/* Blog goes here */

Necessary Extravagance
Why We Moved To Sydney
Sea Water Still Warm
Winter Surfing
Tel Aviv
Sat Jun 28 17:33:32 2008

Necessary Extravagance

Or why you should never buy an HP computer

Eighteen months ago I bought a shiny new Hewlett Packard dv9000 'laptop'. I've been delighted with it. The 17-inch screen was amazing, it was faster than a greased weasel, it had more disk than you could shake a stick at, and it ran a bunch of operating systems smoothly. Regrettably, its excellence in performance was somewhat marred by a lack of reliability.

On several occasions, it simply refused to boot. No life anywhere. Several calls to HP support eventually led to a frankly incredible diagnosis. Apparently, this four-kilo desktop replacement was not capable of sustained operation on mains supply. Apparenty, the battery would overvolt, leading to the system failing to boot. Astonishing to comprehend, the engineers at HP have designed a machine whith a complete mismatch between battery and system. Discharging the battery did seem to work, so it may actually have been the cause.

Later, in the deep cold of Melbourne winter. the machine started suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It wouldn't boot unless the CPU was over about 18 degrees. Every morning, I would boot it, it would run through POST, attempt to start an operating system, then the kernel would panic. Linux, Windows, Solaris, all the same. After a couple of goes, it would start fine. Now, try explaining this to tech support. "Try rebooting", they say. "Try again", they go. After three goes, it works. Result. Ticket closed. Another furious customer.

On Wednesday evening, the next major fault slithered up from the nebulous depths. Every 20 minutes or so, it started bluescreening in Windows. Each time, the same driver was crashing at the same point. The kernel-mode (Ring 0) nVidia graphics driver was making outrageous assumptions about the hardware. Little things like it being a) present and b)undamaged. Wrong. After a certain amount of panic (by me and the kernel), I retrieved all the data I needed. (When I say "I" here, I mean of course, the other geek).

Regretfully, mourning an excellent if feckless friend, we went shopping on Thursday evening. Since I Will Not Ever Pay Actual Cash Money for Windows Vista, the hardware landscape was more straightforward then the last time I did this. The Apple Store is but a short hop from the office. My intention was to buy a shiny, tiny black MacBook: 13-inch screen and utterly lovely. Then, the siren song of Macbook Pro called me to its lustrous 17-inch screen. Sadly, even these screens are not as good as the one on my lovely, faithless HP. Sadness. Thought. Rational cogitation. Hah. In an Apple shop? If I were rational, I'd be homebuilding a commodity Linux box, and liking it. The Cult of Steve is not about 'rational'. Over to the larger machines. How often to I actually carry my laptop around? And the screen on the 20-inch iMac is drop-dead stunning. After a few minutes of autopersuasion, I'm ready to sign up. It's cheaper than the laptop, it's faster, shinier and the screen sucks you in like a rip current. The (excellent) salesdude totters of to arrange a RAM upgrade. Then, I turn round. A few minutes later, I become aware of an insistent tugging at my sleeve. The salesdude is telling me that the RAM isn't available, or something. I can't hear him. I have fallen into the vortex. It was the same price as a reasonably-upspiffed 13-inch Macbook. Twice the RAM. Much, much faster. And almost four times the screen area. Twenty Four Inch Screen. iMac. 2x2.8GHz CPUs. 2GB Ram. Two feet across. Twenty. Four. Inches.

Here it is:

iMac in box Lugging this up the hill was no fun at all.

From box to running, installed, networked jewel of awesomeness was five minutes. Yes, reader, I am a fanboy.

Apple iMac 24 inch Kneel before the awesome shininess of the iMac.

Next, to set it up. With a wired connection to the router, on went the simple, bare necessities: OpenOffice, Firefox, Aquamacs, Skype, Camino, software update, World of Warcraft, what was the download limit again?

Internet usage graph Guess which day I bought the iMac?

This all started about three years ago when I bought an iPod as a Christmas present. Now I'm a Steve Jobs fanboy. Ponytail, check. Trendy surfgear, check. Strong opinions about computing hardware, check. The stupid goatee beard and desire for a triple-mocha soy latte have not, thankfully, been detected so far. You will be kept informed.

Sun Jun 15 11:12:57 2008

Why We Moved To Sydney

Also, too much surf

It's June 15th (Happy Father's day!), and the weather is a bit rubbish, frankly. Here's the forecast for Sydney Airport (from the very excellent Weather Underground)

Weather Forecast

A quick comparison to sunny Bristol in the middle of summer:

Weather Forecast

Four days out of five, it's warmer in Sydney. In the middle of winter. Chortle. In other news, surf is 6-8 feet. Even the surf sites are advising people to stay dry. Discretion being the better part, etc. Not going in.

Sat Jun 14 19:16:59 2008

Sea Water Still Warm

But I get cold anyway

All week the surf forecast has been promising a weekend extravaganza. A storm in the Tasman was kicking the swell up all week. Today dawned grey, cold (maybe below 20 degrees), windy and horrible. 'Sod it', we said, and hopped on the ferry anyway. As we rolled across Sydney Heads we saw a 40-footer going to sea under storm jib and trysail. Dudes, you're doing it wrong. You come in under that rig, then tell lies at the bar. If you can't hoist the main, you don't go to sea. But maybe I'm a wuss. On the beach The Intrepid Photographer, clad in seven layers and a waterproof, chortled a little as I stripped down to my skivvies on the beach. The wind was over force six, and the raindrops were leaving a rash on bare skin. Wetsuit on, and a glance at the waves.

The stiff breeze is straight offshore. The sets are rolling in, sitting up cleanly to around five feet and dumping on the beach. At the break there is a surfer every five metres from Manly to Narrabeen. The rain is getting nasty. I have the easy job - into the water and out to the break. Other People choose to stand on the beach with a long lens.

The waves are uniform, clean and big, but getting out to the break is remarkably easy. The trick is to judge which ones will break before they get to you, and which ones you can float over. Diving under a breaker is exciting, violent and quick. Trying to float over a breaker is terrifying, violent and less quick. If in doubt, I dive.

Anyway, piccies: I think these three were from the same wave. I did catch a bigger one (honest), but it was so fast that autofocus couldn't keep up. Hah.

Catching a wave Never surf anything bigger than your own head
Bodyboarder on a wave Plummeting no longer optional
Bodyboarding in the rain This is unlikely to end well.

There's some video here. Feel free to point and laugh. I'm knackered now. Not going tomorrow, even if the surf is bigger. Sore shoulders. Bad weather. Not going.

Sun Jun 08 21:11:12 2008

Winter Surfing

Zoom. Splosh. Freezle.

Yesterday started out grey and miserable, with drizzle and nastiness. Naturally, we grabbed boards and headed to the beach. By the time we got in the water, the sun was out, it was up to about 20 degrees and the surf was gentle and clean. We both had a blast. Later on, Other People started discovering the type of injuries one gets from Too Much Fun - sore shoulders, tired hands and The World's Biggest Bruise Ever. So, when today started out cold, drizzly and horrible, only one board got packed. The Other Surfer was right - it stayed grey and nasty, and the onshore breeze meant less well-defined surf. On the plus side, the long lens was with us. Permit me to bore you with large images of my incompetence:

Bodyboarding Paddle paddle paddle....(and yes, that splother is caused by my fins)
Bodyboarding with fin showing It's not a sodding sail - put it back in the water
Bodyboarding Wheeeeeee.....
Bodyboard after bottom turn After a perfect catch and textbook bottom turn, storming across the face of the wave. Smug much?
Bodyboarding I'd just got ahead of this one....
Bodyboard in surf ...then it caught me again.Squeaky clean sinuses.
Bodyboarding A smaller wave. Shallow enough that the sand is in suspension. You can guess from the angles what happened next.

The Excellent Photographer did an awesome job here. I was out in the surf having a hoot while she was wrapped up warm on the beach for over an hour. Artfully concealed from the camera are the other fifteen surfers at the same break, along with the major surfing competition 100 meters away. Every time a good set came through, six or seven people would paddle like hell all hoping to catch the break. Today the sets were reasonably predictable, in threes and fours. The poor saps who've been working hardest and waiting longest (often including me) go for this one. The next wave clears out most of the rest. Then, if the third one is the biggest, and the Offshore Dude(*) is too far offshore, you get a chance at a big one. When it happens, it is more awesome than a nuclear-powered weasel. Which is very awesome indeed.

(*) Every break has an Offshore Dude - the guy (always a guy) who sits 30 metres further out than everyone else waiting, and waiting for The Big One. He's probably there now.

Sun Jun 08 17:05:43 2008

Tel Aviv

55 hours airborne

This whole 'job' thing interferes somewhat with one's life. I don't seem to have quite as much time for diversions such as riding bikes up hills, sailing small boats, and boring you all with my reports on such activities. Life is made up exclusively of work and surfing these days (of which more later, promise).

Case in point: Friday before last, my boss asks 'Can you go to Israel?' 'Certainly', I reply. 'When is this happy little jaunt to be?' 'Tomorrow' he says. Bang go my weekend plans. A quick trip to the beach on Saturday morning, a little splash in the waves, then off to the airport to start the marathon journey.

The first leg is with Thai Airlines. Middle seat. Surrounded by People of Ample Girth. The food is good, and the wine plentiful. Ten hours later, arrive at Bangkok. With only two hours before my next flight, I head straight to the gate for my next flight, where the charming and efficient El Al staff probe my reasons, person and luggage. Tedious. The airport is huge, and has some interesting displays. This one was a Naga god attacking a chap with a number of limbs more common amongst arthropods. The whole display was over 30 metres long.

Nagas at Bangkok airport Nagas
Bloke not scared of Naga When attacked by a 50 metre, three-headed snake, dance. It worked for him.

So, with all appurtenances certified explosive-free, onto the El Al plane. Again, a middle seat, with neighbours of an adipose nature. I took the only possible course of action. Got drunk and went to sleep. I think I may have snored. Interesting fact - El Al supplies metal knives with the cutlery. This is the difference between security theater and real security.

The route from Bangkok to Tel Aviv goes over Somalia. This is stupid. It means flying 2000 miles further than you need, and makes the flight eleven hours. It would truly have been quicker to fly London. Mind you, I'd have been eating with a plastic knife, so mustn't grumble. Anyway. Arrived around 0700 on Sunday morning, dropped stuff at the hotel and went to work. All I can really tell you is that Tel Aviv has an airport, a hotel and an office. There are a lot of cities around the world where my knowledge stops there. Depressing.

Tel Aviv Seafront That's my hotel in the background. This is in the old docks area, and has been recently regenerated. Pubs, restaurants, nightclubs. Quite nice
Tel Aviv Docks This is the view from my (second) hotel. Very Mediterranean.
Tel Aviv Sunset Obligatory sunset. The surf was less than a foot and choppy.

My return flight was delayed, so i got to spend a second night (in a different hotel, natch). I say 'night' but mean 'three hours', since my flight back was at 0600. This meant getting up at 0230. Not happy. It takes eight checkpoints and over an hour to get through security on the way out. The flight back was a little better. On the first leg, I had a window seat, and had some lovely views of Isreal and the Red Sea. The second leg, with Thai again, was awesome. A brand-new 777 with a full crew and about fifty passengers. I had a whole row to stretch out on. The food was excellent again. Almost got some sleep, too.

So, 55 hours travelling including 45 airborne for one meeting. Best carbon footprint ever. I'm off to plant a tree.

email BurbleChaz

Last modified: Thu Aug 31 22:46:12 AUSEST 2006