Skip to content

Jackson PT9723 remote power control and Arduino

Jackson blister pack
The Jack­son PT9723 is yet anoth­er 433MHz remote pow­er con­trol sys­tem. I picked mine up on sale from Office­works last mon­th, who don’t seem to sell them any more. But they’re still read­i­ly avail­able online for a fair­ly mod­est price.

I bought it with the inten­tion of con­trol­ling it with an Arduino. How­ev­er, inter­fac­ing with it proved to be a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult than most oth­er sys­tems around, and nobody else seems to have done it yet. So here’s how I man­aged it.

So long, momo :-(

Yes­ter­day I bricked my phone.

I bought a HTC Dream on an Optus plan the day they released it in Aus­tralia. Out of the box it was awe­some, pret­ty much every­thing I want­ed out of a smart­phone. But as time passed, the Cup­cake android release became wide­spread, and Optus lol­ly­gagged about push­ing the update out to their users. One by one my favourite appli­ca­tions released updates that made them incom­pat­i­ble with my phone, until even­tu­al­ly I gave up and found a good guide on root­ing G1s.

With an up-to-date firmware and Mar­ket Enabler to get around Optus’ oth­er major prob­lem of not mak­ing paid appli­ca­tions avail­able, I was in smart­phone heav­en. That was until I heard wind of ROMs based on the Android 2.1 release (as seen on the new Nexus One hand­set) run­ning on the G1. It looked like it might be fun to try, so off I went.

One of the steps involved in ini­tial­ly root­ing a hand­set involves load­ing a new SPL to bypass region check­ing and enable boot­ing unsigned ROMs, so I’d done it a cou­ple of times before and was fair­ly com­fort­able with it. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, new­er builds need the Haykuro SPL, which is sup­posed to be more aggres­sive with how it deals with the inter­nal stor­age space (lead­ing to more size for big­ger images), but also kind of dan­ger­ous. I dou­ble- and triple-checked every­thing, but still seem to have screwed some­thing up flash­ing the SPL, and now I have a phone that is basi­cal­ly dead. The 1st boot­load­er screen comes up, but I can’t get in to the fast­boot menu or the recov­ery image. My poor lit­tle momo (my com­put­ers are named after Samu­rai Cham­ploo char­ac­ters) was no more.

Luck­i­ly my birth­day was yes­ter­day, so I don’t feel too bad about treat­ing myself to a new phone. After a morn­ing of read­ing reviews, I think I’ve decid­ed on a Motoro­la Mile­stone. I’m a lit­tle wary of Motoro­la — my last Moto hand­set was an absolute dis­as­ter, and work­ing for a mobile com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny means I’ve had a chance to tin­ker with new­er Motoro­la hand­sets that were sim­i­lar­ly dis­ap­point­ing. But the Mile­stone seems to be a very impres­sive and solid­ly-built phone. The jury is still out on whether the Mile­stone or the new Nexus One would win for Best Android Phone right now, but I for one am swayed by a good hard­ware key­board.

So, momo is dead, long live… uh… momo?

Spontaneous travel

I’ve been on hol­i­day for most of the last week. One of my broth­ers in Ade­laide was get­ting mar­ried in a beach-front cer­e­mony in the small town of Port Rick­aby, a few hours dri­ve west of Ade­laide. I took some extra time off work, because I want­ed a hol­i­day, and wound up spend­ing a cou­ple of days in Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy is a very very strange place, and well worth a vis­it. The opal indus­try is fas­ci­nat­ing. I might write some more about Coober Pedy, not just because I like say­ing Coober Pedy. But the point of this post is a very brief rant about spon­ta­neous trav­el­ing.

I flew out of Syd­ney on Tues­day evening. On Tues­day morn­ing I realised I should prob­a­bly think of some­thing to do with my hire car and my three bliss­ful days of noth­ing before I had to be at Rick­aby, so spent some time with google maps. Even­tu­al­ly picked Coober Pedy because:

  • I’d nev­er real­ly been to cen­tral Aus­tralia before. Seen some bits of desert while tool­ing around in WA, but not true out­back.
  • My vague rec­ol­lec­tion was that it was a pret­ty inter­est­ing place.
  • I like say­ing Coober Pedy.
  • It was about as far away from any­where I’ve been before, that I could rea­son­ably get to in the time I had.

I tried explain­ing this to a bloke I met in the pub in Coober Pedy. He was absolute­ly amazed, and couldn’t quite com­pre­hend that some­body would just, on the spur of the moment, get in a car and spend ten hours dri­ving to Coober Pedy, just because.

Last year I went to Cowra because on a Fri­day morn­ing I thought “hrmn, I want to go some­where this week­end, where should I go?”, and pick­ing Cowra because I hadn’t trav­eled West of Syd­ney much, and Cowra seemed about as far as I could rea­son­ably dri­ve on a Fri­day night. I got there and had a con­ver­sa­tion with a bloke in a pub that went some­thing like:
“So if you’re from Syd­ney, what are you doing out here? Work?”
“*shrug* Just hav­ing a look around. Want­ed to get out of town for a week­end, and wound up here.”
Inci­den­tal­ly, the Japan­ese gar­den at Cowra is the largest in the south­ern hemi­sphere, and absolute­ly amaz­ing.

By the time I’d got­ten to Taral­ga six months ago, I’d given up and just told peo­ple that I was on my way to Yass but had to go via Bathurst because *mumble*mumble*. That seemed like a much more real­is­tic expla­na­tion than want­i­ng to see more of inland NSW (and telling them I’d tak­en a two-door hatch along Wombeyan Caves Road would have prob­a­bly been pret­ty damn embar­rass­ing).

What’s the big deal? Do peo­ple not just trav­el for the hell of it any more? May­be they think it only counts if you’re going over­seas? Have we for­got­ten how much of the new and excit­ing is sit­ting right at our doorstep (and if not there, def­i­nite­ly a two hour flight and ten hour dri­ve from it)? May­be small town inhab­i­tants just don’t believe their par­tic­u­lar small town is worth vis­it­ing (I know I still think this about Yass).

When was the last time you threw the fig­u­ra­tive dart at a map?

Can I fit the words “Coober Pedy” in to this post one more time?

PXE booting using OpenWRT Kamikaze

My net­work gets its address­es from dns­masq run­ning on the Kamikaze 8.09 release of Open­WRT. This oper­at­ing sys­tem uses an unusu­al sys­tem for con­fig­u­ra­tion, and get­ting dns­masq set up for net­work boot­ing took a lit­tle bit of effort. So I’m doc­u­ment­ing it here, for either any­body else who’s stuck on it, or for when I inevitably for­get.

Edit /etc/config/dhcp, and in the config dnsmasq sec­tion add a line like this. The for­mat is as per the dns­masq man page:

    option dhcp_boot	pxelinux.0,tftp_server_hostname,tftp_server_ipaddr

The init script does all the pars­ing of the dhcp con­fig file, con­vert­ing things in there to cmd­line argu­ments to dns­masq. So you need to edit /etc/init.d/dnsmasq, and in the dnsmasq() func­tion add this line:

	append_parm "$cfg" "dhcp_boot" "--dhcp-boot"

The func­tion already has a bunch of append_­parm lines. Just search for those and add your new line imme­di­ate­ly under them.

Restart dns­masq and you’re good to go.

Belated Ada Lovelace day post

I know I’m run­ning late, I’ve bare­ly had time to think late­ly, let alone try to assem­ble a coher­ent blog post. But yes­ter­day was Ada Lovelace day and I want­ed to draw some atten­tion to one of the less vocal but def­i­nite­ly no less impor­tant mem­bers of the Syd­ney IT com­mu­ni­ty; good friend and crack geek fem­i­nist nin­ja Alice Box­hall.

(appar­ent­ly I don’t have a pic­ture of her doing any­thing par­tic­u­lar­ly nerdy)

I first met Alice[1] not too long after she was hired by Google, as the sole female engi­neer in their Syd­ney office. Hap­pi­ly, that doesn’t seem to be the case any more, but she con­tin­ues to do a lot of great work as an IT evan­ge­list. Along with Pia Waugh, Alice works with school-age girls encour­ag­ing them to get involved with com­put­ing, most recent­ly at the Go Go Girl for IT event. She’s also been involved with local Aussiechix events, help­ing run the micro-con­fs in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne last year, as well as being involved in Lin­ux­chix mini­con­fs at recent LCAs.

I’m always impressed by her ency­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of the issues wom­en face, both in the pro­fes­sion­al IT sphere and else­where, and the pas­sion and clar­i­ty she brings to defend­ing her rights and the rights of oth­er wom­en. I lis­tened in on Alice’s group dur­ing the Evan­ge­lis­ing IT work­shop at the Lin­ux­chix mini­conf this year, which came up with some excel­lent strate­gies for try­ing to keep girls (and boys as well!) inter­est­ed in com­put­ing. It was one of the high­lights of LCA for me this year.

Linuxchix miniconf: Evangelising IT workshop

On a com­plete­ly unre­lat­ed note, Alice is a very tal­ent­ed pho­tog­ra­pher who shares my love for old-school pic­ture mak­ing. Hav­ing a chance to learn from her both behind the cam­era and in the dark­room is just anoth­er rea­son for me to feel inspired by her work.

[1] For the record, I believe this hap­pened short­ly after my then-house­mate, Jamie also start­ed work at Google. I arrived home one after­noon to find half the Google office in our pool.


Well, that was fun.

peter@fuu:~$ date +%s

Appar­ent­ly the next big event is 0x50000000 sec­onds since epoch, due to hap­pen short­ly after 9pm on the 13th of July, 2012.

Finally framed

I real­ly want­ed to bring my LCA auc­tion print to the SLUG meet­ing week before last, but I’d already tak­en it to the framer and spent a good hour or so try­ing to decide how it should be framed. The Fram­ing Fac­to­ry in Roseville do con­sis­tent­ly excel­lent work, and I’m always hap­py with them. Unfor­tu­nate­ly they have a two week turn­around (although I did get a rush job out of them a few days before Christ­mas, but my mind has blanked out how much extra it cost). Well, today I final­ly picked it up. And once again they didn’t dis­ap­point.

"Neptune's Fury", framed and hung.

We went with a 100mm (3.9″) flat white mat­te, sur­round­ed by a 70mm (2.8″) plain black frame. Apart from a slight bevel on the inside edge, the frame is plain and square. All told, this thing is 1070m­mx870mm (42.1“x34.3″), eas­i­ly the biggest and most impres­sive print I own.

I couldn’t be hap­pier with the way it’s come out, and I’m incred­i­bly proud to have such a beau­ti­ful and pres­ti­gious print grac­ing my lounge room.

How to win an LCA charity auction without really trying

"lucky old devil"

So, LCA char­i­ty auc­tion. Last night I had the sheer plea­sure of being part of the chaotic may­hem that end­ed in a $10600 win­ning bid (ear­lier claims of $10500 were cir­cu­lat­ed before we knew for sure how much we actu­al­ly had) for Karen Garbee’s beau­ti­ful award-win­ning print. Rusty informs me that’s the high­est bid for an LCA auc­tion, which I find slight­ly sur­pris­ing but awe­some if it’s true. All pro­ceeds from the night are to be donat­ed to, fund­ing valu­able research in to the Tas­ma­ni­an Devial Facial Tumour Dis­ease, which is slow­ly wip­ing out the­se unique and ridicu­lous­ly cute crea­tures. If you haven’t already, please go and vis­it the site, read about the plight threat­en­ing the­se crea­tures, and give what you can.

Tasmanian Devil, by Darren Leal

Tas­ma­ni­an Dev­il, by Dar­ren Leal

Iron­i­cal­ly, I’ve been on the verge of buy­ing anoth­er print in aid of this fund for a lit­tle while now. For LCA atten­dees who’ll be hang­ing around in Tas­ma­nia post-con­fer­ence, I strong­ly sug­gest vis­it­ing the Cradle Moun­tain park. And while you’re there bud­get a cou­ple of hours to see The Wilder­ness Gallery. Amongst half a dozen exhi­bi­tions of gor­geous local flo­ra and fau­na, you’ll see this lit­tle guy. A cou­ple of lim­it­ed runs of this print are being sold as a fundrais­ing exer­cise. I’m com­plete­ly and utter­ly in love with this pic­ture, and if I regret any­thing it’s not wind­ing up with a copy hang­ing on my wall.

There’s been a lot of oth­er cov­er­age of the auc­tion, but I thought I might offer my point of view of the pro­ceed­ings. Bid­ding got off to a good start. Ear­ly stand­out was Jamie at my table, bid­ding $1000 and promis­ing to donate the con­tents of his wal­let if he was out­bid — drop­ping quite a lot in to the buck­et when the inevitable hap­pened. The price con­tin­ued before stalling at $2000. An attempt by Rusty to end the auc­tion was stalled at the last min­ute by a Lin­ux Aus­tralia rep, and after a hasty con­fer­ence they came to the table promis­ing to match a bid over $2500 (to a lim­it of $10k). At that point it seemed log­i­cal that some­body raise the bid to $2500, so I did.

It sat there for a very long time, resist­ing all sorts of incen­tives. After Linus promised to include Tuz (the LCA logo for this year, see the pho­to at the start of this post) in the next ker­nel release I start­ed see­ing a cou­ple of offers of finan­cial assis­tance. But it was going very very slow­ly until some wag joked about Bdale shav­ing his beard. Not long after that the Col­lab­o­ra guys turned up at my table, offer­ing to add $2500 to my bid if Bdale actu­al­ly did shave. So, again, I stood up and offered $5000 in exchange for the beard.

At that point, the auc­tion explod­ed. Caveats were added. Con­di­tion­al dona­tions appeared and were matched. Buck­ets passed around the room and filled (the casi­no offered to count the con­tents, which appar­ent­ly made the organiser’s jobs much eas­ier). Every time it looked like things might be dying down slight­ly, some­body else would come to my table and basi­cal­ly open their wal­let. I per­son­al­ly com­plete­ly lost track some­where around $8k. But I do know that at one point dur­ing an inter­nal audit we realised that we were bid­ding con­sid­er­ably low­er than what we had in hand, lead­ing to some spirit­ed bid­ding again­st our­selves.

The final con­sor­tium, in approx­i­mate­ly the order they joined, were:

  • Neil (sor­ry, I didn’t get your last name)
  • Daniel Stone
  • Col­lab­o­ra (hah! cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship!)
  • David Wood­house
  • Matthew Gar­rett (anoth­er blank last name :-( )
  • Jamie Wilkin­son
  • Elspeth Thorne

For rais­ing $10600, clear­ly they all deserve a beer.

The final haul, in addi­tion to the print that kicked it off, was also sub­stan­tial. Mary Gar­diner vol­un­teered a spot on the papers com­mit­tee for the next LCA. It took a con­sid­er­ably larg­er tar­get to be given an oppor­tu­ni­ty to get off the com­mit­tee, but we now have the out. Bdale final­ly agreed to doff the beard if the com­bined total reached $25000. At some point some­body sug­gest­ed the shav­ing be done by Linus, and that’ll be going ahead some time fair­ly soon. Flame agreed to trans­fer own­er­ship of his cus­tom num­ber­plates (“GEEK”, high­ly sought by Elspeth) for a year. My per­son­al favourite appeared this morn­ing, after some high-speed hack­ing:
Tuz is in ur kernel

And at the end of it all, I some­how end­ed up with the print. I’ve already pre­pared the sto­ry of how it’s val­ued at $36000 and a beard.

LCA mascot and PSA

I am in love with this year’s LCA mas­cot, who I shall refer to as Taz Tuz, because that is actu­al­ly his name.

University accommodation, LCA schwag

After care­ful exper­i­men­ta­tion, I have deter­mined that a size 60 might be a bit too large for Taz.

Tassie Tux Spade

In com­plete­ly unre­lat­ed news, on the way home from din­ner tonight with a group of a dozen or so, some lowlife threw a water­bomb at us from a speed­ing car. It hit me square in the mid­dle of the chest, and the morons couldn’t even fig­ure out to put enough water in to it to make it burst. Instead it just bounced off leav­ing me with a nice red welt. Turns out that try­ing to get up the hill to the uni­ver­si­ty accom­mo­da­tion when you’re already wind­ed and bruised is some­thing of a tri­al.

So yeah. Tak­ing the back streets might be slight­ly faster, but be care­ful out there kids. Unfor­tu­nate­ly not every­body out there is blessed with com­mon sense.

Quick summary of my week in Tasmania

Cradle Mountain - Ronny Creek carpark

  • Dis­tance dri­ven: 2163.7km. Plus anoth­er 30 or so tomor­row.
  • Dis­tance walked: *shrug* 30km? 40? Lots of short walks rang­ing from half an hour to half a day.
  • Times passed through Hamil­ton: 4.
  • Best place name: Lemon­thyme.
  • Best place name that I actu­al­ly stayed at: Snug.
  • Cutest town: Both­well. It sits smack in the mid­dle of a big pret­ty farm­ing bowl. The pub is awe­some. Both­well Grange has colo­nial quirk­i­ness down pat. The whole expe­ri­ence just made me want to squee.
  • Most awe-inspir­ing expe­ri­ence: Dri­ving in to Queen­stown, from the south, at approx­i­mate­ly 8pm. The land­scape is stripped bare and looks com­plete­ly eerie. The high­way descends in to this mar­tian envi­ron­ment via a series of wrench­ing switch­backs, and the low angle of the light real­ly added to the atmos­phere. It real­ly was com­plete­ly breath­tak­ing.
  • Num­ber of anti-log­ging protests that I let timc (hence­forth known as “The Infa­mous timc”) divert us to par­tic­i­pate in: 0.
  • Best house name in Doo Town: Xana-Du. Dis­ap­point­ing­ly non­con­formist, but a clear win­ner nonethe­less.
  • Best par­ma: the Dover Hotel was good, but I think the gong is going to have to go to the Snug Tav­ern, mere­ly for incor­po­rat­ing a chick­en schnitzel about an inch and a half thick.
  • Num­ber of hydro­elec­tric pow­er sta­tions vis­it­ed: 3.
  • Dumb­est moment: It’s a toss-up between sink­ing six pints of Cas­cade at the Vic­to­ria Tav­ern the night we arrived in Hobart, or attempt­ing to sleep off the mas­sive hang­over in the park in Par­lia­ment Square the next morn­ing with no sun­screen.
  • Most som­bre moment: Stand­ing by the pool in the memo­ri­al gar­den on the grounds of the for­mer Broad Arrow Cafe in Port Arthur. The Port Arthur site is absolute­ly amaz­ing, but I didn’t real­ly get as much of the intense sad­ness that oth­ers report until I vis­it­ed the memo­ri­al. A close sec­ond was read­ing wikipedia’s chill­ing account of the day while try­ing to work out the fate of the cafe build­ing.
  • Most bru­tal aspect of con­vict set­tle­ment: The dog line cross­ing the 100m wide isth­mus between the Port Arthur set­tle­ment on Tas­man Penin­su­la and the rest of the island. Cash, Kavanagh and Jones deserve mad props.
  • Best word I have learned this week: “isth­mus”.
  • Com­plete­ly unsci­en­tific remark­able­ness rat­ing of the Remark­able Cave, where 1 is “not very remark­able at all, real­ly”, and remark­able is remark­able: 0.
  • Sug­ges­tions for enhanc­ing the Remark­able Cave expe­ri­ence: When the track to Remark­able Cave has been closed for unspec­i­fied rea­sons for an unspec­i­fied peri­od of time, con­sid­er renam­ing the site “Com­plete­ly Unre­mark­able Carpark”.
  • Num­ber of small birds acci­den­tal­ly struck by our vehi­cle: 5. timc got off to a spec­tac­u­lar start with 2 fly­ing in to the path of our car and glanc­ing off the wind­screen on the first day. Unfor­tu­nate­ly I ral­lied brave­ly over the last few days with spar­rows and the like fly­ing under the car, tak­ing off and then swoop­ing back down under the wheel, and bounc­ing off my side mir­ror. I’m not proud of this sta­tis­tic, but feel that it should be relayed as a warn­ing to oth­er motorists.
  • Num­ber of oth­er ani­mals killed: 0. Thank­ful­ly. Unless you count crick­ets, in which case the num­ber is “enough to turn the front of our white hire car a kind of greeny-pur­ple”.
  • Biggest pho­to­graph­ic non-sequitur: The pic­ture at the head of this post is my cur­rent favourite pho­tograph from Cradle Moun­tain. Note the lack of any­thing even vague­ly resem­bling Cradle Moun­tain.
  • Num­ber of motor­cy­cle show’n’shines attend­ed: 1. In the delight­ful­ly named Ouse this after­noon.
  • Approx­i­mate dis­tance I have come to the south­ern-most point of Aus­tralia (not count­ing Antar­tic ter­ri­to­ries): About 5km north. We drove to Cock­le Creek and spent a cou­ple of hours walk­ing around the shore of Recherche Bay to Fish­ers Point, and then head­ed a lit­tle way down the ocean coast. Appar­ent­ly get­ting to the tip of South East Cape requires a tent and rations.
  • Num­ber of cans of Cas­cade I have drunk while draft­ing this blog post: 2.5. I’m allow­ing myself to drink more than usu­al because I’m on hol­i­day. So there.

Tomor­row we wan­der back in to Hobart for the start of LCA. I’m slight­ly sad to be leav­ing off the true hol­i­day part of this trip. I feel like I bare­ly scratched the sur­face of some places, Port Arthur in par­tic­u­lar. And there’s large swathes of the island com­plete­ly unex­plored — I’m look­ing at you, Launce­s­ton and Dav­en­port and the entire north coast. But at the same time, the siren song of a week of LCA awe­some­ness is hard to resist.