Leon at LCA2006

31 January 2006

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

Neither Customs nor Immigration blinked (or even, apparently, checked anything), so here I am in Perth. I’ll post the promised Taieri Gorge pictures after getting urgent local stuff out of the way.

My bike, however, is back in Dunedin. I missed the rendezvous in Dunedin, so put the bike on the bus for use in Christchurch. The coach going the other way broke down, and InterCity needed to swap ours for it because they didn’t have a replacement with enough seats. The replacement (from Ritchies’) didn’t have any cargo area large nough to take a pushbike, either, so happy Dunedin resident Robin is now the proud owner of the much-travelled $10 bike.

The slower, nboisier, much less comfortable replacement coach also needed its headlight wiring fixed before we could set sail (a real confidence builder, that one), so my laptop became a temporary cinema for the dozen or so people within earshot, who followed the antics of Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman as they coped with a zoo transfer gone seriously haywire (with the aid of some remarkable penguins — “just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave” and the irrepressible King Julian).

I got to share a ’plane with lesser FOSS royalty GNOME (and now LaunchPad) hacker James Henstridge, and for the second leg actually got a window seat (pictures from that later too).

29 January 2006

Taieri Gorge is magnificent

Definitely on my Recommended To Visit list. I’ll post photos in a day or so (currently sitting in The Octagon connected through SpongeFromHoyts.net.nz and nibbling on dinner in preparation for coaching up the coast to Christchurch) but for what is basically a big hole in the ground with lotsa rocks and some water, it’s amazing.

Ten of the LCA crew headed out this morning. We calculate well over a thousand photographs between four of us and were wondering how far from VR capability we are.

The web booking system for the train confirmed acceptance of my card on Friday, but this morning there was no sign of the transaction having ever happened. And incidentally, it had allowed me to book for a trip that they don’t run on Sunday mornings. Yay, a web application. Leap. Click.

The train staff were very friendly and helpful. The run is basically up from Dunedin, turn right at Green Island and wiggle up the Gorge to a blinkanyamistit on the shoulder of the range behind. The Gorge itself is gorgeous, a pretty river flowing at the bottom of a deep groove in the landscape sporting some impressive rock formations. The water is very clear, so you can see all of the bottom all of the time even if it is tinged with green. There are nice beaches and “interesting” beaches (rounded rocks or sharp rocks), rocky shelves, bushy bits, foresty bits, pools, rapids, bridges spanning impressive chasms, a couple of idyllic farm-stay thingies (one of them accessible only by rail) and so on. Magnificent!

28 January 2006

Random post-conf ramblings

A pair of sea-lions stopped to sunbake at Allens’ Beach. This is a truly impressive beach. It has wide, clean, hard-packed sand reminiscent of (surprise) Broome’s beaches.

The furry lump in the foreground is the lass of the sea-lion pair sunbaking near the high-tide mark. A bunch of Yankee tourists (drunk and sunburned) managed to bother the male enough for him to chase them, but he quickly gave up and found a nice piece of driftwood to scratch on before undertaking his own siesta.

Taieroa Head has its own set of “organ pipes” albeit not as spectacular as the set in the bush across the harbour.

The incredibly tough seaweed which grows right on the breaker line around here is still incredibly tough after it dies. I can squeeze this sample for all I’m worth and it won’t even creak. Yet it’s mostly air and weighs diddly squat.

I also wonder how it manages to grow so densely amidst such tumultuous waves and not ever get tangled up. If you could chemically supply the same property to human hair, you’d be a millionaire overnight.

It’s kind of un-nerving to have the sky go from bringht and sunny to overcast and gloomy within about 15 minutes, but this did indeed happen.

Driving back down the Otago Peninsula along the ridge road saw fog hastening across, both up and down the hill in different places. In WestOz, the same breeze which hastened the fog along would also disspiate it, but evidently Otago fog is made of sterner stuff.

I’ll be taking a coach to Christchurch tomorrow night, then flying Qantas (QF46 dep CHC 15:35(GMT+13) arr SYD 16:55(GMT+11), QF583 dep SYD 19:25 arr PER 21:10(GMT+08) at Domestic Terminal 2) home on Monday. If DIMIA will let me back in.

27 January 2006


lanarch castle closed

This after pushing a bike up 3km of road which looked, to quote Cash McCall’s song Black Bear Road, “like a whole bunch’a zees and dubyas all strung together” (note fragments of road visible at stage left and diving behind some pines near centre stage).

view of MacAndrew Bay including portions of road up to castle

The “Camp Track” behind the castle was very pretty:

lanarch castle 'camp track'

...as was the scenery on the way back down. This was a shot over Glenfalloch and MacAndrews Bay to Sawyers Bay. The “wee train” (it seems that “wee” things can actually be reasonably large; this is a 20+ car goods train) goes past Sawyers Bay and Port Chalmers about every hour or so, and makes an incredible amount of noise for its size.

glenfalloch and sawyers bay from road

Note that coasting downhill on a pushbike at ≅60km/h for ≅10 minutes through Dunedin’s sixteen-degree (Celsius) late-afternoon air leaves one f-f-f-fa-fa-far too cold at the end of the run.

Come to Broome in 2008

If you missed my Broome slideshow at the keynote this morning, here is the main slideshow and also the followup slideshow (shown looping; and the animations don’t survive translation to web) both of them to this tune.

cable beach club   cable beach club

I’ve already had three different non-sandgroper volunteers front up and want to help out. If you’re amongst them (or not! :-), please email me (whatever at cyberknights com au) so I can collate a list and get organised.

How SaMBa happens

how samba happens

how samba happens

  1. Get an idea
  2. Stop, drop and roll out code
  3. Profit!
I wonder how much the adoption of tools like laptops has helped the march of technology by simply enabling the capture of ideas on the spot instead of having to wait, or hastily scribble a reminder note (only to lose it or inadvertantly feed it to the washing machine), each step of which costs you some (maybe all) of the gestalt surrounding the original inspiration.

26 January 2006

Interesting conf topics for the day...

...included Aaron Seigo on KDE4’s Plasma (good to see some GNOME crew there, just checking to ensure that there were no surprises), Rusty Russell on Talloc (which has swiss-army-knifed since last year), Adam Jackson on X memory management vs B’dale Garbee on FOSS in EME communications vs Carl Worth on the Cairo drawing system (hurrah for video streams!), then a quiet afternoon listening to Hugh Bleming and B’dale (again) on software radios (as in, communications gear rather than ghetto blasters).

Morning Tea was... different: boxes of lollies and chocolates/toffees. I hope Customs will let me take some back to the munchkins. They’re still in boxes, after all.

The evening was spent Australia Daying with Davyd Madeley, Bernard Blackham, Jacqueline and Harry McNally, James Henstridge, Cameron Patrick and a couple of randoms (not sandgropers) whose names didn’t quite stick (sorry, guys!). And now... the LCA2008 pitch.

Geeks everywhere

These two pictures taken in The Link today give a few samples from the crowd of hundreds.

geek crowd

geek crowd

The unassuming bloke sitting at the back of the first one (in the white shirt) is the bane of billionaire tyrants, the founder and manager of software which is run by at least tens of millions of computers. He’s just one. I can identify at least 20 other “heroes of the revolution” in each photo — one small WMD here would set the computer industry back many years.

Google throws party

Google sponsored an LCA-only happy hour at a bar called Bennu. They also handed out flashing Google badges, which I’m sure the kids will love:

google sign at Bennu

blinking Aaron Seigo

blinking Keith Packard

blinking beer glass

The recruiting style is not very... techie. Most of the people there seemed to be enjoying themselves anyway.

25 January 2006

Almost forgot...

...somewhere in there I missed posting any pictures of the Oamaru statue of royalty:

Oamaru penguin

All hail the great one! (-:

Busy day today

The KDE “kiosk” tools are getting to be nothing short of amazing. Aaron demoed some impressive features, including a drag-n-drop tool which comes pretty close to writing your DCOP scripts for you (in shell, Python, whatever).

Samba4 is working out to be amazingly comprehensive. They are well on the way to beating Microsoft to a fully functional SMB2 implementation. Tridge was in fine form as always, able to explain potentially boring material with memory-friendly sparkle and wit.

I’m amazed that Keith Packard is able to keep so much of the X and renderer and window manager (and so on) interaction straight in his head. Look forward to even more amazing stuff being implemented in x.org in the next year or so, especially in the area of 3D (big surprise) and smooth, perfectly correct interaction.

I’m going to have to cycle and stuff despite the pain, ’coz the morning and afternoon tea nibblies are way too tasty.

I’m sitting in the LA AGM in my newly (re)acquired capacity as an OCM. Andrew Cowie is laying out the financials on Mark Tearle’s behalf. LA appears to have done well again, gaining $21k despite the massive increase in things like donations and support over the past year. More later. Much applause. We’ll have to send James Purser a podcast of the applause he earned.

Four hundred people in one place is a bewildering experience. The Link was pretty much packed out today. Photos of that later as well.

Just around the next corner...

This post is going to be a bit of a photo burst rather than insightful and witty comment on technical matters since my brain’s well overdue for a bit of off-line maintenance, or what mere mortals call “sleep”.

After the miniconfs today (“fastest Debian machine” indeed! :-), I went for a trip up to see the Organ Pipes, a rock formation just north of town. I dropped into the information centre and was told that if I cycled up Norwood Street there was a picnic area at the end of it and “a good two-hour walk” to the Pipes.

It turned out that Norwood Street rapidly becomes nearly as vertical as their steepest one, and that Mr Advisor had never tried to cycle up it. I gave up even pushing the bike about 1/4 of the way up, parked it behind a fence and walked the rest of the way. (Well... walk 20m, pause there puffing like a loco, walk 20m...) No picnic area. A 3km walk along North Road (which I could have cycled up) to the carpark for the Pipes. The best part of a near-vertical kilometer up a treacherous and knobbly path through the bush to the Pipes. Climb the Pipes.

Nice view.

Down the pipes. Down the track. 3km back to Norwood Road. Endless jelly-legged torture back down to the bike. Hop on the bike. Gently, carefully down until there are no more blind corners, then let rip. Whoosh, like a rat up an acqueduct. I don’t need to pedal again until Mechanic Street, about 2.5km from the steep bit of Norwood Road.

Dunedin from Norwood This is the view of Dunedin from Norwood, demonstrating just how far up it came in so few meters.

sticky bitumen On North Road, both down on the flat and up on the ridge, cars going past made a noise like driving through puddles. This was in fact the bitumen melting and sticking to their tyres. It stuck to my tyres, too. In some places, it evidently preferred the tyres to the roadbase.

red hot pokers These are some Red Hot Pokers on Norwood. These flowers are common here (in Perth, they’re a bit of a novelty).

portabello The town of Portabello from North Road on the slopes of Mount Clarendon.

cruise ship Early in the climb, I watched a cruise liner gingerly navigating out past Harington Point.

bird in undergrowth On the path up from the road to the Pipes, a little bird came and investigated me. He sat less than a metre away, occasionally flitting from branch to branch, not panicking, just checking me out. Here he was about 2.5m away. In the next shot I've cropped out just the bird at full rez.

bird cropped The next shots are some of the flora alongside the path. It gets quite jungly.

flora on path

flora on path

flora on path

flora on path

flora on path

paperbark They have a kind of paperbark here too.

pipe rubble The Pipes formation is slanted at a signficant angle, and over the years individual “pipes” have broken off and rolled down the slope. This is the first thing you encounter at the end of the path.

pipes from below This is what the Pipes look like viewed from the rubble pile.

pipes sentinel One of the pipes stands out like a sentinel, warily watching the visitor.

over the edge of the Pipes Looking down, one can see the rubble pile surrounded by bush.

view north from Pipes The views from the Pipes are spectacular, greeen country leading to rugged hills or blue sea.

view northeast

Pipe with 50c.au Here’s a typical Pipe with an Aussie 50c piece for scale.

pipes in the path Pipe exfoliation has evidently been going on for a very long time. Bits of Pipe abounded on and around the path, as far as I could see into the bush.

wooden sections of path Some sections of the path were too soggy or needed a bridge; these were typically covered with chicken-wire-reinforced boards. Chicken-wire and bird-mesh seems to be a common way to add grip to wooden stairs and the like.

roots in the Pipes path In some places, the path had worn away to expose a multitude of roots. This made the footing particulrly risky.

bike parkedOn the way back down North Road, I ran across a bike parked against the fence. This led me to a lass who had plonked herself down in a paddock to watch the sunset paint Port Chalmers and Taiaroa Head.

sunset watcher

country humour The next thing I found was a piece of country humour. The symbol is a red H in a circle, for a fire hydrant. The nearest piped water would be at least 2km away, and there’s no buildings within cooee to extinguish.

norwood road house Some of the farm-houses near the route were very nice. Here’s one across the valley from Norwood.

Norwood dropoff Just to underscore the point, here is what Norwood Road does at a point about 150m above the spot I parked the bike at.

23 January 2006

An RRV arrives. Maybe.

DIMIA emailed me to say that my Resident Return Visa has been processed, but with no explanation of why since they were waiting for information from me which I still haven’t been able to find.

Carefully averting my eyes from the state of this particular horse’s teeth, I now wonder how I set about getting an RRV stamp on my visa.

Laughter, the best medicine

It turned out that what I needed to unlock my tension and kill off (mostly) this morning’s headache was a bit of a laugh. This was duly provided by Jeff Waugh and Anthony “AJ” Towns taking good-natured potshots at each other (in the limelight) over differences between Debian and Ubuntu release practices (or not).

Some of the SysAdmin talks were fairly interesting (to me, anyway), and I picked up a smattering of other good stuff from surfing the internal video streams (round of applause for Ryan Verner, the rest of the team, and Flumotion).

Samba 4 is on the cusp of being officially released, so Tridge’s talk on the topic should be interesting.

Chips, or rather, “cheeups”, as in the flat, thin, roasted-to-death slices of potato that arrive in foil-sealed bags come in some fairly bizarre flavours here. “Green onion” isn’t too large a jump, but “Lamb and Mint Sauce” or “Caesar Salad” flavours are a bit bizarre for an Aussie (well, technically a Canuck).


Late to bed, late to rise, makes one bleary and red of eyes.

22 January 2006

A few more pitchas

A bunch of us went walkabout yesterday, including a visit to Baldwin Street:

baldwin st going up   baldwin st going down

Just south of Dunedin there's a beach, followed by this little point covered in igneous rock (shot through with quartz) which looks uncannily like petrified wood:

wood rocks

seabird wood rock

rock wood split

framed beach

We wandered up north a little, to a lookout with nice views across to the peninsula, including this shot of Mackenzie Bay:

mackenzie bay

The lookout featured bumblebees (about 1.5cm long) and foxgloves:



We stopped in at the botanical gardens, which starred a kea and some brightly plumaged parrots (most of them Aussie):


golden parrots

The trip finished up near a second castle (“only castle in Nez Zealand”, hah!) with good views of Dunedin:

dunedin's main beach

dunedin from the southwest