Busy weekend of bathroom shopping and free stuff

We've had a very busy weekend getting all the bits we need for our bathroom renovation. The whole bathroom is getting gutted today, so we had to get a bath, toilet, vanity, cupboard and all the bits. We got the tiles the previous weekend. Lots of driving around, but we found everything we needed at pretty reasonable prices, I thought. The built-in cupboards we had installed last weekend also mean we don't need our freestanding storage stuff any more.

This means there'll be a bunch of stuff going onto freecycle. So if you're after a bath, toilet base, chest of drawers or bedside table with drawers, let me know and I won't put it on freecycle.

Firefox tip: delete an autocomplete entry

This is one of those things that's obvious once you know it, but solves a real problem beforehand. You're using firefox with autocomplete switched on. You make a mistake filling out a form once, and find that forever onwards the mistake exists in your autocomplete list. Let's say it's a phone number, and you mistyped it. You could very easily select the wrong autocomplete entry.

Now this is cool. Select the autocomplete entry with the up/down arrows on your keyboard. Press the "Delete" key. The erroneous autocomplete entry is gone forever.

So simple, but so handy. Not something you would necessarily find without being prompted. My thanks to the tester with the mostest, Brad, for showing me that one.

Spectacularly bad UI

Select and click Delete

Wow Ricoh really take the cake here. My work has some Ricoh photocopiers with an excellent feature, you can use them as scanners. Great feature. Lousy user interface.

Once you're scanned your page, you go back to your desk to load it up. You can download it in PDF or TIFF, but only after you've worked out you need to click the "Properties" icon first. The inscrutible interface gets much, much worse though.

To delete your file from the server, you have to tick the checkbox for your file, then click the big "Delete" button. You then get this screen:

don't click remove, click Delete File

You might think selecting the file name (which, of course, is a randomly chosen file name, and you get no indication of what the file name represents) and clicking [Remove] might delete the file? No, you're actually going through another selection step and removing it from the selection. You need to click "Delete File" after selecting (again) your file. Gah!

1 terabyte is now under 300 bucks!

An important threshold has been passed. 1 terabyte of external storage is under $300 at a mainstream vendor. Wow!

I could get all old fogie and reminisce about the old days, our first 10 megabyte hard drive for the TRS-80. But we woz happy, and all that.

But I won't. What this means is that storage size is now just insane. If you had important data on one of these, how the hell could you safely keep it backed up? On the other hand, it removes one barrier about moving my MythTV system to high definition...

Great cabling

My uncle is putting built-in cupboards in our bedroom. There's a phone jack in the bedroom, right in the way of where he's building cupboards. He asked me if I wanted the phone jack, and I said no, so he ripped the sucker out. Internet dies. Phone in kitchen still working. WTF?

Turns out the telephone cabling is rather ridiculous. The cable comes in at the front of the house, runs to the kitchen, then runs back to the bedroom and is linked from there to the front room, where the ADSL modem is. Insanity!

Hopefully will get some cabling done this weekend. Central splitter, shorten the phone cabling to just hook to the front room and use the VOIP port of the modem to link to the kitchen phone. Will pull Cat6 through the house.

I've found a very reasonably priced cabling gear shop just around the corner. How convenient!

Children of Men

I signed up to Quickflix recently on their free trial. The service is good, but I don't think we get through enough movies to make keeping it worthwhile.

However, one of the movies we got was Children of Men. I remember reading rave reviews of this when it first came out and had long meant to catch it, but hadn't got around to it. Now I see why the reviews were so positive. It's a brilliant film.

Sci-fi has to balance an interesting premise with a well-told story. Far too often, a great premise isn't enough to hold your attention without good storytelling (I'm looking at you, Philip K Dick). This film gets the balance about perfect, with a really interesting premise and a masterful texture. The story itself is suspenseful enough to keep you hooked.

The most exciting part of this film was its textures, the background of a decaying society and dark forces swirling. I've always been a fan of distopian near-future, and there are plenty of elements of Max Headroom and Mad Max in this movie, along with some modern twists of refugees to accompany the societal collapse.

Loved this film and if you haven't seen it, I'd strongly recommend you get it out and watch it.

Background Briefing: Greenwashing

I've been a long time listener of the ABC's Background Briefing, ever since I was interviewed for one of the programmes back in 1998. It's always well-researched and very interesting. What's more, they were one of the first ABC programmes to allow downloads of full programmes.

I listened to Greenwashing expecting it to be about public relations and other evils. It is somewhat, but it looks specifically at environmental claims about products, so it's still very interesting.

They interview Professor Ben Selinger who chaired many of the standards committees that defined the minimums for cleaning products in the 70s. There are some quite interesting comments he made, such as a dishwashing liquid claiming to be "biodegradable" is meaningless, since that is required of that product category by law. Lots of other comments about the make-up of various "green" products, which basically seem to be no or, at best, marginally better environmentally than their mainstream competitors.

His most interesting remark is this: Some people ask me which one I buy, I always buy the product on special.

Great doco, and well worth a listen.

Eco Choices for Home Renovators

rough draft drawing of our shed

I did a class run by The Watershed on Monday night, Eco Choices for Home Renovators. This is my second class from this organization, the first being a worm farming workshop.

They're funded by the City of Sydney and Marrickville councils to promote sustainability in the area and their courses are excellent, and free!

The class covered many of the basics which I know well, about passive solar design, materials choices, embedded energy, energy efficiency, volatile organic compounds and the like, but was a good recap. What's more, there were great case studies and samples of materials that can be used.

We're renovating our bathroom and installing built-in wardrobes next week, with my uncle staying with us to do the work, so I'll be putting some of these ideas into action there.

Where I'll really use it, though, is in the design of the shed/office building we're planning for the back garden. I'm planning to integrate passive solar principles, as well as enormous amounts of insulation, into the design to get away with absolutely minimal heating and cooling. To that end, I've starting drawing it in SketchUp, which is an amazingly easy-to-use 3D modelling tool from Google. It's just a shame it doesn't run under Linux, which means I have to do it at work. Above you'll see my first crack at it, which isn't very accurate as I'm still learning the tool.

I've already changed my mind about some of the features of the design you see here, and I'll be working on it a lot over the next few months. Will show you future drawings here.

For context, it's going along the back of this garden.


Swan is indeed inexperienced

That's right opposition fucktards, Wayne Swan is inexperienced as Treasurer. He's never been Treasurer of Australia before. Then again, neither has Tony Smith. In fact, Tony Smith has never been a government minister.

Perhaps, if experience is the main criteria, we should bring back the most experienced Treasurer from the Labor Party. He'd certainly have a great line to slap down dickheads like Tony Smith in Question Time.

Web mockups

The marketing gurus at my work want to redesign our online ordering system. What we ended up with is certainly problematic, but at the time was about as much as we could get into the scope of this huge project. It makes sense, now that the dust has settled, to revisit and massively improve it.

The trouble is, there were a lot of thought that went into the specific flow we finally got. A lot of complex, important decisions were made, and they haven't necessarily been documented.

To help in our design process, I suggested we go straight to proper mockups, skipping the wireframe stage since we're pretty clear on what we want. Now I'm digging around for the best way to do this.

The mockups need to have the majority of the form logic we'll be using, as the form logic is the most important part of our improvements. We need to shake out the dependent questions we'll need to ask, so we can structure it all properly.

So, dear lazyweb, does anyone have any tips for tools or techniques to use in mockups? These need to be more than just "white site" type stuff, though styling isn't anything like as important as the underlying logic.