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Mar. 10th, 2009


Voluntary student unionism

The UWA Student Guild and the National Union of Students are pretty strongly opposed to voluntary student unionism, or VSU: the result of amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003 which took effect in 2006.

Essentially, VSU means that Australian universities cannot require their students to be a member of a student guild or pay fees for non-academic services (like the Amenities and Services Fee we have at UWA, which provides funding for the Guild). In other words, students can choose whether or not they want to become Guild members (and whether or not they want to pay the A+S fee).

The Guild website has a page on VSU which appears to be rather outdated, but essentially suggests that VSU will prevent the Guild from offering services which it is still offering today, more than 2 years after VSU's introduction. Specifically, it claims:

A universal fee is the only way of funding important services on campus like representation, welfare, and campus life. Without the Guild, there will be no-one fighting against HECS fee increases, or representing students’ views to the uni, government and broader community. Students will have nowhere to turn if they are sexually harassed at uni, no-one to help them if they want to appeal a mark, nowhere to go for a textbook subsidy, no-one to fund their clubs to create an awesome social life on campus, no tavern, no O’Camp, no cultural events, no queer department, no financial counselling, no grants, no club rooms, no end of semester show, no social justice week, no women’s department, no market days, no Pelican… no STUDENT CONTROL.

And yet I didn't arrive at UWA until after VSU was implemented, and during the last two years I haven't noticed the loss of any of these services. Does anybody actually believe without VSU (or even without a Guild at all!), there would be "nowhere to turn if [you] are sexually harassed at uni"?!

My question is: why are the Guild and NUS still campaigning so aggressively against VSU, and why do they expect students to support them? There are always NUS posters up around campus encouraging students to "Say No To VSU!" and I've heard the president of the NUS speak at at least one meeting of student representatives, strongly encouraging people to come down to 'days of action' to, I guess, complain loudly about the injustice of not forcing students to pay the Guild ~$120/yr. (Which seems rather at odds with their other campaigns which encourage us to "help end student poverty".)

The last two and a half years have shown that VSU does not threaten the financial stability of the Guild (though it may reduce the Guild's income), so I fail to see why I should support taking away the right of other students to choose whether or not they want to support the Guild financially. Is there some other anti-VSU argument I'm missing? If anything, VSU seems to encourage the Guild to provide services that are actually useful to students by allowing us to choose whether or not we're going to support it.

(Note: I'm an A+S fee-paying Guild member, and I intend to stay that way for the foreseeable future, because I use services provided by the Guild - but I see no reason why those who don't use these services should have to pay the fee, too.)

Feb. 17th, 2009


Life as we don't know it

I found this (very) short story and this article by Isaac Asimov rather interesting.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the lack of imagination in movieland's monsters. Their only attributes are their bigness and destructiveness. They include big apes, big octopuses (or is the word "octopodes"?), big eagles, big spiders, big amoebae. In a way, that is all Hollywood needs, I suppose. This alone suffices to drag in huge crowds of vociferous human larvae, for to be big and destructive is the secret dream of every red-blooded little boy and girl in the world.

What, however, is mere size to the true aficionado? What we want is real variety. When the cautious astronomer speaks of life on other worlds with the qualification "life-as-we-know-it," we become impatient. What about life-not-as-we-know-it?

Jul. 20th, 2008


Free couch-like thing

If anyone's interested in a free purple couch/sofa, there's currently one sitting in our garage that we're hoping to get rid of. I managed to get rid of the couch.

Apr. 2nd, 2008


Leopard shutdown problems

For anybody else who's been having problems shutting down their MacBook (or possibly other Macs) after installing Leopard, I managed to solve it (somehow).

The problem for me was that my laptop would just never shut down when choosing 'Shut Down' from the menu. It would do nothing, by the looks of things. I don't often shut down my laptop, but ever since the latest Software Updates came out, it's been bugging me to restart (this prevents Software Updates from installing) and everything seems to have been running more slowly.

Anyway, what I did is reboot, and when I was booting up, held down Ctrl, Option, P and R, which apparently "resets the PVRAM" according to some guy on the Apple support forums. Once I booted up, I ran Software Update and the updates all successfully installed. Then I rebooted again, cleared the free space on my FileVault volume, and everything seems to be going smoothly now.

Not sure if it's a result of the 10.5.1 update or not, but everything seems much snappier now, like it was before I installed Leopard.

Mar. 10th, 2008


Guild catering

Seriously, how can the Guild continue to make a profit off catering?

The food there is absolutely terrible. I can only remember buying one 'meal' from the Guild that was ever satisfying (the chicken focaccia from the Reid Cafe, and I don't even think they make that anymore).

Why would anybody go to the Guild instead of Broadway? The food there is so much better, and it's cheaper too.

I really think that everybody would be better off if they just charged third-party fast food retailers to open premises on-campus, but I'm sure people more motivated than me have tried to get this to happen and failed (after all, it seems to be a big issue when Guild elections come around).

Still, I don't see how (Guild catering profits) - (staffing and administrative costs) could come to much more than whatever you could extort out of Subway, Jesters, Hungry Jack's (although the health nuts might not be too keen on them) and co.. and students on the whole would be much happier, I think.

On a related note, I'd really like to see a Commonwealth ATM in the Guild. The nearest one is over on Broadway which is a bit of a trek when you just want to get a drink from the Ref. ATMs are profitable, aren't they? I'm sure there are more than enough students from banks other than Westpac, BankWest and CBA to cover the cost of running the CBA ATM, and I know I've considered opening a new account with Westpac or BankWest because of the lack of a CBA ATM in the Guild. Plus, it may just be bias, but it seems to me that there are more students with Commonwealth accounts than any other bank. I suppose there are lots of international students with Westpac accounts (by virtue of the on-campus Westpac branch) that I don't have much to do with though.

Mar. 9th, 2008


It's nice to not be a fresher

So, we're all back at uni again (well, perhaps not all of us, but many of us). The first week went pretty well, although I guess the fact that two of my units are small group class units (ie. no lectures, which means they don't start until week 2) was pretty helpful.

It's strange not having work every morning -- now the only person who notices when I don't turn up to whatever I have on at 9am is myself (I'm working from 12pm-5pm every day now). I think I'll try to go to all my lectures though, if only to get me ready for next semester. I'm going to do MATH1010, which could prove tough -- 8am lectures, and I haven't done any maths since high school. Hurray!

I haven't updated this in ages because to be honest, I've only really used it as something to do when I'm bored and feel like writing (which usually happens when I don't have anywhere to go, but I do have my laptop). My laptop has been pretty much sitting in a corner for the whole uni break.

Now I get to deal with trying to synchronize everything between my (Windows) PC and my (Mac) laptop again. Does anybody know a good way of sychronizing two iTunes libraries?

Aug. 26th, 2007


OS X software, plus a question

I've just discovered the excellent Mac OS X software thread over at Something Awful, and it's proved to have a large number of pretty-interesting looking things in it.

First thing I've discovered is SynergyKM - an OS X GUI for my beloved Synergy. Playing with the command-line version, plus manually writing configuration files, is a little tedious, and this is a really elegant solution that integrates into System Preferences. Apparently this project is merging with the main Synergy tree soon. Although I haven't actually tried it out yet, I imagine the functionality is the same as the command-line version (unfortunately, this means OS X still doesn't work with features like screensaver synchronization, and advanced clipboard functionality). For other operating system users, there's the cross-platform QuickSynergy, which is a little lacking in functionality, but works for me for setting up temporary connections on Linux systems (the APT package name is quicksynergy).

The second piece of software I've installed is Genius. Essentially, this is just a flashcard program one could use for study. However, it's very well-written - it's more than just a software implementation of handwritten flashcards. It's based on psychological studies of memory and basically seems like a very effective way of creating a mental map of list A to list B. I'm going to try using it in future German vocab tests.

And a question I have for any Mac experts: does anybody know the best way of creating something similar to a shortcut in Windows?

What I want to do is have an icon that can be dragged onto the Desktop, Dock, or launched from Quicksilver, that basically runs a command in the terminal, then closes the terminal. Windows allows you to this just by making a shortcut to the command. The closest I've been able to get is making a shell script and creating a symlink to it. :(

Aug. 12th, 2007


Mac OS X filesystems; Synergy!

I'm just starting to get used to the 'new' setup of my OS X system.

My computer's fallen on hard times since I bought it, but hopefully this time it'll last a little longer before I have to repair it again.

The hard disk failed at one point so I had to reinstall the OS (but fortunately, I didn't lose any data). However, I naively chose to use a case-sensitive filesystem ("Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Case-sensitive)". This caused two pretty annoying problems: one, I couldn't install Adobe CS3. It just failed saying "unsupported filesystem, upgrade to HFS+", which was a pain in the ass. I also was unable to enable FileVault.

So in the end, I just reinstalled OS X, reformatting using the non-case-sensitive version of HFS+. I don't really understand why some apps just don't work with the case-sensitive version, but hey.

Also, I've recently started using Synergy, although apparently I'm very late to the party on this one (everyone else already seems to know what it does). The best way I can explain it is a software KVM, without the V. That is, you run a server on one PC, and a client on another, and the keyboard and mouse is shared between the two. It's quite neat. Also, it's cross-platform, which allows me to share my mouse and keyboard between my laptop (Mac) and desktop (Vista).

On the topic of keyboards, I've just ordered one of the keyboards that come with the new iMac - I was originally considering buying an iMac too, but decided that money would be better spent on buying a car that's better than what I'd be able to afford having bought a $2500 computer. So soon, I'll never have to use anything that isn't essentially a MacBook keyboard. I must be one of the only people who really like them - everyone else I've spoken to finds them really difficult to use for some reason.

Jul. 22nd, 2007


Docking stations

This blog post pretty much echoes what I've been lamenting about the MacBook for a while now: there's no good docking station for it.

Sure, there are a variety of Mac docking stations provided by "BookEndz", but look at them! They're ugly. The problem is that there's no docking port on the MacBook, or the MacBook Pro. Instead, the docking station has to connect to every port on the side of the computer (well, fortunately, they're all on one side on the MacBook; not sure about the Pro). What a pain in the arse - I'd struggle to design something that looked good and was easy to use with those specifications, too.

I wonder, how hard would it be for Apple to add a docking port to the MacBook - the likes of which is available on almost every other notebook on the market today?

Jul. 10th, 2007


Gmail Notifier sends passwords over the network in cleartext.

via macosxhints.com: Gmail Notifier for Mac OS X sends your passwords in the clear over the network by default.

The link provides instructions on how to access a hidden setting that enables authentication over HTTPS. No idea why this isn't enabled by default - or why this setting isn't more clearly visible.

edit: According to some comments on that page, authentication is done using HTTPS, and this workaround simply enables HTTPS on all Notifier traffic. Still, better to be safe than sorry - and blog comments aren't exactly the most reliable of sources.

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