Browsed by
Month: December 2012

Australian Shark Attacks

Australian Shark Attacks

Its summer, the news is a little light on, so the media begins to focus on shark attacks:

Some may have considered the three fatal shark attacks in West Australian waters in 2011 to be a tragic coincidence.

However, when a further two fatal attacks and one life threatening shark attack occurred in the state in 2012, many had little doubt WA had a shark problem.

To be fair, the article talks a lot about the positive research that is being done to deter sharks, but nonetheless it is a predictable story in the media in the Australian summer.

I’m not going to suggest for a second that shark attacks are anything but horrific for those involved, but they should also be put in context. The Australian Shark Attack File, Taronga Zoo shows that in the 222 years since 1791 there have been 201 fatal, unprovoked shark attacks in Australia. Thats less than 1 per year!

Compare that to the 121 people who drown at the beach year in Australia. Or the following accidental causes of death in Australia in 2010 (Australian Bureau of Statistics):

  • Transport accident: 1502
  • Accidental falls: 1648
  • Assault: 217

Of course, these accidental causes of death are quite low in the top 20 causes of death in Australia in 2010 – a list which is dominated by cardio vascular disease and cancer.

War between China vs. USA/Japan?

War between China vs. USA/Japan?

According to an opinion piece in the SMH by Prof Hugh White, war between China and an allied Japan and USA is an increasing possibility.

The Greek historian Thucydides first explained the difference almost 2500 years ago. He wrote that the catastrophic Peloponnesian War started from a spat between Athens and one of Sparta’s allies over a relatively insignificant dispute. But what caused the war was something much graver: the growing wealth and power of Athens, and the fear this caused in Sparta.

I of course find the prospect of a war so close-to-home unnerving, but this is an interesting analysis of a series of seemingly small events that could escalate.

I recall when I was living in Japan in the early 90’s that there was press and worry about the Kuril Islands Dispute between Russia and Japan (both claim sovereignty). Fortunately that situation seemed to be resolved peacefully (although unresolved at this writing) seems to be being negotiated diplomatically and has not resulted in military conflict.

The State of Science Education in Australia

The State of Science Education in Australia

According to the SMH, too few Australian university entrants are considering science for their degrees.

As the next generation of Australia’s workforce use their smartphones and tablets and chat over social networks, this trend of declining interest in science and technology suggests the uncomfortable question: are we going to be a nation of creators of the future, or just the consumers of it?

When I entered uni, I never really considered science. If I had my time again, I would study science in a heartbeat.

New iPad in March Predictions

New iPad in March Predictions

Predictions by the sometimes-spot-on, often-way-off rumour site Macotakara suggest that a new, thinner, lighter 5th generation iPad will be released in March.
I’ll make an early prediction on this one: “no way”. I give it a 20% chance of happening.

Simply, Apple loves releasing new versions of its flagship products about once per year. In the past 2 years they’ve carefully “reset” the cycle for both iPhone and iPad to coincide with the Christmas buying season.

I’d say we can predict that iPhone and iPad, along with iPod, will continue with a September/October launch cycle.

A Hidden Gem in Sydney: Navy Heritage Centre

A Hidden Gem in Sydney: Navy Heritage Centre

I plan to blog a bit more in detail later, and post some images, but Belinda and I visited the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre yesterday.
It was a beautiful summer-time Sunday in Sydney, and we were perhaps two of less than 10 visitors at the centre for the entire time we were there.

Getting there involves a short ferry ride from Circular Quay to Garden Island. There is no land access (except for tourist buses).

It’s truly one of Sydney’s hidden gems, with magnificent vistas for photographers.

The AVN Has to Change its Name

The AVN Has to Change its Name

The so-called Australian Vaccination Network has to change its name, as the NSW Fair Trading authorities have concluded it misleads people looking for legitimate info on vaccinations.
They’re right.

When it comes to science, individuals may be entitled to have their own ideas, but they are not entitled to push their opinions without clear, peer reviewed evidence. The AVN does not seem to have done this.

In the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts


Give Flickr Pro a Try (3 months free trial)

Give Flickr Pro a Try (3 months free trial)

I’ve been a Flickr user for many years, and was a Flickr Pro user for most of them (although I did let my Pro account lapse for a while).
Flickr is a terrific image uploading, hosting, sharing service and community, and was for a long time the prime place for my Photos of the Day (although I tried hosting that on 500px and iCloud for a while). I let my Flickr Pro account lapse because of the seeming lack of focus on Flickr by its parent Yahoo!, and the various issues that ensued from there. I also admit that Yahoo!’s subscription and payment system also made it difficult to actually sign up for the service!

It really looked like Yahoo! had killed Flickr. Thomas Hawk summed up the issues nicely:

For me, most of my frustration was around three key issues.

  1. It felt like Flickr simply refused to innovate.
  2. It felt like the people who managed Flickr and worked for Flickr simply didn’t care about the users or the product.
  3. My data didn’t feel safe and I worried about the community management team irrevocably and permanently deleting accounts without warning to users.

I reinstated my Flickr Pro a few months back, but to be honest I’ve not been too active there yet. But I can see that Flickr, under the direction of Yahoo!’s new CEO Marissa Mayer has been making a number of right steps, not the least of which is the widespread applause surrounding the release of Flickr’s new iPhone App.

The timing of the release of the Flickr iPhone App couldn’t have been better. Not only did it include Instagram inspired features like filters, but it happened right before Instagram (a service I don’t use) changed its terms of service and subsequently rolled back some controversial sections after fierce user backlash.

So Yahoo! has launched a one-two punch at Instagram by offering existing and new users three month free Flickr Pro usage – either as a trial for new users, or as an automatic extension for existing users.

Flickr Pro Holiday Gift

The response to the Flickr Pro 3 month offer has been spectacularly enthusiastic.

I’ll be reinvigorating my Flickr usage, and heartily recommend that everyone try out Flickr Pro by taking advantage of the three month free offer. I’ve switched my Photo of the Day album back to my Flickr Photostream. Now I just have get back to uploading some regular photos.

Google Maps for iOS Review: Good but sent me to the wrong place…

Google Maps for iOS Review: Good but sent me to the wrong place…

As I stated when iOS 6 was first released, map data has to work properly because of its intrinsic relationship with, well, all aspects of life.
A lot of people bemoaned Apple having dropped Google maps, because Google has been developed over many years, whereas Apple’s maps were a version 1 product. Google has also been much praised about the accuracy of its mapping data, as a result of, among other things, the fact the Google sends people out to check the mapping data.

I expect Apple will continue to improve their mapping data, and find the UI of their app to be good. But like most, we need the data to be accurate. Even Victoria Police in Australia has made specific warnings about trusting Apple Maps in navigating to the town of Mildura due to inaccurate map data.

When Google Maps was released for iOS, I was keen to try out the app to see if the app would give me the best of both worlds in terms of accurate data and a simple UI.

So I downloaded the app, and yesterday tried it out to navigate from Parramatta in Sydney’s west to a major shopping centre called Castle Towers. Castle Towers is a major centre that has been open since 1982, and is even home to one of the 7 Apple Stores in Sydney.

Google Maps’ UI was great, and it took me seconds to work out how to plan a route, and start the turn-by-turn navigation function. I really like the turn-by-turn experience, with clear information on the next turn, and (where appropriate) information about immediately following turns. In short, I like it, and can see this app replacing TomTom as my major navigation tool.

The app got me close to the shopping centre, but not to it. In fact, it told me I had arrived when I was in a leafy surburban street about 2 blocks from the centre. Not knowing the centre, I didn’t realise it was two blocks behind me, so I drove further down the street. A check of Google Street View in the Google Maps app showed me that there was no shopping centre there! (see photo)

So while nowhere as serious as the Mildura incident, the hallowed Google Maps failed me on its first usage, and it failed to find a major complex that is far from a recent addition.

After leaving Castle Towers, I set a course to visit Tamworth in regional NSW, a major town about 5–6 hours from Sydney. The app worked brilliantly, and tracked time and distance extremely well. In fact, it seems to estimate time a bit better than Apple Maps.

Plotting a trip home from Tamworth, Google Maps tells me it will be 5 hours 42 minutes, whilst Apple Maps predicts 5 hours 14 minutes. I bet that even in perfect traffic, 5:42 will be a best case scenario.

Google Maps will probably be my go-to app for turn-by-turn navigation, based on user experience, turn-by-turn functionality and overall better map data. I like the app, but will keep using the Apple Maps app as well to see how it improves.