You took too long, now your candy's gone. That's what happened. Pakhow!

Thursday, November 26


It's A River In Paris

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Wednesday, November 25


Pack My Box With Five Dozen Grumpy Jackdaws

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Tuesday, November 24


Facing The Raven

Warning: This whole post is a huge spoiler for current season of Doctor Who, up to episode 10 and possibly including episodes that haven't aired yet.

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Out Of Sight

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Monday, November 23


Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Gamut

So the new 27" Retina iMac isn't much of an upgrade from the previous 27" Retina iMac - very slightly faster processor, graphics, and memory, and a significantly faster SSD, though that was already quite fast.

What it does have is a wide-gamut screen calibrated for DCI-P3 - that is, it's designed to display the same colour range as digital cinema projectors, and in the same way.  And that colour range is wider than the typical monitor or television - Apple says 25% wider.

Normally you only notice colour gamut when a device is bad, rather than good.  The original 2012 Nexus 7 had a noticeably limited colour gamut - everything looked like a rainy winter's day even with the brightness at maximum.  (The 2013 model was much improved on this, as on most things.)

And I didn't notice it on my iMac at first either, until the screen saver turned up this image of the Colorado River.  It's a striking photo on my old monitor, but on a wide-gamut screen it's eye-popping.  I've never seen that shade of orange on an LCD display, and I don't think I've ever seen it on a CRT either.

It's one of those things you have to see for yourself.

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Saturday, November 21



Posting from Taiga!

It works.  Plugged in, switched on...  Where's the switch?  Where's the switch?!  Ah.  Switched on, poing sound, off we go.

Magic mouse is pretty good.  Magic keyboard is a piece of crap with no feel or key travel.  An entry-level Logitech keyboard is better than this.  So was the old Mac keyboard from the 2nd generation iMac...  Which I have sitting in closet upstairs, so I'll dig that out tomorrow.

Screen is all it should be - 14 million pixels and a wide colour gamut and great viewing angles.

Everything so far is pretty zippy.  I'd hope so, since it has the fastest of everything that I could possibly get - and since I haven't done anything remotely taxing so far.

The memory upgrade was pretty nice.  There's a couple of tricks to it, but they're well-designed tricks:
  • There's a button that releases the hatch over the RAM slots.  The button can only be reached after removing the power cord, so there's no way you can open it while it's powered on.

  • There's a latching mechanism that locks all four RAM slots at once, and when you unlatch it, they hinge outwards for easy access.  You just drop the modules in and push the latch shut again.
32GB of 1600MHz third-party RAM was $260, vs. $960 for the upgrade from 8GB to 32GB from Apple.  For $700 I'll accept that 2-3% real-world performance difference.  (Though why they didn't just use DDR4 I don't know.)

Now let's install Steam...

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Friday, November 20


Off-Ice Day

42.8C (109F) in Sydney today.  (Predicted 41C, ended up slightly hotter.)  A hot air mass moved in from central Australia and spent a day dry-roasting the city before heading out to sea.

So I went in to the office where they have really good air conditioning.  Problem solved.  I turned off all my computers first so I wouldn't come home to multiple drive failures; if it's nearly 43C ambient I shudder to think how hot a disk drive would be running.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, 16C and raining.

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Monday, November 16



Taiga arrived.  Today.  When I was at the office.

And the delivery guy got confused because when he knocked on my door, my neighbours answered their door.

So I had to leave work early to head home and sort it out, which means I'll be working late tonight to catch up.  But that's fine.  Taiga is safe in the spare room and I'll get her set up in the next day or two.

Update: 32GB extra RAM and 5TB external drive arrived today.  The Blu-Ray drive is back-ordered, but that's not urgent; I have on in my Windows PC.

Now I'm all set except for software, and that I can buy online as needed.

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Tuesday, November 10



I've been meaning to buy a new Mac for so long that they've changed the naming scheme for OS X releases and the joke no longer works.  (My old Macs are all PowerPC models.  I have a second-gen iMac with the 15" CRT, and an even older PowerMac - a 7600, I think.)

Anyway, ordered the following from the Apple Store today:

27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display
27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display
A$ 5,519.00
With the following configuration:
4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
8GB 1867MHz DDR3 SDRAM - two 4GB
1TB Flash Storage
AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory
Magic Mouse 2
Magic Keyboard (International English) and User’s Guide (English)
Accessory Kit

Yeah, it's not exactly cheap.* Australian prices have jumped about 25% this year due to currency fluctuations. On the other hand, it's probably the best software developer workstation available at any cost.

That 8GB RAM isn't going to stay that way; I'm just deciding whether to go to 32GB or splash out on 48GB or 64GB. 64GB of third-party RAM costs less than Apple's 32GB upgrade.

Anyone who has current Mac experience is welcome to chime in with recommendations for additional hardware and software.  I want a USB Blu-Ray drive, some good (but not audiophile) stereo speakers (don't really need surround sound or a subwoofer), and either VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop.

I already have software subscriptions with Microsoft, Adobe, and JetBrains that will transfer straight across to Mac, so I'm covered there.

Apart from the old iMac, probably the last desktop PC I bought - rather than built - was my Sun Ultra 5 from around 1999.  And even with that I replaced the disk drives and added a video card.

Update: Added 32GB of RAM, a Samsung external Blu-Ray writer, and a 5TB LaCie external drive, and I'm still $270 under Apple's 32GB upgrade price.  That could pay for a nice set of AudioEngine speakers.

64GB might be nice, but (a) 32GB is enough, and I already have two computers with 32GB of RAM each, and (b) 64GB costs four times as much as 32GB because you need newer high-density memory.

Update: It's shipped!  ETA Monday...  When I won't be home.  Of course.

* In fact, it's crazy expensive.  You can get a decent computer including a small SSD and an IPS monitor for about A$1200.  But I spend 60+ hours a week sitting** in front of my screen, and it's how I earn a living, so I can kinda sorta justify the expense.

** Speaking of which, I also need a new chair.

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Monday, October 12



The Cinder Spires, volume one: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Not-Spain invades not-England with their flying armada and a band of assassins and arsonists,  not to mention lots and lots of spiders.  Our heroes are little miss rich girl joined the Marines, not so little miss not rich girl also joined the Marines, cousin in the Marines, dashing privateer captain done wrong by the Navy brass, crazy old wizard, and crazy young witch.  Oh, and cats.

Which sounds formulaic except that Jim Butcher is a good enough writer to make formula work, not-Spain and not-England are for some reason enormous smokestacks crammed full of people (hence the "cinder spires"), and there is an actual legitimate reason why the wizards are all crazy.*

Pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The characters and setting were better than the plot, so bodes well for the next volume.

The Laundry Files, volume, what, six?: The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

The previous volume, the last so far starring Bob - a computer programmer working for a faceless bureaucracy charged with protecting the Universe from things that make Cthulhu look like a beagle puppy - was dull and largely pointless, though at least everyone died at the end.**

This volume almost dies at the beginning as our heroine, Dominique - Mo, Bob's wife - spends the first third of the book complaining about, well, everything.  But that settles down eventually and is at least partly a head-fake for later events so I've mostly forgiven it.  Not as good as the brilliant first three, but better than the last one, so I'll give the series another go.

The Craft Sequence, volume four: Last First Snow by Max Gladstone

The Craft Sequence is a series of books about what I've called necromantic conveyancing - courtroom and boardroom thrillers set in a world of undying sorcerers and dead gods, where contracts are living and possibly sentient.  The first three books are terrific.

Last First Snow is just... Meh. Not awful, but meh.

The first problem is that it's an idiot plot. There are, if we are generous, three characters in the book who don't act like idiots throughout. Just one more person not acting like an idiot - anyone, Kopil, Temoc, the Major, Tay, Tan Batac, Mina, Zoh, Temoc's scheming former associate, the parents who thought a riot would make an educational day trip for their children, anyone - and the story would be: Things were tense there for a moment, but we worked it out. The end.

The second problem is that it's supposed to be balanced, sympathetic towards both sides. But the underdogs are a cult of human sacrifice seeking to subjugate humanity in an endless reign of slavery and terror - again - and the "man", so to speak, holding them down, is the leader of the plucky rebels who freed mankind from captivity within living memory.

Gladstone can and has done a lot better; I think the decision to write a prequel was unwise. Even here, parts of the story are captivating; I've certainly read worse. Still hoping for a return to form with the next book.

Also, the first two books involve magic that eats holes in your brain, and the latter two books are about the King in Yellow and the King in Red, respectively.

* Magic eats holes in your brain.  Literally.

** Not actually true.

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