Fruit trees are in

Apples and passionfruitPlums

I planted out all the fruit trees and vines today. There's two types of apple, Dwarf Dorsett Golden and Dwarf Tropical Sweet, two types of plum, Maiposa and Narabeen, and two types of passionfruit, the familiar Black and one called Sunshine Special. They all came from Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery up in Kyogle.

You may be concerned that I've put them so close together. This is intentional, as I'm following the Backyard Orchard Culture idea, where you grow fruit trees much closer together than normal, and the trees compete with each other. This, and aggressive pruning, keeps the tree sizes manageable. In a small inner city backyard, this is the only way to go really. It also means I get some cross pollination and more varities. We'll see how it goes.

Also in amongst the apple trees and passionfruit is a Comfrey Bocking 14 from Digger's Club. This plant apparently digs deep and pulls up trace minerals from the sub-surface, making it a valuable compost and mulch crop.

One side of the gardenThe
other side of the garden

The garden is really starting to take shape. Two nice garden beds, the fruit is in. I get the feeling we're nearing the end of Winter and in the next few weeks, the weather will really turn. Then this garden is going to go nuts! I can't wait to get the Spring plantings in, though we're still waiting to harvest broad beans, brocolli, silverbeet, kale, parsnips and brussels.

Channel 7 misses the digital point

Channel 7 holds the rights to broadcast the Olympics, but clearly doesn't get the possibilities that digital television brings.

Last night was the first football match, with Australia's mens team playing Serbia. The game started at 19:00 Sydney time, but Seven delayed coverage until 21:00. What's more, they interrupted coverage to cut to the announcement of the flag carrier for the opening ceremony. Then they broke for an ad at the forty minute mark, in other words with only about five minutes to half time.

This kind of thing is completely avoidable with digital television. They could have very easily used spare bandwidth on their transmitter to show the football match live, while keeping their main-channel programming.

The DVB standard, used for digital terrestrial television in Australia and most of the world outside North America, allows for all kinds of dynamic reconfiguration of channels and bandwidth. In Australia the mandate for high definition television reduces the available bandwidth, there are alternatives.

For example, the bandwidth on the high def channel could be reduced during the Olympics. Or Channel 7 could lease spare bandwidth from some of the other broadcasters, perhaps with some revenue sharing -- DVB receivers are very flexible with where the programming comes from.

This kind of setup would be useful throughout the Olympics. There's loads of concurrent stuff going on, so why not show more of it? If the broadcasters want to push the digital switchover, using the technology to its full capacity during such a high-profile event would surely help.

Another alternative would have been to allow SBS, the "complementary" broadcaster for the Olympics, to carry all the football. SBS are the acknowledged home of football in Australia, and we would have ended up with good live coverage and knowledgable presenters. I'm not the only one to suggest this, of course.

As an aside, aren't the Chinese spectators subdued? I've seen more lively funerals than last night's football match!

GroceryWatch

So the ACCC has launched the new "GroceryWatch" site, GroceryChoice, which gives comparisons of a basket of goods between supermarkets. I wonder how hard it would be to game this system, if you could work out what was in each basket? Dropping the price of a single item could have a big impact.

UK retailers do this with what they call "known value items", such as milk, bread, eggs and bananas. Customers know how much these normally cost, so by dropping the prices on just those items, customers get the illusion of cheap prices and get stung on the prices of goods they can't so easily compare.

The best news from the supermarket inquiry is that the government will bring in mandatory unit pricing reporting. I wrote to the NSW fair trading minister about this a few years ago, with the response that there wasn't demand or need. Unit pricing means the supermarket shelves will tell you the price per standard unit, for example price per 100ml or 100g. Next time you're in a supermarket, compare the prices of 400g and 800g cans of tomatoes. The 800g cans cost more than double the price of a 400g can.

The site itself seems fairly well designed, though the colour scheme isn't ideal. Yellow-on-green isn't really ideal. There's a "latest news" and "subscribe" option but no RSS feeds?

The papers managed to find someone prepared to moan about the site, because he has vision and mobility problems. Sorry Mr Kerr, it's not the web designer's job to show you how to turn on the disability options of your software. They've done everything that they should (though the colour choice isn't helpful) to make it easy for you. Learn where the options for a user-defined stylesheet and minimum font-size are, and use them. Better yet, I bet you're using Internet Exploder. Try Firefox and see the zoom option -- it rocks! (Ctrl + and Ctrl - or Ctrl and the mouse wheel). If you still need more help, there are other tools that will help.

Fastway do it again!

Fastway courier forges delivery signature again

Yet again, Fastway couriers fraudulently forge a signature to "prove" delivery. At least this time they didn't forge my own name. In this case, the courier didn't bother to knock. We were in bed at the time and heard the delivery.

If you run a business selling things by mail order, do not use Fastway couriers. There's a reason they're the cheapest! You pay less and gain extra disgruntled customers.

In other news, my fruit trees have arrived! Can't wait to plant them out.

Weekend of garden bed making

Earlier in the week I thought I'd missed fruit trees, but suddenly one of the suppliers has got some more stock. So I've quickly ordered some trees today. I'm changing tack slightly, as according to Backyard Orchard Culture you can grow multiple trees very close together. The advantages of this are that you get more variety, cross-pollination and the trees compete with each other, resulting in smaller and more manageable trees.

So on this note I've ordered two apples and two plums. I'll grow them very close together near our fences. That should mean a decent bounty of fruit. Also ordered two passionfruit vines, to run up the fence. Next Winter I might look at ripping out the ornamentals (weeds, I say!) in the front garden and replacing them with something more productive, like lemons and limes.

This weekend I'll have to make up the rest of the garden beds. It's gonna be a pretty big job as I have to mix five bags of sheep shit amongst the beds, but that should give the soil some good structure. At the moment it's pretty sandy on top, and a bit clay further down.

Do not call!

I just had a call from a telemarketer at my private health insurer (don't get me started on being forced to have one) trying to get me to sign up for their "Extras" cover. In case you don't know how this scam works, it's basically where you hand your insurer some more money, and they hand some of it back to you for things like running shoes, glasses and gym membership.

Now to my mind, insurance is all about things you can't budget for. Your house burns down. You get some debilitating and expensive-to-treat illness. I know I need to buy shoes, glasses and gym membership occasionally, and I budget accordingly.

What I've taken to doing with telemarketers who aren't covered by the government's Do Not Call register (like this one, where I am already a customer) is to point out that even if I wanted their product, I would very specifically not purchase it from a telemarketer. Here's hoping some of these places have a "does not respond to telemarketers" flag in their database. Saves both of us time and money.

Missed out on fruit trees this year

One of the things I wanted to get in early in our house was some fruit trees. But because we live in the inner city, we have some constraints over what we can plant.

We don't want something blocking out winter sun from our garden beds. We don't have a whole lot of space, so probably two fruit trees is all we can put in. And we're in Sydney, where temperatures rarely drop below 5°, which rules out an awful lot of deciduous fruit trees.

I'd like to have an apple and a plum, but the pollination requirements of both trees mean you need two of each, really. So if we went for apples, there are a number of low-chill varieties, but I seem to have missed most of the suppliers this year and they're all out of stock. Plums seem to have the same issues.

Anyone got any advice on this? Know of great varities that work well in the Sydney climate?

At this stage, it appears I might have to wait until next Winter to plant fruit trees. Though I'll definitely get a bunch of passionfruit in shortly.

Firefox search in the URL bar

It seemed people appreciated my last Firefox tip about deleting autocomplete entries. Here's another one.

If, like me, Wikipedia is your first point of call for just about any enquiry, here's a quick way to search for what you're after, without faffing about with search sidebars and the like.

What this tip does is allow you to type wp <search term>" in the URL bar and be instantly transported to the result of searching Wikipedia for that particular term. So type wp Eltham Palace and you'll be immediately taken to the page for the art deco masterpiece in South London.

Firefox search bookmark

To do this, create a bookmark with the Location set to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=%s&go=Go. Note the %s component, which will be filled with the search term. Put wp into the Keyword field of your bookmark. Now whenever you type wp followed by a space and then your search term, you'll go to the Wikipedia search.

Obviously this can be used for other searches. For example, I search the Internet Movie Database with http://imdb.com/find?s=all&q=%s&x=0&y=0. It's a brilliant way to search the sites you use all the time.

Add a Keyword for this Search in Firefox

Update: Andy Owen points out a much better way of doing this. Right-click on any search box and select Add a Keyword for this Search... which then pops up the bookmark window. Much easier than my method, and something you could explain to mere mortals who don't understand URLs.