Internet Filter Part The Last

11:50 Sat, 10 Nov 2012

Finally, at long long last, the Australia Government has killed off its long-standing proposal to implement an internet filter for all Australians. Instead, it will go with a much more sensible and practical policy of banning access to websites listed on the Interpol "worst" list.

The two reasons why this is better is that it is an open and transparent process, and that it is harder to get accidentally or maliciously included on the list since at least two countries have to propose a website for inclusion.

Now all we have to do is prevent Australia succumbing to U.S. pressure to implement ACTA, SOPA and all the others that the one-sided Free Trade Agreement part 2 will impose on us.

I wrote previously on this in 2010 here,
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Categories: censorship, internet

Tour de France

09:00 Sat, 21 Jul 2012

Another beautiful Tour de France. We are only three days away from the final stage in Paris and Bradley Wiggins will win.

Last night watching stage 21, I saw Mark Cavendish power from the poursuivants, catch the tête de course and just drive past still accelerating. The lead group had nothing to say. It was a simply awesome display of power and assertiveness.

Wiggins will win, of course, having led from stage 7 and Peter Sagan is the tremendous new addition to the Tour, a superb sprinter who also wins mountain climbs. It will be great to see Cavendish and Sagan compete in sprints in the next Tours (it didn't happen this year because Cavendish's team was focussed on supporting Wiggins).

There have been plenty of Aussie supporters along the way as shown by the number of Australian flags on the route. Plenty of any nationalities' supporters on the mountain too—they are going to have to do something about that, they are crowding the riders on the summit—and I'm not too sure what the heck is up with all those naked men running alongside.

By the way, if you were wondering, like me, where is the Devil Man (Didi Senft) this year, he recently had surgery and his doctors told him to stay home and be quiet, a
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Categories: sport

Shell Function To Decode and View Cache & Cookie Date-Time

09:42 Fri, 13 Jul 2012

I was checking how a server was returning cache and cookie times and needed something to view the timestamp in normal, human-readable date time. The timestamp (e.g. 1340325256487) is a unix datetime (i.e. time from the epoch of 01-01-1970 0:00 UTC) expressed in milliseconds.

You can show the datetime of epoch dates using the date unix command:

$ date -d @1340325256 Fri Jun 22 08:34:16 WST 2012

However, that won't work here because of the additional milliseconds component that servers send in their headers and set in the cookies:

$ date -d @1340325256487 date: invalid date `@1340325256487'

We need to strip off the last 3 digits, which means we can't use an alias because we
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Categories: unix, internet

God Particle: Higgs Boson Found

09:56 Wed, 04 Jul 2012

It looks like the Higgs boson has been confirmed (source: The Age).

The Age is still perpetuating the myth that it is called the God particle because it gives all other particles their mass. Actually, it came from a frustrated early researcher who called it the god-damn particle because it was so hard to find. So, small "g" please if you follow the latest style guides for slang.

Hacker News has comments and a link to another article.

Update: Here is a great animated cartoon that explains what the Higgs boson is, how it is important, and how we are looking for it. No science needed!

Categories: science

Australia Gets R+ Rating For Games

09:01 Wed, 20 Jun 2012

At long last, Australia gets its R rating (adults only) for computer games. The Commonwealth has passed the necessary legislation in the last few days, and the States have agreed to implement their complementary legislation this year. The implementation date is January 2013.

Previously, our highest rating was M15, which means suitable for over-15 year olds. Any game that warranted a more restricted rating was refused classification, which meant it was illegal to sell in Australia. We were the only western country in the world to ban games to adults.

In practice, many games that were in a gray area were let through with M15. This meant that kids were getting access to games they probably should not have. As a corollary, parents were confused because the M15 rating seemed to include a vast range of games from mild through to strong violence.

The new system, only a decade later than the rest of the world, means that the M15 rating will, in practice, be tightened up and parents will be more sure of the content of that game. And, of course, adults will be free to buy games with higher degrees of violence or sex or swearing.


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Fairfax To Move To Pay-wall

08:48 Wed, 20 Jun 2012

Yesterday, Fairfax (publishers of The Age and The Sydney Morning-Herald) announced 1,900 job cuts and that online editions would move behind a pay-wall.

Many of the job cuts will come from journalists, but the majority will come from the production areas such as printing. A sign of the times and unfortunate for those workers in obsolete technology who will be impacted. (I'm not being cruel; it is obvious to Blind Freddie that printers as a mass industry will go the way of the textile workers who were replaced by mechanical looms and gave the word "luddite".)

I read my morning news online, mainly The Age which I enjoy for its in-depth articles, and, while disappointing, the move to a pay-wall is not unexpected.

So far, I have avoided completely paying for online news. For one, the prices are ridiculous. Printing is responsible for roughly half the cost of a newspaper, so removing paper and ink from the equation should bring costs down. Yet the online subscription, at least for those news sites I looked at, is the same as the printed version. Nup, not going to pay that, especially with a vast range of alternative free sources.

The industry is obviously going through major change and things are yet to settle down, so the price will move up and down before settling at some stable point. I
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Categories: politics, economics

Venus Transit: Too Cloudy

12:40 Wed, 06 Jun 2012

It was a washout here, literally. After a solid week of sunshine and few clouds, winter decided to hit. I woke this morning to solid gray ⁸/₈ cloud and rain.

Five hours later the weather has not changed, so I did not get to see the transit. Such is life in astronomy. I did follow along in xephem, so I had the virtual tour instead.

Categories: astronomy, science

Google Now Has Formula One Calendar

09:31 Sun, 03 Jun 2012

Google has recently introduced a neat feature for F1 fans. If you type "f1 calendar 2012", instead of getting some links that you then have to look at, you immediately get a display of the recent race results and the dates of the next few races.

Google search
results

I especially like that the times of the races are in your local time. Google has a reputation of thinking-through a product design, and here it shows.

Well done, and much appreciated from this F1 follower.

Categories: internet, sport

Venus Transit Times in Australia

11:16 Sat, 02 Jun 2012

I mentioned previously that the last transit of Venus that any of us will see is in a couple of days on June 6, and I promised I would post the times to watch around Australia. Here they are.

City Start Middle Finish
Brisbane8:0011:2014:40
Sydney8:0011:2014:40
Melbourne8:0011:2014:40
Hobart8:0011:2014:40
Adelaide7:3010:5014:10
Perth7:15 ¹9:3512:40
¹ sunrise

The Sun will have only just risen in the southern cities and will still be below the horizon in Perth when the transit starts, so not ideal viewing there. Still, the transit will take roughly 6½ hours so the rest of it will be good.
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Categories: astronomy, science

Clever use of astronomy and 3D QR code

10:28 Sat, 26 May 2012

This story combines two of my likes: astronomy and technology.

I wrote previously about the QR code on my main site's home page. Basically, a QR code is like a bar code expanded into a square. Its advantage is that is can hold much more information than a bar code and so can be adapted for many uses other than pricing in the supermarket.

One of those uses is to hold a web page's URL, which is what my QR code does. A smart phone can take a photo of the QR code and then open up a browser with the web page displayed.

A retailer in Seoul is using a sculpture to cast shadows that make up a QR code for its website. The shadows only generate the correct QR code for the hour after noon, which is the retailer's quiet time. A passer-by who accesses the website at that time gets offered discounts and other incentives.
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