Tuesday, 27 February 2007

I am a Melanoma Survivor!

But only because it was caught early!

A slightly squeamish subject I know but Melanoma's are nasty, nasty things.

There are 4 types of melanoma

  • Superficial spreading melanoma: grows initially in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. This type becomes dangerous when it invades downward into the lower layer of the skin (dermis).

  • Nodular melanoma: often very dark brownish black or black in colour but can be pink or red. It forms a raised lump on the surface of the skin as it invades deeper into the skin.

  • Acral lentiginous melanoma: most commonly found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet or under the nails. This type is more common in people with darker skin.

  • Lentigo maligna melanoma: appears in areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the face and upper body. It may grow slowly and superficially over many years, later forming lumps as it grows deeper into the skin.
My Melanoma story
I went to see my doctor 10 days ago being some months after my partner Michelle had noticed that a small raised mole was looking red and discoloured on my left shoulder.
It had been irritated by my rashie and wetsuit when I went surfing and I had scratched the top of it off a couple of times.
Anyway I eventually went to the Doctor when my concern about it became greater than my fear of the consequences.
Interestingly, it was an irregular mark on my other shoulder that also caught my Doctors attention and he booked me in to have them both removed under local anaesthetic,
Not a day I was looking forward to!

The result:
  • The mole on the left shoulder turned out to be a relatively harmless Nodular Basal Cell Carcinoma and
  • Yep the other mark on the right shoulder turned out to be a melanoma! The last of the four types mentioned above as it was not raised in anyway but quite large and irregular in shape.
    Dangerous because it was not that obvious which is gist of my message!
So, on the recommendation of the specialist, yesterday I was back under the scalpel having the initial incision reopened..........!and more of the area excised as a precaution thereby resolving the issue.


So if you have any marks that are:
  • Assymetrical
  • have an irregular border
  • are a dark colour as shown in the image above
  • More than 6mm in size
Please go straight to your Doctor and get it checked out!

Monday, 26 February 2007

"Windows Vista Ultimate" installation issues!


There was an interesting article in the IT section of todays West Australian Newspaper about the installation of "Windows Vista Ultimate" (recommended retail - over $700 in Australia) on an HP Intel Centrino Duo 1.73GHz laptop with 1GB of RAM that was running "Windows XP Professional" perfectly.

This was what happened:
  • Following the approval of the "Upgrade Advisor", the installer stopped and insisted that offending applications that might interfere with the install process were removed! They were mainly trivial.
  • The installer reported that the nVidia graphics driver was not working - a bit of a worry! Would the monitor simply not work or would a generic on-board driver be used?
  • Following the report by the installer that the installation would take several hours in the end it took 3 hours!!!!!!!!!!! Yep 3 hours to install everything - unbelievable!
  • Yep the video card didn't work properly so there was no - screensaver, games or Google Earth! No driver could be found at the nVidia site that would work!
  • Native Microsoft applications could be installed and some third party but many opened reporting errors or refused to work at all!
  • The "Assigning for Windows XP compatibility mode" fix for older applications did not work at all!
  • Windows Media Player would not recognise DVDs!!!!!!!!!!! - the video card issue again!
  • A mobile phone Windows XP happily recognised no longer was and the automatic software update for it failed!
Not a good scenario and confirms that it is definitely worth waiting awhile unless you are buying a new machine with Vista pre-installed!

You have been warned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Interestingly, there is no inclusion of this story on the West Australian's Website!
I am uncertain but I believe they may have been one of the organisations that had agreed to implement Vista.
Mustn't upset Microsoft must we?

Heaps of reasons to use an Open Source OS and applications!

I just had to post the following comment I found on Dell's Idea Storm site in response to the request for Dell to pre-install Open Office as an alternative to Microsoft Works and Office along with a Linux OS of course!

It is by a respondent known as "thesun" and if you go to the following link you can see many of the other comments that were made in response! It is well worth a read!
Thanks to "thesun", I hope you don't mind me getting your comments out there a little further?


"I've been using most of the software the first respondent lists as being substandard when compared to Windows versions, and I just wonder what planet he or she is on.

Open Office is worlds better than MS Office in many ways, particularly if you need to write in non-English letters;
Audacity rocks -- I use it for professional radio and podcasts. A friend of mine came over with Cool Edit Pro intending to show me the error of my ways and pretty soon he was just as amazed as I was that Audacity offered so much -- for FREE.
The GIMP is an extremely versatile, powerful image editing program, and combined with Inkscape or Scribus you've got magazine publishing capabilities...

The idea that Windows programs are automatically superior is probably because a user just isn't taking the time to learn one versus the other.
I make my living selling words, photos, and sound to magazines, newspapers, and websites and open source has provided me with immediate fixes to bugs I've found, a community that can provide solutions asap, and I've come to trust it for any and all mission critical applications.

And that's not even discussing the cost -- to do what I do, the tools, the licensing, the upgrades -- I'd have to spend at least 5K a year in software alone.

Even if you take the time to run benchmark tests and compare features and such, to be honest, most of Open Office OR MS Windows is overkill. I usually need a typewriter, as do most people who write papers. You could plop most people down in front of Open Office and they'd know instantly how to write with it. The same with audio or video or photo editing.

At this point, the ONLY reason to stick with Windows is because it's what you're familiar with and most people don't want to relearn things...and that's fine, actually. Nobody's saying you _have_ to use the freebie if you want to slap down the cash instead. Those of you who've read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will remember the shim discussion -- both motorcycles had the same problem, and one person utilized a piece of a beer can to make a shim, the other insisted on purchasing an "official" shim which turned out to be just the same. Some people just don't feel good about something unless they've spent money on it.

Linux wasn't really ready to be a desktop alternative 5 years ago; now it is. There's the designer brands and the look-alikes. There's the dealer parts and there's Napa. There's Micro$oft and there's open source. Are they exactly the same? No. But are they similar enough that it's no longer worth 300 or 400 bucks extra? Yes. (Insert shampoo commercial image, woman screaming in shower so happy with her new shampoo -- "Yes!!! Yeeees!!!!") Finally!! Yes!!!!

Linux is ready, really ready, for the average user who wants to spend hard earned money on food or heat or even handbags, instead of on software. There's a little bit of adjustment. But since you're going to have to deal with relearning when you get Vista, why not have Linux instead? You can do just about anything with it, more securely and just as professionally, and you can have the most up-to-date, bleeding edge versions installed at any time.

Having a Dell preinstalled or precertified would be awesome, as the biggest hassle is the inevitable tweaks and quirks I have to deal with at upgrade time -- which Dell is surely in a better position to address, since Dell knows the quirks of the individual systems' hardware.

And you don't have to be a brain to use Linux either -- it's just as intuitive, if not more so, as Windows, as evidenced by my loaning a Linux system to an utter computer-o-phobe friend of mine for a year and a half. I gave her 3 buttons: one for email, one for the web, and one for Skype, told her not to turn the computer off, and she ran it for a year and a half doing everything she always did on Windows. She did not need to reboot it even once. Not one virus, not one problem, not one time did I have to go over and fix her computer for her. My parents' computer, a year old Dell with essentially the same things installed, has problems almost monthly.

The fact of the matter is that I know a lot of people who DON'T use Linux who complain about it, but I know very few people who DO use Linux who complain.
Whereas I know that LOTS of people who regularly use Windows complain about it.

So if Dell can step up to the plate, and offer a lower-cost computer with Linux and the programs mentioned above (or even just certify that yes, this system will not have any issues with hardware!) it would be a fantastic help to the community.
If you still want to use Windows, nobody's stopping you. But for those of us who've realized there is an easy-to-use, user-friendly, safe, secure, and robust alternative that will drop the cost of a new computer a few Benjamins, a Dell with Linux would be a very popular product.

The biggest reason why I've stuck with Dell for my past few computer purchases has been that the Linux community has a good amount of support for it. And you know what? Windows, for some reason I haven't a clue about, stopped recognizing my ethernet card -- the same one that's been there since I got the computer -- and I like it better that way:

I use Linux for all my internet surfing (and don't have to worry about viruses) and if I need Windows for some particular thing, I don't have to worry about it phoning home. In case I sound like a rabid Linux groupie, I'm not.
If Windows can offer me the security, the freedom from data loss, the reliability, and be reasonably priced, I'll happily boot back. No, I take that back. I already have all those features...for free...so Windows would have to really offer something on top of that. If Word allowed me to save the same file in three places -- hard disk, flash drive, and off-site server -- all with one simple click, or even better, automatically at timed intervals...that might get me back. But my guess is Open Office will beat them to that finish line as well."

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Microsoft Access .mdb file handling in Open Office at last!

Open Office 2.1 has just been released and I am looking forward to getting my hands on it particularly as "Base" the Open Office Database package will now handle Microsoft Access files. My main grumble about Open Office now resolved.

This really does now make Open Office a viable alternative to Microsoft Office especially as the interface of Office 2007 has changed so much and the Open Office is more like Office 2003 to use.

I am in discussions with my local TAFE in regard to creating and running a course, using the Windows OS, initially to introduce open source software.
Open Office will be an obvious starting point along with Firefox/Thunderbird - effectively delivering Certificate I in Information Technology using open source applications alone.
Later on I would introduce the use of these same applications using Ubuntu as the OS thereby weaning new users into the idea of using of Linux a bit at a time.

So nobody has installed Vista!

Wow! It seems none of the people who have looked at my post "What do you think of Vista!" have actually installed it as nobody left a comment (except for one guy whose aunt who had bought a new laptop loaded with Vista Home) about their experience at all! - either that or only geeks accessed the post and they are all canny enough to wait awhile before installing a new OS especially from Microsoft!
Now that must be a worry for Microsoft!?

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Office Live not for everybody!

I thought I would have a quick look at Office Live this morning and when I clicked the link for the offer of a free website I got this!!!!!!!

The notice says:

"In order to use Microsoft Office Live, you will need to have Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later running on Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Microsoft Windows Server 2003. You can download the latest version of Internet Explorer from the Internet Explorer downloads page."

No wonder people get a little pissed off with Microsoft!
Google Page Creator is happy to allow me to create a website and one wonders why Microsoft continues to take this stance?

What do you think?

What do you think about Vista?

There must be a few of you using Vista out there by now!

Post a comment and let everybody know what you think about Vista including:
  • Which version you have installed?
  • What hardware you are running it on?
  • Why you think users should or should not upgrade?

Thursday, 22 February 2007

4GB of RAM required for Vista! Another reason not to upgrade?

In a recent article in Computer World, David Short, an IBM consultant, has recommended that the amount of RAM required on a PC running Vista should be 4GBs!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Dell and others recommend 2GB.)

One reason is a feature called "Superfetch", which fetches applications and data, and feeds them into RAM so as they are more readily accessible resulting in more caching because of the extra RAM.
There is also some evidence to support that Microsoft has been demoing Vista on PCs loaded with 4GB of RAM eliciting various degrees of Oohs and Aahs as you would expect.

Imagine the cost of 4GB of RAM in a Laptop!
A 1GB stick for my Acer Aspire 3500 costs $299, so assuming a 2GB stick would be $599 then the cost of 4GB of Ram is almost the same as the cost of the whole laptop in the first place.
As far as I can tell 2GB sticks are not offered at this point!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that is ridiculous enough, but what is even more so is that David Short contends, that at the recommended minimum hardware requirements of 512Mb and 800mhz, Vista will provide performance that is less than that of XP that you already have loaded.


Sunday, 18 February 2007

One reason for existing in this world!

My uni studies start this week!

I am studying a Bachelor of Science in Internet Computing externally at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia.

I started this process in 2nd semester last year completing two units - "Intro to Internet and Multimedia" and "Intro to Programming (C and Java) and am happy to say I managed to pass both of them.
Initially, I was concerned that I might not be up to studying at Uni but this has spurred me on so - this semester I have taken on two more units Intro to Data communications and Principles of Computer Science (OO programming).

It has been a great experience studying at Murdoch as an external student because of:
  • Great resources both lecture and tutorial.
  • Fantastic forums to connect with others studying externally and there are heaps all over the world!
  • Being able to study when it suits my schedule rather than the uni's if I was an internal student.
  • My having learnt so much already!
In my humble opinion, one of the points of existence is to gain knowledge and I have always really enjoyed doing that.

  • I am a self taught motorcycle mechanic (though it has been years since I worked in that field).
  • I studied classical guitar for 5 years at the WA Conservatorium of Music gaining a Diploma of Music Teaching.
  • I have an Advanced Diploma of Accounting.
  • I have a Diploma of Information Technology (Systems Administration).
  • I have learnt the usual heap of other things along the way as we do in life.
I don't really need to study this degree for any career related reasons as I already work in the field I desire.
I am only doing so because I am interested in gaining knowledge in this incredibly interesting area that is exploding with possibilities at the moment that will change the way we use computers!

Friday, 16 February 2007

Great little widgets from Widgetbox!

On the left you will see that I have added some widgets.

A bookmarking widget which will give you the option to bookmark the post with most of the available social bookmarking sites.

I have also added a search widget that will enable you to search within this blog, which might be useful as there are a fair few posts now and this little widget works really well.
For instance, try a search for "guitar" and you will find that you get quite a few results!
You can also use it to directly search the web from this blog.

An RSS feed to GigOm which features articles relating to cutting edge developments on the internet. This compliments the two other RSS feeds further down the page from Slashdot and ZDNet.

But the best widget of all of them is the site translation one which is just awesome! Give it a try especially if you don't speak English!

I am checking out some other widgets to add and you can too at Widgetbox.
Very cool and lots of fun!

Thursday, 15 February 2007

6 reasons not to purchase Office 2007 and 6 to download Open Office 2 for free!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You will notice that there is now a button on the blog inviting you to get the Open Office suite of applications which is now up to release 2.1.
I use Open Office all the time now and have found it to be an excellent alternative to Microsoft Office.

Six reasons not to purchase MS-Office 2007

  1. MS-Office 2007 doesn't do anything different than what your current version of Office does.

  2. MS-Office 2007 has a radically different "new look" and "way of use" that is markedly different from what you are probably currently using.

  3. There are 50,000 pages of new help files to help you understand the "new look" and "way of use" if you have the time to look through them and you will need to?

  4. Microsoft dealers, trainers, and support people are hoping to make a lot of money from helping people migrate. It is going to take some deal of effort, do you have the support you need to help you cope with the changes?

  5. Upgrades like this are a major revenue stream for Microsoft. Are they providing this upgrade for your benefit, or for their shareholders particularly as Office 2007 is not going to offer you anymore than what you are likely to be already using!

  6. Were you offended by Microsoft's long and expensive advertising campaign portraying people who hadn't upgraded as the "Office dinosaurs". You can make you own decision can't you?

Six reasons to download OpenOffice.org 2 for free!

  1. Independent opinions have found that OpenOffice.org 2 is excellent software, and MS-Office users very quickly feel completely at home with it as it's "look" and "way of use" are very similar.

  2. OpenOffice.org 2 gives you everything you expect in one package - plus useful extras like creating pdf files, unlike Office which comes in a bewildering variety of editions.
  3. OpenOffice.org 2 costs 90% less than upgrading to MS-Office 2007 let alone having to master a new "look and way of use".

  4. OpenOffice.org 2 reads all your old MS-Office files, so all your previously created Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, presentations can still be used.

  5. OpenOffice.org's licencing terms allow you to install it on as many computers as you like and use it for any purpose - and it supports all platforms. Does your current copy of MS-Office comply with all of Microsoft's licence conditions?

  6. And the best reason of all - OpenOffice.org is free of any charge. Why pay for software from Microsoft when there's a perfectly good alternative available for free?
So really - there is no decision to make is there?
My thanks to the Open Office site for their initial preparation of this information.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Cutting edge information - I love it!

I have been having an interesting time lately since I discovered a few key people and sites that are keeping abreast of the latest developments in our computing/internet world.

Like many of you out there, I am fascinated by the rapid changes that are occurring in the way in which we use our computers and access information.
I even learnt a new word - metadata! Well , I thought I had until I looked up the meaning and reacquainted myself with the fact that it meant data about data.
Now this is a serious subject currently as expressed by Jon Udell in this post.

Jon speaks about the issues relating to tagging uniformity in order to assist the structured searching required by the next generation of search tools, see this post written by Emre Sokullu and edited by Richard MacManus and great new tools such as Yahoo Pipes!

An absolutely fascinating look at the next crop of start ups and established players working on projects with names as follows:

Mindset (Yahoo)

Check them out and maybe you will be using Google and Yahoo less so in the future!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Created a home page using Google Page Creator

Stumbling around on the internet today I discovered a guy called John Udell mentioned on Tim O'Reillys Radar blog.

He is apparently one of the most prescient of technology visionaries in Tim's opinion so I have added his blog to Akregator. He had written a post about using the CSS for a three page layout off Google Page Creator as a basis to create a website for himself that hadn't worked IE7 as he had apparently trimmed out too much. He was promoting Matthew Levine's Holy Grail three column layout which works everywhere pretty well as an alternative.

Anyway I decided to have a look at Google Page Creator and was pleasantly surprised with it's ease of use and so promptly set about converting a homepage I had built for a uni project into a more sophisticated layout using Page Creator. Heaps more to add to it but have a look in the meantime if you are interested.

The Guitar!

I haven't talked about the guitar much but it has played a very significant role in my life since I was in my early teens although I did not attempt to play until I was fifteen.
The image to the left probably represents the pinnacle of my achievements on the guitar as I am caught here in the middle of playing my first full length solo classical guitar (On a beautiful spruce Paul Fischer guitar) recital at the Fremantle Arts Centre in 1986. An achievement far beyond where I thought I might go when I first plucked a guitar string!

Like most kids I started off trying to emulate the guitar heroes I heard on the records (yep vinyl!) that I had started to collect - and gods of guitar they were and still are:
Jimmy Page - wrote the best ever riffs

Ritchie Blackmore - the virtuoso of his era, just so fast and I reckon Yngwei Malmsteen must have listened to him a lot too!

Carlos Santana - loved his tone and wonderful melodies

Eric Clapton - Turned me onto the blues

and many others I can't think of but the above four were the main ones.

I had an acquaintance Detlef, who was a little older than me and whose last name I cannot remember, who taught me, to my absolute delight, a number of Led Zeppelin (all time favourite rock band) riffs that I had just not been able to work out at all.
This helped me to start to understand just a little bit how music worked on the guitar and passing on this and the vast amount of other knowledge that I acquired over the years became the way in which I eventually chose to earn a living!

I also remember spending hours learning Carlos Santana's Samba Pa Ti and I had now acquired an electric guitar and amplifier!

By this time I think I had learnt about the minor pentatonic scale (probably from Detlef) and spent alot of time trying to play as fast as Ritchie Blackmore.
I used an extended version of the scale that added an extra note on each string rather than the two per string scheme normally used.
Not long after the image above was taken I gave up playing the guitar for a number of years while I explored the world of motorcycling which I am sure will be the subject of another post sometime.

Having survived 6 years of motorcycling still alive and without serious injury amazingly, I decided it was time to actually find something to do with my life and part of this process was to to think back to what was really important to me as a teenager and of course it was music and the guitar specifically.
I decided that it was time I learnt to read music and so commenced my 12 year exploration of the Classical Guitar culminating in the concert mentioned above and the kickstart for a career as a guitar teacher. I will post on that next time.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Back from Perth again and what you didn't know happened after the Perth Big Day Out!

Well I am back from Perth and Mum has had her big blast of radiation and blast her they did!
So much so, that she started to feel a burning sensation on her back towards the end of the treatment which understandably worried her a little!
As she was only having one treatment I think they made it a big one!

Apparently, this is not unusual!
A cool bath and the application of some sorbolene cream the appropriate remedy.

Mum was lucky as they had agreed to measure her up for the treatment and treat her all in one day which is very unusual as normally a patient is required to come back the next day. As we were vehement in our argument that we were unwilling to extend our stay in Perth beyond a day they relented. And fair enough too, as they have no idea, until you tell them, that it is a 5 hour road trip from Albany to Perth and that it is onerous and very tiring for an 84 year.
So for the moment that is the end of our need to travel to Perth for awhile at least. Even Mum is pleased with that prospect.

I was taken aback that the Royal Perth Hospital Radiation Oncology waiting room was packed with a constant parade of people coming in for treatment. You just have no idea until you visit these places of the prevalence of cancer in society - well you have an idea - but it is nowhere near the reality of the scope of the situation.

Anyway, we chose a different hotel form the last Perth visit and I have to give the Criterion Hotel a thumbs up. The room was so much more spacious than Aaron's Hotel and cheaper.
In fact the bathroom at the Criterion, which actually had a bath in it, was about the size of the room we had at Aaron's! And....... we had a double bed each at the Criterion which was great for me as a single bed just does not feel comfortable when you normally sleep in a queen size.
Nice restaurant down stairs - a much better experience.

Tim and Kelly came in to have dinner with us on our last night and it is always great to catch up with them.
They did have an interesting story to tell and those of you who were at the Perth Big Day Out may be interested to hear it.

Kelly worked at the bar selling rum in various forms. At the end of the night as they were packing up an idiot unleashed a main guy rope on a marquee which immediately flew off in the quite strong wind - a dangerous mix of canvas, poles and rope flaying around amongst those on the ground. Unfortunately for Kelly, one of the poles whacked her on the right elbow, she was lucky it wasn't the head.
This resulted in a nasty gash down to the bone that ended up with her having to go to Royal Perth Casualty Department!
The end result of all that, she and Tim, who had been called in with the bad news, arrived home at 6am in the morning after waiting in casualty for 7 hours so as Kelly could be stitched up!
So they were in good form considering the ordeal they had been through particularly Kelly who would have been awake for nearly 24 hours I would imagine.

All that after having to witness a lacklustre performance by the Western Force on Friday night.

Kelly is a great rugby union fan and a member of the Western Force's Blue Crew.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

It would be nice if we could all just get a long on this planet!

Stumbled on to this the other day!
What more is there to say?
Thanks Wade!