Article History

October 2011



Parkes Observatory 50th anniversary open day

The Parkes Observatory (radio telescope) is finally having a 50th anniversary open day this year. It's on the weekend of the 8th and 9th.

We visited back in July 2009 and the trip was a bit on the long side, especially getting there and back in a single day. So the plan this time is to travel out there on the Friday before and stay at a hotel/motel overnight in order to able to get in quickly and early. Then drive home in the afternoon/evening. Unfortunately that weekend is also the Bathurst 1000 race weekend. So it's not likely that Andrew, Liss, and the kids will be able to join us.


Mum arrived home from Grandpa's in the evening.


Mum and Dad left for Canberra, to help Scott and Shannon in their new flat — taking some stuff down, and helping them move stuff (even though they only took the Commodore instead of the Tarago).

Andrew came over, wanting my contacts for his new Android telephone. I sent his phone an edited vCard file but it wouldn't accept it. Eventually in desperation I sent over the original and it didn't accept that either. So in the end I sent individual contacts, requiring him to accept each one. Thankfully there weren't too many to transfer. I also installed some more apps, including the version of OsmAnd I‘m using and the ’MostNSW' map I generated before last weekend.


Spent a few hours adding to the map of Mount Panorama on OpenStreetMap (OSM). I added the paddock area behind the pits, all of the cement walls around the track, all of the roads/driveways coming off of the track, the (unpaved) footpaths and tracks at the top and bottom of the mount, and a lot of little things. At one stage I thought that access=permissive was a better description than access=private of the internal roads and the back road, since the roads are pretty much open during races. But then I remembered that we had to show our passes/wristbands, so that does count as "only with permission of the owner on an individual basis“. So I had to change all of the roads back. And now they all look the same as the private driveways that come off of the track. Oh well. A general principle of OSM is to ”not tag for the renderer".


Installed CM 7.1.0 (11.09.30) on my phone. I only saw the update last night just as I was about to go to bed. This is the ‘release’ build of CM 7.1.0 after all of the release candidates and is based on Android 2.3.7. Ooh, a new lock screen! Apart from that, no major change.

Mowed the back yard, sides, and part of the front before all of the fuel was used. The backyard really needed a mowing. I should have done it two weeks ago. If I can keep to a good schedule of mowing about every two weeks, I'll make some good money over summer.

I also sprayed around the outside and inside of the house with a large Mortein tank of surface spray. It took ages to prime the hand pump — I thought it wasn't working. But it eventually drew the goop up and started squirting it out. Even then it didn't perform great.


Dad got some more petrol for the mower after he got home from work. I mowed area in front of Con's cage in the back yard that I forgot about yesterday, and then the main part of the front yard. The weather forecast isn't good for the next few days so I really wanted to finish mowing today.

Another release of CM 7.1.0 for my phone! I installed the 11.10.05 release. Again, no major changes. My phone is running pretty well now.


Steve Jobs has died. Farewell Steve.


Downloaded australia-oceania.osm.bz2 and latest versions of Osm and its map generator. I generated new ‘most of NSW’ and New Zealand maps and transferred them to my phone.

Mum, Dad, and I drove to Parkes. We left just after 4pm and arrived two hours later.


Up at 8am - ooh boy. Had breakfast and got ready. We were out of the motel about 8:30, then it was off to the radio telescope. There was a thick fog and we didn't see the dish until just before the parking lot.



Dad had the day off. Our long-time neighbour came over asking for computer assistance and later came back with a PC case.


Got my new passport.


Went for walk.


Went for walk.Visited Andrew after dinner to wish him happy birthday.

Phone battery finally discharged all the way. After it charged to 100% I updated CM 7.1 (11.10.12).


Power failure. Built new map for OsmAnd. Left for Wagga Wagga. We drove through Cowra (no café stop!), Young, Cootamundra, and Junee.


Drove around Wagga a bit (?), photographed the train station, then headed up to a lookout. Trees blocked a lot of the view. Then it was off to Junee. We visited the Junee licorice and chocolate factory, leaving with some souvenirs.

On our way to Canberra we passed through Gundagai, stopping at the dog on the tuckerbox statue.

We checked into the Canberra Motor Inn, which we‘ve stayed at several times before, and then drove off to the Labor Club to have dinner with Scott and Shannon. They’d picked up their new (second-hand) car just yesterday (or the day before), so this was the first time anyone apart from them had seen it. It's a Holden Echo, manual and bronze red. After dinner we ducked across to the Belco mall for some quick food shopping.


Drove into Belconnen to look at notebooks for Mum. Then we went to Gungahlin to see Scott and Shannon's one-room flat. It's not big but they seem to be coping alright. It's a new building in a new area. Then we all drove down to the Canberra Glass Works, but I had taken my small backpack into their flat and stupidly left it there. So I wasn't taking any photos. Damn! So once we were finished there we drove back up to Gungahlin to find a place to eat lunch and then get my backpack. Another long drive over to Belco mall and JB Hi-Fi. Mum got a notebook here, a HP DM-1. We took it back to the cabin and Mum went through the steps to set it up. Windows 7 is incomprehensible!

Then it was back to Belco mall to meet Scott and Shannon for dinner. They took us to an Italian restaurant where we all had pizza, then to an icecream shop for desert.


Up to Scott's place again to clear out the Charade. We‘re getting it back now that they have a car of their own. Then it was over to Belco mall to get some new shoes for me. I’ve been using these work boots since mid-2005! I hope these are some good shoes. We had lunch at the food hall. Then we drove down to where Floriade was being held, but found that it finished yesterday and is now closed. We walked across to the capital exhibition and looked at that a bit, but we've been here before and I found it quite boring. My feet were sore from my new shoes. Is this bad or to be expected?

Then we went up to the war memorial. We stayed there quite a while and I took a good number of photos.

We saw the closing ceremony and then left. We again had dinner at the Labor Club, just the three of us this time.


We are leaving! Packed everything up and drove up to Gungahlin to pick up the Charade. Mum had been saying things along the lines of her driving it, and maybe even having me drive for a bit. But Dad said he was driving it home. So we said our goodbyes and off we went, the usual route. We stopped at Boorowa for lunch and again at the Cowra café for a snack. Here Mum said I could drive the rest of the way home. So we left, with me driving the Commodore. Dad stopped to fill up the Charade with petrol so we passed him. But I‘m limited to 80 Km/h, so sometime on the highway he eventually caught up to and overtook us. He wasn’t the only one. Lots of cars wanted to pass us, but the lane markings were solid a lot of the way. We even had a few large trucks overtake us! But we eventually got to Bathurst and then on to home. Dad had arrived about 10-15 minutes beforehand.


In preparation for installing Ubuntu on Mum's netbook I started copying the partitions to my server. The intention is that I should be able to restore the machine should Mum not like Ubuntu/Linux. I used a USB flash drive I had prepared last night with Ubuntu on it. The “live” environment allowed me to test out Ubuntu on the machine as well as copy the data. It's taking a while...

Glenn posted a sonogram of a fetus on Google plus. Tania's preggers! I'm going to be an uncle again! He/she is due in April.

Mum booked our flights to New Zealand.


Finally got to install Ubuntu on Mum's netbook. Actually, not Ubuntu but Xubuntu! Playing around with Unity in the live environment did not leave me liking it. It's almost as fucked up as Windows 7. Xubuntu is a much simpler environment.

When it came to trying out Skype, the sound was crackling. That's when I found it was going through Pulse Audio, the useless sound mixing/routing layer that has never worked properly for me. It's nice to see that even on a fresh install of (X)Ubuntu, after years of tweaking and fixes (I found the bug reports very quickly with Google), it still shits all over itself. So it's not just my self-assembled Debian system!

I removed Pulse Audio and suddenly the sound worked fine! Well, except for losing the volume control on the top panel. And the use of the volume buttons. Damn. I'll have to find out how to get those working some other way. They are kinda useful and I'm sure Mum and Dad will expect them to work.

Dad told me that Mum booked us with Qantas last night. When asked about the strikes that are going on, she said she hasn't been watching the news. Great. I hope we can get out of the country!

I got paid for the work I did on the 10th.

I finally ordered film for the trip to NZ. In fact, with five lots of five-packs coming in the mail, it should last me a good while more. In 35 mm I‘m getting Acros 100 (B&W), Ektar 100, and Pro 160S. In 120 there’s Provia 400X (E-6) and Pan F plus (B&W). Hopefully that's a good mix that I can use in NZ.


Installed the AMD/ATI proprietary graphics drivers (fglrx) on Mum's netbook. I was perfectly happy with the Open Source drivers (Gallium3D), but this gives access to hardware acceleration of video codec decoding in the form of XvBA. Once I'd installed the necessary VA-API backend, and found the “hardware acceleration” box buried in the VLC configuration, playback of 1080p video was fine.

I created a /Shared directory on Mum's netbook and created a cron job to keep the permissions correct for everyone being able to create and delete content. I copied over a bunch of wallpapers for my use, and a whole lot of videos to watch i.e Doctor Who, Top Gear, and Futurama. They took up a bit more than I was expecting, and took quite a while to copy. Oh well, it's easy to delete them if we need more space.

Mowed the back yard. It's been just over two weeks since the last mow and it really needed it. I'll do the front and sides tomorrow. And I should get in one last mow before we leave for NZ.


Andrew came over to get a recording of last year's Le Mans 24 hour race. It was 42 GB and had been taking up that space for over a year now. He brought over his “black box” — his DVR thingy. After a little prodding, I managed to get into it using smbclient and transfer over the file. It took several hours over the 100base-T connection.

Downloaded and installed CM (21-10-2011) on my phone.


Went for a walk. It's been a little while since my last walk. I really need to keep up this regular exercise, but it's difficult with the weather warming up. And the trips with Mum and Dad. My new shoes worked well. My feet get sore really fast in them when I'm just standing in them but they were great during the walk.

Mum's looking at how her and Dad's mobile phones will roam while in New Zealand. She was confused by Telstra's instructions involving their “mobile broadband” offerings. She was looking for “Bigpond Connection Manager” on her phone and having no luck, of course. I had to go downstairs and point at the relevant words on her screen and explain what “mobile broadband” was before she accepted that the instructions had nothing to do with her phone.


Oh look, another update of CM7. Updated my phone. Nothing much changed. What are the chances of my Milestone being able to run Icecream Sandwitch (Android 4.0)? Not good, I fear.

My first package of film arrived. Five rolls each of Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 (135), Provia 400X (120), and Kodak Ektar 100 (135). When Dad saw the latter, he thought it was Ektachrome. My first experience with Acros a few years ago was very good. It'll be good for daytime, out-and-about shots. The Provia 400X should be good for “nature” shots, particularly at darker times e.g dusk or even at night. And the Ektar is supposed to be crazy saturated, so it might also be good for nature shots.

Went for a walk as usual. There was some big sporting event on Learmonth park, so I had to take a small detour along the highway.


Went into town with Dad and bought a few prescription medications that I've run out of recently and will need for the NZ trip.

Went for my usual walk. The weather had changed earlier in the day and it was quite cool by the time I went out. Totally overcast too.


Should I take my Ricoh XR-20sp to NZ? It would allow me to attach different lenses, which my Electro 35 GSN doesn't do. But it and the lenses would take up extra room (even if I didn't take my Electro 35) and I still haven't done anything about the possible mirror misalignment.

The other package of film arrived - five rolls each of Ilford Pan F Plus in 120 and Fujifilm Pro 160S in 135 format. I just love my 160S :) It'll be great for portraits e.g the wedding. The Pan F+ could be used for portraits

Mum cut my hair.


Went for my usual walk, my last before heading overseas.


Mum and Dad's home to do last-minute shopping. And we're all packing.

Our flight's been delayed by a few hours.

I generated new "MostNSW" and New Zealand map files for OsmAnd.

I took a while choosing what film to take, eventually deciding on six rolls each in 35 mm and 120.

35 mm:


Mum and I visited Alissa and the kids to say goodbye. Andrew was having a nap so we didn't see him at all.

Mum and Dad rang up Telstra to enquire about getting some roaming data packs put on their accounts and the woman offered some much better ones than are on their website. Mum got 2 GB for $20, while Dad only went for 1 GB for $10. Much better than 10 MB for $29! Last night Mum was talking about having to use my phone as a mobile “hotspot” while in NZ in order to use my cheaper Vodafone NZ data (plus find free Wifi around the place). Telstra has screwed up somewhere. Either Mum and Dad just got something they shouldn‘t, and it possibly won’t work, or these packs simply aren't advertised on their website. Hmmm.... those prices match up with Telstra's “Browsing Packs”, which are explicitly not for roaming. I guess we'll quickly find out what they got.


Final packing. Andrew drove over and we all drove to the Bathurst train station to catch our coach to Lithgow. Had some lunch there. Then we got on an interurban train to Central, and finally a taxi to the Formule1 hotel near the airport. We had dinner at the McDonalds next door and I tried to use their free Wifi. Web stuff works, but syncing the Google stuff (Gmail, G+, etc) didn't work.

On the news that night we saw that Qantas had grounded its world-wide fleet due to the ongoing industrial action. Why did Mum have to book us with Qantas? It turns out we‘re unaffected because we’ll actually be flying with “LAN”, a Chilean airline.


A packed shuttle-bus took us to the airport. We checked in our baggage and at the X-ray I requested to have my bag of film hand-inspected. The guy took it around to the other side of the station and with another guy, inspected each roll with a “sniffer” of some sort. At the end he pulled out a small piece of filter paper and fed it into another machine, which gave the all-clear. I was happy that my film wasn't exposed to X-rays. But as we were walking away I realised I still had a roll of film in my camera, that had gone through the X-ray machine. Oh well. I wonder how it'll turn out.

There was free Wifi there so I checked news and posted on G+. While I was off going to the toilet, Dad said a group of Chinese women came running through in a great rush, into the passenger bridge, presumably thinking they were late for the plane. Since the plane wasn't at the gate yet, they set off alarms and the doors they had barged through closed and locked behind them. Soon we were told the plane was at a different gate (the same gate it had been unloading at?) and we all moved down there, passing the locked-in people being interrogated by security personnel. After some more waiting we were asked to line up for boarding, and saw the “Chinese” people walking down towards the gate. We made sure to get in line before them. Hearing them talk amongst themselves I realised they were Japanese, not Chinese as Dad had first described them.

The flight was alright. There was some turbulence, which made me jumpy. All of the announcements were bilingual, first Spanish then English.