Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crazy French music - Daft Punk "Around the World"

I was listening to my MP3 collection (over 13 GB) on random today and this song came on. Probably a good thing I didn't have the video on hand, because I would been hooked on watching this and would have got no work done at all.



I still find it amazing that these Frech guys managed to create such an amazing song with only 3 words repeated again and again. Then add this hypnotic video and you have a combination that would reduce someone's productivity to zero.

Here are a couple of others songs by Daft Punk:
Enjoy!

Updates...

This blog has been a bit neglected lately with the exception of a few rants here are there. It seems that having a full time job and a family is quite time consuming.

But I am going to start a new regime of making a blog post every day. I don't care if anyone reads my posts because I find the act of writing something is a good mind exercise other than programming or working out how to answer my sons favourite question of 'Why?'.

Anyway, new blog post coming soon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Be a good citizen...

The Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, has released some sample questions from the citizenship test that will be used for potential immigrants from later this year. Some of the questions are complete no-brainers, but others I reckon most Aussies would be taking a guess at. Wouldn't it be great, immigrants will know more about Australia than the people born here.

Have a go at them and leave your score in the comments.

An exclusive insight into the likely content of a new 'Aussie values' test for potential Australian citizens which will come into effect later this year.

Sample questions devised by the Federal Government:

 

1. Which colours are represented on the Australian flag?

a. Green and yellow

b. Red, black and yellow

c. Blue, red and white

d. Orange and purple

 

2. Indigenous people have lived in Australia for ...

a. At least 40,000 years

b. About 8000 years

c. About 800 years

d. Less that 400 years

 

3. Australia's national flower is the ...

a. Rose

b. Wattle

c. Kangaroo paw

d. Banksia

 

4. Which is a popular sport in Australia?

a. Ice hockey

b. Water polo

c. Cricket

d. Table tennis

 

5. Australia's political system is a ...

a. Parliamentary democracy

b. Monarchy

c. Dictatorship

d. Socialist state

 

6. The Capital of Australia is...

a. Sydney

b. Melbourne

c. Hobart

d. Canberra

 

7. Which animals are on the Australian Coat of Arms?

a. Wombat and echidna

b. Kangaroo and emu

c. Kangaroo and dingo

d. Lion and unicorn

 

8. Where did the first European settlers to Australia come from?

a. Spain

b. France

c. England

d. Ireland

 

9. Who is Australia's head of state?

a. Prime Minister John Howard

b. Queen Elizabeth II

c. Governor General Michael Jeffery

d. Premier Steve Bracks

 

10. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?

a. Sir Edmund Barton

b. Sir Henry Parkes

c. John Curtin

d. Sir Robert Menzies

 

11. What song is Australia's national anthem?

a. God Save the Queen

b. Star Spangled Banner

c. Advance Australia Fair

d. Waltzing Matilda

 

12. What do you call the elected head of a state government?

a. Governor

b. Premier

c. Mayor

d. Prime Minister

 

13. Which federal political party or parties are in power?

a. Australian Labor Party

b. Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens

c. National Party

d. Liberal Party and National Party

 

14. Which of the following are Australian values?

a. Men and women are equal

b. `A fair go'

c. Mateship

d. All of the above

 

15. Australia's values are based on the ...

a. Teachings of the Koran

b. The Judaeo-Christian tradition

c. Catholicism

d. Secularism

 

16. What does Anzac Day commemorate?

a. The Gallipoli landing

b. Armistice Day

c. The Battle of the Somme

d. Victory in the Pacific

 

17. In what year did the first European settlers arrive?

a. 1801

b. 1770

c. 1788

d. 1505

 

18. How many states are there in Australia?

a. 5

b. 6

c. 7

d. 8

 

19. Australian soldiers fought in ...

a. World War I and World War II

b. Korean War

c. Vietnam War

d. All of the above

 

20. What is Australia's biggest river system?

a. The Murray Darling

b. The Murrumbidgee

c The Yarra

d. The Mississippi

 

Answers:

1) C, 2) A, 3) B, 4) C, 5) A, 6) D, 7) B, 8) C, 9) B, 10) A, 11) C, 12) B, 13) D, 14) D, 15) B, 16) A, 17) C, 18) B, 19) D, 20) A

I got 20/20, but I'm a nerd and actually listened when I went to school...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Stupid masses...

Got a question for you, if you ran a business supplying a much sought after and decreasing product, would you try to A) make as much money as you can now or B) sell the product at a modest profit to keep your customers happy even though they will buy the product even if you doubled the price?

Gallons

Like most people in business, I am guessing you chose option A. Now apply that situation to the oil companies. Lately as petrol prices have started to creep up, even though the price per barrel of oil has levelled off, the oil companies have been copping it from all sides. Sure they are making big profits, but that is outweighed by the limited lifespan of the business they are in.

Do people believe they have a right to get cheap petrol? Oil companies aren't there to be a charity for the masses. They are there to serve their shareholders and to make money for them. If they could charge AU$2 per litre (~US$6.50 per gallon) for fuel and people would pay for it (and the government not regulate them), I think they would. I think an old saying said it best 'Make hay while the sun shines'. At present the sun is shining for the oil producers of the world, production is at its highest levels ever and we are consuming every bit of oil that they can give us.

The oil comnpanies know that oil will eventually run out, estimates of between 20-80 years are common and there are new technologies in the pipeline (electric, hydrogen, etc) that will reduce the world's reliance on oil which will either put the oil companies out of business or force them to cut back on the scale of their operations significantly.

If people were truly pissed off with paying the current AU$1.40 per litre in AUstralia, $3 a gallon in the US or 94p per litre in the UK they would just reduce the amount they drive and use other methods of transport.

The same people whinging are also the same people that drive 4WDs, Falcons and Commodores, some of the biggest fuel users on our roads. Why don't they get a smaller car, or at least a car with a smaller engine, or convert? Stop ya whinging and find a way around it. Whinging about fuel prices won't mean shit when we run out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ethanol is coming...

I read with some surprise this morning that the NSW Government has decided to put in place a compulsory ethanol percentage in all fuel to be sold in NSW.

From ABC Online:

Ethanol to be in every NSW car

New South Wales is set to become the first state to mandate the use of ethanol in petrol.

 

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Regional Development, Tony Kelly, says the plan is for fuel to contain 2 per cent Ethanol from September onwards.

 

Mr Kelly says the move will have many benefits for the environment and rural Australia.

 

"The time for talk on Ethanol is over," he said.

 

"The Federal government has gone missing on biofuel, so it's up to the states and territories now to lead the way."

 

"I've outlined to Parliament the Government's intention to implement the 2 per cent mandate to meet the desired timeframe, and we'll shortly bring legislation before parliament."

 

"It's also fantastic for the environment. It helps reduce the effect on the environment particularly smog particles."

 

"It also replaces the fuel we import from overseas. A decade ago we imported $488 million worth of fuel from overseas. Last year we imported $10 billion worth."

Is this really worth an announcement? 2 per cent? Is that all. At least make a real damn effort and make it 10 or 15 per cent.

No matter what the percentage the increased use of ethanol will be good for CO2 emissions as it is much closer to being carbon neutral than the current oil based products are.

But the piece of information that got me was this:

"It's also fantastic for the environment. It helps reduce the effect on the environment particularly smog particles."

What a blatant lie to give to the public. Ethanol actually creates more smog through the emission of unburnt ethanol from a car's exhaust.

From a New Scientist article on a Stanford environment model:

The findings run counter to the idea that ethanol is a cleaner-burning fuel. Cars running on gasoline emit a number of pollutants – including nitrogen dioxide and organic molecules like acetaldehyde – that react with sunlight to form ozone.

 

Along with many of the same pollutants as gasoline, a large amount of unburned ethanol gas escapes into the atmosphere. That vapour readily breaks down in sunlight to form acetaldehyde, which can send ozone levels soaring.

 

While ethanol-burning cars will emit fewer carcinogens such as benzene and butadiene, they will spew out 20 times as much acetaldehyde as those using conventional fuel, Jacobsen found.

 

Ozone is one of the main constituents of smog, which carries a number of health risks.

My biggest concern with the use of ethanol is what plant matter is used in the production of the ethanol. At present in the US, the main crop that is used to produce ethanol is corn, which can produce 3461 litres of ethanol per hectare, which is considered to be quite low, and at a cost of US$142 per ton. There are many other crops which are far more efficient producers of ethanol than corn is.

A few other ethanol crops source (from Wikipedia):

Miscanthus - 14031 L/ha, US$70/ton

Switchgrass - 10757 L/ha, US$40/ton

Sweet Potatoes - 10000 L/ha

Sugar Cane - 6192 L/ha, US$315/ton

Corn - 3461 L/ha, US$142/ton

As you can see there are many other better crops for ethanol production than Corn, and for that matter Sugar Cane. I can't find the figures now, but I have read that Hemp produces 4 times as much ethanol as corn and is cheaper to produce as well.

Another very major concern with using ethanol is diverting food crops into the production of ethanol which will cause the price of food to increase. We have already had some major increases in food prices due to the drought, you just imagine what would happen if more crops and water were diverted into the production of ethanol. There is also the concern of farmland reduction due to salinity.

I don't think ethanol is the answer to the world's dependence on oil, but it could be used in the medium term until a better solution comes along. For example, there has been a fair bit of research into a process called 'Thermal Depolymerization' which is explained as follows:

Thermal depolymerization (TDP) is a process for the reduction of complex organic materials (usually waste products of various sorts, often known as biomass and plastic) into light crude oil. It mimics the natural geological processes thought to be involved in the production of fossil fuels. Under pressure and heat, long chain polymers of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons with a maximum length of around 18 carbons.

At present the process is in operation, but the cost of its oil is around US$80 a barrel, a bit higher than the dino juice that it could replace. But as oil costs increase, the TDP process will become more viable. And there is no shortage of waste production from humans (US EPA estimates 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day), this process can use a wide range of waste products from offal to vegetable waste to sewage in the production of oil.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What is wrong with Digg...

What is Digg?

Digg is a user driven social content website. Ok, so what the heck does that mean? Well, everything on digg is submitted by the digg user community (that would be you). After you submit content, other digg users read your submission and digg what they like best. If your story rocks and receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of digg visitors to see.

Digg.com, the first of now many social news sites started off as a purely tech site that did a great job of using its users to aggregate the very best news stories. As soon as I found digg.com it was added to my daily read list (now my RSS reader) as it managed to get tons of stories much quicker than any other tech news site like Slashdot or Engadget.

According to Alexa, the unofficial internet site ranking company, Digg is now in the top 100 web sites out there and with that comes a massive readership. Unlike its forbears, as Digg became more popular, Digg diversified from purely tech news and spread into general news, politics and even video links.

All this is good stuff as it makes it easy for me to get all the news I want, albeit only the popular stuff makes it to the front page. But it has it's problems, which are listed below:

  • Story Rigging - As with anything on the web, anybody with anything to sell or an agenda to push try many methods to get the maximum numbers of readers visit their site. These people have researched the Digg alorithms and worked out ways to promote their stories to the front page with amazing regularity.
  • Dupe Commenters - At the speed that stories are submitted to Digg and go through the digg cycle, it is very easy to miss many stories unless you are 'plugged in' every second of the day. There is a habit for people to complain about a story previously being on Digg maybe only 4-6 hours before, but enough time has past for the story to fall off the front page.
  • Zealots - Digg is not alone on this one, but through Digg's diverse nature it has attracted many types of zealots to one spot, where Slashdot seems to have the Linux zealot crowd, Digg has large amounts of Mac, Nintendo, X-Box, PS3, AMD and Linux zealots.
  • Groupthink - Shown to be most evident in the recent HD-DVD debacle, there seems to be a massive sheep fest on certain issues like: the aforementioned HD-DVD issue, anti-Bush stories, Steve Jobs lovers, etc. It seems that a very loud minority gives Digg a bad name through there very vocal and sometimes vitriolic support of certain issues. I don't think that all these commenters actually believe what they push but seem to love the power given to them as a group to hide anything that goes against the groupthink.

It seems that Digg's strength of letting the users decide what gets to the front page and gets the most exposure is also its biggest weakness. No matter how it is implemented, taking any sort of editorial control will start to limit the range of stories available on Digg and then it will become just an semi-independent extension of the mainstream media. And we definitely don't need more mainstream media. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Perth Auto Show - 2007 - My views...

The Good

CRW_2701

Volkswagen Caddy Life

One of those odd cars that only VW could produce. Take a Golf and stretch it vertically, add a bike carrier to the roof (nevermind low clearances) and add a million storage places in the wagon for all those bits every young adventurer would need. The idea seems a bit odd, it is, but somehow it all seems to fit together quite well. They won't sell many but that will be part of the allure for the very brand conscious demographic it is targetted at. Add in a frugal turbo diesel and you'll get the green market too.

CRW_2682CRW_2680

Lotus Europa S

Based loosely on the Elise chassis, it is the car for those who want a bit more luxury than what the Elise offers. Admittedly, that isn't hard. The only downside is the pissy little 2.0 litre turbo GM Ecotec motor that is used. It needs a small grunty V6 with the option of a supercharger.

CRW_2647

Honda Civic Type-R

I don't know if it was the colour or not, but this car demands your attention straight away. The shape is really good, it takes the bubble look of the Pug 206/207 and improves on it. The bonus of a 150 kW VTEC motor under the bonner just makes the thing seem all that more cool. If priced right, this car will be a serious contender in the hot hatch market. The question is, would you take this over a Astra VXR?

CRW_2638CRW_2633CRW_2631

Mitsubishi Lancer Concept Sportback

Think of the Lancer and one of two things pops into your head, pov-pack Lancer coupe/sedan with steel wheels and breathless 1.5 litre single cam motor (optional Milo tin exhaust and Bob Jane special rims) or the fire breathing EVO models. If you haven't seen the new Lancer, the front end mathes this perfectly, even the base models. They have finally put some class into the Lancer line. Lets just hope the build quality improves as much as the looks have.

CRW_2627

Mercedes Benz CL-Coupe

It is a Merc. It is a big Coupe. It is loaded with luxury and techy tricky bits. I reckon this is one of the best looking Benz' in a long time (no more bug eyes).

CRW_2607

Subaru Factory Tarmac

At $160,000+, it would be the best way to get into a Targa capable to run at the front. If you could drive it that is. The Factory Tarmac comes with integrated roll cage, race seats, blueprinted engine, active centre diff, carbon fibre bits, FIA fuel cell, etc. A perfect way to get into tarmac rallying.

CRW_2604

Volvo C30

Finally a small Volvo that looks good. Can you ever forget the Volvo 440? Oh, the horror...

CRW_2578

Ford Fiesta XR4

As one of the tiny hot hatch brigade this is gonna sell like hot cakes. The stripes look naff but the rest of the package will compete well with the likes of the Polo GTi and Swift Sport. 0-100 in 7.9 and less than 8L/100 km (PULP) should be adequate.

CRW_2574CRW_2573

Nissan 350Z Convertible

The 350Z has always been one of those cars that gets a look when it drives by and the Convertible is no different. Especially in this colour. My photos don't do justice to this amazing colour. Although the colour may date quickly.

CRW_2702CRW_2564

Volkswagen Golf R32

Take a VW Golf that already has adeqauate power and handling and add a 3.2 L V6 and the quattro all-wheel-drive system and you have the Golf R32. Tons of grunt and tons of grip.

CRW_2556

Proton Gen 2

Proton previous offerings of slightly modified 5+ year old Mitsubishi models were absolutely woeful vehicles. Finally it seems Proton have developed some sort of style and engineering and produced the Gen 2. A good looking car in itself with suspension tuning by sudsidiary Lotus. The build quality still sucks but at least it has some balls to run with before the doors fall off.

The Bad

CRW_2659CRW_2660CRW_2677

Holden Epica

Another Daewoo sourced piece of shit to replace a much superior European made vehicle. 'Nuff said.

CRW_2601

Chrysler PT Cruiser Cabrio

The answer to the question that nobody asked. I have one question and one question only. Why? A total of 6 was sold in Australia in the first 3 months of this year so Chrysler must have high hopes.

The Ugly

CRW_2653

Toyota Corolla

Some were hoping the new Camry and Aurion were an indication that Toyota got rid of its bland design squad, but then the new Corolla comes along and I think the bland boys and girls have been given a raise.

CRW_2580CRW_2579

Ford Focus Convertible

Unexciting convertible variation of a good car. I'm sure this will drive well and be a good car overall but the boring styling just doesn't cut it.

CRW_2572CRW_2571

Nissan Micra

When will the Japanese manufacturers work out that the JDM micro car styling just doesn't work outside Japan. Take a frog and put a glass tumour on its back and you have the Micra. Of course in colours like shown above, some people (women and gay folk) will see it as cute and buy it. Use the Daihatsu Copen as a previous example.

The Absolutely Terrible

CRW_2686CRW_2688

Hummer H3

I know American made cars aren't the best made cars in the world (Chrysler 300C interior for one), but the Hummer took my opinions much lower. Let me list the things I picked up on this piece of crap in my very brief encounter with the H3:

  • Doors could be moved on the hinge pins creating a loud clunking sound
  • Rear door could be replaced with a timpani drum and be quieter when it was closed, plus it was possible to pop the front doors open just by shutting the rear door
  • The middle rear seat passenger has to sit on a concealed dual Big Gulp capable drink holder
  • Interior plastic trim comes off with a small tug, how it would survive an off-road excursion puzzles me

At this point I vacated the vehicle and escaped before the car (term used loosely) before it killed me.