Sunday, 29 October 2006


Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald.
A map of the 20km counter-clockwise cycling loop for the Sarah Ulmer "Ride and Stride", Jan 21st

Weekend report

Busy weekend - the supermarket scramble happened about 9am Saturday, then at 11 I drove to Lyttelton to crew for my workmate Neil Chandler on his very competitive Noelex 22 Jaffa. We had a great race and won line honours in Division 2 by miles, in fairly strenuous conditions.

This morning we had a quick breakfast then headed out about 9.30 for a preliminary look at the course for a cycle event on January 21st that Heather's thinking about taking part in. She thinks she'll do the 3-lap 60km course, but in the non-competitive "cruising" section. It's a ride we've done quite often, along Lower Styx Rd to Spencerville and Brooklands, then back via Stewarts Gully and Marshland Rd.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Computers galore

I thought I should take a photo of the collection of computers in my office.

The PC is my main workhorse. I like the dual screens - I keep Outlook mail and calendar running on the left, and Firefox running on the right, with 4 or 5 tabs open. Then I open a bunch of windows for Word, Excel, text editors, and remote desktop sessions to the WebCT servers.

The Mac is only two weeks old, and it's terrifically fast. I use it for Photoshop and Dreamweaver, and to do Mac support and testing. It will dual-boot to run Windows XP but I need it to be a Mac, not a sort-of PC. I also use it for the occasional blog post from work (pretty infrequent) and for a screen of info I want to keep up for a while - like a big copy-tray.

The HP tablet is a temporary visitor, for evaluation. It's one of a set of twenty that will either go in a high tech classroom or they may be loan machines in the Library, to encourage students to work wirelessly in small groups. I have all my SMART Board programs on it at present, and it's terrific for that use.

The test WebCT 4.1 server (an ex workrooms PC) is just for trialling patches and system tweaks - soon I'll be able to reformat it it and use it for something else - maybe a DyKnow server. All these computers make the room quite warm at times.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Schroeder's birthday

Schroeder's birthday
Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald.
Happy birthday Schroeds!

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

After the weekend...

... comes the week. I hit the ground running today, with a mad mix of course setups, meetings, more system admin, another meeting, plus lots of organising of next month's training for WebCT 6.

Tomorrow I have three meetings; redesigning a classroom space in Engineering, finalising Teaching Development Grant shortlist, and using the High Speed Network and Access Grid for teaching projects. Isn't that neat? Every one of them has lots of interesting possibilities, terrific people with great ideas, heaps of potential - and very little money. Still, there's a discernable shift in the culture since I started at UC in 2001. Teaching is no longer the poor relation; although research brings the grants, teaching brings the EFTs, if you want to be cynical.

I think there's a growing realisation that students have become used to teaching that is focussed, relevant, and well delivered, by teachers who are accountable for their results. It's not a desire to be spoon fed, but today's students expect their courses to make sense and be understandable. Which is where educational technology comes in. We live in interesting times...

Observed around Christchurch in recent days:
  • Students from the College of Natural Medicine all lighting up cigarettes as they leave for the day.
  • Woman speaking on cellphone tries to steer huge SUV one handed, round corner by Hagley Park - runs over centre plot, drops cellphone - and stops, blocking the lane. In 5pm Friday traffic.
I need some photos, this page is all text at present. I'm visiting Schroeder in hospital tomorrow after work, so I'll post a photo tomorrow night.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Gloomy Sunday

Not the movie that's been playing at the Academy for ever, but a grey cool day, like living in Tupperware. (Borrowing Bill Bryson's description of living in Britain.) I decided to spend a morning reading through grant applications while Heather went for a bike ride, and got a flat tyre. She called me and I drove over to New Brighton to collect her. Then I fixed her puncture and made soup and scones for lunch. That's a about a zillion brownie points...

The afternoon passed quietly, with a bike ride to the Palms mall to buy some headphones (my trusty old behind-the neck Sonys died) and get some magazines from the library. A quiet day, which will end with roast lamb, followed by an evening in front of Top Gear and Soul Deep on Prime TV. Old fart heaven!

Saturday, 21 October 2006

A day out

The predicted southerly change stayed away, so at 10am I decided to go for a ride. Half an hour to the bottom of the hills, and another hour climbing (with two stops) and I was at the Sign of the Kiwi at a bit after 12. Time for an apple and a good look around, then a flying descent in a building northerly wind. That's when I realised that my general-purpose do-everything glasses cause uncontrollable tears. I'm going to have to sort out some wrap-around glasses for the energetic rides.

So I guess I'll wake up a bit stiff and sore tomorrow, in time for a spinnaker test sail. Weather permitting. It's a hard life, being an active 57 year old.

Friday, 20 October 2006

The week that wasn't

When there's a post on Monday and nothing till Friday, you know I've been busy. Training sessions, new equipment, two demos of response-clicker systems, meetings, ...

Still, I biked 4 days this week, and plan to do some hill riding tomorrow since the forecast is no good for sailing. Heather doesn't feel up to hills yet, so I guess she'll have a day in the garden. I hope to sail on Sunday to try the spinnaker, and Monday's a holiday with no plans made yet - the kind of day off I like.

Then there's a folder full of teaching grant applications to read and evaluate for a Tuesday meeting. And a house to vacuum - it's a full life. Never mind, it's only five weeks till we have a week in Sydney, staying in a flash downtown hotel, for the Ascilite conference.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Big Mac arrives

My new Intel iMac is not as big as the massive theater-display Macs, but a flat 17" screen with all the brains tucked in behind the screen still looks pretty nifty.

Of course, the first thing I did was to run Windows XP, just to prove I could. It's set to dual-boot, with OS X the default OS; what Apple calls "Boot Camp" with their unerring ear for the hip, but not quite correct, slogan. Remember "Think Different"? Apple has never let accuracy get in the way of marketing. Though maybe that slogan isn't as ungrammatical as you'd think.

It is also possible to run Windows in a virtual machine, with direct access to the hardware even while MacOS is running. This requires a program called Parallels, and a Windows XP licence. For dual-booting, the University's Microsoft licence covers all machines running Windows; but when a machine is running Windows and OS X simultaneously, you have to pay separately. Since we just want Windows capability to run a few applications like Respondus, rebooting is worth the trouble, saving the best part of $400.

Minor points of interest; that hole at top centre is a webcam set for video-conferencing. It's all about me, after all - this is a Californian computer. And the little white thing at lower right is a remote control for videos etc, magnetically clamped to the side of the case. Cute.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Weekend doings

We were placed 4th in the fleet for yesterday's race, on handicap. Admittedly our handicap is generous, but it's close to the official Quintet rating, which no doubt assumes that you have a spinnaker. So I take this as an indication that we punched well above our weight; and for a boat that's designed for light airs, scoring well in 20-25 knots with no spinnaker is an even better achievement.

Once we start using the kite and competing in Division 2, we won't get many wins, but it will be nice to compare ourselves to the Noelex 22s - I still think we'll be in the top half of the comparable boats, N22s and Farr 6000s. But we need some spinnaker practice before then.

Today Mark Schroeder and I went back to the boat at Lyttelton, to sort out a stuck winch. We succeeded after some nervous moments; lots of CRC and winding the handle got the winch moving, then we were able to dismantle it and give it a good clean and lube.

Change of topic: tomorrow will mark the last trip to/from Uni for my Mac laptop. Once the Documents and Applications folders (and probably a bunch of preferences etc) are transferred via Firewire to my new iMac, the Powerbook will come home and stay put. Then I have to pay for it. I'm looking forward to the new Mac desktop machine, especially the novelty of running Windows XP on a Mac. But first we have a big week of training to get sorted.

Weather again

What an interesting weekend, weather-wise. Friday was a strong north-wester, which turned to a southerly blast at 1-2am Saturday. By 9am the wind was a SW, gusting 25 knots at Lyttelton, according to the Port Company weather site. We got there at 11.30 to find that the wind was about 20 knots from the N, and by the end of our race it was a 15 knot easterly. The first leg of the race, especially in the gusts close to the hills on the north side, was rather "up and down". Once we got out into clear breeze in the centre, although it was very strong, we were able to trim for it, and we sailed quite well. We were too chicken to try our new spinnaker, though - first hoists should not be done in 25 knots with 30 degree direction changes in the gusts!

Today, the Met Service says "A strong disturbed westerly flow covers much of the country." Like this;

Friday, 13 October 2006

More gadgets

Another gadget-filled week. First is the arrival of a SmartBoard which can now be used for staff training. I've got that installed at UCTL, which will be my new department after Xmas.

This week I also ordered a new Intel iMac (17", 2GHz, 1GB RAM, 160GB disk) and a Palm Tungsten E2 PDA. My old Palm still sort-of works but its audio section has failed so it won't beep (or play music). Since I rely on it to tell me when I should be somewhere, it isn't much use without noises.

My present Mac laptop will be purchased for home, and I won't need to carry a computer to and fro. That will simplify my requirements for biking to work.

This morning I got both toys at once - the iMac and the Palm were delivered to my office, "Sign here", and there are two packages. I took the Mac straight to our support guys to have the standard UC Mac build installed, including Windows XP. Look forward to screenshots of Windows on a Mac - actually it may have to be photos, as the screenshots will just look like Windows - ho hum.

The Palm install went well - it should, this is my 3rd Palm, and just an update from my old dead-audio Palm Tungsten E2. Email isn't working yet but I'll deal with that next week. At least I have my shopping database running ready for the weekly supermarket run.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Spinnaker stories

When we got to Lyttelton yesterday it was blowing a 20 knot cold easterly, so we wimped out and just rigged the boat on the trailer and tried the spinnaker. My worries about it being flown from too high on the mast were justified, so we need to think about how we handle this. The end of the pole cannot reach to the end of the sheet if it's horizontal, so essentially the sail is able to flap around of its own accord, a metre or two from the pole. I am considering either releasing the downhaul so the pole can ride up closer to the end of the sheet, or having another metre sewn on to the bottom of the kite - which is probably the better alternative. But the pole adjustment costs nothing, so that's what we'll try first.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

Ready to go

A very productive day - Schroeder came round this morning and we fitted the blocks and cleats for the spinnaker sheets/guys, plus a downhaul block just in front of the mast. Then I gave the sun-damaged woodwork a sanding, and painted it all with Everdure. I may apply polyurethane varnish on top of that, but hopefully it will be a decent finish in its own right.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we hope to tow the boat back to Lyttelton and go for a shakedown sail to try the spinnaker. Weather dependent, of course.

Friday, 6 October 2006

Another week

"Oh, wow, techno-fear" said Neil the hippy. I know how he felt, after a week of iPaq, CPS Chalkboard, and a tablet PC. The chalkboard will probably have its uses, the PDA was more trouble than it was worth (I'm going to buy a Palm TX instead) and the tablet PC is growing on me. As they say.

Then there's the Smart Board which will arrive next week. And I may be replacing my Mac with an Intel MacBook. I'm up to my ears in packaging and instruction manuals, feeling dazed and confused. To keep myself grounded I created about 120 WebCT courses today, for UC Opportunity. They have 3, 4, or even 5 sessions per year, so I created cross linked sets of 3, 4, or 5 courses - on Monday I'll create the staff accounts and then begin the tedious task of enrolling them in their courses.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

Wet and windy

A week of wild weather has kept the bike in the shed. Boat maintenance has not gone to schedule. It's stopped raining this morning but the southerly clouds are still whizzing by - will I bike? I suppose I should...

At work it's been a bit more sane, with no training courses, so I've been able to catch up on CE6 system tasks. The new gadgets are taking a lot of time. I am less than impressed with tablet PCs so far, mostly on ergonomic grounds, but I'll reserve my judgment till we get them properly set up.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

New toys

"He who dies with the most toys is the winner" says the slogan, and I could be in the lead this week. Take a look at this lot:

The little gizmo in the middle is a CPS Chalkboard, a wireless input pad, with a stylus that works like a mouse up to 30ft from the host PC. I collected that in a spot prize draw at last week's conference.

To the left is a brand new HP Tablet PC and its docking station. It's part of a set of 21 that we've acquired - we're supposed to learn to use them and think of a way to set up a whizzy electronic classroom. So far it seems pretty nice. On the right is an on-appro HP iPaq that we're testing as well.

Now - which one will I pick up and play with next?

Monday, 2 October 2006

Mac's back - again

A displaced Airport card was diagnosed and poked back in, and all is well with Mac's wifi. That'll be a few years of vibration on bike carriers, I guess. The bag I carry it in has great padding, but even so...

The boat goes for a trailer WoF tomorrow. Since it's lightly drizzling, I haven't done anything to the woodwork yet, but the boat is hooked up to the car and strapped onto the trailer. I just need to attach the lighting brackets in the morning and away we go.