Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Why RIM stopped using Trackballs

This is under the trackball of a Blackberry Bold 9000 after about two years of light-to-moderate use. To get some lovely detail of the grime, you'll want to view that image full size.

It looks almost uncannily like a birds nest aside from the scale - it's just a few millimetres across. Perfectly shaped to the underside of the roller, it kept it's form as I yanked off the protective plastic coating. I'm not sure what material kept it stuck down during this but it certainly didn't wipe off easily. I'll be disappointed when the 9000's are retired as the trackpad handsets don't have this kind of character (I haven't had a single one in for cleaning yet).

The best part: The roller was still working perfectly, it was brought in because of antenna issues.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Broken Things: iPhone 3G

Somebody brought this iPhone 3G in a few days ago. I'll give you three guesses why.

You're absolutely correct, she wanted a software update. The owner has no plans to replace the screen - after all, it works perfectly aside from the occasional ear-cutting incident.

She's been through two screen replacements so far with this handset. For her next phone I might recommend a nice sturdy case to go with it.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Package updates looping in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

A quick snip of weird behaviour from . On my old fileserver (running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS), I noticed an infinite loop of packages being added and removed.

root@mybox:~$ apt-get autoremove
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following packages will be REMOVED:
  libass4 libcelt0-0 libdca0 libdirac-encoder0 libfftw3-3 libflite1 libgme0
  libkate1 libmimic0 libofa0 liborc-0.4-0
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 11 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
After this operation, 16.8MB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y

And after removal, if you try dist-upgrade you get..

root@mybox:~$ apt-get dist-upgrade
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Calculating upgrade... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  libass4 libcelt0-0 libdca0 libdirac-encoder0 libfftw3-3 libflite1 libgme0
  libkate1 libmimic0 libofa0 liborc-0.4-0
The following packages have been kept back:
0 upgraded, 11 newly installed, 0 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/9,685kB of archives.
After this operation, 16.8MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

And so on ad infinitum.

It looks like those packages are simultaneously required and unnecessary for my system, which I'm fairly sure isn't normal behaviour. A quick look at the package dependencies points the finger at gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad being kept back. Since it's not a vital package, one quick removal and everything is back to normal.

Okay, I may not have found the root cause of the problem, but this works just as well for me.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Get Inifinite Email Addresses in Google Apps

You've got your own domain. It's for personal use, so you've set up Google Apps to get free and effective email. What could possibly make this better?

The Google Apps Catch-All address, of course.

The Basics: 
A Catch-All address is an email account that receives all incorrectly addressed email for your domain. If somebody typos your address but gets the domain right, the email winds up in the catch-all email account. The account owner will occasionally check through to make sure the email gets to the right recipient (If they type the domain wrong, they end up with a much bigger problem).

The catch-all address became less popular as spam got worse for fairly obvious reasons. Google, however, has remarkably good spam filtering, which gives us the option back.

What you can do with it:
You can come up with any email you like on the spur of the moment (say, and it'll reach your inbox. You can give a different email address to every person you meet and every site you sign up for and receive them all. It gives you an essentially unlimited supply of email addresses, because * is now yours. Hell, I sometimes use it to send subtle messages - If dave is hounding you for your email address, giving him might get the point across.

Aside from the awesomeness and flexibility this gives you, it has some practical advantages - you can treat addresses as 'throw-away' email accounts. If a site sells your address on to spammers, you can just blacklist all mail to that address with email filters (shown below).

Setting it up:
Assuming you've already got a domain and set up google apps, it's very, very simple. If not, you may want to start at the beginning.

Log into the Google Apps control panel, and choose Settings followed by Email. Under the catch-all email section, choose to forward it to your main email account.

Save, and that's it. If you look under your account settings, you now have * listed as one of your addresses.

Blacklisting one of the addresses you gave out is easily done under your email settings. Click on Filters and then  Create a new filter. Type the email you want to blacklist in the To: field, and hit Next Step.

Now simply check the Delete it box and click Create Filter, and that's it! Any future messages sent to that address will be silently moved to the deleted folder.

Now enjoy the freedom that only an infinite supply of email addresses can give you.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Perth Verge Collection Map

This map is now very out of date, last updated 2014. Thankfully, a new champion has taken up the challenge and the current map can be found at


Original post:
I've been fiddling with this for a while, so it's time to share: A google maps layer that shows the Vergeside rubbish collection areas for the whole Perth metropolitan area. This is pretty useful to anyone around Perth who're looking for some free furniture or appliances, as well as to those just wondering when their next vergeside collection is.

I'll update this post with relevant data as it changes.

How it works and notes: 
  • Click here to get to the full version of the map. It's easier to work with than the embedded version below.
  • On the left you have the various collection zones/councils with the next known collection date. Flick through the pages to see the rest of the zones, as google maps won't display them all at once by default.
  • The date represents when the collection itself starts, not when to start putting things out.
  • You can save this map directly in your google profile by hitting the save to my places button.
  • You can export the map data as KML if you want and do anything you like with it. It should work with most mapping applications that support layers.
  • This works great on your mobile phone. It works with Google Maps for Blackberry and Android, Google Earth for iOS, and it should work with any map software that supports google layers or importing kml data. Combined with your phones GPS, it's pretty handy when you're in the field.
  • This is a work in progress, and there's bound to be gaps and occasional errors. Local councils often provide patchy data.
  • For similar projects try Freecycle Perth , Free items on gumtree, and the Perth Kerbside Collection Facebook page.
  • If you have any suggestions or updated information, email me or add a comment below. 
  • I can't believe I'm putting this in, but it keeps coming up: If you want to interview me about verge collecting or the map, emailing me the questions is the easiest and most reliable way to get a response.

View Perth Verge Collections in a larger map

Local Government Areas currently mapped:
Click on a council to see their information page about bulk rubbish.

Local Government Areas currently lacking data:
If you have one of the council verge collection pamphlets for these areas, please let me know

Using this on the move:
  • Sign into your google account and save the map above to your account. This will allow you to access it from any program that supports layers.
  • If you have an android phone, use the built-in google maps. When you go to load layers, it will appear on the list of options.
  • If you have a blackberry phone, install google maps for Blackberry. You can sign into your account via the menu and load layers.
  • If you have an iPhone/iPad, install Google earth. Sign into your google account, and load the layers from there.
Here's a screenshot of what the ipad version looks like on the move - The blue dot is your current location. It makes it damn easy to work out the edges of verge pickup.