Author Archive

Future of New Zealand

May 23rd, 2011 1 comment

I am, at heart, a patriot. Not in the sense that I think that we’re better than everyone else, but in the sense that I want New Zealand to prosper, and be the best that it can be. For the last decade, I have been watching New Zealand circle the drain faster and faster. Every election, I get more despondent that the whichever politicians we elect will faff about, and ultimately achieve nothing more than changing the part of the cliff we drive off. Every year, I think about taking my skills and moving to Australia. I could be paid more. Hell, I could happily make double what I’m on now, and that’s assuming I’m not willing to put up with overtime, or working in the piece of hell-on-earth known as Perth.

But I don’t, because I want to make this country better, and sodding off overseas isn’t going to achieve that.

I came across this video today, which struck a chord with me. It’s a twenty minute speech by Sir Paul Callaghan, where he talks about what drives our economy.

Here’s a few choice quotes to whet your appetite;

“The more tourism, the poorer you get.”

“The biggest export earner in New Zealand is manufacturing, it is bigger than dairy…”

“I’m not interested in 60 billion one offs [mining the national parks] at the cost of all we hold dear.”

If we want a country worth living in, we need to drastically increase the amount of money we spend on research, and actively promote STEM fields in our schools and universities. If we don’t, we will end up a third world country, wondering where our best and brightest went, and why we don’t have the funds to pay for our precious RWC stadiums.

Safety Razors

May 16th, 2011 Comments off

A couple of months ago, I dropped a bit over one hundred dollars for a Goodfella razor handle bundled with a hundred derby blades. Partly this was driven by my compulsion to buy more New Zealand made products, but most because I was fed up with paying $25 for eight small pieces of non-recyclable metal and plastic.

While I would like to consider myself hardcore enough to shave with a straight razor, the reality is that one morning, I’ll be a little too under-caffeinated, and then I’ll get to test out my theories about the lack of an after life. Safety razors are, well, safer.

But are they any good?


The members of Badger & Blade would have you believe that shaving with a double edged safety razor will leave you with the face of an appropriately masculine angel. Unfortunately, this is not true. My experience has been that shaving with the razor pictured is better than with the Mach 3 & King of Shave cartridges razors that was I previously using – once you get the hang of it. Use of the safety razor requires patience and attention to detail, such as details of the direction each whisker grows in, and the exact angle of the head against ones skin. I seriously considered reworking my morning routine, just so that I would have caffeine before attempting to shave, as a moments lack of attention with a “safety” razor can lead to a lack of cohesion in ones face.

On the upside, as long as you aren’t doing anything too stupid, when you do slice yourself, it’s usually a small nick, rather than a gaping multi-front opening that could plausibly need stitches. I have at one point, when using a multi blade cartridge razor, opened a gash that did not stop bleeding for an hour. That date did not go well. Suffice to say, I did not get to see that particular woman again. Whereas, despite making the incredibly stupid decision to try out a safety razor for the first time – and thus screw it up rather badly – a bare half hour before meeting someone for dinner earlier this year, I did not bleed all over the table cloth – though a high collar was required to maintain some sense of decorum.

One of the niggling issues I’ve long had with cartridge shaving is that I was prevented from shaving daily. Attempts to shave more often than every two or three days would lead to an ugly looking rash, which looked worse than being unshaven. Some weeks, I would have to specifically plan on which days I would be clean shaven. This could be a problem if I had say, a date on Tuesday, and an important meeting with a client on Wednesday. I have not yet had this problem with the safety razor. This, and the fact that the blades are less than one tenth the price (thirty cents) of the cartridges ($3.12) are the best reasons to switch.

Later – otherwise known as, when I get around to it – I’ll discuss my impressions of the Goodfella razor handle itself.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Stars & Music

May 9th, 2011 Comments off

More Video. Watch this, if you need to chill out some. Recommend playing full screen with the lights off.

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Originally found on the Daily Grail.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,


May 8th, 2011 1 comment

I have been massively busy at work recently, hence the total lack of updates for April. I have half a dozen posts in unreadable draft form, but in the mean time – you should watch this video. It’s awesome. Language is probably not work safe if you don’t have headphones.

Buying New Zealand made: Shirts and Shorts

March 21st, 2011 Comments off

My year of buying only New Zealand made clothes is almost at end. I made this commitment on the 5th of April, 2010. As it wore on, I became worse and worse at blogging my purchases, because I ended up going back to the same stores over and over again, and frankly, there’s only so many things you can say about a pair of suit pants. However, I did notably find a pair of organic denim shorts ($120) at Duncan & Prudence this summer, and  couple of custom printed tshirts ($60) print at the same. The shorts are excellent, and properly fit my quintessentially kiwi ass. The tshirts softened after a couple of washes and routinely garner comments wherever I go, because nobody else has anything like them. Since I’m rubbish at photography, the picture below was hacked together from D&P’s online tshirt builder. The actual shirt on the right has the pohutukawa in bright blue.


Module – Remarkable Engines

March 10th, 2011 Comments off

Module is on amazingly prolific artist.

I accidentally found Module when looking for music by Jessica Chambers, since she features on the five track of his Remarkable Engines album a full seven years after it was released. Kiwis may find the thirteenth track What is Seems from the same album oddly familiar.

In 2009, he wrote the soundtrack for the video game Shatter, by local developer Sidhe.

I find it makes for excellent coding music.

All his music is on bandcamp in a DRM free format of your choice. Including FLAC.

Surprisingly Good Salad

March 9th, 2011 2 comments

A surprisingly good salad, brought to you by my lack of fresh tomatoes.

  • Cucumber, diced
  • Feta, crushed
  • Coriander, fresh from my window sill
  • Olives, black
  • Sweet Thai chilli sauce,

Don’t be shy with the quantity of coriander or chilli sauce.

Categories: Food Tags: , , , ,

Ultimate Music Source

March 6th, 2011 1 comment

Hi, my name is Edward, and I’m an audiophile.

I’m also cheap. I refuse to spend several thousand dollars on a CD player and fiddling around with swapping discs, when I’ve already gone to the trouble of ripping all my music to highly convenient FLAC files. Instead, I cheated. I did buy some nice speakers and an amp, but I’m not going to discuss those. Suffice to say that they are nice.

What I did buy, is a tiny silent computer made by NorhTec in Thailand, and a USB soundcard, made by Pro-Ject Audio, who reside in the Czech Republic. The computer is JrMX Microclient. It has a one gigahertz 586 compatible processor, 512 MB of ram, USB and ethernet ports, and in my version, internal space for a half-terabyte 2.5″ laptop hard drive. The delivered cost for this to New Zealand was USD$149 + USD$49 shipping, plus another hundred odd for the hard drive.

On to the computer, I loaded the latest version of the Debian* operating system, and the music playing software mpd. Onto my phone, I loaded MPDroid, which let’s me control said music software from my phone.

All my music is now on this computer, which I can control from my phone. This means I can come home, pull out my phone, and have all my music instantly available. I have no need to turn on my desktop, mess about with a laptop, external hard drives, insufficiently sized iPods, fumble with a poorly designed TV driven menu, sort through CDs, or any other such nonsense, it’s all just there.

It’s running. In a month or so, I might put up some technical details of the software, and how well it works in practice.

* Ubuntu doesn’t support the Ethernet module. Nobody seems to be quite sure why.

Buying New Zealand made in the Bathroom, and Man Soap

February 22nd, 2011 3 comments

Over the past nine months, I’ve started looking a lot closer at where my purchases come from, particularly the items I buy on a regular basis, such as food. Some items, such as coffee, are clearly not, and never will be grown here – and that’s fine, but other items, such as garlic (China), grapes (United States), oranges (Australia, California), and tomatoes (Spain) are commercially produced here. Apart from the economic issues, I simply can’t justify supporting the thousands of air miles required for me to enjoy grapes in the middle of winter because I’m a bit impatient.

The bathroom is a little trickier.The following is a list of what I use, it’s country of origin, and roughly how much I pay at my local New World supermarket.

  • Soap – Knights Castile, Australia – $4 per 4x100g pack
  • Toothbrush – Colgate Value Pack, China – $3 per twin pack
  • Toothpaste – Colgate Triple Action, Australia- $4 per 220g
  • Razor – Schick, China  – $8 per eight pack
  • Shaving Cream – Primal Earth Aloe Hydrate, New Zealand (hah!) – $9 / 175ml
  • Deoderant – Brut roll on, Australia – $4/50ml
  • Hair gel – V05 hair putty, Australia – $9/130g

Clearly, there’s some room for improvement here. I’ve been eyeing up the shaving gear at Goodfella’s to take care of my shaving needs, if for no other reason that replacing single-use non-recyclable gear appeals to my environmental and financial sensibilities. I’ll report back once I’ve ordered a set and used it for a bit, and in all fairness, a quick bit of googling shows a variety of deodorants, for which I mainly need to locate a store for somewhere in Wellington.

Toothpaste is a bit of a problem. The evidence suggests quite strongly that fluoride based toothpaste fluoride is effective in both preventing and treating cavities. I credit this fact, along with my regular night and morning brushings as to why I still have no fillings at twenty eight. Until I can get New Zealand made fluoride toothpaste, I’ll stick to my Australian made Colgate.

Which brings me to soap.

The manufacture of soap in this country appears to be mainly the concern of middle aged woman with too much time on their hands. When browsing the various websites of soap manufacturers, phrases like, “hand crafted”, “gift baskets” and “beautifully scented” far too often.

I can’t get behind that. No self respecting straight man is going to lather himself in soap smelling of honey and strawberries. I’m not opposed to the idea, but the few of these that I’ve got up close with are overpowering, and distinctly feminine. Furthermore, this insistence on ‘hand crafted’ means they are all incredibly expensive, which isn’t helped by the high cost of the ingredients. Far too many of the soaps are made with expensive bases like olive oil (imported), palm oil (imported), coconut oil (imported), and sandalwood (imported).

However. There is a solution. Arguably, the best soap is made from tallow. Tallow is rendered beef or mutton fat. The New Zealand dairy industry has such an excess of beef fat, that it sells it in bulk for around 70 cents per kilo. I think there’s a market opportunity here. Fonterra already sells yoghurt, ice cream, and iced coffee under their Mammoth Supply Co brand. I propose that they create a related product line with the following slogan;

Mammoth Man Soap: Made from Cows

I’d buy it. I suspect more than a few other men would also, especially if they knew it was made from cows.

Update: 1-March-2011: In my under-caffeinated and sleep deprived state, I said that the study in Nature magazine proved that fluoride toothpaste did nothing, which was completely the opposite of what I meant to say. I’ve corrected this.

Update: 6-March-2011: I have purchased a Goodfella razor. First attempts did not go well. Using a good shaving cream is a must with these, otherwise, bad things happen.

Software that needs to be drowned

January 28th, 2011 1 comment

I remember why I got out of being a sysadmin, it’s a lot like being a plumber.

Some software – Dovecot for example – is a joy to use, because it’s well documented, and just works, even when you want it to do slightly strange things. Other software, in this case Cyrus saslauthd, is so follicle destroyingly bad, that it needs to be taken out the back and drowned. Twice.

Having procured a shiny new Android phone and talked Vodafone into supplying me with lots of traffic, I set about setting it up to talk my email and Jabber server, and blog, and all that goodness, and everything is shiny.

Later, it occurred to me, that if my phone is stolen, and the thief is clever enough to extract my password, he has ssh and sudo access to my server. The odds of this happening are exceedingly low, but the results of this happening are catastrophically high. Compounding this is that everything on this server hangs off the Kerberos database for authentication, which means that my users don’t have different passwords for different services, but presents problems once users start saving these passwords on to their phones.

But, I had a great idea. Run up local SQL database that has a list of alternate hashes that only work for email, chat, blogs and other non-shell activity. Awesome. I built the database schema and connected dovecot to in the space of a lunch hour., and all was happy. Tonight, I attempted to connect up other systems. After spending an hour and half battling the mysterious server_set_id in exim, I tried to make the saslauthd connect to the database.

After much cursing, I have discovered that the saslauthd SQL plugin requires that the password is stored in plain text, because the SELECT string isn’t capable of substituting the password into the query string. It also doesn’t handle more that a single row response, which means the entire exercise is looking somewhat futile, because my blogging software (wordpress) and chat software (Openfire) and various other bits and pieces all go through the LDAP server which can only do plain text authentication to Kerberos via saslauthd. It is possible to get exim to use the dovecot sasl server, but this architecturally seems like the wrong way of doing things.

And this is why I hated being a sysadmin, so much software out there is just rubbish.

Update: I set exim to use Dovecots SASL daemon. Works great.