Author Archive

Cheeky Noël Gift

December 18th, 2011 No comments

I have a rather cheeky friend who knows just how to get me going. So the other day I arrived at my desk to find this residing in front of my monitor.

Noel, since it is missing it's diaeresis a rant was assured.

Like waving a red rag in front of a bull she knew this would unleash a mix of laughter interspersed with lengthy rants about how once again the silly season had encouraged diaeresis abuse. What does one do with this ornate decoration that in it’s current state was more suited as a name plate for a guy with the name Noel. Well a few pieces of dowel, red paint and a hot glue gun were the solution.

Now it's Noël!

Now what was an ornament to the poor spelling of the Xmas season, is now a true representation for Noël with the diaeresis in red. Red because red is a cool colour, it is loosely associated with the fat dude that delivers gifts and finally cause it looks like a correction I have added in red pen to an incorrectly spelled word.

I loved the gift for the cheeky intentions, and cause it made me laugh. Now I love it more because it now highlights, in red, the pivotally important diaeresis.

Categories: Grammar Tags: , ,

GNOME Shell is back baby – Happy Days

December 16th, 2011 No comments

There can be no doubt that when I updated to Ubuntu 11.10 there was some consternation by my partner and son.  They did not like the Unity layout at all, but it was workable but they didn’t like it.  Yet no matter how much I tried Unity left me feeling cold, I don’t know why. The integrated menus and top bar is good for screen space but on a 23 inch monitor this is less of an issue than it is on my netbook.  But the maximised windows having buttons on the left is annoying and the operation of the launcher was, I don’t know, underwhelming.

So after installing GNOME Shell I was happier but GNOME Shell demands a lot of the new convert, the typical paradigm of using a desktop is fundamentally altered, and to my partner and son keyboard short cuts weren’t a winner.

GNOME Shell with the Dock Extension on the right

But with GNOME 3’s extension site with a simple click you can install all the extensions you want (except frustratingly the Dock Extension). For them the Frippery bottom bar is the duck’s guts, now they have their window chooser where it should be. I still use the Activities window but to them they can easily select running apps. Happily the house is firmly back in the GNOME Shell camp.

Categories: Linux Tags: , , ,

Ortlieb Office Bag – Road Test

December 14th, 2011 1 comment

Well today the my new Ortlieb Office Bag was tested by commuting to work on my bicycle. It carried all I needed it to carry, which included my Asus netbook, a change of clothes and lunch. It mounted onto the rack well with the QL2 mounting system which is so easy to adjust. When off the bike the bag stands up neatly not constantly falling over like my Carradice bag did.  All in all very happy with the bag. I can see why people rave about Ortlieb.

My new Ortlieb bag mounted on my Jamis Quest

Categories: Cycling Tags: ,

Ortlieb Office Bag

December 13th, 2011 No comments

Credit where credit is due, Wiggle’s shipping pace is bloody fantastic. I ordered an Ortlieb Office bag a week ago and here it is all the way from UK in a week. Now that is indeed impressive, particularly as shipping is included in the price.

The Ortlieb Office bag fulfills a desire I have had for a while to own an Ortlieb bag. Ortlieb bags are cool indeed, they are fully waterproof, this one uses their classic roll top closure. Believe it or not the bag is actually made in Germany, not China or some other cheap manufacturing centre. On arrival the bag is very neatly packaged, which adds to the feeling of a quality product.

Ortlieb Office Bag in packaging

The bag uses Ortlieb’s QL2 mounting system which is very easy to adjust and setup for each rack, no tools were necessary. The bag is not huge but should be large enough for my netbook and a change of clothes for work. You can see a fair amount of space with only my netbook in there.

Ortlieb Office Bag open with netbook inside

The bag is quite a neat looking bag when closed, in fact it looks like many other office bags. My previous bag the Carradice Bike Beureau was larger but nowhere near as neat looking as the Ortlieb.

The Ortlieb closed and looking neat

Now the true test will be when I use it for my commute. The damn rain we have had lately, only a problem because I’m not as waterproof as the bag. I’m told I am made of sugar 😉

Categories: Cycling Tags: , ,

Noël diaeresis neglect yet again

December 12th, 2011 No comments

A penis called Noel?

OK I realise I’m flogging a dead horse here. But here is photographic proof of the sort of diaeresis abuse that we see around Xmas. Now I’m sorry this isn’t just a matter of poor grammar but in terms of aesthetics; why would you put it on your house? It looks like a red and green penis! So clearly this is a large red and green house penis that they have named Noel. It certainly only represents Noël in the mind of those whose mind is muddled by the Xmas spirit.

Categories: Grammar Tags: , ,

GNOME Shell – I like you but the family says no

December 10th, 2011 No comments

I’m sorry GNOME 3 I tried, I really did but the family has voted and they don’t like GNOME Shell, I have argued for you but my wife and son want Unity back. On our desktop running Ubuntu 11.10 the family were shocked when I gave them Unity as the default install but with a bit of time they came around to the Unity launcher lurking on the left.

But when I decided the family should try GNOME shell I had high hopes. I want GNOME Shell to work, I like supporting GNOME. With Unity it appears Ubuntu is going it alone, I’m not sure that’s a good thing so I want to support the more mainstream GNOME interface, hence GNOME Shell for me. But to my wife and son the lack of of an obvious window bar/dock call it what you want was a deal breaker.

I think GNOME Shell is quite cool but it reminds me a bit of a phone OS like Android with no obvious switcher for multitasking. Sure the apps are there but at first glance it isn’t obvious what is running. Click Activities and there they are – that cool animation reveals them. But that is a long journey each time with the mouse, almost seems like double handling. But just use the Super L (Windows) key I hear you say. Great for me, nightmare for the rest of the family, they don’t use the keyboard for navigation. So to them GNOME Shell is an epic failure. To me it is a clean and innovate re-imagining of a desktop environment. To them it is poorly designed.

I tried to show them Alt-Tab and Super Key for Activities but they think that is silly. I even tried to point out it’s quicker using the keyboard, but to no avail. And maybe this is the problem with GNOME Shell, it is great for a power user or a tinkerer, but to the average user it’s a revolutionary step too far. Now this is a concern because I’m all for wide Linux adoption, but it makes it hard to recommend GNOME Shell to anyone who just wants their computer to work like it used to. By their very nature computing environments change rapidly, I’m cool with that. But to some GNOME Shell is a too much change at once. I would like to see them make the Favourites (yes GNOME that is spelled incorrectly in the Shell) bar able to be made permanently visible, like the Unity launcher. Then at least the newcomer could be eased off their reliance on a panel showing running apps.

I’m still your fan GNOME Shell, I like you, but the family are going to make me wait a while before we can be friends again.

Categories: Linux Tags: , , ,

Xmas and the Diaeresis

December 10th, 2011 No comments

The other night a mate is driving me home and we drive past a house. It was one of those houses where the totally individualistic owner had done the entirely original thing of covering their house in idiotic Christmas lights. Now Christmas is a fun time but those lights really annoy me. Besides the obvious waste of electricity and the waste of time, they simply show a high level of both decadence and banality in my not so humble opinion.

But even worse this buffoon committed a grammatical error. You see emblazoned on his house, in red and green glory, was NOEL. So the assumption is that this is Noel’s house because that word certainly isn’t the Christmas word Noël. Now the two dots over the e form a diaeresis. This looks the same as the umlaut but has a slightly different role. It tells you to say the vowel pair as separate sounds. We could write co-operate with a diaeresis as follows: coöperate; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did, and the New Yorker magazine recently did too.  So back to the Xmas word. Noel is pronounced as no-ll, but Noël is pronounced as no-ell. The diaeresis also appears in Citroën, so we should say (when anglicised)  sit-ro-en, not sit-ron.

Yet another annoyance of Christmas: Diaeresis abuse!

Scrooge Copeland discussing the big issues here at the Soapbox!

Categories: Grammar Tags: , ,

A Bad Year for Rhinos

December 4th, 2011 No comments

This has indubitably been a bad year for rhinos, particularly if you are a rhino subspecies. As many would know the rarest rhino subspecies is the Northern White Rhino, with only 8 individuals. But a year ago we correctly should have said it was the Vietnamese subspecies of the Javan rhino. There are only around 50-60 Javan Rhinos, 3 of these were the Vietnamese Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus), in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. Sadly a month or so ago this subspecies was declared extinct. Sad on so many levels, but particularly when the rarest rhino species loses another bit of diversity. Now the Javan Rhino only exists in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, a stable population that is well protected but highly prone to disease and unlikely to expand due to a lack of land. The Javan Rhino used to be the most widespread of all Asian rhinos, with three subspecies, sadly they now rank as one of the rarest animals in the world.

When I was a young boy the Black Rhino was the most plentiful of all rhinos, but sadly this year the West African Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) subspecies became extinct. This subspecies used to live in Cameroon but sadly no longer does. It is indeed sad that in this day and age we are seeing the continued killing of these large herbivores to fuel a moronic and unsubstantiated belief that rhino horn (made of Keratin – the same stuff as your fingernails) had medicinal value in Traditional Chinese medicine. Through this misguided value these beautiful creatures are hunted mercifully.

A sad indictment on our species if you ask me.

Categories: Rhino Tags: , , ,


November 28th, 2011 2 comments

My Jamis Quest in front of some very dull Toyotas

Now this photo reveals a juxtaposition. You see in the foreground is something rather cool. My Jamis Quest road bike with its Reynolds 631 frame giving a super smooth ride, yet still keeping it light and nimble. Flash Ultegra crankset and my Speedplay Frog pedals giving wonderful free float to save the knees. Notice also the Camelbak Podium bottles. As I said cool.

Now check out the background, this cycle path goes behind the Toyota complex at Caringbah. And what we have there is a world of mediocrity; i.e. uncool. A variety of DULL Toyota cars, because I feel Toyota is as about as exciting as a white good. Oh sure they can be reliable but that is DULL too (except all those recalls on the Corolla). And check out that idiotic FJ Cruiser, they make a retro 4WD and it doesn’t have a diesel option. Crazy and DULL.

So in summation: My bike cool, Toyota not cool.

Recumbent Folly

November 27th, 2011 No comments

I am sure my post on Moultons managed to annoy some devotees, and that is to be expected. I would have been annoyed to read it a while back. Now dear reader it is time for me to tell you why I think that recumbents are a folly on a grand scale. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept, let’s lie the rider back and reduce frontal area, and reduce the pressure on the butt. But once you move into the world of recumbents you move into an area of high cost for return and to be honest they rarely seem to deliver on all they promise. Let is compare apples and apples first.

Recumbent bikes and upright bikes.

The upright bike has been around since 1885 when the first River Safety bicycle appeared. It has been fine tuned into an efficient and high performance machine. Originally made with simple steels, then alloy steels, now frame materials range from the common alumnium alloys, to exotic composite frames and a small niche market of alloy steels still exists (cause remember Steel is Real). If anything there is an element of boredom in the upright world because it is the same basic designed that is simply tinkered with.

Now if you want to look at something different then we enter the world of recumbents (bents). Check out M5 or Optima to get an idea of the Euro bent world. Then check out Lightning or Easy Riders to see the American bent bikes. These are fantastic looking machines and show variety in design.  But they all cost a bloody fortune to get anywhere near the weight and performance of a $1500-$2000 upright. My Jamis Quest with its Reynolds 631 alloy steel frame weighs in at a touch over 9 kg. Most of these recumbents will be lucky to tip the scales at anything much under 11 kg for a medium size bike and if they have suspension as a number do then 15 kg may be the weight region. But to gain these weights we are dealing with expensive recumbents. In Australia they will cost around $5000; that’s a serious piece of cycling gear. Now I have only owned one recumbent bicycle, it was an M5 Shockproof and it looked cool (well for a recembent) but to be fair I never gave it a chnace. A few rides showed it to be twitchy with its tiller style steering and the seat wasn’t all the comfortable. It certainly wasn’t the armchair comfort you think you’ll get. It was a lot of money that didn’t offer the returns I hoped for.

Recumbent Trikes

Now in Australia recumbent trikes are more popular than bikes. In part due to the success for the world renowned Greenspeed tricycles. These are fun to ride, and were started by Mike Burrows with his Speedy tricycle which was the original iteration of the now famous Windcheetah trike. So with trike most are tadpole trikes, that means they have two wheels in front and one at the back. That means a long chain from the pedals to the drive wheel. Also to facilitate steep climbing many use  a hybrid gear system with a 27-30 speed dérailleur setup mixed with a 3 speed internal hub gear. This means a total of 81-90 gears, with massive overlap but a really low gear and a very high top gear. This arrangement though introduces massive drag into an efficient dérailleur mechanism. My first trike a Greenspeed GTR had the hybrid gear setup and I always felt it stodgy to ride. Get rid of the internal geared hub and my average speeds improved by 2 km/h straight away. Furthermore internal geared hubs are heavy, so a heavy trike weighing around 16-18 kg is heavier again with these hubs. So it is better to go a pure dérailleur setup and deal with the more standard gear range.

But the real killer with trikes is that the cheap ones (around $3000!) are damn heavy, around 18 kg, now that is double the weight of my current bike. Oh you can get lighter ones but they are dearer again, upwards to $5000 and $6000. My second trike was a Greenspeed GLR, this was more like a land luge. Low and fast and “only” around 14 kg. But it was heaps dearer, and nothing I have ever rode raised the ire of fellow road users more than this. Car drivers hated it cause it was low and they happily yelled abuse at me. Which made the whole riding experience even less satisfying. In recumbent publications you often read about the delightful comfort but I can’t say I found that. They aren’t arm chairs or car seats. They are hard in some ways and often bend your shoulders up, so you can look straight ahead because the lower the trike is the more stable it is to corner on. But it is not super comfortable.

So you’re thinking of a recumbent and you think why should I? Well don’t buy it imagining an armchair ride, you won’t get that. Don’t buy it for speed, particularly trikes because they aren’t faster (except maybe downhill). They aren’t better to commute on and they are like a mobile tanning bend in summer; you really get baked on hot days. And for all this you pay around twice what you would for an upright (upwrong as the recumbent riders say). There is a reason why recumbents have never displaced the upright, it isn’t just racing circles driving the upright’s dominance. It is simply that in spite of the upright bike’s foibles it still is overall the better cycling device for the average person. Oh and finally you look odd! No other way to say it, you are out of the ordinary, people will notice and they will comment.

Now say you want to ignore my lacklustre experiences with bents, and you are hell bent (pardon the pun) on one, go and see Ian Humphries at Flying Furniture. A good guy, and a recumbent evangelist who will have plenty to try. Maybe you’ll have a better experience than I did.

Categories: Cycling Tags: , , ,