Punakaiki Fund

If you’re not already aware, Lance Wiggs is trying to raise money for his brainchild Punakaiki Fund. This is a fund aimed at getting money towards early startups in New Zealand.

For some reason New Zealanders like to throw wild amounts of money at all sorts of get rich schemes like Lotto and Nigerian scammers but raising money to get a business with an actual business model off the ground is remarkably hard. Often it’s a who you know not what you know situation.  Lance is pretty uniquely positioned to be the guiding light in this fund. His drive to be involved at every level and with any one in New Zealand’s tech scene has to be seen to be believed. If you haven’t spoken to him personally, listened to one of his talks or corresponded with him via twitter, email or any other social media it’s fair statement to make that you are not in the New Zealand tech scene. This too is only to speak of his connectedness within NZ let alone his prowess on the business front. If you need someone to rip your business model to shreds, ring Lance, his number is on his website.

As such this is a one of a kind opportunity. One of New Zealand’s foremost business brains who is also one of New Zealand’s most connected people in the technology scene is offering people a chance to let him point their money at some of the most promising yet-to-be businesses around. It can only be good for New Zealand. We need more TradeMes, more Xeros and more Vends. You can be a part of making that happen at Punakaiki Fund, do take a look, the offer closes this Friday.

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Spotify is P2P software

I’d been having this weird issue with my internet connection recently. First I’d notice pages were loading slowly, then, almost not at all. Diagnosis via a few pings to some local sites would show a lag of 500 to 1200ms. Local sites shouldn’t take over a second to load. To fix the lag I’d reset my local ethernet connection and all was well again, for a while at least. I got close to contacting my ISP about it but I couldn’t reproduce it. How annoying.

These interruptions have got more regular lately and quite frustrating. Good internet is critical to me. It was during another one of these semi-outages, and I don’t recall how, I closed spotify. I think it had crashed or something and I thought it was because of the poor internet. Turns out it was the cause of the poor internet! Spotify is a P2P client! Without really letting you know, Spotify pretty much max-out your outgoing bandwidth to save themselves money in hosting. You can’t throttle the connection and even if you’re a premium customer like me, you can’t turn it off.

64 bytes from icmp_seq=7 ttl=57 time=505.017 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=8 ttl=57 time=547.947 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=9 ttl=57 time=521.872 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=10 ttl=57 time=20.812 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=11 ttl=57 time=20.243 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=12 ttl=57 time=20.516 ms

You can see in these pings where I turn Spotify off. Incredible… And more incredible is apparently it’s insanely clever. How clever is it to be a piece of software which destroys your customers ability to use the internet?

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Why you don’t clad homes with brick in Wellington

It never ceases to amaze me how people completely fail to learn. Wood is flexible, brick and cement, not so much.

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Mindkits’ Diamond Mind printers available again

Quick public service announcement, the awesome MindKits have their very own 3D printers available again. If you’re looking for a 3D printer in NZ and want local support from a fanatical team you should probably buy one of these.

Made in NZ 3D printer. Choice bro!

Checkout the Diamond Mind 3D printer

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Is Spotify the most annoying music service?

When Spotify launched in NZ, I skipped it as it required Facebook integration to work. I need more social media, messages and updates like I need more door to door sales people. So, when they dropped that requirement, I thought I’d give it a crack. At first it was good, added some playlists, then followed some playlists, discovered some new music and basically forgot about maintaining my MP3 collection and the playlists I’d crafted/cobbled over a decade.

However, it started to get annoying and hasn’t improved. Firstly the emails; I’m pretty sure I’ve unsubscribed from more emails than should be possible for a consumer facing service. I don’t want emails from you, I never have and I’ve unchecked every box that would remotely intimate I might want more emails in my inbox. Then there’s the “in app” notifications. Notifications, I think people will look back at notifications in a few years, if they’re not doing it already and go “what were we smoking”. In-app notifications cannot be turned of with Spotify, there is no preference setting. If they want to notify you, you’re going to get a popup and a sound no matter how deep in thought you are in your job or whatever you gets your bills paid. Your concentration is not of any importance to Spotify. Your relaxation is not of any importance to Spotify. Your sanity is not of any importance to Spotify. The inanity of it is that the notifications I received, I assume there are other types, were for the most assinine uselessness it beggars belief… someone added a song to a playlist I followed. Why on earth would I actually care about this? Why would anyone care about this? And why would any one care so much that they needed to be notified above all other things? It’s like someone ringing my doorbell to tell me that someone wrote an article in a newspaper column I read. If I read it I read it now get off my doorstep. Seeing as I couldn’t turn off the notifications I did the only logical thing and unfollowed that playlist. What a great music discovery tool.

I’ve just received another email now, telling me about some “local music” on the false assumption that I somehow care more for music made on the island I live on than what’s available elsewhere in the whole world. Somewhere, this is part of some marketing plan. Someone at Spotify in a slew of meeting dreamed up the idea that I care about when playlists change and what local music has been released lately. I don’t care, I told you last time I don’t care and since you’re so desperate to get me to care about what you think I should care about, the only logical conclusion is that Spotify and I are incompatible. One more email/notification and Rdio & I will try dating.

Spotify is like the worst things in a girlfriend and a hooker combined, you’re paying to get nagged.

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Forum not found

Had an interesting item appear in the log files
http://example.com/ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Result:+%F4%EE%F0%F3%EC+%ED%E5+%ED%E0%E9%E4%E5%ED+/+%ED%E5+%F3%E4%E0%EB%EE%F1%FC+%EE%EF%F0%E5%E4%E5%EB%E8%F2%FC+IP

The back end part of is windows 1251 encoding. I couldn’t find a useful online convertor, probably because it’s URL encoded as well. Broke the first few words down using the lookup chart on wikipedia,

Google translate to the rescue.

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Running Shopify’s Dashing on a Raspberry Pi

Dashing on a headless Raspberry Pi

Rough draft for reminder purposes

Micronext wireless USB adaptor, followed these instructions.

Installed gem, installed ruby, installed nodejs.

Followed the dashing homepage instructions to install dashing.

Added init.d script to auto start dashing in production mode on port 5000.

Followed these instructions to autostart Chrome in kiosk mode on the pi. What I did differently was to use Hexxeh’s Chrome instead of chromium-browser as chromium-browser hogged memory and would crash badly. I also made the custom-x-start script dependant on the dashing startup script to give dashing a chance to start before Chrome tried to load it. Dashing takes about 30 seconds to get started.


# Provides:        dasher_start
# Required-Start:  $network $syslog
# Required-Stop:
# Default-Start:   2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:
# Short-Description: Starts up the dasher server

set -e

# Feel free to change any of the following variables for your app:
CMD="cd $APP_ROOT; dashing start -s1 -d -p 5000 -e production -P $PID "
set -u


sig () {
  test -s "$PID" && kill -$1 `cat $PID`

oldsig () {
  test -s $OLD_PIN && kill -$1 `cat $OLD_PIN`

run () {
  if [ "$(id -un)" = "$AS_USER" ]; then
    eval $1
    su -c "$1" - $AS_USER

case "$1" in
      sig 0 && echo >&2 "Already running" && exit 0
      run "$CMD"
      sig QUIT && exit 0
      echo >&2 "Not running"
      sig HUP && echo reloaded OK && exit 0
      echo >&2 "Couldn't reload, starting '$CMD' instead"
      run "$CMD"
    *) echo "usage: $0 start|stop|restart" >&2
       exit 1

As the startx script is running as root, I needed to add “–user-data-dir=/home/pi/chromium” to the path call as suggested by the error Chrome returns when trying to run as root.

Chromium-browser barely worked but Hexxeh’s Chrome uses about 50-55% memory (as reported by top) and the CPU seems to bounce around from 1-75%. Dashing’s sample page is rather JS heavy and over time eats up all available memory. It’s took about 4 hours before Chrome would render the sad face of a closed tab. As such I added a JS refresh to the top of dashing’s layout page so it reloads every 30 minutes. It makes for an unsightly white screen for 5 seconds every 30 minutes but it keeps the page from crashing.

How the hardware looks

The hardware as it stands

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Block mounting blueprints

I bought some absolutely beautiful blueprints from Aviation Shoppe of a P-51 Mustang, F-4U Corsair, F-86 Sabre and a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. They were very affordable and quickly posted. That’s where the problem started however, I had no idea on how to mount them or even where to hang them and so they’ve sat in their cardboard tube in my office for an embarrassing number of months now… (9 if we’re counting)

F-86 Blueprint as it arrived in July 2011

As I’d recently finished cladding the cinder block wall in my office I now had somewhere to hang my blueprints and so I decided to get somewhere to mount them. I did the obligatory google and found a few local art houses that would mount them. However I never really got any further as it became reasonably obvious I’d be paying more than I paid for the prints to get them mounted. What to do? Well go to the local hardware store of course. There I purchased some sheets of 6mm MDF ($11 per sheet) and some Ados Multipurpose spray adhesive ($17 a can).
I took a sheet of the MDF and clamped some straight pine as a router guide and routed the sheets down to the size of the cut marks (950mmx650mm) already on the blueprints (they have very generous over hangs for mounting).

Routed MDF ready for mounting

The reason I used the router is because it gives the smoothest edges. Since I planned on wrapping the edges of the print around I didn’t want a jagged finish which you’d get from a jigsaw or skilsaw. The rest of the mounting was relatively simple. I sprayed both surfaces (MDF & back of the blueprint) with the Ados in a hatch pattern (45 degrees and then back over perpendicular to the first run). I allowed a minute of tack and then started the alignment process. Now this is where if I was smart I would’ve waited for some assistance. I chose the Ados as it “remains positional for 2 mins”. Whilst this is true, it wasn’t easy with a large sheet of paper and contact adhesive. Fortunately I managed to salvage the job to a reasonable standard and then worked on smoothing the paper from the centre out. I’m not sure if the solvent of the glue activated some of the blueprint ink or if the ink is always going to come off if you rub it but I don’t recommend using a rag to press the paper down. I’d looked for a rubber roller at the hardware store, like the ones you used to use in art class, but couldn’t find anything suitable. The blueprint hasn’t smeared but enough colour transfered to the rag to make me feel uncomfortable.

Blueprint aligned on block and smoothed

I kept an eye on it for the next 20 mins or so which is the bonding time as stated on the can but was generally happy with the initial smoothing bond. I have to say I’m pretty impressed with this Ados spray adhesive. After a couple of hours (the can says 24 for full set) and rolled the blueprint over onto it’s front after putting some towels on the saw horses for protection. I then repeated the spray and press process to fold the over hangs on to the back to get the wrap around affect. Some judicious trimming with a sharp knife and I was very pleased with the result.

The final result, block mounted and wrapped Merlin blueprint

I’m totally happy with the finish although I’m not sure what to do about the protection of the surface (it’s still just paper after all) or exactly how to hang it. Currently I’m thinking of epoxy or polyurethane glue mounts on the back although a little mechanical assistance would be preferred. I think for the second attempt I might put some screws through the front into some glued blocks on the back. This will entail a little more work as I’d need to fill the holes in the front again so this is still something I’m pondering. In the mean time I’ll be appreciating the awesome blueprint adorning my mancave.

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Gliding Paraparaumu

Went for a flight with my friend, and gliding instructor, Bruce Hoult. Had an epic time and spent some brief time on the controls. First time I’ve ‘flown’ a real plane of any sort in 17 years and it felt great. Trying hard not to start another hobby.

Bruce has provided a rough overview of the flight.

Rough overview of flight plan

We covered quite a range in our hour flight and hit speeds of 90 knots with ease whilst generally cruising at around 60-70. The landing was incredibly impressive. Approach at around 70 knots and able to just kill the speed with the airbrakes and be on the ground in less than 40 meters. Bruce tells me it can be done quicker too.

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My USA made temperature controlled soldering iron going to a good home

I bought myself a new soldering iron! And this purchase made my old one redundant. I’m somewhat of a hoarder but I’m trying to be better and as such, I want to give my trusty old soldering iron away to someone that needs it! Ideally I’d like it to be someone that can’t afford a better soldering iron and is trying to get into electronics. At first I thought I’d restrict it to ages 7-14 but then I thought why should I restrict it at all? If you have a need for it, you have a need for it. So I’m currently working on some ideas on how to get it to who needs/deserves it the most. I was thinking of a competition but I hate the fact that competitions have losers and hate it when people pour their guts out only to get denied something. So this idea is a work in progress.

My trusty Pace PPS-6E

I bought this venerable beast when I was studying electronics at Canterbury University. It needs a new tip but otherwise has never let me down. Adjustable temperature and weighs a tonne (which often means quality in electronics). It was made back in a time when the USA knew what manufacturing was and the fact it was built it Maryland is proudly displayed.

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