Monday, 30 November 2009

The simple life

I'm a man of modest desires, most of the time, and I can get by with just the bare necessities; a decent laptop, good wifi, and fast broadband. I don't ask for much.

Isn't it funny how our horizons shift as we grow used to technology? In the 1930s you'd have been happy to have any vehicle, as long as it moved; now we want electric windows and an iPod connection. And a GPS with 48 voices.

So here I am with a new MacBook Pro, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings on the headphones, surfing the intertubes, and not even noticing how absolutely incredible this feat of technology is. It just happens.

The other nice development in recent years is that I don't care if I'm using Windows, Mac, or Linux - the interface has settled down in recent years, and we all know what the various interface widgets do, so we just get on with it.

Quiet time

I had a quiet weekend, still catching up from the tramping last weekend and a busy week at work.

Next Sunday I fly to Auckland for 4 days, for the annual Ascilite conference; there are 4 of us from the Flexible Learning Group attending, and several staff from the College of Education will be there as well. Ascilite is a good conference, with a fairly practical emphasis on the use of IT in tertiary teaching. I will be taking part in a symposium on Wednesday, with e-learning people from Massey, Waikato, and Canberra, talking about how we implemented Moodle at our universities.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy camper

I'm using Google Chrome for the Mac. Nice! Apart from the ever present Mac bar at the top of the screen, you'd never know. Will it build the home page of recent favourites, though?

Answer - Yes.

I'm also a happy camper because I've just erected the tent I bought for $70, and it's all there. It's an Aussie designed, made in China (of course) dome tent with an insect proof but very breathable inner tent, inside a waterproof fly laid over the diagonal poles. It's exactly me-square when I lie down, so I guess I'll sleep with my head by one of the doors. It fits on a bike carrier; that's a clue.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Funny how fast work becomes your world view. Students have gone, the campus is empty apart from a few summer school students, but we are flat out doing last touches to projects, talking to the many reviews going on, and planning to shut down the old servers. Never a dull moment!
An email from DoC today; "We are pleased to advise that the Kepler and Routeburn tracks are now Open."
That means no more $55 helicopter rides, and a huge easing in the workloads of the Mackenzie and Falls hut wardens.

Monday, 23 November 2009

There and back

I'll post a fuller account of our Routeburn adventure, but the photos are up on Flickr. A brief summary; misty drizzle and light rain from the Milford Road to Lake Mackenzie, heavy driving wind and rain from Mackenzie to Routeburn Falls (with a helicopter ride past Lake Harris, as the bluffs above the lake are still avalanche prone), and a lovely sunny final day down to the Routeburn Shelter. More later.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Up up and away

We're off to the airport in a few minutes, for a 2pm flight to Queenstown for Mark Schroeder and me, and to Auckland for Jill Schroeder. Heather is the chauffeuse.

I hopped on the bathroom scales with my pack on - 15kg, which is about as good as I'd expected to do. Even so, it feels darned heavy! The good things are that it contains clothing that I'll be wearing tomorrow, and food which we will consume. Not to mention the small plastic bottle of Famous Grouse, for use as a liniment of course.

Off we go, into a Fiordland downpour for the first half of the walk by the looks of things. I'll report on Sunday night or Monday.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Getting closer

We fly to Queenstown tomorrow, and walk the Routeburn on Friday-Saturday-Sunday. At the moment the spare room is filling up with gear - how am I going to get all that in my pack?

This pile of gear will all fit in my pack - I hope!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Advice to cyclists

There's a lot of sense to this advice, found at Paul Dorn's bike commuter blog. (I've switched left & right to make sense to Kiwis.)
" assertive. Take the lane! Traffic law doesn't require a cyclist to pull over every time a car approaches from the rear. You only have to be as far to the left as you consider necessary to safely operate your bike. If there's road debris, broken pavement, another cyclist or anything in the extreme left that makes you uncomfortable, move to the right. You have the right to the entire lane! Take it. You're far safer having the cars behind you than crowding you while they pass. Give yourself a cushion. Define your space. Don't be timid. Assert your rights."
This sure makes sense at roundabouts, when a bike is going as fast as everyone else, but in other circumstances I'm not sure I'd be that brave. I prefer parks and quiet streets, whenever I get a choice. Being hit by a car can really ruin your day.

Oh no, it's Nibiru!

An amazing shot, linked from the wonderful MetVUW site. This is a sunset over Los Angeles;
This image was one of a series of images taken 6 November 2009 from the roof top adjacent to Television Studios behind Santa Monica (Los Angeles) overlooking the Pacific end of Sunset Blvd. There was a sequence of images taken showing the sun descending below a curtain of low altitude cirrus type cloud. It was taken with a Canon G9 at 6x zoom.

I shall doubtless never again capture a sunset moment quite like this effect of a suspended globe....', Blair Anderson.'

Saturday, 14 November 2009

It is forbidden to throw rocks at this sign

The above sentence, according to the Frost Report in the 1960s, was the sole text on a sign in an English park.

It popped into my memory today when I had the following experience: I was exploring around the file system of MacGregor and wanted to see the contents of a file.
$ cat fstab.hd
This file does nothing, contains no useful data, and might go away in future releases. Do not depend on this file or its contents.
Pardon? The only purpose of your 150 bytes of disk space is to tell users that you're useless, and can't be trusted? Who wrote this file, Salvador Dali?

On a totally unrelated topic, Owen Cambridge and I rigged my yacht and went for the first sail of the summer, in a grey 12-15 knot easterly. We sailed up to Purau, then back out for a run down to Naval Point. I have lots of maintenance to do, but at least the boat is operational.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


I'm not usually in the habit of naming computers, but I can't resist thinking of Gregor's Mac as MacGregor.

With some help from an IT Mac technician, we seem to have disposed of the problems - the Firefox install was made from a disk image that included proxy settings, so he reinstalled a non-proxy version over the top, and that was fixed. Then he deleted a bunch of preferences files, and the System Preferences now seem to be behaving themselves - nice!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

New arrival

A new arrival today - a Macbook Pro 13" laptop. It's slick and sleek, as expected, though there are a few minor glitches; system preferences seem a bit buggy, and Firefox won't remember its proxy settings. They're fixable, I'm sure. Here's a very ordinary photo.
Little Mac
I've elected not to have Windows installed on it - I'm quite happy to let a Mac be a Mac, and I switch between the two OS's without any fuss, so why add complications?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

As you sow so shall you reap

A cautionary story by Alexander Cockburn in The First Post; "How Americans grew too fat to serve their country".

It begins, "Kids want to enlist because the Army has jobs – but they can’t do push-ups and can’t run".

Cockburn outlines the scale of the obesity problem ("Every truck stop, every diner, every mall offered its tumid diorama of human hippos"), then moves on to the Army's problem with recruits: The Army Times ran an article this week by William McMichael citing the latest government stats on America’s fat crisis. One-third of the 31m Americans between 17 and 24 are unqualified for military service because of "physical and medical issues". Curt Gilroy, the Pentagon's director of accessions, told the Army Times that "the major component of this is obesity. We have an obesity crisis in the country. There's no question about it."

This guy seems happy enough with his Denny's Jumbo Burger. That's the "Burger Eating Hall of Fame" behind him.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Nature reclaims its space

DSCF0033 (Large)
Originally uploaded by gregor_ronald
Spotted in an old building at Godley Head.

We had a good fast walk down the track and back, preparing for the Routeburn (2 weeks from now).

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Reviews again

Today we get the results of yet another services review; the provision of Information Technology services across the campus. It covers not just the ICTS Department, this includes department support and systems like Moodle. We live in interesting times.

Will senior management be the next area for cost cutting and "efficiencies"? According to stories in The Press, there's certainly room for cuts. Mind you, the Vice Chancellor, Rod Carr, seems to have taken a large pay cut when he left Jade software to run the University.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Detente in Japan

Here's a picture for the record books. According to Ars Technica, "Microsoft apparently set up a big Windows 7 promotion booth across the street from the conference center of the Japan Linux Symposium. During a break, an attendee dragged Torvalds over to the Microsoft booth for kicks, a photo that will go down in history was taken. The Linux guru did not buy a copy."