Content here is by Michael Still mikal@stillhq.com. All opinions are my own.
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Thu, 29 Dec 2011



Blathering for Friday, 30 December 2011

    11:01: Mikal shared: Shouldn't There Be Significant Punishment For Bogus Copyright Claims That Kill Companies?
      I'd like to think that this could be handled by the costs process. As well as awarding the innocent party their legal costs, it would also be reasonable to compensate the innocent party for any loss in market value they experienced as a result of the law suit. So, for example if the markets valued Veoh at $50 million before the suit and their now dead, then the costs awarded should be legal costs + $50 million. This would also act as an incentive for plaintiffs to not file bogus suits.



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 05:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


The Ghost Brigades (2)

posted at: 00:57 | path: /book/John_Scalzi | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 23 Dec 2011



Old Man's War (2)

posted at: 15:48 | path: /book/John_Scalzi | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 19 Dec 2011



Red Mars

posted at: 23:41 | path: /book/Kim_Stanley_Robinson | permanent link to this entry


Openstack compute node cleanup

    I've never used openstack before, which I imagine is similar to many other people out there. Its actually pretty cool, although I encountered a problem the other day that I think is worthy of some more documentation. Openstack runs virtual machines for users, in much the same manner as Amazon's EC2 system. These instances are started with a base image, and then copy on write is used to write differences for the instance as it changes stuff. This makes sense in a world where a given machine might be running more than one copy of the instance.

    However, I encountered a compute node which was running low on disk. This is because there is currently nothing which cleans up these base images, so even if none of the instances on a machine require that image, and even if the machine is experiencing disk stress, the images still hang around. There are a few blog posts out there about this, but nothing really definitive that I could find. I've filed a bug asking for the Ubuntu package to include some sort of cleanup script, and interestingly that led me to learn that there are plans for a pretty comprehensive image management system. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that anyone is working on this at the moment. I would offer to lend a hand, but its not clear to me as an openstack n00b where I should start. If you read this and have some pointers, feel free to contact me.

    Anyways, we still need to cleanup that node experiencing disk stress. It turns out that nova uses qemu for its copy on write disk images. We can therefore ask qemu which are in use. It goes something like this:

      $ cd /var/lib/nova/instances
      $ find -name "disk*" | xargs -n1 qemu-img info | grep backing | \
        sed -e's/.*file: //' -e 's/ .*//' | sort | uniq > /tmp/inuse
      


    /tmp/inuse will now contain a list of the images in _base that are in use at the moment. Now you can change to the base directory, which defaults to /var/lib/nova/instances/_base and do some cleanup. What I do is I look for large image files which are several days old. I then check if they appear in that temporary file I created, and if they don't I delete them.

    I'm sure that this could be better automated by a simple python script, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. If I do, I will be sure to mention it here.

    Tags for this post: openstack cloud computing nova glance qemu image management ubuntu canonical sre image_cache_management
    Related posts: Reflecting on Essex; Folsom Dev Summit sessions; MySQL Workbench; Old ImageMagick packages in Debian and Ubuntu; Wow, qemu-img is fast; A first pass at glance replication

posted at: 00:59 | path: /openstack | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 15 Dec 2011



On syncing with Google Contacts

    So, I started with a new company a few weeks ago, and one of the things I missed from my previous company was having the entire corporate directory synced onto my phone. Its really handy as an on caller to be able to give people a call when something goes wrong, without having to dig around and find their details.

    Back in the good old days at Google the way you got this sort of data onto your phone was to run a script written by one of the guys on the gmail team. The script grabbed the LDAP directory, and pushed it into Google contacts, which you could then sync with your phone. Now I wanted something very similar -- especially as the contacts sync stuff with Android is pretty reasonable.

    However, I'd never coded with the Google public APIs before, and that turned out to be the hardest part of the problem.

    First off I wrote a little script which dumped the corporate directory into a text file. I mostly did this because I wanted other people to be able to run the script in as light weight a manner as possible -- for example, if we wanted to roll this out for hundreds of people, then you wouldn't want to run the LDAP query hundreds of times. The format for my text file is kinda lame to be honest:

      Michael Still: {'telephoneNumber': ['+61 123 123 123'], 'ID': ['mikalstill'], 'mail': ['mikal@stillhq.com']}
      


    So, you get the user's name, then a python dictionary with three keys in it. There isn't any particular reason for having just three keys, it was just the three fields I thought were most interesting at the time. Note that each field is an array. A simple human readable format like this means that I can also grep through the file if I ever quickly want a user's details, which is a nice side effect.

    The most important thing I learnt here is that the ID field is really important. If you don't have something you feel you can use there, then you might need to synthesize something -- perhaps an ascii representation of the user's name or something. This is important because I discovered that Google rewrites Unicode characters you ask it to store, so if you do a simple text comparison against the user's name, then you might get a false negative and end up creating more than one entry for that user. That was particularly a problem for me because there are a fair few people in the company with European accented characters in their names.

    The docs for the Google contacts API are ok, although I did have to spend some time randomly searching for examples of some of the things I wanted to do. For example, the docs didn't have an example of how to store a phone number that I could find. Also, I am a little shocked to discover there is no query interface in contacts for contact name. This seems like a pretty massive oversight to me, but here's what the docs have to say on the issue:

    For more information about query parameters, see the Contacts Data API Reference Guide and the Google Data APIs Reference Guide. In particular, there is no support for full-text queries or locating a contact by email address.


    Whatever intern wrote the API should have his ball pit rights revoked until he fixes that. After that it was all gravy. Here's the code: http://www.stillhq.com/svn/trunk/google-contacts/pushdirectory.py.

    I note that there is an enterprise shared contacts API (see here), but you have to be a premiere customer for it to work.

    Tags for this post: google ldap directory sync contacts android python
    Related posts: Offline Thunderbird; Cool people I have met at work; The android and I; Implementing SCP with paramiko; Packet capture in python; mbot: new hotness in Google Talk bots

posted at: 02:32 | path: /google | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 01 Dec 2011



Blathering for Friday, 02 December 2011

    19:31: Mikal shared: Explosions, but no bomb
      I knew that handing out handgrenades to kids over Halloween was going to be a mistake...



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 05:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 14 Nov 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 15 November 2011

posted at: 05:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 12 Nov 2011



Blathering for Sunday, 13 November 2011

posted at: 05:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 10 Nov 2011



Setting up Cisco 7961 IP phones with asterisk



    This blog post is just my notes on the installation process I followed. There is lots of documentation out there, but a lot of it is contradictory or incomplete. These notes are mostly about the configuration in my house, and might not work for you. Sorry about that.

    The first step is that you need to be running your own DHCP server. Running a simple embedded one in something like your DSL modem wont cut it, as you need to hand out non-standard options in your responses in order for the Cisco firmware on the phone to find the TFTP server you'll set up in a bit. I'm not going to document installing DHCP here, as the Ubuntu packages are reasonable. In fact, the only annoying bit about the packages is that all the config et cetera is in a directory named /etc/dhcp, but for some reason I can't explain the init script is /etc/init.d/isc-dhcp-server. That throws me every time.

    You also need to know the MAC address of the phone. This is probably on a sticker on the bottom, failing that it is on the screen during the phone boot process. Absolute worst case, it is in the DHCP logs once the phone starts to boot. The DHCP config for my phones looks like this:

      option domain-name "home.stillhq.com";
      option domain-search "home.stillhq.com", "stillhq.com";
      option domain-name-servers 192.168.1.14;
      
      option routers 192.168.1.254;
      option broadcast-address 192.168.1.255;
      
      option ntp-servers 192.168.1.14;
      option smtp-server 192.168.1.14;
      option time-servers 192.168.1.14;
      
      default-lease-time 600;
      max-lease-time 7200;
      
      option cisco-etherboot-server code 150 = ip-address;
      
      ...
      
      # IP Phones
      group {
        option tftp-server-name "192.168.1.14";
        option cisco-etherboot-server 192.168.1.14;
        option arp-cache-timeout 600;
      
        host cisco-7961-1 {
          hardware ethernet 00:1a:a1:ca:04:5b;
          fixed-address 192.168.1.50;
          option host-name "cisco-7961-1";
        }
      }
      


    I also added the phone to DNS with a reverse entry, but I don't think that is actually required for the phone to work. Next I needed a TFTP server, which is something I haven't bothered to run for years. I used HPA's TFTP server, which again has reasonable-ish packages. One gotcha is that you need to install xinetd as well, and then disable the init script for the HPA TFTP server. As best as I could tell the default non-xinetd configuration simply didn't work, so I don't know why they package it like that.

    Now for the really hard bit. You need to find the right firmware for the phone. I have my suspicions this is a lot easier for the modern Cisco phones, which have a web server by default and can be configured without TFTP. I say this as someone who doesn't actually have one of these phones, but who has read some stuff online about them. These older phones are really TFTP happy, and seem to be constantly chatting to the TFTP server, even if they're healthy. That might be an issue if you're deploying thousands of these phones -- you'd have to monitor TFTP server load and be aware of the extra IO during global phone firmware updates.

    There are two ways to get the firmware for the phones. You can buy a support contract from Cisco for not very much money (around $20 a year), or you can find dodgy copies cached on the internet. If you choose to go the dodgy route, this this Whirlpool thread has some useful advice.

    Next we need to do a factory reset on the phone. This might not be needed in absolutely all cases, but its just safer. To reset the phone, hold down the # key and power cycle the phone. The lights at the side of the screen will start flashing in sequence after a while (nearly a minute). You now press 123456789*0# within 60 seconds of releasing the # key you were holding down. Note as well that the Cisco documentation for what lights flash is wrong, but it didn't seem to affect the outcome.

    The phone is really slow to boot up (several minutes). Once it has booted, it grabs network configuration for DHCP as shown above, and then starts requesting files from the TFTP server. Here's a log of all the requests from my phone booting when its happy:

      $ tail -f syslog | grep RRQ
      Nov 11 06:24:53 molokai in.tftpd[8221]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename term61.default.loads
      Nov 11 06:24:54 molokai in.tftpd[8222]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename Jar41sip.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:24:57 molokai in.tftpd[8223]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename cnu41.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:25:00 molokai in.tftpd[8224]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename apps41.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:25:11 molokai in.tftpd[8235]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename dsp41.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:25:15 molokai in.tftpd[8236]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename cvm41sip.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:26:33 molokai in.tftpd[8242]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename CTLSEP001AA1CA045B.tlv
      Nov 11 06:26:33 molokai in.tftpd[8243]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename SEP001AA1CA045B.cnf.xml
      Nov 11 06:26:41 molokai in.tftpd[8244]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename SIP41.8-3-1S.loads
      Nov 11 06:26:42 molokai in.tftpd[8245]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename Jar41sip.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:26:44 molokai in.tftpd[8246]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename cnu41.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:26:47 molokai in.tftpd[8247]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename apps41.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:26:59 molokai in.tftpd[8249]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename dsp41.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:27:02 molokai in.tftpd[8253]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename cvm41sip.8-3-0-50.sbn
      Nov 11 06:27:59 molokai in.tftpd[8256]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename CTLSEP001AA1CA045B.tlv
      Nov 11 06:27:59 molokai in.tftpd[8257]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename SEP001AA1CA045B.cnf.xml
      Nov 11 06:28:14 molokai in.tftpd[8261]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename /mk-sip.jar
      Nov 11 06:28:15 molokai in.tftpd[8262]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename US/g3-tones.xml
      Nov 11 06:28:18 molokai in.tftpd[8263]: RRQ from 192.168.1.50 filename dialplan.xml
      


    No, I don't know why it requests those files at the start twice either, but it does it across multiple test factory resets. There are two files there which embed the MAC address of the phone into the filename, so you'll have different names for those files in your setup. Note that the file CTLSEP001AA1CA045B doesn't exist in my configuration, and that doesn't seem to have caused anything bad to have happened. Filenames are also case sensitive, so that might make things more exciting for you. Almost all of the other files are firmware.

    I recall creating a file named XMLDefault.cnf.xml which has a bunch of stuff in it, but I can't see any evidence that it is used during the book process, so I think that might have been a dead end that I didn't need to go down.

    The format for SEP001AA1CA045B.cnf.xml is well documented in the links below, so I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. Feel free to ask questions in the comments to this post, and I'll do my best to be helpful, bearing in mind that I am absolutely not an expert at this stuff.

    Here's a list of the web pages I thought were most helpful during my adventure:

    Tags for this post: blog asterisk voip sip cisco 7961 tftp dhcp system_admin
    Related posts: Configuring Asterisk; Using an Intel PCI modem as a FXO card; Worst timing evar!; Building an answering machine using a $10 winmodem

posted at: 23:36 | path: /diary | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 08 Nov 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 09 November 2011

    10:20: Mikal shared: 7961G SIP Upgrade
      A really nice summary thread about how to setup Cisco 7961 IP phones.



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 05:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 07 Nov 2011



Leaving Google

posted at: 14:04 | path: /resume | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 05 Nov 2011



Blathering for Sunday, 06 November 2011

posted at: 06:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 31 Oct 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 01 November 2011

posted at: 06:00 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 12 Oct 2011



Speaker For The Dead

posted at: 22:40 | path: /book/Orson_Scott_Card | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 06 Oct 2011



By Blood Alone

posted at: 18:22 | path: /book/William_C_Dietz | permanent link to this entry


The Final Battle

posted at: 18:14 | path: /book/William_C_Dietz | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 04 Oct 2011



The Difference Engine




    ISBN: 055329461X
    LibraryThing
    This is my first steam punk book, and I am not really sure that the genre is my thing. However, the book is clever and interesting and certainly explores an interesting alternate history. The book sort of lost its way in the middle, but picked up again towards the end. Overall, an ok but not stellar read.

    Tags for this post: book william_gibson steam_punk england lovelace bruce_sterling
    Related posts: The Exterminator's Want Ad


posted at: 00:04 | path: /book/William_Gibson | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 23 Aug 2011



Woken Furies

posted at: 04:49 | path: /book/Richard_Morgan | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 22 Aug 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 23 August 2011

posted at: 23:22 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 12 Aug 2011



Blathering for Saturday, 13 August 2011

posted at: 13:11 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 10 Aug 2011



Anathem

posted at: 22:05 | path: /book/Neal_Stephenson | permanent link to this entry


Legion of the Damned

posted at: 21:57 | path: /book/William_C_Dietz | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 07 Aug 2011



A World Out of Time




    ISBN: 345257502
    LibraryThing
    I was reading about cryogenics a couple of weeks ago, and that got me interested in stories around that topic. This book was one of those recommended as exploring the implications of being woken up after a long time. The first half of this book is better than the last half to be honest. I liked how the world had changed, and thought the employment prospects for a recently thawed person were both clever, and possible. However, the distant future world at the end of the book didn't seem as well done to me, and was a stretch at best. An ok book, but not the best I have read recently.

    Tags for this post: book larry_niven cryogenics space_travel time_dilation
    Related posts: Marsbound; Ender's Game; The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; A Separate War & Other Stories; Forever Peace; Runner


posted at: 04:06 | path: /book/Larry_Niven | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 21 Jul 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 21 July 2011

posted at: 06:12 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 17 Jul 2011



Blathering for Monday, 18 July 2011

posted at: 12:24 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Igniting The Reaches




    ISBN: 0441001793
    LibraryThing
    1,000 years after interstellar society has collapsed, a new empire which is suspiciously like Canada rules most of the planets and their most valuable resources -- slaves and automated silicon chip factories. Two gentlemen from Venus set of to make their fortunes as what can only be described as slavers and pirates. They're clearly not nice people, but they are the heros of this book.

    The book is very readable, and like other books by Drake it is clear that the heros aren't always nice, and are haunted by their crimes. Yet they continue, and in the end might have accidentally done something nice.

    Overall, a good if different book.

    Tags for this post: book david_drake slavery colonization piracy combat
    Related posts: Cyteen: The Vindication; Cyteen: The Betrayal; Cyteen: The Rebirth; Ender's Game; The Confusion; The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress


posted at: 10:03 | path: /book/David_Drake | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 09 Jul 2011



Blathering for Saturday, 09 July 2011

posted at: 05:50 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 06 Jul 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 07 July 2011

posted at: 18:13 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


The Big U




    ISBN: 9780380816033
    LibraryThing
    This book is really good for a first book, and you can see some of the ideas that Stephenson explores in later books starting here. The characters are believable, and the story line interesting if a bit odd. Overall, I really enjoyed this book.

    Tags for this post: book neal_stephenson first_book university nuclear_power sca
    Related posts: Recursive linkage zen


posted at: 02:25 | path: /book/Neal_Stephenson | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 21 Jun 2011



And Another Thing

posted at: 22:39 | path: /book/Eoin_Colfer | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 16 Jun 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 16 June 2011

posted at: 06:22 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 15 Jun 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 15 June 2011

posted at: 06:42 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 13 Jun 2011



Blathering for Monday, 13 June 2011

    21:45: Mikal shared: Why Groupon Is Poised For Collapse
      I don't normally comment on competitive businesses, but this analysis of Groupon as a subprime loan business is really interesting.



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 04:45 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 09 Jun 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 09 June 2011

    00:36: Mikal shared: Reverse Engineering Superbugs
      An interesting read about reverse engineering superbugs from someone more famous for hacking on computer hardware.



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 02:37 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 05 Jun 2011



Von Neumann's War




    ISBN: 1416555307
    LibraryThing
    A Von Neumann probe is an automated self replicating machine which is sent into space to map and possibly prepare for human exploration. What would happen if we were the victims of someone else's Von Neumann probes run amuck?

    This book is typical Ringo in that it is about an apocalyptic invasion from outer space, and you just know that most of the worlds population is going to die. However, the book is also exceptionally detailed in its handling of rocketry, and the science behind finding out more about the incoming threat is very well done.

    Overall and good book that I enjoyed, although the end is definitely fishing for a sequel.

    Tags for this post: book john_ringo travis_s_taylor aliens combat ai
    Related posts: Mona Lisa Overdrive; East of the Sun, West of the Moon; Count Zero; Emerald Sea; All The Weyrs of Pern; Against the Tide


posted at: 20:34 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Sunday, 05 June 2011

posted at: 04:59 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 25 May 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 25 May 2011

posted at: 05:39 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 23 May 2011



Princess of Wands

posted at: 03:55 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 19 May 2011



Blathering for Friday, 20 May 2011

posted at: 14:49 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 17 May 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 18 May 2011

posted at: 18:23 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 16 May 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 17 May 2011

posted at: 15:28 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 15 May 2011



The Stainless Steel Rat Returns

posted at: 16:06 | path: /book/Harry_Harrison | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 14 May 2011



Canberra's LCA2013 bid

    I'm really proud of the hard work that all of the Canberra 2013 team has done in preparing our bid for LCA 2013. I just sent off the emails making our bid formal. Here's what I said on the linux-aus mailing list:

    Hello.

    I am pleased to present Canberra's bid for linux.conf.au 2013. It is traditional to produce a PDF document for distribution to the linux-aus mailing list. Instead, we have produced a small web site covering the same information that would normally be in such a document. It is our hope that this will be a more dynamic and accessible document than a static PDF. This website will form the basis for our conference site if Canberra is selected.

    The website is located at http://lca2013.clug.org.au.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Still
    Canberra 2013 bid lead


    Tags for this post: conference lca2013 bid [btags: canberra] [btags: canonical canberra]

posted at: 02:01 | path: /conference/lca2013/bid | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 13 May 2011



Blathering for Saturday, 14 May 2011

posted at: 15:49 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 11 May 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 12 May 2011

posted at: 18:11 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Wednesday, 11 May 2011

posted at: 06:37 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 09 May 2011



Performance pay for teachers

    I don't really want to have a fight with Paul, but I disagree with his stance on performance pay for teachers. I respect Paul on many levels, and perhaps sometimes we should just agree to disagree on some things.

    However, I find his attitude towards performance pay defeatist. As best as I can tell his argument can be summarized by this quote:

    The problem is: how do you judge the teacher's actual performance? How do you separate this from the abilities of their class? How do you know, empirically and repeatably, that they're better than another teacher?


    I think you can measure this. You can test basic skills at the start of the year, and then at the end. You can then compare this with the other students across the entire country at that year level, and determine what is an above average improvement based on statistical modelling. Sure, that wont test if a child is inspired to become a great artist, but the most important role of schools is to provide our children with the skills needed to survive in a modern society. If the artist can't count and read, then they're going to have a much harder life.

    Now, I don't claim that naplan is a perfect measurement system, but then again it is very new and it takes time to get these things right. Henry Ford didn't go into his workshop and come out with a Toyota Corolla. Instead he built something relatively crap, and then the world iterated. Let's give naplan time to iterate and improve before we write it off.

    Another argument I've seen is that teachers don't teach in isolation, and we should therefore not attempt to measure their performance. Its something about parents et cetera affecting learning outcomes. So, I have a couple of counter points. I also don't work in isolation, given I work on a team with 700 other people, and yet we still manage to measure my performance. Perhaps that's because part of my job is to advocate with others that they work on the bits that I need them to work on. Its the same with teachers -- part of the job is to encourage and support parents as well as children, and to do whatever it takes to help the child learn. Surely we don't want defeatist teachers who just give up if not everyone immediately falls over to help them out?

    Also, the statistical sample for children at a given year level is huge, and surely if unsupportive parents is a problem, the statistics will handle that. This is especially true once we let the system run for a few years and gather some baseline data. Worst case if a school is in a disadvantaged area, or the teacher works with kids with special needs, then a tweak to the numbers can be applied to compensate for that.

    Another thing which is huge is the proposed bonus pool -- $425 million is a lot of money. I'm hoping this means a lot of teachers get a good bonus.

    Ultimately this is too important a problem to just give up on because it is hard. When I went to school, a lot of my friends put teaching down as their last choice degree, not because they cared about teaching, but because it was a safe comfortable job out of the rain. We need to stop attracting those people to teaching, and redirect talented people there. To a certain extent people go where the money is, so if we can find a way to pay good teachers more money than they would earn doing real estate conveyancing, then that's a good thing. The bonus scheme is part of that.

    Anyway, I'm not really trying to convince Paul here, we can agree to disagree I think. I'm just trying to explain my stance.

    Tags for this post: blog teacher school performance pay
    Related posts: Australian teachers advocate a China style firewall for Australian internet users; Controlling DirecTV STB via USB; Does anyone else think its odd; Apple's Safari javascript implementation; Thinkpad x41 tablet PCMCIA IO; Python effective TLD library update

posted at: 23:52 | path: /diary | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Monday, 09 May 2011

posted at: 06:59 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 08 May 2011



The Princess Bride

posted at: 18:54 | path: /book/William_Goldman | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 05 May 2011



Blathering for Friday, 06 May 2011

posted at: 14:44 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Thursday, 05 May 2011

posted at: 06:35 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 01 May 2011



The Light Fantastic

posted at: 13:05 | path: /book/Terry_Pratchett | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 27 Apr 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 28 April 2011

posted at: 16:03 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 20 Apr 2011



Mistress of the Empire

posted at: 20:09 | path: /book/Raymond_E_Feist_and_Janny_Wurts | permanent link to this entry


A little bit of work around the house

    We're getting a little bit of work around the house done at the moment. Included in this photo set: demolition of a front wall, excavation, marking out walls, footings, crushed rock, drainage work, brick removal, membrane, reinforcing mesh, form work and termite control. Not bad for a week's worth of work.

                                           

    See more thumbnails

    Tags for this post: events pictures 20110420-extension photo

posted at: 14:51 | path: /events/pictures/20110420-extension | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 14 Apr 2011



Blathering for Friday, 15 April 2011

posted at: 14:25 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 12 Apr 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 12 April 2011

posted at: 04:51 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 06 Apr 2011



Richistan

posted at: 14:25 | path: /book/Robert_Frank | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 04 Apr 2011



Blathering for Monday, 04 April 2011

posted at: 06:28 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 03 Apr 2011



Blathering for Sunday, 03 April 2011

posted at: 06:45 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 01 Apr 2011



Blathering for Saturday, 02 April 2011

posted at: 15:37 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 31 Mar 2011



The Bad Popes

posted at: 02:12 | path: /book/Russell_Chamberlin | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 28 Mar 2011



Extension, removed paving and some before pictures of the house

    We pulled up the paving for recycling. Some before pictures of the front yard.

           

    Tags for this post: events pictures 20110304 photo

posted at: 18:39 | path: /events/pictures/20110304 | permanent link to this entry


Extension, before the removal of the front trees

posted at: 18:31 | path: /events/pictures/20110306 | permanent link to this entry


House extension, after the front trees were removed

    These are photos of the front of the house after the two trees which needed to make the supreme sacrifice are gone.

         

    Tags for this post: events pictures 20110307 photo

posted at: 18:28 | path: /events/pictures/20110307 | permanent link to this entry


Mattthew felt he had to document some of his lego

posted at: 18:25 | path: /matthew/pictures/20110316 | permanent link to this entry


Catherine's photos of the moon

    Catherine was enthused with taking photos of the moon the other night.

                 

    Tags for this post: events pictures 20110320 photo

posted at: 18:23 | path: /events/pictures/20110320 | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 21 Mar 2011



Cally's War




    ISBN: 141652052X
    LibraryThing
    Let's be honest, this book has not reviewed well over the years. However, I had a long flight, and figured I'd give it a go. It wasn't actually all that bad, and was certainly massively better than some other share cropped books I have read. The writing is competent and the plotting reasonable. I think the biggest problem is that the start of the book would be quite shocking to some people (it certainly bothered me), and Cally's character is so out of line with where I wanted her to be 40 years after the last book. I can see how it would be possible for her to end up like she is in this book, but it was a disappointment to me. The pretty much constant shagging is distracting from the rest of the plot too.

    Overall, I am left wanting to know more about the Darhel plot, and the book did help further that story line, if only a little. I don't regret reading the book, even though it isn't the strongest in the series.

    Tags for this post: book john_ringo julie_cochrane aliens personal_ai rejuv legacy_of_the_aldenata espionage
    Related posts: Hell's Faire; Watch on the Rhine; The Tuloriad; Gust Front; Yellow Eyes; A Hymn Before Battle


posted at: 13:47 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Monday, 21 March 2011

posted at: 03:32 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 19 Mar 2011



Blathering for Saturday, 19 March 2011

posted at: 05:18 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 16 Mar 2011



East of the Sun, West of the Moon

posted at: 20:18 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 14 Mar 2011



Blathering for Monday, 14 March 2011

posted at: 03:06 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 13 Mar 2011



Blathering for Sunday, 13 March 2011

posted at: 03:55 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 12 Mar 2011



Blathering for Saturday, 12 March 2011

posted at: 04:15 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 09 Mar 2011



Against the Tide

posted at: 00:49 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 07 Mar 2011



Blathering for Monday, 07 March 2011

posted at: 02:35 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 02 Mar 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 02 March 2011

posted at: 04:46 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 01 Mar 2011



Books read in February 2011

posted at: 15:00 | path: /book/read | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 28 Feb 2011



Emerald Sea

posted at: 02:52 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 27 Feb 2011



Being Geek




    ISBN: 9780596155407
    LibraryThing
    This book by long time Apple engineering manager, as well as startup employee, Michael Lopp is a guide to how to manage geeks. That wasn't really what I was expecting -- which is sort of the inverse. I was hoping for a book about how to be a geek who has to deal with management. This book helps with that, by offering the inverse perspective, but I'd still like to see a book from my direction.

    The book is well written, in a conversational and sometimes profane manner (a comment I see others make about his other book "Managing Humans"). I think that's ok in this context, where it feels as if Michael is having a personal conversation with you the reader. An overly formal tone here would cause the content to be much more boring, and its already dry enough.

    I'm not sure I agree with everything said in the book, but the first half resonated especially strongly with me.

    Tags for this post: book michael_lopp non_fiction management career
    Related posts: Blogging essential to a successful career; On Cars; Why document management is good; Perl sample source code; The Man in the Rubber Mask; Cataloguing meta data against multi media formats


posted at: 22:10 | path: /book/Michael_Lopp | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 23 Feb 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 23 February 2011

posted at: 04:13 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 20 Feb 2011



Matthew's birthday party

posted at: 05:00 | path: /matthew/pictures/20110221 | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 17 Feb 2011



Blathering for Friday, 18 February 2011

posted at: 09:52 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Thursday, 17 February 2011

posted at: 03:03 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 15 Feb 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 15 February 2011

posted at: 04:36 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 13 Feb 2011



Blathering for Sunday, 13 February 2011

posted at: 04:02 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 10 Feb 2011



Margarita Mix

    I've had trouble sourcing an acceptable Margarita Mix now that we're back in Australia. You can get the Jose Cuervo stuff, but it is $10 for a liter bottle. Instead, I've been making my own, which is nicer than the store stuff and cheaper to make as well. It is also ultra simple to make. Here's how:

    Put two cups of white sugar in a pot with four cups of water. Heat on the stove stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Turn this mix off and let it cool down slowly on the stove. It should be quite thick when cooled, and there should be no visible sugar crystals any more.

    When the liquid is cool, add a cup of fresh lime juice and a cup of fresh lemon juice. Stir thorough. Pour the result into a bottle and stick it in the fridge. It should store for a couple of weeks, and I am told it freezes ok as well.

    Tags for this post: cooking margarita mix tequila

posted at: 22:09 | path: /cooking | permanent link to this entry


First paper published

posted at: 15:14 | path: /research/smtp | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Thursday, 10 February 2011

posted at: 04:23 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 09 Feb 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 09 February 2011

posted at: 03:43 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 08 Feb 2011



Blathering for Tuesday, 08 February 2011

posted at: 04:10 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 07 Feb 2011



Canberra officially expresses interest in hosting LCA in 2013

    For those playing along at home, you will have noticed that there is a pretty keen group of people in Canberra who intend to bid for LCA 2013. Linux Australia has now called for formal expressions of interest, and I just sent ours in. I wont repost it here, but instead will suggest you checkout the thread in the mailman archive.

    Tags for this post: conference lca2013 bid [btags: canberra] [btags: canonical canberra]

posted at: 19:45 | path: /conference/lca2013/bid | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 06 Feb 2011



There Will Be Dragons

posted at: 02:30 | path: /book/John_Ringo | permanent link to this entry


Rendezvous With Rama

posted at: 01:37 | path: /book/Arthur_C_Clarke | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 05 Feb 2011



Slow cooker caramelized onions

    I was keen the other day on giving caramelizing onions in the slow cooker a go. It was comparatively simple, although I had trouble finding a site which had a complete set of instructions -- lots of sites say "it works", but don't give a lot of detail. So here's what I did: put 1.2 kilograms of diced onions in the slow cooker. Chuck 75 grams of butter on top, as well as a heaped soup spoon of brown sugar. Run the slow cooker on high for two hours, stirring hourly. Then turn the slow cooker down to low and run it for 14 hours, stirring when you're in the mood. Add a cup of chicken stock, which you stir though. Run the slow cooker for another hour with the lid off to dry stuff out. The stock gives a nice sheen to the onion, but doesn't really change the flavour.

    The finished product is lovely, and makes a great french onion dip.

    Tags for this post: cooking slow_cooker caramelized onion

posted at: 15:41 | path: /cooking | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 31 Jan 2011



Books read in January 2011

posted at: 22:07 | path: /book/read | permanent link to this entry


On the flood levy

posted at: 16:57 | path: /diary | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 30 Jan 2011



The mechanics of bidding for LCA

    As I sit here reading the notes from the Future LCAs birds of a feather at LCA2011, I've come to the realization that most of the conversation was about the mechanics of what is required for an LCA bid. It can be daunting to know what needs to be done in order to have a successful bid for an event as complicated as LCA, especially if you've never been an organizer before. Its not clear that Canberra will have a successful bid for 2013 yet, but I think its a good idea to share what we've done so far if it helps others develop high quality bids.

    The first thing to think about is your team. At the BoF, it was strongly suggested that you need around five to six people for a good bid. I've seen conferences run with fewer people than that, but it is risky. LCA is a large and complicated event these days, and with a planning horizon of around two years, you need to be prepared for there to be a fair bit of churn in your core organizing team. Some people will move away, or change jobs. Others might have a new child and discover they're much too busy for a conference as well. So, remember when you're putting that initial team together to pack in some extra folks in order to handle the churn. Most Australian capital cities have former LCA organizers in them these days as well (we call them ghosts in the Linux Australia community). You should try to find one or two of these people to be involved as well. For example, the Canberra bid committee currently stands at 14 people, seven or whom have been on a LCA core team before, 3 of whom have served on Linux Australia's national committee, and at least two of whom have run their local Linux User's Group at some point in the past.

    Let Linux Australia know that you're interested in submitting a bid (council@linux.org.au seems like the right place to send this). They can provide you with sample bids and budgets from previous conferences when the bid process starts. They can help you plan your bid, and assist with modelling the cost of the conference. Linux Australia also has a few online references you should read early and often, including public bid guidelines and a how-to for running the conference (although the latter is a little dated now).

    Next you need to starting filling in some of the details for your conference. Where are you going to host the main conference? In Canberra's experience it is getting quite hard to find venues which can host a conference for 700 people, especially when you take into account that people really like to be all in the same room for keynotes and closing sessions. Canberra is lucky in this regard because we have at least three venues which can scale to this size event, but that might not be true of all cities. So, find a conference venue as a first step with your new team. Don't forget when talking to venues to ask how much the venue will cost -- a significant part of the conference budget can get spent on the main venue. Note also that many venues require that you use their catering and audio visual companies if you're using their rooms. This can be a hidden expense that's painful to discover later.

    Your local city probably has a Convention Bureau that can start to be helpful now. The Canberra Convention Bureau has been very supportive for our bid, starting out with a meeting to get a feel for the event, running a familiarization tour of possible venues for various components of the conference, and helping us with the actual content of our bid. The venue tour was a particularly interesting exercise -- it was a three day non-stop tour of possible venues and while quite tiring I learnt heaps. These tours are generally run with other potential conference organizers from around the country, so you also get to learn from seeing what questions other organizations ask. The Canberra Convention Bureau don't just do this because they're lovely people (they are). The Bureau is funded by the various tourist attractions in the city, who obviously have a vested interest in bringing events to Canberra. The Bureau is also staffed with people who have worked in the hotel, hospitality and conference industry for many years, which means they have plenty of experience to share when you need advice.

    You'll also need to start working out what venues you want to use for the various other events. There is an open day, as well as a variety of social events to organize. At this point you don't need to pay deposits for these facilities, but you do need a reasonable idea of what they cost and whether they're available. Again, most venues have signed exclusive catering deals, so you need to make sure that you understand who is providing those services, how much they cost, and if that is already included in the venue cost.

    Accommodation can be hard to work out as well. It is now traditional to offer a student style accommodation option for the budget conscious, and this can take some negotiation with nearby student residences. For example with LCA 2005 we moved the conference to April, and then discovered later that our preferred student residences weren't available at this time of year because despite being during a university break, students often stay around. For our 2013 bid we've been talking to the owners of some very fancy student residences that are brand new. It took a little bit of talking before that residence became available because our intended week for the conference is the week before the normal student move in time. We worked it out in the end, but you can't just assume that student residences are available for your conference.

    During all these conversations you should be "penciling in" your bookings to ensure your chosen venues are available if you do win the bidding process. Remember not to make a firm commitment though, because you don't want to pay a deposit for a conference that might not end up happening! Additionally, collect some form of confirmation from venues that they are available. In some cases our documentation is as informal as email chains. In other cases we already have formal written quotations. What you're trying to do here is reinforce to the Linux Australia national committee that you're well organized, and serious about hosting an excellent conference. There is a lot of money involved with hosting LCA, so you really need to reassure Linux Australia that you can be trusted with the financial obligations.

    One final point -- one of the best ways to develop experience at bidding for LCA is to actually bid. Even if your bid is rejected you'll end up with a bunch of useful feedback about how to improve it in the future. You'll also get to see how the winning bid compared with yours, which gives you an important data point.

    Tags for this post: conference lca2013 bid [btags: canberra] [btags: canonical canberra]

posted at: 23:03 | path: /conference/lca2013/bid | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Sunday, 30 January 2011

posted at: 04:03 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 28 Jan 2011



The Apocalypse Troll

posted at: 19:33 | path: /book/David_Weber | permanent link to this entry


LCA 2012: Ballarat

    So, a million people have blogged and tweeted about this, so I'm going to keep this short. Congratulations to Ballarat on their winning 2012 bid. They've stepped up for what is a massive job, with the added complications of being the first to try something a little new. As a ghost I appreciate them being willing to expend this effort for the benefit of all of us. I've had a few chances to spend time with the Ballarat core team this week, and I think they're dedicated, smart, and going to do a great job.

    I know some are concerned about transport, and to be honest I was at first too, but I don't think it is actually all that bad. There is a shuttle bus just like any other modern city (it seems to take about 90 minutes on the airport shuttle, which isn't that much longer than getting to the Melbourne CBD from that airport). There are also rental cars, and Google Maps tells me that you could save 8 minutes on your trip that way! Worst case it is only a 22 hour, 35 minute walk according to Google Maps.

    Personally, I'm going to walk from Canberra, which will only take 5 days, 22 hours. Who wants to join me?

    Tags for this post: conference lca2012

posted at: 12:41 | path: /conference/lca2012 | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Friday, 28 January 2011

posted at: 02:12 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 27 Jan 2011



Blathering for Thursday, 27 January 2011

posted at: 04:30 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 25 Jan 2011



Contact details for the Canberra LCA 2013 bid

    Hi. I just wanted to quickly let people know that if they're interested in being kept informed about the bid for LCA 2013 to be in Canberra, you should subscribe to our mailing list at http://lists.clug.org.au/listinfo/canberra2013. We'll send regular updates to that list as we hit important deadlines during the bid process.

    Tags for this post: conference lca2013 bid [btags: canberra] [btags: canonical canberra]

posted at: 13:15 | path: /conference/lca2013/bid | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Wednesday, 26 January 2011

posted at: 12:18 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Tuesday, 25 January 2011

    21:17: Mikal shared: A free smartphone app for buses in Canberra | MyBus 2.0
      This is really interesting. A group of students have decided that its lame that the Canberra bus service has a terrible web site, no mobile applications, and refuses to provide the data for others to fill in the gaps. This will be fun to watch and I hope they win.



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 04:13 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 24 Jan 2011



Blathering for Monday, 24 January 2011

posted at: 03:27 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 23 Jan 2011



LCA 2013 bid process opens - Canberra at the ready!

    For the last several months, a small group of people in Canberra including myself have been preparing a bid for LCA 2013. This is not just to give us more time to make the conference the most awesome, froody LCA you've ever been to. No - 2013 is also the centenary of the founding of Canberra as the nation's capital. It's a very significant year for us and we'd all be thrilled if we could show the attendees of LCA our great city and Canberrans the great work the FOSS community does to improve everyone's lives.

    So we're really stoked that the bidding process is going to be opened early, and I think it'll lead to a really interesting competition that will result, whoever wins, in the best LCA ever!

    If you're interested in getting involved, drop me a line!

    Tags for this post: conference lca2013 bid [btags: canberra] [btags: canonical canberra]

posted at: 15:24 | path: /conference/lca2013/bid | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 22 Jan 2011



Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency

posted at: 23:46 | path: /book/Douglas_Adams | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 21 Jan 2011



Bad Science

posted at: 13:16 | path: /book/Ben_Goldacre | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Friday, 21 January 2011

posted at: 03:59 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 19 Jan 2011



Things I'm taking to the Arduino miniconf

    I figured I'd go to the Arduino miniconf and help out with the assembly tutorial. That got me thinking about what I should take that's relatively small, but likely to be helpful. So far I've got:

    • My butane soldering iron and solder (I'm not packing butane though, I'll have to find that up there)
    • De-soldering wick and a solder sucker
    • Side cutters
    • Tweasers
    • A multimeter
    • A USBtinyISP
    • A couple of duemilanove boards
    • Some spare Atmega 328s
    • One of Doug's ethernet boards
    • A spare development central heating controller (my current project)
    • My RS485 development stuff (so I can keep working on that)


    What else should I bring?

    Tags for this post: conference lca2011

posted at: 18:48 | path: /conference/lca2011 | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 18 Jan 2011



Blathering for Wednesday, 19 January 2011

posted at: 11:26 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Tuesday, 18 January 2011

    22:14: Mikal shared: Starbucks Drops A 31-Ounce Bomb: The Trenta
      Yeah, what America needs is larger servings. I know people aren't forced to buy these, but that's still a big iced coffee (31 ounces is just under a liter, or two pints).



    Tags for this post: blather

posted at: 04:57 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 10 Jan 2011



Blathering for Monday, 10 January 2011

posted at: 04:07 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 09 Jan 2011



Days of Air and Darkness

posted at: 17:03 | path: /book/Katharine_Kerr | permanent link to this entry


Starbound




    ISBN: 044101979X
    LibraryThing
    This is the newly released sequel for Marsbound which I really liked, so I was excited when this arrived the other day. This book is much like the previous one stylistically, being written as a set of mostly first person diary entries. However, the people writing these entries are older now, and this feels less like a teen fiction novel. There is also more than one narrator in this book, unlike the first, with generally each chapter being narrated by one of three people. This can be a bit jarring at first, because it takes a while to realize that a new person is narrating and that's why the point of view changed. You get used to it though. This book is also quite Heinlein like in this level of sex, which is similar to Marsbound, but not true of all of the Haldeman books I've read -- I think it might be a relatively recent change to his style.

    Overall a good book, I enjoyed it, and I can't wait for the next one in the series (which Joe finished at the end of 2010).

    Tags for this post: book joe_haldeman mars aliens exploration space_travel sanity first_contact marsbound
    Related posts: Marsbound; Earthbound; Rendezvous With Rama; Red Mars; Mars: A Survival Guide; Camouflage


posted at: 15:21 | path: /book/Joe_Haldeman | permanent link to this entry


Books read in December 2010

posted at: 15:00 | path: /book/read | permanent link to this entry


Blathering for Sunday, 09 January 2011

posted at: 04:03 | path: /blather | permanent link to this entry