I spend a lot of time working and I’m one of those developers who will always feel amiss if I’m not listening to music. I feel this way pretty much anywhere I am. Driving the car, at the beach, at a party. Maybe it’s the tinnitus? Silence is a frustration for me since for me there is no such thing. I have an infuriating permanent whine in my left ear which I can hear all the time if I listen for it and I can’t fail to hear it in silence.

Anyway, moving on from that aside, I bought a new stereo for the office today care of Norman Ross’ closing down sale in Lower Hutt. I picked up the demo model Yamaha AX-497 and a brand new pair of Mission 31is. I even had the speaker cables thrown in since they had a whole bunch making a mess of their floor. Here it is:

My new Yamaha AX-497

As it’s replacing a mid-1990s all in one Panasonic piece of rubbish the audio quality is incomparable. Being able to hear the hi-hat hits on the drum kit and the piano hammer action in songs is eargasm material. The closest thing I’ve owned with remotely comparable quality are my Sennheisser headphones. The only problem with headphones is I find them hard to listen to for long periods of time. I’m hoping this new setup will ease my ear load somewhat and rid me of that dreary Panasonic for good (well actually it’s moving a few meters to the garage).

I’ve been looking for a decent stereo amplifier for a long time and have just about bought a few before either 2nd hand or brand new. What generally puts me off is the over the top and unnecessary additions that exist only for the company’s marketing department to create ads around. I’m a real function defines form kind of guy and in this regard the amp ticks a number of functional simplicity boxes

  • It has 7 leds in total. Only one of these leds can be on at any one time (1 for each selectable input and a standby light).
  • It has a power switch not just a standby button
  • It also has a standby button but you don’t need to use this if you prefer the power switch
  • The power button is spring loaded and it physically has an on and off position
  • Other than the power switch and standby button it only has two more switches on the front panel (a poorly named ‘pure direct’ & more fetchingly titled ‘CD/DVD direct amp’)
  • It has two knobs. One for volume, one to change the input.
  • There is nothing else you can do on the front panel (apart from open the settings panel)

Other than the ‘pure direct’ switch I wouldn’t change the front of this amp. I love how there are no stupid trademarks or brands on it that you see plastered all over the home theatre amps. I don’t care about each and every esoteric standard or proprietary format that the amp supports apart from when I buy it. The constant reminder is eye rotting. I also love how the adjustment knobs are hidden behind a subtle drop down panel. Behind this panel are all the classic adjustments that most amps have but with the panel in its standard position, you don’t see any of it and no-one will want to fiddle with them (including me). Brilliant.

As for the Missions? Well they’re pretty deep for bookshelf speakers. They’re making a mockery of my the desk space I gained with my dual monitor stand… Functionally they’re bi-wireable and so is the amp (to the best of my knowledge). So I’ll sort out a second set of cables and see how it sounds then. In the mean time I love them and the sound they make so I’m off to enjoy some Muse, Pearl Jam & Metallica (gutted I missed the concert, had access to a ticket and all but that’s a different story…).

Posted in audio | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mt Kaukau

Finally made it up Mt Kaukau today. The ride was a bit of an effort as it was only my 2nd after at least 6 months had passed since I’d ridden any distance of note. It was well worth it even though the breeze was getting a little chilly and my lungs were screaming blue murder.

Wellington harbour from Mt Kaukau

Can see it’d be a hell of a place to go on a sunny summer day but you’d need to bring shade and a picnic.

The next plan is to see if I can ride all the way to Makara. I think however a couple of loops up to Mt Kaukau to get my legs and lungs working again. I’m glad I was riding solo, the number of stops I had to make for legs or lungs was embarrassing.

Mt Kaukau transmitter tower

Oh and I can’t mention Makara without reminding every one it is:Ma(r)-Ka(r)-Ra not MacK-Rar. Maori pronunciation isn’t that hard…

Posted in mountain biking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ESXi 4.1 install notes

This is just documentation for myself as I’ve lost almost 24 hours to this.

Motherboard: M2N-MZ SE plus. This is the NVidia version and ESXI 4.1 doesn’t support this from the straight install. For some reason, it is missing the device entry in /etc/vmware/

I followed method 2 from the directions on found this site noting that the image on 4.1 is called image2dd.bz2. This entailed using WinImage to write this file to a 1Gb USB stick. I think I should’ve used a larger stick but I didn’t have one to hand.  I booted the PC off of this USB stick.

Using alt+F1 to get to a console and using root with no password to login I then followed these instructions taken from the vmWare site’s custom oem.tgz page.

1) cd /tmp/
2) mkdir -p oem/etc/vmware
3*) mkdir -p oem/usr/share/hwdata
4) cd oem/etc/vmware
5) cp /etc/vmware/
6) vi
— wrote line< br/>
10de:03ef 0000:0000 network forcedeth.o
as per this comment
7) close vi – press ESC and enter :wq
8*) cd /tmp/oem/usr/share/hwdata
9*) cp /usr/share/hwdata/pci.ids pci.ids
10*) vi pci.ids
— add the necessary description for your devices (this will be displayed in the console and VI Client)
11*) close vi – press ESC and enter :wq
12) cd /tmp/oem
13) chown -R 201:201 ./etc
14*) chown -R 201:201 ./usr
15) chmod -R 755 ./etc
16*) chmod -R 755 ./usr
17) chmod 644 ./etc/vmware/
18*) chmod 644 ./usr/share/hwdata/pci.ids
19) tar -cvzf oem.tgz etc usr (didn’t put usr here)
20) cp oem.tgz /bootbank/oem.tgz
21) cd /bootbank/
22) chmod 755 oem.tgz
23) reboot the host

I didn’t do any of the lines marked with an asterix as my device was already listed in pci.ids.

I was then able to boot from USB into ESXi and start the management centre. I needed to restart it for some reason to get the DHCP to pick up an address.

I then downloaded the client from the dynamic IP but had a J# error. I uninstalled the J# restributable and reinstalled the 64 bit version (Win7 64) as per this comment.

Posted in Nothing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Arduino and my weather station

So in looking up my model number online (Thermor Bios DG950R), I’ve found this exciting article on getting an arduino to read/receive the wireless weather output. I have been waiting for a project to use my Arduinos I won in a competion that Tim at MindKits and Ben Gracewood ran.

Also, I’ve really been wanting to learn about antennas, broadcasting and receiving, so this looks perfect. If only I could get this bloody ESXi to install on my server so I can be productive again…

Posted in Weather station | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Weather station rain gauge

I managed to find some time to mount the rain gauge yesterday so now all sensors are online. Unfortunately it’s barely rained since then so I’m only showing 0.2cm of rain. A good southerly is hitting now, so I’m hoping it will bring some rain just so I can see how the weather station fares.

The gauge itself is pretty simple. It consists of a plastic container with a bowl formed into the top. At the bottom of the bowl is a hole which allows water into the gauge. Internally, there is a seesaw arrangement which collects the water at which ever end is currently high with a smaller bowl. Once this bowl is full, the seesaw flips over to the other side and dumps its water out. It doesn’t return back (like a properly weighted seesaw doesn’t). In the transition through the middle, a magnet activates a reed switch. I imagine the bowl and the weight required to tip the seesaw are quite carefully calibrated to the amount of rain. It doesn’t seem like it would be that accurate in a heavy downpour but I’ll wait and see.

The instructions for mounting it were quite explicit in using a bubble level to mount it for best accuracy. I used stainless steel screws and a piece of H3.2 treated fence paling to mount it extending out the side of a deck railing. It’s mostly out of sight and harms way. Now where’s that rain?

Posted in Weather station | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Design of things UI

I love designing and making things but have always felt a little let down by my organisation in certain design processes. Databases and code I’m totally down with and have no problems. I’m also adept at sketching wireframes and layouts of straightline 3D objects like bookshelves and cabinets. I can think pretty clearly in 3D space and in non-visual virtual flows like in software processes. What I always seem to struggle with is UI design or the design process. I know a lot about usability and what works but when it comes to being able to put together a whole front end it’s too big for my head and too complex for my current processes. So I’m searching for new processes.

What came to mind was PhotoShop. I’ve always put off owning PhotoShop because I’m a programmer not a designer. However I’ve come to realise that I’m not just a programmer and that I enjoy complete software and hardware lifecycles. So why not get it?

Well for one it’s very expensive so I need to prove that it’s going to be useful to me and my business and not just a large waste of money. So I set about searching for guidelines on the sort of things I wanted to design. Mostly web UIs and iPhone/Android UIs. My Googling led me to this page about designing iPhone interfaces with woodforms, ink and paper, beautiful! This is very much how I’d like to be able to work and then jumping into PhotoShop for final products if needed. Check out the two fullsize images, they really are quite inspiring for their simplicity, accuracy and skill.

Intrigued by what these pens were that could allow the watercolour style sketching without the need for a set of water colours and brushes (they don’t mix well with keyboards) I searched for the text on top of one of the pens “W0 warm grey”. Turns out they’re Copic markers and expensive. About NZ$10 each so for a set, you’re looking in the hundreds of dollars. Exciting though, I love the idea of designing software on paper and that’s how I do all of my database designs. Now I’d like to take that to the UI paradigm.

A set of Copic markers like these are about NZ$650

Posted in Nothing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Roof mounted!

Well the weather in Wellington has been diabolical the last two days which made me frustrated. Not the usual frustrated that people get in that they want to have some nice weather to go outside, no, I was frustrated in that my weather centre still wasn’t on the roof telling me how diabolical the weather actually was!

So being as today is a beautiful day, I decided to reassess the situation to see what tools I needed to get on the job done. Access is hard as we’re multilevel and no flat surfaces to rest a ladder on. I would need someone to hold the ladder on the sloping roof of the first level while I climbed on to the second or to get a 2 story ladder and I hate climbing those things. Or would I need anything at all? If I had something heavy enough to hold the base of the ladder… And then it came to me. Two bags of silicon sand I’d purchased for my furnace. They weigh, partly water logged, at least 20kg each. So without further melodrama:

Weather station mounted horizontally out from the vertical aerial mast.

It looks small up there and hopefully it's pointing north.

The station needs to be aligned north for the wind direction sensor to be useful so I’d taken my iPhone up with me to use as a way of finding north with its compass. Unfortunately either the roof, the aerial or both meant it was completely useless for this purpose as the needle idly bobbed between two points at least 20 degrees apart. However my backup plan was to use the aerial map to take a north marker off and aim the weather station arm at that. Hopefully I got it right as I’m in no hurry to get that high off the ground again.

So, part 1 of mounting the station is complete. I now need to mount the transmitter nicely, mount the rain gauge and hide the wiring but at least I can stand on two feet to do those jobs.

LCD weather station screen showing an easterly wind at 8.3km/hr

As you can see it's a gentle easterly in Wellington today

Posted in Weather station | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The internet won’t stay US-centric

I like working with tools and unfortunately New Zealanders get absolutely reamed with the price and availability of tools here. So I often look overseas for sources. In doing so I discovered Harbor Freight, a large United States online discount tool supplier. Their site was so poor, in terms of working out what freight would be to New Zealand, I sent them an email basically asking:

What is the price of shipping x to Wellington and are there benefits in multiple purchases?

The answer I got was typical boilerplate rubbish



1. All items must be in stock. (orders are done manually no
2. All items must be stocked in our warehouse (no drop ships)
3. No single item/entire order weighing 150 pounds or truck/gas
items can be shipped out of the country.
(A freight forwarder is suggested)

Method of Shipping:

1. FedEx

The weight or overall dimensions determine shipping costs which ever is

These charges do not include any brokerage, taxes or duties that may be
applicable on your end.

Normal delivery time:

7-10 working days (This includes the processing time)

Normal payment type:

Payment may be received by credit card or money transfer (for orders
more than $500.00 wire transfer only).

The shipping charge for orders that have been processed is

The following information is needed to be able to give our international
customers a fast and accurate response.
It does take approx. 72 hours for the customer to receive a shipping

Postal Code (if they have one)
Phone #, Fax # and e-mail address (if available)
List of all item numbers

All requests can be given to Tine for quotes and processing.
ext 5530

Thanks for nothing Harbor Freight. Obviously you’re only interested in US customers so I won’t waste my time contacting you again.

This experience led me to think; as the USA’s purchasing power declines an opportunity will arise to become the global drop shipper of hobby and home garage tools around the world with clever distributed warehouses to increase freight efficiency and thus drop costs.

This is exactly what Hobby King does. They’ve got warehouses in the USA, Germany and Hong Kong. If you look at the world north-south then they’ve got most of the globe covered in terms of cheap shipping. Additionally, their site is so simple to find out exactly how much something is going to cost to get delivered I’ve now ordered off them twice in a month after finding them. They’re also my first call to check hobby prices after a quick run of the NZ hobby stores now.

Admittedly hobby supplies are considerably lighter than tooling generally is but Hobby King has affordable freight  into the 5-10kg range which is about the weight of the item I wanted from Harbor Freight. One company got the sale and a repeat, the other didn’t.

Posted in Nothing | Leave a comment

CAP 232

I bought this kit on a TradeMe whim about 4 years a go. It was $101 and is beautifully laser cut. However I have a rule with projects that they can’t be started unless I have all the bits to finish it.

So with my purchase last year of my Spektrum DX7, I suddenly realised I had the receiver and servos that were missing. Time to get building.

Almost finished. Elevator and rudder servos installed, motor and esc mounted.

You can see my lovely DX7 in the background as I’ve just bound the receiver. I love bind-n-fly, kudos to the inventors. Unfortunately the canopy is just sitting there at the moment, I want to put a pilot in there (I’ve had a Daffy Duck head sitting around for 15 years waiting) so I’ll solo it without the canopy or engine cover as most of my spares are in Auckland in a box somewhere.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, since this generic Chinese kit lacks instructions, is the right servo and engine sizes. Brushless is a new ball game and this model wasn’t designed for a brushless motor. So I upped the servo sizes from the GWS Naro’s that seemed to be in the photocopied photos included to some BlueBird BMS-380s. The torque of these is 2.5kg/cm, so should be plenty! As a result I’ve decided that the included servo horns for the rudder and elevator are too small and unfit for purpose. I guess I better buy some then. This is when it sucks not having all of your spares around, I have heaps of these in a box somewhere and I hate paying more in postage than the items are worth. Usually what I do here is end up buying more things to take the percentage of the postage costs down to something reasonable but this usually results in a new project. I have enough projects(!) so let’s try and keep it simple.

Posted in RC planes | Leave a comment

Weather station

I bought this weather station from Jaycar electronics over a year a go. I bought it because it plugged in to my PC and I wanted to be able to track my weather conditions for a million different reasons one being so I could know good days to fly my rc planes without getting out of bed.

Unfortunately, the rental property I was living in, at 3 stories high, didn’t prove to be particularly suitable for a temporary installation. So it languished in a box for a year. Now we have our own house and it’s time the weather station got mounted! Alas I don’t have a ladder tall enough yet. However, I’ve got the batteries installed, the wireless is working and I’m ready for the next step.

Sending signals correctly, just needs mounting.

Now who’s got a big ladder they’re going to lend me?

Posted in Weather station | Leave a comment