Monthly Archives: November 2006

About Raincalc

Raincalc is a calculator for rainwater harvesting and has for some time been the most popular page on Smiffy’s Place.

Future developments will involve fee-for-service calculations using geo-referenced historical rainfall data.

New: Offline RainCalc Java

On request from a charitable organisation in India, I have re-written RainCalc in Java, so that it can be run directly on "ordinary" computers, without requiring an Internet connection. New features include the availability of more area units for drainage calculations (hectares, acres), the ability to set chart resolutions and the number of lines in a chart. The output can be copied to the system Clipboard of the host computer, to be pasted into e-mails, word processor documents, etc.

This new version is available free of charge, at my discretion, to charitable organisations involved in getting fresh water to those who need it. If you think that this is you, please contact me, telling me about your organisation and project.

For other purposes, licenses for this software are available for a small charge. Once again, please get in touch if interested.

A commercial version with the facility to save data and projects, as well as performing consumption calculations, will be available in the fairly near future; estimated cost, around $100 AUD.

OzeWAI 2006

The OzeWAI Web Accessibility conference is now underway in Melbourne. Due to health issues, I am not there. I have, however, just been there by "telepresence", narrating my presentation via Skype.

This wasn’t the easiest presentation I have made – I could hear virtually nothing from the other end and I was getting my own voice coming back at full volume with an approximate 250ms delay.

Hoping to be there in person next year, or at least to have streaming audio.

60 Years of the Biro

According to the BBC, the ball-point pen or biro turns sixty this month.

I have to confess that I have gone back to using a fountain pen. Modern materials and ergonomic design make them a far cry from what they were when, in 1938, the Biro brothers created the first ballpoint to get around the problem of leaky ink.

For the mathematicians reading this who cannot make 1938+60=2006, the anniversary is that of when the biro first went on sale in the United Kingdom.

Happy bicday.

Caveman Chemistry

Whilst Google’ing for information on brewing mead for a friend, I chanced upon Caveman Chemistry, by chemistry professor, Kevin Dunn.

The site mostly promotes Dunn’s "Cave Book", available in paper and e-book formats. Although I have only just flicked through it, this "science is fun" book really is quite excellent and I find Dunn’s idiosyncratic style highly engaging.

If you are interested in making anything from mead to paper to soap to plastics, this book should be amongst your reading matter. A lover of back-to-basics, I will be having a go at mead, soap and ceramics, at the very least.

At 15 USD, I regard the e-book which I have just purchased as money well spent. (Aussies: PayPal worked this out at 20 AUD.)

Also, for those interested in electrostatic machines, there is a section of the site devoted to robust and easy to build Dirod machines. (For which I find there is no Wikipedia entry.)

Something for every geek.

Java Goes Open Source

As long-time supporters of the Open Source movement, it is no great surprise that Sun Microsystems has announced the Open Sourcing of its Java technology under Project Glassfish. See James Gosling’s (the "father" of Java) comments on his blog.

Use of the Duke logo on this post is used without asking permission – because Duke is now Open Sourced as well!

Kudos to Sun – again. It is so nice to see the “big boys” like them and IBM supporting the Open Source movement. When, oh when will Microsoft get in on the act? Their Shared Source initiative is a joke (and not a very funny one at that).

Smiffy's Date and Walnut Loaf

This gluten free recipe was inspired by but largely ignores the Boiled Date Cake recipe from RecipeZaar. Copied from my recipe wiki, which is not available for public scrutiny. All measurements are approximate.

Pre-heat oven to 150°C

In the Saucepan

  • 100g butter
  • 3dl milk
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 300g dates – chopped
  • 80g walnuts, chopped
  • pinch cassia powder (cinnamon)
  • pinch ginger powder
  • pinch cardamon powder

Total weight of spice pinches approximately 2g.

Put on low heat until butter melted; stir well.

The Eggs

Whilst butter is melting, beat three eggs until frothy.

Final Mixture

Remove saucepan from heat, stir in 150g of rice flour. If doubling the batch, use just less than double the rice flour.

Stir in beaten eggs, beat, transfer to baking tin.

Bake for about 90 minutes.

Life Without Gluten – Introduction

Life Without Gluten is the latest category of articles to be added to Smiffy’s Place. My wife has recently discovered that she has a gluten intolerance, which has made life somewhat complicated, not only for her, when buying food or eating out, but for me, as the cook.

Living in a country where wheat is one of the main staples, the provision of gluten-free foods goes beyond a health issue; it is, in fact, an issue of social inclusion, as is the provision of foods free of other staples that contain common allergens (dairy, eggs, soy, etc).

In my Life Without Gluten series of articles, I will be sharing our experiences trying to obtain gluten-free foods, both in the supermarket and in restaurants and also any gluten-free recipes that I have developed or tested and that I deem worthy of note.

If you have experiences in this subject that you would like to share, please send e-mails to the address at the
bottom of the page.

Some Rain – Finally

After a month with no recordable rainfall, we have finally had a fall of rain. With a second night of thunderstorms in the wee small hours, last night (from midnight 2006-11-12) actually yielded some rain.

I have recorded 28.7mm since midnight, the last coming not long after nine in the morning. This equates to a capture of approximately 17 thousand litres, or about 13 percent of our total storage capacity. Based on existing reserves and projected consumption, this should now see us through until about March 2007. If no rain falls between now and the, I will have to re-evaluate the situation and possibly start using mains water for washing purposes. (Currently, mains water is only used for stock troughs, lawn irrigation and lavatory flushing.)

Here’s hoping for more rain, sometime soon…

Firefox 2

Having given up on the Gentoo ebuilds of the Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird programmes, upon going for downloads, I discovered that Firefox 2 had arrived.

So far, nothing to be excited about. Firefox 1.5 did pretty much what I wanted it to and did not appear to have any major annoyances that could not be overcome by means of extensions.

Noticeable Changes

  • The close current tab button on the right of the tab bar has been replaced by a ‘list all tabs’ dropdown. Tabs now have their own close buttons. This is annoying for me as I am so used to clicking over there to close the current tab that I just get plain confused.
  • Tools, Extensions is now Tools, Add-Ons. Add-Ons encompasses extensions and themes.
  • Not a change in Firefox 2, but one that goes back to 1.5 – easier packaging of extensions through the use of chrome.manifest. Unfortunately, older versions of Firefox and current versions of SeaMonkey don’t support this, so I will be ignoring it for the time being. This is only of interest to developers, by the way, so ignore this if you are just a Firefox end-user.
  • A few new icons.
  • Some extensions no longer work due to the maximum version being set to less than 2. (The fix may be as easy as changing the maximum version in install.rdf and re-packaging the extension.)

Whilst I am not particularly excited about Firefox 2, I am getting more excited about Firefox in general as I start to delve into its internals, as part of my development of a toolbar for my WebSticky project. Whilst WebSticky was originally designed to be browser-neutral, I am adding some Firefox-only goodies, mostly for my own benefit. These include the ability to snapshot all currently open tabs, go to another machine and have them open again with a single click.

The ability to peruse the browser source code is a great incentive to develop for that browser.