A Family First of their own

Today's Crikey carries a letter that reminds us that Family First, currently causing problems for the ALP in the Senate, are a creation of... the ALP.

Andrew Burke writes: Every time Stephen Fielding casts his vote to defeat a government Bill, as he has with the luxury car tax, let's remember who's responsible for his election -- the Victorian ALP. If their preferences in 2004 had gone to the Greens rather than Fielding then there would have been one more Green vote and the Bill would have passed, with the Greens' sensible amendment to exempt efficient cars. Over the next couple of years it may prove to be a very painful mistake indeed.

Factional map of the ALP

Droopy Iemma

For those wanting to follow Australian politics, it's critical to understand the factional structure of the Australian Labor Party and the influence this has on events. For example, the Left has traditionally been given the Deputy Premiership of NSW, while the Premier has always (until this afternoon) been from the Right.

The problem for outsiders like me, trying to understand the internal machinations of the ALP, is to know which MP is aligned to which faction, never mind all the myriad sub-factions. Factions inside the ALP often hate each other more than they even hate members of other parties, and political bastardry is common within the ALP.

So what I'd like to know is this: is there a resource somewhere that lists all the ALP's MPs and the factions to which they're aligned? Is this perhaps something that should be attached to WikiProject Australian politics or similar? A category attached to each MP's Wikipedia page would be a good place to start.

Oh, and bye Morris, bye Costa. You won't be missed.

Coolest Chrome feature: search within page

Google Chrome search within page

So far this is my favourite little UI hack that I've found within Google Chrome. Kind of appropriate that a search engine company would get this right, I suppose.

If you're familiar with Firefox's search feature, Ctrl-F to enter a search term finds the results within the page progressively as you type in the little search box. Chrome moves the search box to the top-right and highlights the answers as you type. Even cooler, it highlights the location of matches in the current page along the side inside the scroll bar, so you can see the frequency of the search term.

That's so obvious now you wonder why nobody thought of it before, particularly given this is the same presentation used by graphical diff tools that developers use every day. Very cool.

Update: Julien Goodwin points out that this feature has been in Opera for over a year. I don't use Opera though, so I've never seen it.

Google Chrome: first looks

I've been playing around with Google Chrome this morning on my work (Windows) machine. This is Google's browser software, and I have to say I'm impressed. I had expected something a fair bit less polished, but instead we've got a near-usable browser already! Something that still hasn't happened with Apple's Safari on Windows. What's more, this will (soon) be available on all platforms.

The new browser is fast, stable, slick and smooth. The chrome-less interface is very impressive, and makes perfect sense when you consider the browser the centre of your computer interface, as Google intends. Memory use is very modest, with each tab separated out into its own process. In total it's using 175 megs of memory, versus 152 megs for Firefox for similar activity. Importantly though, it doesn't seem to bloat out with repeated use.

JavaScript works fine with Google applications, less well with some other sites. It's certainly zippy though! Gmail and Google Analytics zoom along nicely.

Developer tools look interesting so far, with a DOM inspector hidden under the confusingly-named JavaScript console -- there's a console there, but a whole lot more too! It would be hard to have FireBug-level functionality in this first release, but there's a good chunk of it there. I've got some work to do making sure everything works in this new browser, so the development tools (or lack thereof) will either make life easier or (as with IE) very hard.

The only thing I can see preventing me from making this my main browser is the lack of an ad blocker, but I'm sure one will be along shortly. Once it's available for Linux, with an ad blocker, I suspect I'll be making the switch.

Google discovers solvent abuse


We all thought the folks at Google were on crack. Turns out they've been on something quite a bit cheaper. Sometime "tomorrow" (though mentioned as "Tuesday", but probably Mountain View-centric time), Google Chrome will be released for Windows. It's Google's attempt at a browser, as leaked by Google Blogoscoped.

JavaScript process separation

It's well worth looking through the promotional comic about the design process and what they're aiming for. Complete process separation of browser tabs can only be a good thing, though I wonder how much of the web it will break. How will things like the iframe hacks Google themselves use to get around browser scoping remains to be seen. Though breaking them wouldn't be a terrible thing, provided there are other, more secure ways to achieve the same thing.

All in all, it looks very promising. More players in the web browser market can only force more innovation, so more power to them. Of course for those of us trying to make browsers work, it makes life a little more difficult for us. One more test target. Then again, the more browsers the more standards become important.

Windows only at launch, according to the official blog, with other versions following soon after. Hopefully not too far after!

Senate recommends ignorance on unit pricing

One of the government's laudable policies was a plan to introduce unit pricing into supermarkets. As seems to be common with this government, even this straightforward aim has been put on the inquiry treadmill which is really just a delaying tactic slowing down any real action. Instead of concrete action we have a preliminary action plan in response to the ACCC inquiry, recommending further consideration and no doubt further invitation to those wanting to avoid regulation.

I don't really support right-wing Xtian nutters, but I applaud Steve Fielding for introducing a bill to bring unit pricing in already. The Senate Inquiry report into his bill has been tabled and gives credence to the ridiculous claims of the supermarket chain.

The supermarkets bleat on about it all being too hard, it having some obscure impact on farmers and costing millions and millions. Let's be clear what's being demanded here: that supermarkets list the cost per kilogram or cost per litre alongside the price. Not rocket science now is it?

The Labor and Coalition committee recommends canning Fielding's bill, giving weight to the supermarkets' spurious claims. What a cop out!

Despite coming from someone who believes in fairies, Fielding's dissenting report is worth a read. It's suprisingly lucid.

Next time I'm in Woolies I'll be sure to take my camera. I want to demonstrate the need for unit pricing with their home brand cans of tomatoes. The 400g cans cost less than the 800g cans by unit. So you pay more if you buy bigger sizes. Ridiculous!

Scott's bucks night

Geo: -43.105311,147.72546

Scott and pig, together at last

On the weekend I flew down to Hobart for Scott's bucks night. It was held in a beautiful spot down on the Tasman Peninsula. About 20 of us camped out, drank a lot of beer and cooked up a whole pig on a spit. Great time had by all!

Ben and pig

The pig itself was spectacular. It took a long time to cook, and we had some technical issues with the spit method (the motor wasn't strong enough) but we made it through. Succulent, tender meat and absolutely perfect crackling. There's a lot of meat on a single pig. There must have been quite a few in Hobart who had pork fried rice for dinner last night!

Flight back was a bit messed up. They ended up diverting to Melbourne to refuel after there were delays in Sydney, so we didn't get home until 22:30 when we should have been home by 19:30.

Obama Yells at Hillary and Bitch Slaps Bill Clinton

Recently spammers have been taking the tabloid approach to get people to open their emails. There's been a lot of emails with subjects like Rare nude photos of Kate Moss, Paris Hilton Charges For Pussy, Paris Hilton violated by Gypsies. I suppose they're working on the principle that if it works for the mainstream media (just look at the "most popular" article lists of most newspapers) should work for them.

One that just wound up in my spam box was headlined Obama Yells at Hillary and Bitch Slaps Bill Clinton. If it wasn't clearly spam, I know I'd be interested in that! Sounds even better than Anti-war protesters menace intrepid Faux News reporter.

NSW Department of Fair Trading shows how not to do publicity

Step 1: Issue a press release that is reported on but doesn't give enough detail for consumers to take any meaningful action.

Step 2: Don't put the press release in the "Media releases" section of your web site, and put no information about the issue anywhere on your web site, least of all the home page. This works even better when the company involved doesn't seem to have a web site.

Step 3: Wash your hands of the problem, after all you did warn everyone! Too bad if nobody can work out exactly what products have been recalled.

I suppose our recently-installed bathroom light/fan/heater is okay since it is branded "IXL" which isn't in the ABC article's list. Though I've got no confidence about anything being accurate there.