Howard: the grumpy old codger

I didn't see last night's "debate" (how can you have a debatge when they agree on almost everything?) as we went to see the absolutely amazing Control, about the life of Ian Curtis of Joy Division. The consensus on the "debate" seems to be a Rudd win, with Howard coming across as even more an out-of-touch codger.

The rodent really has been starting to sound like the grumpy old codger in the corner. You almost expect him to come out with:

You kids never had it so good. Back in my day when there was a Labor government, we used to have to steal loaves of bread from union thugs so we'd have something to eat. But we was happy.

Crazy Egg rocks

Crazy Egg

Part of my job involves maintaining some of the reporting bits of various web sites. We use a combination of Google Analytics and WebTrends. I've just now discovered an amazing, but very narrowly targetted, tool.

Crazy Egg uses a little JavaScript include to track and report where users actually click on a page. It's designed to help you optimise your most important pages. It shows this information in a number of different ways, but the visual overlay "heatmap" is probably the most obvious. It shows you exactly where users clicked.

The shot shown here is of my contact page over the last weekend. Not too much data, but you can clearly see how people progress through and from the page. This would be really amazing stuff if you're optimising ordering pages or the like. It should give some interesting insights into our users.

One of the sites I look after has a page with about 2 million pageviews a month, mostly from people who've used the install disk and don't know how to change their home page. This is a demographic I don't really understand that well, so I can't wait to test out this tool on that page!

Crikey: I won't be renewing

I just got my renewal notice for Crikey, a daily email newsletter about Australian politics. I won't be renewing, even though there's an election coming up.

My main problem with Crikey is Christian Kerr, a member of the Canberra Press Gallery and right-wing ideologue. Crikey was started by Tories, so it's not surprising that most of its contributors tend to have fairly right-wing points of view, and that can be useful stuff to see things from another perspective.

What annoys me about Kerr is that, in between often quite incisive reporting and commentary, he feels the need to drop outrageous green and left baiting crap. It's the kind of thing you expect from the ideologues of the tabloids and talkback, like Piers Ackerman and Andrew Bolt. They write this kind of shit just to provoke a reaction. The more angry letters to the editor the better.

I signed up to Crikey so I didn't have to read crap like that. It's why I read The Guardian instead of the local weekend papers.

If Crikey is going to measure its commentators' success by the reaction they receive, which can really be the only reason they tolerate this shit from Kerr and the only reason they keep David Flint on the roster, it's not the publication for me.

Scott 24 Hour mountain bike race

The team

Last weekend Holly and I drove down to Canberra for the Scott 24 Hour mountain bike race. It's been described as the Glastonbury of mountain biking, and it's pretty amazing. Hundreds of riders all on the same course, with a real party atmosphere. Though it was quite funny sitting around shooting the shit on Friday night and nobody's drinking!

Our team did an amazing job, with someone constantly out on the trail for the whole 24 hours. I only managed two laps, with very slow times, as I just wasn't fit enough, and the climbing was a lot more intense than I expected. I know the scale of the challenge for next year now!

We were fortunate enough to have a great support crew. Holly, Kaz and Majella ensured we were watered, fed, motivated and running smoothly for the whole 24 hour period. An amazing effort and some great food. Kaz's meat and bean chilli jaffles were a real highlight -- perfect race food.

My lighting setup was always a bit of a worry. Our team only really had two lighting sets, so my one was pretty important. As it turned out, the torch worked brilliantly and between it and the headlamp, provided ample light. Graeme chipped in one of his Luxeon lamps as well, which provided a bit of a broad wash to complement the focussed spots.

I really enjoyed the night riding, so I think I might use the lights a bit more now with some night rides around the place.

A thoroughly good time had by all. We're all pretty keen to do it all again next year -- especially Majella who injured herself out of the race only a couple of weeks before.


Disappointed with the Nexus internal hub gears

I bought my commuter bike specifically to have minimal maintenance. In the last month I've been unlucky enough to cop two punctures in the rear tyre. The problem with this is that removing the wheel and putting it back is a fiddly, complicated business. It seems to me that the simplicity advantages of maintenance of the gears are blown away by the time it takes to fix a puncture. What's more, to get he wheel off I need to carry a spanner with me!

So I've put some Mr Tuffies in the tyres yesterday. These are a layer that's supposed to protect the tube from punctures caused by things like glass and thorns. I might put some Slime or similar product in there. I really really don't want more flats on this wheel.

When the tyre wears out, I'm going to look at some of these solid and/or tubeless tyres. I really don't care about weight or rolling resistance on this bike -- it's for commmuting. My absolute primary aim is reliability and minimal maintenance. I want to keep the tyres pumped, lube the chain and otherwise do nothing except for six-monthly services.

Any suggestions?

Gutters and tanks

Dear lazyweb, we've just got a quote for some Colorbond guttering to replace the rusted-through guttering on our new house. I'm exploring other options, given aluminium and PVC don't rust, and shouldn't be significantly more. There's also guttering systems that keep leaves out and don't require clearing. I'm thinking it might be worth combining this job with installation of water tanks and plumbing in the toilet and washing machine.

Anyone got any suggestions here? Know any good contractors for this kind of work? Have any ballpark figures for the difference in price for different materials?

Flight of the Conchords

After a throwaway comment made by Steve about this band and tv show, I thought I'd download it and check it out. It's absolutely brilliant! Holly and I have watched the first couple of episodes and it's truly hilarious.

Flight of the Conchords follows a Kiwi band trying to make it in New York. Their fanbase (that is, Mel, a married woman who seems to be creepily devoted to the band) never seems to grow and their gigs are generally rather pathetic affairs such as trade shows and aquariums. When they happen at all.

The humour is very subtle, with lots of self-deprecating digs at the Kiwi accent and insecurity about New Zealand's bigger, brasher neighbour. It's quite unlike most American sitcoms, but then that's probably because it's conceived by people who aren't American. The kind of people who know that irony isn't when it rains on your wedding day.

So check it out. It's running on BBC4 in the UK, and given it came out this year will probably be running on Australian free-to-air sometime before 2020. Somewhat sooner from your favourite torrent site.

Torch as bike light

LED torch
with bike mount

I'm doing the Scott 24 Hour mountain bike race this weekend with some mates. To mountain bike at night, you need decent lighting. The proper lighting kit is massively expensive and could easily be more expensive than my bike, so I needed a plan B.

So I bought an LED headlamp and very bright LED torch. The headlamp, fortunately, fits under my helmet. The torch is plenty bright, but I needed to work out a way to mount it. We had a few spare bike light mounting things floating around, so I combined two of them and fortunately they're able to screw together. So one goes around the handlebars, one goes around the torch. Quite neat really.

I'll test this setup out tonight on the way home, with the bumpy and dark backstreets of Erskineville being the test ground. My main worry is whether it'll be steady enough, as there is some movement in the joint. If so, I'm thinking some little bits of rubber acting as braking washers.

The other problem is the torch takes CR123A batteries -- those short, squat things that you put in cameras. These batteries are bloody expensive -- $12 each at Dick Smith! They're Lithium chemistry, which means they hold a fair whack of power, but I really have little idea what my burn time will be like, so I'll probably have to buy another set of these batteries and hope that'll be enough. Longer term I think I'll look at attaching some kind of big rechargeable battery pack.

iPhone is very impressive

One of the gadget freaks with too much spare money at work bought an cracked an iPhone to work in Australia. I just had a little play with it and have to say it's mighty impressive. Simple things like the automatic rotation when you rotate the device, the gesture multi touch user interface are very impressive. Just goes to show that Apple are very good at focussing on making the UI good.

Quite impressive. Most importantly, it'll give all the other providers a solid kick up the arse. Given I won't be buying any Apple products after being stung years ago, I'm keen to see how Nokia respond.