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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 0×50000000 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.