Excel FIFO Calculator

After 6 years on the outskirts of Parramatta, our simulator is moving to Brisbane airport. For our small fleet of 5 aircraft and 150 pilots, it’s a big change. As part of the process I had a look at the simulator slot timings, especially since we would be moving to 24×7 operation for a disparate workforce spread mostly up and down the East Coast. Coupled with this is the implication of Fly In And/Or Fly Out for single simulator sessions, which we do quite a lot of. I freely admit the project got away from me somewhat – the spreadsheet attached is the result.


FIFO Analysis Spreadsheet

The premise of the sheet was to analyse various simulator session start times and determine how many domestic sectors a start time for a particular session facilitates for either (a) fly in before the session; (b) fly out after the session; or (c) fly in and out for a single session in a day. Early sessions don’t facilitate fly in (unless they’re “very” early and you’re talking about flying in late the night before); similarly late (or early) finishing sessions don’t facilitate fly out, other than sessions that finished before the first departures of the day from BNE. Broadly speaking the east coast domestic network is an 18 hour a day pattern, with a dearth of flights between eleven pm and six am. Not that anyone really wants to be doing sim that late at night anyway.

Sim Slot Timings

A simulator session is a four hour block of time, preceded by a 90 minute briefing period and followed by a 30 minute debrief, which are fixed. In terms of FIFO, place before this a minimum period of transit between arriving in from a flight and signing on (basically airport transfer time); and follow it with another minimum transit period after the session to catch a flight home. Note that while there’s a minimum transit time between flight arrival and the briefing period – there’s also a reasonable maximum value – you can’t have crew arriving in to the airport 4 hours before they’re due to present for training.

Between each simulator session is a gap period (nominally 10 minutes) which gives the engineers time to service the simulator (software resets, oxygen mask replacement, etc) and allows some handover time for the crews. These vary from 15 minutes, 10 minutes, to nothing at all in some operations. I settled on 10 minutes, which we are using at the moment and a couple of the other BNE simulators are also using.

Our simulator will have the company of 5 other simulators in BNE and this introduces an additional constraint. Ideally we want to avoid having the 10 minute break between sessions at the same time as occurs for the other simulators. While there’s more than one team of engineers on duty at any time – overlapping handovers places a strain on everyone involved. At least two of the existing simulators have the same slot schedule already …

FIFO1

 

 

 

 

 

It can be seen that the basic simulator slot time, with the brief/debrief and transit periods, the flight themselves and the EBA sign on/off periods outside the flights, sets up a basic pattern. While it certainly makes for a long day (Sign On, Flight to BNE, Airport Transit, Brief, Sim, DeBrief, Transit, Flight Home, Sign Off) – it’s certainly feasible with the right flight connections – or the right sim slot timings to meet the existing east coast flight schedule. By the way this is of course all impacted by the change of Daylight Savings – or more accurately the lack of change in Queensland …

FIFO2Finally, the use of 4 hour simulator slots with 10 minute breaks means you lose the use of the full 6 simulator slots per day. Basically you end up with a 3 hour break somewhere along the line. Engineering require a period of two hours a day anyway (not always to be used) for regular maintenance and complete power down / power up cycles. Typically this takes place in the middle of the night when the sim is not being used.

Flight Schedule

I wanted the sheet to automatically select from a flight schedule for SYD/BNE/SYD and MEL/BNE/MEL when different sim slot timings were selected. I cast around for some kind of data set I could use but there really wasn’t anything readily to hand. I ended up simply entering into a sheet all the flights for a particular (weekday) in late October after daylights savings started in (most of) the east coast states. Strategic updates to schedule would need to be done to continue to use the sheet, But I determined this wasn’t necessary for my purposes. I had a quick look at the weekend flights as well, but rather than code in day based schedules, I included the basic weekday pattern (MTWTFSS) in the data so that it was clear when certain flights didn’t operate.

FIFO3Variables

I wanted the sheet to be able to account for certain variables. Quite apart from simulator slot start time, I wanted the user to be able to change sim slot gap, Sign On/Off periods, Min/Max Transit times and limitations on Duty Period.

Changing these variables in the spreadsheet changes the flights that appear to the Left (Fly In) and Right (Fly Out) of the simulator sessions.

Counting Flights

At this point I now had a sheet that responded to changes in variables, selecting available flights based on the constraints in the variables. Flights that arrived too early for the Max Transit before a simulator slot would not show. Flights that arrived too late for the Min Transit after a simulator slot would not show. Flights that exceeded the parameterised Min Transit, Max Duty, etc – are either hidden or flagged in the sheet, depending on how bad they exceed.

FIFO5At this stage the sheet can be used to tweak the parameters to match the work rules, then try a range of first session simulator start times to see the sheet update the slots (and the breaks) and see how the flights propagate across the simulator slots. At this point I added columns on the right to count how may fly-in and fly-out and fly-in-out simulator slot/flights there were. These numbers are not a true measure of the specific availability of a simulator slot for Fi/Fo – but it facilitates a metric across which different sim slot patterns can be measured.

The various lines are summed at the top of each SYD/BNE/SYD and MEL/BNE/MEL section, then summed at the top of the sheet into an overall FIFO Table to show a summary of numbers. Once again, these specific numbers aren’t necessarily valid in terms of the number of crew flying in and out – but taken overall allow you to see how the sim slot times compete with each other. Except …

FIFO6Except that I’d now built a one shot system which allowed you to evaluate different sim slot times, but not really facilitating the comparison of multiple scenarios. I played with the What-If feature and the Excel Scenario Manager for a while (never been a big fan of these, but they have their uses) – before deciding to move onto something more ambitious. By this time I’d played with a number of simulator slot start times all through the day and had realised the results were not quite as I’d expected.

Automation

I decided to automate the sheet. This consisted of constructing an Analysis Table to track the results across various time slots. I decided since the basic gap is usually no less than 10 minutes – working through all of a?24 hour period. Then some automation code to make Excel increase the first simulator slot session start time by 10 minutes, then copy the results of the FIFO table into the Analysis Table.

FIFO7Graphing The Numbers

Having got the table sorted, I then set about graphing the result. The graph is a combined line/area graph differentiating between Fly In, Fly Out and Fly-In-And-Fly-Out across MEL/BNE/MEL and SYD/BNE/SYD. The colored areas indicate FIFO for MEL, SYD and Both. The lines indicate FI or FO for MEL, SYD and Both. Depending on what your focus is – you can see that certain simulator slot start times – remembering the simulator slot start time at the bottom is that of the FIRST session – different levels of FIFO are facilitated.

The Analysis

The analysis indicated that in fact the peak Fi/Fo simulator start time is late afternoon. This is because when you start the simulator at this time – the back of the clock sessions (which as it turns out are the best for facilitating flight access for FIFO) – are available. Meanwhile the maintenance period takes place mid morning, when it’s difficult to fly in for the simulator because of the 18 hour a day nature of Australian East Coast services.

Of course regularly scheduling back of the clock simulator training has some other considerations. Quite apart from the crappy nature of these slots for training and particularly checking – Engineer maintenance shifts are already focussed on the early morning period for down time maintenance (not that they would mind shifting, I suspect).

Video-Coolness

At one point I ended up with the sheet open twice, clicking the run button, and watching the spreadsheet populate and repopulate with the changing simulator slot times, building the graph as it made it’s way across as each simulator slot start time – which was pretty cool. The two vidoes here show (most of) the analysis sheet and graph during automation, and then just the graph.

Now, back to work.


The Result

As it turns out, practicalities override the analysis. The maintenance period needs to be back of the clock; and one of the highest productive sessions (in terms of Fi/Fo) is back of the clock and undesirable for training. That just left me with about a 90 minute window to finesse the start time to ensure maximum flights. Still, it was an interesting exercise … Now all we need is a simulator!

Sim2?Sim3?Sim1

Carlos, from Apple Care

apple-logoSo those who know me well, fully appreciate that I am not an Apple Fan Boy. I’ve written obliquely and directly on this issue.

My experience of the iPad over the past 12 months has certainly not endeared me (as a previously committed android tablet aficionado) to Apple, continually frustrated by a device and an operating system that tries hard, and continually falls short of expectation.

Neither has the events of the past 4 days endeared me to the hardware, or the software. But yet again – dropped firmly in the sh!te by the Apple “system” and perhaps my own efforts to do things my own way – I have subsequently been subject to a phone line support experience truly unparalleled in the annals of computer technical support. Let me start now as I will finish – Carlos, of Apple-Care (and the other two people I spoke at length to over the past 4 days) – I salute you.

[Read more…]

Android Apps

Here is a collector post where I’ll review and update the software I use and recommend on my Android phone. I’m now on my third android phone, through at least 4 major operating system upgrades and a host of minor ones. I use my phone for work and pleasure, to tell me where I’m supposed to be, listen to music, watch movies from my home server, navigate in the car, on the footpath and on the bus/train – and tell me where I parked my car.

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ezPDF Reader

There are no end of PDF readers on Android – including Adobe’s Acrobat Reader – but I’ve found ezPDF reader to be the best. I use it on my phone as well as tablet. I do a LOT of PDF reading. To get an idea of it’s capabilities – have a look at the user guide. It uses finger gestures for interaction and includes extensive markup and highlighting features. You can also add bookmarks to PDF documents to expedite navigation of large documents.

TeslaLED

Small but useful, it’s handy to be able to turn on the LED light built into your smartphone flash. There are dozens of apps around that do this, but I find TeslaLED to be a good one. It has a strobe feature and the ability to flash Morse code – not something I use everyday … It comes with a widget that you can place on your desktop and flick your LED on and Off.

Swype

Swype is one of the most poorly kept secrets on Android. I call it a secret because it’s not available on the Android Market – you have to sign up for the beta to get it. That said, it’s now coming as the default input keyboard on some Android phones.

The install technique is a little unusual in that it requires you to download an installer, then find and install the installer, which downloads the program, which then installs swype. Got that? Also along the way you have to register for the beta, then enter your details into the downloaded installer downloader.

But oh man is it worth it.

Many years ago, when I was very much into my Crappy Windows Mobile Phone, I used a keyboard called Fitaly. This was back in the days when you punched away at your pda with a plastic pen and typing on it was real bastard. Fitaly was a non-qwerty keyboard which was mathematically designed such that something like 80% of the most common keys were right in the middle of the keyboard. I eventually got myself up to something like 80 words a minute on this thing – it makes you cry when you look at today’s iPhone chicken scratch keyboard.

Anyway – since coming to Android I’ve discovered Swype. Let me say right now – it’s not available on iPhone. Did you get that? It’s not available on iPhone. Just in case …  IT’S NOT AVAILABLE ON iPHONE. So There. How do I make that blink with WordPress?

Swype is built on the same concept as predictive text input on non-qwerty keyboard mobile phones. Basically instead of chicken scratching your way across the keyboard, you swype your way along, pausing briefly (or not) at the letters you want typed. From the pattern you draw, Swype works out what is the most likely word. If there’s only one – it enters it. If there are several but the most likely one is very much the most likely – it enters it. Otherwise you get a list of possibilities, with the most likely being at the top and the default word if you continue swyping.

You can get VERY fast with Swype, and very accurate. I strongly suggest reviewing the tutorials and videos before you get too far into it  – it will save you a lot of frustration and lost productivity. Ask me how I know this.

ADW Launcher

I’ve never been one for replacing the standard operating system front end with something custom developed. My experience is that they’re at times buggy and often suffer when the operating system itself is updated. I’m not convinced of the productivity improvements claimed and quite frankly if I was buying something for the eye candy value, I’d probably have an Apple device, except perhaps the iPad – what the hell is the story with the tiny little icons with all that space in between them? Hello?

Then I was forced to use ADW Launcher.

I say forced, because the XDA crew decided to make it the default in Cyanogen – which I ran on my Nexus One for eight months or so. And since it was integrated with the operating system itself, I figured it would be plenty stable, which it was.

Then when I upgraded to the Nexus S and was forced to stay with the stock Android 2.3/4 operating system (still haven’t worked out how to root it) – I missed ADW so much that I bought it.

Apart from a suite of additional interface settings, I find on the fly manipulation of widgets to be extremely useful. I read about being able to re-size widgets in Honeycomb – I’m doing that now with Gingerbread and ADW. I have an extra column and row of icons on my screen, with everything sized down accordingly and spaced a little tighter. It’s an awesome bit of kit.

Juice Defender Ultimate

You won’t be using your new shiny smartphone for very long when you come to realise your battery life is crap. Gone are the days when you charge your phone every couple of days and when the battery is starting to look low you know you have until at least that night before you have to charge it.

Between these lovely big bright screens, ‘N’ wifi, 3g connectivity, GPS, Bluetooth, etc – you need a battery bigger than the phone itself to get a decent life out of it. Just one of the reasons I’m Android is because I can carry a spare battery and throw it in if I need to – try that on an iPhone.

Juice Defender give you Time of Day /  Location / Data throughput / Application aware control of the high consumers of power such as screen/wifi/3g as well as controlling application access and sync. Let me explain.

I’m in the hotel foyer in LA. I pull out my phone and turn it on. Because I’ve been there before, JD turns on the wifi and logs onto the hotel network. Depending on how long since the last one, Google Sync is started – checking mail, twitter, facebook, etc. Before this completes, I turn my phone off. In my pocket, as the data finishes downloading and the data throughput reduces below a nominated threshold, JD turns off the Wifi.

I leave the hotel. Every 15 minutes or so (you choose), JD turns on the 3g and another sync is activated. JD turns it off again shortly afterwards.

I approach “It’s a Grind” the coffee shop I frequent which has free wifi. JD knows where I am (cell towers) and turns on the wifi as I enter the shop. It attempts to log on but the Cafe has changed their password (again). The lack of data throughput is a trigger and JD turns off the Wifi again.

Juice Defender is indeed Ultimate.

FlightBoard, by Mobiata

Flight board is a really simple concept. Pick an airport, choose departures or arrivals, see the equivalent flight board. As someone who travels all the time this really simple app is excellent and serves me well.

Yes you can Facebook or Twitter about your flight and all of that shite, yes you can shoot a flight over to FlightTrack (slightly more useful). You can access delay data etc. The point is, at any stage during your travel journey, you can look and see if the flight is delayed, if there’s a gate assigned, if flights just before or after yours have been cancelled.

TeamViewer

I got out of the hardware sales/support business years ago, for good reasons. However I am doomed to support my immediate (and extended) family’s computer needs for the foreseeable future, and as such this is easiest accomplished through remote control. I enabled this for years through the paid tool GotoMyPc, but a while ago I finally went free with TeamViewer. It offers all of the functionality I need (Remote control, File transfer, VPN, Chat, etc) and not only has Android support – but has it in a way that is actually usable on a smart phone (something GotoMyPC has yet to do, even badly).

Skype

Skype pretty much sucks. That goes for the PC experience as well. I’ve used a dozen different VOIP solutions over the past 12 years or so, all mostly as a means of avoiding Skype – to make cheap calls also – but mainly to avoid Skype.

Whether it be the bloatware that Skype is on your machine, the restrictive private protocol that offends my open source sensibility, or just the fact that when you agree to install Skype you agree to potentially become a Skype supernode, routing calls to and from people you’ve never heard of, chewing up your bandwidth, Skype pisses me off.

But there are so many people on Skype, we’re now so far beyond the point where I can choose not to use it.

Skype is now beyond early days on Android and it shows. Finally we have Video. It took them long enough (ages after the iPhone). Finally you can also exit Skype and not have it running in the background. It’s still a confusing interface for what is essentially a simple need – but it works.  Damn it.

Volume Ace

One of the great features of Android is it’s flexibility. It’s clear from extended use that a great deal of thought went into the development of the back end. And the operating system is a documented open source development which allows apps to take full advantage to deliver a better (educated) user experience.

But it does make things complicated at times. Take volume.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it. In fact there’s two buttons on the side – volume up, volume down – what could be simpler that. But which volume?

When your phone is ringing – these buttons control (and leave set) ring tone volume. When you’re talking with the handset against your head, they control that volume. When you use the speaker phone, they control that volume. When you’re listening to music, they control that volume. When you’re being told what to do by turn by turn voice navigation, they control that volume. And so on. At last count I was up to 9 different volume settings. If you want overall management of all these volumes – if you want profile management of them depending on where and when you are – how do you manage it all? Volume Ace.

Apart from giving you fine detail control of these volumes – Volume Ace lets you save configurations as pre-sets (Quite, Night, Loud, Meeting etc) controlling both volumes and vibrate, and you can access these presets with two clicks off a widget on the desktop.

Car Locator

Edward Kim has made a fortune out of Car Locator and it’s easy to see why. As someone who arrives back from a week away in Sydney/Los Angeles to a large staff car park with no markings whatsoever (goddam I hate Melbourne Airport non-Management) – remembering with my fatigue addled brain where I parked my car is a real hassle.

This little gem lets me press a button when I park; then when I return, I run it again and it leads me to my car. The sonar mode (it “boops” faster and faster as I draw closer) is a little kitch, but you can turn it off.

There’s lots of other tricksy bits built in but essentially it does very well what I need it to do – locate my car.

K9 Mail

Ok, so the built in gMail app on the Android operating system is awesome. Since Google insist on updating it regularly, there’s just no reason whatsoever to look for any alternative. Then there’s the built in app for your other POP3, iMap and Exchange mail … therein lies a different story.

So after a short, dissatisfying play with the provided software, I went hunting for something else. I swear it was not my penchant for Dr Who that lead me to settle on K9. It does POP3, iMap, Exchange (although not in a way supported by my company – but that solution is below). It’s open source, supports PGP – and most importantly handles multiple e-mail accounts – at last count I’m watching 11 e-mail accounts on my phone – brilliantly – using K9. Push mail, notifications, a breeze. Enjoy.

Touchdown Exchange Mail for Android

Ok, first a warning. This app is not your typical $4.99 app – you’re up for about AUD $20. The trap with this software is that you get 30 days to evaluate it, after which you’ve found you can’t live without it – and you’ll have to pay the $20.

If your company allows exchange sync through their firewall, I recommend this app. Although exchange sync is native to android, I couldn’t wear the draconian imposition of a security policy on my phone. Sure – secure the app; but the phone? What if I don’t want a full password on my phone, changed regularly, the ability for the company to delete stuff off my phone, etc. Stuff that.

Touchdown does email, calendar, tasks, contacts, global address book, etc. Push notification (or not) etc. Very clean interface, updated regularly.

Winamp

I should firstly point out that I HATE iTunes. There, that’s said.

Winamp is a full circle kind of thing for me. I suspect that I was the last person on earth to actually pay for Winamp just before they started distributing free about 10 years ago. They’ve since gone Pro, but I never forgave them back then for taking my money and then turning around and making Winamp free. I wrote to them and asked if I could have the current Pro version free, but unfortunately not – the company who sells it now is about three companies down the road since back then. Can’t hurt to try.

The reason I’ve come back to Winamp is that the pro version on my desktop – apart from managing about 2 terra-bytes of music – allows me to sync playlists and artists/albums wirelessly through my home network to my android phone. Did I mention it was wireless? The Winamp player on my Nexus works well and is pretty enough. The lock screen took me a while to figure out and letting it take over my headset occasionally gets me in trouble. But it’s wireless. Enough said.

Handy Sh!t : (HandyConversionsHandyCurrencyHandyCalc)

Ok, so you’ve got to have three things on your phone. Something to do Conversions. Something to do Currency. And a Calculator. I managed to find all three from the same source.

I have to say, there’s something seriously cool about these apps. Something mesmerizing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The Conversions and Currency work well enough – the currencies update and you can add your own conversions if you’re trying to work not just in Bhat, Pounds and Euro’s but also Galactic Credits. They’re clean and pretty to look and the the interface is easy to work with.

But the calculator is seriously weird. It has some very cool stuff in it – graphing, solving quadratic equations, fractions, Algebra, you name it. I was once a real maths student with a  real calculator at Uni – a HP48 that I loved and knew backwards. When I came to Android I was pleased to be able to install a HP48 emulator for a while – at least until HandyCalc came along. At some point, I’ll learn to use it properly. Then watch me go.

 

Will the REAL Ken Pascoe … stop stealing my mail.

Ken Pascoe is interfering with my life again. He stuffed me around no end 15 years ago and now, thanks to the limitations of technology, he’s doing it again.

Sorry, Who has my books?

I joined Emirates in 1996. It was about this time that Amazon was founded, which was just as well because a decent read was far and few in Dubai back in 1996. We would regularly order books from Amazon.Com and have them shipped to us in Dubai, via the company postal address. This is one part of the story …

Once settled in Dubai, I also looked into the Internet and decided we had to have it. I went down to the Etisalat office and registered for an account and a modem, to run on our existing phone line, at a rip-roaring 33.6kb. One of the first things they asked me was for a username. What’s a username? They explained it to me. Being the inventive, quirky person I was back then I asked for “pascoe” and found it was taken. This intrigued me, despite the lack of interest the man on the other side of the counter had in this conundrum I was now faced with. In any case, continuing my streak of originality I went with “pascoes” and for the better part of 10 years our e-mail address was pascoes@emirates.net.ae

I did email pascoe@emirates.net.ae – out of curiosity – but it bounced back.

That’s the end of that, I thought.

I was wrong.

Once we began ordering books over the web through Amazon, delivered to us in Dubai via DHL – this was when I first discovered the “other ” Pascoe.

You see it turns out there was another Ken Pascoe in Dubai; and he was the one with “pascoe” at Etisalat. Believe it or not he worked for DHL – in a senior management position – and left Dubai about the time I arrived. Of course we didn’t find this out straight away. No, over the next three years, at completely random intervals, book deliveries – roughly one in three – would go missing. In those days DHL was pretty much the only delivery agent in the area so we had no real choice. Books would go missing – despite signed delivery receipts (not signed by me obviously) – and we’d contact Amazon to find out what had happened. Eventually Amazon would send us a replacement book (something that has endeared Amazon to my wife and I to this day) and chances were good that the replacement book would get through the DHL Pascoe Barrier.

Because what was happening was that when one of these book deliveries would come in to DHL – addressed to “First Officer Ken Pascoe, Emirates Airlines Flight Operations Department, FC97, P.O. Box 92, Dubai, UAE” – and bright spark in DHL would immediately identify it as clearly belonging to the (ex) DHL Dubai Manager Ken Pascoe, who has now gone to run DHL in Belgium. And so my book would be sent off to follow him.

I believe Ken eventually moved from Belgium to Brunei for a few years (something about getting away from the esoteric reading list – everything from breastfeeding to particle physics – that kept rolling up on his doorstep at random intervals) and so some of my books went to him there, by way of Belgium (and Dubai) of course.

We were never really able to defeat this system. It wasn’t until Amazon.co.uk started up, and we began ordering books through them, sent to the crew Hotel in London, where I would collect them on trips – that we were able to reliably establish a book conduit. I am forever beholden to Amazon, for even as we finally managed to discover what was happening (if not actually correct the problem – despite the protestations of innocence of DHL Dubai) – Amazon would keep sending replacement books to me, long before Mr Ken Pascoe of DHL Belgium would send them back to Amazon.Com – labelled something helpful, like “Wrong Address.”

Sorry, Who has my eMail?

Anyway, now it’s happening again.

Some months ago, I received an e-mail sent to my personal address (ken.pascoe@gmail.com – yes, I’m still in my highly imaginative phase), with “Dear Ken” as the salutation – but clearly addressed to someone else. In fact, someone named “Ken Pascoe” who works for DFAT – the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia). I was instantly intrigued (there’s that word again) but also alarmed, as history had taught me that accidental encounters with like named individuals had not helped me much in the past and wasn’t likely to do so in the future either.

In this case however it seemed benign. I did some research, found a contact for my public service doppelgänger and forwarded his mail to him – as well as advising the sender of the mixup. Mr. Ken Pascoe (ken.pascoe@dfat.gov.au) never acknowledged my mail but his correspondent did, and I was thanked for my trouble.

As it turns out, Ken Pascoe is the Consul General at the Australian High Commission in London. So if I’m ever stuck again with a large Starbucks coffee on the wrong side of an ray scanner at Manchester Airport again – I’ll know who to call. But that’s another story …

I now realise that since then I have been occasionally beleaguered by an odd phenomenon. You see I regularly send myself e-mails from my phone and other devices, reminding me of things or referring me to time, events and places on the web that I know I will want to look at properly when I’m not encumbered by a 4 inch screen and a chicken scratch keyboard, running at a snail’s pace through a tapering straw 3g internet connection. Once received I create reminders, calendar entries, contacts and readitlater items through these e-mails. It may take me days or even weeks to get far enough down the collection of crud in my inbox to deal with these, but I get to them eventually.

Well, some of these have gone missing.

Now because what I e-mail myself is typically a pretty low priority item, I wasn’t aware of this for a while. But I realised the scope of the problem this week when my wife rolled up at school for an appointment that I’d made for her while she was off galavanting around Europe for a month (I’ll pay for that remark later …) and updated it when the appointment was changed by e-mailing myself details of the amendment. The e-mail never came through; I forgot about it; and Meg wasted a couple of hours fronting to an appointment that didn’t exist – therefore an accounting had to be made.

So I chased it down.

It turns out that because of that one simple act of kindness – when I now type ken.pascoe@ into my Android smarthphone (both the current one and the previous one); my laptop, my desktop, Meg’s desktop, the three laptops of my kids, my server upstairs at home, several of the PC’s at work (etc, etc) – every now and then instead of @gmail.com completing – I get @dfat.gov.au

I looked through the sent mail in a few of these locations, and in retrospect it’s quite amusing what the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been reviewing over the past months. There’s some fascinating reading, as well as some incredibly boring minutia to go with it. I hope it’s keeping them out of trouble.

At least now that I’m aware of the problem, I can keep my guard up. Of course what I really have to work out is how to get Mr. Pascoe-Dfat out of my address history across a number of devices and databases, other than formatting and re-installing the operating system and office software. There must be an answer somewhere on the internet …

Back when the Internet was a Wild Place …

Do you remember the days when the internet was a novelty. When someone who had a web site was “cool”. They’d show you their web site and it would be full of Microsoft Clip Art and anyone who was not the least tech-savvy (and therefore had no clue how much work had gone into this creation) would be suitably un-impressed. [Ed: Actually I think it was just my wife who, upon seeing my first web site, said “Well, I’m sure it’s clever dear, but it’s Butt Ugly.”]

In those days, there really wasn’t a lot of resources around to assist you in creating a visually pleasing web site. Even Microsoft Frontpage was only something over the horizon, and most web page creation was done in text editors (yes, I can hear the purists out there crying that REAL web site creation is STILL done in Notepad – not this little black duck).

Now there’s WordPress and Theme libraries and there’s really no excuse for ugly web site (my old Infinidim.org site notwithstanding …). Which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

Yesterday Meg and I went to the Home Show. If that doesn’t give you some idea of how desperate we’ve become for a night on the town, nothing will. Two of three kids on Camp, the oldest home studying for IB, we were off for a night on the town.

One of the stalls we came across was LED Lights Down Under. Meg has been looking for these for some lights she bought from Etsy – Husbands if your wives are reading this article pray God she doesn’t click on that link.

Anyway, LED Lights Down Under have a web site – and what a web site it is. Now don’t get me wrong – the stall was manned by two gentlemen – one of whom had driven down from Brisbane for the event – who were extremely helpful and offered us a discount on the spot. Since one of Meg’s purchases is going to require 20+ of these bulbs, and since she’s going to use LED lights in the pelmuts she’s planning in our renovated kitchen – that’s good news for me.

But the web site, oh the web site.

For starters, you need sunglasses to view it. Then someone clever has used (Flash?) to move the panels and forth – many of which serve no purpose at all. The form required for ordering was excessively demanding and intolerant of minor omissions of data entry – perniciously so. And the Yellow, the Yellow.

Has anyone else come across a web site they’d like to share?

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