Hot Topic interruptus

It had to happen eventually. The creaking old laptop that was once my pride and joy1 has finally gone to the great orchard in the sky, and I have been forced to visit the grocer for a new piece of fruit. Being that I am a creaky old geek, I couldn’t just nip down to the computer store and buy an off-the-shelf model. No, I had to have the processor upgrade, the maximum memory and a Fusion drive, which means it will be about a week before I can access all my files2. Until then I will be servicing the digital world from this iPad, which is a wonderful device for everything but writing. Posting will be (even more) intermittent, at best, and brevity will be my watchword. You have been warned…

  1. It was new when Hot Topic was born. []
  2. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, etc. []

69 thoughts on “Hot Topic interruptus”

  1. I think my ol dunga is even older – but at least it isn’t rotting – just yet 🙂
    And i know what you mean about typing on an iPad! Been there done – that – had to phone the bank because the caps lock was on 🙂

    1. As it happens, my 13 year old “Pismo” PowerBook was working fine when it was pensioned off (after 7 years), and as recently as a couple of years ago was feeding music to a local radio station. Dead as a dodo now, but probably only needs a battery replacement…

      1. The e-Mac is 13 years old with 1 Gig of RAM! 🙂 and slow as heck – but then I’ve got all day. I cut my teeth on a mainframe IBM 360 in the mid ’60’s (Research Branch of the Dairy Board). Now THAT was a computer! Every cow and bull in the country was stored on tape. Programs would run day and night. Thank god for Moores’ law.

  2. I’ve got an old MSI Wind Netbook with a (count them!) 80 gig hard-drive and 1 Gig of Ram that runs on coal briquettes and still serves for all non-desktop duties. It’ll die along with XP next year, methinks. (I hate trackpads, and always use a wireless mouse with it, because I hate trackpads).

    But the Core i5 Win 7 64 bit desktop machine, on the other hand, is too slow and will have to go with the next photography payment – but I fear Windows 8! Can anyone reassure me?

      1. Oh and buy SSD drives for your new computer. The best upgrade you can do that any money can buy!!! Get 256GB for the system and programs, then, if you have lots of media, put a regular TB drive in for bulk data storage. Keep what you work on currently on the SSD. Samsung 840 Pro is my hero! (Uh, did I just bust the comment policy by product advocacy?)

        1. Thanks Thomas – yes, I’d been looking at an SSD, plus as much Terabyte disc storage as I can afford. I’m looking forward to USB 3 for the external drives, too – another area where Moore’s Law has made a ridiculous difference.

          1. The “fusion” drive in my new imac has an SSD married to an HD to make a 1TB drive. OS and most-used programmes and files live on the SSD. Should be snappy.

      2. Thanks Thomas! Win 8 + Classic Shell start menu and no more booting straight to that ridiculous start screen has made me a happy man! As has 16 gig of Ram and a quad-core processor…

        (But Media Player doesn’t do DVDs or Mpeg files! Keeriste!…)

          1. Thanks Thomas!

            Like Flickr’s recent ridiculous recreation of itself – from ‘the world’s most popular photo-sharing software’ to the world’s 43rd most popular app* for people who like to photograph their breakfast with their iPhone and end every picture title with ‘!!!!!’ – I’m mystified that now Microsoft seem to be telling people like me who take/make/process photos and movies as part of their living and want a high-end desktop set-up accordingly that we’re all un-hip old farts with our clunky old DSLRs and redundant codecs and anachronistic commitment to excellence and the world has moved on from us… 🙁

            *(true! ah, those geniuses at Yahoo!…)

  3. PS – my best Moore’s Law story is the 64 MB CF card I bought along with my first digital compact camera – $369 AUD. (Prior to that I was using the work Sony Mavica that stored pics on a floppy!)

  4. Still remember buying my first fax machine for our company…. what a revelation it was. And that was way before the internet and email….

    or writing my first computer game on a 4kb ram computer, with a tape recorder for storage at an audible 110 baud, not having saved the program for 5 hrs, then running over it (the program) with my own game tank gone amok and escaping of the 80×40 character screen driving, literally, upwards into the program memory….. The good old days… 😉

  5. You had tape and a screen? You lucky bastard, we had to make do with punched cards in cardboard box and output to lineflow – and that was on a good day.

    On a bad day, you’d trip on cold gravel and drop cardboard box into puddle or lake; but we were happy just to have any computer time at all.

    Aye, lad, those were the days!

    1. Yea, while I had audiotape and a screen at my study flat, soldered together chips on a boot-legged main board from somebody who copied a design from ‘Ohio Scientific’ – at the University it was Fortran on punch cards + an account box. You put your card stack, one line of code to a card (sorted!) into the box. Tow days later you got a stack of 1000…pages of matrix printer output of error messages back… missed a loop termination… dang….

        1. … when our imaginations still had wide open lands to roam freely, between the sparse pockets of early block graphic settlements… Oh the deprived youth of today, horizons all build out by perfect illusionary vistas with nothing left for the untamed intellect to graze in the fresh morning dew… (.. sound of buffalo herd somewhere in the distance…)

          Unfortunately there is probably more than a smidgen of truth in that…

  6. Off-topic, but I’ll be in Melbourne next week, from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th; does anyone know of any climate change activities / seminars / lectures, etc in that fair city?

      1. Take the Monet and run…

        As it happens, I’m going to be in Melbourne over the weekend – leaving as Rob arrives. Thanks for the tip. I’m all for a bit of colourful daubing on canvas…

        1. I’m very fond of Monet, and the chance to see so many of the late-period Giverny works in one place is an outstanding one (interestingly we’ve just reached the end of a major Turner exhibition here in Adelaide.)

          You might want to book – just to be on the safe side – if you’re looking to get in on the weekend, particularly.

          1. Thanks for the tip, Bill. Spent a happy afternoon staring at water lilies, and much besides. Some fantastic paintings in there – you need to look close up, then back away across the room and watch the image shift and blur and come together.

          1. Haven’t been to Canberra bill 🙁 – but will keep it in mind if ever I’m over that way – trying to keep my air miles to the absolute minimum.

            1. Oh I’ve got it pencilled in…I shall catch a train from Melbourne. Am thinking that the Nullabor needs to be travelled (I have a 1957 BMW R50 motorbike which has traversed it – but I haven’t).

            2. I love the Nullarbor run (I’ve done it several times by car, and hitchhiked it[!]). Just take a brick to lash the handlebars to for the 147km straight… 😉

              It doesn’t really live up to the name, I might add. There’s only about 100k’s of the actual Nullarbor chenopod grassland along the road – the train (well to the north) passes through much more of this country. Once you leave the agricultural areas west of Ceduna you pass through the extensive rolling Yalata Dunes system (if you can get down to the coast here it’s magnificent), then you enter the plain proper a little short of the Nullarbor Roadhouse. Go to the Head of Bight for the whales, of course, and look out for the many Dingoes that have returned to the area in recent years.

              But, if you can, travel north-west of the Roadhouse to the Murrawijinie Caves (1, 2 and 3 – you can easily get into the latter 2), and see more of the ‘curvature of the Earth’ shrubby grassland country in the process.

              Beyond here there’s the famous / spectacular Borda Cliffs and a beautiful coastal region where the cliffs break inland just short of WA to form the Wylie Scarp – the camping areas in the new Wilderness Protection Area south of the Highway on the SA side are outstanding. When you drop off the scarp at Eucla you’re in an extensive Black Oak woodland, then shrubby mallee wood and grasslands back on top of the scarp when you climb up again at Madura.

              These run until you reach the most extensive remaining woodland areas in Australia, beginning at about the afore-mentioned long straight and following you all the way to Norseman!

              I’ll throw in the Eyre Bird Observatory (if you can get to it!), which is housed in the next Old Telegraph station along from Eucla, and Newman’s Rocks, an excellent camping area (not well-known or highly-signposted!) about a K off the highway on the northern side 50Ks west of Balladonia. Banjo Frogs may drive you barmy if the season permits!

              Don’t get me started on the the southern run to Perth through Esperance, Albany, and the south-west forests! Did you know there’s now both a walking trail and an opened-last-month MTB trail from Perth to Albany – about 1000km for each, with first-class hut facilities* along their lengths?

              Anyway, that’s enough of the Great Western travelogue from me…

              *BAS – By Australian Standards. Don’t think Alpine weather-sealed quasi-luxury accommodation!

            3. Hmmm. We’ve been making plans to do NZ’s great walks while we still can, but that WA coast sounds very interesting…

              We have friends who cycled across the Nullarbor – all the way from Perth to Sydney, in fact. They’re currently half way from Britain to Peking.

            4. Bibbulman and Munda Biddi.

              Never done the ride myself – too many juggernauts!; you’d always want to do west to east, I figure, given the prevailing winds.

              A mate of mine’s done over (west) on the track next to the train line – now, that’s an adventure! – and back on the highway, and a couple more highway runs both ways.

              On one of these he saw a weird, wobbling apparition in the heat haze, that turned out to be a unicyclist he knew from Adelaide.

              On another occasion he met a guy with a standard road bike with a tool kit hanging beneath the seat and water bottle in a cage – for all the world like he was taking a quick spin in the immediate hinterlands of a city – no other gear. Upon discussion he explained, no he didn’t have a support vehicle; he was eating and drinking only when he stopped at the roadhouses (despite being 60 – 190km apart), so he wasn’t carrying food.

              But how about a tent and sleeping gear, then?

              ‘Mate, I’m riding up to 200 km a day. Do that, and you’ll sleep anywhere on anything!…’

            5. Thanks bill for that. I’m just going to have to go and do that now :).
              The WA walks are great, Haven’t done much of them – just part of the Cape Geographie to the south down the coast – wrong time of the year for the whales 🙁 Watch out for the snakes Gareth.. Had just set out from the light house and there was this “stick” on the path). The caves around the Margaret River Area are worth a visit and there are over 100 vineyards between Dunsborough and Port Augusta. 😉 No we didn’t visit them all.
              The climate is ‘different’ over there, and an ongoing drought, which has to be seen to be appreciated. Rainfall has had a series of downward step changes over the past 3 decades, and the catchment areas for the City’s water supply are almost dry most of the year round. Yet Gina is convinced that CC is not happening!

          2. Yes, we loved the Sydney gallery. What a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon – art gallery, botanic gardens (with fruit bats for free), harbour views, Opera House, drink in the Rocks…

            1. Yep, Sydney and Hobart – both early-colonial towns furnished with magnificent bodies of water – are certainly Australia’s most beautiful capitals.

              The fruit bats have made it to Adelaide now – that’s new in the last 2 or 3 years – where they hang around in our Botanic Gardens, squawking a lot and eating rare tree specimens! They also make an interesting contribution to Womad…

    1. You might, however, catch the Melbourne King Tide if you’re still around in the afternoon – ‘The tidal gauge in this area is measured at Melbourne (Williamstown). The king tide will occur on 26 May, 4.15PM. You can witness the effect of a king tide in this area between 25–27 May.’

      Witness King Tides.

      1. What a brilliant idea (the King Tides site). Now can we we have a copy of that for NZ please? Would the operators perhaps kindly widen the scope of their site (its just a brief scroll to right on Google Maps….) 🙂

        1. You’d think there’d be such a tide due for NZ at roughly the same time. There’s an opportunity here for someone; the idea of going out to grab some shots, with the point of documenting ‘imagine what the world’s going to be like when this is the mean sea-level’ is an excellent one.

          I’ve signed on to wander over and the shoot the local ‘inner harbor’ [not sic] at the tide.

          I’ve been in the Port when a King Tide meets a simultaneous storm-surge and rainfall event, and the council and Dept. of Transport have to sandbag around the street drains to stop the inlet surging onto the town proper!

          The Port flooded constantly in the early days of the colony, and had to be built up accordingly – it still has numerous basements that were the old ground level: it’s like something out of Terry Pratchett…

          There are also large pumps at various strategic locations on the peninsula I live on – sited over the old, long-buried creek systems – that get switched on specifically to drain the water that tries to run back up them during such an event. Not a lot of locals know this, despite the plants being large and obvious; we stop seeing what we see every day!

          (They also mostly don’t know the peninsula is only about 5000 years old at its base, and 1500 at its northern tip, having been formed by continual south-north sand drift along the coast. Being Australia there’s no new supply of sand being formed, so the current strategy sees it re-shipped [at enormous expense!] back to the southernmost suburban beaches – which would otherwise consist of rocks! – to make the trip again… Humans, eh!?)

            1. Yes it is. It’s now a Green Cross project according to the national site I located, and registered through – though I notice that’s a sub of the ‘Harden-up QLD’ site!(!)

              I assume this has nothing to do with the popular ‘Harden the F*** Up Australia’ bumper-sticker

        2. Thomas NIWA states:
          “High perigean-spring tides, colloquially known as “king tides”, peak 1–2 days after New or Full Moon when Moon is in its perigee (i.e., when it is closest to the Earth during its 27½ day elliptical circuit around the Earth).”

          Dates for King Tides around NZ are here:

          The really BIG tides are when the sun (perihelion) and moon are both at their closest to Earth,

          1. Living in Coromandel town and being a sailor, king tides are a must see event here as we measure the severity of the same by the yard sticks off: Yacht Hard stand flooded (Yes/No) a 1 on the unofficial swamp scale, Fury’s Creeks Garage forecourt and office flooded (Yes/No) a 2 on the swamp scale… Computer of the same garage flooded (sits on about 5″ off the floor) (Yes/No) a 3 on the scale… and other colloquial tide markers that have left memorable imprints on the town lore. We leave levels 4 and above for the future as sure we will need them…. 😉

            For a 3 we needed in the past the confluence of king tide with a severe storm.

            Here is a good site:

  7. Btw, when Deniers contemplate their almost universally shared (among themselves) belief that humanity could not possibly have global impacts such as climate change, perhaps they should hop over at Prof. Nick Bostrom’s site at the University of Oxford (no less) and have a thorough read of his musings on the ‘Fermi Paradox’:

    Bostrom frets over the prospect that NASA might discover primitive life forms on Mars…. and he has a depressing point. With NASA edging closer to perhaps finding remnants of life on the red planet, Bostrom’s nightmare is coming closer.

    Perhaps we can wager the hypothesis that the concentrated energy bonanza of fossil fuels is a quasi requirement to get a high tech society started on a planet. Then one would also argue that any civilization thus emerging into a high tech energy intensive lifestyle would exponentially return that stored carbon back into their biosphere within a century or two (in an instant in the geological scale of their planets history) unless they early in the game see the consequences clearly and have the wisdom to self restraint (not likely).

    Thus perhaps the ‘Great Filter’ that Bostrom’s sharp logic must have, either in our past or (more likely in my mind) in our future, may well be linked to this fossil fuel consumption behavior….

    However, having studied with my good compatriots in this fine website the mind of the ‘Common Denier’ (Negator Communibus) at length, we can probably conclude that their willingness to read Bostrom, let alone comprehend his logic will be missing….

    Bostrom’s paper is not recommended as bed-time reading and I take no responsibility for any sleeplessness it might invoke in those who understand his reasoning… 😉

  8. Bill:

    Never done the ride myself â too many juggernauts!; youâd always want to do west to east, I figure, given the prevailing winds.

    A mate of mineâs done over (west) on the track next to the train line â now, thatâs an adventure! â and back on the highway, and a couple more highway runs both ways.

    I knew a doctor from Melbourne who, with several others, sailed some land yachts from Melbourne to Perth (East to West) parallel to the railway. He told us the wind out of the interior was very dependable, usually fresh, making great reaching. The train dumped supplies for them at agreed points ahead. I can’t recall details now or even his name despite him featuring in a couple of hair raising adventures at sea that I wrote up and him writing a prescription for me after an incident in Sydney. I have the impression that bicycle wheels featured in the land yacht construction. I also vaguely recall discussion of roadmaps and what passed for roads in the grass.

    1. Noel, my mate who cycled alongside the Indian Pacific track was told that if they flagged down to train in an emergency – outside of one of its regular halts, which is what I assume your friends were using – it would cost them several grand. Fortunately it wasn’t necessary, and if you really were in trouble you’d just do it, but a train that size ain’t cheap to speed up or slow down!

  9. Good story. It is interesting that the townspeople are free of the poisons of the denialists. I am charmed by the guy that gets “greener with each revolution” of his turbine.

    “There is even talk of making Snowtown a completely green-powered town from the wind farm – that would require new infrastructure but it would be a great symbolic point.”

    Re the rail drops. Those not made at regular stops did not involve slowing the train near as I recall. I’m guessing this was some time in the eighties. Someone had to be good at packaging.

    1. Ah, since it’s a little slow I’ll tell the story of Warren Bonython, who in his first crossing of the Simpson Desert on foot (which was also the first known crossing on foot for a post-colonial) hit upon the notion of using thick and rugged old truck inner tubes to hold air-dropped caches of water.

      Worked fine, except for the bit where you then have to drink water that’s been sitting in a thick and rugged old truck inner tube in the sun for a week or so!

      The wind boom is exactly the kind of stimulus South Australia’s rural economy needs. After it becomes more and more obvious that the adopters haven’t turned into cancer-riddled, weak-bladdered zombies with catatonic kids and deranged pets, and are, in fact, doing rather nicely, thank you, I think the pragmatists may well come to outnumber the hysterics. Despite the black propaganda of the anti-science crowd…

  10. Oh dear, oh dear (sob), I’ve been banned – yet again – from that fountainhead of ignorance and superstition, the Climate Conversation Group, presumably for the following comments:

    Richard Treadgold, when I visit this site, my thoughts turn to poetry; specifically, William Blake, “London”, second verse:

    “In every cry of every Man,
    In every Infants cry of fear,
    In every voice: in every ban,
    The mind-forg’d manacles I hear”

    You and your ilk wear your tawdry predjudice and ignorance like a badge of honour; amusing, but also rather sad, like this Monty Python skit:


    Mathturbating again, Richard Cumming?

    Mathturbation: What pseudoscientists, cranks and charlatans use to “prove” their self-indulgent theories.

    Of course, Treadgold has no problem with such measured comments as:

    Mr Renowden and his silly, poisonous, venal and highly selective blog

    Well, Mr. Treadgold, at least we aren’t hypocrites…

    1. Uh, not sure if I should feel sorry (for your banning) or envious 😉
      Its in the end a time wasting distraction to engage over in the echo chambers with the ever repeating ear worms and mantras of excuses, straw men and circular referencing. Oh they are so happy if they think that they found a new crack in the veneer of reality only to realize, again and again, that its all imaginary.
      As of the latest, they ‘found’ the Tung and Zhou paper, claiming it proves that circulations and natural effects trump warming. If they at least would read the f… papers they find. There is well founded critique of the Tung/Zhou paper here but even if taken as fact, the Tung/Zhou paper peels out the most striking uninterrupted straight line warming trend from the graphs seen so far plus, extrapolation of the trends they see would hint to a very strong return of atmospheric warming over the next years as their oscillation signal would positively add to the AGW trend line instead of dampening it at present.
      But of cause the real Gorilla in the room is always the ocean heat content, that makes up the vast majority of the energy imbalance stored and building, above which whatever wiggle theory is applied to the air temps is a moot side show….

    1. Thomas – Thames Transition Town (T3) have arranged with s4solar to import a container load of 3 kwPV tied to grid systems for installation around Thames at a “good” price. TCDC have agreed there is no need for a building permit so no cost there. 🙂 Let us know if you know of anyone who might be interested. You can find out more at the T3 website or at s4solar under the Thames deal.

        1. I’ve had a yarn with Ben Stanton of s4solar who is quoting me for a 3.2KW system and a 5 KW system with the option of a 5 KW inverter for the 3.2 KW system to allow subsequent expansion. He did a rough calculation of what the demand would be from that DLEVM1005 ecar if I get it – I would get by on the 3.2 KW system but 5 KW would be better. I only have the standard price yet but when I commit I will get to see how much benefit I get from the Thames deal – and I live in Auckland! It works if about 26 people sign up for a 20′ container load

          Thanks Macro

        2. Auckland is also not requiring a permit.
          Contact Energy have upped their stance on “Distributed Generation” (use this as subject in communications). They offer 17.285 cents/KWh. Currently no charge applies for meter or installation of meter.

  11. Gareth’s put a link to Peter Sinclair’s piece on the windbaggers in the Hot Tweets; I’ll also point out his related, rather useful post on just which energy systems, human activities, infrastructure or ecosystem imbalances have been killing all the birds. HINT: not the thingies involving panels or turbines.

    It would be impossible to improve on his introductory remarks –

    Among the big lies that windbaggers like to spread about wind energy, there are 2 that come up a lot.

    One is that wind turbines kill a lot of birds, relative to other human activities.

    The other is that windbaggers give a damn about birds.

    Exactly. Yep, it’s deniers and the poor all over again!

    1. Some people are ringing their hands over an unsort waiver granted a wind turbine project against criminal prosecution in the event a turbine kills a condor. There are a mass of turbines in the area, a sky scanning system, Patrols to remove carcasses, an education project on the dangers of lead shot to condors and no condors have ever been killed by a turbine in the area which is characterised by downdrafts which are good for turbines but avoided by condors. Details here in NY Times

  12. Last night Auckland managed to miss by a few hours a conjunction of strong NtoNE wind driving water into the Hauraki Gulf, heavy rain and very high tide.No doubt the NW motorway got flooded a bit on the outgoing lanes and spray blew across as is usual in these circumstances. Warnings were issued but the dangerous conjunction did not quite happen. There will be higher tides still tonight and tomorrow night but wind is in the opposite direction and the heavy rain has gone by.

    In the 80s I lived on the shore of the Waitemata River near Paremoremo. I used to mark the tides on my Jetty. I found that the difference between NE wind plus low pressure, and SW wind plus high pressure tended to be about 600mm. This was of interest to me in conducting major shoreside maintenance on the hull of our yacht of the time.

  13. Every now and again I uplift a load of books from a public library. I have become interested in the number of novels that draw on climate change in some way.

    The most recent I’ve read is a trilogy that rests on climate change ideas, heavily dramatised with audatious anachronisms. The thick books are by Stephen Baxter entitled “Stone Spring”, “Bronze Summer”, and “Iron Winter”. Northland is a kind of translated Atlantis where a great wall built of growstone (concrete) fences out the Atlantic and the northern part of the North Sea during interglacials. The Northlanders live in the wall, have harbours on its outside, markets and facilities on the land side, have archives and trade everywhere. They keep up a kind of trade and cultural exchange with the people of the Jaguar from whom they have obtained lamas and the potato and are the cultural centre of what we call Europe. They fend off war by supplying food in times of want and in any case they keep their land in a kind of wilderness form which is confusing to invading farmers. Some Greeks have brought them knowlege of steam and mechanisms, pumps and steam caravans (trains) and from the Hittites they gained knowledge of the making of steel in exchange for potato seed in a time of bronze age famine. Troy was the centre of the Roman Empire, (collapsed) and Carthage survived the Romans. The Other great food source is Egypt.

    The last volume sees the beginning of the Little Ice Age (1315) except it is a transposed Younger Dryas with a very sudden collapse in temperatures that overwhelms the Northlanders and everyone else north of the middle sea. Civilisations collapse. The archives make good fire starters, there is war for survival on every hand. Almost everyone in the northern hemisphere heads south, war famine and pestlence are all part of an eventual major sortout in Carthage while the Northlanders, greatly diminished, recover their glacial period survival skills with the help of their past and the example in mind of the Coldlanders (Eskimos). The sealevel rapidly drops.

    Featured in the drama are a Northland scientist who in search of cause has discerned the Milankovitch cycles while a Mongolian scientist in far Cathay has researched the components of the atmosphere with the same intent. A Coldlander and the Northlander embark on a Marco Polo like expedition to Cathay where the link between fixed air (CO2) and climate change is figured out with an ingenious and dangerous apparatus in the midst of general collapse. The conclusion is that a glacial period was held off until the sudden cold by the Nortlanders’ CO2 generating activities but now the long cold has arrived so drastically there is nothing left but adapt and survive.

    I don’t recommend this as an exposition of climate science but it all added up to an entertaining story.

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