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Cinnamon patrol

Mr and Mrs Lili Wedding


CPUs I have known and loved

The purchase of a new computer starts one reminiscing about previous hardware. Here are the CPUs I have known and loved - in chronological order:

  1. Unfortunately I cannot remember what my first computer was. I guess it was around 1985 and it was some kind of IBM PC partially-compatible, like this one, in fact it may have even been that one. I'm sure it was purchased at great expense (thanks parents!) and while novel and exciting, because of its partial compatibility (estimates ranged) a lot of software didn't run properly. There were lots of trips to the computer store (which I seem to remember was out of town) and much aggravation. Then it was sold (and relegated to history).

  2. Amstrad CPC 6128. The CPC 6128 was a true hobbiest computer and I cut my teeth on its smouldering Zilog Z80 CPU. My Dad hooked me up with a true übergeek who tried to teach me assembler language. It didn't really go that well - already I was hankering for a good 3GL and a decent development environment.

  3. Bit hazy about the sequence here ... but I'm pretty sure next up was an Amiga 1000, the slightly older cousin of the very popular Amiga 500. This was given to me by a family friend, cool huh? No real programming done on this; but lots and lots of fiddling. It was a ground-breaking machine; it had a windowed interface, it had > 8 colours and proper sound! and it may have influenced my computing aesthetic more than I'll ever know. Side note: upon receipt of the next computer (see next computer) I flogged it off in the Trade & Exchange to the tune of 500 bucks.

  4. Next up, at least in my head, was a Macintosh Classic. Aside from my wedding day I cannot remember being more excited; I was nearly beside myself waiting for this Californian beauty to arrive. Sure, performance was pretty limited (I can remember pushing the performance envelope by running BBS software (Hermes) and a word processor at the same time) and the market for accessories or even replacement parts was very limited (I remember I needed a new mouse or keyboard and the parents nearly had to restructure the mortgage), but just like a new iPod Touch it was the first computer to give me the warm fuzzies. You slightly loved it, and with those rounded corners you could almost take it to bed for a cuddle.

  5. How history repeats itself becase, next up, was an actually-compatible IBM PC clone. Yes, it was an XT. The exact circumstances around this purchase have been lost to time, but I must have been old enough to have some money of my own because I purchased it, off my own back, from my friend Matthew Yap for $500. Which I think was a rip off. It was clear he had a future in banking and I didn't. I bought this overpriced dog for the express purpose of running a BBS. Observant readers will remember I was already running one on the Mac, but all the really choice BBS software was DOS-based and this XT was my ticket, luckily...

  6. ... my friend Victor Chow's father dabbled in computer sales (come to think of it, I have no idea what he did, but he had a lot of computers and computer parts) and he gave me a 286 SX 12 motherboard + CPU. My XT brick was now a slender Italian sports car with racing stripes and all. This was also my first foray into frustrating world of DIY computer building. I clearly remember ripping out the XT motherboard, putting the 286 in and then plugging in the power supply. In those days the power supply had two identical-looking connectors coming of it and these connectors could be attached either way around. I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right (or blowing something up), and I chanced it, and I won.

    Another interesting aside: At some point after the Mac and before the 286 I developed a fashion conscience which, to my mind, meant I had to buy all my clothes from Kamikaze and Barkers at greatly inflated brand-name prices. I was in such a hurry to transform myself I borrowed $150 from Matthew Yap (the very same) to buy a denim jacket. And then I sold my Mac to a second-hand Apple dealer (for $700 I think) and spent up large on clothing items (including one of those Barkers jackets with the 3 men on the back - NZers my age will know immediately what I mean). I never wore that jacket as the colour didn't suit me, but I got excellent use out of the rest of those clothes. In the end some were stolen (favourite brown T-shirt at computer science lab), given away, exchanged, or just plain wore out. The last to go was the jumper/sweater made of green towelling. Either I've still got it and it's in storage or Laura made me get rid of it, I don't remember.

  7. Save item (8) below, that was the end of esoteric computing. I was now firmly in bed with the PC. I hooked up with another family friend who had a trade account at a computer wholesalers and bought and sold (for profit) a number of machines. These were the days of the beige boxes filled with anonymous Taiwanese tidbits. I don't remember any one system fondly, or particularly. It was an arms race and there was no room for sentiment or feelings. It was also the age of the Internet - and suddenly that became all consuming and more important that hardware.

  8. Although I didn't own it in the traditional sense my SGI Indy is worth mentioning, if only for its exotic value. It had been a long-held dream of Matthew Oram to have a SGI workstation and, in his role at ihug, he was able to realise that dream. Highly esteemed for their fantastic graphics hardware and used for feature films at the like, Silicon Graphics's eminence in that domain was about to come to end as Macs and PCs improved in leaps and bounds. So anyhow, Matthew bought two and I ended up with one. It's a computer very few people will have heard of, let alone used, let alone had on their desk for a couple of years and although it was actually pretty crappy for its intended purpose, and probably a waste of money (I can say that because the then-directors of ihug now own a resort in Fiji and Vodafone now owns ihug - and I have no allegiance to either), and ultimately caused a major security panic and had to be moth-balled, I thought it was awesome!

  9. Time is running out, and so is your patience so I'm skipping some of the aforementioned beige boxes and jumping straight to my IBM Thinkpad R40. This was my penultimate PC and as recently as last weekend I breathed new life into it with a fresh install of XP. IBM, now Lenovo, make the best business laptops in my opinion and my (now Laura's) R40 rocks. It's fast (under XP), stylish, and it sports a resolution of 1400 x 1050 on a 15" LCD monitor! Unfortunately, under Vista is was unusable and, for professional reasons, Vista is where I need to be. Goodbye R40. I love you.



I want to believe

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Trying to catch my breath

It's been awhile since my last post, and I feel like I've barely paused to catch my breath.

There's been lots of working - though nowhere near as much working as before - I've managed to stop working by lunchtime in Vancouver each night, which was a minor miracle. Work is still busy, with potential for some very exciting and busy times ahead.

I turned 30, and the sky didn't fall in. Nor did I magically turn wrinkly overnight. In fact, apart from a couple of really fun evenings and some lovely gifts, not much has changed. On the day I had a surprise cake at lunch, then a surprise dinner with lovely friends at the only restaurant in Dublin to do a decent tiramisu. (I know this because I always have the tiramisu when it's available, and it's always rubbish.) Then last weekend we had people over for cocktails to celebrate again. (It sounds very glamorous, but a blender was involved. Still, good times all round.)

We went to the Electric Picnic again - and it was great. David's blogged about it already, so I will only add that camping is for fools when B&Bs are so close & cheap; if a wide selection of delicious, moderately healthy, and vege-friendly food can be available at a freakin' festival with only 100K people, perhaps it should be available in a large city with 10x that population; and Chaiwallahs continue to make possbily the best chai I've ever had, please open a shop in Dublin, preferably downstairs from us, and I will have my wages direct debited to you.

I should also say, the knitting was great. The men took a lot of teasing to bully them into trying, but they were susprisingly good. David learned to purl, and was one of the best male knitters there, in spite of his lack of experience. I am one proud teacher!

My knitting protegee/colleague has been coming on apace - she's completed a couple of scarves and is ready for her first project with shaping and stuff in it. We're going to knit the same top at the same time, so she will have some support - though I suspect she will make great progress and put me to shame. Thanks to her lovely boyfriend in the US we've ordered yarn that apparently "feels like knitting a kitten", so it should be fun.

Before that, however, I have a mammoth birthday/Xmas present for Reiko to complete (yes, Reiko, it's for you, and hopefully you'll love it!), a capelet for an almost-niece to find buttons for, and a little top for myself to complete. And then I need to get on with my winter wardrobe, since the cardi I made for myself is not the size it is supposed to be (damn blocking). Instead, Katie gets a lovely warm merino cardigan, all ready for summer. Bad timing, but it's still a pretty good deal I think!

We've had some friends leave here, and another friend announce she will be leaving in November, which has been sad. It's hard to meet people (unless they're knitters, in which case it's easy), and we're going to miss them very much.

The last - and most exciting - bit is, of course, that we've booked our Xmas trip: Japan, Auckland, Whitianga, Sydney, and Vancouver. It was a bit of a logistical nightmare working it all out, but we have almost everything booked and I've started planning all my to-do lists. Sushi, brunch, Ken Yakitori, Roasted Addiqtion, salmon rissoles, Phoenix chai, and Ricochet figure highly on my list so far. Feel free to leave a comment with your list suggestions.

We're off to Amsterdam next weekend, armed with lots of travel tips (no taking pics of the hookers, or they throw your camera in the canal!) and a serious desire to chill out. I haven't had a whole week off work since we went to Tuscany last year, and it looks like I won't be able to take one till we're off on our visit, so we're grabbing a 3-day weekend while we can! In the gap between trips I hope to be able to catch up with everyone, since they've all been off travelling while I've held the fort here.

We had a really summery day today, but the summer - such as it was - seems, on the whole, to have finished. There's a real bite in the air, and it's getting dark awfully quickly. Time to wrap up warmly, drink a pint of Guinness, eat some cheesy potatoes, and hunker down. Roll on Xmas...

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Fine I'll tell you then

I can only take the lack of response to mean you dare not guess and are waiting - with bated breath - for me to tell you.

Well, the agent expects it to sell for €580,000 which is $NZD1.27 millon.
That's $NZD15,000 per square meter.
And that's without stamp duty + on road costs. And that's in a recession.




The price of fish

Quick competition.

How much for this Edwardian mid-terraced house? It's 87.7 sq meters. It's in Dublin 4 (which is a very sought after area). And it needs ... a little bit... of work.

Guess in any currency. Winner gets an autographed picture of me crying.

Go on! Guess!



Big bang day

Particle physics is the supermodel of the science world, and today was the opening of its New York fashion week.

With the first test run of the Large Hadron Collider today at CERN, popular attention is once again focused on the chic but totally unwearable Standard Model with its attention grabbing quarks, ruched gluons and oh-so-stylish boson tulle.

It reads much like Doc's description of his flux capacitor: prior to being injected into the main accelerator the protons enter a series of devices which successively increase their energy; first it's a linear accelerator, then a Proton Synchrotron Booster which feeds the Proton Syncrotron and last (but definitely not least!) the Super Proton Synchroton. Can anyone say 1.21 gigawatts?

But who can fail to be captivated by a device designed to answer such questions as: What gives rise to gravity (or do Higgs boson particles really exist)? Do particles have supersymmetry? Are there extra dimensions such as those predicted by String theory? When will short hem lines come back in? And what, exactly, is the nature of dark matter?

Yes, there is a small chance these experiments will inadvertently open up a wormhole and cause a rip in the time space continuum, but I think the standard advice applies: if you do find yourself back in time and across the road from your father, mother, or other ascendant, and that person is about to step out in front of a speeding car or face some other kind of immanent nasty end, try to get a hold of their shoes and jacket because I predict vintage is making a comeback.



Air travel digest

For those interested in things aviation the interim report from the UK's AAIB makes interesting reading. If you recall, this concerns the British Airways Boeing 777, which crash landed at Heathrow on Jan 27, after the engines failed to respond to increased demand for thrust an the very end of it's final approach.

Why wait for the "Seconds for Disaster" special when you can read all the details right now? Included are are some interesting graphs: various temperature readings over the course of the flight from Beijing and multiple data series (pitch, roll, speed, etc) plotting the aircraft's final approach. There is a detailed discussion of the 777's fuel system which serves as a primer for the explanation of the many ways they have been trying to simulate ice build-up in said fuel system. The conclusion: ice almost certainly built up, blocked something, and meant the engines didn't have enough fuel for the thrust demanded; they know the likely places it happened; but they can't figure out why the conditions were so unique as to cause a problem on this 777 flight and not the 3.9 million others. You might have seen the article about opertional changes for Air NZ's 777 fleet due to this report: the suggestions are to change altitude here and there if flying through a cold air mass for a long period of time, and rev the engines a bit (I'm not kidding) well before the final approach to break / melt any ice that might have built up.


And here's an incredible article I found this morning. Can you believe it? They actually caught someone at Dublin airport!!! The stars must have all lined up for this one because, let me describe for you my average experience of airport authorities on arrival at Dublin airport:
  • First off is the immigration control. Like the Dutch in this article, I have a EU passport so I get a special line. The best case is that we hold our passports open at the photo page and they do a cursory check as we file past the window. But the last time I went through the immigration lads were too busy talking to each other to bother with that - they just waved me through without looking, that is to say, even glancing, at my passport.

  • Then there is the baggage collection. Not much to mention here. There are no officials, and no dogs. Just baggage (if you're lucky).

  • Then there's the bio security area. Well - "area" - is perhaps too strong a term. There are x-ray machines. They are turned off, and there's never anyone by them.

So I figure these poor Dutch became ill during there flight, disembarked the plane and collapsed in the gate lounge. This was not enough to arouse suspicion as I forgot to mention that the departure gate area of Dublin airport is like a very very long bar with people wandering around with pint glasses from one place to the next. So, rightly, anyone would have assumed these two were just sleeping off their drinks. After a couple of days the next shift of cleaners came on, one of whom was a highly-trained ER physician from Minsk. Noticing immediately that these two had ingested drugs and had fallen sick from it, and with the help of a baggage trolley, he carts them directly to the airport's Police HQ. There's no one there. But after lunch they do show up, and make their dramatic discovery...

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Electric Picnic


Another year, another 3-day music festival. Highlights were the weather (it didn't rain and Sunday was actually sunny), the food (more vegetarian than ever before), the B&B (seriously, who camps at these things?) and The Breeders; who'd have thought I'd be able to relive that 1993 indie mega-hit "Cannonball"?

I took my trusty T90 and 300TL flash along to snap the crowd. I never know what that flash is gonna do, so I was pretty happy; every photo turned out! (slide show here).

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