Support Autism

You may notice the new block on the right hand side. ( Update: Block removed, but link below still works - JG 22-Jan-2011) On November 1st, I am going offline to support and raise awareness of autism (in all it's forms). This is a condition that is very close to my heart and I'd encourage everyone to check out the web site Communication Shutdown to see what this is about. Obviously it would be great if you wanted to throw some coin towards support services for people with this largely misunderstood condition.

Here's a few bits of info about Autism:

  • You can't "acquire" Autism - you're born with it.
  • There is no cure (although with the right support and intervention, many with Autism can, and do, make significant contributions to society).
  • Autism is a spectrum - some people are severely impacted, others seem almost normal
  • Without Autism, NASA, Silicon Valley, MIT and other highly technical institutions probably wouldn't exist! (This is an attempt at humour obviously, but oddly, contains a lot of truth!)

I have seen some research showing Autistic tendencies in some people after various forms of brain trauma, but the jury is still out on whether this is actually "Autism" or some other form of behavioural change.

When good intentions turn bad

If anyone is wondering what the heck happened to the weather graphs recently I can explain. I have been a busy boy and moved all my email hosting to Google Apps. This is a good thing and has NOTHING to do with the gaps in the graphs. However, the mail hosting move triggered a chain reaction of me shooting myself in the foot. The sequence of events went something like this:

  1. Migrate mail hosting - w00t! Everything went well :)
  2. Users can't get their mail clients configured. Bummer, time to do some remote take-over-their-desktop type wrangling. All fixed...good!
  3. Remove old mail server packages from my server at home. This went well in fact - bye Zimbra and Mailscanner, you've been good friends.
  4. Decide that with the smaller task-footprint on the server, I might as well upgrade it from Ubuntu 8.04 to 10.04.
  5. Here ends my weekend! Gah!!
  6. What broke: database, monitoring, backups, mail relay, web proxy, DNS, DHCP, UPnP media server, weather station duties.
  7. Fixing #6 has taken me all day Monday!! Grr.

The good news is that I'm pretty sure everything is back to normal albeit with a few gaps in the trend monitoring for the weather station. Sorry.

Update: Wednesday 6th October @ 13:53

Spoke too soon. After "fixing" the system it turns out the term "fix" was more like "neuter"! I got this great idea to lock down some files on the server that contain sensitive info, like username and passwords to databases. The problem is the code that does all the graph generation magic couldn't READ the damned files after I "fixed" them (I'm an idiot...should've seen THAT coming!). Alas, the permissions are now fixed properly and the result is about a 24hr gap in the trend monitoring. Moral to the story: when locking down your system, decide if you're doing for anality or for a real reason. In my case, it was the former, and I paid :(

Synchronising iPhoto

As many people who know me are aware, I use Macs. I also use iPhoto, a lot! I have an iMac on my desk at home and I roam around with my Macbook Pro. Both of these have iPhoto installed and I often need to make sure both systems' iPhoto libraries are in sync. There is no free GUI tool for this (that I'm aware of at least) but that is not a show stopper. Many Mac/OSX users aren't aware of the fact OSX is a full- blown, card carrying member of the Unix(tm) family! What this means is that it has a complete command line interface that allows you to do all sorts of phunky things. In my case, I need to synchronise two iPhoto installations. However, my needs are fairly simple:

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Well it had to happen eventually, given enough time I guess it was inevitable, but finally, I HAVE GRADUATED! Today I was honoured to be given the award of Bachelor of Computer Science, with a major in Secure Distributed Systems.

I was very privileged to have my beautiful wife, Natalie, and my parents accompany me as guests to the graduation ceremony. After the formalities, we all went home, collected my daughters and went out for dinner. A fairly low-key affair given that it is Wednesday night, but we all had a ball.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to simply drink in the occasion, reflect on the last 9+ years and share the whole experience with the people I care about the most. Working full time and raising a family certainly impacted the time it has taken to complete my degree, but I wouldn't want it any other way. If I ever have to opportunity to study full time without the stress of paying bills etc, I'm sure I will jump at it. However, until I win the lottery, I doubt I will ever know what it is like to "just study".

Thanks to all my friends who have supported me in so many ways. A special thanks to Mike, Peter dZ, Andrew, Rocci, and Bel who I met whilst studying and still have the pleasure of sharing their company. You guys have been such a huge support and inspiration (having graduated years ago!). To all the other close friends who have encouraged and challenged me to keep going and look forward to the end goal - thank you so very much.

Thank you to everyone who has made this achievement possible. For more photos from today, check out the gallery here.

Finally - automatic old message deletion in Apple Mail

For quite a while it's bugged me that there was nothing in Apple Mail that allowed you to delete messages automatically older than a certain number of days. For me this is a big problem as I subscribe to a number very high volume mail lists and having to muck around with "Smart Mailboxes" to find the old messages and then delete them manually was a royal pain. Well, I decided to get in a New Year's resolution early and put in place a more elegant solution.

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The Simple Things

Sometimes the simple things are the things that irritate you the most, or are the most poorly implemented solutions to a simple problem. Take OSX's lack of a countdown timer - for me, a major pain in the butt. However, a simple dashboard widget does a stellar job of implementing this feature in an unobtrusive, elegant way. I give you (drum roll please): 3-2-1- no, that's not the countdown for the drum roll...that's the software's name!

Simple name, simple software - GREAT result. Kudos to the devs. Punch in a time, hit the green square and return to your desktop. When the timer runs out, dashboard takes focus and sounds a little (customisable) sound. Voila.

So why the hell would someone need a countdown timer? Simple - the next time you tell your wife, "I'll be about 10 minutes" then emerge from your office, with bloodshot eyes, sore hands, a crick in your neck and a bad odour several hours later, you'll remember this article and download the freaking software! :) Or in my case, avoid the situation in first place...honest.

The Yak went SPLAT!

I was flying my freshly built Yak-54 foamie down the park, miles (ok, several hundred metres) from anything solid and upright. Not long into the flying, during a gentle left turn the ailerons stopped working - not good with about 50% deflection and full-span ailerons! Tried recovery with opposite rudder and a lot of elevator but no dice. The damned thing went into an inverted spin and didn't recover. Lucky for me, some kind farmer had left a line of star pickets with barbed wire to arrest the descent!!! Grrr. Anyone got some glue???

Scratch one marine tank :(

Right now I'm too angry to see straight! My entire stock of fish in my marine tank are dying. Let's put this in perspective: that's a breeding pair of clowns, two domino damsels, 3 blue chromis, a rainbow wrasse and a coral banded shrimp. At risk are myanemone, and beautiful crop soft corals and about 50kg of live rock. All up about $1000 dollar investment. So how did this happen? Simple. I purchased the two damsels and a coral banded shrimp from a store I don't normally buy stock from, and lo and behold, they don't protect their customers from parasites, viruses and bacterial infection which subsequently ended up in my tank!! The death toll so far (since Sunday):

  • Tuesday: the rainbow wrasse and a damsel
  • Wednesday: one clown with the other clown looking like he's circling the drain. Second damsel showing signs of distress.

Moral to the story: only buy stock from suppliers who QUARANTINE their new stock and treat them with at least some sort of copper solution prior to sale. Apparently the mob I purchased from on Sunday don't care about their stock OR their customers!! Hopefully the guy I normally purchase from, who's a top bloke and great supplier, might allow me to quarantine my corals and anemone in one of his quarantine tanks while I clean my tank up. If not, add another $150 to the potential loss :( Right now the only indications I have are some very fine white marks on the fish bodies then about 12-24 hours later, they die. Whatever is killing my fish is FAST and it isn't "ich" - despite the white spots. Ich doesn't kill this fast. My guess is some sort of virus or maybe a bacterial infection. It's too fast to be parasitic (which rules out ich).

Like I said - so angry I can hardly see straight!!