Fri 21. late night: received an SMS from friends, saying they're going bush camping and whether I'd like to join them.

Sat 22 morning: 250km drive to the upper Clarence River west of Casino

Sun to Tue: relaxing in the shade :-) That particular spot seems to be known to fairly few people and is really lovely. It's on the banks of the Clarence, and well within its flood zone. There are bent trees growing horizontally all over the place, and the evidence of the big floods of two years ago is really stunning: the Clarence is at that point not a big river, but the high water marks are incredibly high up. Anyway, all that flooding makes for very very lush grass and pleasant camping. Only downside: the cows and their patties make for lots of flies. The weather forecast had been pretty bad, but all the storms bypassed us and it drizzled just once, briefly. It was really hot and humid, enough so that even I spent some time in the river (I'm otherwise not a great friend of water and swimming). Getting flushed from the tent at 0730 (because of the heat) is not my preferred way to wake up, but after a coffee and a brief swim around 0900 my brain was usually ready for the day - much of which I spent lounging with books and a few cold beers.

The Clarence and its flood plain (well, more of a flood valley).

 bridge over the clarence clarence river minimally rapid rapids clarence flood plain clarence flood plain clarence flood plain clarence flood plain

My tent next to one of the many horizontal trees.

 tent vs local vertical my tent

Our "lounge" area next to the river. My compact camp kitchen did sterling duties, and so did the MSR Whisperlite (which is now 26 years old!). The tarp in the foreground is mine, the camper/tent combo belongs to my friends. In Europe I never bothered with a tarp, but in Oz it's really essential for getting out of the sun.

 my camp kitchen camp site camp site

The kids used their personal swags, but I much prefer a fullsize tent to one of these coffins.

 jaspers swag

I said it was hot, didn't I? Swimming with a hat on looks weird, and I know that hat of mine looks dorky (but whatever works).

 swimming oz style swimming oz style az dorky hat

That's in the evening.

 az enjoying xmas
[ published on Fri 28.12.2012 12:03 | filed in still-not-king | ]

That's the sound of Sriracha sauce vanishing. There seems to be some hole in the space-time continuum near me, at least as far as chili sauce is concerned: the last 740ml bottle lasted me just under a week, and I don't really think the current bottle will go any further.

[ published on Fri 28.12.2012 11:01 | filed in brainfarts | ]

As of a few days ago I no longer work for said uni, and I never cared about the sheep.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Thu 27.12.2012 11:01 | filed in interests/au | ]

What a letdown: not a single apocalyptic prediction has come true and none of the nutters were elevated, abducted, or otherwise interestingly transformed. Shocking, Truly Shocking.

Better luck next time, maybe? I'm not giving up hopes for the real Ship B, Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet, just yet. In the meantime imagine the joy of the inhabitants of Bugarach when they get their town back!

[ published on Sat 22.12.2012 06:15 | filed in still-not-king | ] just spent more on cooling your computer than you ever spent on cooling yourself/your place.

It's somewhat hot today. The local weather readings peaked around 35°C (and about 75% relative humidity).

I'm pretty sure the desktop box is feeling the heat less than I do because I have just recently invested in a Fractal Design R4 case (very quiet and nice) and a Noctua NH-U12PSE2 cooler (also lovely). Neither were exactly cheap.

The three plain ceiling fans throughout the house and the pedestal fan opposite my desk are much less lovingly overengineered than said computer equipment but they suffice: I don't like air conditioning much (I seem to catch a cold very easily in airconditioned conditions).

[ published on Tue 04.12.2012 14:32 | filed in brainfarts | ]
  • but of course not in the boring standard sense of the term: I like repurposing stuff. Here are some examples.
    click here for the rest of the story...
[ published on Thu 29.11.2012 12:09 | filed in interests/tinkering | ]

Generally I do opt for almost indestructible plants for the small bit of indoor greenery that I want, but inadvertent horticide does happen every now and then...

(Yes, I know I'm late and that this picture is at least a year old, but I still find it pretty punny.)

[ published on Wed 28.11.2012 18:06 | filed in interests/humour | ]

Apparently pigs are happy to fly (ok, jump and dive) on their own. Chinese pigs, that is.

The pigs actually look more graceful than those acrobatic high divers...

[ published on Mon 19.11.2012 22:08 | filed in interests/humour | ]

On Monday I replaced the steering wheel of my Sooby; on the old one most of the leather was cracked and badly worn - the previous owner seems to have been a relation of E. Scissorhands...

Anyway, no big deal; the service manual has all the infos, torque values and so on, and I've got two very nice Norbar torque wrenches. The "new" wheel was cheap (from a local wrecker), the swap took just 5 minutes and the result is very pleasant.

But the really fun part was deciphering the overgenerous warning labels on the bomb^Wairbag unit. Those come in multiple languages, for some weird reason including German - and boy, what a laugh: it talks about the "Anzünder für die Luftsackanlage" and cautions that "Gezündete Anzünder können zum gefährlichen Wurfstück werden". :-)

(Sorry, but I'm not going to retranslate these gems back into English; let's just say that they're pretty good examples of the most stilted German officialese one could think of...)

[ published on Tue 13.11.2012 18:01 | filed in brainfarts | ]

If you've got a Growatt or Sungold inverter, then you will likely know that it has an RS232 port (9600 8N1, no flow control, and straight through cable) and that the manufacturer only provides hideously horrible and somewhat broken windows software for reading the inverter status.

However, their support isn't bad and they sent me the protocol specification within one day of me asking. Here is the Growatt Serial Comms Protocol as PDF. The comms protocol is a tad odd, and the spec isn't 100% clear in all situations but with a bit of fiddling I got a perl reader to work. The comms implementation isn't very robust; while experimenting I managed to send it into a catatonic state a few times, and it stuffs up the message checksum that it sends every now and then, too.

Without further ado, here's my perl proggie. It doesn't work with the growatt's super-weird dynamic address mode (shows as "MOVE" on the LCD); knock through the menus and set a fixed address value first. The perl proggie also expects a unixy box with /bin/stty because I couldn't be bothered to do the tedious termios fiddling from within perl.

Update (Tue 06.11.2012 20:45):

Michael Wheeler reminded me that the Growatt firmware isn't exactly a paragon of stability and does occasionally send out garbage data. He added a few robustness features to the code, which I've just merged back into the the newest version of read-growatt. In addition to that I've found out that some multi-string Growatt models (4400MTL for example) use a different packet format; unfortunately that means read-growatt doesn't work for these right now - until somebody supplies me a protocol description for those models.

[ published on Sun 12.06.2011 19:09 | filed in mystuff | ]

I really like sharing knowledge with others, and that's what this website is mostly about (with the exception of a rant here and there, when I need to vent some...).

So, whenever I manage to create something that doesn't just fulfil my needs but also works for somebody else, I gain a fair bit of happiness (quite important for an otherwise extremely unsocial introvert like me).

Here's an example: I created my Sun to PS/2 keyboard converter because I needed something like it, and since posting my solution here I've heard from a few others who have built my contraption successfully. The most recent of those who reported back, Edward Robbins, has a subtly different model Sun keyboard and it took us a few email exchanges and experiments to determine how the one (undocumented) extra key on his keyboard could be made to work - but we got there.

Without the net he and I would never have gotten in touch, let alone ended up benefiting mutually from each other's efforts.

[ published on Sun 28.10.2012 18:35 | filed in interests | ]

For three+ years I've been content with my Hanlin V3 but as it has become more and more unreliable and its flaws more annoying, a week ago I bit the bullet and replaced it with a Nook Simple Touch (for a measly $90). This post is about reducing the porky Nook to its useful Nookleus, so to speak.

click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Thu 18.10.2012 11:45 | filed in interests | ]

But is pretty hilarious.

[ published on Tue 16.10.2012 21:25 | filed in interests/humour | ]

Yesterday I sold my remaining 122 issues (10+ years' worth) of National Geographic Magazine (for one dollar), because I need the space in my bookcases and I can't stand the shallow and jingoist bias of the texts anymore.

Looks weird without the yellow spines on the shelf; I pretty much grew up with NGS magazines as my parents had a subscription starting when I was about three or four years old. I loved the magazines as a kid, and they were my prime reason to learn English early (the other was that my parents occasionally discussed things in English when they didn't want us kids to understand them...).

I still love the quality of the photographic work, but somehow that does no longer offset the nature of what is covered (or not) and how it is covered...

[ published on Sat 13.10.2012 12:51 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Snow causes havoc across eastern OZ :-)

[ published on Sat 13.10.2012 12:50 | filed in interests/au | ]

The not so secret diary of Aragorn Alexander son of Arathorn Andreas:

Day 4064 of my quest work at $PlaceAcrossThePark: after uncounted years of hard graft the managers, marketeers and other minions of Mordor Mammon have finally succeeded in strategizing Hobbiton the IT school into oblivion.

It's now called the "Department of Business Information Systems" and a few hardy hobbits non-technically oriented academics will likely remain for a while but for the rest of us it's off to the Grey Havens.

So, as of christmas I'll have to look for a sysadmin/netadmin/security/dev job again (the uni education sector seems deadish, and anyway I've had enough of that). I just hope I don't have to move house, Bree Brisbane is a bit far for daily commuting, and the idea of moving to super-busy places like Isengard Sydney is a bit of a turn-off.

[ published on Fri 28.09.2012 12:01 | filed in still-not-king | ]

A few days ago SBS showed a weird but really cool Hungarian movie named Kontroll. It's about ticket inspectors in the Budapest subway, of all things. Very nice, very weird, very much recommended. It hasn't surpassed Hukkle on my list of Hungarian favourites, and it isn't quite as weird as Taxidermia but weird enough.

One of the more memorable scenes: some paramedics scrape the bits of a (non-)suicide from underneath a subway carriage while discussing the finer points of cooking a gulyas :-)

[ published on Thu 27.09.2012 20:11 | filed in interests | ]

My Voice-over-IP to analog gate is fully visible on the net, because I like it if people with working SIP phones can directly call me without going through any commercial provider at all.

That's all fine and well, except when folks start hammering my systems with sipvicious/friendly-scanner: the damn thing doesn't wait and listen for responses but rather blasts out gazillions of (doomed) REGISTER or OPTIONS messages.

Here's my fix for this annoyance: if an inbound SIP message looks like REGISTER or OPTIONS, drop it. I don't run any VOIP server, so nobody is supposed to register with me, ever.

That's actually pretty straightforward to achieve with iptables: iptables -A INPUT -p udp --dport 5060 ! -f -m u32 --u32 "0>>22&0x3C@8=0x52454749,0x4f505449" -j DROP

The u32 match module is low-level but really efficient and precise, and this cryptic instance will simply look for REGI or OPTI at the beginning of the UDP packet payload. The iptables string match isn't as flexible, and could quite easily wrongly match the words in the body of the request (and SIP responses are pretty verbose and full of echoes...).

[ published on Wed 26.09.2012 22:55 | filed in interests/anti | ]

...but not necessarily/exactly you.


nothing more to see - i'm just being silly, move along, move along.

[ published on Sat 22.09.2012 00:00 | filed in still-not-king | ]

Ever since I stopped using a Sun SparcStation as desktop (around 94 or so) I wanted a decent Type 4 or 5 on my pc - alas, the Type 4/5 are serial keyboards and hence not directly supported by normal pcs.

 Sun Type 5c goodness

Getting the Type 5 to work under Linux wouldn't have been too hard (it's serial after all), but that isn't good enough: I wanted a decent solution that also work for BIOS interaction and in Windows (and even the Linux-only solution would have required soldering up a TTL inverter). So why not build a converter?
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Thu 11.03.2010 17:45 | filed in mystuff | ]

The Linux in-kernel secret store (aka "key retention service") is a cool thing and not just useful to the AFS and Kerberos implementers. Actually, it works perfectly well as a general-purpose passphrase store, but the userland tools are somewhat idiosyncratic. Here are some extra bits and tricks that I use to make this more convenient.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Sun 24.08.2008 17:17 | filed in interests/crypto | ]

Kuvert was recently featured on the debaday blog, and somebody asked me to put the manual pages on the web.

So here they are, ugly as sin (because I couldn't convince groff or any other converter to render -mdoc manual pages in HTML without breaking them completely):

manpage for kuvert
manpage for kuvert_mta_wrapper

Update (Tue 04.09.2012 20:40):

The manpages have been updated for kuvert version 2.0.7: Manpage for kuvert
Manpage for kuvert_submit

[ published on Tue 16.11.2004 19:00 | filed in mystuff/kuvert | ]

Yesterday I had yet another punctured car tyre, this time two for the price of one: one nail (not through) and one fat screw (all the way through). Luckily it was a slow puncture and I found it in time, repressurized the tyre and put in a quick trip to the local repair shop ($15).

This must be at least the tenth puncture in eleven years in country, which is gazillions more than I've had in Austria: looks like punctures are a part of the Australian way of life, too :-)

Weird. We drive slower here and the roads aren't that bad so why the all damn holes? I think it's because the buildings here in Southeast QLD are mostly constructed of wood, and most tradesmen drive utes without canopies over the cargo bin and are pretty messy with their gear: all the punctures I've had so far were caused by spiral-shank nails or by drywall, roofing or other wood screws.

[ published on Wed 22.08.2012 10:01 | filed in interests/au | ]

You may very well call me a boring old fart, but I very much prefer fountain pens over (almost all) ballpoint pens. Maybe that's because we weren't allowed ballpoint pens in primary school and had to use fountain pens?

Regardless of the Real Root Cause of my pen preference, I've been a relatively happy user of a Waterman Kultur Demonstrator for the last some years - with one exception: the cap isn't tight enough and the pen dries out very quickly.

Recently, however, I've discovered a nicer and cheaper pen: the Platinum Preppy costs about $3(!) a piece incl. cartridge, comes in two nib widths (0.3 and 0.5mm), is refillable - and can be converted into a cartridge-less eyedropper pen with just an o-ring. The (proprietary) cartridges have a very big opening, so it should be pretty trivial to refill them with a small syringe. The nib is great and very consistent, and glides better than my Waterman. In addition to that it's got a spring-loaded inner cap which I think will keep it from drying out too quickly.

Unfortunately neither pen, pencil, rapidograph or ballpoint fix my lousy handwriting - but I do enjoy making my inconsistent squiggles more if it's by pen :-)

[ published on Sat 28.07.2012 19:39 | filed in interests | ]

I really like this lovely small gem of common sense, uncommon in this century of propaganda and threat exaggeration:

"That is, if the conduct complained of would not amount to an offence if it occurred off-line, then it is not an offence simply because in a particular instance it was undertaken with the aid of digital technology."

"For example, complaints have been received about comments posted on Facebook which are abusive or harassing. If this behavior occurred in a public place it would not be a reportable offence," said Acting Inspector Luke Manhood.


[ published on Sat 14.07.2012 16:38 | filed in interests/au | ]

Apparently your life history is reflected in the types of germs in your belly button. This is, of course, highly exciting for every human on the planet.

[ published on Sat 14.07.2012 16:26 | filed in interests/humour | ]

Have a look at these examples of street art, or this cool mural or this one, all by the Etam crew.

Pretty amazing stuff!

[ published on Fri 29.06.2012 23:54 | filed in interests | ]

The 23rd was Anna Akhmatova's 123rd birthday - or Alan Turing's 100th - or my 40th (same for Zinedine Zidane).

[ published on Tue 26.06.2012 00:07 | filed in still-not-king | ]

I've been using Palm PDAs since 98, and I liked PalmOS a lot. Still, after Palm gave up on it I've been thinking about replacing my phone+pda with something slightly more modern: not necessarily because my Centro wasn't sufficient, but because I looked for better networking capabilities. Some months ago I finally did switch to an Android phone. Which I like, too, with one major exception: the automatic assumption that you'll entrust all your personal info to Google and the lack of other options (at least in the basic load-out). I categorically refuse to do that, and am willing to devote pretty much any amount of effort to degoogle my infrastructure - without losing overly much in the way of essential services. This post describes how I got my Android phone pretty much google-free.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Sun 17.06.2012 18:25 | filed in interests/comp | ]

At least that's what I deduce from my Austrian sorta-life-insurance policy: that tome of hideous fine print states explicitely that suicide is covered. However, if you accidentally die while doing just about anything fun, then they pay a lot less. ("extended residence in unfavorable climate zones" is also only partially covered...hey, that's why I don't live in Vienna anymore!)

With insurance companies not being known for altruism and benevolence, it must make commercial sense to penalize the clumsy buggers instead of the suicide candidates.

But somehow I can't reconcile that notion with the official statistics...

[ published on Sat 16.06.2012 17:21 | filed in brainfarts | ]

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