Tuesday, May 27, 2008

push mower

Purchased a push mower, via Bunnings for $79.

The anticipated benefits were to be the simplicity of it all, no characteristic loud noise and foul smell, no need for fuel, and lots of happy eco points.

Assembled it. Mowed with it.

The result is a somewhat disappointing experience. During the inaugural mow the blades kept jamming on thick patches of lush grass. By the time I finished doing the small back yard, front yard, and nature strip by the road was feeling pretty sweaty and slightly mucho, which were unintended consequences.

On reflection maybe I should have gotten a mains powered electric mower - there is a lesson here. Maybe it was so much work and frustration because the lawn was too neglected and thick for a maiden attempt with such a sensitive device. Maybe if done with good frequency then it would be easier with better results.

Also after completing some assembly I postponed the tightening of screws on the handle bars assembly, and the nuts had come off at some point during use without the result becoming known until too late. Now there is a spare parts issue to sort out.

[Revision 20080821 : no regrets, this was a good choice]

[Revision 20081223 : Regrets. Lack of maintenance? Grass too out of hand? I don't know. I tried sharpening the blades but they keep jamming with grass. I give up. It seems to take more energy or a different kind of movement then what this device applies. I do not accept mowing as a high maintenance issue. At this point I think that I will either purchase some 2 stroke fuel for the stored conventional mower or try an electric unit - not sure yet. The push mower, the lump of mostly steel, is going in the garbage. Lesson learned.]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Green Fire by Ian Cohen conversion to ebook via scan OCR PDF

Green Fire by Ian CohenA few weeks ago Ian and I started talking about the idea of digitizing his book. After describing the feasibility of the project and making it available free of charge as a PDF, he agreed that it was a good idea and gave the go-ahead.

The project followed these steps:
  • take a copy of the book and guillotine off the spine
  • scan: feed the book into an office multi function scanner via ADF, set for double sided scanning, 300dpi, TIF, b/w optimized for text, A5; the machine processed them in under 1 hour in several batches
  • pages with photos were individually scanned as color JPG; this was slightly more fiddly then the above
  • photoshop photo pages; crop, optimize contrast, clean up, save as greyscale or color
  • OCR: I used Tesseract from Google; once I got the process down pat I made a custom shell script which contained a tesseract command for each page/TIF, times the number of files to be processed; this took maybe half hour on my slow PC
  • assemble the text files and photos into a document; this process took about one morning, not counting fiddling
  • edit: make the new text presentable, insert an automated table of contents with the use of headings, correct OCR errors, change indents and quotes for consistency; this took about 2 weeks part time
  • save as pdf; I used OpenOffice Writer for the above step, which also allows the pdf conversion to dial up or down the photo compression and turn a native 20Mb file into 3.5Mb

Incidentally, this project started after I started reading my autographed copy of the book.

Green Fire is a first hand account into activism and the Australian green movement which now spans decades. The chapter about The Politics of Poo was especially humorous. I am a total noob to all of it for reasons outside of the scope of this blog entry, but the book is probably a must read for any Australians interested in protest actions.

Download the book via iancohennsw.blogspot.com