Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Introducing Snap Shots from Snap.com

I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Greenpeace - Making Waves: Blogger arrested - blog him out of jail!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Free software, mostly Open Source I found today

Mostly LAN tools:

For teachers and schools:
Which Open Source applications are available that cost nothing and are the equivalent to proprietary PC programs? The list below should help:

Microsoft Internet Explorer ===> Firefox , SeaMonkey and Opera
Microsoft Office suite ===> Open Office suite. More specifically,

In addition Open Office provides OO Math, OO Draw, and OO Base

MS Outlook or Outlook Express ===> Thunderbird
MS Access, Filemaker Pro ===> Open Office Base
MSN Messanger ===> Gaim
Microsoft Money, Quicken ===> Grisbi and GnuCash
Photoshop, Paint, Corel Draw, Paint Shop Pro ===> Gimp, Paint.NET and CinePaint
Corel Draw, Illustrator or Freehand ===> Inkscape
Adobe After Effects ===> Jahshaka
Windows Media Player ===> VLC and MPlayer
MS MovieMaker, FinalCutPro, Adobe Premiere ===> Avidemux and VirtualDub
Macromedia Flash ===> OpenLazlo and OO Impress
Macromedia Captivate ===> CamStudio
Mind Manager ===> FreeMind
Kid Pix ===> Tux Paint
MS Visio ===> Dia, inkscape, starUML and OO Draw
Dreamweaver ===> NVU, SeaMonkey's Composer, Amaya and KompoZer
MS Publisher, PageMaker or Adobe InDesign ===> Scribus
Microsoft Projects ===> OpenWorkbench and GanttProject
Adobe Acrobat ===> PDFCreator and SumatraPDF
Blackboard, WebCT ===> Moodle
McAfee Virus Scan ===> ClamWin and Winpooch
MS Office Clip Art ===> OpenClipArt
Nero Burning Rom, Roxio Record Now ===> Infrarecorder and CDRDAO
SASIxp ===> SchoolTool
MS FTP Server ===> FileZilla
Symantec Norton Ghost ===> g4u
Symantec Norton Partition Magic ===> gparted
VMWare ===> Virtual Box, Xen and CoLinux

Other applications worth considering:

Audacity: a sound editing program which can record, playback, and mix sounds or apply effects using a variety of filters. It's an Open Source alternative to Adobe Audition

Celestia: a simulation of the entire universe, based on current astronomical information.

Juice: a cross-platform aggregator application that is used to download podcast media files, such as oggs and mp3s.

Stellarium: a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D.

GCompris: educational software which propose different activities to children from 2 to 10 years old.

Childsplay: a suite of educational games for young children.

Gramps: free genealogy program

Blender: a free open source 3D content creation suite, to model, shade,animate, render and compose interactive 3D graphics. See also PovRay.

If you are looking for a place to find open source software alternatives to well-known commercial software, visit http://www.osalt.com/.
Just for fun - Animation:



Sunday, June 15, 2008

Absolutely New Zealand Shop - Review

Yum.sg Restaurants - Absolutely New Zealand is the review I did, but I decided to put it here too.

About the restaurant:
Brightly lit 'deli' kind of shop which spelt nice. Has an outside seating area which is soon to become completely covered.. At the moment the shop is also a cafe, so you can get all sorts of New Zealand snacks and drinks as well as buy products you have eaten.

Ordered Food:
Lamb wrap with spicy sauce. Came with kiwi puff crisps (by Bluebird). The wrap was a basil flavoured one and the lamb had salad with it as well. My girlfriend had the blue cheese and salmon quiche served with a salad. We both drank L&P. The drink is a kiwi soft drink made in Paeroa and has a lemon flavour - very unique and refreshing [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paeroa].

My verdict:
Both meals were delicious! Excellent, friendly service and I could buy some of my favourite New Zealand biscuits, L&P, Whittaker's peanut slab chocolate, and some sauces. Excellent. Will recommend it to everyone I know! 

Here is their website: http://absolutelynz.com.sg/index.htm 

My personal website: http://gravesdylan.googlepages.com/

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

RSS Feeds for Google Page Creator

I have just added a RSS feed to my googlepages site. This is what I had do:

Copy Web address of site
Go to www.feedburner.com and sign in
Add web address and burn...
Find XML code, copy it all and paste into text editor (notepad), save as news.txt
Close news.txt
Find news.txt in Windows Explorer and rename to news.xml
Go to Page Creator site manager, upload the news.xml file

Now add this Html code to any web page in your site and it will display an orange RSS icon up in the address bar:

<link rel="alternate" title="Dashboard Lineup RSS" href="http://yoursite.googlepages.com/news.xml"type="application/rss+xml" />

Save and Publish + test

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Compressed earth block - from Wikipedia

Compressed Earth Block often referred to simply as CEB, are a type of manufactured construction material formed in a mechanical press that forms an appropriate mix of dirt, non-expansive clay, and an aggregate into a compressed block. Creating CEBs differs from rammed earth in that the latter uses a larger formwork into which earth is poured and tamped down, creating larger forms such as a whole wall or more at one time. CEB blocks are installed onto the wall by hand and a slurry made of a soupy version of the same dirt/clay mix, sans aggregate, is spread or brushed very thinly between the blocks for bonding. There is no use of mortar in the traditional sense. (This is not necessarily true for vertical presses, see link at bottom of page)

The advance of CEB into the construction industry has been driven by manufacturers of the mechanical presses, a small group of eco-friendly contractors and by cultural acceptance of the medium in areas where it is seen as superior to adobe. In the United States, most general contractors building with CEB are in the Southwestern states: New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, and to a lesser extent in Texas. However, manufacturers of the mechanical presses enjoy their heaviest sales overseas. Mexico and Third World countries have been attractive markets for the presses for years.

The advantages of CEB are in the wait time for material, the elimination of shipping cost, the low moisture content, and the uniformity of the block thereby minimizing, if not eliminating the use of mortar and decreasing both the labor and materials costs.

  • CEB can be pressed from humid earth. Because it is not wet, the drying time is much shorter. Some soil conditions permit the blocks to go straight from the press onto the wall. A single mechanical press can produce from 800 to over 5,000 blocks per day, enough to build a 1200 sq ft house in one day.
  • Shipping cost: Suitable soils are often available at or near the construction site. Adobe and CEB are of similar weight, but distance from a source supply gives CEB an advantage. Also, CEB can be made available in places where adobe manufacturing operations are non-existent.
  • Uniformity: CEB can be manufactured to a predictable size and has true flat sides and 90-degree angle edges. This makes design and costing easier. This also provides the contractor the option of making the exteriors look like conventional stucco houses.

CEB had very limited use prior to the 1980s. It was known in the 1950s in South America, where the Cinva Ram was developed by a Columbian engineer. The Cinva Ram is a lever-action, manual press that makes one block at a time.

U.S. manufacturers produce much larger machines that run with diesel or gasoline engines and hydraulic presses that receive the soil/aggregate mixture through a hopper. This is fed into a chamber to create a block that is then ejected onto a conveyor.

During the 1980s, soil-pressing technology became widespread. France, England, Germany and Switzerland began to write standards. The Peace Corps, USAID, Habitat for Humanity and other programs began to implement it into housing projects.

Construction method is simple. Less skilled labor is required; wall construction can be done with unskilled labor encouraging self-sufficiency and community involvement. If the blocks are stabilized with cement and/or fly ash, they can be used as bricks and assembled using standard masonry techniques of brick-laying.

Soil mix conditions: The soil mix is 15-40 percent non-expansive clay, 25-40 percent silt powder, and sharp sand to small gravel content of 40-70 percent. The more modern machines do not require aggregate (rock) to make a strong soil block for most applications. Soil moisture content ranges from 4 to 12 percent by weight. Clay with a plasticity index (PI) of up to 25 or 30 would be acceptable for most applications. The PI of the mixed soil (clay, silt and sand/gravel combined) should not exceed 12 to 15; that is the difference between the Upper and Lower Atterburg Limits, as determined by laboratory testing.

Other advantages:

  • Non-toxic: materials are completely natural and do not out-gas toxic chemicals
  • Sound resistant: an important feature in high-density neighborhoods, residential areas adjacent to industrial zones
  • Fire resistant: earthen walls do not burn
  • Insect resistant: the walls are solid and very dense, discouraging insects
  • Mold resistant: there is no cellulose material - such as in wood, Oriented Strand Board or drywall - that can host mold

Completed walls require either a reinforced bond beam or a ring beam on top or between floors (8')and if the blocks are unstabilized, a plaster finish, usually stucco wire/stucco cement and or lime plaster. Stabilized blocks create a brick wall that if properly stabilized can be left exposed with no outer plaster finish.

Foundations: Standards for foundations are similar to those for brick walls. A CEB wall is heavy. Footings must be at last 10 inches thick, with a minimum width that is 33 percent greater than the wall width. If a stem wall is used, it shall extend to an elevation not less than eight inches above the exterior finish grade. Rubble-filled foundation trench designs with a reinforced concrete grade beam above are allowed to support CEB construction.

CEB's strongest market in the USA is probably New Mexico, which has incorporated the method into its Earthbuilding Code family. The first CEB Code Development meeting in New Mexico took place Dec. 12, 2001. The persons present at that meeting are considered today the leading experts in the field. They include:

  • Fermin Aragon, general bureau chief of the Construction Industries Division for Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Joe M. Tibbets, publisher of Adobe Builder Trade Publications, Bosque, New Mexico
  • Larry Elkins, Adobe International Inc., Milan, New Mexico
  • Jim Hallock, Earth Block Inc., Pagosa Springs, Colo.
  • Lawrence Jetter, A.E.C.T., San Antonio, Texas
  • Jim Hands, P.E., Red Mountain Engineering, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Todd Swanson, Bio-Hab Inc., Hesperus, Colo.
  • Joaquim Karcher, architect, Taos, New Mexico

Code work was completed June 10, 2002 and melded into New Mexico's new section, R1100 Earthen Building Materials.

The CEB code is different from the adobe code in numerous respects. For instance, the CEB code allows slip mortars and permits blocks ejected from a press to go directly to the wall.

CEB Strength: Using the ASTM D1633-00 stabilization standard, a pressed and cured block must be submerged in water for four hours. It is then pulled from the water and immediately subjected to a compression test. The blocks must score at least a 300 pound-force per square inch (p.s.i) (2×106 Pa) minimum. This is a higher standard than for adobe, which must score an average minimum of 300 p.s.i. (2×106 Pa)

It must be emphasized that the compressive strength minimums for code compliance are nothing like the true strength of CEB blocks. New Mexico only sought to assure that CEB would be at least as strong as adobe.

The blocks are strong! CEB can have a compressive strength as high as 2,000 pounds per square inch (13.7×106 Pa). Blocks with compressive strengths of 1,200 (8.27×106 Pa) to 1,400 p.s.i. (9.65×106 Pa) are common.

Thermal advantages: Also, due to the enormous mass - these are monolithic walls - CEB has excellent thermal performance, reducing heating and cooling costs.

Thermal testing: From May 31 to June 3, 2004, the Biology Dept. of Southwest Texas Junior College, Del Rio, Texas, conducted tests for thermal change on three structures: concrete block, adobe and compressed earth block.

Results indicate the interior temperature of the adobe and CEB modules were significantly lower than for concrete blocks.

Adobe - from Wikipedia

Adobe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Composition of adobe

An adobe brick is made of clay mixed with water and an organic material such as straw or dung. The soil composition typically contains clay and sand. Straw is useful in binding the brick together and allowing the brick to dry evenly. Dung offers the same advantage and is also added to repel insects. The mixture is roughly half sand (50%), one-third clay (35%), and one-sixth straw (15%).

Adobe bricks

Bricks are made in an open frame, 25 cm (10 inches) by 36 cm (14 inches) being a reasonable size, but any convenient size is acceptable. The mixture is molded by the frame, and then the frame is removed quickly. After drying a few hours, the bricks are turned on edge to finish drying. Slow drying in shade reduces cracking.

The same mixture to make bricks, without the straw, is used for mortar and often for plaster on interior and exterior walls. Some ancient cultures used lime-based cement for the plaster to protect against rain damage.

The brick's thickness is preferred partially due to its thermal capabilities, and partially due to the stability of a thicker brick versus a more standard size brick. Depending on the form that the mixture is pressed into, adobe can encompass nearly any shape or size, provided drying time is even and the mixture includes reinforcement for larger bricks. Reinforcement can include manure, straw, cement, rebar or wooden posts. Experience has shown that straw, cement, or manure added to a standard adobe mixture can all produce a strong brick. A general testing is done on the soil content first. To do so, a sample of the soil is mixed into a clear container with some water, creating an almost completely saturated liquid. After the jar is sealed the container is shaken vigorously for at least one minute. It is then allowed to sit on a flat surface until the soil sediment has either collected on the bottom or remained a blended liquid. If the sediment collects on the bottom, that indicates there is a high clay content and is good for adobe. If the mixture remains a liquid, then there is little clay in the soil and using it would yield weak bricks.

The largest structure ever made from adobe (bricks) was the Bam Citadel, which suffered serious damage (up to 80%) by an earthquake on December 26, 2003. Other large adobe structures are the Huaca del Sol in Peru, with 100 million signed bricks, the ciudellas of Chan Chan and Tambo Colorado, both in Peru.

Thermal properties

An adobe wall can serve as a significant heat reservoir. A south-facing (in the Northern Hemisphere) adobe wall may be left uninsulated to moderate heating and cooling. Ideally, it should be thick enough to remain cool on the inside during the heat of the day but thin enough to transfer heat through the wall during the evening. The exterior of such a wall can be covered with glass to increase heat collection. In a passive solar home, this is called a Trombe wall. Adobe has a relatively dense thermal mass, and is most useful in tropical climates. In temperate climates it is less effective to heat a structure this way due to heat leaching by the ground and walls.

Adobe wall construction

When building an adobe structure, the ground should be compressed because the weight of adobe bricks is significantly greater than a frame house and may cause cracking in the wall. The footing is dug and compressed once again. Footing depth depends on the region and its ground frost level. The footing and stem wall are commonly 24" and 14", much larger than a frame house because of the weight of the walls. Adobe bricks are laid by course. Each course is laid the whole length of the wall, overlapping at the corners on a layer of adobe mortar. Adobe walls usually never rise above 2 stories because they're load bearing and have low structural strength. When placing window and door openings, a lintel is placed on top of the opening to support the bricks above. Within the last courses of brick, bond beams are laid across the top of the bricks to provide a horizontal bearing plate for the roof to distribute the weight more evenly along the wall. To protect the interior and exterior adobe wall, finishes can be applied, such as mud plaster, whitewash or stucco. These finishes protect the adobe wall from water damage, but need to be reapplied periodically, or the walls can be finished with other nontraditional plasters providing longer protection.

Adobe roof

The traditional adobe roof has been generally constructed using a mixture of soil/clay, water, sand, and other available organic materials. The mixture was then formed and pressed into wood forms producing rows of dried, earth bricks that would then be laid across a support structure of wood and plastered into place with more adobe. For a deeper understanding of adobe, one might examine a cob building. Cob, a close cousin to adobe, contains proportioned amounts of soil, clay, water, manure, and straw. This is blended, but not formed like adobe. Cob is spread and piled around a frame and allowed to air dry for several months before habitation. Adobe, then, can be described as dried bricks of cob, stacked and mortared together with more adobe mixture to create a thick wall and/or roof.

Roof materials

Depending on the materials available, a roof can be assembled using lengths of wood or metal to create a frame work to begin layering adobe bricks. Depending on the thickness of the adobe bricks, the frame work has been performed using a steel framing and a layering of a metal fencing or wiring over the framework to allow an even load as masses of adobe are spread across the metal fencing like cob and allowed to air dry accordingly. This method was demonstrated with an adobe blend heavily impregnated with cement to allow even drying and prevent major cracking.

Traditional adobe roof

More traditional adobe roofs were often flatter than the familiar steeped roof as the native climate yielded more sun and heat than mass amounts of snow or rain that would find use in precipitous roofs. Moisture, however, is often foe to a composite of mud and organic matter, so the introduction of cement is often more common to help ward off any undue water damage. It is at this turn that sense is required before the construction of any adobe is begun, be sure that the location for such a structure is similar to the climate it naturally comes from, that is, a hot, arid climate. Cool and moist climates would do well with moisture precautions planned out.

Raising a traditional adobe roof

To raise a flattened adobe roof, beams of wood or metal should be assembled and span the extent of the building. The ends of the beams should then be fixed to the tops of the walls using the builder's preferred choice of attachments. Taking into account the material the beams and walls are made from, choosing the attachments may prove difficult. In combination to the bricks and adobe mortar that are laid across the beams creates an even load-bearing pressure that can last for many years depending on attrition. Once the beams are laid across the building, it is then time to begin the placing of adobe bricks to create the roof. An adobe roof is often laid with bricks slightly larger in width to ensure a larger expanse is covered when placing the bricks onto the beams. This wider shape also provides the future homeowner with thermal protection enough to stabilize an even temperature through out the year. Following each individual brick should be a layer of adobe mortar, recommended to be at least an inch thick to make certain there is ample strength between the brick's edges and also to provide a relative moisture barrier during the seasons where the arid climate does produce rain.


Adobe roofs can be inherently fire-proof, an attribute well received when the fireplace is kept lit during the cold nights, depending on the materials used. This feature leads the homeowner and builders to begin thinking about the installation of a chimney, a feat regarded as a necessity in any adobe building. The construction of the chimney can also greatly influence the construction of the roof supports, creating an extra need for care in choosing the right materials. An adobe chimney can be made from simple adobe bricks and stacked in similar fashion as the surrounding walls. Basically outline the location and perimeter of the hearth, minding the safety elements common to a fireplace, and begin to stack and mortar the walls with pre-made adobe bricks, cut to size.