Lies, Damn Lies and Dam Statistics

10 PM February 4, 2008

Apparently, we’ve had a lot of rain lately. The water board reckon that it hasn’t made much difference:

Warragamba Dam had received just 30 millimetres of rain since Friday, a spokeswoman for the Sydney Catchment Authority said. “The rainfall we’ve had so far hasn’t been enough to make a significant impact [on dam levels].”

I live in Sydney.com have a different story – 0.1% up over the last few days. That’s a lot of water.

They also have a neat page detailing Sydney’s dam levels over the last few years, and showing the positive effects of the water restrictions. Without the restrictions, Sydney would have run out of water in early 2007.

By alang | # | Comments (1)
(Posted to Stuff and Rants)

Phase Playlist Sync Bug

10 PM January 4, 2008

I recently downloaded the game Phase for my shiny new iPod Nano and immediately hit a bug synchronizing the Phase playlist. If you just want to know how to solve the bug, skip down two paragraphs while I tell everyone else about Phase.

Phase is one of those games like Guitar Hero: you press keys matching the coloured dots falling down the screen in time to the music. The twist is, you get to use your own music. When you first sync the game to your iPod, it creates a playlist named “Phase Music”. You load up the Phase Music playlist with your songs, sync to your iPod, and ta-da, you can play with your own songs. Woohoo! The coloured dots are backed by The Living End! All good, except…

The Bug: you have songs on your iPod, in the Phase Music playlist, but Phase can’t see those songs and says that your Phase Music playlist is empty.

The Workaround: Back in iTunes, you need to drag a song to the Phase Music playlist that isn’t already in there. If you add songs to the playlist using “Add To Playlist” on the option menu, it won’t work. After you have dragged a song, you can then resync your iPod and it will happily play all the songs on the playlist.

It took me two hours of searching, fiddling and resetting my iPod to find this workaround. Grrr.

The Cause: it seems that Phase requires some sort of pre-processing to be done in iTunes before it can be played in Phase. This pre-processing is only triggered when a song is dragged to the playlist, not when a song is added by other means. I’m not sure whether this is dodgy programming on Harmonix’ part, or iTunes not providing a rich enough set of events for game plugins. Either way, for people that tend to use menus instead of dragging, the out-of-the-box experience is terrible, and this reflects both on Harmonix and Apple.

Apple/Harmonix: It’s disappointing this bug wasn’t caught and fixed in testing. I’m sure your developers are fixing it now, but, in the meantime, could you please mention drag-not-menus right up front in the help, the faq AND the support article? Three short sentences would save hundreds of hours of frustration from iPod fans all over the world.

PS: It turns out that you can put any song you want on Guitar Hero – it just takes a bit of hacking.

By alang | # | Comments (0)
(Posted to Stuff, Software Development and Rants)

Why United is better than Qantas

10 PM September 17, 2007

United are better than Qantas in all these ways:

  1. They have moisturiser in the bathroom, in addition to the soap.
By alang | # | Comments (1)
(Posted to Stuff and Rants)

The Sydney Declaration of Convenient Aspiration

8 PM September 9, 2007

The Australian Prime Minister is so proud of The Sydney Declaration on Climate Change and Energy, the agreement he shepherded through the latest APEC meeting. He says, “This is the first such agreement involving the major polluters—the United States, China and the Russian Federation”.

True, but disingenuous.

The Kyoto Protocol has already been ratified by 172 countries, including China and the Russian Federation. Only two countries have decided not to sign the protocol, marked in red on this map:

Maps showing Kyoto Protocol signatories

It’s great to see Australia and the United States beating their chests and slapping each other on the back for boldly promising that they aspire to definitely consider addressing carbon dioxide emissions, consistent with the convenience of their respective economies and their societies. They also promised to review each other’s work, to set up an inter-governmental study-group, and to go to any meetings the UN might have on the topic.

Enough to make Sir Humphrey Appleby shed a quiet tear at the beauty of it all.

By alang | # | Comments (0)
(Posted to Stuff and Rants)

Death by Coffee. Don't let it happen to you.

1 AM August 15, 2007

Instant coffee should come with a health warning, and a special number to call in case you accidentally get some in your mouth. I found this out when I asked on Twitter, “is there enough caffeine in one jar of coffee to kill me?”. As is often the way with the lazyweb, my friends were only too eager to help:

andy47: @alang: Only one way to find out

carlfish: @alang: According to Wikipedia, the LD50 of caffeine in humans is approx. 150–200mg per kg of body mass, or between 80 and 100 cups of coffee.

tgchen: @alang: only 100 cups…..go for broke.

benaskins: @alang: only one way to find out

kazaskins: @alang – using a dessert spoon or a tea spoon? One would be a slower death than the other.

carlfish: @alang: (This used to be an FAQ on alt.sysadmin.recovery)

josephgrossberg: Alan: Depends on your body weight and liver.

So there you have it. Eat a large jar of Moccona and you’re likely to die of a heart attack.

Thanks to Charles and Joe for the useful information. Thanks to everyone else for your kind thoughts. I hope I can repay you some day.

PS: Here’s a picture from Wikipedia, showing why caffeine is bad for spiders.

By alang | # | Comments (1)
(Posted to Tall Tales and Stuff)
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