Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Computers and board games

Yesterday morning Laetitia's computer died. It failed to load a stack of drivers, including for the trackpad and USB ports, which made working out what was wrong painful (no mouse). In the end we booted into Linux off a CD to copy off what had been changed since her most recent backup, then reinstalled from the “Recovery” DVDs. I really wonder about that term; somehow “recovery” has come to mean “wipe the slate clean and start again”.

Over the weekend I also did some programming. It was good fun to get back into “the zone”. I used Microsoft's Visual C#, their new(ish, in programming language terms) language based loosely on C++. I'm actually impressed: already knowing C++, C# made it quite easy to build a functional and usable GUI-based tool. Indeed, contrary to what I expected before I started, the hardest part was not the GUI at all, but rather the all-pairs-shortest-paths algorithm, for which I had to go back to one of my old programming textbooks.

What I created was a ticket generator for one of our favourite board games, Ticket to Ride: Europe. I was so impressed with the “1910” expansion for the USA board that I wanted to do something similar for the Europe board. And besides, playing with the same set of tickets every time gets predictable, and personally I prefer more variety.

So now I can print off a new set of tickets for every game. I get to choose a standard game, a “Big Cities” game or a “Mega-Game” (you'll understand those terms if you have the 1910 expansion), for the Europe board. Yippee!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rowena and Håkan

This weekend our old friend Rowena and her Swedish partner Håkan came to Mackay to visit us. They drove down from Cairns on Friday, and drove on towards Brisbane on Saturday afternoon. Here they are having a cup of tea at our home in the morning:

We took them up to the city lookout …

… and then out to Eimeo. The view from the pub over Eimeo Beach is fantastic:

We had a drink together up there, in the warm sun and cool breeze …

… before they headed off towards Rockhampton.

(And when we got home we discovered they'd left their toothbrushes behind in our bathroom. Oh well.)

New washing machine

Okay, so it's been a while. Sorry. I've been pretty busy at school.

Our new washing machine finally arrived yesterday. Our old one, a Simpson Riviera 429, has been playing up for about 18 months. It has a problem with agitating during the wash cycle. On a good day, it would do one load just fine, but get sullen and refuse to move at the start of the second. Occasionally it could be provoked into agitating if we tricked it by moving the dial into the deep rinse part of the cycle. But on a bad day, nothing worked, not even unplugging the thing and leaving it sit for half an hour, nor giving it a good talking to.

So two weeks ago we ordered a new washing machine, a Fisher & Paykel AquaSmart WL70T60CW1, from the Good Guys. Unfortunately, due to delivery issues, although we believe there are some -CW1s in Mackay, they're not at the Good Guys. So yesterday they gave us a call and offered us a WL70T60DW1 instead. This is almost exactly the same, but with the older LED panel instead of the new LCD one.

We decided it would do just fine. It was delivered yesterday around lunch time. Here it is connected up in our laundry:

It has a “low profile agitator”. It's designed to work like a front-loader: with a little bit of water in the bottom, rolling and flopping the clothes into the water, rather than immersing them deep in a full tub. (It has a “low efficiency mode” which does a deep wash and rinse, though—using more than double the amount of water.)

Now all we need is for the rain to stop long enough for the sheets and towels to dry…