Thursday, December 07, 2006

SAF 2006 - A Retrospective View

It's a few days since the event now, the small details are beginning to fade away, and I can look back now and think about the overriding themes. Of these, one strikes me more than any other: a statement from Garry Flake which went roughly like "the Internet is an increasingly complete reflection of reality".

Garry's presentation ("How I learned to stop worrying and love the imminent Internet singularity") took a look ahead at the future. He picked up on an idea published in 1993 by Vernor Vinge: the idea that the exponential speed of technological improvements will produce super-human capabilities, making the future unknowable, an idea that I think harks back to Arther C Clarke and the concept that any sufficiently advanced technology constitutes magic. Vernor coined this occurence a singularity because we have no knowledge of the future beyond that point. This is an interesting thought, especially with respect to the Internet. Garry highlighted (as had Charles Fitzgerald in his earlier presentation, "Software and Services") that information technology is most strongly advancing in two areas: memory and networking. Both of these are improving well ahead of the rate of improvement of processing power. (But as for other areas of technology, I personally doubt we're making such significant progress. Don't you think that living from 1900 to 1970 would have been just as remarkable as living from 1940 to the present?)

With a near future characterised by a massive increase in easily accessible storage and network bandwidth it shouldn't be surprising that more and more information about our daily lives and the world around us will be stored and catalogued for later use. The stored information will increasingly reflect the detail of the real world and the Internet will increasingly become a reflection of reality.

To me this is a wonderful concept because it means that we have a representation of reality that's accessible, can be queried, and is an enabler to learn about our world and improve it. To business it should also be wonderful because it opens up opportunities in many more ways than are possible now: mining, characterising, segmenting, predicting, combining, and in general just responding better to customer needs.

The reflected electronic world of information and the services that operate on that information will also provide value from the integration across organisation boundaries. If you can spot the opportunity that links a group of disparate services together you could be clipping the ticket to your first billion. This is the basis of the mashup and we're sure to see making unexpected outcomes from the smart combination of diverse services and information.

The feflected reality was not the only nugget to come out from the SAF, there were also several other ideas that came through the presentations and roundtable workshops I attended.

Bill Gates highlighted the limitations and short life ahead of the existing web browser model; Ray Lane emphasized the uneconomic application development environment present in the US and the likely impact of globalisation; Norm Judah gave a great overview of how Microsoft manage their own internal services; Garry Flake presented on the Innovators Dilemma, and there was a lot of discussion across all presentations on the long tail effect.

Bill Gates' brief discussion of the future of the browser came up during the Q&A session at the end of the SAF. He made the point that the web browser was designed in the 1990s to fulfill a need to deliver an interface to a system over a limited bandwidth link. That environment is not true now and we know it will be increasingly invalid going forward. Network bandwidth is increasing rapidily so you can envisage a future where you connect to a system on the Internet and a much more functional application interface is downloaded and run on your device using some sort of application hosting environment (perhaps based on a virtual machine created for the session, or a sandboxed machine such as you get with .NET and Java). The standards for this form of interactivity have a long way to go but the direction is clear. I wonder how long before this will impact the next generation of Internet sites?

Ray Lane's presentation of the economic problems of the application development market highlighted the large number of existing small development companies, the available venture funding, the commoditization occuring in the development process and as a result the market contraction we can expect (up to 70% of existing companies going). However, Ray also highlighted the new opportunities created by the long tail and networking effects hence the name of the presentation, "The Personal Enterprise".

Norm Judah's presentation of "The Last Architectural Mile" showed us how Microsoft run their own services. This eye opener showed them using their own toolsets to manage their data centres with millions of servers. The use of the Business Scorecard Manager to present their current status was great as was the simple idea that success of failure occurs in the last mile. Delivering into production is so important and yet, while complex IT systems are designed with great thought and effort, the human processes that operate those systems are often not.

Garry Flake's singularity presentation also introduced the innovator's dilemma (first coined by Clayton M. Christensen and described in his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma), that innovation comes from the bottom not the top. As companies become established new start ups innovate and then take over the entranched company's market. Companies that survive show an ability to sustain innovation by being prepared to make significant change (or destroy themselves as Garry put it). I wonder to what extent you can say that we've seen this with the likes of IBM and Microsoft? Certainly IBM have moved a long way from the days when the mainframe was their core deliverable. One thing that does mark both companies is their massive investment in R&D, billions of dollars per year. Garry is an example of the impact of Microsoft Labs, his team form Live Labs, a collaboration with MS Research that is developing the functionality you can now get now through

The concept of an increasingly accurate reality represented on the Internet was an overriding theme throughout the event. The impacts are diverse; the wealth of information, the potential outcomes from better analysis, providing richer choice, responding better to people, clustering, trending, making decisions at the edge, networked opportunities, the long tail. I've tried to put some order to these ideas in the bullet pointed list below and in the posts under this you'll see the notes I recorded at the time of the presentations. Some of these notes I posted on the Internet as soon as I'd finished writing them in the lecture rooms, and others I posted over the last couple of days from the notes I'd taken on my laptop. Hope it's helpful.

Change Drivers: Opportunity Creation from Changing Technology

  • Storage and networking improving much faster than local cpu
  • Parallel processing increasingly applied to overcome limitations in cpu speed increases
  • This is opening up new opportunities due to network effects
    • The long tail
      • The affect of the many in the tail can be greater than the few in the head
    • The internet is increasingly mirroring the physical world

The Internet as a Mirror of Reality

  • Responding to people
  • Understanding people
  • How?
    • You can't manage what you can't measure
  • Analytics
    • Application to numerous areas
      • Process improvement
      • Understanding and responding to human behaviours
      • Processing of different data types
        • Text
        • Numeric
        • Image data
        • Sound
      • The internet increasingly mirrors real life - the data on the net is becoming an increasingly complete representation of real life
        • Brute force statistical analysis
          • Trending
          • Clustering
  • Personal choice
    • Make options available
    • Natural selection and evolution
  • Beware human faults
    • The Innovators Dilemma
      • Look down as well as up
  • Take advantage of the masses - the long tail
    • Opportunities exist due to the accessibility of the many
  • Decision making at the edge
    • Responding to your customers at the edge of your organisation versus centralised product development
    • Responding at the edge is equivalent to greater customer focus
    • Create networked opportunities
      • Connect individual to individual
    • Great local example - Seattle traffic reporting via the internet

SAF06 - The Personal Enterprise

Ray Lane



  • Cost of software reducing
  • Costs for software 10% of current
  • 70% of companies will go
  • $4.7 billion going in as venture capital in US market
  • Nicolas Carr – IT doesn’t matter...


  • US market leadership lost
  • Existing model uneconomic
    • Too many competitors within a limited region

Market Demand

  • SMB market growth strong
  • Enterprise market limited


  • Leverage community power
    • Mash ups etc
  • Enabling user generated content
  • Apps from services
  • Personal history
    • Activity
    • Alive
  • Context
  • Relationship status and value and history

Seven Laws for Success in the Personal Enterprise

  • Serves individual need
  • Viral adoption
  • Contextual and personal
  • No train
  • Delivers instantaneous value
  • Utilises social networks
  • No IT


  • WebEx
  • Skype
  • IM
  • SuiteTwo
  • Google desktop
  • SFDC
  • Monster

SAF06 - High Performance Computing

Ryan Waite, Group Program Manager for High Performance Computing


  • 30 people in the group developing HPC
  • 10GFlops $30m 1991
  • 10GFlops $4000 2006
  • Departmental cluster growth higher than top end growth
  • Product development fundamental to Microsoft
    • Continued Office product development needs to demonstrate new functions and value
    • HPC seen as a possible avenue to do this in the future
  • Financial Services seen as a key sector


  • Weather Research and Forecast model
    • Community project
    • 3000 users
    • 360k lines only 750 changes to port to windows
  • Excel Services
    • Store spreadsheets on sharepoint
    • Run on the server
    • Run excel services on Compute Cluster
  • Monte Carlo
  • Risk
  • Speedo fabric design
    • Weave and affect on fluid dynamics
  • Procter and Gamble
    • Plastic bottle design
    • Packaging analysis
  • MRI scan of heart and blood flow
    • Fluid dynamics model
    • What if analysis of surgical changes

Compute Cluster Cost

  • Cheaper than standard windows 2003 (~30% less)
  • Can’t run office servers on it

Grid Computing

  • Definition not clear
  • Microsoft refer to
    • Compute grid
    • Data grid

Dataset Sizes are going to be MASSIVE

  • New Sky Telescope 2015
    • 80TB data in a scan on one night
    • Rescan next night
    • Identify what changes
    • Repeat!

SAF06 - Software and Services

Charles Fitzgerald, GM Platform Strategy

Change Drivers

  • Broadband
  • Services
  • Commoditisation
  • Complexity
  • Consumer focus


  • To find the value
  • It’s never going to be easy because of competition

Services Infrastructure

  • 20 million on a slow IM day
  • Infrastructure construction dramatic
  • $200 million on data centre capacity
  • Next to hydroelectric generation facilities
  • Millions of servers
  • Concrete, copper, steel, electricity

The Tyranny of Or, the Power of And

  • In the past we've had to make a lot of choices
    • This technology or that
    • This way of delivering or that
    • This company's services or that company's
  • Today we have the ability to combine services more easily
    • Mashups
    • Partnerships
    • Give the customer choice, offer both options

Broadband Inflexion Point

  • Web browser designed for limited bandwidth
  • Broadband beyond current web 1.0

Saturday, December 02, 2006

SAF06 - Dynamics

Satya Nadella

The Last Mile of Productivity

  • Connecting people to process

Microsoft have 30 CRM instances deployed across different areas

Dynamics Investments

  • Role based experiences - Office
  • Collaboration - Sharepoint
  • Contextual intelligence - SQL Server
  • Services - Visual Studio
  • Live enabled - Windows Live

Dynamics architectural tenants

  • Composable role based experience
  • Model driven
  • SOA deployment


  • Dynamics CRM v3c
    • Lead management gadget for Vista sidebar - hooks into CRM web services
    • Relationship mapping with images on each member of the relationship
    • 3D home design and layout
  • Exception management demonstration
    • Exception notifications go into sidebar via a gadget
    • Click on the notification and a sharepoint site comes up with exception problem identified (in this case an order problem)
    • Drills down onto order details
    • Combines it with mapping from virtual earth
      • Order origination and delivery points identified
      • Where the order is now
      • Collaboration with the truck driver via a wireless device
      • Messenger used - hopefully not while driving
    • Sharepoint search used to identify missing customs document required for shipping
  • Business Intelligence
    • Sharepoint dashboard
    • Mapping
    • Tabular business score card from Performance Point Manager with traffic lights
    • Opening detail data with Excel Analysis Services
    • Another dashboard with more detail
      • More detailed mapping
      • Pie charts and graphs
      • Drill down with ProClarity
        • Performance map
        • Size of box shows size of sales
        • Colour shows margin a la heat map
        • Drill down into geographic areas
  • Dynamics Live CRM
    • Hosted on the Live site a la
    • Dashboard
      • Charts
      • Scorecards
      • Drilldown
    • Outlook style interface for activities, calendar, queued items
    • Customer data
    • Collaboration tools
    • Workspace creation for working with partners
      • Collaborator uploads documents rather than emailing
    • Marketing campaign creation and management
      • Internet ads
        • MSN ad centre
        • Choose regions and target pages
        • Performance tracking
      • Email

Model Driven Development

  • Research derived customer model
  • Workflow driven
  • Role specific tools

Friday, December 01, 2006

SAF06 - How I learned to stop worrying and love the imminent internet singularity...

Garry Flake

Microsoft Live labs

Live Labs is a partnership between MSR and Windows/Windows Live.

Singularity - introduced by Vernor Vinge in 1993 - the idea that the exponential speed of technological improvements will produce super-human capabilities, making the future completely unknowable.


Is it the end of humanity??

Making a case for the internet singularity

  • Democratization
    • Greater and greater power in devices
    • Lower and lower entry barriers
    • Content
      • documents
        • office, html
      • images
      • movies
      • audio
      • publishing
        • blogs
      • software
        • opensource
      • research
        • wikipedia, search
      • metadata
        • tags, play lists
  • Power law distributions and long tails
    • The weight of the tail is greater than the head
    • Coined by Chris Anderson an a Wired article
    • Implications
      • Consumers start to become producers
        • Playlists
        • Remixes and mashups
        • Aggregations...
      • The small producers may outweigh the large producers
      • But is it all worth reading/listening/watching? I'm doubtful...but the important thing is that the good stuff bubbles to the top.
  • Internet ecosystems and network effects
    • The value of a network increases as a function of the number of participants
  • The Innovators Dilemma
    • Cray killed by SGI
    • SGI killed by Sun
    • Sun killed by PC
    • PC killed by cellphone?
    • The first companies must destroy themselves to survive - innovations come in from the bottom
    • Companies often fail to look downward - they only look upward
    • Online world causes the innovators dilemma to run much faster - months versus years

The internet as a mirror

  • We are putting more and more information on the internet
    • The internet becomes more and more a reflection of the physical world
  • Because it is on the internet it is accessible
  • Analysis occurs across the internet
    • For example, data mining of natural language based upon internet hosted information (text)
    • For example, genome data
    • For example genome research papers on the internet so that data miners could access both the research and the data - programmatic data miners can access both the papers and the data and result in new discoveries.
    • This is a circular process
  • The body of knowledge increases

Live Labs

  • A little under a year old, reports to Ray Ozzie
  • A virtual organisation that aspires to hit a suite spot between
    • Users and businesses
    • Short versus long term
    • Problems and solutions
    • Science and engineering
    • (This sounds dubious to me...)
  • Garry then gave a demonstration of Microsoft Live Labs- Photosynth which is worth viewing if you haven't yet tried it.

My thoughts - lots of opportunity if you know how to mine it. Analytical techniques and tools become so important in this.

SAF06 - The Architectural Last Mile

These are my notes from Norm Judah's keynote this Thursday morning at SAF06. Norm is CTO of Microsoft Worldwide Services and IT. These notes are taken during the talk and published straight away - wifi is great.

Norm firstly asks what is architecture?... the art of simplicity.

Norm highlights a number of recent architectural changes:

  • The power at the edge of the network
    • Traditionally big in the middle, dumb on the outside
  • Boundary changes
    • Boundaries between companies
    • Management impacts

Success of failure occurs in the last mile

  • People
  • Human processes are not often re-engineered

Build systems not for the people of today - but the people of tomorrow. Look at how your teenage kids behave: instant messenging, youtube - living online behaviours in a manner that does not make sense to those of us that are in midlife or older. So don't automatically assume that because you can't imagine using this system, that your views will apply for the future.

Processes and human behaviour is important. IT spend does not automatically increase productivity. MIT study by Erik Brynjolfsson ( that process is more important, but also that process + IT investment achieves much greater productivity.

Demonstrated Community Campus - Microsoft only site. Remarked that it's easy to create the site but hard to get people to use it which highlights the importance of managing human behaviour, of process.

A lesson from this is that you need to measure in detail. People will register but not use a system. So a count of registrations has no value. Look instead for how parts of the site are being used.

They prepared an adoption maturity model based on CMMi. Don't build an immaturity model

  • Negligent
  • Obstructive
  • Contemptuous
  • Underming

Refer to Capt. Tom Schorsch,, and the original notes on CMM from Finkelstein, "A Software Process Immaturity Model," ACM SIGSOFT, Software Engineering Notes, Vol. 17, No. 4, October 1992, pp. 22-23.

Make heros! Publish and market the subject matter experts. Give awards for most posts, most effort. Create individual importance.

Another lesson: operational architecture crucial to project success. Since most things go wrong due to operational errors you need to explicitly design for the operation. You can not manage it if you don't measure it.

Norm gave a great example of using the Business Scorecard Manager to report on Exchange availability in Microsoft. This forms the mail SLA reporting. The report showed 33,000 connection attempts blocked for the day - hacking attempts!

The scorecard contained a section called Major Problem Reviews (MPR). These were categorisations of the types of problems.

Desired Configuration Management

  • Reduce configuration changes
  • Proactively manage upcoming change

Thursday, November 30, 2006

SAF06 - ESB Microsoft Implementation

This presentation at SAF described an ESB implementation based upon Biztalk, Sharepoint and the .net environment.

I've picked up a few things from this.

  1. The use of XMS rather than JMS over MQ
  2. The use of Amberpoint and MOM for service management
  3. Very high performance message transformation by not using message boxing.
  4. Implementation of a customer ESB management portal in Sharepoint with an exception handler created to provide an easy to see view of current activity and errors.
  5. Use of BAM to track information as it's being written into Sharepoint with the graphs output into Sharepoint.
  6. Use of SOAP headers to contain message context that is later written into the MQ message headers.
  7. Monitoring at different levels
    1. Infrastructure
    2. Operation
    3. Biztalk Server
  8. Good description of how they marketed the solution through Kaiser-Permanente
    1. Developers Guide
    2. VM with ESB core engine installed
    3. Sample applications create
    4. Sample unit tests (nUnit and BizUnit)
    5. Sample automated build process

Apparently there will be a Microsoft ESB guidance package. A prelim version will be available - perhaps via Brian Loesgen's blog at

Seattle and the SAF06

I'm in Seattle now, listening to an ESB presentation at Microsoft with snow outside and the feel of winter in the air. It's absolutely gorgeous and a nice change from the spring winds of Wellington. But what a journey to get here!

My arrival into Seattle coincided with a "interesting meterological phenonomen" according the pilot: lightening and snow at the same time. Great but as a result we had to stop by Portland for an hour before heading back to land at 10pm in the tailend of the snow storm. Now the roads aren't geared up for snow and ice here so the city was shut down for that night. I didn't get to the hotel till almost 6am in the morning. It was long wait at the airport for a shuttle bus. Fortunately the people sitting near me were wonderful and the seat was heated with blankets. The joys of travel...

Now I'm here because of an invitation from Microsoft to attend the Strategic Architects Forum 06 and my employer has paid my way here (note: very thankful). The conference has 250 attendees and another 100 Microsoft staff. I'm in the financial sector and there are people here from across the world, especially europe it seems to me. The size of their organisations is rather greater than my own but we all share similar problems.

I'm struck by a few points in particular.
  • The difficulty to make change in a bank
  • The lack of standards outside of payment instructions
  • The cost of testing
  • The importance of identifying the commercial value.
I'll have to see how the conference progresses to see if there are any significant lessons I can take away.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Movember Sponsorship

It's an off chance - hardly anyone views these posts.... but if anyone does, and it's still the month of November in the year 2006 then please feel free to sponsor me for my November Mo!

You can find all the details here:

It's open to Mo Bro's and Mo Sista's (I'm a Mo Bro of course...). And the idea is we try and get a bit of sponship for ourselves and our teams. To sponsor you just need a creditcard, the link to the sponsor page -, and my rego: 52272.

I promise to post a picture tomorrow, all the team have had pictures taken by the team captain.

Also, keep your eye out for the mo gala festivals - I'll be missing Wellington's (I'll be in Seattle visiting Microsoft and the Strategic Architects Forum 06 thanks to current employer!)

On an off chance...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Banh Xeo

I've had these fantastic filled rice pancakes at restaurants and my wife has enjoyed them in Vietnam - but I've never had success making them.

Whenever I follow the recipes on the net - invariably made with rice flour, coconut milk, tumeric and a touch of salt and sugar - I get a dismal mess. Now, I thought I was alone in this failing, but in fact I'm not. There is a brilliant article on this very sticky problem at Viet World Kitchen ( authored by Andrea Q. Nguyen writing for the Los Angeles Times.

Now Andrea appears to have nutted out the core problem: by adding cooked rice and mung beans to the (uncooked) rice flour batter the extra starch should crisp up the pancake.

Andrea's research in her kitchen showed a couple of tablespoons of cooked rice and a tablespoon of steamed mung beans would do the trick for a rice pancake batter normally made with 1 cup of long grain rice. Just in case the original article is ever lost the essential part of the recipe was:

1 cup long-grain or jasmine rice
2 tablespoons cooked rice, firmly packed
1 tablespoon steamed, ground mung beans, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 green onion, sliced into thin rings ( 1/4 cup)

1. Place the raw rice in a bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for 3 to 4 hours. Drain.
2. Place the soaked rice in a blender with the cooked rice, mung beans, salt, turmeric, coconut milk and water. Blend until very smooth and lemony yellow, about 3 minutes.
3. Pour the batter through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the solids. Stir in the green onion. Set aside. As the batter sits, it will thicken to a consistency like that of heavy cream. Makes 3 cups of batter.

Refer to the link for instructions on soaking and steaming mung beans (basically 2 hours soaking and steam for 8 minutes); and on frying the pancake (basically fry onion, shrimps, pork and mushrooms then add pancake mix then cook about 3 mins covered and then another 3 uncovered to crisp up) .

I've gotta try this!

Report back later...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What's going on here?

I'm constantly asking myself this.

I've walked backwards and forwards past a building site for 3 days. Never seen a level. Never seen a string line.

This morning they'd poured a concrete floor - the women do all the labouring work by the way. (The men seem to stand and watch or handle the power tools.) Everything seems bodged. Concrete block walls are better described as breeze block; there's so many holes in the mortar. I can't figure out if there's a building code or if it's just ignored. I suspect there is but it's just ignored.

Why does the road up to our resort have intermittant footpath? Some of the properties appear to go to the edge of the road surface, and in other sections there's a nice footpath at the side. What sort of legislation and compliance regime operates here? Is there a building inspector?

Where does the sewerage go from the apparently uncontrolled development on Rei Lei? How is storm water managed?

I find myself very doubtful of the integrity and transparency of the governance systems deployed across Thailand. What I'm wondering is how this has occured and what will happen in the future. Hopefully a progressive transition to a better operating model but I'm sure that a lot will be lost along the way.

Broad Beans

Gotta love em... not!

At least not usually, not until yesterday. At lunch yesterday, prior to the usual serving of fried flat rice noodle with topping of vegetables, shrimps and thickened sauce (my staple diet), the restaurant served up a bowl of crispy, deep fried, salted broad beans. These things are good!

A quick check on google shows the recipe to be the fairly obvious one... (repeated from

Vegetable oil for deep-frying
500g freshly podded broad beans

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or deep saucepan.
2. Add the broad beans to the hot oil and fry until lightly coloured.
3. Remove the fried beans using a slotted spoon. Drain on kitchen paper. Season with salt.

Gotta to give it a go when I get back home.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thailand - Incredulous

What an odd place. We've been on holiday for two weeks and I'm confused and amazed.

I'm staying in a 5 star resort with oompa loompas carrying luggage up and down 3 flights of stairs. Shiny purple outfits, long white socks, and black shoes. No lifts but just the sight of these characters hauling 30+kg luggage up and down stairs. Cheers to you oompas!

I walk down the pavement with the trend being people on the right, and yet the cars drive on the left!? This doesn't conform with the way it works in NZ, AU, US.

They drive like complete lunatics and yet whenever parking on a slope they carefully put a brick under the front tyre - even for the numerous brand spanking new Hilux 4wd utes. And just why are so many of the vehicles so new? I couldn't afford one of these back home.

We're walking through Krabi township and an Islamic girl walks by in headress and long sleeve shirt - imprinted with the Playboy motif...

Across the country comes the sound of Hotel California - why, why, why!???

We eat lunch at a small white walled joint with the usual cooking stations out the front. It costs between 25 and 50 baht for lunch, about 1/5th the daily income of many of these people in the room. It's almost nothing to me and yet back home we'd squirm if we had to pay 3x as much on lunch.

Five drinks at a bar with a pool table cost us more than a candlelite, waitered meal by the sea with a 1kg crab selected from the tank and freshly cooked on the spot for us. How on earth does that work?

We go to Rei Lei and visit the Diamond cave. We're the only visitors during our stay - and yet Rei Lei is full of people, bars, guest houses, resorts, posing climbers, mad uncontrolled development, crap stuck in the mangroves, and the general detritus of short term exploitation. The cave was worth the visit.

And Hotel California plays where ever we go...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Artisan Bread Makers Guide

After spending the last 15 mins searching yet again in Google for my favourite pizza dough site, I've got the time and the smarts (for once) to load it on this blog. From now on I will know the link - and maybe you can get some use as well.

And just in case the site ever goes down the essential recipe (as originally adapted from Vincenzo Buonassisi's PIZZA Plus, English Edition, William Collins & Sons Ltd. 1985, who adapted it from the original Italian Edition by Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri, S.p.A., Milan, 1982. ISB 0-00-411202-4... ya da ya da ya da...):

2 tsp dry yeast (14g)
1/4 cup water (59g)
3/4 cup flour (100g)

Let starter work for 1 hour.

7/8th to 1/4 cups water (207 to 296ml) (depending upon desired wetness of dough - refer to site for details)
2 1/4 cups flour (300g)
1 tsp salt (5g)

After kneading leave to double in bulk on floured cotton (100%) canvas.

Cook at high heat on pizza stone or in pizza oven - should be complete in less than 5 mins.

Also, note that the home page is a good jumping off point into other sections as well...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another dark and (slightly) stormy night

But what a great adventure...spotting eels and fish by torch light.

 I've never seen so many fish in a small river before. They were spell bound by the light. With my hand in the water I could attempt to grab them - but the wriggly eels would slip straight out - so very slippery and velvety smooth, but not far. They just hunker down again and hope you've gone away.

What had in the past seemed so ugly and returned such childhood fears, seemed instead quite pretty and so very well set in the background of the dark bush and running river. 

And the little native fish - again we could spot them out: splotchy black and stunned at our arrival. Silly buggers, but smart enough to know to run when I tried to bend down and touch them. They very would very quickly depart.

Back on the 4 wheel bike up and over the boulders on the river bank, through the water then racing past the trees looking out for possums. None seen - lucky for them because the rifle was only a short return trip.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Mental note - fish, leeks, silverbeet

Before I forget, forever here I document.

Warehou/Orange Roughy/Snapper - white, full bodied fish
Marinate in lemon juice

Gently fry in lots of olive the sliced white part of a leek.
Lightly caramalise.
Add bayleaf, maybe thyme and a little (remember little!) bit of chopped basil.
Add white wine and reduce.
Add chopped silverbeet and caper berries.
The chopped up stems are important!
Also - salt - you need this get the right flavour from the silverbeet.
Soften the silverbeet - remember the stems so not too short on the heat.
Add parsley and a small amount of cream and butter.

Add the fish and the remaining lemon juice.
Put a lid on the frying pan.

Just tooooo good...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Robinson Crusoe

It takes me a long time to read anything these days - never enough time. However, I have managed to complete Daniel Defoe's classic Robinson Crusoe. It's pivotal.

Anyhow, I have to share Robinson Crusoe's (Daniel Defoe's) tirade against the spanish. Not that I have anything to say against them - I'm sure you're all a lovely lot. But this certainly says something about the English-Spanish relationship in the early 1600's.

"That this would justify the conduct of the Spaniards in all their barbarities practised in America, and where they destroyed millions of these people; who, however they were in their customs, such as sacrificing human bodies to their idols, were yet, as to the Spaniards, very innocent people; and that the abhorrence and detestation by even the Spaniards themselves at this time, and by all other Christian nations of Europe, as a mere butchery, a bloody and unnatural piece of cruelty, unjustifiable either to God or man; and such, as for which the very name of a Spaniard is reckoned to be frightful and terrible to all people of humanity, or of Christian compassion; as if the kingdom of Spain were particularly eminent for the product of a race of men who were without principles of tenderness, or the common bowels of pity to the miserable, which is reckoned to be a mark of generous temper in the mind."


Friday, August 25, 2006

Hans Rosling

I strongly recommend this presentation at TedTalks - The world is changing and this guys shows how.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Vista 5472 installation

This install has gone well and it's certainly better than the beta 2 but I've still found a couple of annoying points.

The sound doesn't work with the SigmaTel-C driver loaded from the internet. On my Dell Latitude D610 I could only get the right hand speaker to go. Using the Dell AC97 driver for Windows XP resolved that problem.

Secondly, I couldn't get the (unsupported) Microsoft Control panel applet for mounting ISO images to work. Not a problem use Virtual CloneDrive from This works a treat and it's freeware.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ducks do damage

Goldfish gone. Prior to yesterday there were in excess of 30 happily living in the pond. I haven't cared greatly for them. At times the water has leaked out to leave an uncomfortably shallow puddle. I feed them once in a blue moon. But by crikey they survived the last 2 years well enough, at least until last night.

Two ducks swimming in the pool. How nice I thought - nature at play. Oh yes, and then I saw a duck with a large goldfish hanging out of its beak. And now, it seems they're all gone - except for a big one floating under an overhanging bush:(

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Corsair in Kapiti

Didn't see a seal this time, but I did see a Corsair flying over the house. It seems to have taken off from the local airfield in Kapiti. Very loud! There's a good description on the Corsair at

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Seal crosses road

I saw a seal crossing the road today. We were on our way home - it was dark, and cold; a southerly had blown in this morning. And on the wet and windy 4 lanes with cars everywhere was a seal. We all stopped - my daughter said "where? where?? where???", and I stared.

It appeared to have come from the entrance to the Pauatahanui inlet. It must have decided to take a short cut across State Highway 1. Fortunately it appeared to make it intact across the road. A couple of people hopped out to take a look. We decided to move along. My daughter will have exciting news for her return from the school holidays!

Monday, January 30, 2006

What I'd do next time...

OK, I've learnt some lessons over the last couple of weeks.

Firstly, I've realised that in making the oven symmetrical I'm losing too much heat out the door. I can see the reason now that a lot of the ovens pictured on the net appear to be long a la Quebec style. I'd strongly suggest you do the same. The area of even heating I get in my oven is towards the back. So, if you want to fit more in, just extend the back further out.

Secondly, I'd make the walls much thicker. In my case the walls are about 10cm. And yet they are still too hot to touch and they are visibly losing a lot of heat (in the form of steam, convection and radiation - you can see the steam and the heat shimmers). Why lose heat when I could have it better insulated. So make a really thick insulating layer using clay, pumice, vermiculite, straw, whatever.

Finally make the door big enough at the bottom to fit your pizza peel/implements. It's painful squeezing food through a narrow opening.

All that considered - it still has performed far better than expected. I'm really quite impressed at how good an oven it is, and also at how efficient it can be.

Go build one yourself!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pizza day

This went beyond my expectations. I started firing the oven mid-afternoon and 2 hours later the oven was hot and burning well. I then waited for the coals to die down a bit and put in the pizzas - and they were fantastic. I hadn't expected them to turn out as well or for the process to be that easy. We were all impressed. Check the picture...

I learnt a couple of lessons along the way. The initial firing was at times very smokey. As far as I could tell there were a few clear reasons for this.

  • The great amount of moisture being driven off the adobe surround by the fire. Most of this I guess goes upwards and through the roof - but I'm sure a lot goes into the oven chamber and affects the burning process
  • The temperature of the oven surround seems to have a big impact. Once this gets up to the point the black smoke burns off you can sustain a big fire.
  • The difficulty of creating a sustaining flow of air in, and smoke out. I got around this by bending a piece of aluminium sheet into the shape of a tube. This let me provide a clear path for air straight into the burning wood. You can see this in the picture below. (Notice that we put a layer of straw/pumice cob on top of the oven to help insulate it. As far as I can see the thicker this is - the better.)

All in all it was a resounding success. I need to work on a door now. Something to close the entrance sufficiently well I can bake bread.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Earth building guide

Now here's a good guide to earth building. It contains information on clay, sand, cob, lime, cement amongst other materials and how to build with them in the NZ environment - sunny, windy, driving rain, yes the best of weather. Check it out at

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More on the clay oven...

I've roughly speaking finished. I made a sand form using fine beach sand. Covered this with wet newspaper, then piled on the clay/sharp sand mix. I used a 2 clay : 1 sharp sand mix. The sand was a mix of what's called 'CS' and Otaki sands from Placemakers. Basically a sharp sand mix with lots of particles going from less than 1mm through to about 3mm.

Also, check the firewood to ensure it's really dry. I thought the door must still be too small as it appeared to be smoking more than I expected so I filed some more of it away. Only then did I realise the firewood I was not completely dry.

And another lesson: I tried to use a hydrated lime/clay mix to protect the external surface of the oven. My initial attempt has resulted in something far more concrete like than I was expecting. It has deeply cracked during the drying process and left me realising that lime should probably just be applied as a wash. I think I'll have to scrape this stuff off and start again. Check the picture:

Finally, many thanks to Kei Takashima for his blog and for giving me the impetus to get up and give this a go - cheers Kei

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Virtual PC/ Virtual Server hosting on Dell Latitude laptops

I've had a lot of trouble with this on my Dell laptop. I thought I'd share my solution to the problems I was experiencing (slow down then sudden speed up of keyboard entry and screen writes, intermittant response etc). Use a bit of software called SpeedswitchXP from to stop the intel processor from switching power modes. I think these are sometimes called c-states. It works a dream. Virtual PC / Virtual Server become completely usable again. I tend to run it with the settings for maximum cpu speed. Doing this still gives me about 80 minutes on the battery - more than enough time for the trip in or out of work.

Too little sand = cracking

Lesson learnt - I made a rim for the base of the clay oven yesterday. It was mostly clay with just a little sand. Cracked severely as it dried. Check the picture.

The point here is that the clay is supposed to act as a binder for the sand. There should be a lot of sand in the adobe mix from which the oven is constructed.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sony Ericson V800 and GMail POP3 access

Will it sucks - I can't get this going via POP3 and the native email client on the phone. It appears that Google's ssl certificate details aren't recognised by the V800 software. It just spits back "unknown certificate authority". The good news however, is that the google Gmail mobile site works a treat. Try

Clay oven adventures

I've been in the process of creating an earth oven recently. I'm basing it upon the many other sites I've found on the net - try for a great description of how to build it and links to other's sites.

As a result of my dabbling with the local clay I've decided to publish what I've learnt on the net. So... a blog is born.

Thus far I've created the supporting structure for the oven and it's concrete and clay brick base. I used concrete wall capping to create a flat, solid base on top of H3 radiata pine 100x50mm exterior wood. My choice was dictated by the better price on the capping than the concrete pavers at the local diy store. The total area of the base was one square metre.

On top of the concrete I placed about 30mm or so of a sand/clay mix just to form a heat barrier between the clay bricks and the concrete. I figure that the capping pieces will crack if they get subjected to too much heat. On top of which I don't want to burn the H3 protected framing timber. That wouldn't be too cool. Here's a thought - why don't I put an insulating layer of pumice (like vermiculite) between the concrete capping and the heat retaining layer supporting the bricks?

Anyhow - as for the clay - here in Wellington, New Zealand, we have plenty of yellow clay. I've noticed that some of the clay I've collected acts differently to others. The best so far seems to be from the side of the narrow back road heading over the hill from Plimmerton to SH1. This seems to form a very elastic goey clay when soaked with water. I've mixed some coarse sand in and heated it in a friends chimera over drinks on New Years eve - sintered quite nicely. Even has a pinkish appearance to it.

Here's a picture of progress thus far...(the strange wood uprights are to hold a roof - I can't think of what to make of yet - not sure how high the flames will reach!)