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Browser Stats
Date: 28/9/2007
The great browser stats graph is back. A recent server upgrade enabled the PHP image script.

The red spike is the great bot invasion which I now filter out. Also Firefox is going great guns against IE, it's really surging ahead, which is lovely to see. It's somewhat sad that almost half the traffic to this site are now programs instead of actual people. I didn't realize, but I have almost 3 years of browser usage logs. Some interesting trends in there.
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Merchant Account
Date: 25/9/2007
People often ask why I only offer the PayPal payment method for InScribe. So I thought I'd share a little on why that is so and my recent travels.

A long time ago people buying InScribe would pay through Kagi, which accepted credit card details, collect the money and sent me a cheque every so often. This was a bit painful in that I didn't have ready access to the funds and the level of fraud kept going up and up. So I looked around for an alternative with better fees and better management.

Enter PayPal, which some deem to be evil. So PayPal accepts credit cards too, but the fee is $0.98 instead of $1.50. And I can pull the funds out anytime I like for free and the level of fraud is tiny compared to Kagi. I can buy other things directly from my PayPal balance (Ebay!!!). So it's cheap and flexible, and you don't even need to sign up to use it. But some people don't like it (I'm still yet to get a good reason).

So I'm looking around for a cheap low volume alternative for accepting credit/debit cards over the internet. The local banks usually quote you $250 setup + excessive transaction/yearly fees for a merchant account. Which clearly would be a losing proposition for the odd transaction here or there. But recently I bumped into this page which claims that you can get a low volume batched interface with merchant account for $29/year. Which is starting to sound more like it. More investigation required!

First I get my lil browser over to the Commonwealth bank and fill in their contact form with my details. Click the submit button... and... it just reloads the form. No error message, no message sent. Their contact page is broken. Hmmm clearly they don't want my business.

So try again, off to ANZ this time. From their merchant options page I click the "Request a quote" link (which gives me a queasy feeling already) and fill out their form. Click "Submit" and... I get "All mandatory fields need to be completed. Please enter your details in fields marked with a red cross." Of course the field in question IS filled in. Maybe they didn't like the answer I gave? So I try a different value. Nope still no good. So they don't want my business either?

Seems that putting the fees for your product in black and white on your website for people to make a educated decision about a banking product is just too hard for the banks. They want you to wade through the steaming bog of their sales lines or broken websites to find out that the product is over-priced, for what? Getting your contacts details exposed to their marketing dept.? Having your details on-sold to every low brow financial scammer this side of the equator?

Anyone else? Oh look here, NAB. So apparently they have a product called "Direct Auth Plus". But there website doesn't have any information whatsoever on it. So it must be super secret! Can't have potential customers finding out about our super secret products? I mean why even have a website? Our potential customers might Google us?

Am I missing anyone? Is there a cheap merchant account in Australia? I think not.

(And before you go suggesting Google checkout (US + UK only), or some other overseas payment system, consider the ease of getting money out, converted to AUD and deposited into an Australian account, and the fees which have to be competitive... not more than about 7% for a $20usd transaction)
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Private Stock
Date: 10/9/2007
I write all sorts of software that I just use myself with no intention of releasing. This latest one is because I hate WinAmp:

It just reads a whole folder tree of music and displays it, reading the tags on the fly in a thread and lets you play back the music, mp3 and ogg mostly. Ultra lightweight of course. Probably too lightweight. Oh well.

Some of the other ones are:
  • Car search app: aggregates search results from various car for sale sites with more advanced filtering, sorting than the source sites... with thumbnails. Don't need it much now that I've bought a car.
  • Videnc: video pipeline manager for HDTV -> avi via a number of other apps. It's manages to avoid a/v desync by using a very error tolerate demuxer app, which it scripts even though it's GUI only. All other tools I've tried including everything on the Mac and PC are hopeless on HDTV streams because of the number of stream errors present.
  • Html2Xmltv: My private stock EPG app. Schedule and go.
  • i.Archive: front end for some stupid little archiving tools, e.g. "rar".
  • HttpLoggingProxy: a visual proxy, lets you inspect every HTTP request and response with some decoding tools. Pretty freakin neat. I don't know of any free ones so I wrote my own... cut down version of Charles.
  • TranscodeDrop: little pad to drop audio and playlists onto to convert them via BeSweet.
  • VideoSaver: My video screensaver. Lil DirectShow screensaver that plays random parts of video's from a folder. This gets lots of comments when people see it :)
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Phase 2 In The Grand Green Earth Plan
Date: 4/9/2007
After a successful Phase 1 of the Grand Green Earth Plan for my house hold. Phase 2 went into effect last week with the purchase of green(er) family transport:

We are with you.

For those who care about numbers, and it does all come down to numbers, here they are: It's not as good as I was hoping but when budget, size, drivability, features and safety collide it's always going to get messy. I really like that we have 4 air bags now as well as the improved economy. I've seen a few trucks run reds and the messy aftermath... and I for one want a little bit more between me, my family and the truck's bull bar.

Phase 3 perhaps...?
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Scribe v1.89 Stable
Date: 23/8/2007
I've made a branch in svn for v1.89 stable based on test20. Apart from one user I've had no reports of major issues. I'll update the translations one last time and release v1.89 stable.

So in the trunk code I'm trying to move towards a cleaner storage architecture so that I can incorporate a new file system based mail/contacts storage. At the moment my idea is that email gets downloaded to a single file (.eml) and then at some point later gets "compacted" into a blob of mails. Which is typically maybe a MB of email in one file. This means you can delete an email and reclaim the disk space used without having to copy more than a MB of data. The mail store directory would mostly be 10's or 100's of "blob" files where all the email reside, some .eml files that havn't been packed into a blob yet and some indexes into the whole thing for fast searching and so on. It's kind of a mix of the MBOX and MDIR ideas, with I think the benefits of both.

The current storage API is not going to map onto that easily so I'm trying to work out the route of least resistance to get that working. I still havn't figured out how the indexing will work. I'd love to get rid of the flaky mime parser the current system uses and start using the new parser for both reading and writing email. But I might leave that so that I don't have too much going on in the code.

That said, I still have trouble with my RSI these days and can't type much. It's not that I don't want to work on the code, but more of a case that I can't do much without endangering my health. I wish I could move faster on these issues but I can't. Sorry.
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Wanted To Buy
Date: 15/8/2007
This is more so that Google indexes it than anything else so here goes. One day I'd like to get my hands on the following guitar amplifiers:

Marshall JMP800 2204 Head
Early 80's model, in good condition, 50w head, unmodified a bonus.

Mesa Boogie Single Rectifier
'90s model series 1, 50w head.

I'd prefer a local sale (Sydney, Australia) but shipping from somewhere in Australia is a possibility. The amps must be local voltage units (240v) not US voltage (110v). They don't need to have new tubes but must be in working order. Please let me know if you are interested in selling such an amp.
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