Archive for April 17, 2010

Assorted News 29 – Away Mid May, and Winter Tips… :)

Assorted News 29 – Away Mid May, and Winter Tips… 🙂

In this edition:

Assorted News:
Away Mid May

General Ramblings:
Picasa now doing Facial Recognition
A better free PDF program: PDF-Xchange

Winter Tips
Dash Cam ahoy 🙂
Telling lies ten times a day.

Away Mid May…

Just a quick note that I’ll be off duty from 18th May to 3rd June. I’m actually going a long way away this time – some place called America. (Well I’ll be…!) Of course, this will make me harder to contact than normal – I’m not even sure yet how I’ll get online over there although no doubt I’ll find a way… If you have any IT emergencies during this time I may have to reluctantly refer you to some of my competitors, but try the phone first. The two companies I currently trust the most not to rip you off are Armidale Computers 02 6771 2712 and Amac Digital Products 02 6771 2266. They are both Armidale-based businesses with limited callout capabilities, but their shop-based repairs are mostly reasonable – albeit often higher than my own and perhaps without the ‘what it should have cost’ clause – I’m yet to have a ‘horror story’ from either.

I will have a house-sitter during some of the time away so hopefully if you were planning on breaking in and stealing my precious goodies – all of which are second hand anyway – please think again 🙂 Besides, you know I’m crazy by now – I can see my house on the ‘net:) It’s strangely relaxing being able to log in and watch the goldfish from afar.

Picasa now doing Facial Recognition

As some of you have already discovered, Picasa – the free photo management program – has begun doing facial recognition. What this means is that one day, if it hasn’t already happened, you’ll open Picasa and a new item will appear in the list on the left called “People” or “Unnamed”

A few people have freaked out when this happened, because suddenly it appears there are a few thousand extra photos on their computers. What’s actually happening is that it’s making a listing of all the faces it has recognised in your existing photos, but it’s not making copies of them.

If you’re on a laptop or a modern computer, you might also notice that the fan works overtime for a while when you first open Picasa after the facial recognition is first started because it’s hard work looking at hundreds of faces a minute! It will eventually settle down, depending on the speed of the computer and how many photos you have.

If you haven’t dared play with it, don’t be too worried – it’s quite fun really; although in my case it’s embarrassing since I’m so cr*p with names!

Basically, it will show you a few photos of people it has recognised at first; and ask you to name them. As soon as you name one, suddenly a whole heap of photos will appear under that name; some with ticks and crosses where the computer isn’t sure if it’s got the right person. And as you name more, the list shuffles around as it finds more and more matches. It’s quite entertaining.

Of course, if it’s not for you; you can turn that feature off by clicking Tools – Options – Name Tags, and untick the “Enable Face Detection” box.

A better PDF program

If the words Adobe Reader, Acrobat Reader or Foxit Reader mean anything to you, you might be interested in trying a program called PDF-Xchange. It’s a free PDF viewer like all the others, but unlike the others it will allow you to type onto PDFs and save what you’ve done – something that the others won’t let you do without either buying them or installing a rubbishy toolbar. Of course, you can pick and choose between these programs so if you’re already happy with the one you have but are curious to try it, it should not cause any harm 🙂 Free download from

Winter Tips…

OK we know winter’s on it’s way. It’s starting to get cold in the evenings. The long sleeve shirts are disappearing off the rack instead of the short ones. And for those of us with old cars, they’re starting to get cantankerous too.

Of course, we’ve all heard about plans to ‘put the power up’ too… which is a bit of a pest. Thus, there are two tips I have this year.

One is the one I always have for cheap electric heating – and that is that halogen heaters are probably the cheapest electric ones to run. For example, this unit – – uses 1200 watts on high, which is half of what a typical fan heater will use. Since they heat you primarily and the room next, they can be quite effective. However they can come close to setting pets on fire so be careful.

The next is a new tip I’m trying out, using bubble wrap and water… Any ideas???

Well, many of us live in houses that are wholly unsuitable to our chilly climate. We have houses that have limited or no insulation, and certainly no double-glazing. And that’s where the bubble wrap comes in 🙂 I don’t know if it really works – and after all I read it on the Internet – but I’ll know in a few months.

It doesn’t sound great of course – having windows that you can’t see out of all that well because of a layer of bubble wrap; but it does mean you can leave the curtains open and enjoy all that lovely winter light 🙂 Application is simple – just spray water on the window and apply bubble wrap. Done 🙂 You can leave holes too so you can see out the windows – see my examples here: – no need to do all your windows – you could just try the bathroom ones for example – heck they’re usually frosted anywayz.

I have a Dash Cam now 🙂

Well, for ages I’ve had this old cheap camera lying around. I’ve finally found a use for it – as a dash cam. A dash cam is a camera that sits on your dashboard – or probably more likely is built into the car – that records whenever you’re moving; or whenever something unexpected happens. I figure that since I’m on the road a lot, it would make sense to have something like that set up just in case I ever am in, or witness to, an accident. There’s been a few teething problems with it of course – like not being able to handle 2GB SD cards, and being about as good at night vision as a {insert animal that can’t see in the dark}.

Telling Lies Ten Times a Day…

The cars have been pricey this year, so I’ve decided to try claiming all vehicle expenses since it seems likely that they’ll be higher this year than what I can claim using the 5000km method. To do this requires a log book. And of course log books are a right PITA. So, after some experimenting I’ve worked out how to get my Navman GPS to do the work for me. Unfortunately it involves lying through my teeth many times a day since in order for ‘her’ to keep track of where I started and ended up she has to think I’m ‘going somewhere.’ Unfortunately she’s a dumb bint who doesn’t know Ollera Street from TIngha Road, so as far as she’s concerned I’m going to Ebor every day; and I’m reaalllllyy bad at taking directions.

I end up with something like this at the end of the week:

12/04/2010 12:20 12:30:00 Toms Gully Road, Northern Tablelands, New South Wales, Australia New England Highway (NI15), Northern Tablelands, New South Wales 7.4
12/04/2010 13:19 13:30:00 New England Highway (NI15), Northern Tablelands, New South Wales Odonnel Street, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia 11.62
12/04/2010 14:04 14:07:00 Odonnel Street, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia Bradley Street, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia 1.28
12/04/2010 14:14 14:15:00 Bradley Street, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia Bradley Street, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia 0.71
12/04/2010 15:25 15:36:00 Bradley Street, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia Wards Mistake Road, Northern Tablelands, New South Wales, Australia 8.44
12/04/2010 18:00 18:15:00 Wards Mistake Road, Northern Tablelands, New South Wales, Australia Falconer Road, Guyra, New South Wales, Australia 9.16

One handy side effect of this is that it gives me an accurate record of arrival and departure times for jobs – something which I occasionally don’t record accurately in the calendar since there’s lots to do in a day.


Anyway that’s about it for another newsletter – sorry it’s a bit light-on in content. I have to get ready now – my sister and her partner came to visit a few weeks ago, but they’re coming back tomorrow since they got stuck in Seoul and can’t get home to the UK. They’re apparently unwilling or unable to do a “John Cleese” – see for a laugh 🙂 I never thought of Guyra being a sister city to Seoul! Here’s hoping Mount Fwalakanjgjjinginging doesn’t go bang while I’m away!

Cheers, Mike.