Since 2010

The Big Picture: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Sunday 24 July 2011

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has really outdone itself this time.

Update: Tuesday 2 August 2011

Coincidentally, I’ve just arrived home after attending a lecture by Gregory Chamitoff, who was one of the mission specialists aboard STS-134, the last ever space flight for shuttle Endeavour. He was talking about the mission objectives, life aboard the International Space Station, and showed us a stack of cracking photos.

I get the feeling that he could have talked for hours, and he obviously has lots of stories to tell, but he ran out of time. He’s apparently done a lot of teaching at the University of Sydney: I didn’t even know we had a big aeronautical engineering department!

Vacuum cleaners

Thursday 9 June 2011

Have you ever gone shopping for a new vacuum cleaner, and looked long and hard at the cylinder cleaners available for purchase? Perhaps they were a little bit cheaper than a more conventional (in the UK anyway) upright cleaner. And just look at the number of attachments you can add to the end of the hose. Plus there’s the compact size and the promise of easy storage.

Well I’m here to tell you that cylinder vacuum cleaners are shite. All of them. The reason they’re cheaper is because they’re useless. Apart from a couple of extra quid in your wallet, all you’ll end up with is a sore back, bashed skirting boards because you have to drag the flecking things around behind you, and dirty carpets.

And the compact size thing is a load of bull as well: they take up more room by the time you stuff the hose and all it’s crappy atachments into a cupboard.

Plus a small vacuum cleaner means a small dust holder thing as well, so you’ll have to empty it more often. Which isn’t actually that big a deal because the two that I’ve had in my life have both refused to pick up any dust or dirt in the first place.

Just another grumble about another home appliance that Australians are obsessed with for reasons which completely escape me.

Telstra MessageBank

Friday 20 May 2011

Alright, here’s another of those might-be-useful-to-someone posts.

I’ve just switched my mobile phone provider to Telstra. So far I’m very impressed with their network coverage, certainly compared to the other two Australian networks I’ve tried. However, as with all things Australia, everything has a cryptic name and there are some unnecessary complications if you don’t want voicemail or missed call reminders.

Here’s my guide to turning Telstra’s idea of a mobile phone service into just a phone service:

  • MessageBank is Telstra’s name for voicemail. To disable this, I went through my phone’s menus and turned off all diverts.
  • Call Back Notification sends you a text message whenever you miss a call, whether you’re on the phone, have no coverage, or your phone is turned off. I had to call Telstra on 125 111 to get them to turn this off.
  • Message2txt is activated automatically when you disable all the stuff listed above. Just when you thought you had it cracked as well! Callers who can’t get through to you will have the option to leave a short 10 second message that is converted to text and sent to you as an SMS. It was another phone call to Telstra to get rid of this service.

10 years ago a browser was born

Saturday 5 March 2011

Traffic logs reveal that the overwhelming majority of visitors to use a decent browser. But for the tiny percentage of you who are still using Internet Explorer 6, please do something about it. You are the bane of my professional life.

Microsoft have recycled a domain they purchased more than 10 years ago, and are using it to request IE6 users upgrade their browser. Microsoft themselves have created this website, and thereby admitted that IE6 needs to be killed immediately.

I recommend any WebKit browser in case you’re interested. Google Chrome is excellent, and Apple’s Safari isn’t too shabby either. And in the non-webkit world, initial tests we’ve conduced at work on Internet Explorer 9 are very pleasing.