peru, using the recipe that came with the bottle. Very nice! I suspect the ones in the hotels were a bit weaker, though. Now to do more testing, with recipes from other sources (but not tonight). I used a type of lemon that's kind of halfway between a lemon and a lime. Real limes are too expensive right now.

Sound for the Wii

We have the technology! Eric found an old radio/iPod player and an adapter cable in his "I might want this someday" box, so I now have sound with the Wii. I just tested it with the 10-pin bowling game, and yes it's much better with the sound. I like the THUNKs of the pins being hit with the ball. ;-)

28 August 2009

Gadgets! Wii Fit

Bought a Wii console and Wii Fit today (Father's Day bundle on sale at Big W, under my price point for impulse purchases), and set it up with my monitor (I have no TV). There's no sound, but I hate sound, so I'm in no hurry to connect some speakers even though I'm sure it would be better with sound.

27 August 2009

No end of writing

Revised second draft of 4 more chapters of my book on self-publishing with OpenOffice.org and sent them off to my editor, who is going to get a surprise when he checks his mail in the morning. Getting there... slowly.

26 August 2009

Screen door locks - at last!

Today the builders finally installed locks with keys on the screen doors, replacing the original locks which had no keys that ever got into our hands. Another item checked off the defect list as done. Still a few to go.

25 August 2009

Writing, walking, sewing - a balanced life

Alternating between rewriting my book and editing Lyn's has its strange moments. If the sheep become examples in the computer book, that's why...

This afternoon I managed a slightly longer walk than usual. At one point an older woman overtook us. Eric said, "Walk faster, Jean!" and the other woman said, "Ignore him." :-) I'm going for distance, not speed.

You know it's time to quit when, while sewing a long straight seam in the side of a garment, you sew the armhole closed as well.

24 August 2009

Life's tedious moments

Lodged my income tax return online. It wasn't very complicated once I got started, but I'm glad to get it over with. Now hanging on the phone waiting to get my internet banking password reset so I can pick up my credit card statements.

23 August 2009

Publishing and life

Internet connection out for awhile this morning. Amazing how much thinking & writing gets done without the distraction of, uh, research.

Back to the self-publishing book. Finished revising another difficult chapter, in between writing a short article for an editors' group, formatting Lyn's book, painting bookshelves, and (yesterday evening) moving sprinklers and hoses to water the vast expanse of lawn and garden beds near us that the management's watering system isn't doing. (We've reported the latter problem, so some day it may get fixed.)

First cut at front cover design for Lyn McConchie's Rural Daze, using artwork by Judith Giddens, who also did the interior illos.

22 August 2009


Taking a break from writing my own book to edit and format Lyn McConchie's next book of farming tales, Rural Daze and (K)nights.

19 August 2009

Wii research & book revision

Today we asked a salesperson in one store about connecting a Wii to a computer monitor, not a TV. She gave completely wrong info (claiming audio inputs weren't necessary), and was most emphatic about it. Eventually conceded she knew nothing about games consoles, only computers. Later, in Harvey Norman, we inspected the Wii gadgetry section and found the necessary cables. Not that we've decided to buy a Wii; just curious.

Later, did first-pass revision of Chapter 3 of my self-publishing with OOo book. More slash-and-burn. Can't believe I'd included so many irrelevant topics.

18 August 2009

Gas barbecue & wine bargains

Eric and I bought a small Weber gas barbecue this morning. It's part of our collection of supplies for cyclone season, in case of electricity outages (the regular stove is electric, as is—of course—the microwave). We could not consider any other brand than Weber. ;-)

One of the bottles of cleanskin Western Australian wine we bought last week tasted very much like a nice Evans & Tate we used to get occasionally, so we went back to the grog shop to get a dozen. While there, we checked the bottles labelled Evans & Tate and found a remarkable similarity in the colour of the screw cap and the name of the wine ("Classic").

14 August 2009

Lyn McConchie's next book

Cover art and interior illustrations for Lyn McConchie's next book in the Farming Daze series just arrived. I really like the work of Judith Giddens, the artist.

Facebook and Firefox

Just got this message from Facebook: "You're using an old web browser to browse Facebook. ... please upgrade your browser. Switch to Firefox." Actually I'm using a beta version of a forthcoming version of Firefox. Not everything is working yet, of course.

13 August 2009

Internet news

Our internet connection's been upgraded to a higher speed, the best we can get in this area. Alas, ADSL2 is not available where we live. Google Maps has a new satellite photo of our area, so our house is now visible (if you know where to look). We're not on StreetView, as Carlyle Gardens is private property and AFAIK hasn't given permission for the Google car to come through.

12 August 2009


For the first time, I saw one of the wallaby joeys out of the pouch this morning. Cute, like most young animals. Mom wallaby seemed most unenthusastic about letting it back into the pouch. Both hopped rapidly away into the fog.

11 August 2009

Computer problems

Computer systems (not mine) have been misbehaving today, starting with the checkout computer at Woolie's (sloooooow); followed by hotel booking website not accepting my credit card and when I phoned, the reservation person said her system wasn't working properly and had to do a manual entry; then the Virgin Blue website declined both my cards (indicating a malfunction on their end).

10 August 2009

What shall I buy?

I'm feeling the urge to buy a new gadget to play with. No, I don't know what gadget, and it's not like I've caught up on all my other gadgets. If Dell has something tempting on special in the paper tomorrow, I may be in trouble...

Online banking woes

Drat. Forgot (or typo'd, not sure which) my ANZ online banking password three times, so now I'm locked out and have to phone them to get a reset. Bah. My US banks let me reset my password online after answering security questions.

09 August 2009

Progress on Self-pub book

Got the self-publishing book off to the editor this morning. Hooray!

06 August 2009

Wallabies and writing

A mob of at least 7 wallabies (not counting the joeys still in pouch) are munching their way through the lush new grass near our house. We go out occasionally and shout "Eat weeds! Eat weeds!" but they don't seem to be paying attention.

Working on second draft of my book on self-publishing using OpenOffice.org Writer. Have done most of the content changes suggested by reviewers; now working on formatting. Still need to create a few more examples, with illustrations.

Wallaby at Carlyle Gardens

04 August 2009

Home again!

Got home yesterday. It was a great trip, but any longer would have been too much. Now to tackle the accumulated snail mail & postponed to-do items, organise and post the photos, write the trip report...

I very much enjoy visiting new places, trying new foods and drinks, and so on, but eventually it's soooo good to be back with familiar things... like the tea with real milk that I mentioned before. Now on my second cup this morning.

I'm happy to report that the rum and pisco arrived safely in my checked luggage. Did I mention that shrink-wrapping luggage is popular in South America? Both for theft deterrence and for keeping luggage from being destroyed by baggage-handling equipment.

Shrink-wrapped luggage

03 August 2009

Auckland, changing planes

On LAN flight from Santiago, skipped full dinner service in favour of "express" service, then to sleep. Flight got into Auckland on time. Good thing my liquor purchases were in my checked luggage, as we had to go through security to change planes (even though we stayed in the "international connections" section of the airport and didn't have to deal with immigration or customs) and they were confiscating liquids as usual.

Now hanging out in Qantas Club waiting for flight to Brisbane. Ah, New Zealand! Back in a land of fresh milk (not that horrid longlife stuff) and proper British tea to put it in.

02 August 2009

On way home to Australia

Managed to get a litre of Pisco to take home. Had to put it in my checked bag along with the Venezuelan rum. Hope the bottles arrive intact, or I will have very flavoursome dirty laundry.

Hanging out for a few hours in the LAN Business Class lounge in Santiago airport. Arrived on time from Lima. Had to go through Chilean immigration and customs, then take luggage and check in for next flight, the long one to Auckland. Fortunately I had plenty of time, and knew where to go in the airport.

01 August 2009

Colca Canyon

Returned to Arequipa late yesterday after an awesome two-day trip to Colca Valley and Canyon, viewing Andean condors, deep terraced valleys, snow capped volcanos towering over everything. Returned through a 4,910 metre pass (over 16,000 feet). Probably no comparison to Tibet, but impressive nonetheless.

Now back in Lima, going home to Australia tomorrow.

EDIT: Photo album from this part of trip to Peru is here.

Jean at Colca Canyon

29 July 2009


Arequipa today was warm and dry, with mostly clear skies though later hazy or perhaps smoggy. This city is situated in a huge desert, with a backdrop of active volcanos. Quite a spectacular view from the airplane. City tour, much walking. Noisy hotel with a so-so restaurant.

EDIT: Photo album from this part of trip to Peru is here.

Jean at Arequipa

28 July 2009

Lima to Arequipa

At Lima hotel, I was a bit appalled at the prices in the restaurant until I realised they were in the local currency, not in US dollars as all the other hotels have used. Silly me. Three soles to the US$ made the prices more than reasonable.

Gotta keep an eye on the bar & restaurant staff in my hotels. Too often they charge me for a bottle of wine when I've had only a glass. I'm assuming honest mistakes, but still...

In this part of Lima (Miraflores), I saw at least 6 casinos in about 4 blocks.

Lima airport seems to have free wifi, hooray. Also, today is Independence Day. Little traffic, short checkin queue. Off to Arequipa today.

27 July 2009


Back in Lima for 2 nights. Using iPod on hotel wifi. Lousy weather here too. Grumbles from local guide re uncooperative dry season weather. Now doing comparative Pisco Sour tasting aided by free welcome drink here. Hope I can get a bottle to take home with me.

26 July 2009

Cusco and Machu Picchu

Cusco: stayed at the Monasterio Hotel. Very nice (also very expensive). Excellent food. Great location. Tour of city. Bus tour of Sacred Valley. Fascinating country.

Machu Picchu yesterday and today. Tour yesterday in rain. Everything vertical, much with steps higher than my knees consider comfortable. Despite that, it's totally AWESOME. A larger area than it looks in typical photos. Definitely a You Have To Be Here experience that photos do not do justice to.

Staying at Sanctuary Lodge, just outside entrance to Machu Picchu. Another very nice, very expensive hotel, with great food. Have discovered the Pisco Sour. YUM!

EDIT: Photo album from this part of Peru is here.

Jean at Machu Picchu

21 July 2009

Leaving Venezuela

Leaving Venezuela now, after a most enjoyable but rather exhausting week. On to Peru. Will be writing much longer report when I get home next month.

17 July 2009

Caracas, Venezuela

Went to a shopping mall on a hillside near where I'm staying in El Hatillo. Could see Caracas sprawling on the hills below. I was impressed by the mountains. Then the clouds cleared and the REAL mountains appeared above the ones I was admiring. Whoa!! Impressive. And even those probably are dwarfed by the high Andes. Of course, I did not have my camera with me.

EDIT: Photo album from Venezuela is here.

16 July 2009

Caracas, Venezuela

Arrived in Venezuela last Friday. Weekend at beach and driving back to Caracas through mountains Monday. Fascinating country, wish I had time to see more of it. Host family large, loud, enthusiastic, delightful. Way too much to write about now.

Finally got to see a thorough demo of a Wii Fit. In Spanish. Some of it looks quite useful for me, but I think the cutesy graphics would soon annoy me. But at least now I have a much better idea of what so many people are talking about.

10 July 2009

On way from Santiago to Caracas

Arrived yesterday in Santiago. Flight from Auckland was almost empty in Buz class and far from full in economy. Beautiful views of snow-capped Andes as we flew up a valley between them and the lower, older coastal range.

No delays at immigration and customs. Struggled through a crowd of taxi touts, saw my name on a sign, and was taken to my hotel by an informative guide. Too tired to walk around sightseeing, and too late to take a tour. Want to return to Chile for a proper visit, instead of just passing through. Nice dinner in hotel.

Santiago airport, LAN VIP lounge, waiting for flight to Caracas. Spanish keyboard is confusing.

09 July 2009

On route to South America

Auckland. Qantas Club. iPod Touch not too bad for reading, not so good for typing, so I'm using their computers. Did I mention that I left all the laptops at home, and only brough the iPod Touch for personal use when I can't find a computer to use?

Wifi in Brisbane hotel was flakey, but free. Early flight from Brisbane. Waiting for LAN flight to Santiago.

Speculative fiction prize so far: biz class lunch menu. Caterers delivered different items to aircraft. Better that than the flight schedule being fiction. That may come later in the trip.

07 July 2009

Off to South America tomorrow

Tomorrow I set off for South America, sightseeing and attending the wedding of two good friends. I fly to Brisbane tomorrow, then on Thursday from Brisbane to Auckland to Santiago de Chile. After one night there, I go on to Caracas (Venezuela) for 10 days, during which I'll visit various nearby places. Then to Peru for 11 days, visting Lima, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Macchu Piccu, Arequipa, and Colca Canyon. Then the killer flight home: Lima to Santiago to Auckland to Brisbane to Townsville. Would love to have extended the trip a bit and visit some Chilean vineyards, but I suspect that I'll be exhausted by that point.

I'm going to try to post some blog entries by email as I go, but based on past experience I probably won't get around to it.

02 July 2009

Cool Ubuntu shirt

I love chocolate and Ubuntu, so I couldn't resist buying this shirt.

01 July 2009

Carlyle Gardens from the air

The flight path of incoming planes from the south goes just east of us, with the planes low enough for passengers on the left side to get an excellent view of Carlyle Gardens. Coming in from Sydney on Monday around noon, we didn't have the best seat for photography (our row didn't have a window), but Eric managed to get some shots. Here's one. Carlyle Gardens is the large rectangular area surrounded by a tree-lined fence, plus the large cleared area with a cluster of houses just above it in the photo. I've circled our house. To the right you can just see the bridge linking the "far side" with the older section of the community.

22 June 2009

"Self-publishing using OOo3" now online

You can now read and comment on the complete first draft of "Self-publishing using OOo 3 Writer" online. The book starts here. Comments are moderated (to eliminate spam). I will be travelling during the next week, with limited internet access (perhaps only once a day), so do not be alarmed if your comments do not appear quickly. If you prefer not to comment in public, please feel free to send me an email instead. You can still request a PDF version of this draft.

17 June 2009

Draft PDF of Self-Publishing using OOo available for review

A complete first draft of my book Self-Publishing using OpenOffice.org 3 Writer is now available in PDF (3.5MB). If you want a review copy, please contact me directly and ask for one. I hope to get the website copy of the book updated and ready for online comments within the next few days. You can help by telling me about anything that
  • doesn't make sense
  • is out of logical order
  • is covered in not enough detail
  • is covered in too much detail for the audience of the book
  • needs more or better illustrations
  • is missing from the book but you think should be covered
  • is covered in two places but should be combined into one place
  • or anything else that you think would make the book more useful for the audience
At this point, please confine your comments to the content, not the inconsistencies of formatting or screen captures or bad page breaks or similar, most of which I am well aware of but unwilling to spend time fixing until I'm confident that I won't be rewriting or deleting whole sections.

21 May 2009

Garden landscaping research

Today's research project for Eric and me was to visit the local landscaping places to look at garden edging (decorative concrete blocks) and paving bricks.... and to collect business cards for people to do the heavy work. A relatively small area in front of the house is our responsibility. We have several idea for this area, some more practical than others. The easiest, and most practical for us, is pebbles and concrete animals, along with Eric's weather station and some little windmills. This type of garden is fairly popular among the residents of Carlyle Gardens. We also like the idea of a raised bed with a garden railway and rocks piled into mountains, but I'm getting away from that idea because it's too likely to be vandalised by someone from outside... despite the security force. We'll see.

20 May 2009

Driver's license

Went to the Dept of Transport today to change the address on my driver's license and car registration. Their website had refused to accept my new address; apparently it's not in some database. The Dept Transport woman had to override the system to get it accepted; apparently she has to do this a lot.

17 May 2009

Wrestling with technology

Need to get some Windows software on the Asus Eee PC. I have the software on CDs, but the Eee has no CD player. I tried to use an old external (USB) CD/camera card drive, but failed. Sometimes the computer sees the camera card part, but not the CD drive; sometimes it won't see either. Over to USB sticks: copy CD onto USB stick, install on Eee from that. So far that's been successful, if tedious.

14 May 2009

Australian federal budget

I'm relieved to note that eligibility for the only Australian government benefit I receive (Commonweath Seniors Health Card) was unchanged by Tuesday's Budget.

New book on technical editing

I have a chapter in a forthcoming book from Baywood, New Perspectives on Technical Editing. My chapter is titled "Copyediting and Beyond". I was allowed, even encouraged, to include some of my opinions on editing, which many editors find heretical—and others find liberating.

13 May 2009

Construction and gardening

Much construction and gardening work is going on beside the house: edging (not quite a curb) on a bit of road that goes nowhere; a path for walking, bicycles, and golf buggies; formwork for edging a large new garden bed; and laying of many truckloads of topsoil.

Awnings and blinds

Someone came to measure the windows of our new house for awnings and blinds (some external, some internal). We've decided about most, but not all, of the window coverings; the rest can be done later. Installation should be in mid-June, after we return from a trip to Adelaide.

12 May 2009


A multiple-choice health survey asked how many cups of tea I drink a day; the choices started at "none". The same survey asked how many cups of coffee I drink; choices started at "one". Bit of biased assumption there? (I don't drink coffee.)

10 May 2009

Smoke alarm

Used grill in oven for the first time in new house. Set off the smoke alarm. Alarm's turn-off button didn't. Eric had to rip it off ceiling and remove the battery. Not impressed. The chops tasted good, but.

06 May 2009

Progress on OpenOffice.org Calc Guide

First draft of OpenOffice.org Calc Guide is now complete, and some chapters have been reviewed once. I have more topics to add, including new features for OOo3.1. Then on to the indexing, my least favourite activity.

Front garden ideas

We're contemplating the delights and hassles of installing a model railway in our garden. Eric's been helping by feeding me URLs. This scheme started with rocks as low-maintenance garden plants, artistically arranged, and grew from there. (I've been wanting a train set for years. Never had one as a kid.)

01 May 2009

Instant lawn

Contractors arrived, assaulted me with obnoxious music, and departed, leaving badly-laid sod behind. Some of it has been sitting around in the sun too long and may have died. As soon as they were gone, the staff gardeners set to work running the watering system, which is not on automatic yet.

Pallets of sod arrive.

Sod has been laid.

Sod laid in back of house. Garden between houses also visible.

29 April 2009

Bridge open

The bridge between the new section of Carlyle Gardens (where we live) and the older section was finally opened to pedestrian and light vehicle (bicycle and golf cart) traffic, so we can now walk over to the restaurant and other facilities without climbing over a ditch to get around the barrier, and we're getting a lot more residents from the other side wandering around looking at the new section.

Do Not Call register

Got onto the Australian Do Not Call website and registered our new phone number. Begone, telemarketers! Not that it's stopped (on our old phone) the people trying to switch me to a supposedly cheaper phone service. I rarely make phone calls, so cheaper calls are not an inducement.

28 April 2009

Immunisations for South America trip

Today I saw a doctor specialising in immunisations for travellers, and was given shots for several exotic diseases, including yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitus A. The yellow fever immunisation is a requirement for getting back into Australia. To my surprise, I found my (now very battered) old immunisation record card from the 1960s, when I was going to North Africa... at which time I had yellow fever and cholera shots.

23 April 2009

Planning a trip to South America

I've been organising a trip to South America in July: Venezuela and Peru, flying into and out of Santiago de Chile. The Venezuela part (11 days) is being organised by the family of a friend, but I'm putting together the Peru part (another 11 days), tours to Cusco, Macchu Pichu, Arequipa, Colca Canyon. And all the air travel is up to me. I'll be flying on LAN, a Chilean airline. I wanted to book all my flights through the LAN website, so I can track and manage them online. Unfortunately, the website refused to process my credit card most of the time, despite getting it right once. Wanting to be sure to have the trans-Pacific flights locked in (just in case their very favourable business-class fares disappeared without warning), I fought my way through their telephone system to reach a human, who could only accept payment in US dollars... so I got stung with an extra card fee for that. Eventually I gave up trying to book the other flights and got a travel agent to do them, along with the tours I'd selected from the Tempo Holidays brochure. The Tempo website is hopeless.

20 April 2009

Wasp sting

On evening walk with Eric, stung on ankle by a wasp. Wow! That HURT. Can't recall the last time I was stung—many years ago. Fortunately an ice pack seems to have dealt with the swelling (not bad) and the pain. (After quick check on web of first aid for wasp stings.)

Wireless router now working

Eric finally got the Belkin wireless ADSL modem/router to connect to the Internet. Several default settings were wrong for Australia. Hard to diagnose. Once the settings were sorted, the gadget worked just tine. Eric's blog has the technical details. Note: his blog is written in valid xhtml, so Internet Explorer does not display it.

17 April 2009

Back on broadband, despite hardware issues

The broadband service at our new house is now active. Unfortunately, our new wireless modem refused to connect to the internet. Eric spent a lot of time trying to work out what was wrong, without success; he'll work on that some more this weekend and try it out on our service at Airlie Beach. We did have an ancient modem, which worked, so we know the connection at Carlyle Gardens is working. Unfortunately, the ancient modem runs only one ethernet connection (not wireless), so we're a bit limited until Eric gets the technical problems figured out. He's gone off to Airlie Beach for the weekend he was planning to go anyway), where he can use our connection there and try to find out what's going on with the modem -- and how to fix it. (We both assume the modem will work fine there; one of the corollaries to Murphy's Law...) Meanwhile, I'm on broadband again at the new house.

Windows XP dies on my main computer

A complete switch to Linux may be coming on my main machine: the Windows XP partition won't load, even in Safe Mode. Spent a bit of time trying to get Windows going again, without success. I don't know enough to really be able to solve this problem, and to be honest I'm not createdly motivated to find out. Ubuntu works fine, and I do have a WinXP partition on the Eee PC for the rare occasions when I actually need to use it.

14 April 2009

Buying furniture

Yesterday and today were shop-till-you-drop days: table, chairs, lamps, side tables, hardware and household stuff. Slowly getting organised. Today we ordered a "dining" table, which should be delivered in about 3 weeks. I put "dining" in quotes because we normally use our table for everything else as well as dining, and some of my/our hobbies can be a bit hard on the surface... so we bought a table being sold as a desk or conference table. It looks very much like a slightly larger one being sold as a modern style dining table (white top, stainless steel legs), so we figure it can't be too weird... not that we care. That store didn't have any chairs we liked, so we went next door and bought 4 chairs of a style used in conference rooms. We looked at a lot of dining-type tables and chairs, but couldn't find any dining-type chairs that were comfortable to sit in, so that contributed to our decision to buy conference-room items. In addition to being comfortable, these chairs look quite nice and should go well with the table. Two were in stock; the others should arrive late next week. They were a discontinued model, so on sale... a nice bonus. Update: Here's a picture taken after the table and chairs were delivered.

10 April 2009

Wireless dial-up internet

Eric now has a wireless network working with our dial-up connection, so we can both be online... slowly.

09 April 2009

The new neighbourhood

We don't have any nearby neighbours yet. The nearest is at the other end of our street, about 6 houses away. None of the intervening houses have been sold, though the one across the street has an "Option" sign on it. Officially we live behind the barrier in the construction zone, along with 3 other households (out of more than 15 houses). This part of Carlyle Gardens is called the "West Side" by the sales staff and the "Far Side" by the residents. Considering what a bunch of characters some of them are, the Far Side seems like a suitable designation. We're going to fit right in, I think.

Phone on, broadband internet coming

The telephone technician showed up right on time today, so we've now got a landline in the new house and I can at least use dial-up access to the internet through the ISP (iinet) that we've been using at Airlie Beach.. Slow, but better than nothing. I immediately applied for a broadband internet connection from them. We've been happy with their service, and we especially like the fact that they provide a dial-up number at no extra charge to use if needed (like now) and they are friendly to Mac and Linux users.

03 April 2009

Moved—at last!

On March 5th we drove to Townsville, got a bank cheque (after some drama, when the only person authorised to do it wasn't available; the other staff were heroic in finding a workaround), then handed over the cheque and got the keys to the new house. That afternoon and Friday morning we spent shopping for essentials like a bed, a refrigerator, and a washing machine, plus some other odds and ends. On Friday afternoon our purchases were delivered. Eric then casually mentioned that a large, very severe cyclone was heading down the coast from near Cairns. (See separate entry.) Packing was our major activity for the next two weeks. As soon as the cyclone was gone, we phoned a local removalist (who doesn’t advertise; he gets all his business by word of mouth, and several locals had mentioned him as the person to contact). Our possessions were picked up on the morning of 23rd March and delivered on the morning of the 24th. During the afternoon of the 23rd we drove to Townsville so we were there in time to meet the removalist when he arrived—at around 7AM as it turned out. We laughed when he (apparently quite bemused by the number of bookcases and boxes of books, the office equipment and recliner chairs, but little else) asked if we were going to buy some furniture. There’s certainly enough room for it! Since then we’ve been unpacking. But first we had to reassemble the Ikea shelves... which of course don’t quite fit in the spaces available. The open-plan kitchen/loungeroom is huge but has limited wall space once we work around the air-conditioner outlet, the windows, the doors, the kitchen bench, and the switches for lights and ceiling fans. We’ve built one ‘wall’ of shelves between the dining area and the lounge area and are contemplating what else we might do. My office is functional but, alas, there’s no internet, nor a working phone line, into the house. Eventually we’ll have internet (and other services) through the fibre-optic connection, but in the interim we need to organise a temporary solution. Shopping has also taken up a lot of time. In addi­tion to food, we needed to buy a variety of household goods to replace ones we deliberately didn't bring (or didn't have). The weather's been good, so the landscapers have been madly working around our house (and the others on our block). Mountains of topsoil are being spread; from the smell, it's fertilizer-enriched. Hope the sod and plants arrive soon.

Major cyclone threat averted

On Saturday (7 March) we rushed home to beat the rain and bring everything in off the balconies so it couldn't blow around. The cyclone was expected to pass by offshore from Airlie Beach early Sunday morning, accompanied by destructive winds and heavy rain... a combination likely to flood or wash out some bits of the road between here and Townsville, and/or cut off the electricity, even if nothing worse happened. Fortunately, we had minimal impact in Airlie Beach; the wind direction was such that it hit the ranges to the east and south first, leaving us in a relatively protected zone. And the cyclone stayed just far enough offshore that we were outside the zone of the worst winds and rain.

On Sunday morning Eric went for a reconnaissance walk and said he saw no damage or flooding, though the beach is mostly underwater from the very high tide. Numerous shops (normally open on Sunday) were closed and battened down (tape on the windows, plywood over the door).

04 March 2009

Beware of download sites that charge money for OpenOffice.org

People searching for OpenOffice.org (or variations like Open Office) using Google have reported seeing "sponsored links" (sites which have paid for positioning at the top of Google search results pages) that charge users to download OpenOffice.org. Some of these sites look quite professional and could easily be mistaken for official download sites by newcomers who are unaware that OOo is always available free from the real OpenOffice.org website. While it is legal to sell OpenOffice.org, the wording on these sites (and in their terms and conditions) is often quite misleading, downloads from them provide no added value, and users who later find they've been duped cannot get a refund (per the sites' terms and conditions). Some of these sites say the payment is for support, but evidence (in the form of questions on the official OOo users' list and forums, in which people say they have registered and paid money, and are now having various problems with the program) suggests that the support is often (always?) actually provided by the OOo community, not the download sites. I won't mention any of these sites specifically here (why give them publicity?), but I do encourage readers of this blog to avoid these sites, tell others to avoid them, and (if you are so inclined) complain to an appropriate authority about them. Some other sites offer OOo on CD or DVD (usually for a low price: no more than $10), and/or bundle other material (PDFs of the user guides, clipart, various extensions, and so on) as a convenience to users. I don't have any objection to people who provide such value-added services, especially since they often link to the official OOo site.

28 February 2009

Back from New Zealand and catching up

Eric and I are home from our 3+ week trip to New Zealand and working on catching up with snail mail, preparations for our move to Townsville, and numerous writing projects (including a report on the trip). I'm trying to find time to sort and select photos for an album illustrating the trip report. Eventually the report will appear on Avalook. Our contact at Carlyle Gardens says the house is ready, so we're planning to drive to Townsville early next week to hand over a cheque for a large sum of money and collect the keys... assuming the house passes inspection.

21 January 2009

Andy Updegrove on Inauguration Day 2009

Inauguration Day - January 20, 2009 Andy Updegrove compares the mood in 1969 (Richard Nixon's inauguration) with today, discusses the similarities and differences, and ends on a positive note. Andy quotes from Nixon's inaugural address, with commentary. "Then, as now, it was a time of uncertainty, with wars both cold and hot raising tensions internationally and inflaming passions at home... His predecessor had left office with abysmal approval ratings... A substantial percentage of the electorate could not wait to witness his departure... Then, as now, the contrasts that day were stark - between the opportunity for the new President to achieve grand results, and the certainty that, almost immediately, events and forces as yet unknown would inevitably work to thwart him. Would he be able to rise to the challenge?" I remember the Nixon years only too well (I emigrated to Australia during that time), so quite a bit of the article was rather depressing for me to read: impressive words that weren't fulfilled. But Andy ends on a positive note, because there is one essential difference between then and now: "... unlike those dark days of the 1960s, this is a time of true celebration and genuine inspiration. Not because the times are less troubling, but because the President elect is less troubled. Unlike the paranoid and conflicted Nixon, Barack Obama seems at ease with himself, and projects an ability to selflessly lead. Never before in my lifetime has there been such a wave of hope converging upon a single leader, nor such a confluence of goodwill from all sides." Well said, Andy.

New hot water tank and heater

I finally got around to phoning the plumber on Monday. They arrived promptly (on time!) at 7 AM Tuesday. A bit over an hour later, they were done. I hadn't realised I missed hot water until I had it again.

20 January 2009

My new role at OpenOffice.org: Co-lead of Documentation Project

It's now official: I've been assimilated. (Resistance was futile.) I've been elected as Co-Lead of the Documentation Project at OpenOffice.org. Many of you will recall that in late November 2007, I announced that after 5 years with the OpenOffice.org project, it was time for me to move on to something else, so I ws winding down my activities by the send of that year. Then in March 2008, I admitted that I was still involved, though not in the (unofficial) role of lead editor at OOoAuthors, the group producing the user guides for OpenOffice.org. And now the holiday is over. :-) In my new role, I expect to be mainly continuing what I've been doing all along: overseeing the production of the user guides. I hope I'll be a bit more disciplined in tracking and scheduling and other project-management activities—things I know perfectly well how to do, but usually don't get around to. I also plan to start blogging on OOo-related topics on my Taming OpenOffice.org website; we'll see how that goes.

18 January 2009

The Art Of Community

The Art Of Community is a new book being written by Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Manager, which will be published by O'Reilly in 2009. Topics include:
  • Sustainable processes for management
  • Tools and infrastructure
  • Building buzz
  • Measuring aspects of community success
  • Conflict management
  • Handling live events
  • Scaling the community
The book will be available for purchase in print and will also be released online under a Creative Commons license. Read more about the book here. I'm following progress on the book (on its website) and looking forward to reading it when it's done, or parts of it as they become available online.

The Perfect Social Media Trifecta

I've been reading blog posts about making the most of social networking sites and plan to report on a few of them here. I hope that those of you who aren't already much more tuned in to them than I am may find something of interest in the sites I mention. One of the best posts I've seen so far is The Perfect Social Media Trifecta: Have you found yours? on GrayMatter Minute, a blog by Renee Lemley. Quote from the About page: "Ready or not, social media is here to stay. And so we need to study it, understand it and learn how best to use it to support our ... objectives." The trifecta referred to is Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I'm on the first two, and am likely to soon join the third. That blog, and others (not counting the "plane landing in the Hudson River" episode), are making me aware of Twitter's possibilities (from a "what's in it for me?" perspective).

Free the web: boycott IE6

free the web says:
Internet Explorer 6 is holding back the future. IE6 is the bane of every web developer's life. Released in 2001, IE6 fails to even properly support the CSS 1.0 standard from 1996. Supporting IE6 prevents us from using cool new features, standard with up to date browsers. This erodes user-experience for everyone. Additionally, the hacks and workarounds that web designers are forced to use degrades their code, and this limits progress in other areas. Above all it's simply a waste of millions of hours of human potential.
IE7 is better, but still a problem. Encourage people to get a better browser, of which there are several: Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Google Chrome, for example. Or better still, encourage them to switch from Windows to Ubuntu. :-)

17 January 2009

Need a new hot water tank

I still haven't called the plumber, but I did inspect the hot water tank. It's leaking. The date on the compliance plate is 1994, so it's not ancient but a bit old. So we'll need to get it replaced, not just repaired. Nuisance value is about the same, I guess. Monday I'll have to quit procrastinating and call a plumber.

14 January 2009

Hot water system is out

The hot water isn't. The breaker switch has flipped, so probably something in the heating element has died. *sigh* I really don't feel like dealing with a plumber or electrician. I suppose it's good that it's summer, and the water emerging from the so-called "cold" tap is luke-warm, so showers aren't a problem. And Eric's space has a separate hot water system, so if I get really desperate, I can use the shower in his bathroom.

Installing Mac OSX on an Eee PC

I haven't done this, nor am I seriously considering doing it (at least not any time soon), but I really like the idea. Installing OSX on an EEE PC 901 or 1000 with an original Apple Install Disk v1.09

13 January 2009

The first Queensland cyclone of the season

Tropical Cyclone Charlotte (and its precursor storm, and its post-cyclone phase) have been dumping lots of rain over tropical Queensland for the past several days, where it's caused floods and damaged roads. The rain is generally welcomed by locals, despite the inconveniences, though some relative newcomers to the region seem a bit shocked.

We're well south of the main storm system, but still getting a fair amount of wind and rain—enough, at least, to rattle the windows and keep us indoors. We've been keeping track of river heights through the Bureau of Meteorology's excellent website, and on Monday we spoke with the salesperson at Carlyle Gardens who said the rain was "bucketing down" there at the time.

Predictions are for an "active" cyclone season all along the Queensland coast this year, even as far south as Brisbane. The last really devastating cyclone to hit Airlie Beach was Ada, a Category 4 which came through the Whitsunday islands on 17 January 1970. At Airlie Beach, 80% of buildings were reported destroyed. The top floor of the Airlie Beach hotel was removed, and the Coral Sea Resort suffered extensive damage. On 1 March 1979, Cyclone Kerry passed the coast near Proserpine, with damage around the Whitsunday resort islands.

In Townsville, the last big cyclone was Althea, on 24 December, 1971. A smaller one, Keith, came past on 31 January, 1977 while I was living in Townsville. It crossed the coast at nearby Cape Cleveland. I recorded the wailing of the cyclone alert sirens and some of the radio announcements. The sound of the heavy rain on the metal roof was incredible.

Probably the best-known cyclone to hit Australia was Cyclone Tracy, the Christmas-eve storm that destroyed most of Darwin in 1974. A more recent well-known storm was Cyclone Larry, 20 March 2006, which caused severe damage to the town of Innisfail and pretty much destroyed the North Queensland banana crop for that season.

The Bureau of Meteorology explains tropical cyclones, and shows the storm tracks over Australia.

09 January 2009

OpenOffice.org 3 Writer Guide now in paperback

I've now published the paperback version of the OpenOffice.org 3 Writer Guide. The text is also available on the OOo wiki and in free PDF (suitable for onscreen viewing).

06 January 2009

Post Office boxes

The Airlie Beach Post Office's site lease expired at the end of July, but it has stayed open pending various negotiations. Meanwhile rumours abounded regarding the possibility of a local business running a post office agency in town (with the main PO moved to Cannonvale, the next suburb), and the eventual fate of the Airlie Beach post office boxes. This has been of considerable interest to us, because Australia Post does not deliver mail to where we live.

We finally got the official word in a letter from Australia Post (dated 30 Dec 08) that arrived today. The official Post Office in Airlie Beach is to close. A Post Office agency will be available in February 2009 via the Newsagency.

Most Airlie Beach PO Boxes will be moved to the Cannonvale Post Office, with the PO Box number (and the Airlie Beach designation) unchanged. Residents of Airlie Beach and Jubilee Pocket have the option of applying for a PO Box physically located in Airlie Beach itself but with a new PO Box number.

If we were not moving out of town anyway, this would be a hard decision. On the one hand, walking to the nearby Post Office five times a week is an important part of our exercise program; walking every day to Cannonvale (nearly 4 km), especially in summer, just isn't going to happen. On the other hand, changing our box number doesn't appeal either, even with the PO giving a free six-month redirection.

Since we are moving, we've decided to keep the box number and just collect the mail once a week when we drive to the supermarket in Cannonvale for our regular shopping. No need to change box numbers when we'll be changing our postal address completely later this year anyway.

More about the post office on Eric's Airlie Beach Bum website.

01 January 2009

New Year

New Year's Eve was unusually quiet, other than the noise of the fireworks going off—twice: they do one set at 9PM for the kids and then another at midnight. Both sets are launched from a point of land clearly visible from our balcony. The forecast thunderstorm did not materialise, so we sat outside to watch. This is a party town, and the bars close very late (3 am or later, in some cases), so we often have people staying in rooms near us who reel back in the wee small hours, singing or shouting, frequently swearing loudly, and then banging loudly on doors (presumably to awaken whoever went to bed earlier), demanding to be let in. We expected some of that last night, but heard nothing. What it was like in other parts of town, we have no idea.