I've regularly thought about the imbalance between consumers and companies providing services. Having worked in telecommunications, it's really obvious. We have whole teams of people sitting around working out ways to confuse people and make our products impossible to compare. The number of otherwise intelligent people who will swear that their phone is "free" says the techniques work.
My new blog, Informed Consumer, aims to explore this area. The tricks and techniques used to confuse and prevent meaningful comparison, and some ideas of what the authorities can do to enable meaningful comparisons.
The aim is to get the ideas of openness in regulated industries onto the agenda. We've seen how easily big businesses can roll our governments with the Grocery Choice and FuelWatch debacles, so I'd like to help them on these issues.
With Grocery Choice, the arguments of the supermarkets should have been tackled head on, thrown back at the supermarkets. "The data will be out-of-date as we change prices in every store multiple times a day" should have seen the response "so you manage to distribute this pricing information to the checkouts, so you guys are kinda experts at this". "The information won't be meaningful" should have been answered "well work with us to make it meaningful, or we'll impose something on you." Industries that aren't scared of meaningful competition won't be scared of this approach.
So have a read of Informed Consumer and jump in! Those of you who've complained that I don't have comments on this, my personal blog, will be pleased to see I've got comments on this new blog.
I've been learning to drive in Sydney for the last few months with an excellent instructor who's been patient, thorough and reassuring. Tashman driving school has seen me through a bunch of lessons at varying times of day and traffic conditions, including a really severe hail storm in peak hour, night time traffic on Parramatta Road and the Hume Highway. I've really appreciated his excellent guidance.
As well as excellent guidance, Tashman is quite an accomplished self-promoter on his web site. He asked me to blog about his service, and I'm happy to recommend him.
After about twelve hours of lessons, I finally graduated to driving with Holly in our own car yesterday. It went fine, apart from one stupid near miss in a car park where I nearly hit a stationary object. I'm learning!
My beloved brother Anthony died unexpectedly last Friday in his flat in Belmore, Sydney. He will be remembered as a devoted father to his eight year old daughter, as a loving brother and son, and as a loving partner.
The Linux community has much to remember of Anthony. He was one of the early users of Linux in Australia, with his interest in Minix seeming to coincide with a certain Finnish programmer. I remember him rushing in to tell me about a new operating system he'd found, which promised to be more useful than Minix. I was a bit bewildered, wondering how something that took so long to boot and seemed to crash constantly could be of any use. While going through his things, I stumbled on these ancient Linux v0.12 floppies. Quite impressive historical artifacts.
Anthony spent much of the early years of Linux distributing the software to others in Australia. He had an (at the time rare) Internet account, and so was able to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. People would post or hand-deliver floppies for him to copy, and eventually he set up a bulletin board to allow people to download it. Soon enough he helped found the Sydney chapter of APANA, which was at the time one of the only ways ordinary Australians could get Internet access outside universities and a few big companies. His APANA node, lsupoz, was one of the first nodes in Sydney and at one point was the hub for the Sydney network, running from the front room of our parents' house.
Later on, Anthony set up a business distributing Linux software and merchandise around Australia with his wife Laura. They got Linux into thousands of sites, distributing CDs and propaganda by mail order and at conferences.
Outside the Linux world, Anthony had an active social and family life, especially his beautiful eight year old daughter Abigail, who he adored. He will be dearly missed by family, friends and his partner Rosetta.
I'll post some more about Anthony later.
Thanks for your kind words. Also thanks for the very kind emails and messages I've been receiving. They really are much appreciated.
- Anthony Rumble by Grant Parnell to SLUG
- Sad News: Vale Anthony Rumble by Donna Benjamin to LUV
- Anthony Rumble - Linux pioneer and enthusiast by conz
- Farewell to EverythingLinux founder by Suzanne Tindal
- Linux pioneer dies in tragic circumstances by David M Williams
- R.I.P Anthony Rumble by Roland Turner
The funeral for Anthony Rumble will be held 11:30 next Monday, 18th May 2009 in the Camellia Chapel at the Macquarie Park Crematorium.
No flowers please. There will be envelopes for donations to Epilepsy Action Australia at the funeral.
Holly's pregnant. We're having a baby.
Didn't wanna beat around the bush on exciting news. Holly's 15 weeks up the duff, and we'll be parents in October. Very exciting, very life changing, very bloody scary!
Above you'll see the 12 week scan. It's a boy and the name I'm using is Laphroaig, to complement Jameson. I suspect I may be overruled at the final hurdle.
Over the weekend we made a few changes around the house. The hedge out the front came down, which means the front looks quite strange since we're accustomed to the hedge. I'm thinking of growing a lemon and lime tree out there now, but might change my mind and go for something deciduous to let light into the front room in Winter.
Also moved the Myth server into the lounge room, as I figured it's so quiet it might work out there. I'm not sure it'll end up staying there, as the hard drive can be quite noisy when it's in use. But using the Myth interface is brilliant, compared to the PS3. I can watch high def stuff, including downloaded video, without having to worry about the PS3's very finnicky format requirements. Ad skipping is just so wonderful for the few shows I watch from commercial telly.
I also measured up our house block and designed what I think is the eventual design I'll use for my garden lair. As featured on Shedworking last week I've been using Google Sketchup to design my lair. I'm pretty close now I think.
The shed is divided into two halves. One half is the more traditional "shed", with storage space and possibly a little bit of workshop space. I'll brew beer in here too, and if we have space put a chest freezer. The "office" side will be where I but my desk, computers and office space. It will have nice natural light access and shelves. The whole thing will be lined inside with plasterboard, well insulated (thermally and acoustically, as we live under the flightpath) and have a weatherboard skin. Roof will be Colourbond. There'll be a fair chunk of space inside the ceiling, which we'll also use for storage.
A couple of changes to the design you see above (click to see more angles) have come up. I think I'll skip windows in the "shed" half, to allow more wall-mounted storage. And the door between the two halves will go — I was thinking of putting a water tank in front of the "shed" half, but I think direct access to each half will be better.
I'm planning an office/shed in the garden of our house, to provide an office for me and storage for the household. I've been mulling over the design for quite a while and now need to finalise it and get plans into council. Above is my first draft which has windows in the space between horizontal and the sloping roof, similar to this building. The finish would be similar too, with either these kinds of boards or possibly weatherboard.
Yesterday while flicking through architecture books at Kinokunya yesterday I discovered these Gilbert Barker Pod buildings. I quite like this look too, particularly the way the glass frontage is recessed back from into the building. Angled the right way, this could be a passive solar element.
So any ideas on this shed? Inspiration to share? I have a whole gallery of inspirations. The actual space looks like this photo and we're looking at dimensions of about six metres by four metres. I hope to have a wall down the middle to separate the "office" and "shed" parts of my lair.
I managed to find a poster for the original sale of the land our house sits on from 1891 in the National Library of Australia's catalogue. $35 later and I'm the happy owner of a CD with a ridiculously high resolution scan of it.
Some interesting details in the picture. There's a road at the NW end of the street, which must have gone through Henson Park. The street numbering has clearly been reformed at some point, as it appears they numbered in the old style, with the numbers going around in a horseshoe rather than odd on one side, even on the other. And there seems to have been a tram line along Victoria Road. That would've been handy! Thanks Heffron and Cahill!
I realise I'm about a week late, but hey I've been on holidays, for the first extended break in far too long, so I've been neglecting my readers. Too bad, I needed the holiday!
So, it's a new year and all that. What have I been up to? Well, Xmas was quite fun, as we went up to Wamberal and had some family around for Xmas lunch. Then I went for a swim in the afternoon, and spent Boxing Day at Ben and Kaz's place. Very nice, very chilled.
For New Year we went up North to a site near Nimbin for a friendly and fun party with mates from BrisVegas who I've known for years. A mixture of old ausravers and related people. Great to catch up with the crew, since the last one of these parties I went to was the 2000 New Year.
We've been back since the weekend and chilling out, mostly.
Some out-of-towners have been around, as usually happens in Summer, so we've managed to catch up with quite a range of people. Julie and Jeff popped around for a BBQ before Xmas. The photo above is potatoes we pulled from the garden and chucked on the barbie. The weird speckled purple ones stay that colour through cooking! Also in town: Greta and Steve, Margaret and Cordelia, Charlie and Bridget. Martin, Jo and Max are in town too. Woody and Liz are in Australia at the moment, and we managed to catch up over New Year.
Been to a few gigs recently. Holy Fuck at the Annandale were amazing. People have been trying to do the live techno thing ever since there was techno, without much success. These guys seem to have finally nailed it, without it becoming a different style of music. Amazing!
Another Canadian band, Stars were also very good. Beautiful music, with delicious textures and heartfelt delivery. These guys really love what they do.
Coming up this month is a whole host of more gigs. This Saturday is the opening night of Sydney Festival, with lots of cool stuff around town for free. We've got tickets to the Popfrenzy night at the festival bar with Metronomy and Pivot, which sounds like loads of fun. The following weekend is All Tomorrow's Parties on the fantastic Cockatoo Island in the harbour. This used to be a working shipyard in my lifetime, so it'll be an incredible place for a music festival. Even better, it's curated by Nick Cave!
Later in the month I'll be seeing Serj Tankian, though I'm more interested in the support band, Mike Patton's Fant%C3%B4mas. Then early in February, Playground Weekender, a festival on the outskirts of Sydney with a pretty fun atmosphere, by the sound of it.
All up, it's gonna be a hectic Summer. But hey, at least it's warm this year!
Around the house there's been some activity. The garden is looking great and we've been eating a lot out of it. The potatoes were good, though they take up a lot of space when growing so I doubt I'll grow them again. We've eaten stacks of rocket, lettuce and silverbeet recently. Tonight I did a stir fry of silverbeet, bok choy and chilli from the garden, spiced with some of the herbs. Coming along well are the tomatoes, and I had the first cherry one the other day. Delicious.
In the planning list is the shed for the garden. I've contacted someone to help me with the planning process, so we'll see how that goes. There's some complications like retaining walls and the like, so if I'm going to need an engineer I might go the whole hog and put in an underground water tank. Something to keep us busy!