Blog entries from October, 2007

Mmmm… Chocolate self-saucing pudding

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 at 09:31pm

Today was my turn to provide cake at our weekly meeting. I was considering making pikelets but it seemed like too much effort so I fell back on a chocolate self-saucing pudding.

Since I had to dig around for the recipe, here are the ingredients for future reference:


  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 2 tablesoons margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk


  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water

Bake at 160C for around 30 minutes. Serve with a scoop of icecream.

For work I added 50% to the pudding ingredients and another 150-200% to the sauce which works out nicely for 10 people.

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Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 07:46pm

Earlier in the month the trick to change the status message of a HP printer resurfaced and did the rounds of various blogs.

As I had seen it before I didn’t think much of it. Until today when I was waiting for something to print and saw:


A quick poll of the likely suspects didn’t find the person who did it. Instead it got others interested. For a time it was hungry and at the end of the day it wanted to play some global thermonuclear war.

This trick seems to be spreading, people have even uploaded photos to Flickr.

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Even more failed fans

Friday, October 19th, 2007 at 07:46pm

After the failure of the rear 120mm fan in preston I ordered two replacement fans. One as a replacement and another as a spare.

But where did I get them? Initially I was looking at the site for a Melbourne based supplier of PC modding gear. The cheapest ‘low noise’ fan they has was AU$15.90, but postage was another AU$10. On the site for a popular Sydney based PC parts dealer a similar fan was at a similar price of AU$15.40. But that included postage. It should be obvious which one I went with.

Now, it was when I was installing the new fan that I noticed that the two fans in the power supply had also failed. For most of the week the only fans operating in the case were the front 120mm (low flow) and the CPU fan. I had been wondering where the hot component smell was still coming from.

So what to do? With a working rear 120mm fan enough air is drawn through the power supply to keep it cool. But this could be an opportunity to replace it with one that has removable cables that would reduce the clutter inside the case.

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Forms That Work

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 07:15pm

I spent today in a training course about how to improve the usability of web forms: Forms That Work.

We had been led to believe that the course would be about practical methods to construct the forms in a usable manner. However, that was only one part of the training. The focus of the course was on the entire form process, starting from why you even need to ask for information.

Because of this, the course was even better than I expected as I believe that most of the problems we have at work stem from a lack of suitable analysis and design. Too often we are implementing solutions in need of a problem. Instead, we should be understanding the problem and then considering possible solutions, including not doing anything.

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More fan failures

Sunday, October 14th, 2007 at 05:38pm

Following on from the failure of the fan in my UPS I discovered that the 120mm fan in the back of preston has also failed. Considering that I got this fan along with a bunch of other random parts a long time ago (ie I didn’t get it new) it is actually surprising that it has lasted this long.

Digging through the cupboard I found another fan that it was a simple matter to swap with the failed one. I also took the opportunity to clean the 120mm fan and filter that is on the front of the case. It was almost solid with dust that had been accumulated over the past year.

One of the many things that has been on my list (only in my head, I should really give Hiveminder another go) was to give the system a once over in regards to dust and cooling. Right now I’m going to order some new (quite) fans and possibly a fanbus for greater control.

Related to this is that I also disconnected my systems from the UPS. A week ago there was a brief power flicker when I was out. Instead of keeping the systems up the UPS shut down. Then this afternoon the UPS decided to shut down for no (apparent) reason. This is where I step up my research into what UPS to get, in particular the linux support.

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Lessons in procrastination

Thursday, October 11th, 2007 at 07:19pm

Last night’s perl mongers meeting (actually an OSDClub meeting) featured two examples of less than ideal organisation.

Paul was up first with a walkthrough of how an online todo list (specifically Hiveminder, but also Remember The Milk). It was then ironic that Paul had not actually finished preparing his presentation. A while ago I had looked at Hiveminder (when Paul sent me a task) and I didn’t get far. Now that I have seen more of what it can do I should give it another look.

The second talk was supposed to have been from Rick about integrating with Jaiku. However, since he was planning an online walkthrough of what he has done instead of an actual presentation he neglected a crucial step: checking ahead of time that he would have an internet connection. Fortunately he did give a brief overview of how he is using microblogging, including as a means of documenting projects, which was then a topic of discussion at the pub.

Speaking of the pub… Last month they messed up our orders so this time we went down the street to a different one, the Redback Brewery Hotel. Overall it was good, not as crowded, not as loud, and not as dark. They did mess up one of the orders, the brought out a pie instead of a steak sandwich, but they noticed it straight away. More importantly they apologised and brought the correct meal out as soon as they could. Approved.

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Internal power on an external case does exist

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007 at 09:47am

Earlier in the year I wanted an external hard drive that did not have an external power brick. I even acquired an old SCSI case, into which I was planning to fit the circuit board and power brick from a cheap external case.

Now, thanks to Zazz! I have found an external case with a built in power supply that actually seems to be available: a Sarotech Hardbox.

However, there is an interesting issue. The price.

  • Zazz has the drive case and a 400GB Samsung hard drive for a total of AU$169.90 (and AU$12.90 postage).
  • At the local computer parts places a 400GB drive currently goes for around AU$130.
  • So that would be another AU$40 for the case which is what I have seen at (the now defunct) swap meets for the ‘one touch backup’ external cases.

However a quick search online for places in Australia selling the Sarotech Hardbox brings up prices of at least AU$90. It actually makes the Zazz! deal tempting, although I do prefer Seagate or Western Digital over Samsung…

At least I know know that there is something available. But I probably wouldn’t get one unless the price is below AU$50.

Update: Further searching turned up the case for AU$47.50 and AU$10 shipping. I should get onto a friend and see if he can get it wholesale…

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The smell of hot metal

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007 at 10:18pm

This morning the fan in my UPS (that I got for free) failed.

When I got up there was a strong ‘hot metal’ smell near my computer room, but it wasn’t coming from preston, my linux server. This evening while I was emptying the bin I noticed that the UPS was unusually warm as its internal fan appeared to have failed. A spare 92mm fan, some double sided tape, a bunch of molex connectors later and the temperatiure is dropping. Albeit in a fairly noisy manner.

For some time I have been planning on buying a new UPS and it looks like I need to move that up. Unfortunately the 259 day (8 and a half months) uptime of preston (since the big power outage) is under threat.

Although that uptime was also under threat by my other long standing plan to rearrange my computers which included finally getting rid of gromit which has been shut down for almost a year.

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