Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

State Theater Wurlitzer

Spotted in the State Library’s Flickr feed a few days ago: one magnificent Wurlitzer being installed into the State Theater:

I visited the Museum Speelklock while in the Netherlands last year and was amazed by some of the automated music machines they had on display there – simple cuckoo-clocks, clocks that use a circular bow and intricate fingering mechanisms to play four violins at once, all the way up to some enormous steam organs. I was amazed at how much ingenuity went into building some of these instruments.

I’ve been in the State Theatre a few times, but don’t remember noticing any visible parts of this organ. I wonder if it’s still intact?

Go here! No, don’t go here!

I took a photo yesterday, on my Android phone. Google Plus Instant Upload pushed it up to Picasa for me. This seems to have triggered an email notification.

Not the warning: “Content has been removed for a violation of terms of service”. This concerns me – I don’t think anything I’ve uploaded should violate the terms of service. There doesn’t seem to be any way to discover what content was removed, or from where, or what terms of service it violated – just a “Give Feedback” link.

That link takes me to!forum/gmail-labs-help-media-previews – which tells me right at the top that this isn’t where I want to be.

Good job, Google!

Meaningless numbers are meaningless.

Vic Gundotra (still using a pseudonym, still insisting that you can’t do the same) has announced that more than 90 million “people” have joined Google+; that 60% of those people sign in daily, and 80% weekly.

I recently deleted one of my Google+ accounts (I forget how many I had – it was at least two, possibly 3). I’m not going to suggest that I’m normal and that the real figure is more like 40 million people, but I do think it’s disingenuous to talk about “people” when you really mean “accounts”.

Before I deleted the account, I signed in at least once a week – to deal with the annoying notification that infected my gmail to let me know that some random I didn’t care about had circled me.

I ended up deleting my account for reasons I outlined in my last post. I’m now using one of my other accounts to follow a select few people who are doing interesting things with Hangouts – so few people that Google wastes around 220 pixels of vertical space on a message nagging me to follow more people.

I hope these numbers, although meaningless, will at least trigger large bonuses for all my friends still working at Google. That would be nice, right?

Strong passcodes for your iPhone

Also – how to make it self-destruct in <10 invalid passcode attempts.

Shtep One: Download the iPhone Configuration Utility from Apple

Shtep Two: Futz with the Stuffz


Not shown: there’s an option at the bottom where you can stipulate self-wipe after as little as 5 incorrect passphrase attempts.

Shtep 3: Upload config as per instructions in the “Installing Configuration Profiles” section of the Deployment Guide.


Pyrmont: 1920 – Today.

Ultimo and Pyrmont: Then and Now

View Larger Map

That’s the Powerhouse Museum, located between Pyrmont and Ultimo. If you could hover above it in a helicopter, the view would look something like this:


Imagine if you could magically click a link and jump back in time, and see the same view from sometime between 1900 and 1939…

If you’re lost: in the older picture, look beyond the chimneystack, and just to the left. Immediately beyond the chimney is a vacant block of land; at the top end of this is a short road, which has on the right a not-quite-right-angle corner. The road then continues up the picture – but it’s not quite straight, it bends a little to the right. If you look at the modern picture, you can see the same not-quite-right-angle corner and the same not-quite-straight road – although now the Western Distributor flys across the not-quite-straight road.

See the large building inside the block bounded by the not-quite-straight road? That building is Global Switch Sydney – built in the last days of “Build it and they will come”. It’s only in the last few years that it’s starting to reach full capacity.

The railway line visible in the earlier picture was the Darling Harbour Goods line, which formed the first part of the Metropolitan Goods Railway Line. It’s now used as the Metro Light Rail line.

All made in the same plant, redux

Talking to a workmate who has a sick cat led to looking at Medibank Private’s pet cover.

This led to the source of (apparently) all pet insurance in Australia; which then led to comparison shopping between the various resellers.

The differences are amusing, but annoying. One provides 15k total cover; but only $500 for tick paralysis. Another only offers 9k total cover; but removes the restrictions on what percentage of that can be used for drugs/medication vs how much is for dental care. None of them cover treatment for leukemia in cats; but some add an additional clause declining to cover any condition for which there is a vaccine.

I’d like to go with the RSPCA – if someone has to make a profit, they seem like a better choice than some of the for-profit companies. But the limits are half that provided by Medibank, while the premiums are double. Sure you can skim profit off the top, but that doesn’t mean I want you to gouge me for every cent I own.

Gah. Choices, that aren’t really choices. Just what I wanted.

Shittyfail updated:

After my last post, Rich Buggy mentioned his own complaint, something that I remember from my days as a commuter – Cityrail, every year, run a Saturday timetable (with some extra peak-hour services) for around a week, roughly between Christmas and New Years, and usually stretching a few days on at least one side. Despite the reduced level of service, they still insist on charging full peak fares for anyone trying to get to work before 9AM, or buying a weekly ticket. Full details of the reduced services are still on Cityrail’s website.

More interestingly, an anonymous commenter (who I think I’m going to name “Deep Train”) left a comment, which got held for moderation. Rather than letting it through, I’m going to publish it here, as it’s worthy of its own post.

It is worse than you think. If CityRail was in the energy business it would be called Enron. As I understand it, the figures are fudged in various ways, but I only have unsubstantiated rumours to that effect.

So on-time running is measured only at Central at the moment. However, I heard today, confirming unsubstantiated rumours, that on-time running is lower than 25% at some stations.

These performance indicators should be measured by an independent organisation.

Optus: not just incompetent, but malicious too

Right, so we all know that Optus decided to charge international call rates for some local numbers, to try to claw back some of the money they’re losing as customers choose cheaper options to call home. A more sensible option would be to provide reasonable rates to existing customers – or set up such a VOIP service yourself, and let customers choose between the cheaper lower-quality VOIP service, or paying more for a “premium” connection[1] – and maybe even snagging some customers from other carriers. That woud be hard though – so instead, lets just slug prepaid customers with additional fees to access the VOIP services, and pray that not too many of them port their service to a different provider.

But that’s just stupidity. This is outright theft:

The most recent legal case, decided on November 27, also forced Optus to concede it had stolen 100 numbers from a tiny telecommunications carrier in Vanuatu and then allowed a pair of its pornographer partners, Global Internet Billing in Britain and MDC in Europe, to use the stolen numbers for their business.

Optus then kept the proceeds of these calls, money which would have normally been payable to the Vanuatu carrier.

[1] Of course, the difference would probably be entirely in the marketing and not in the implementation of the service, but that’s nothing new.

Shittyrail fail again

Remember when Cityrail decided that trying to get trains to run on time was too hard, so they just redefined “on time” to make things easier?

Remeber how shortly afterwards Cityrail had posters all over the stations with graphs showing the huge increase in on-time running compared to the same time last year – and didn’t mention that the two sets of numbers used different definitions of “on time”?

They’re doing it again. Cityrail has a target of no more than 5% of services running at more than 135% passenger capacity – but over the last two years, the actual figure has been 16%. Rather than trying to fix the problem, they’re redefining the target to be 17%.

Keep in mind that this is not 16% of services at full capacity: this is 16% of services at least 35% *over* the rated capacity of the carriage.

Well done Shittyfail!