Watch out, there’s a thief about

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Grrrr!

I’ve been robbed. Yesterday I noticed that something seemed odd in the garage near my Honda,  the west wall with all the shelves in other words. I had two boxes stacked there until I have room to open and install them, the bottom one a small table saw and on top of it, a boxed drop saw. Both were/are from Aldi and both were/are brand new, unopened.

Last night it hit me – the top box, the drop saw, is not there. I had to double check this morning but it’s true, it’s gone.

About Monday I went out, driving the Honda, so clearing the area of the boxes, and I’m certain I closed the garage door. I saw it going down.

When I got back about four hours later I found the folder door open to the laneway. Oh well, I thought, it’s happened a few times before and seems to be stray leakage from someone else’s remote or other electronic equipment. Impossible to diagnose or remedy.

So it looks as if someone saw the boxes and was tempted. It must have been a male because the saw was pretty heavy, and he would have needed a car because it’s pretty bulky.

It was only an Aldi and it only cost $70, but it hurts. Nothing I can do about it. My fault for having a vulnerable garage door. Phut!

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Charles twit

Now that’s man-spreading. Even royalty does it.

Browsing the web, on the AutoDesk site (software company, makers of the famous AutoCAD, you may have heard of it), in the job openings section, they have a vacancy for a Backend Engineer. I wonder how much thought they gave to that title?

By the way, in just the engineers section of the job vacancies, out of about 20 categories, there are 139 vacancies worldwide! This is a massive US company. It dwarfs Australian companies.

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I can say I was one of the first users of AutoCAD, with version 1 way back in the late 1980s at Channel 7. Up to then we had done all our drawings, and there were hundreds, on tracing paper using Rotring Indian ink pens. If you used them you might remember how they dried out all the time, how they leaked, how easy it was to make mistakes and how difficult it was to correct them. Fibreglass brush erasers that rubbed a hole in the paper. Black ink stains on fingers and clothes. No way to use colour or layers. And it was so slow. It was awful.

So when we got the chance to try this new CAD thing (Computer Aided Design/Drawing) we jumped at it. The first product, AutoCAD, cost $4,000 in about 1989 and was supplied by an AutoDesk approved local company already installed and set up on what was called a “blue-print system”. That was a PC (IBM PC or approved compatible) that had been tested and approved by AutoDesk as capable of handling the demands of this software.

These were the days of 80286 CPUs, maths co-processors, 1MB of RAM, Centronics printer ports, RS232 serial ports for the mouse and graphics tablet and running the MS-DOS operating system. The computer struggled sometimes (“redraw” and wait) and all the tricks of autoexec.bat and config.sys had to be used to ensure things got loaded properly so as to use that tiny amount of RAM. You think computers these days are hard? They were infinitely harder back then. This was well before Windows came along. Programs ran under DOS control, with 5¼” floppy disks and 40MB hard drives.

Anyway, I well remember I was on the night shift and about 5pm the chief engineer came and handed me the manual for AutoCAD v1, or may be v2, and said, “How would you like to have a look at this?” Oh, yes please.

Our system was supplied as a loan demo test system on an Olivetti PC with a big heavy 12″ square tablet using a pen with a single level of pressure as a select switch, like a left mouse button. The tablet had embedded wires that sensed the position of the pen and pressing down made a dot that started or finished a line on the screen, or a curve, and so on. The screen was colour, but only 14″ in size and the palette was limited to about 16 colours. You get the idea? This was primitive!

Anyway, I spent several hours that night working out how to use it and next day said I thought it was good. I was understating it. It turned out to be brilliant! The amount of time it saved us and the ability to use layers, coloured lines, predrawn symbols, to modify drawings as things were changed, electronic filing of drawings… it soon became necessary to almost book time to use it.

Although I say it saved us time, the system was really very slow. Drawing circuit and system diagrams took a long time and plotting them out on paper added as much as 30 mins when you’d finished a drawing. Then you discovered your mistakes and had to correct them and do the plotting again. It was common to go to lunch while a plot was being drawn.

AutoDesk grew the software fast in the next few years and we were soon on to version 3, 4, 5, up to 7 and so on. Each upgrade involved a cost of at least $1,000, not to mention new PCs required to handle the increased speed and memory requirements. Naturally, old versions became available for free, if strictly unofficial use and I soon had version 2 up and running on my 80286 with maths co-processor at home. I think I had 640KB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. It seems crazy now.

Anyway, I used to do drawings at home using just the mouse instead of a pen, and doing test printouts on an NEC dot matrix printer. Crazy, but I would take my drawings to work on floppy and transfer them into our system, correct them and plot ’em out. There was no USB and virtually no viruses in those days.

Then Windows came along. I remember first seeing it when Windows v1.0 came supplied in the box, on about 8 3.5in floppies, with a program called Asymetrix Toolbook, which was designed to run on Windows. This must have been about 1989 too. It was very primitive, blocky and jaggy and easily crashable. I’ve got screen shots of each version…

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Windows 1.0

Win 2.0

Windows 2

Win 3.11 1993

Windows 3  1993

Win 95 1995

Windows 95   1995

Win 98 1998

Windows 98  1998

Win ME 2000

Windows ME 2000

Win XP 2001

Windows XP  2001

Win 7 2009

Windows 7  2009

Windows-8

Windows 8 2005

windows-10

Windows 10

The next memory is being in Hong Kong in October 1992 on my return from Japan, and trying to buy “bootleg” software. AutoCAD was the holy grail and I went from my hotel on the island, by the ferry to the mainland and a train to a northern suburb (it might have been Mong Kok) shopping centre I’d been told about. Yes, it was everywhere in the shops, and Windows too, so I bought both. It was all floppies in those days, and it took a lot of disks. In my naïvety I questioned the shop seller about whether I could be sure I was actually getting the software on the disks. I got a lip curl and a snort. “Well, I can’t bring it back if it doesn’t work” I said. He just laughed and turned away. I was very naïve.

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My computer den, Jan 1991. MS-DOS 286 PC, 13″ b/w monitor, NEC dot matrix printer.

So back home and at work, AutoCAD progressed to 17″ monitors (wow), Windows (I’m not sure we ever went that far at work?), and a new tablet with much better sensitivity and resolution.

But one guy in Engineering took a strong interest in the system and kind of took charge, with the tacit approval of the chief engineer. He spent nearly all his time at it, went on training courses and handled all the upgrades as if they were church rites and he was the bishop. It didn’t hinder me much because I used to do a lot of my drawings, not that there were many, at home or in other drawing programs on my office PC but it was a bit irritating. I got frowns and dubious looks and scrutiny of the drawings, with a few tut-tuts, but it was generally OK.

By then ink jet printers had progressed far beyond the capability of plotters, and printing A3 (the biggest we needed) was easy at home, so I did. Drawings printed in about 1/20th of the time a plotter took, without all the rigmarole of making sure the coloured pens were in the right holes of the plotter and not dried out and so on.

AutoCAD was and still is a mind-blowingly complex program and not easy to use. It’s still the pre-eminent CAD program even now, 30 years later. It costs about US$4,000 per year to use now. You don’t own it, you rent it. I remember thinking that if one was to make oneself an expert, one would never be short of a job, so I had this idea that by buying computer books, I would become that expert. I spent many hundreds of dollars on books 6″ thick or more. Did it make me an expert? Naaah. If I’d really put the work in, maybe, but I had a life to live as well.

I spent thousands of $$$ on computer hardware, software, books and magazines in the late 80s and 90s. It did work – I became Supervisor, Broadcast Digital Systems for the last five or six years and I managed to persuade the company to give me a $4,000pa computer allowance and buy me a $7,000 piece of software called Authorware. This went nowhere near what I’d spent before, but there ya go.

I foresaw a future career in Authorware, by the way, another complex program with 6″ thick books written about it, but what I didn’t foresee was that html and the web became a much easier way to deliver training courses. The Authorware company (Macromedia) was bought by Adobe who maintained the program for a few years, then abruptly shut it down, throwing many guys who had become training specialists using it on the scrapheap. Despite protests, Adobe refused to sell the source code to any other company. So that was it. I have a $7,000 piece of software, now worthless.

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Photos in Kyoto

01 Kyoto opener 1

In the papers at the moment is news from Kyoto: photography is to be banned in Gion, except for the main traffic street. Why? Because the pressure of tourism is causing distress to the geishas and maikos on their way to and from work.

What a sorry state of affairs. Gion is magic, one of the most photo-rich areas I’ve ever been in. This is bad news indeed, both from the geishas’ and the photographers’ viewpoint. Reading between the lines, it appears that the craze to have selfies leads to too many people rushing up to the ladies and sticking their camera in front and their face beside the geisha and snapping shots without asking or getting permission. It’s another version of tourists being banned from some places in Spain and Italy. The crowds have become too thick, both in the number and intelligence senses.

Well lucky me, because I spent four days in Kyoto in October 1992, when it was blissfully tourist free except for me most of the time. I got my geisha shot:

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It’s not very artistic but I had little time to get the shot. There was no autofocus in those days, not on my camera anyway. I got several shots of elegantly kimono-clad ladies, but they are not geishas.

By chance I had read a book before I went, The Geisha and the Monk by the Indian travel writer Pico Iyer. I recommend it if you think you may go. It describes the life of a young woman who aspires to become a geisha and her life in and around the streets of the Gion area shown on the right, below:

Kyoto aerial view

I stayed in a ryokan I had booked before leaving Perth, located just to the right several blocks from the river and within easy walking distance from Gion. Boy, I did some walking in those days. I didn’t go as far as the Imperial Palace but I covered most of the foreground area on foot, including more on the right.

Click on the top left image below to start a slide show.

 

An auspicious day

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Bull in a China Shot      © PJ Croft 2014, 2019

I couldn’t resist that caption. I have to admit, that photo was taken five years ago on a cruise ship entering Hong Kong, but I haven’t changed a bit. Slimmed down a little, maybe… ? Hah.

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The title is there because this is October 29th, auspicious for three things. First, it’s Dad’s birthday – he would have been 97 today. Happy birthday Dad, you’re never forgotten.

Second, it’s 20 years today that I finished work at Channel 7. It was a Friday in 1999 and because it was my day off, I actually finished work the day before, but anyway. It was quite an emotional day. I’d been there 33 years except for a break in 1974 and you can’t help feeling a part of the show. Along with my work colleagues, I put a lot into building and operating that station. I must write about it one day.

The fact is that we, the old guard of the station, are still together although the ranks are thinning a bit. One former employee has made it his life’s work since retiring to collect and web-publish all the photos and memorabilia he can get his hands on, for all the stations, ABW2, TVW7, STW9 and TEN10. He’s branched out into radio stations and cinema, and documenting the old buildings of Perth. Unfortunately, the property developers care nothing for the history and architecture and demolish the old buildings as fast as they can. The result is the concrete, glass, stainless steel, featureless wind-tunnels that we have today. Nearly all the interesting buildings are dust now, but Ken is doing a great job keeping the memories. http://www.watvhistory.com

The third reason is that on this same day in 1999, I made my first visit to the North Beach Rugby Club. I was invited by another Ch.7 guy who was a member on the promise of a good night, and wow, he was right. I was hooked. For privacy reasons I can’t post the photos I took but it was the start of twelve years of membership and many great memories.

So the 29/10 of each year brings back a lot of memories, all good.

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Twenty years retired! Who’d a-thunk it? I’ve had no trouble not working. Whenever I feel the urge to work coming on, I lie down until it passes. That’s from a business card I saw once.

No, I’ve got a million things to do, hundreds of books to read, movies and TV shows to watch, music to listen to to keep me going until that final knock on the door.

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One item comes from that awful finding of 39 dead people in the refrigerated truck in England.

In my 1974 bus tour of Europe, our first port of call was Zeebrugge in Belgium, where we camped for the night. Someone, one of the guides I assume, pronounced it Zee-broozje (-zhu) and for years afterwards, that’s how it stuck in my head. Dad picked me up on it when I got back in December ’74, but his pronunciation didn’t stick with me. In fact, until last week, I can not ever remember hearing it pronounced by an authoritative voice.

But now I have. On the news video reports, both the British announcer and a Belgian source said “Zay-broogger”. So that’s settled then. It’s only taken 45 years. Dawg, is it that long?!

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I admit I’m addicted to Wish. That’s the Chinese web site which sells cheap little items but they are so useful to me that I trawl it endlessly. Things like this:

This is going to get me going on my model railway at last, I think. I’m itching to start putting some of these things to use. It’s not just electronic bits, there are hundreds of useful things for cars, the house, clothing (for small Asian people) and so on. I’ve sent six orders for up to 25 items each order. The post office is being deluged with tiny parcels from China.

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One item I bought is a watch:

Watch

It’s similar to this except it has a leather strap. Price? AUD$2.46 plus $2.50 postage.

It arrived yesterday and looks very nice. I set the main time and went to set the small dials. Huh? These buttons are stiff. Then I realised, the small dials are just painted on, they don’t do anything and the buttons are just for show! The date works, though.

Still, for $5 who cares, it looks very nice and no-one would know.

Summer is a’comin’

 

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Cute, eh?   © PJ Croft 2019

Another gap with no posts. Gee, I live an exciting life. Too busy climbing mountains and flying jets. Ho ho.

No, I’m back to having trouble with insomnia again. I’m pretty sure I know why, it’s a change of habit, using my laptop at the table while watching TV, instead of shutting down and sitting on the couch to TV watch. It’s become a habit, so I have to break it.

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My kitchen sink mixer tap has been leaking slowly ever since I’ve been in this house and I think it’s time I did something about it. Don’t want to rush into things, you understand. Mostly the leak just runs down the sink, but some water has leaked in the cupboard underneath and er, swelled the chipboard. Too bad, it’s out of sight and doesn’t cause any problem.

I’ve been thinking and looking for some time but I’ve been a bit shell-shocked by the price of good mixer taps so it’s always been back-shelfed.

Anyway, browsing the Wish website yesterday, I saw this:

Funny, I thought, funny. I saw the exact same thing in Aldi yesterday. The Wish price was A$46.72 + $17.09 postage. I couldn’t remember Aldi’s price but I thought it must be over $100. I nearly ordered from Wish, but went back to Aldi today to check. Shazzam! $49.99 so I bought it. It’s made in China anyway.

Now to install it. I don’t think I could contort myself enough to get up under the sink, so I think I’ll call a local guy who advertises for casual work.

Speaking of which, I tried to get at the radio antenna in the roof of Honda-san today. I removed the interior light from the rear roof lining and tried to pull the lining down far enough to see. Ugh! It’s hard. I drew blood on the back of my hand. I’ll have to remove some more trim first, but it’s not designed to be removed easily. My back and legs protested at my contortions and I had to give up after a while. I need a young guy to help.

I need to remove the left rear C-pillar trim anyway to run the wires for a reversing camera I’ve bought. It’s very neat – so as to avoid ripping the floor channels up to run a coaxial video cable from the rear tailgate to the radio in the front, I bought a wi-fi transmitter and receiver to go with the camera. Video from camera goes to wi-fi transmitter in the tailgate, plus a wire from the left reversing light, up the C-pillar across to the tailgate and thence to power the wi-fi Tx. So the camera only comes on when you’re in reverse gear. Clever.

The wi-fi receiver goes behind the radio, permanently powered, and its video output goes into the input to the radio/DVD display unit. That automatically switches to rear view when it gets a signal from the rear camera. Ain’t wi-fi wonderful.

Total cost – about $40. Plus my time and labour fitting it all.  I believe professional shops charge over $200 to do this job.

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I forgot to mention last time that I’ve got a willy wagtail pair in a nest built on the garage door runner in my garage. The runner doesn’t move but they must feel the rumble through it when the door opens and closes. It doesn’t bother them unduly.

I must say they’ve been sitting on that nest for weeks now and I still don’t hear any tiny chirps. I hope things are OK. I should get the ladder and have a look, but… no. Papa wagtail gets a bit agitated if I go too close, but I think he recognises me by now. The songs they produce are fantastic. They are always fighting off the crows that come around my roof. Successfully, I think, as I don’t see any crows at the back of the house where the nest is. Mr Willy sits on my back fence quite a lot.

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More to write, but I’m too tired. Next time.

I Wish

Smiling dog

From an article in The Guardian about whether pets have emotions. Cute, eh?

A whole month without a post, sorry. I’ve been a bit busy. I, justifiably, thought that things had turned bad for me, but they have turned out OK after all. A four day visit from my friend turned into an 11 day stay, and a very pleasant one, so alles gut. It takes all my attention, though.

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The title refers to my latest time-thief. Have you discovered the Chinese site www.wish.com? Holy moley, it’s like Aladdin’s Cave, an endless display of small items which seem to answer all the needs you didn’t know you had. There’s everything from rolls of special sticky tape to power tools to machinery to clothing to sex toys and everything in between. And for some reason, a lot of the items are free, “Just pay postage”. I don’t know why, unless it’s just to lure you in, but as long as you keep an eye on your shopping cart, it seems to be true. Sometimes the price in the cart mysteriously changes, but if you check before you checkout, it’s OK.

The spout is free, the multimeter is $1. I’ve ordered one of those.

I started out with a smallish order, two items totalling about $50 as a test. They arrived OK, so I placed another order for 21 items totalling about $120 and they’ve all arrived OK. I’m addicted now. Mainly I’m ordering electronic components and small assemblies like power supplies for my future model railway (yeah, well…) but I’ve also bought a few kitchen gadgets and things for the cars. Most prices are around $2.50 to $20, all shown in AUD including GST too. The postage adds nearly as much at times, but it’s not too expensive. They arrive pretty quickly, around 3-4 weeks, and the PO doesn’t seem worried as they’re not opened for inspection. Some things would be of dubious legality, such as high power lasers, but I avoid those.

The microphone is $15 (I’ve ordered one) and the mini saw discs are $3.94 for the set. I think I’ll buy those right now before I forget.

bag 4437plus

 

I want this bag, but it’s $44 plus $21 postage. It keeps getting dropped from my list. Next time.

And they learn English very well: 5d62037501baae056fa1635e-1-large

I did buy a 256GB micro-SD card – seems OK on first check. It’s Huawei brand, $16.50.

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The costs of the Verada are mounting. I paid $1250 for it, but it’s had new brakes (discs and pads), $720, and a new exhaust, $595 so far. Total $2565.

The battery failed last week, so that was another $199. I’ve realised that the front shock absorbers need replacing (it gets into a resonant vibration), and at least one of the engine mounts is damaged. Those will be big$. The roof lining needs fixing (about $300). And I paid $75 for a second-hand tail light assembly and $90 for a new RH driving light. A new radio power antenna has cost about $60 so far. It has the beginnings of oil leaks from the rocker covers, so that will cost at least $500 to fix. Add about $750 annual licence costs plus 3rd party insurance and Wow! A cheap car is not so cheap after all. It makes me wonder whether I could get away with no car. No, don’t be silly.

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Another addiction is cashews from Coles. We all know and love cashews, don’t we, but these are roasted with their skin left on, and with a light salt flavour in the skins. YUM! I’ve eaten so many that I’ve almost done the impossible, made myself sick of them. Not quite, but…  They’re in the bulk nuts section.

 

Debunking

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Ain’t that nice? Don’t know where it is.

There’s been a fair bit of bullshite being spread around by people like Alan Jones and Malcolm Roberts about climate change and global heating recently.

Jones, with no scientific qualifications, tried to tell us that CO2 comprises only about 0,04% of the atmosphere and since Australia only produces a bee’s bucket of CO2, then we couldn’t possibly be responsible for any global warming at all.

Roberts, that stupid member of the crazy One Nation Party, and a graduate engineer who should know better, also tried to use statistics to throw doubt. He also said it’s a conspiracy by all the world’s climate scientists, all 10,000 or more of them, to skew the statistics and has said that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is in a plot with NASA to spread false information and data.

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is that all these crackpot theories and allegations are covered in this article:  Here Are Five of The Most Common Climate Change Misconceptions, Debunked from http://www.sciencealert.com, which I find to be a better than average science site (i.e. more science, less showbiz).

I also found this a few years ago. It sets things out very clearly:

climate_skeptics_960w

I’ve had to turn it on its side as it’s quite big. Right Click on it and choose View Image to see it clearly.

What is it about the Liberal Party that makes it seem as if they are a startled kangaroo in the headlights, unable to move either way?

It’s two things: fear, and resistance to change. These are actually linked, but essentially the climate science deniers such as former PM Abbott and current Minister for Drought and Natural Disasters (whatever!), David Littleproud, don’t understand science but mainly, they fear what it means and what they need to do. It’s easier for them to resist any change.

Yet this is despite clear evidence and despite dire warnings of the harm it is going to do to the future generations, their children and grandchildren. It’s astounding. They seem to be just closing their ears and refusing to think clearly. Typical symptoms of panic.

Of course, there’s the other argument, that they’re being “rewarded” by Big Coal and Big Petroleum. But can anyone be so venal as to threaten their children’s future for dollars now, when they’re in no position to enjoy their wealth? I think the answer is yes, but it’s hard to grasp.

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Coincidences again. This morning I read an article in The Guardian which mentioned an academic named Sofia Izquierdo Sanchez. I have never in my life heard that middle name before. Yet the surname of the French woman Wanda who bought my Magna car a couple of weeks ago was Izquierdo. How about that? They keep on comin’.

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I’m going on a long drive to Singleton tomorrow (don’t know where it is? Near Mandurah) to buy a car “entertainment unit” I found on Facebook Market.AVH-X3700DAB_blue_front_top

I intend this for Vera, for three reasons: 1. its CD/radio has CDs stuck in it that won’t eject; 2. this new radio has DAB+ reception; 3. because I can fit a reversing camera to feed into it. Once you’ve used one, you realise how useful they are, for not much money.

It’s advertised as near new in box for about half the RRP. I’ll have to take it on trust, though, as I can’t try it out on the kitchen table.