Earth Like Planets

So, there are astronomers out there busily seeking out planets that might be similar to Earth.

There was a news report just today that they have found another candidate planet.

Oh great. it is just 500 Light -Years away.  So, what they are looking at is evidence that is 500 years old.

A lot of good that will do humanity.

If we could travel at light speed, an advance party could get there in 500 years. How great would that be. Then they (or their ancestors could) could report back. That would take another 500 Years.

So, just what is the point of such research?  Pretty useless if you ask me.


Byron Bay, New South Wales

Last weekend we took a trip down to  Byron Bay  , New South Wales, Australia.

We had heard much about its delightful beaches and its popularity as a holiday destination. The only disappointment we had was the weather, it was very windy with occassional rain showers. The weather only killed our swimming plans.
We ate out for all meals, and were very happy with the quality and variety of food available.

To keep ourselves busy as an alternative to swimming, we drove up to the nearby town of Bangalow. There we wandered up and down the main street before heading to the Bangalow Hotel for a fabulous lunch. We will be back there for some more at next opportunity.

Back in Byron Bay:- My Son and I had heard there was a local brewery in Byron bay – “The Byron Bay Brewery “. We managed to find it too! It is a little difficult to find but if you look out for signs near the Police Station round-a-bout, then head off toward “Skinners Shoot“. Around a few corners and you cannot miss the brewery. It is housed in an old piggery building.

Well, we tasted several of their beers and were very impressed with the quality of their product. Some beers dark, some hoppy, some very smooth. They also meals which some people were enjoying. It was another place at Byron that we will return to. Well worth the visit.

Most of it is very over-priced, so be prepared. Where we stayed was a few decades old and in need of a general upgrade (cigarette burns on the carpets, bathrooms very tired). One thing we all agreed on was that the bedding was of good quality. Even so, we would probably stay elsewhere next time.


Qantas A380


Looks great! We have flown in one of these a few times.

Though we did love flying the A380, we prefer the Boeing 747s now that Qantas have updated the 747s with the new A380 style seats.

UPDATE: 2014-06-26  Due to scheduling changes, we are due to fly again on a Qantas  A380 later this year. Looking forward to it.


John Griffiths


Clarion for Development

I use mainly Clarion For Windows to develop my Win32 based software.

It is a great programming tool and great language. One bonus is that you can include other programming languages in your work. I have used C++ code, but you can also include Assembler, and Modular-2.

Clarion For Windows is developed by Softvelocity

For data storage, I use Microsoft SQLServer. This is a reliable and fast database system that suits my work very well. Clarion provides drivers for easy access to many database types, including MSSQL and ODBC.

For my install and update programs, I build these all with SetupBuilder from Lindersoft. They make it so easy and offer such a great tool.

John Griffiths

Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

We have always hear that the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta was amazing due to the large number of balloons participating. Their own site quotes numbers of between 500 and 700 balloons.

Here is some info taken direct from their 2013 FAQ web page    –

Our signature event remains Balloon Fiesta—which, with over 600 balloons, is the largest ballooning event on earth, the most photographed event on earth, and the largest annual international event held in the United States.

and this in another FAQ on their same page…

How long does it take for the balloons to launch?
All 500+ balloons should be launched in less than two hours.


So we organized a family group this year to attend the Fiesta in the hope of seeing the promised Hundreds of balloons.

Oh boy, we were very disappointed at the number of balloons in the “Mass Ascension” on the morning we attended. The most balloons I could see either in the air, or on the ground being readied for launch was just around 60.

What we saw was OK and very colorful. But we did not see the stated “Hundreds”.

In fact, a few years ago we attended the Hot Air Balloon parade in Longview, Texas. At that event there were close to 60 balloons.

We feel let down by Albuquerque and for sure will never go back for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. On a score of 1 to 10, I give it a 1.

False and misleading advertising comes to mind. I wonder if there is a Better Business Bureau in Albuquerque ?

An Old Rolls Royce

Upon leaving the restaurant at a Texas golf club last week, we were surprised to see that one of the patrons had parked his old Rolls at the front door.

A lovely looking vehicle and restored/maintained in an “As-New” condition.

Yellow Rolls Royce

Yellow Rolls Royce



Yellow Rolls Royce

Yellow Rolls Royce 















Here it is from another angle.














I want one.

A Few Days at DisneyWorld

In late December 2012 we had a few days at DisneyWorld, Orlando, Florida. Apart from the unusually cool weather, we had lots of fun.

Ella managed to hit the jackpot tossing some balls at buckets and got to select a prize from the TOP SHELF. Needless to say, it was a slight problem getting it home to Texas on the flight home. But there was no way she was going to leave it in Florida.


Well done Ella.



At Texas Formula 1

We drove down to Austin Texas whilst we were temporarily in Fort Worth Texas and went to the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

As an Aussie, I was rooting for Mark Webber and managed to capture a shot of him before his retirement from the race. Not an easy task to get a good photo as he was going past at about 180MPH through the esses…

USA GP 2012

Mark Webber Austin Texas 2012


The new track was very good for drivers, but crowd facilities were a little lacking and under-designed for the crowd of 120,000 on race day.

To cross the track via the overhead walkways was a nightmare on both practice days and race day. Bridges were about 16ft wide and expected to cope with 100,000 people.

The shuttle bus system was well planned and executed apart from the 1+ mile hike through the woods to get from their drop-off point to the track main entrance. Lucky it was not raining.

Overall, a great weekend in Austin.


My Thoughts on VoIP

Recently I have dived into VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) which can use a simple analogue phone to make phone calls using broadband in lieu of a PSTN account.

VoIP has been around for several years, but I had always been a bit dubious of the claims made by providers (MagicJack and others).

I went the way of buying an ATA (Analogue Telephone Adapter) which connects your analogue handset to your network router.  I actually bought two ATA devices so I could run various tests. They were both Obihai devices, one an OBI100 ($40)  and the other an OBI110 ($50)  and both bought from See for more on these devices.

Free Calls:

I was not planning on using a free call VoIP provider, but ended up trying the Google Voice as a SIP connection. This will give free calls to USA/Canadian numbers until at least December 31 2012. Google may decide to extend that date or otherwise may start charging a per minute rate.  The setting up of the ATA and Phone to use Google voice account was a multistep process and will be discussed further below.


Paid For Calls:

There are many options for adding  paid for calls, from monthly subscriptions that will give you x minutes of free included calls each month, to some that simply charge you for the calls made. For my second OBI device, I chose a mix of the two. I subscribed to a DID (Direct Inward Dialing)  phone number at a cost of $0.99c per month, and calls that will cost between $0.01 and $0.02 per minute. For this, I chose to use


Call Quality:

Testing incoming and outgoing calls with both connections ( and GoogleVoice) has been very good. In one test using the GV line, a call between USA and Australia was better than an expensive $2.00 per minute PSTN call I have made. This one cost just $0.02 per minute.

Setting Up Google Voice Line:

There are some requirements here. First you need a Gmail account and then sign up for a Google Voice account.

You also need a broadband internet connection and a free account with which you use to do some connection configuration. Be prepared to enter your gmail account and gmail password for this to work. If you are a little apprehensive to do this, set up a separate Gmail account and GVoice using that separate gmail account.
Rather than me explain all the processes, have a look at the guides provided over at the ObiTalk web site.

You will be up and running in minutes once you have your Obi device.

Setting Up Line:

To use the system for only outward calls, you do not need the DID (Direct Inward Dialing) number. The process of getting the Phone and Obi ATA device connected was simple and is explained in detail at the  wiki webpages.

Other Devices:

I read a recent review where there was some praise for the latest version of “MagicJack Plus”. This is basically another ATA device but it is locked to the MagicJack SIP provider. There is an annual fee to join MagicJack and it can be economical if you make lots of calls. I have not tested with MJ so leave that up to you to play with if you feel it would suit your situation.

Overall, I am impressed with the latest VoIP devices and SIP providers. If you get the urge, give it a try out.