Hugh Blemings's Blog

Hugh Blemings's Blog, A Diary and Miscellaneous ramblings

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    Thu, 05 Jun 2014

    A new page...

    Thanks for dropping by! I've recently setup a new blog & homepage at Enjoy! :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Mon, 25 Jan 2010

    #nocleanfeed matters to you...

    Facebook and social networking sites are an odd medium - like many I'm fortunate enough to have a wide circle of friends and family represented under my "Friends" tab. Hence they make it easy to reach out to people with minimal effort.

    I view spam on Facebook or the Blogosphere as just as unwelcome as it is in email or written form (remember paper chain letters ? :) So I choose carefully when it comes to promoting a cause or an issue...

    The Australian Governments proposed Internet filter is a Bad Thing (TM) for everyone, not just people who work with computers routinely as I do.

    Indeed for those that possess some technical ability as I would modestly claim to it's less of an issue - we know how to route around it without too much ado. This is much more an issue for the day to day user who lacks the skills to circumvent such filtering.

    Where it is a common issue for all Australians is that it will cost us money and achieve nothing worthwhile.

    For our friends in other countries it is also a threat by way of the potential to set precedent. A nominal democracy like Australia adopting Internet Censorship is a very different animal than in countries that are not not known for their freedoms.

    Please, all of you, take a moment to read the background material at and if you are so inclined, take the various steps outlined to show your disapproval of the proposed legislation.

    I commend the initiative to you.

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    Sat, 09 May 2009

    First Free-DMX-RX Code Drop

    For the last few months I've been working sporadically on an Arduino/ATMega168 based DMX dimmer project. Going to plan, the end result will be a compact (~50mm x 22mm) PCB that provides four PWM based dimmer circuits (think 1 Watt RGBW LEDs...) with the firmware and hardware design released under the GPL and TAPR OHL respectively.

    There were a few DMX Transmitter/controller projects out there but I'd not been able to find a receiver that was both an open design and physically small. So figured would be fun to build one myself and learn the gEDA tools along the way. Was also rather inspired by what Bdale and Keith and friends are up to even if the end result is quite different!

    I'm still finalising both the hardware/PCB layout and the software but what I've dropped today ought be enough to allow those interested to tinker. At this stage the plan is that free-dmx-rx will be one of the projects in Practical Arduino. Will blog new code drops as I do them in the meantime.

    [/hacking] permanent link

    Fri, 13 Mar 2009

    root@canonical:~# adduser hugh

    I've been fortunate to have a nice break, plenty of time to consider options and recharge batteries. Even got some embedded hardware and software design done, more on that presently. But now it's time to get back to work...

    Monday (16/3/9) will be my first day at Canonical, I'm going to be working as part of Pete Graner's kernel group growing Canonical's engineering presence in Asia Pacific. We're fortunate to have a number of hardware partner in the region and want to be better placed to work with them.

    I'm quite excited about the new gig, will mean a bit of travel which can be a mixed blessing, but on the upside working with a great team, both folk that are new to me and some old friends too :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Fri, 30 Jan 2009 2009

    Was fortunate enough to attend again this year and it remains my favourite Free Software centric event. For me it's a great mix of technical and social happenings - as I joked to a couple of folk it's good that we have such events or we'd never get the whole family together!

    All involved did a great job, the organisers having made nice tweaks to what has become quite a well established and successful formula. I particularly appreciated the availability of decent espresso in the main conference venue :)

    During the miniconfs I alternated between the Kernel, Business/Legal and Free as in Freedom tracks and found some good food for thought in both. That as a community we are attracting talented people from disciplines outside Computer Science/Engineering to our ranks is a great thing.

    Thursday right after lunch I co-presented a session with Jon Oxer on hardware hacking with the Arduino. It seemed to go over pretty well though we both noted things we'd do differently next time. It was the first time I'd worked with Jon on a session and it was a delight to work with him - sharp guy and boundless ideas.

    Thursday afternoon I presented "Tricks of the Trade: Learning Free Software Hacking from Clever People" - a session based on what I'd learned from working with smart folk in the community and the guys at OzLabs. I'd presented similar sessions in the past which had gone very well but this time around it didn't quite flow as I'd have liked. Not helped it seemed by me forgetting not to mumble and some connectivity issues that hosed a couple of the planned demos. Have some thoughts on how to re-work should I do it again though - we live and learn :)

    Friday morning was humbling for me - Linux Australia announced the Community Recognition Awards at Janet Hawtin and Alli Russell received awards for their work in the community in Graphics Design and Speaker Liaison for LCA respectively, thoroughly deserved both.

    I was completely caught by surprise when it was announced that I was the third recipient, the endorsement reading "For helping build and maintain the Linux Australia and IBM relationship in support of over the past 10 years"

    I've been fortunate enough to be involved one way or another with CALU/LCA since it's inception. Over the years I've been an attendee, speaker, general volunteer, company representative and occasional sounding board for the organisers and have been delighted to have had such a broad involvement in an event I enjoy so much.

    Guess I just saw it as doing my bit but to have it recognised by my friends and colleagues in the community just blew me away. I don't think I managed to string anything terribly coherent together at the time so will re-iterate my thanks here :)

    Chris was kind enough to send a photo.

    Last but by no means least, props for Arjen, Paul et. al. for taking the initiative to setup and distributing stickers for same at the conf.

    See you all Wellington :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Thu, 04 Dec 2008

    Bye Bye Big Blue

    After nearly eight years at IBM, I finished up with the Linux Technology Centre last Friday (28/11).

    What's next ? Some time off for school holidays with my family then will see what the new year brings - it'll be OSS/Linux related though on current plans :)

    Deciding to leave is one of the hardest decisions I've made, IBM was a great gig and provided the opportunity to work with some astonishingly bright folk both within IBM and in the broader Open Source community. It was also the source of many happy memories and I'm pleased to have left on a good note.

    The nice thing about OSS work though is that I still get to interact with many of the same people just from a different standpoint, so this is more the end of a chapter than the end of the story. In some respects this made it easier to decide to go, but I'll miss the office banter :)

    2008 has also proven to be a tumultuous year personally and this weighed in the decision making. So all considered, some time off is sounding good...

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    Thu, 24 Jul 2008

    Ottawa Linux Symposium Presentation

    Thankyou to the folk that attended my presentation at OLS this afternoon, a good crowd and some excellent suggestions from the audience.

    As I mentioned in the talk, I've put my slides up here and have made some additions based on discussions during and after the session. Starting to think this might be worth putting in a Wiki or sommet like that.

    Thanks again to the folk here at the conference, those around the OzLabs lunch table and from elsewhere that contributed :)

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    Mon, 23 Jun 2008


    Stop me if you've heard this one...

    fdupes is one of those delightful utilities that you quickly wonder how you got along without. "All" it does is, given a directory or set of directories, tells you what files are duplicates. Firstly by an md5 sum then for matches by a byte by byte comparison.

    In my case I needed to rationalise our photo collection a bit as I had too many directories named things like sort-later-dont-delete/ which contained photos already dealt with. Of course as fdupes makes use of md5 sums I would also catch photos that had been renamed.

    It's got some nice options for dealing with symbolic and hard links (optimise your kernel trees anyone ?) and appears to handle large file sets efficiently. Team it with xargs and you've got a pretty formidable little tool (or an unintentionally empty home directory if you're careless I guess :)

    [/hacking] permanent link

    Tue, 10 Jun 2008


    Our "prototype" is no longer a prototype - it has a name, a photo and somewhere to get one :)

    Big thanks to everyone who has worked on this so tirelessly - all the good oil is here.

    [/diary] permanent link

    Mon, 31 Mar 2008

    A little rant

    So courtesy of a failed firmware flash we need to access some debugging pins on a bit of hardware here. Initial prognosis was that it's a dual in line 60 way connector - two rows of 30 pins, 2mm pin spacing. Unusual, but not that odd - laptop ATA drives are 2mm spacing for example.

    However, have now just realised that while the row spacing is 2mm, the "column" pitch is 0.1" (2.54mm) which makes it a very odd animal indeed. Thankfully we only need two signals plus ground off this puppy so can stick some wires in to get at them, but, sheesh, why mix standards!

    Ok, I'm better now, thanks for listening.

    [/diary] permanent link

    Mon, 28 Jan 2008 Day 0 & 1

    Arrived in Melbourne Sunday afternoon for in time to see Rusty and Kelly do their Newcomers to lca session. Really worthwhile - I dunno why we didn't think to do it earlier. The group of 50 or so then retired to a nearby bar where Rusty kindly bought a round of beers (no, really!) to kick things off

    Bumped into some familar faces which was nice but also met some new ones including Johann who had come from Iceland to attend the conference. Ended up having dinner with him, Chris, Matt and a few other folk - most agreeable.

    Monday wandered up to the rego area to get a few things organised - we'd sent a couple of POWER6 boxes down for the guys to use for video transcoding. Unfortunately after much poking around we had to conclude one of them had been trashed in transit as it wouldn't go past the first level of initialisation before the management console said no dice. Service call placed...

    Sat in on a bit of the Wireless Mini-conf sessions, few interesting things there, then spent the rest of the day remonstrating with the broken server and chatting with people - the latter was lovely :)

    Took off from the conference late afternoon to meet up with Debbie, friend of the family that stayed with us for a while and is now living down here. Pretty much Rachael's de-facto older sister. Was great to catch up with Deb and hear how well things are going.

    Dinner was noteworthy - Deb's a vegetarian so we went to the Vegetarian Nirvana Cafe in Richmond (Stop 21 on Tramline 75 IIRC) We ordered Samosas for entree, Shari Paneer, Navaratan Kofta, Garlic Rofi Chanai and Basmati Rice for mains then finished up with Gulab Jamun and Halava for dessert. It was one of the most delicious meals I have ever had. Indian cuisine, friendly service and I-am-speechless, wonderful wonderful flavours! Go there before you leave Melbourne.

    Been nice to be back in Melbourne, I'd forgotten just how nice it is down here, much more my cup of tea than Sydney if I were to choose big cities.

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    Tue, 15 Jan 2008

    Detaching Kernel Drivers w/libusb

    Done some tinkering with libusb this last week or so in order to get the USBmicro boards that Jeremy and I bought going.

    More on the reason for the tinkering later but in the process I discovered the kernels HID driver happily seizes the device on plugin - not unreasonable as the device identifies itself as a HID device.

    After unsuccessfully going down the route of trying to tell the kernel HID driver to ignore it, I found that libusb has a couple of functions that are intended to deal with this very situation.

    It may be poor reading of the docs or search skills on my part, but I wasn't able to find a definitive reference on how to actually use them, so here's the sequence that worked for me, edited for brevity:

        struct usb_bus          *bus_list;
        struct usb_device       *dev = NULL;
        struct usb_dev_handle   *handle;
            /* Look for the first u4xx device we can find then try and open */
        if((dev = find_u4xx(bus_list)) == NULL) {
            return NULL; 
            /* Try and get a handle to the device */
        if((handle = usb_open(dev)) == NULL) {
            return NULL;
            /* The kernel's HID driver will seize the USBMicro device as it
               says it's a HID device - we need to tell the kernel to 
               let go of it */
        if (usb_detach_kernel_driver_np(handle, 0) < 0) {
              /* If this fails, usually just means that no kernel driver
                 had attached itself to the device so just ignore/warn */
            /* Set the configuration */
        if(usb_set_configuration(handle, 1) != 0) {
            return NULL;
            /* Clain interface - gather would need to this for each
               interface if the device has more than one */
        if (usb_claim_interface(handle, 0) != 0) {
            return NULL;
        /* etc. etc. */

    I'll post the actual code shortly, want to clean it up a wee bit first. It'll end up here but I'll post to that effect when it's up.

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    Sat, 29 Sep 2007

    Press for our Prototype

    A press release for our machine just went up on to coincide with the developer conference in Austin this week.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Willoughby Photography :)

    Brian, Nathan, Ian, Dave, Kaveh and a cast of many put in some hard graft to have the machine ready - the box they demoed was one of the production prototypes so is very close to what will be available. Other thing that is nice is it's using an open source driver for the XGI card, only the card init is done through x86 emulation code running in the bootloader.

    Thanks to the folk that wrote after my earlier post, will be staying in touch as we get closer to availability.

    [/diary] permanent link

    Mon, 24 Sep 2007

    Cheap Embedded Ethernet

    I'm always interested in cheap ways of getting small embedded devices onto an Ethernet network. For some time now the cheapest options seemed to have bottomed out at the USD$40 mark (chip + magnetics + PCB ready to go) or so. Still not quite at the point where you'd sprinkle a dozen around the place and not think twice about it.

    An article in this month's Circuit Cellar magazine about the WIZnet devices caught my eye. The chips in question are about USD$4 or you can get various eval boards starting from USD$12 for chip + magnetics + PCB. This is low volume pricing - one to ten pieces!

    A quick dig through the data sheet of the part in question (iEthernet W5100) yielded the following;

    • SPI and MCU Bus interface options
    • Integrated 10/100 Ethernet MAC and PHY
    • Inbuilt TCP/IP stack
    • Onboard RAM for TX/RX buffers or "Socket" buffers

    From an API standpoint you basically get a set of memory addressable registers where you set things like MAC address, IP address, Netmask and Gateway etc. Another part of the register space lets you configure the "Socket" mode where you can set the chip up to run as a TCP Client or Server. When a connection comes in you get an interrupt and take things from there.

    On an initial read through they really do seem to have done the heavy lifting so you can read/write bytes from a socket (or UDP) connection as trivially as you would a simple UART.

    Have added one of their boards to my "Buy and poke at" list, will write up what I discover once I get started on it. Must admit to a couple of other things needing sorting first tho, so feel free to beat me to it... :)

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    Sun, 05 Aug 2007

    One of our prototypes is missing

    Finally catching up on things so a few words about OLS this year. A highlight for me was a BoF we ran for Linux on POWER - we had Freescale, PASemi, Terrasoft Solutions and Sony there in force along with our own little display.

    Our own little display ended up being a bit of a story in it's own right. For some time now I've been working with some colleagues to get a viable, low cost PowerPC developer workstation out, kinda filling the gap left by Apple's move to Intel.

    Thursday night was to be our big debut but, alas, we were thwarted and our machine spent the evening of the BoF in the no doubt salubrious surrounds of a bonded warehouse at Toronto airport. Improvisation was the key so an appropriately labelled cardboard box was pressed into service...

    Happily the next day it made it to Ottawa and the OLS guys kindly let us show it off anyway.

    Thanks to Brian Cwikla for these photos, RGB has a few up from the BoF here as well.

    So the long and short of the box is that it's a four way PPC970MP design (that's two chips, two cores per chip) clocked at 2.5GHz with a coupla gigs of 667MHz DDR2 RAM, Hard disk, XGI XP-10 Graphics (Open source drivers - suweeet!) which we plan on having out toward the end of the year. We expect it to be quiet enough to be able to sit under your desk without driving you nuts. I want one myself and I hate noisy machines so I'm kinda pushing this angle :)

    We're still finalising how we will get them out into the market since it's a limited production run, but we're aiming to have them on people's doorsteps at a hacker friendly price. FWIW you can send me an email and I'll make sure you get updates.

    The BoF was lots of fun and to my thinking the rest of OLS was as good as ever, great technical content and always nice to catchup with friends in the community too.

    [/diary] permanent link

    Mon, 21 May 2007

    And Lo, he was named Drake

    We've been contemplating getting another cat, a companion for our Tortoiseshell, Duck, for some time now. We found a delightful kitten at the RSPCA on Sunday which we brought home, bringing with it the heady responsibility of selecting a name.

    I happened to mention this most serious of decisions over lunch today and the ever practical mpe gave us the obvious solution - "Drake".

    And that was that :)

    Duck, if you're curious, was named by Rachael after a childrens book she was reading at the time, "Duckcat". The storyline revolves around a Duck that thinks it's a Cat...

    [/diary] permanent link

    Tue, 12 Sep 2006

    To Boldly Go

    To his considerable credit, I think Chris is the first person I know personally that's actually got Asterisk up and going. I wonder if he gives lessons... :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Mon, 21 Aug 2006

    Beamer the heir to the Magicpoint throne ?

    I'd pretty much always used Magicpoint for any presentations I've needed to do. Always liked the simplicity of the file format and the ability to separate, at least to a large extent, content from presentation. What wasn't so pleasant was occassionally having to fiddle with X11 fonts and the fairly crude output if you generated postscript or PDF.

    I've been doing more and more stuff in LaTeX of late and so cast around for a way to use it for presentations as well, having seen a couple of my lecturers at Uni doing so. While the style sheets they used worked pretty well they were a bit hard to customise - I'm by no means a LaTeX guru. Enter Beamer

    Beamer provides an amazing degree of flexibility, indeed with care you seem to be able to use the same source file to spit out your thesis, the slide show for your work as well as your speaker notes. For screen based presentations (usually rendered as PDF files) it can do transitions and all sorts of funky stuff - not things I use personally but I guess if you're into eye candy it's covered. Even though it's very flexible it's dead easy to get going - the hello world equivalent runs to 20 lines and is mostly content rather than setup.

    The documentation is excellent and includes a bunch of examples to help you get going. Well worthy of your time to take a look :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Thu, 03 Aug 2006


    Did some nice rides while in Austin and in Ottawa, will put up a little bit of information about them when time permits including some GPS logs. Had a good time at OLS too which I planned to write about, but at this rate that might be Christmas so will let the photos tell the stories for now.

    Starting here shots enroute to and riding around in Austin. Then Ottawa including riding up a big hill with setuid and then the post OLS hacker bike ride

    Some other shots from OLS including of course the post conference party at the Black Thorn.

    Nice to be home, but don't need a photo to show that :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Thu, 13 Jul 2006

    Women In Docs

    On Monday night at Don's suggestion headed down to Artz Rib House with Monte for some good music and food. Ended up doing very well for both. Artz is a nice place, quite small but has a very welcoming feel - we ended up one table from the performers which was cool.

    Turned out my fellow countrymen (countrywomen ?) Women In Docs were playing as guests of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell which was rather a treat. Soon as Women In Docs started their first song I realised that I'd them play at the National Folk Festival in Canberra earlier in the year and been quite taken by their stuff then.

    Couple of songs in Roz asked if the audience was having difficulty with their accents, couldn't help but reply "Not at all". This led to a bit of fun back and forth (it's that kind of venue) - turns out they're from Brisbane where my brother in law lives, Chanel's parents live a couple of suburbs away in Canberra. Small world.

    After the show we chatted for quite a bit - Silas (Violin) was originally from Sydney, worked in IT when not touring and had recently migrated a couple of servers over to Linux from Windows :) Really nice people, they were in Austin as part of a couple of weeks touring around the US and Canada. Sounds like it's going well for them though they deserve to be more widely heard. Picked up a copy of their first album "Under a Different Sky" which I commend to you.

    All in all a really good evening and nice to have a chance to practice my Australian again :)

    [/music] permanent link

    Sun, 02 Jul 2006

    Riding in and around Böblingen

    Did about 65km today, a loop out to the south of Böblingen taking in Holzgerlingen, Bebenhausen, Tübingen, Lustnau, Dettenhausen, Weil, Neuweiler and Schönaich before returning to my hotel. Nice detour on the way through Schönbuch nature park too. I've already raved about the riding here so shaln't again, some pictures if you're curious though.

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    Sat, 01 Jul 2006

    Germany v Argentina / The Kindness of Strangers

    Yesterday afternoon I headed to the local Biergarten as there was a footy match on that the locals seemed pretty keen on.

    Found a (relatively) quiet place to stand to enjoy a Wiezenbier and watch the game unfold. The atmosphere was amazing, very boisterous but not at all threatening.

    Argentina of course scored first whereupon things went very quiet indeed. Germanys reply in the 80th minute sent the place into an uproar bettered only by the elation when they prevailed in the penalty shootout. Along the way got chatting with a couple of people nearby who kindly explained a couple of the nuances of the game when it came down to penalties and extra time.

    After the match I went outside with everyone else and watched people disperse, much tooting of car horns and waving of flags. Got chatting with Ralf who I'd spoken to inside and he in turn introduced me to Rebecca and her partner Jürgen. They very kindly invited me to come with them to a street party in the next town, Schönaich.

    The party was just great - couple of the streets in the village were closed to traffic, stalls set up selling food and beer and a stage for entertainment. Had a pretty decent covers band playing most of the evening, covered everything from Santana to Jethro Tull. We were joined by another friend of theirs, Torsten and a thoroughly enjoyable evening ensued solving the worlds problems over a beer or two and savouring the day's victory.

    I think the thing I was most taken by was the simple kindness and welcome I received as a complete stranger to the area and just how civilised the whole evening was. This care extended through to Jürgen & Rebecca arranging a taxi to get me back to Böblingen rather than me having to rely on phrasebook German to do so.

    Thanks guys, hope we get to do it again one day :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Thu, 29 Jun 2006

    A nice problem to have

    I'm working at the IBM facility in Böblingen, Germany this week on the way to OLS via Austin. I brought my bike with me on the trip for the first time and it's been a delight to get out and ride around a bit at the end of the day.

    Having done a bit of a recce yesterday I rode in to work this morning. As someone accustomed to having to circle around a carpark to find a place to park it struck me as delightfully odd to have to do the same thing to find a spare spot to lock up my bike. Not through lack of cycle parking facilities just that so many people ride to work. The cycling facilities here are excellent and it's also the first place I've visited where it felt superfluous to lock up your bike...

    [/hpv-stuff] permanent link

    Sun, 28 May 2006


    Was in Tokyo for work last week and was able to catch up with some friends based there ahead of things kicking off on Monday.

    On the Saturday spent a thoroughly enjoyable few hours with Stuart, a friend of ours that is doing Japanese language studies there for six months or so. We took a trip to Akihabara and had a good geek out looking around. I was particularly impressed by Stu's faculties with Japanese - effortlessly ordering us up some nice Udon for lunch while texting a friend in Kanji on his mobile phone.

    Akihabara has changed a little since I was last there (c.2002), couple of new buildings and a few less of the tiny hole in the wall places that I personally prefer. These latter are just amazing for anyone of a hardware hacking sort of background. By turns a great array of surplus/second hand odds and ends, just right for that next project, mixed with shops selling a tremendous array of small hand tools, test equipment and new components.

    In the evening Ben, Arnd and I met up with Raster and Horms for a little sightseeing and food. We had a good wander around before having things cut short by a rain storm. Fortunately our guides were able to find us shelter in a nearby yakitori place which (obviously) sold beer and nibblies which allowed us to while away a couple of hours most comfortably.

    Eventually the rain gave up and we went down to the Ginza district which was a bit of a eye opener - almost brighter by night than by day courtesy of the many signs and large LED screens around the place. Certainly gives Times Square in New York a good run for its money.

    Went to a great place for dinner, it's good to the point where I want to write up how to get there etc. so that will have to follow presently. A really nice evening and great to be able to catch up with Horms and Raster IRL for a change.

    Sunday hooked up with one of our hosts in the morning and he led us on a tour through Akihabara (as you'd have gathered, I don't mind repeat visits to the area at all) he kindly helped me bridge the language barrier and buy a couple of specific things. That afternoon I caught up with a mate of mine from IBM who's there on assignment - we only chat a few times a year but it's always a pleasure when we do.

    Remainder of the week was throughly enjoyable both professionally and socially, our hosts were very gracious in taking care of us and the various technical discussions productive as well.

    Did a final run out to Akihabara in the afternoon before we flew out and picked up an assortment of PIC microcontrollers and some neat little QFP probes made by Sunhayato. These latter are a particularly neat little tool as you can clip onto lead pitches down to 0.5mm which means you can get at most SMT parts in a hands free manner. The former are bound to come in handy at some point :)

    A good trip, my only regret is that I don't get to Japan more often as its one of the more consistently enjoyable places I travel to.

    [/diary] permanent link

    Sun, 07 May 2006


    ...came up when several weeks of phone/SMS/email tag drew to a pleasing conclusion this weekend.

    [art]baghdad is the name of a Sydney based photographers collective set up by Dave and Colin (mentioned previously) and a few like minded friends.

    Some fantastic images in there, and for those of you in Sydney, they run exhibitions now and then. Worth a look and, yes, work safe :)

    [/diary] permanent link

    Sat, 01 Apr 2006

    April Fool ?

    Not sure whether to laugh or cry having seen this mentioned in Chris' blog. Despite the timing seems to be the real thing.

    Think I need some tea and perhaps a little lie down.

    [/diary] permanent link

    Tue, 21 Mar 2006

    A Clarification

    In a recent post I intimated that Mikey had arranged for Jo to carry all his stuff in her back pack. Information received this morning suggests that this was in fact incorrect, it was Jo's stuff in her back pack, not Mikey's.

    I apologise for any confusion, consternation or upset this grave error on my part may have caused.

    /me hopes he won't be kneecapped now.

    [/hpv-stuff] permanent link

    Mon, 20 Mar 2006

    Big Canberra Bike Ride

    Headed out this morning to ride in Pedal Power's Big Canberra Bike Ride. Quiet enjoyed it last year so was keen to support the event and head along today.

    Needed to be on the road earlyish to make the Lake Burley Griffin start by 8am - forgot to pre-register. Only notable on the ride in was being flagged to a stop while barrelling down Dryandra Street. Gentleman enquired if I had a pump, which I did, so gave a hand by pumping up his companion's tyres - seemingly bike hadn't been used for many months. Suggested some oil for the chain mightn't be a bad idea either - meant to be black not rust brown after all...

    Met up with the 'bent contingent at the start as well as Jo and Mikey. Curiously Jo seemed to be carrying all Mikey's stuff in her back pack, not quite sure what the deal was there. Trike wise I spotted five Greenspeeds (John, David, John, Peter {I think} and mine), as well as Peters suspension trike (forgot to ask what make). Alex and Bev were on their recumbent bikes as was Mike and his daughter on the 'bent tandem.

    Ride itself was uneventful - pretty easy 25km, the climb out of Yarallumla up to Forrest being the hardest bit. Once you made the top though you were rewarded with a nice downhill run on Melbourne Ave into the back of Parliament House - clocked bit over 54km/h down there :)

    Back at the start had a bit of a natter with folk then headed home, nice 55km all up for the day.

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    Mon, 13 Mar 2006

    Going downhill

    First, gentle reader, a confession. I have bought a bicycle. Yes, as a confirmed recumbent enthusiast I have recently been living a dual life sometimes puttering around on one of those two wheeled things that fall over when you stop. I've not yet had the heart to tell my Mob buddies, will have to fess up on Wednesday morning I guess.

    There were a couple of motivators for this - when riding with Rachael and Lu a bike is a bit more convenient, I can go where they go without having to worry about jumping gutters etc. I fancied a bit of a change too - the GT3 is lots of fun and very comfortable but having a MTB adds a new dimension to riding around. Last and by no means least is that my commute will eventually involve a fire trail.

    Got the bike from Trevor and the guys at Lonsdale St Cyclery who I can heartily recommend - very nice people and very knowledgeable.

    So on Sunday chucked the MTB in the back of the car before we headed out to Carwoola. The intent was to try to find a path through the bushland between Captains Flat road and Queanbeyan, hence avoiding having to ride down the very perilous King Highway. A friend of ours, Simon, was keen to come along which was cool - was nice to have someone to bounce navigational decisions off as we rode around unfamiliar territory.

    It ended up being quite a descent and I was very glad for having at least read a few articles on riding downhill on an MTB even if I hadn't actually done it before. Spent most of the time hanging off the back of the seat proceeding very carefully.

    Thankfully we avoided any spills, riding all but one section of about 30m as it was just too steep and rough, at least for my/our riding skills. I suspect if I start doing this at all regularly I may have to consult an expert...

    The hill thus conquered we rode into Queanbeyan and parted company there, 8km total over about 40 minutes. Shortly afterwards I had to stop in a side street for about 20 minutes to remove the bindis from my front tyre and fixing the associated puncture. Lady from the house opposite even kindly came out with a tub of water in case I needed to bubble for the holes. New tube did the trick instead but was nice to have the offer. Remainder of ride home was uneventful if warmish, only other stop was to get a couple more tubes and fill up water bottles.

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    Tue, 07 Mar 2006

    A well oiled machine

    Was out of town with work for the last two weeks of February so organised with Michael from Fuse to do a service on the trike. Wasn't anything wrong other than a frayed gear cable but 12 months was the recommended service interval (!) so was a bit overdue, probably doubly so with just shy of 4,000km on the odo :) I should add that I have actually being doing regular maintenance during that time!

    Michael kindly dropped it in to work for me on Friday so got to take it for a burn on the way home. Niiiiice. Everything was just snickety-snick, running quieter than I'd thought possible and put in a good time to boot. As they say, a well oiled machine...

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    Fri, 27 Jan 2006

    Next Wednesday...

    Next Wednesday I move back into a technical role with OzLabs and Martin takes over managing the team. I'm delighted, not, I hasten to add, because I dislike management, but simply because I've missed doing technical stuff.

    For the last six years I've had the privilege of managing the OzLabs team. First the group that made up the Australian arm of Linuxcare then for the last five years our broader team at IBM that includes some very capable folk in the US. It's been great, indeed it has proven to be without a doubt the most rewarding period of my career.

    So why change then ? Well, as I note above I simply miss doing technical things. Our group does some seriously cool things, much of which ironically we often can't talk about. I figured rather than continue to live somewhat vicariously through what the guys were doing it'd be interesting to get back "on the tools" myself.

    Martin had expressed some interest in people management and would clearly fill such a role very capably, so it kinda went from there. I should make it clear that I spent a lot of time saying things like "It's too late for me, save yourself!" but he remained both undaunted and quite keen.

    Management in the Linux Technology Centre and IBM Australia have been enormously supportive so it's really made the whole thing a no-brainer. I still get to work with the same fantastic group of people and only have to move my stuff about four desks to the south :)

    The new role is sounding quite fun, will be a mixture of planning/strategic sort of work as well as a decent amount of coding. Also get to keep working on my masters course which ought to finish up at the end of this year. Even the scope to keep studying beyond that, but figure I'll see how December 2006 looks.

    So, next Wednesday starts another chapter, one that promises to be at least as rewarding as the one draws to a close.

    Wonder how long it will take for the pointy bits in my hair to disappear ?

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    Sun, 11 Dec 2005

    Riding in Rochester,MN, Again :)

    A work trip was once again going to see me in Rochester, Minnesota so I emailed ahead to Dave that I'd ridden with back in July to see if riding was an option this late in the year. He was keen so I made a point of packing my riding gear including several layers of thermals in anticipation of a chilly day.

    A few days out I checked to see if the ride still looked like a goer, I'd been keeping an eye on the weather courtesy of and figured it could go either way - it had been in the twenties (fahrenheit) for much of the week I was in Austin so was by no means sure that we'd be on.

    On the Saturday night I gave Dave a call and we agreed to meet at his place around half one in the afternoon. Turned out to be a glorious day - sunny for the most part but below freezing the whole time which for me was a real novelty. Dave once again kindly loaned me a bike and with a quick check of settings we were off.

    Riding in the snow is really something else - the roads had been swept so they were only slippery on the edges, rest of the time it was pretty much like riding in wet weather. We did a 30mi loop through similar territory to the earlier ride and the whole experience was quite special - snow makes everything quiet and no better way to enjoy it I think than from a bike/trike. To someone like me unfamiliar with snow it was a delightful experience, if a bit chilly.

    We took about two hours to cover the loop before returning to the suburbs, I had a few wobbly moments but was relieved to have no spills or even a need to put a foot down. My cold weather gear from Ground Effect did very well, though I'd have wanted another (3rd/4th) layer if we'd been out for longer, or in colder conditions.

    Dave made the rather wry observation that the average temperature for my rides in Rochester was now a pleasant ~60F on the basis of the two rides so far (100F for the first, 20F for the second)...

    Rest of my time in Rochester while brief was equally enjoyable, catching up with colleagues and getting some good work related stuff done too, but the ride was certainly the most unique bit!

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    Wed, 26 Oct 2005

    Yes, I think Freddie would be proud

    I realised last night how much I'd lost track with this years F1 Championship. Not only did Ferrari come 3rd in the Manufacturers Championship but Michael also came in 3rd in the Drivers Championship. Last time I'd looked it was shaping up for the usual Schumacher/Ferrari walk in the park. Apparently not. Pleasingly Mark Webber finished the season in the top ten too.

    Rather unusually, this all came about courtesy of an entry tucked away on Music Thing - Formula One engine plays 'We are the champions' Being something of a Queen fan too checking it out was a must. Quite well done and clear proof that F1 hackers have at least as much a sense of humour as their computing breathren. May want to turn your sound card down before you let it rip tho...

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    Thu, 13 Oct 2005

    Cruise Ship Australia

    bje pointed out this piece by David Williamson. Long, but thought provoking. Definitely worth a read.

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    Tue, 04 Oct 2005

    Block with Bandwidth

    About a year ago we bought a 16 acre block of land in Carwoola, about 10 minutes from Queanbeyan. Lu and I have long liked the idea of living out of town a bit and having space set up so that we can invite friends, family, colleagues etc. out to stay in a guest house. Idea is to set it up sorta like a retreat so folk can come and stay and have time out, watch the world go by and relax and, in the case of many of the people I know, have decent bandwidth as well so that patch can still be submitted :)

    Friends of ours live about 400m away and we've got pretty clear line of site to their place. As of about six months ago they also got ADSL - the RIM at the end of the road was upgraded. I gave Chris a hand with getting it set up and we installed a Linksys ADSL Modem/Router to feed the local network.

    A bit of browsing of their website and a few emails back and forth with the guys at Freenet Antennas confirmed my thoughts that a link between the two sites would be a no-brainer.

    At Chris' end there's a Minitar access point in one of Freenets' Rootenna enclosures that has space for the AP at the back and a 14dBi directional antenna at the front. The advantage here being that you have a very short run for RF (20cm) as the AP is right up next to the antenna. Instead you send ethernet and power up to the far end which you can do over a few tens of metres without ado, unlike 2.4GHz RF. Took some photos of all this starting here.

    Network wise, the AP at Chris' end plugs into a small DMZ so it can see the ADSL connection, but not the home network.

    The other end of the link uses a 14dBi yagi also from Freenet with a short length of coax to plug into the back of a second Minitar AP. The APs are configured in point to point mode. For now it's (obviously) a portable setup - AP runs off a 12V Gel cel and ethernet goes directly into back of my Thinkpad. Some shots of the setup used for the "First Post" entry are here.

    On the basis of the tests on the weekend it works quite nicely, indeed we were able to bring the link up by pointing the yagi away from the AP and using a signal reflected off the side of the hill. On rough calculations the antenna gain available should be good for a couple of km - I took the view that I'd rather have the extra gain to obviate any potential problems with rain and/or trees in the path

    Next steps are to get the remote end a bit better integrated (portable mast of some kind, cigarette lighter adapter for AP etc.) and then we'll be set for next time we go camping out there.

    In the meantime, if you fancy doing your next commit from among the gum trees get in touch :)

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    Sun, 02 Oct 2005

    First Post

    With much assistance from Chris, first post from Jaralah :)

    More to follow...

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    Sat, 01 Oct 2005

    Time off

    Coming towards the end of the first week of a few weeks leave. Been nice to have a break, miss the guys a bit but has been cool to have family time.

    Had a nice evening tonight catching up with old friends, as always left thinking that really must do this more often. These guys I've known since my teens so there's a lot of capacity for "remember when..." which is kinda fun.

    Tomorrow will be out to Chris & Fiona's place for lunch and a spot of 802.11 hacking, of which more to follow...

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    Sat, 24 Sep 2005

    The Taken - Pot Belly Bar

    Great evening last night - dinner with a subset of "The Taken" Fan Club Inc. before heading across the road to The Pot for the show. The Taken of course need no introduction and played a great set.

    Pics are here - all 1600 ISO and slow shutter speed so did some experimenting with converting to B&W to combat noise and blur a bit.

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    Tue, 13 Sep 2005

    Sporting clubs are the McDonalds for Adults

    I hate to miss a trend and besides, I tend to agree... :)

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    Sat, 10 Sep 2005

    On a lighter note

    Courtesy of The Register. Doing a google search on "failure" provides an amusing 1st result at present...

    And in a similar vein from the same story (and on JWZ's blog I think, but couldn't find the link.)

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