Vale Ronnie Corbett

“The Two Ronnies” was considered an integral component of our family education.

For example, they taught me all I know about Swedish.

What I Learnt On 31st March in other years

31st March 2012 Beware - April FoolBeware – April Fool
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Apple boxes

One of the rooms in our museum of Apple packaging

The new movie Steve Jobs takes place in three acts, each of which is set in the 30 minute period before a major Apple Announcement.

I suspect that the movie would be much less dramatic if the lead character was Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cooke, who last night was the keynote speaker at the Apple ‘spring’ event.

Major new iPhone upgrades are always announced in September, so announcements at this time of year are usually incremental.

Steve Jobs liked to keep the product line very simple so it was easy for customers to know what to get, and easy to manage stock.

There were no great surprises in this product launch, but some worthwhile additions to the product line.

Iphone se 5

iPhone SE

There is a new iPhone SE, that is the same size as the iPhone 5 (4 in) but has all the other new features of the iPhone 6 (4.7in) and iPhone 6S+ (5.5in) , including a better camera, faster chip, ‘3D Touch’, and Apple Pay

There is a new iPad Pro, that is the same size as the regular iPad (9.7 in) but otherwise has the features of the large iPad Pro (12.9 in), including speakers, retina display, and Apple pencil. (sounds good to me)

The new iPhone and iPad will be available from March 31st – only a few sleeps away.


Car Play in the VW Tiguan

iOS 9.3 is available right now as a software update on your iPhone or iPad. You will hardly notice. The update includes ‘Night Shift’, which changes the screen brightness and colours depending on the time of day, and a revamp of the News App.
There is an upgrade to CarPlay, which is available in newer cars and puts the iPhone operating system onto your car dashboard. Better maps and suggestions are the main improvement

The Apple Watch has new Nylon watch bands (I’m sure third party versions will be available soon) The watch itself scored a price decrease. New models may come out later this year.


This is my current iPhone and iPad buying guide



  • iPhones are usually better value as part of a contract
  • See a comparison of plans at WhistleOut
  • They are also available for outright purchase, which does enable you to use cheaper SIM only plans from Amaysim or Kogan Mobile
  • The three phones are now basically the same apart from size.
  • You need more than 16Gb. You do. Don’t be tempted by the cheapest.
  • 64Gb is now the only option, which makes things easy, apart from a 6S Plus which does have an 128Gb at $1529.
  • The old iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are still available in Australia at a $150 discount on the iPhone6S and iPhone6S Plus respectively. That is unlikely to make a significant difference on a plan.
Phone Screen Memory Price $AUD
iPhone SE 4 in 64Gb $829
iPhone 6S 4.7 in 64Gb $1229
iPhone 6S Plus 5.4 in 64Gb $1379




  • The iPad range is confusing. Steve would not be happy.
  • iPad Minis are too small for me
  • The iPad Mini is available as iPad Mini 2 (old processor) or iPad Mini 4. There is no iPad Mini 3.
  • I would always pay the $200 and get an iPad with Cellular as well as Wifi, unless you live in complete WiFi land.
  • SIM cards for iPad are readily available when travelling overseas.
  • I think the big iPad Pro is probably too big unless you are using it for design work or replacing your laptop.
  • 256 GB iPad Pros are available for an extra $250
  • 32 GB iPad Pros are available for $250 less. Don’t do it.
  • The new small iPad Pro is the same size and weight as the iPad Air 2
  • My choice is the new small iPad Pro, 128 GB, Wifi + 3G


iPad Screen Memory Wifi Wifi + Cell
Big iPad Pro 12.9 in 128 Gb $1499 $1699
(new) Small iPad Pro 9.7in 128 Gb $1149 $1349
(old) iPad Air 2 9.7 in 64Gb $729 $899
iPad Mini 4 7.9 in 64Gb $699 $859
iPad Mini 2 7.9 in 32Gb $429 $589


What I Learnt On 22nd March in other years

22nd March 2012 Bach without BiteBach without Bite
22nd March 2011 Creating a Web AppCreating a Web App
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Today, March 20th, is one of only two days this year when the sun will directly over the equator. (The other will be September 22nd)

Today, the length of the day and the length of the night are equal – in every place on earth. How cool is that!

From tomorrow, the days will be longer than the nights in the Northern Hemisphere and they will officially enter spring. This is the ‘Vernal Equinox’. (‘ver’ is Latin for spring).

Here in the South, it has officially been autumn since March 1st, not withstanding that the true ‘Autumnal Equinox’ is today. (‘autumn’ is already in latin!) The Bureau of meteorology says it sticks to calendar months because “it works nicely for everybody”.

Contrary to what most people believe, the reason that summer is hotter than winter is not because we are closer to the sun in summer. In fact, in the Northern Hemisphere, the orbit of the earth takes us further from the sun in summer.

Summer is hotter than winter due to the tilt in the axis of the earth of 23 degrees. If there was no tilt, every day would be an equinox and there would be no seasons. Every day would be a bit like today.

These photos from NASA show the amount of sunlight hitting the earth on different days. You can see the spring and summer equinoxes in the R hand photos. The top L is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and the bottom L is summer in the Northern Hemisphere.


NASA also has a time lapse video of the process

Because of this tilt, in summer

– the days are longer, with more hours of sunlight heating the earth.
– the sun is higher in the sky, meaning more sunlight shines on the earth more directly.

I think the second explanation squibs it a bit, and would benefit from a more detailed discussion.

(The most viewed post on this blog is ‘Why is Summer Hotter than Winter’, posted on the (southern hemisphere) vernal equinox in 2011. The rest of this article is an updated version of that article.)

Each morning the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. About midday it is at it highest point in the sky (the zenith) A shadow stick would cast no shadow if the sun was directly overhead – but this only happens if you are located in the tropics (and even then on only two days a year).

The tropics lie within 23.5 degrees of each side of the equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Rockhampton, Longreach and Alice Springs are close to the Tropic of Capricorn. The Tropic of Cancer passes through India, Saudi and Mexico – so no place in Europe and no place in the USA is tropical.


The Arctic and Antarctic Circles (at 66 degrees) mark the points north (or south) where there will be some days (or nights) that are 24 hours long.

How ‘overhead’ the sun is makes a difference to how ‘strong’ it is – i.e., how much it heats things up. The less overhead it is, the less effective at heating things up. We notice the difference in heat between the high-in-the-sky sun at noon and the low-in-the-sky sun at sunset.

These ‘overhead’ factors must be more important than the length of day. The days are much much longer in Stockholm (~ Lat 60 degrees N) in summer than they are here in Alstonweb (~ Lat 30 degrees S) but it is still much warmer here.

There are two reasons why being higher in the sky, or more overhead, makes a difference

The Area Effect

(The concentration of light – how spread out it is at any point.)
The more the sun is directly overhead , the less spread out are its rays when they hit the earth.
A torch shone straight down towards the floor gives a a circle of light, but tilt it a bit sideways and the light forms a stretched oval shape. The same amount of energy covers a larger area, so at any one point the light rays are less intense.

The Air Mass Effect

The more the sun is directly overhead, the less distance it has to pass through the earth’s atmosphere.
The earth is protected by the gases that make up the atmosphere. The gas molecules prevent the sun’s heat from burning us up by reflecting some rays and absorbing others. If the sun is less directly overhead, the rays have to pass through more of the atmosphere, and therefore are obstructed by more of the gas molecules.

Sun overhead
Sun angle

The earth’s atmosphere is 480 km thick, which means at the Equator the sun’s rays pass through 480 km of air.

Here in Alstonweb (30°S), because the sun’s rays are angled to the atmosphere, the rays pass through 548 km of atmosphere (480/cos 30°)

At Stockholm (60°N), they have to pass though 960 km (480/cos 60°)

So the sun rays at Stockhom have passed through twice as much atmosphere as the sun’s rays at the equator. They are exhausted by the time they reach Sweden!

Happy Vernal Equinox to our friends in the North, and happy Autumnal Equinox to us.

What I Learnt On 20th March in other years

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Low storageSooner or later the hard disk on your iPhone will fill up.

Sooner if you have a 16Gb phone (like Al)
Immediately if you have an 8Gb phone (like Tim)

The iOS operating system and built in apps use a chunk of disk space. (The 16Gb iPhone starts with only about 12Gb of available space). Various apps, photos, music and videos quickly chew up the rest.


Can you free up space to allow you to take more happy snaps?


But before you start – back up your phone to iCloud or iTunes.

To find out what is eating up all your hard disk space, in iOS 9, navigate to :

Settings > General > Storage and iCloud Usage > Manage Storage.

From here you can delete any apps you no longer use, or games you have played and completed. (farewell, Infinity Blade). You can always download them again from the App store.

Be careful, you will lose all the data associated with the apps unless they have been backed up or previously uploaded to iCloud. You will need all those cute Videostar movies Millie has made over the years to blackmail her when her 21st comes around in 2022.

Wouldn’t it be good if you could increase the amount of storage in your phone?

Unfortunately, you can’t open an iPhone up and insert a bigger hard drive. And there is no slot to insert a memory card.

I FlashHowever, Al has found another way, which is particularly useful when travelling.

You are out in the Uralba Nature Reserve and spot a Sooty Owl. Finally. You line up the photo but ‘There is not enough available storage to take a photo’! Curses.

No problem. Insert the i-Flashdevice HD, load all your photos from your phone onto it, delete them from your iPhone, and the Sooty Owl snap is all yours.

The i-Flashdevice HD is a small memory storage gadget that has an iPhone (lightning) plug in one end and a USB plug in the other. They are available in a range of Gb sizes.

When plugged in, you can use the dedicated app to transfer your photos and videos from the iPhone to the device. You can also listen to music or watch movies that have previously been loaded on to the device.

The USB plug allows you to upload the photos to your Mac, or to store movies to watch on your phone during the long flight home from Uralba.

Al says that this is an ideal solution for a cheapskate who bought a 16Gb phone. His words, not mine.

The i-Flashdevice HD is available from a range of sellers for a range of prices (about $40 – $80 depending on capacity) on eBay.

Al – are you happy with yours?


What I Learnt On 18th March in other years

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Alex at the entrance to the town of Dripsey, County Cork, in 2006


St Patrick’s Day Ball at St John’s College

I know that my father-in-law Paddy had one or two (or more) of the 13 million pints of Guinness that will be drunk worldwide today.

His grandson Will is attending a St Patrick’s Day ball tonight, during which I am sure he will also contribute to this worthy international effort.

As noted on this day in Wilt back in 2011, they are both loyally participating in an Australian tradition dating back more than 200 years.

In 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie declared St Patrick’s Day, March 17th, as an official day of celebration. Australia has been celebrating on that day ever since. Until this year, Sydney hosted the second biggest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world. Unfortunately, the parade committee’s finances have mirrored the Irish national finances and the parade is cancelled this year.

Our family circus travelled through Dripsey, County Cork, in 2006.  Clearly the town is very proud to be the ‘Home of the shortest St Patrick’s Day Parade of the 20th Century‘. Today, after referring  to the Guinness Book of World Records (how appropriate!), I can finally take that theatric quizzical look from Alex’s face.

My research has revealed that those stalwart St Patricks Day paraders in Dripsey will have to troop all the way out the front door of  The Weigh Inn Pub and march until they reach the welcome relief of the only other pub in town, the Lee Valley – a total distance of 23.4 metres. A man truely is not a camel.

There are lots of such WTF? moments in Ireland.

Greg R. has submitted some Irish Trivia: Feel free to submit your answers in the comments section below.

  • Outside of Ireland, what country in the world has the highest proportion of people claiming to be of Irish ancestry?
  • To what was James Joyce referring with his phrase “wine of Ireland”?
  • What happened to St Patrick on March 17?
  • What is the main ingredient of boxty? A: potato (Ed: what in earth in boxty?)
  • What city dyes its river green on St Patrick’s Day?
  • What was the Irish national color in the time of St Patrick?
  • If ‘Mac’ in an Irish surname (e.g. MacStrain) means “son of”, what does ‘O’ (e.g. O’Malloy) mean?

Finally, a St Patrick’s Day toast to you all

“May the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends beneath it never fall out.”

What I Learnt On 17th March in other years

17th March 2012 Danger 5Danger 5
17th March 2011 Happy St Patrick's DayHappy St Patrick’s Day
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