Tip for people thinking of returning to Australia

If you're thinking of moving back to Australia from London after an extended stay, check the El Nino-Southern Oscillation and if it looks like we're headed into a La Nina phase, stay in London. It'll be dryer!

It's rained so much since we got back to Sydney. The last couple of weeks have been insane. It looks like it's gonna be a very very wet Winter.

In other news, we saw a house today that we just might sell ourselves into debt slavery for.

Why are worm farms so expensive?

Worms farms are pretty simple pieces of equipment. You have a few layers of trays where you put your veggie scraps and worms, separated by a perforated mesh that the worms can move through. The top and bottom are sealed to keep the worms in and insects out, while collecting (very fertile) liquid at the very bottom. You fill the bottom tray with scraps, then move on to the next tray up. When the worms are done with the bottom tray, you empty it into your garden as wonderful compost and soil improver, move that tray to the top and continue.

Most worm farms are made out of molded plastic. The structures are very simple. The material is cheap. The Chinese manufacturing miracle should be able to churn these things almost for free.

Thing is, the cheapest I've been able to find is $65 from The Watershed, run by Marrickville and Sydney councils. At Bunnings the cheapest is about $80, yet you can buy a Mitre Saw, full of complex machinery and electronics, for $30. Someone, somewhere is making a lot of profit on these worm farms.

If anyone out there has any expertise in plastics moulding and mass manufacturing, there's a lot of money to be made undercutting these price gougers.

One option is to make your own, but it shouldn't be so hard!

J2ME Jabber client that doesn't suck?

Now that I can do GPRS at only mildly extortionate rates ($0.0058 per kb from Exetel, thanks to Graeme's tip) I've been playing with Jabber clients on my mobile. It can be kinda handy, and it's kinda cool. Problem is, all the clients I've found are either seriously crap or lilwannabebillgatesware.

So does anyone know of a Jabber client for J2ME (or native Symbian) that is free/libre and doesn't suck?

I also wonder if you can get one that gzip compresses the Jabber stream. The Jabber protocol is _incredibly_ verbose XML, which means it could cost quite a bit uncompressed but would be easily compressed.

Safari for Windows: that didn't last long

I just downloaded Safari, Apple's web browser, and installed it on the Windows machine here at work. It didn't stay on my hard drive long.

First problem is it doesn't support proxy servers. Presumably this is a beta "feature" which will be fixed soon. Second thing is it refuses to act in a Windows-ish way, instead having all the sizzle and CPU-burning features of OSX. Bollocks to that! If I wanted all that crap, I'd run OSX.

This is a pretty common thing for Apple to do. It's also the reason I don't have Quicktime installed. I can't stand applications that unilaterally decide to ignore all the UI standards of the host OS. Imagine how rabid the Apple fanbois would be if a Windows application didn't do things in an OSX-ish way?

Regardless, all I wanted to do is be able to test sites in Safari. It'll have to wait until proxies work.

A lesson on why you should use free software

Much of my work uses Skype for instant messaging and since the development is in completely the wrong timezone, I have to run it. This meant I installed it on my laptop at home. Recently though it's been crashing my entire machine. Full, hard lockup. Not sure what freaky stuff they're doing, but it's a good reminder to stick with free software.

Looks like I'm not the only one too.

Church sticks nose into state

A delusionary man who believes in fairies has stuck his nose into NSW politics threatening our representatives with "consequences" if they support a law expanding stem cell research. Evidently this theist doesn't recognise the need to separate church and state.

What's happening here is quite clear, but they'd never admit it out loud. They lost the argument on abortion. Abortion is widely supported in the community, including by many of the less rabid theists. Now they're trying to achieve the same aim by other means.

This from a man who says abortion is worse than pedophilia. At least with the latter, being in the Catholic church, he's likely to have some first-hand experience.

Telstra could use existing infrastructure

Things are hotting up with the FTTN (fibre to the node, a technology that puts a fibre to the end of your street and uses high-speed copper for the rest) debate in Australia. It's quite worrying because Telstra's spin is all aimed at forcing the government to make a rash decision before the election. Such a decision would almost certainly re-entrench Telstra's monopoly.

Some are asking why we need FTTN. It promises amazingly fast speeds, and is a stepping stone to full FTTH (fibre to the home). That's all well and good, but there's nothing to say we really need it right now. In fact, a relic from the early 90s battle between Optus and Telstra could be used to demonstrate why we need FTTN speeds.

Running past my house are two cables for cable TV and data. The latest standards allow up to 160Mbit/s downstream and up to 120Mbit/s upstream on these cables. The architecture of this cable is that as bandwidth demands increase, they can add more capacity by running fibre closer and closer to homes.

So if Telstra really wants to push this agenda, why are the maximum speeds available through their cable only capable of 17Mbit/s down and 256kbit/s upstream? As always Telstra are huffing and puffing, but they could deliver FTTN and faster speeds to a fair number of consumers today!

Fuck you Virgin Mobile!

Where on this page does it say that you can't get 3G internet access with this company's pre-pay SIM cards? That's right, it doesn't.

I churned over because $5/month for 50 megs would be much cheaper than Vodafone's extortionate $1 minimum per use of the Internet, and $1/minute (despite the fact it's a packet-switched service). But if it becomes $20/month plus the $5/month, which would be the minimum to go on a post-pay plan, that suddenly becomes bloody expensive!

I shall be getting my $20 for the SIM card refunded once I've churned somewhere else. Anyone got any suggestions for pre-pay phone providers who don't rape you for modest data requirements? All I want is to be able to sync my calendar and occasionally do some light browsing while waiting for a bus or whatever.