Busy week!

It's been an extordinarily busy week with work taking me places I didn't think I'd go. Home life has suffered (usually the way) and the grass is now 2 inches tall! To top it all off, there's something decidely screwy going on with my neck. Wow. What a week. It's been all go, no stop, don't-even-take-a-breath week at work. Seems I've been roped into the "technical pre-sales" role. This isn't totally a bad thing. In fact it's an aspect of the IT industry I've pretty much ignored until now. The business development manager at work has indicated she thinks I have a certain degree of natural talent in the field and has given me the opportunity to explore and see if it's something I might be interested in. So never wanting to miss an opportunity I jumped in boots-and-all! Next thing I know, I'm on a plane to Brisbane for some technical training and in a week or so, I'll be off to Melbourne to do some technical demonstrations and general Q&A type stuff with other uber-nerds. Sounds like fun!

Unfortunately though, with this added work load, my family time has been cut into again. Life sux like that. Every thing I do in one area, takes away from time and energy in another. I'm stretched so thin these days. When I was flying, I was intensely focussed one one thing; flying. It wasn't too hard and I was good at it (both flying and the focus bit). But now, I'm working in two fields of IT, flying casually, trying to fit in some water skiing and in amongst that (and all the other crap I didn't mention) I want (and need) to spend time with Nat and Emily. Gah - there's just not enough time in a day!!

Last week I sprayed the lawns with some weed-and-feed. It's about as caring as I get with grass. It's done a good job of killing the clover and few other weeds in the lawn, but the bloody stuff has grown 2 inches in 6 days! Dammit as if I didn't have enough things to do already! I think the next thing I'll spray on the lawn is "round-up"!!

Adding to my woes for the last month or so, has been slowly growing problem. About a month ago I found my upper left arm (just below the shoulder) started to ache. A sharp ache that never went away. This has progressed over the last 4 weeks or so to the point where if I tilt my head back my whole right arm goes numb (put stays all warm and pink) and my upper-arm has a shooting pain right through it. If I tilt my head back further, the numbness in my arm spreads further up making my entire left arm basically completely numb plus I get the added bonus of stabbing pain in my spine right between my shoulder blades. Great.

I went and saw my GP who ordered a CT scan (aka "cat scan") of my upper back, but it came back "normal". So I've got a referral to see a neurologist but he's booked solid until mid January 2006!! Dammit - I've got to put up with this until then?! I might go back to my GP and see if there's anyone else they can refer me to - I've got private health insurance, I shouldn't have to wait!

I'll keep everyone posted on how that little saga works out :)

Another weekend - another weed

Spent a good proportion of this weekend pulling weeds and other plants out a friend's place. That, and staying up late celebrating the end of another year at the venerable University of Wollongong. My best friend Chris, and his wife Nic, have bought a new home - yay for them! BUT, it has about a decade of free-range plant growth all over the house. No that's not a typo - the plants surrond the house and are now (in true triffod-style) attempting to cover the house too. Many trailers were hauled to the dump, several large bushes met the chain saw, large rocks were ousted from their slumber, many spiders squashed and a good time had by all.

Chris and Nic put on drinks and BBQ at the end of the weekend's proceedings and many laughs shared throughout too. Even though my body is telling me it was all hard labour, my brain seems to think it was actually fun!

Saturday night Nat and I (and Emily) went to a uni-friend's (Rocci and Daniella) place for a post-2005 project/thesis recovery dinner. Some other ex-studnets (now graduated...bastards!) were there to celebrate with us too. It was good time with great company and great food.

Emily was a little hard to settle but porta-cots and strange environments, coupled with a fractured routine, never mix really well with her though. We usually pay dearly for it the next day, but Emily wasn't too bad on Sunday, so I guess that's a good thing.

Nat and Daniella got on really well and both being pregnant seemed to have plenty to chat about. That left the blokes to run amok with flamable liquid, fireworks and leaf-blowers. Don't ask! Roll on next weekend - I need a break!!

Firefox 1.5 is out!

The fine folk over at Mozilla have released a new version of their web browser Firefox. If you want the latest-greatest web browser available then surf on over to the release page.

UPDATE 1-Dec-2005: Firefox 1.5 has gone "stable". Go get it while it's hot! Same link as above :) Highlights of the new release: + New web technology support: CSS2 and CSS3, SVG, JavaScript 1.6 + Faster back/forward page jumping + Many (many) bug fixes

Remember this is a Release Candidate (ever wondered what the "RC" meant? Well now you know). So there may be some bugs, but think of it this way; Microsoft release beta software all the time, never tell you and it's buggy. At least Mozilla are putting their hand up and saying "we want people to test this before we call it production ready" - and they're NOT charging you for the final version once they get it right! Way to go Mozilla!!

I'm living in a cancer knoll!

Whilst on the train this morning I started thinking about all the EMR sources in and around my house. It got me thinking... In themselves, none of the EMR (Electro-Magnetic Radiation, aka "Radio Waves") sources are particularly powerful but all contribute to the whole. Let's see, I've got:

  1. The wifi access point with +5dB gain antenna sitting on top of my work-station's montior - ie, about 2 feet from my head :P
  2. My laptop sits about 2m (6 feet) behind me. Also talking wifi
  3. My wife's computer down the hall also has wifi with another +5dB gain antenna
  4. I have a wireless broadband connection with a 30cm (1 foot) dish which is about a +25dB signal gain on the house.
  5. UHF/VHF radio and television antennas
  6. A satellite dish
  7. Three mobile phones in the house - 2 usually attached to me
  8. The cordless phone system with two handsets and the base station
  9. PLUS enough high frequency electronic noise from the 5 PC's, one laptop, a 3kVA UPS, and digital home theatre equipment to fry anyone's brain!

I figure this can't be good, but there's been no definitive evidence to prove otherwise. I guess if there are any cancer researchers (or foil-hat-wearing paranoid weirdo's) who want to view me as a case study, I'm more than happy to be observed...in my clothes I mean.

Cars...and life's other questions

Woot. The Falcon is back in my garage! The bike is no longer in my possession, and there is a new car in the garage too! I'm impressed. The local Ford dealer warned me that my new gearbox might take up to 2 weeks to be fitted (as stated earlier). In reality the car was dropped off on Monday, they called Wednesday to say the new gearbox had arrived, and I picked the car up yesterday! So two weeks turned into 4 days - impressive. Less impressive was the side mirror switch missing from the door when I picked the car up, but they fitted a new one and I was on my way.

The new car (Nat's Lancer) is now parked in the garage after a marathon effort to rearrange it. It's a tight fit with a Lancer and a Falcon in the same garage, but it's better than having one live on the driveway out in the weather!

I'm going to have to move the drinks fridge somewhere (maybe into the house, or under the patio) so I can use it. But that's only a minor thing. At the moment, there's about 30cm (1 foot) clearance between the side of the Falcon and the fridge door - not enough space to open the fridge. So that will have to change before summer really kicks in! Can't have the beer getting warm can we?!

What is it with cars?

Why do bad things happen on Friday nights when no-one can do anything about it until Monday?! Let me explain. Nat and I were driving home from the train station on Friday night (21-Oct) and stopped at a set of traffic lights. There was this almighty "bang" and shudder through the car - we thought someone had run up the back of us. Nope. When the lights went green, the car made this awful "whining" noise that emanated from the gearbox region. This can't be good. So we pulled over and I jumped out and had a listen to the car while it was idling in "Park" and it sounded fine. As soon as it went into gear - the whining sounded more like grinding noise. Ah - definitely not good.

So we nursed the car home and called the road-side assistance that comes with our vehicle warranty. A mechanic arrives about 20 minutes later (impressive). He has a listen and informs me the torque converter has probably thrown a bearing (or worse). Verdict: call Ford and arrange a warranty repair ASAP...oh, and don't drive the car. OK, so there goes our weekend plans to go skiing out the window. Our only car is off the road with a pregnant wife and sick daughter and no-one can do anything until MONDAY! Great. That's just super.

So we enact what is hereto known as "Plan B"; as in "Plan 'Bike'".....as in get rid of bike. Nat and I have been talking about getting rid of my bike for a few months and this "no car" situation really forced us into action. So went we did the rounds of a few dealers and found that 2nd hand small cars with low milage are only fractionally cheaper than an equivalent new car. So we said screw it - and signed up for a new Mitsubishi Lancer :) 2.0L, 5 speed manual with all the trimmings! Yay. The local Mitsubishi dealer gave us a good deal and fair trade on the bike. To sweeten the deal, they even loaned us a car until the Lancer is delivered which was a generous gesture that we really appreciate.

In the meantime, Ford have informed me the Falcon could be off the road for up to TWO WEEKS because when the torque converter imploded, it filled the rest of the gearbox with metal fragments thus destroying it as well. Sux to be Ford - this is all a warranty repair. Apparently the new gearbox and torque converter, fitted is worth over AUD$8000! Yikes!! The new-car warranty runs out on Dec-10 this year ! We really dodged a bullet with this one.

So after my relaxing weekend turned stressful and all our skiing plans went out the window, I'm actually pretty happy with how things worked out. We got rid of the bike, bought a new car and managed to work around our car-less situation. Now all I have to do is rearrange the garage to fit two cars :-/ Anyone got a spare tardis?

Linux Upgrade: Kubuntu Hoary to Breezy

It seems the kernel update that was published a week or so ago by the fine folks at Kubuntu left my system in an awful state! Much poking, prodding, and configuring couldn't get things back to their rock-solid state. So I bit the bullet and went up to the next stable release "Breezy" and this is my experience. Firstly, let's give this blog entry some context. My system is an AMD64 machine running the 64bit Kubuntu. I'm a KDE die-hard...it's one of my few vices :P Anyway, here's my machines specs:

  • CPU AMD64 3000+ (2000MHz)
  • Motherboard Asus K8VSE Deluxe
  • RAM 1GB (2x512) Coarsair something in dual-channel
  • Video Winfast A360 - nVidia FX5700 with 256MB VRAM
  • Hard Drive Western Digital 200GB SATA on the VIA controller (/dev/sda)
  • Optical Storage Samsung CDRW/DVD-ROM combo drive on primary ATA (/dev/hda)

The update was kicked off around 7pm on Saturday night. This began with a simple edit of the /etc/apt/sources.list file and replacing every "hoary" with "breezy". I was lazy and used "mcedit" for that job, but I could've used vi, or even sed.

With the sources list update I rebooted into "recovery mode" which is Kubuntu's single user mode with a root shell. At this point the real waiting began. I issued an "apt-get update" to get the new package lists, then an "apt-get -u dist-upgrade". Screenfuls of packages scrolled off and I was given the summary that over 570 packages would be updated, 200-odd will be installed and 37 removed. This would require a 788MB download and when the install was complete, about 500KB extra space consumed. So I said "Yes" and went to bed about 2 hours later with stuff still coming down the wire.

This morning I checked on the progress and noticed it was stopped on a screen asking which word list I wanted by default. Promising sign - looks like everything downloaded :) So I answered the questions and the upgrade progressed.

Time for a coffee. With the caffeine hit out of the way, I went back and checked on progress (I drink quickly, and the espresso machine in the kitchen makes coffee fast too). Hmm, it's barfed on a kdevelop3-data package because it's trying to overwrite a file that belongs to kdevelop3. Oh well, time to break out the big stick:

  1. dpkg -i --force-overwrite /var/cache/apt/[package]
  2. apt-get -f install

Unfortunately, there were two other packages requiring this sort of love and attention too: kdevelop3_4 and knemo. But after going through the 2 steps above for them and waiting for the second step to complete, I could finish the upgrade with "apt-get -u dist-upgrade" and all was well.

At the end of the upgrade I did one last "apt-get update && apt-get -u dist-upgrade" and noticed there was nothing to upgrade or install BUT there was one package "kept back": libtunepimp-bin. So I simply, removed it, then did a cache search to find what has become of it. Then found the new package "libtunepimp-bin" which I installed manually. Voila. Even though the package has the same name, it actually installs the new version - probably why it was kept back.

My system uses the nVidia binary driver for the video card and I choose to use the nVdidia installer, rather than the Kubuntu package. This way I'm always up to date :) The drawback is, that nearly every time there's a kernel update, my xorg breaks and I need to recompile a new kernel module for the nVidia driver. I can live with that. So after the upgrade, I rebooted into recovery mode again to recompile the nVidia driver.

This was a little odd. I ran the installer (like I'd done dozens of times before) so didn't pay that much attention to the messages; just go through the "accept, yes, uh-huh, ok, just-compile-it-already, fine, you-done-yet?!" routine. But it bombed. Seems the kernel is compiled with gcc-3.3 but the default compiler in Breezy is gcc-4.0. The installer doesn't like this (and rightly so). So I had to set the "CC" environment variable:

CC=/usr/bin/gcc-3.3 ; export CC

Then re-run the installer. All was well and the driver installed without a hitch. Reboot for real this time and see what the system does :)

The first thing I noticed was the hdparm (Setting drive options IIRC) in the boot sequence seems to happen before my IDE drivers are loaded so it complains it can't find /dev/hda. I'll move it later in the boot sequence - no biggie.

The rest of the boot went fine. The new KDM login screen is VERY slick. Once logged in as my normal user account, my entire session was reloaded, exactly as I had left yesterday and I began exploring :) My first impressions of Breezy are:

  • KDE 3.4.3 is noticably faster than 3.4.0
  • The eye-candy is sweet
  • Kontact loads faster (much faster)
  • Still have the occasional artsd lock-up requiring me to restart the KDE sound system. But this is a bug with the sound driver on my Asus K8VSE Deluxe mother board AFAIK.
  • The problems that prompted the whole upgrade are resolved
  • My pen drive doesn't automagically appear on the desktop any more, but I can live with that. I just created a manual entry in /etc/fstab and then created a link on the desktop. Solved.
  • Can't comment on stability too much yet - haven't had it running long enough!

Well that's about it. Contact me if you want to ask any questions or have any comments :).

Flying Again :)

I went flying today with two good friends; Andrew and Michelle. It was bumpy with howling (30kt) SW winds but despite the nerves and turbulence they say they had a good time. The strong winds weren't all bad though; it cleared the pollution from Sydney's air and we could see from the coast to the mountains!

Departure was planned for 10am local, but we didn't get off the ground until 10:34. That's what happens when a plane has been left idle for 2 weeks and no-one knows how much fuel, etc. I hadn't planned on needing to pump it full of fuel and sort out a few other paper-work things. But we got off the ground and simply needed to tell Flight Watch to amend the SAR (Search-And-Rescue) time.

The trip north was pretty gentle to start with. We climbed out to 1500ft and tracked coastal to Stanwell Park. Once there, we dropped down to 500ft continuing coastal to Sydney Heads via "Victor One" - the low-level corridor that gets you along the coast and under the controlled airspace around Sydney.

Approaching South Head, I called up for an airways clearance to do some orbits (circles) at the Harbour Bridge, which was granted. I tried to get a more direct clearance home but due to the active runway in Sydney (07/25) they couldn't clear me from the bridge to fly south - bugger. Back the way we came :( So it was back out to Sydney Heads, drop down to 500ft, south via Victor One, then back to Wollongong via the coast. I did climb back up to 2500ft once clear of the controlled airspace to smooth things out for Andrew and Michelle.

On the way back home we spotted a pair of migrating whales on their way north just east of Stanwell Park. It appeared to be a mother and calf (could've been father and calf, but it didn't roll over for us to check it's gender :P). A couple of tight orbits near the whales, but alas no brilliant photo's...they don't surface long enough to get a good shot from an aircraft moving at nearly 200km/h! Still, it was a wonderful sight.

Both my trusty (or is that "trusting"??) passengers managed to get through their first ( ever ) flight in a light plane with nerves intact...breakfast wasn't quite so lucky - that turbulence at 500ft between Cronulla and Stanwell Park was quite rough.

The day after

It's the day after my birthday and it wasn't so bad after all. Natalie bought me a neat little radio scanner (so I can listen in on air traffic etc), and Emily got me a photo frame with three little photos of her and Natalie. It's really sweet. Mum and Dad sent me some money which I'm going to put towards a new GPS.

So what's it like to be 31? Dunno - not much different to 21 really except I've got less hair! Having the flu is not making me feel any younger though...but that's pretty subjective. I guess I'll just have to take these birthdays on the chin and grow old disgracefully. Heck why clean up my act now?!

The day before...

Tomorrow is my birthday and for some reason this hasn't inspired me to break forth into uncontrollable displays of happiness. In fact it's barely raised a smile. I didn't want to turn 30 last year (or ever for that matter) and I sure as hell don't want to turn 31 this year! I guess that's called getting older and for the first 20-odd years of your life it's a real buzz to get a year older as each year brings new privileges and opportunities that only come with age. However, once you get past that, nothing happens each year other than a few more wrinkles and a little more wisdom (wisdom - read "scars" heheh). Birthdays become the metronome of life, keeping beat and marking the time.

All is not doom and gloom though, with Emily getting older I am really enjoying watching her grow and develop! She's growing up way too fast for both Nat and I. Just when we've got accustomed to her being a certain age/stage, she goes and changes. Life is great.

Another great birthday present this year has been my return to the air. Although I'm still coming up to speed for parachute operations, the general concepts are falling into place nicely and each flight becomes easier than the last. The hardest part is getting all radio work done, plus manage the tracking to the drop zone and making all the run-in calls to the jumpers (5 minutes, 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile, open door, jump out...). It's a busy 5 minutes then you just point the plane at the ground and make like a brick :)

Well, I'll be back tomorrow with more news and info about my birthday pressie :)