Tuesday, 27 February 2007

New is cheaper than second hand, part ii

I've done a little bit more work on my cost comparison to add the cost of buying second hand from Amazon in the UK. All costs have been converted to US dollars at a (slightly optimistic) rate of USD 1.95 = GBP 1.00. All it goes to show that buying from Amazon UK second hand is a seriously bad deal if you live in Australia, unless you have no other option.

I was also going to do comparison of buying from Abe in Australia as opposed from overseas, but there aren't any copies of two of the sample books available for sale in Australia.

Obviously this is totally unscientific - but it bears out my predjudices which like all the best predjudices are based on experience:

  • second hand books are a bit cheaper in the States than the UK (but not enough to get excited about)
  • shiping from the UK is much more expensive

so there we have it - going and buying Penguin Classics new from Borders in town really is cheaper (providing they have it and you live in Australia)

Monday, 26 February 2007

The tyrrany of distance and the second hand book trade

In Australia we often talk about the tyrrany of distance, it means things are more expensive and there can be less choice. The result is that many things, like obscure books to do with my hobby of Roman and early Medieaval history can be more expensive and difficult to get, so I resort to buying things from overseas, usually second hand.

But do I save money?

I recently did a comparison between buying second hand from overseas and buying new from borders of three books:

  • History of the Franks / Gregory of Tours
  • History of the Kings of Britain / Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • Journey through Wales / Giraldus Cambrensis

I compared the list price in Australian Dollars (converted to US Dollars at a rate of AUD 1.00 = USD 0.78) with the cost of the books + shipping bought from Abebooks and Amazon marketplace. In all cases I ignored credit card charges for foreign transactions (around 2.5% of the transaction) and incidental costs such as the cost of parking when I go to Borders. They probably balance out.

And what do we find - on the whole it's cheaper to buy new in Australia than from second hand overseas, even if buying over the web is more convenient. The other thing is that the cost of buying second hand thrugh Abe from an Australian second hand shop is about the same as buying from overseas (shipping's cheaper, books are more expensive, and the only saving is if you can go to the shop)

So, insane as it may seem second hand is not always cheapest

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Anglo saxons, leeks and sausages ...

I've just finished reading a book (only 75 pages mind you) on 'Food and Drink in Anglo Saxon England' by Debby Banham. And it was riveting. (Those of you who think that I'm incredibly sad can stop reading now).

For a start, there were such gems as the Anglo Saxon for a vegetable garden (or kail yard in Scots) was leactun, ie an enclosure where you grow leeks (leac). Fascinating for two reasons:

  1. tun from whence our word town, originally meant an enclosure. The Anglo Saxon's didn't really do urban centres until quite late in Saxon period, so when they saw the towns of Roman Britian they were probably most struck by the walls built to keep them out, and the walls formed an enclosure da da! (reminds me of the remark ascribed to the gothic king, who having defeated the Romans at Adrianople in the 380's stopped short at the heavily fortified and defended walls of Constantinople and exclaimed 'we have no arguement with walls' and retreated
  2. what it shows about diet. If mostly you ate a stew of beans and barley you were probably pretty glad of leeks (which of course grow through winter) to flavour something pretty bland. Certainly during my veggie phase the reason why so much had onions and chilli and so on in it was desperate attempt to make bean stew interesting and enjoyable.

And diet's fascinating. I once had a girlfriend who was doing a PhD in ethnobotany, and she used to try out various odd things on me. Inca potatoes were good, but I still don't beleive the Romans really liked groundelder as an accompaniement to sausages.

But then, while I like flavoured sausages, I've never really liked chinese sausages - the herbs and flavourings just seem wrong. Mind you I still think I should have screwed up my courage and bought a cooked hilltribe style sausage in Chiang Mai from the stall advertising (in English) 'fried intestine'

Monday, 5 February 2007

P2P + Lockss: a cheap archiiving solution?

Just read an interesting article in wired on Joost, the internet TV startup. And I've had an idea:

One of the problems about digital archiving is that you need to have multiple copies in multiple locations to ensure the safety of documents you are archiving. This is the idea behind Lockss and using HSM systems to write two copies to differeing locations. Basically you are betting that if the building burns down (an unlikely event) the other building won't burn down ( an even more unlikely event ).

The trouble is the infrastructure to do this is expensive. Tickling away at the back of my mind is the idea of using some form of p2p network to distribute the archive to multiple locations using cheap off the shelf hardware - bascially marrying p2p with lockss. That way information is well distrubuted and secure, say by putting an archive box with an adsl connection in every public library in the country.

The nice thing is it can use standard p2p client stuff to retrieve the software and avoids the overhead of Storage Resource Broker or indeed any of the other vritual distributed storage architectures ...

Thursday, 1 February 2007


I've become a fan of parallels the virtual machine emulation software for the mac.

At first I thought it was ok, having built a xbuntu machine, but it had a couple of bugs regarding the operation of shutdown and hibernate. Fair enough. A useful toy but that's it.

Then I had to build an XP and 2003 machine to do real work - and suddenly its power was revealed, cutting and pasting from the two operating systems, and flipping between the two, even if I felt there was something ever so slightly unclean and dirty feeling about building horrible clunky crude windows on my elegant mac - it also shows how in 12 months of being a mac user I really have become a mac user, and while linux is an alternative, windows feels crude in comparison - singularly lacking in elegance.

But hen windows didn't get 95% of the desktop market by being elegant. However I digress ...

Parallels is a fantastic tool. The only failure I had was building an old version of collecge linux that didn't recognise the virtual disk as a valid system on which build the system - not a great loss, just the comfort factor of using an old distro that I like, I could have done kubuntu to get the tools.

Free BSD isnatlled almost nicely, but then I'm not a free bsd person so that's me, not the oS