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Electric Vehicles
Date: 24/6/2005
You'd think that in this day and age that the government would be falling over themselves to make it easy for the population to travel in a manner that gets cars off the road, doesn't pollute and is cheap to buy and maintain.

But no they legislate it onto the side lines.

I'm talking about electric scooters in Australia. The situation is that any electric powered vehicle, be it scooter or bike, is limited to 200w total power output or it has to be registered as a motor vehicle and be complied to the Australia Design Rules. Which is impossible for many imported powered scooters, as they don't have things like turning indicators, the right type of brakes or head lights. The 200w power limit really limits the class of vehicle to toys for kids. An adult riding a 200w scooter is going to get stuck on the first hill that presents itself.

Ideally these vehicles would be classified in the same class as bicycles because of the similarity of their performance envelopes. i.e. their top speed and cruising speeds are quite similar, as is their stopping distance and turning circle. So why not make the same rules and privileges apply?

Overseas the power limits for electric scooters vary between 250w (EU), 500w (Canada) and 750w (US). For the average adult to effectively negotiate terrain at least a 500w motor would be needed. Which brings us to the question 'Why would as adult want to ride a powered scooter anyway?'

We have been hearing for years about how the use of fossil fuels is putting a hole in the ozone layer and causing global warming let alone the clouds of smog over our cities! And the introduction of electric (or zero emissions) vehicles has long been held as a good step in the right direction in solving the reliance on fossil fuels. So what electric vehicle options are there for the discerning vehicle buyer? Certainly not an electric car, that's for sure. The next best thing is a hybrid car but to be honest they have yet to deliver on either value or efficiency. For instance the Honda Jazz (5.8lt/100km city) is pretty close to the Toyota Prius (4.4lt/100km city) and yet costs half as much. A motor bike is pretty hazardous on the hostile roads of Sydney where I live. It's merely a matter of time before someone side swipes you and end spend 6 months in hospital. No thanks.

That leaves the only real competitor to the powered scooter being the trusty old bicycle. There are a number of important distinctions between the 2 classes of vehicles, firstly and most importantly is that a powered scooter folds away for travel on public transport vastly increasing the range of destinations reachable via scooter. And in electric form they fold more compactly as well as not having the smell or danger of fuel along for the ride. Something that you can't do easily with a bike especially on a bus! The other consideration is that any non trivial distance ridden on a bike causes a good deal of sweat which makes there use for commuting to work less pleasant, maybe requiring you to shower at your destination.

I can understand the resistance to having petrol powered scooters on the roads and cycleways. They are completely too noisy for suburbia, in fact they are the single loudest vehicle on the road. And as a father with young children that get woken by petrol scooters I can vouch for their volume. If a reasonable volume level could be achieved then they could offer some of the same benefits as electric scooters, but not until then.

So what I'd like to see is a raising of the power limit for electric scooters to at least 500w, maybe more, say in line with the US and the limiting of noise levels produced by petrol scooters. To allow older people the option of using scooters for short commutes to work and shops. It gets another car off the road and that is a win for traffic and for the pollution situation. The same rules and regulations that apply to bicycles should apply, ie. you need to wear a helmet, use the road, not the footpath (unless your 12 or younger), use bike lights at night and you obey the road rules. And you get treated as a valid road user in return.

If there are any serious holes in my idea I'd like to hear about them. As I have presented this to my local Member of Parliament, who happens to also be the Minister for Transport. And if I go into bat on the issue knowing both sides of the story would be helpful to allow me to present a level headed argument. Currently I don't see any gaping holes in what I propose.

Also I'm thinking of starting a petition to have the 200w limit raised in light of the above arguments. If you would like to show support you can write a comment on this entry.
An fairly high end example scooter from the US is the Go-Ped ESR750 available in Australia for A$1495. Which is very affordable considering the cost of buying and running a motorbike or car.


Update: I've got a letter from the Minister of Transport explaining their position.

Update2: Marty pointed out in a comment below that the RTA have banned all "stand on" motor scooters regardless of power output, see their page decribing the rules, with line drawings of various types. After all this time I still thought the 200w scooters were legal, and now this.
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Scribe Crash
Date: 24/6/2005
The current bug blocking Scribe v1.88 going stable is a crash related to attachments. Somehow during attaching files to an email something goes wrong and when you send it or close the window it crashes. If you can reproduce that at will then I'd like to hear from you.

I suspect that something is creating an extra message loop on top of the email window's message handler, like maybe TrackPopupMenu or a modal dialog. And then for some reason while that is running the mail window is closed, and when the message loop returns to the underlying mail window message handler, it has already been deleted and it crashes with a corrupt stack or invalid memory access.

So far I've checked that I've correctly parented the attach file dialog and the popup menu tracking. So I don't see how it's possible but there must be a way of breaking it because people keep sending me crash reports about it. I havn't been able to work out how to reproduce it as yet, so if you have any relevant information let me know... please!

Another related problem is that when you double click a (usually large) attachment Scribe can crash. It's a similar sort of issue, i.e. after running the OnClick handler the window has been deleted and an invalid memory reference occurs. I've seen this once or twice myself but can't reproduce it.
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Subaru Model Snobbery
Date: 23/6/2005
Subaru's Japanese range is somewhat different to the range we get down under. I suspect because of the differences between fuel quality and compliance laws. However it's interesting to compare the model ranges.

Model Australia Japan New Zealand
2.0i 101kw 103kw 101kw
2.0r - 140kw -
2.5i 121kw - 121kw
3.0r 180kw 184kw 180kw
GT 190kw 206kw 206kw


I feel jipped! Especially because we don't get the 140kw 2lt that gets 7.4L/100km. I can't afford the GT or 3.0r yet but maybe one day. Currently the idea of a 2.5i with a safety pack is appealing over the options: Accord Euro (version with 6 air bags too expensive) or Mazda6 (aweful aweful trim in the mid level model). The only downside is that horibly underpowered 2.5 litre engine.

I find it interesting that NZ gets a mish mash of japanese spec and aussie spec vechicles in their line up.
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My New Fravorite...
Date: 22/6/2005
...band: Muse (listening now)
...case: Lian-Li v1000 (ordered)
...fans + PSU's: SilenX (ordered)
...CPU: AMD Dual Core 4200+ (saving for)
...car: Liberty 2.5i Safety (seen one to many fatal accidents lately)
...scooter: esr750 (unfortunately illegal here, but I'm working on that)
...guitar: Quicksilver (on wishlist)
...guitar pickups: Kinman
...leak detector: Visual Leak Detector (using)
...graphics library: libCairo (playing with)
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Dubious Use Of HTML Entites
Date: 16/6/2005
I have no idea if this is legal or not but I have a HTML page that is using HTML entities inside a font tag to encode characters in a particular charset. Or at least that is what I think it's doing. My HTML control of course barfs on it and I'm interested in fixing it to cope.

Firstly the font tag is:
<font face="&iuml;&frac14;&shy;&iuml;&frac14;&sup3; &iuml;&frac14;.$B!k.(B&atilde;&#130;.$B!-.(B&atilde;&#130;&middot;&atilde;&#131;&#131;&atilde;&#130;&macr;">
And the meta tag in the head of the html document is says charset=ISO-2022-JP so that font face should decode to a usable Japanese font name.

The question is how?

My understanding of entities is that they decode to utf-32 which you then ram into the output text stream as raw unicode. And the bits between entities get decoded in the documents character set declared in the meta tag at the top of the document.

This doesn't appear to be the case in this document. I think what it might be doing is encoding the utf-8 font face in entities. But the problem with that is that in the general case you can have entities that decode to utf-32 values greater than 256 and thus are not valid for the document charset or utf-8.

Ok my brain hurts. Does anyone know what is going on here?
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The Ultimate Land Line
Date: 16/6/2005
After our land line cordless phone died I've been looking around for a replacement part, not really sure that anything I get is going to be any more robust that the horrible Doro thing we used to have.

Then I found this little jem which allows you to seemlessly use your landline and Skype VOIP with just one cordless handset. No more holding a mic in front of the computer! How frickin cool is that?

If you havn't used Skype yet then your missing out, it's pretty amazing, the sound quality is better than a local call and the lag is usually pretty easy to deal with. And it's free. Which is an important consideration in the light of the spiralling phone call costs that phone providers are charging.

The way I see it, people can get this thing and use it get on the VOIP bandwagon without sacrificing connectivity to people not yet connected to skype. The more friends you convert over to skype, the more money you save. And somewhat less importantly the less money going into phone companies coffers (muhahaha). About half my friends are on broadband, but most of my family are not (although I'm trying hard to get my parents on broadband - it's cheaper too!).

Now my only issue is scraping together A$200 to get one ;)
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