Friday, August 31, 2007

Just a Quickie

Last post for August. How time flies...

I picked up a couple of 512Mb SD cards for the camera, so I should be able to take more pics at once. I also got myself a couple of rechargeable batteries and a charger. Now all I need is a decent subject to photograph...

Maybe I'll start a photo-webcomic. The lowest of the low.

In other news, the exercise thingymajiggy seems to be going well. I'm still averaging around an hour for the walk (which I guesstimate is around 5 and 1/2 or 6 kilometers). My left ankle is hurting a bit, but I'm not sure why. I don't recall stressing it and if it was because of the walking, I'd expect both to be hurting, not just the one.

Finally; I use Firefox which has this nice spell-checker built in. What I want to know is, why do words like "okay" and "pics" come up as being wrong but a word like "guesstimate" is accepted???

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Long slow trudge...

Okay, so the new exercise kick isn't really going according to plan. Do these things ever?

Anyway, for those of you morbid enough to follow along, you can do so from this page on my website. I'll probably be updating it every day or so.

On the other hand, I've had a few excuses / reasons to skip a few days. On Friday my mum was in an accident which (for obvious reasons) prevented me from exercising for a few days and today it was pouring with rain.

Well, there's always tomorrow...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Day One

Well, today I started my new exercise regime.

Not much to tell. I've plotted out a course, but I'm not sure how far it actually is. I'll need to measure it out to try and work out how far I'm going.

Today was a brisk walk, and it took me an hour (59 minutes, 19 seconds) to cover the course. I plan on doing a lap each day and after a month I'll start jogging it instead of walking. Hopefully, I'll be able to run 90% of the distance by the end of the year. I say 90% since I'd need a bit of time to warm up and cool down.

The idea is that I'll be able to take my shirt off and have the ladies say "Mmm, interesting" instead of "Meh"...

Monday, August 20, 2007

First pics from camera! w00t!

Okay, most people aren't going to give two hoots about this, but I felt the urge to share...

That's my car, and one of the first things I've taken a pic of.

Right now I've only got the basic 16Mb SD card that came with the camera, but I'll get some bigger ones soon. I'll probably also get myself a tripod. Just because I can.

Maybe I'll even be able to get some pictures of me up, or better yet, something other people will actually find interesting...

And yeah, it is rather cold around here. It's winter in the southern hemisphere.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another day, another comic uploaded

It took a while to get all the html coded up, but I managed to get my comic ictoanftc (I couldn't think of a name for this comic) onto the site. It's viewable here, but it's one of those "unfinished" comics. I have quite a long story laid out for it, but for some reason I can't bring myself to continue it.

I was going to put up the complete story (or what I had written so far) but there is a fair amount of good material in there which I may still use.

In unrelated news, I bought a digital camera today. A nice Canon Powershot A550 which seems to be a fairly nice camera so far. I've also bought a tripod for it from eBay (through a friend's account). Hopefully the tripod will be suitable and everything will work well together. If it does, great. If it doesn't, then at least it didn't cost me that much.

I'm a bit miffed about some work I had done on the car today.

Basically, the reverse light was coming on when the vehicle was in neutral, not reverse (it's an automatic). I took it to the auto electrician but it turns out that the part it needed was no longer available from the manufacturer. And the car isn't that old.

So I told the chaps to install a simple switch so that I can turn on the reverse light manually, and to install an immobilizer while they were at it. Told "it'll be $150" which is decent. Final tally, it came out at $230 because the price was just for the immobilizer and didn't include labour or additional bits.


I hate cars...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Getting a digital camera

In my family, we've never really been that big on cameras. We've had some basic ones, and take pictures on occasion, but for the most part, we don't take a lot of pictures.

Lately, I have been thinking about getting a digital camera. Like everyone else, I'd really like dSLR, but they are hideously expensive and I'd only use three or four settings. So I'd be paying a whole lot for functionality I don't need and probably wouldn't know how to use.

So I've been browsing through the 'point and shoot' range of cameras.

I was thinking of getting some of last years technology. Getting something that was top-of-the-line a while back but superseded nowadays.

Having had a look at a whole range of different cameras, both locally and on eBay, it seems that (in my case) I may be better off buying a local camera and just keeping an eye out for when they are on sale.

I've been looking at a bunch of different cameras, and the one that seems to strike my fancy is the Canon Powershot A550. It has a couple of good reviews, takes AA batteries (rechargeable) and uses SD cards for expanded memory.

I want the rechargeable AA's and the SD card option so that I can buy them from work ;)

I saw some nice Fujifilm cameras, even some SLR-style ones that look nice but they use xD cards. Other types seem to use different cards depending on the manufacturer, so I think I'll be going with Canon, whether I get the A550 or a different camera.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Meandering musings

Just coming down from the tail end of around four days off from work.

Didn't get to do that much, mostly due to my own laziness I suppose. On the plus side, I did take my car to get the lights fixed. Every time I tried to turn on the park lights, it would blow the fuse. Turns out that I had wired it up badly and accidentally connected the earth for the radio to what I thought was an earth but was actually the feed line for the lights.

No wonder I was blowing fuses...

Other than that, it's been fairly quiet for while. Not sure what exactly it is that I want or need, so I've been leading a fairly aimless life lately. Since I haven't had any goals, I haven't been moving in any direction.

Maybe I'll take up Ian's offer and move to Sydney.

Because there's Sweet F A happening around Perth...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

TwaiP now also on

Wow, I had forgotten how hard hard it was to code an entire comic by hand. It may only be 70 strips, but it took two days to get all the html typed out and uploaded. I'm just glad that it was only 70 strips not like ... 500 or something.

If I do another comic, I'm definitely doing it with either automation (via Comic Genesis) or with php scripts, which are available on my site.

Hopefully I'll have something that's actually interesting soon...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Nebulous has been added.

Just a quick note:

My first webcomic, Nebulous from way back in the day has been added to the site.

Other than that, it's raining, I've picked up a new external drive to use for data backup and I'm seriously thinking of replacing my monitor. It has a really annoying high-pitched whine that is just on the edge of my ability to hear.

And after having to make constant corrections on this post, I'm going to put myself down for a new keyboard as well. This one bites.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Start of the up hill battle

In lame news today, I've uploaded my first essay onto the new site. It's a bit of a discussion regarding body armour in Sci-Fi.

Next, I have all the html to write up for three comics. It's not that much, none of the comics exceeds 100 strips, so it's not a mammoth task. It's just going to be a pain to port over the html from the Comic Genesis standard to more generic html.

I'd like to make my newest comic run on php since my host allows it, but I have no idea how to go about doing that. I also have a bunch of funky optional extras available such as MySql, Perl and others I can't remember but I don't know how to use any of them. Since I don't know what they do, I can't think of anything I would want them for.

Oh well, maybe further down the track.

I think that my forte might be in the essays on various topics. Not sure what to write them about, so as I come up with things, I'll keep note of them and expand them later.

Of to keep plugging away at it I suppose...

Time to get busy

Well, now that the site is all set and bump-free, I'll probably be posting less in here and getting my content sorted on there.

At the moment there isn't much, but hopefully by the end of the month, it'll be a site I'll be proud to have a banner for.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Site is finally on-line


Okay, so after a bit of a bumpy start (some of it my fault), my site is now up (or at least available) and sort of ready for everyone to see.

It's at and it's pretty empty at the moment. Actually, it's probably not worth the effort of you clicking on that link seeing as I've only just today managed to get it started and there is virtually nothing there.

Unless you like seeing half-empty, unfinished pages. Then go for your life, click away!

I use Jumba for my hosting / registration and they have been quite professional. Answered my queries promptly, have a good community of members who are happy to help each other out and are all-round nice people.

Hopefully I'll soon be able to say that the link will be worth clicking...

The plot thickens

Okay, so it turns out that I made a slight error when making the domain application. I put some non-needed data in a field that didn't need filling and so my application ended up on a 'waiting for reply' queue.

Well, at least I now know for next time.

Apparently my application has now gone through (or is in the process of doing so) so it should now come up in the next 24-48 hours. However, being a .au domain, I would expect that I would see it sooner than if I was doing a regular .com or a .ru domain. However, I think that since it is a .au domain, it has to go off to the big American nameservers, down to the Australian nameservers and then I'll be able to see it.

However, I have it on good authority that domain reg's through this company 'normally' take around 4 to 6 hours. And that's from a client, not a company rep.

We'll see how it's going when I knock off work tonight.

Oh, for the love of...

Well, I got in contact with my alleged host/registrar and they said "don't seem to be registered".

*screams in rage*

I'm glad this wasn't for a business or that it was time critical. How daft is that? We'll take your money, set up your hosting account and start the clock, but won't register a domain since that's like ... work or something.

Hmm, maybe I should have gone with my original idea and had someone with a credit card get me an American .com and hosting. Only a couple of bucks and near-instant set up.

That's what I get for being patriotic...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Hosting: why is it so hard to set up?

Oh boy, what a week.

To begin with, over the last fortnight or so I've been looking at setting up paid hosting for my website. Nothing lavish, just a nice place to park the various different things that I have floating around on a multitude of free hosts.

That's fine, but every so often I get the urge to have something I can call my own. And it's not like hosting is all that expensive.

At least, it wouldn't be if I wasn't in Australia. Seriously: if you live in Australia and want to host something, don't get a .au domain. Or at least don't host here in Australia. It bites.

Just to make things that teensy bit harder, I don't have a credit card. 'Cos you know, I like doing things the hard way.

I finally found a decent-sounding host/registrar who had some snazzy plans at a good price. And it wasn't a reseller either. So I had a chinwag with them, dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's and first thing Monday morning I filled in the on-line application form.


Next step is getting the money to them which involved getting a money order from Aust. Post and putting it in an envelope. Since it had to cross the country, I sent it via express delivery.


Wednesday afternoon I was able to get in contact with the staff and as expected, they got the letter and processed my order. As expected, I received an email with my confirmation, login codes, etc. Since DNS name propagation takes a day or two I didn't expect to see the website (or at least the temporary holding banner) straight away. However, I did get the direct IP of the server so I could do some settings and such.


Now it's Thursday night and I'm expecting the website to start showing up so I can start ftp uploads and such. No website. Have a hunt around, go to their support forum, have a chat with some of the people there and what do I find? The domain hasn't been registered yet!

Or at least it appears to not have been registered yet. A Whois lookup gives a "No Data" result, so it may just not be processed yet or something. I hope.

I'll give them a call tomorrow and see if anyone can enlighten me on just what it all means.

Wish me luck!

Google's inverse Turing Test

I don't know if this has ever happened to anyone...

Short version: I was running some searches on everyone's favorite search engine: Google. In this instance, I was interested in the less popular sites. So naturally, I went straight to option 10 on the search page results, then went to go to number 20.

Seems a little weird, but that's what I was doing - avoiding all the first few responses that everyone else follows.

What did I find?

Google told me "your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spy ware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now".


It took a bit of haranguing and code-schuking to get the results I wanted, but the process was most annoying: an inverse Turing Test.

Here I was: a human trying to convince a computer program that I was not a computer program!


Don't read as I don't say anything...

Meh, bland day. Rainy since it's winter down here.

Mood: sour.
Listening to: raindrops on the roof. No, really - raindrops on the roof. It's not the title to some obscure indie album (though it probably is...) It's so nice when it rains and you're indoors.
Wearing: Woolly jumper and slacks.
Drinking: Gatorade. Cos, you know, I gotta sleep soon.

Got a bands contest to go to tomorrow. Down at the Rosemount Hotel in North Perth. It's the finals for WA's Next Big Thing contest and we do the video clip for the winners. Except that the head of the company (and the only other member) is away, so I'll have to do it myself. No equipment, no locations and no budget. That's going to be a totally awesome video clip...

We've done some good ones. You can have a squiz at them on this page if you're interested. My personal favorite is 'Dr Mephesto' out of the ones that we've done so far.

Today's Tool: Nobody really stood out as being a bit of a tool today. Probably because there were few customers due to the rain and that I spent most of the day putting stock out rather than dealing with the customers.

There was this one chap, but he was only unsure as to the difference between American appliances (110VAC, 60Hz) and Australian (240VAC, 50Hz) and was wondering why his appliance blew up. But he wasn't a tool, just uninformed.

Mood: A little better. Turns out blogging is a nice outlet. Better than a diary at least.

Might as well eat some dinner and veg out in front of the tv...

And the winner is...

Last night we had the grand finals for the 2007 Next Big Thing contest at the Rosemount Hotel. Basically, looking for new bands and promoting local music. I work with one of the sponsors so I was sent down to check it out and do a spot of networking.

Unlikely that anyone reading this will have heard of any of these bands (unless you live around here), but for those that might be interested:

3rd: The Howlin' Novocaines
2nd: The Chemist
1st: Harlequin League

Keep an eye out, we should have their new video clip out sometime soon (maybe a month or so) and hopefully these chaps will go on to bigger and better things.

Other than that, not much on today seeing as it's Sunday.

Hosting update: Not that anyone really cares, but I've finally found a semi-decent host who responds to emails! I'm going to be going through Jumba, an Australian registry and host provider. It would have been so much easier if I had a credit card or lived in America. But then I'd probably have been shot by now...

Mood: Hungry. Off to lunch.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Radio plays from the 50's

Here's something that you don't see too much of anymore: Radio plays!

These are recordings of original transmissions from the 50's, and include the (in)famous 'War of the Worlds' broadcast.

I love these old plays. They are really good for story telling and the plot structure should be quite enlightening to modern sitcom writers, or anyone who likes to be creative.

Of course, they are quite dated and some of the situations or technology are rather ... quaint, but they are quite good.

If anyone knows of any other sites that host this type of radio plays (old or new) can you let me know?

Another day, still looking for a host...

Americans are so spoilt for webstuffs and they don't even realize it.

So far, I have spent three days looking for a decent Australian host for a basic but decent website. What I'm looking for is 100Mb+ of storage (not that I'm currently actually using more than about 46Mb), at least 5Gb per month of bandwidth and that I can pay by some method other than a credit card.

Dosen't sound that hard, does it?

A quick look at American hosting packages that are available and there are several (reputable) hosts with plans such as 1Gb storage, 300Gb bandwidth, domain included for under USD$50.

Around here, I can get a .au domain for around $30 to $70 (depending on registrar), 10Mb of storage and 500Mb of bandwidth for $40 per month. Wow! Such a fantastic deal, why wouldn't I be jumping at it.

Enetica have so far seemed to be the best of the Australian hosts available, with a basic plan with 250Mb storage, 10Gb p/month bandwidth, domain included in price and $10 per month. Plus php / MySql options available. And as a bonus, snail mail payments by cheque are accepted.

Seems good, right?

Five emails (two through their website's feedback form, one to supprt@ and two to sales@) and so far, zero responses.

I guess that they don't want my money after all...

The next best that I've found (actually, slightly better) is Jumba, which I've heard good things about from independent sources. Their basic plan(s) are 250Mb storage, 5Gb bandwidth and .au domains available. Sent them an email, hopefully should get an answer tomorrow from them.

Okay, I'm getting hungry, so I'm off to eat dinner.

Wish me well!

(Oh, does anyone know of a good place to get business cards printed?)

Setting up my own website...

I figured it was about time that I went and set up my own webpage.

Not that I have a huge amount of content to share or anything, but I do have enough to justify bringing it all togther onto one site. At the moment I have a bunch of stuff scattered across a few different free hosts and I want to get something a bit more ... me.

I was looking at a bunch of different hosting options and I have to say - the Americans are really spoiled for choice. A simple .com can have 10Gb storage and 100Gb bandwidth for only a couple of bucks. The best provider offers 250Mb storage and 1Gb bandwidth for $170 p/year! I may just use a bit of space on the work site for now before I go and spend my own cash.

Oi, vey.

Sometimes, it's so damned expensive to be patriotic.

Camera tips n Tricks - Part 3

Tip #4: Read the manual!
I know how condescending and anal that sounds, but most people only read the manual far enough to know how to do the basics. Many cameras have some quite powerful software built-in that can do all sorts of funky tricks. By taking the time to read the instructions (and I know how hard this is, especially for guys) you will be able to get the best from your camera.

Tip #5: Learn how to edit.
You go out with some friends. One has a new car. You have a camera. You spend some time drinking, then talk, then go for a drive, then talk some more. Then the person with the new car does a burnout. Everyone talks some more and then everyone goes home. You’ve caught it all on tape and decide you want to share the burnout.

Don’t just upload the entire video! By spending a few minutes with the editing software (most cameras come with some) you can pull out the interesting bits: the person talking about their new car, the burnout and everyone cheering. Slap them together and upload that. Add some music. Don’t add long titles detailing whose car it was, whom ‘directed’, what you had for breakfast and so on.

Another thing: if you’re doing something deliberate (maybe a fake commercial for a school project) and the sound is bad (maybe you were filming outside and it was windy) then take a moment to perform a function known as ADR. This stands for Automatic Dialogue Replacement (commonly referred to as ‘looping’ on DVD commentaries) although there is nothing automatic about it.

Basically what that means is that you record the sound and action on the day, and then later you re-record the sound in a controlled environment. “But I don’t have a sound studio” I hear you cry. Well, you don’t need one. Let’s say you film something and the sound is shocking. Go to your living room (or one of your friends’) and watch the footage (with the bad sound) a few times so that whoever is doing the voice can practice the words and the timing. Then just use the microphone on the camera to record them saying the lines. If you want to be really clever: turn fans, the washing machine and the fridge off (don’t forget to turn it back on!) along with any other devices or people that will create background noise.

Even if the new sound isn’t terribly good, it will still sound better than the original sound. Keep in mind that you will need to record each person this way, along with getting sounds for everything on the screen (footsteps, engines, punches, etc).

Well, that’s all of the tips I have. As you can see, there are many ways to easily give your projects that little bit of extra oomph without spending a lot of money.

Be creative and have fun!

Camera Tips n Tricks - Part 2

Tip #2: Put a hat over the lens.
This needs a little explaining. Have you seen professional cameras and how they have a ‘box’ around the lens? That’s there for a reason. It stops sunlight (or any other bright light) from hitting the lens from an angle. If you look at some security cameras you may notice that they have a lip extending out the front of the top edge. This does the same thing.

Grab a bit of cardboard or plastic and mount it on the top of the camera so it shields the lens from the top and sides. This will help your image look a lot better when filming outside. If you stand with your back to the sun, your image will be fine. But as soon as you start panning to the side, the light flares will make your shot look poor and over-exposed.

Tip #3: Add weight.
Many cameras are really small. Tiny actually. That makes them great to carry around, easy to use and unfortunately, easy to lose. But the biggest problem is camera shake. You see in the movies these lovely steady-cam shots and then in home movies you see these awful, shaky, nausea-inducing shots that wander all over the place. Since very few people can afford steady cams (and even fewer know how to operate them properly), we need a simple way to add weight to the camera.

Why add weight? Simple: inertia. If the camera is very light, it will take a very small amount of force to move it. If it’s heavier, then it takes more effort, effectively making the shot ‘steadier’. The downside is that the more weight you add, the heavier and more difficult to use it becomes. What you are aiming for is a little more weight than the cameraperson can comfortably hold at arms length.

So how to add weight to the camera? Easy: don’t. If you look at the bottom of the camera there is normally a small screw-hole for mounting the camera on a tripod. Even the smallest and cheapest cameras normally have these (even digital still cameras) so that manufacturer can sell you a tripod. Now, if you go to a hardware store (or junkyard) you should be able to get yourself a bit of steel plate with a small hole and a screw or bolt that matches the thread on the bottom of the camera.

See? Use the screw or bolt to add the steel and it’s heavier. Is the extra bit annoying the pants off you? Undo the screw and take it off.

If you want to get really fancy you can get the steel to be long enough to go from the camera to the top of your shoulder. Use tape to add a small cushion on the underside of the plate to protect your shoulder. Bolt some weights to the top above your shoulder to add mass. For that special touch, grab an angle-grinder’s handle and bolt that under the camera. Viola! The finished assembly looks like the cameras the news reporters’ use.

Obviously it’s not too good if you want the camera for a family picnic, but if you’re going to go to the effort of getting some friends together for a project, may as well make it look good.

Camera Tips n Tricks part 1

I was browsing through some videos on YouTube the other day and I was disappointed not to find any decent clips. By “decent” I mean clips that I found interesting. But I was also dismayed at the number of clips that could have been decent but were sorely lacking for technical reasons.

That’s not to say that I was expecting steady-cam colour-corrected CG-enhanced creamy goodness. But there are so many clips that could be so much better with just a little effort. Especially the ones that are obviously “intended”. As opposed to those clips that just happened to catch a moment and are spectacular to watch. I can just imagine some chap with a camera going over to the scene of the crash and saying “Excuse me mate, can you back the bus up and crash again? I didn’t have it in focus.”

Anybody can prattle on about how something was deficient or wrong, so instead of just griping about it, I’m going to offer some basic tips that anyone can use. Hopefully someone will read it and make a better clip than they originally would have. On the off chance that someone actually does, put “Thanks Dr_Neo_Lao” in the comments. Yes, I am that narcissistic.

Tip #1: Use sunglasses.
Have you ever gone outside and squinted because it was too bright? Has putting sunglasses on helped? Well, they can do the same thing for your camera! Find a cheap pair of sunglasses and pop out one of the lenses. Then mount the lens in front of the camera lens. You will need wire, duct tape or insane quantities of chewing gum, depending on the materials you have available and your skill in attaching the sunglass lens. The technical term for professional lenses is “ND filters” (Neutral Density) and they perform for the camera the same function as sunglasses for your eyes.

Most cameras have settings for outdoors / sunny conditions but they tend to be software-based rather than physically allowing less light into the camera. Obviously the more expensive the camera, the better it is. Interestingly: the more expensive, the more ‘optional extras’ that you can buy. This method is quick, cheap and easy. Just be careful that you don’t damage your camera in the mounting process, and that you don’t cover any buttons.