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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

News/Opinion: Burst Melbourne Water Main Not Cut, Millions of Litres of Drinking Water Lost

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/First half written on 25/1/2009/

At 3:30am today a small leak in a 50-year-old pipe in St Georges Rd Melbourne was reported which erupted into a 40 meter high fountain two hours later.

The approach that even the least handy-person would take would be to turn the water off, however Melbourne Water didn’t shut down the water main until hours later. During this time dismayed locals looked on, trying to save what water they could from the flooded roadway.

A Melbourne Water spokesman defended the decision not to shut off the pipe, which supplies water to over a thousand homes and businesses in the western suburbs, saying that "In order to fix it we have to shut it down so to avoid leaving people without water we have to first isolate this part of the system.” []

Victoria’s Water Minister Tim Holding is yet to comment on why the sparse resource was allowed to leak for so long and exactly how much water has been lost to the Melbourne storm water system. However, Upper House Opposition Leader David Davis speculated that the recent efforts by households to reduce water consumption have been undone as a result of the “debacle”. []

/The following was written on 28/1/2009/

Heat has been cited as the cause of the burst. [MX Newspaper, Jan 28 2009]

Does the delay to warn residents of a water cut-off mean that Victoria’s water protocols need to be changed? In a state that is suffering from its driest January in 77 years [Source:] and as Melbourne swelters through its hottest week in 100 years [Source:], surely common sense would prevail and the pipe would be switched off?

Today (28/1) another burst in the same area was caused by a car which crashed into a fire hydrant. Thousands of litres of water were lost again in a 5m high spray [MX Newspaper, Jan 28 2009]. This time 63 homes were affected.

If providing notice to residents and shop owners is required, maybe water companies should reduce the water pressure after a burst so that not so much water is lost? Also, water companies should try to reclaim water that would otherwise be lost, maybe with a stand-by crew that can try to rescue at least some water from a leak. The state’s water system would also benefit from more water control gates so water pipe closures would affect a smaller number of people; similar upgrades have been applied successfully to Victoria’s electricity grid in past years.

Melbourne’s dam levels are presently at 33.8%, a drop of 3.9% from the same time last year. With no rainfall registered in Melbourne catchment areas so far this month, maybe it really is time for the government to review its water protocols. [Statistics from the Melbourne water website, last updated on the 23rd of January.]

/All statistics correct at time of writing./

Friday, January 16, 2009

Essay: The Literary Value of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kamph’ as a Persuasive Text.

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Note: I, the author, do not in any way support the human rights abuses that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party committed. This essay looks at how Adolf Hitler persuaded a country to attempt genocide. This is not an attack on the German people either.

Adolf Hitler is famous for leading the German people to hate previously respected cultures, but how he lead a body of ordinary people to go against the instinct not to kill perfectly healthy people is an extraordinary achievement. Hitler outlines his views and sways his audience in his, at the time highly persuasive piece Mein Kamph’. Aimed at the Germanic peoples who had been downtrodden in war by other races, Hitler timed the release of his text perfectly, reinforcing it with examples of already hated enemies such as America, being a “Latin” culture not Germanic and a danger to German society, which they were in reality. However, Hitler generalised the hate and directed it over a broader spectrum. Hitler’s aim in Mein Kamph was to convince the German people that minority, “bourgeois” peoples who are not Germanic or had joined the already established Germany at a later date and have no structure to their own society are a danger to Germany’s society and culture progression. Through card-stacking these arguments, Hitler tried to achieve hatred toward and removal of these “inferior” minorities.

Adolf Hitler plays with the reader’s sense of guilt and self-worth with emotive appeals that play with his readers’ ideals. In Volume 1, Chapter XI, Hitler says “only pacifistic fools can regard this as a sign of human depravity, failing to realise that this development had to […] Sky pilots could force their drivel on the world”. This contemptuous “Everyone knows that” attitude that resonates throughout the seemingly scientifically backed, and very politically persuasive text forces the reader to treat these distasteful, hateful remarks with respect and, importantly, forces them to believe what Hitler is proposing, otherwise they would be a “pacifistic” person (the fact that this is usually flagged as a good thing shows how effective Hitler’s book was) causing the collapse of their own society by bombarding it with “drivel”.

Hitler uses generalisations, analogies, cause and effect and connotations to transfer hate from one group to another. For example, Hitler states that because the Jewish peoples are often middle-class, they are subservient and hence stupid, expendable and should be shaken off the ‘good part’ of society like chaff. He also states that the “interbreeding” of races will always result in the collapse of the culture. The latter point is an example of a generalisation and misuse of cause-and-effect. He also states that America is the traitor that it is and is in depression because the “Latin” people who settled there mixed with the aborigines of the country. In chapter XI (Volume 1) he says that the man who defies nature will suffer “distress, misfortune and diseases.” Hitler earlier quoted, and violently ‘disapproved’ a Jewish proverb; that of “Man’s role is to overcome nature”. With both the emotive appeal and cause and effect, Hitler was able to convey his opinion of Jewish subservience through making Jewish people sound contemptuous toward nature.

By running a string of related statements, each toying with separate persuasive devices, Adolf Hitler forms large and multi-dimensional arguments. The comment on the Jewish proverb, later echoed in his discussions on how we are ruled by nature, the repetitive use of animals as examples and later using nature as a sign of purity, and his mixing of well known and accepted facts with his supposed facts treated as if they are that of an ancient great thinker, all stack up against any previous acceptance of ‘sub-cultures’ and ‘sub-species’.

Through his continually reemphasised and seemingly overall benevolent (for society), well targeted arguments, Adolf Hitler succeeded in writing a book that could sway the minds of many, and scare those who disagreed into silence. In turning those who read the book and agreed with his cause against those who would not agree, those who read the book and disagreed would be turned upon as subservient, as “chaff” that needs to be shaken off the grain of society, Hitler has achieved his intention.


Written in October/November 2008.

Windows 7 ‘Fixes’ card reader eject issues.

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In Windows 7, users of in-built card readers for cameras, mobile phones etc., can expect less logging off to re-gain access to their reader after ‘Safely Removing’ their portable media.

clip_image002In older versions of Windows, when you ‘Safely Removed’ an SD card (for example) from your computer, you lost access to all ports in your card reader until you logged out and back in again. This was not only disruptive and inconvenient but also frustrating.

Now, with Windows 7, not only are the ports immediately accessible again but you can eject a single card and leave another of another type still fully functional.clip_image002[8]

Avoiding confusion, Windows Explorer also now only registers ports with a card actually present in the ‘My Computer’ drives listing. Gone are the days of opening every drive and being told there is no disk until you eventually find the card’s directory.

My Comp 1ed This is a prime example of how Microsoft is desperately trying to make Windows more user-friendly so as to compete with the ‘humanised’ approach of Linux. If Microsoft keeps on like this, Windows will stop losing small amounts of its market share to Ubuntu and will actually find current Windows users happy and willing to upgrade their systems to the upcoming OS.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Windows 7 Beta 1 in depth: Paint V6.1

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Windows 7 marks the first major change in Window’s built-in image editor, Microsoft Paint (Of Paintbrush in Windows 3.x), since the program was first bundled in Windows V1.

The new version of the program features shape tools with stroke settings, new brushes, cropping and the ability to scan and e-Mail pictures. Paint 6.1 also features gridlines and rulers and sports the ‘ribbon’ interface introduced in the Office 2007 system. Thumbnail and full screen view are now easily accessible in the ‘Views’ tab.

Paint 6.1 saves files in the .PNG file format by default and can save in the usual JPG, BMP and GIF files and can quickly set the image as the desktop background with display settings.

Right-clicking on the image now brings up an improved menu of shortcuts.

Screen shots:

PAINT Paint1 PaintFly-out

Seven Months with Windows 7

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The next version of Windows, Windows 7, has been released as a Beta to the general public that can be used until August 1 2009.

Over the last couple of days I have been attempting, and eventually succeeding, to download the Windows 7 install ISO file (Now with the 2.5 million testers limit removed). The first time that I tried this was a test to find the size of the file. To do this I followed the path on my Vista computer which did not work. When I moved to another computer running Windows XP to conduct the download I assumed it would have the same issues and just followed the direct link to the file, avoiding the ‘Download Manager’ that Microsoft provides. I came back the next morning to watch the file simply stop downloading at 1.1GB, a far cry from the 2.44GB that I’d been told to expect. Predictably, this file didn’t work.

Next I tried the proper, expected by Microsoft channel. All was going well until an old 4GB hard disk in the computer died loudly, at which I had to pause the download and shut the system down. I removed the hard drive and started the computer back up again expecting that all would be lost. Five minutes later I was a very happy person.

After re-visiting the download page on the Microsoft website, Download Manager reappeared with my download still alive and kicking my ISP! Microsoft have created a truly remarkable piece of software in their Download Manager, if it actually was them who created it; I’m unsure if it was them as I tried looking for an ‘About’ box with no avail.

When the file finished I burnt it to DVD and installed Windows 7 as a dual-boot with Vista. Very soon I was in the new OS.

First impressions were that it was fast and that it looked simple to use. Everything was neatly contained in the square boxes that were once called the start menu (now task bar) at the bottom of the screen. This is a cross between ‘Quick Launch’ in Windows 98-Vista and the collapsed programs in Windows XP and Vista. (This can be returned to almost normal (Vista/XP normal) with a visit to the task bar properties – right-click on an empty space of task bar and click ‘Properties’).

No real changes to the start menu – the shutdown menu now actually says shut down but nothing much is different. I was unhappy to see the return of the ‘My’ prefix on the documents folders MP10but that just means a rename is in order. Windows Media Player (Version 12 in Windows 7) no longer has its usual place in the right hand side of the start menu/task bar, instead you mouse over the program icon and up pops the play controls (now not as feature-rich as in past versions) and all open WMP windows. This does not work in the ‘Windows Classic Theme’ I am sad to say.

An interesting, and trivial, touch that Microsoft has added to the GUI is a highlight on items on the start menu which, when the icon is hovered over, follows the mouse and adapts to the colour of the program icon. It’s a nice touch but it bemuses me that Microsoft should be playing around with such useless features at this stage of development. I’d expect to see this in Beta 2 instead.

File organisation seems to have changed with 10 and 11 now showing up after 9 instead of after 1 in Windows Explorer. Also, when copying files the progress is shown in the start menu/task bar, as seen in the image below.


Some time ago I created a program which uses the in-built PC speaker to beep the time at you (Console.Beep in .NET). In Windows 7 this is instead executed by the actual speakers, and as a digital audio user I get a clunk between each sound.

Defrag has had a facelift and has gained the ability to analyse the fragmentation of a drive. Defrag now also gives a more detailed explanation of what it is doing as well as a percentage complete reading.

Defrag1 Defrag3 defrag5

Games munu 2The internet games (Backgammon, Spades and Checkers, but not Internet Hearts or Reversi) have all returned after their break from Vista and now keep a track of your wins and losses, of which the statistics are now shown in the ‘Games Explorer’ side panel along with those of all other compatible games.

With Windows 7 Beta 1 came with Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, Media Player 12, Windows Photo Viewer, Windows Fax and Scan and (in a separate online install) new versions of all the Windows Live products and Windows Movie Maker.

All in all I am very happy with Windows 7. Explorer has crashed a couple of times, with a full recovery after each, but otherwise the Beta OS is stable and fast. Very fast. This is due to Microsoft stripping back the Kernel of all unnecessary components (to create what was called ‘Min Win’) prior to developing Windows 7. What pains me is that on August 1 I’ll have to give Windows 7 up. Fingers crossed for a public Beta 2.


Windows 7 Beta 1 can be downloaded from Microsoft until January 24 using the ‘Download Manager’ program (recommended) at Please remember that this is Internet Explorer only.

For those who would rather not take the official channel (I really do NOT recommend this unless you are on a fast and stable connection) you can download it by following the links on

Installation Screenshots:

DSC_0407 DSC_0456

DSC_0412 DSC_0416

DSC_0421 DSC_0431

DSC_0439 DSC_0440

DSC_0441 DSC_0444

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