One Hit iWonders

Filed under: General - Mark @ 8:40 am


I decided to update my music collection. I’ve been listening to the same songs over and over and over and over and over again for the last few months and I’m getting really sick of them.

So, courtesy of some Canadian Apple community site, I went through their compiled list of songs from the iTunes ads and decided to give them all a go.

Good news, is that the people at the marketing company from Apple have spectacularly good taste when choosing songs for their ads (but we already knew this).

The bad news is that, apart from the Ting Tings (who have had many other successful singles in Australia anyway) the only good songs by most of the artists are the ones that were on the iTunes ads.

Still, you win some, you loose some, and at least my iPhone’s album view is looking more healthy with some new faces.

Add Comment (0) | 28/5/2009




Filed under: General - Mark @ 8:00 am


I’ve noticed a pattern recently. Most of my writings in here have been very poorly structured. They’ve been more like a spoken conversation, written down verbatim, unedited.

For example, when you’re talking to someone, you can’t backtrack to where you forgot to mention something, so you go “Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention XYZ”. That’s sort of what I’ve been doing recently, and it makes it very difficult to read. What I should have done is simply entered what I forgot to mention in its correct place and everyone will be happy.

I guess that a lot of the things written here are personal musings as well, and maybe that excuses some things, but I promise I will try to be better.

Add Comment (1) | 27/5/2009




Filed under: General - Mark @ 3:42 pm


I’ve made a new friend today.

I picked up 5x 1TB Western Digital “Green” drives for the church’s NAS that is part of the system I’m building for them. When configured in RAID-5 and formatted with UFS, you get about 3.5TB of usable storage. Should keep them going for a little while, I think.

Anyway, the network throughput I wasn’t so impressed with, so I decided that, for the first time ever, I would mess around with this iSCSI thing that I’ve seen for ages but never done anything with.

The NAS is running on FreeNAS. It’s a standard Pentium 4 3Ghz with 1gb of RAM and the aforementioned hdd’s.

Setting up iSCSI turned out to be simple. Create a file that will be used as the drive (like you do in VMWare), then set up a collection of files that will become a target for the iSCSI.

Then, on the guest machine (in this case, Vista, but in the production system it’ll be a Windows 2008 box), start iSCSI, point it to the NAS box, and it lists all the valiable ‘targets’. Connect the target, and it appears as a physical disk in the Device Manager. From there, do whatever you would normally do with it.

When copying over SMB (Windows File Sharing) I was getting fairly poor network utilisation (around 10mb). Over the iSCSI I was getting more like 40Mb (It’s a gigabit network, so that’s still not great, but it’s also still building the RAID-5 array, which doesn’t help).

I’m very impressed. I should have used this years ago, but I never really knew what it did, or understood how to use it. Sure there’s a million other complicated things you can do with it, but for fast, remote storage it’s brilliant.

Add Comment (0) | 26/5/2009



We’re on the way

Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:25 am


Well, we signed the contract of sale and paid our 0.25% deposit on the property. This weekend, get the unconditional approval, and then wait and pay the full 10% deposit.

In other news, I have received precisely 0 emails between leaving the office yesterday and coming in this morning. Exceptionally rare, but a good thing.

Add Comment (0) | 22/5/2009



A slave to the MAN!

Filed under: General - Mark @ 12:04 pm


Well, we’ve done it. We’ve bought an apartment. It’s in the suburb of Telopea (no, not Telopea, Punchbowl, Telopea Telopea). It’s a 94m2, two bedroom, internal laundry, lockup garage. Huge living area. Easilly twice the size of the place we’re renting at the moment.


The photo’s really don’t do it justice. We were prepared to write it off, based on the photos, as ‘average’. But upon actually inspecting the place, we were very pleasantly surprised. The photo of the living room is actually taken from the middle of the room. There’s a fair amount of space behind it too.

The kitchen and bathroom are fairly original – 1980, and the carpet is renters carpet, but these are fairly minor things. With plumbers and tradespeople in the family (and no intention of keeping any carpet in the living room, regardless of what it was), it should be fairly straight forward to get the place looking spiffo.

The price was well under our theoretical maximum that we’d agreed to spend, but we did pay a bit more than we wanted to for the apartment, but in the grand scheme of things, what’s $5000? We still got it at a pretty normal discounted price.

We’re signing all the papers tonight, so technically this could be premature – but given that the property has been on the market for less than a week (it was listed last thursday and the offer was accepted tuesday night), I think we should be pretty safe.

Now starts a period of paying thousands and thousands of dollars, and at the end of it – handing over more money than I’m ever likely to see in real life…

Add Comment (2) | 21/5/2009



APRA AMCOS Royalties Calculations

Filed under: General - Mark @ 9:06 am


For a project for Church, I’ve been looking in to how much it costs to reproduce songs on a physical medium. The CCLI license (which most churches hold) only allows for recording of live services to distribute to shut-ins or people who couldn’t make the service, in small quantities.

For our purpose, this does not cover what we want to do. In fact, in the FAQs, it very clearly states in no uncertain terms, exactly what we want to do, is not covered by their license.

So, next step was to visit the Hillsong licensing page (50% of the work would be theirs most likely, so I decided thats a good place to start), and they were very helpful – and directed me to APRA AMCOS. I’d never heard of them before, but I don’t work in the industry. Everyone else in the industry knows of them, so please excuse my ignorance.

Anyway, we need a Manufacturer license for the songs, and figuring out the royalty structure was absolutally doing my HEAD in. I’m no good at maths at the best of times, so I enlisted the help of Jayme, and he did up a neat spreadsheet for figuring the royalty costs. I added some extra functionality and made it look pretty, and here it is.


Click here to download the AMCOS Royalties Calculator for Excel.

Note: Absolutally no warranty is provided, or implied. This in no way is a guarantee of your royalty costs, nor is it even a valid estimation. It should be fairly accurate, but always check it against the AMCOS website. Rates and fees are current as of May 2009.

Add Comment (1) | 19/5/2009



A ritual cleansing

Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:29 am


Over the weekend I cleaned my soul. Well, not really – but that’s what it can feel like sometimes.

It’s pretty simple – if you haven’t done these few things in a while, give them a go:

1) Clean up your desktop icons. I deleted all of them, but if that’s not your style, don’t stress – delete the ones you haven’t used in over two weeks. And if you have FireFox that loves to save downloaded files there, then move them away too.

2) Change your desktop background. Pretty straight forward, especially if you still have Bliss (the XP standard) or you’ve had your background for a long time.

3) Vista only – change your colour scheme. In XP the blue scheme is about the only one worth using, in my opinion, but in Vista you have 16 million colours to choose from. So choose a different one. One that compliments your new background, maybe?

Well, it works for me.

In other news, I went to our systems admin’s house yesterday to pick up some servers and desktops he’s selling to the church for dirt cheap. What I came back with (and this is only the first delivery, another to come):

14x Desktop computers, most of them Pentium D or Core Duo’s
9x Rack Mount Servers (Most of then P4 HT’s, a few of them Pentium D’s, and one Dual Xeon)
2x 24-port Managed Gigabit Switches
1x 3000KVA UPS (Of $3000 retail value)
2x 42U Racks



All for the grand total of $1000.

Anyway, I best get to work – it’s not even 7.30 in the am and I know for a fact I’m in for possibly the most stressful day (if not week) of both my work, and personal, life. For the work stress, see previous post. For personal, well, I’m not going to write anything about it just yet, because I don’t want to be reminded of “The one that got away” in future years.

Add Comment (1) | 18/5/2009




Filed under: General - Mark @ 6:54 pm


Late last year we took on board a new client. He was on a bit of a tight budget, so to do some shoestring development for him we advised him that rather than spending our hourly rate doing bug testing, we will release the software to him in stages, and he will be responsible for the bug testing and reporting the bugs to it.

What we have delivered to him in the past 6 months (well actually it’s more than 6 months, it’s probably closer to 10) is quite frankly a pretty good website, and pretty good web service. There have been bugs along the way – thats what happens when you’re developing something. A few of these bugs (quite a few actually) have ONLY been reproducable on his own computer, which is a very heavilly locked down version of XP with minimal updates, tied to his work domain.

Most of the things have been fairly minor – on certain versions of IE6 at certain resolutions, sometimes a div would not break a float properly, or for some users, doing a specific search, using a specific version of IE6 with a certain network policy would not be able to load the Google Maps component of the website. Things like that. Really really obscure things.

This has been going on for several months now – probably 3 or so. And this afternoon, he cracks the shits and tells us that we have one week to deliver him a 100% rock solid website, or he is demanding his money back.

Now, I take this personally. 100% of the development on this project has been mine. 100% of the code. The ONLY thing I did not do was the HTML layout (of which a number of the bugs have appeared because of. I do not envy our web designers). So when he demands a refund on the site because he does not have any confidence in it (a misguided notion, but more on that later) that is a personal reflection on what he feels the quality of my work is worth.

Now, obviously, this upsets me. What he has (for a bargain price, mind you) is a fully functional, incredibly complex website that has some minor bugs for some users on obscure browsers. The reason he has been affronted with so many bugs, is because that was part of the deal. He does the testing, we fix what he finds. He seems to have forgotten that. We haven’t been handing him a shrinkwrapped product telling him it’s 100% ready for production.

The other thing which he doesn’t understand is that in any custom-built application that does not have any real-life users yet (its still in testing phases) is that it’s never going to be perfect. We have a very mature product that we’ve been developing for the last 4-5 years that has thousands of users of the public every day, and even that is not perfect. You can never expect v1.0 of anything to be perfect.

Think of any new car model that’s launched. I don’t mean a facelift, I mean a brand new car. The VE Commodore, for example. The first few thousand off the production line will have teething problems. There will be recalls, safety notices, things will probably fall off. This is all part and parcel of choosing to be one of the first with a brand new product. When you receive a notice advising you that the the wrong bolt has been used to affix the cruise control cable and that in extreme circumstances it has been known to fall off and render the cruise control inoperable, you don’t demand a refund on the whole car, you take it back to the dealer and get them to fix it.

It’s the same with software. Even more so with software, becuase it’s hand made. Hand crafted. I don’t want to blow my own horn, but software design and development is a learned art. Like pottery. The first few things you churn out are going to be shit (speaking from experience here), but you don’t sell them. You set them aside and learn from them. By the time you’re churning out polished products, you’ve put a lot of time, effort and skill into getting to that place. When someone demands a refund because the hand-made saucers you purchased are 2.34mm different in diameter, that’s a personal and unreasonable affront on the potters skills. That’s what you get when you ask for something hand made.

Also, there is no turn-key solution for the software that we’ve built for him. It’s highly customised to his exact specifications.

And to be honest, I personally don’t think he stands a chance against his competitors. He wants to be the next Amazon, but he’s got the budget to be a Ben and Jerry’s (to borrow an american case study). But that’s irrelevant and off track.

The point is that I’m highly offended by his refusal – nay, his rejection and subsequent demand of compensation – of my personal, hand-made, hand-tailored product that I have poured hundreds of hours of my time, skill and expertise into, because of some minor quirks that you get in any large-scale system. He needs to get his head checked, or get out of the kitchen.

The worst thing is that we can’t afford to refund his money. Well, I say WE but really I mean the company, and by the company I mean my boss. We’re a very small operation, and if we loose his business that’s not a problem, but refunding a large sum? Hardly. And, on top of that, and because of this nitpicking, we’ve gone grossly over-budget and absorbed the vast majority of this overtime.

So there you have it. 1000 words on a hard lesson learned – don’t work for people who don’t understand the way software development works. Anyway, personally I think its crazy outsourcing your core competancy (which is what he’s done). Especially when a quick google of the industry the website is for reveals DOZENS of competitors where this is their core competancy (and at least two of which are valued as amongst the top 100 companies in the country).

Add Comment (0) | 15/5/2009



Angry angry hippo

Filed under: General - Mark @ 10:05 am


I hate our customers. I thought I had left the days of shitty tech support behind me.

Last night I got an email marked URGENT where one of our customers had left something to the last minute, was trying to do it, and the security settings on her PC were blocking our application. I had left the office by then, Michael was out for the day, so I didnt see the email till this morning.

So I call her office number. The secretary answers, very grumpilly “Hello [company name]”. I say “Hi, can I speak to [client] please?” … a few seconds of slience… noise of phone being moved around… and then I’m hung up on.

This is a respectable multi-million dollar business and they’re hanging up on their tech support that they demanded so quickly. I didn’t even introduce myself, so she didn’t even know who I was.

Still, when they come screaming to me about WHERES MY TECH SUPPORT I have a legit reason (and the conversations are recorded by default).

Add Comment (1) | 13/5/2009



Sensationalist Tabloids

Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:37 am


Oh, I wish I had a copy of the Daily Telegraph I could scan and post it here for you. It makes me sick. Actually what makes me even more sick is that it’s Sydney’s most popular newspaper, but that’s another story.

Their front-page today was a hideous cartoon of Kevin Rudd, and a headline that took up 3/4 of the page “RUDD WANTS US TO WORK LONGER AND HARDER” – in response to the proposed raising of the pension age from 65 to 67.

Well, for starters, in some developed countries, it’s already already at 68 years of age (in the US they want to raise it to 72). So we’re still bettter off than them.

But the MAIN thing that makes me sick? A few years ago, the Howard government pulled the exact same stunt – they wanted us to keep working well past the retirement, because the government couldn’t afford to pay the pension. Does anyone remember that? It was all well and good for him to say that – as a 65 year old himself he (thought he had) stable employment, and he does have a fat pension for the rest of his life.

I don’t recall seeing sensationalist headlines from the Telegraph then.

Sounds to me like the Telegraph are still sore about loosing the election. It was two years ago guys – come on. How about some un-bias reporting for once.




Filed under: General - Mark @ 7:36 pm


We just got an email from our representative at HP who basically said that he doesn’t have enough time to deal with us any more, because we’re not looking to spend enough money for it to be worth his time.

He blames “The Global Economy”. What a copout. Do your damn job and revise our quotes.

Add Comment (1) | 12/5/2009



Pure laziness

Filed under: General - Mark @ 11:47 am


On Page 2 of todays Sydney Morning Herald (thats a broadsheet, not a tabloid – thus, a proper newspaper for intelligent people), there was an apology about an obituary they printed the previous day, because one of the agencies they syndicate their content from had used Wikipedia to obtain information and that information was, of course, incorrect.

Seriously. How lazy is that. Not really SMH’s fault, but the original journalist, come on. I hope they got in deep shit for not doing their job properly.

Add Comment (0) | 8/5/2009



Driven to distraction

Filed under: General - Mark @ 2:39 pm


I just can’t concentrate today. See, here I am now, writing about how I can’t concentrate instead of actually trying to concentrate.

Add Comment (0) | 6/5/2009



Up to date

Filed under: General - Mark @ 11:01 am


I wish real estate agents would keep their listings on sites like domain and realestate up to date – saves people from getting their hopes up if the property is already sold.

Add Comment (0) | 5/5/2009



Feel free to remove my balls now

Filed under: General - Mark @ 11:54 am


I was googling for something to do with GTA 4 when I stumbled upon the site Inferring from the URL obviously as a website, aimed at females, for entertainment (games, comics, anime, etc).

It is one of the best, most informative and well written tech/game/nerd centered websites I have ever seen. If you ignore all the twilight banners that adorn it at the moment, and the pink colour scheme, I would feel perfectly at home reading it. And I’m a full on nerd guy.

Maybe I’m just in touch with my feminine side…

Oh, and the page I found about GTA4? They said that it deserves its spot as the #1 grossing video game of all time. Not what I expected from a girl gamer site. Not at all. Clearly not filled with feminists then. Even better.

Add Comment (0) | 2/5/2009


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