Blog entries from September, 2009

Lego fun, and a disappointment

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 at 11:19pm

Last weekend I picked up a bulk lot of Lego that I had bought on eBay. This lot contained a couple of assembled models as well as a fair amount of loose bricks.

However, the key piece was a set released in the early years of Lego Technic, 1980 to precise. Set 8860, the first Car Chassis:

Lego Car Chassis (8860) with box

It is obvious that this set is missing two wheels, but is is also missing a number of smaller pieces. But when I bought the lot it wasn’t known how many pieces were actually missing.

So this is where the fun starts. Each night last week I took one of the assembled models, stripped it down, cleaned the pieces (mostly just dusting with a brush) and then reassembled the model as best as I could.

Lego Circuit Shock Racer (8422)Lego Hovercraft (8824)
Lego Fire Engine (8280)Lego Pneumatic Excavator (8837)

Of these four the Pneumatic Excavator was the most interesting as I never had any pneumatic lego when I was a kid. Although the set I remember wishing I had was the Air Tech Claw Rig (8868), the only set lego produced with a motorised pneumatic compressor.

It was now time for the car chassis, which was quite interesting to build because it achieves so much with the simpler pieces. For example the engine doesn’t use the special block and piston pieces that I remembered. The only special piece is the piston head and the remainder is composed of common gears, axles and plates. The steering is similarily constructed using 2×2 swivel plates instead of the later steering linkages.

Lego Car Chassis (8860)

This is where the disappointment comes in.

On the box and manual for the car chassis the suspension on the rear wheels is pictured as if it were constructed from axles and connectors, with a spring thrown in. This can be seen on the cover and even this page.

However, the actual construction of the suspension is with 6.5L shock absorbers. It looks like the change of design was at the last minute and they only had time to make the minimum required changes to the manual.

So what now? Fortunately most of the missing pieces (that I have listed) are common plates or bricks, most of which should be in the boxes of loose bricks up in the roof. For some of the specific pieces, such as the large wheels, I should be able to turn to eBay.

Of course I will also have to break down all of these sets and reassemble them as the B model in order to get a complete picture of what pieces are missing.

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BarCampMelbourne 2009

Sunday, September 27th, 2009 at 05:18pm

Two weeks ago, from the Saturday morning to the Sunday afternoon, I immersed myself in BarCampMelbourne. It was a great weekend, but I was a tiny bit disappointed. But that was because I couldn’t help by comparing it against the awesome StixCampNewstead.

BarCampMelbourne - September 2009 - Day 1 - 29

As this is an unconference there is no way to know ahead of time what the talks will be about. As it turned out, the topic that people wanted to talk about was hacking hardware, in particular using Arduino hardware and getting together at the melbourne HackerSpace.

BarCampMelbourne - September 2009 - Day 2 - 17

This re-kindled my interest in hardware, once I cross off some other items from my list (such as downsizing my computer collection) I will return to a specific box of bits in the cupboard, the one containing LCD character displays and temperature sensors.

If you want to know what you missed you can check out the photos on Flickr (my set or from others tagged bcm09 (also includes a Miami BarCamp) and barcampmelbourne) or watch the talks that were recorded such as Paul’s now infamous talk on Facebook Privacy.

BarCampMelbourne - September 2009 - Day 2 - 21

But what didn’t I like?

Unlike at StixCamp where people had to stay the night (mostly camping), about half the people went home on the Saturday night. This diluted the intensity of the event and resulted in a lot less interaction. Another issue I had was that a lot of people, when they weren’t listening to talks (and sometimes even then), seemed to be glued to their laptop screens.

Sometimes two at the same time:

BarCampMelbourne - September 2009 - Day 1 - 31

Although I’m only writing this post now, I did dent/tweet as the event unfolded and I managed to get my photos up on Flickr the day after.

I now cannot wait until the next event, be it a BarCamp or a StixCamp. Something that should tide me over is MXUG, a monthly meeting where the talks can be on anything technical.

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The downsizing commences

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 at 11:36pm

I announced a few weeks ago that I was going to downsize my computer collection. Over the past few days I made a start and tonight the first items are on eBay.

I haven’t yet listed the Indys, but I have started with the bulkiest Apple items, each for $0.99:

I was also going to list the black PowerMac 5500, but that one is completely dead. It might have something to do with the evidence of water damage on the back of the logic board (a buildup of rust…), but I’m not going to bother finding out. This is a definite for the hard rubbish, but I will list the black keyboard and mouse combo.

Speaking of hard rubbish

This weekend is BarCampMelbourne, so I will be busy. The following weekend is when I have to have the items out for the hard rubbish collection. So the bulk of what I am going to list on eBay will be listed prior to the weekend. If it comes to it I could list items for five days next Tuesday, three days on the Thursday or even one day on the Saturday, but the chance of someone seeing those listings gets lower and lower.

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A year with the iPhone

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 at 09:26pm

It has now been over a year since I joined the iPhone bandwagon. It hasn’t changed my life, but it has changed how I read email and use calendar.

While I still host my mail on my home Linux box and mainly access it using Thunderbird, I do find myself checking mail if I am out somewhere and have some spare time.

The more significant change involves Google and is how I use calendar.

Up to a few months ago the remaining reason for me to keep using my PowerBook was to sync my phone with iCal and Address Book. This changed when I decided to move my calendar and contacts into Google.

This has proven to have at least two advantages:

  • From any computer with access to the internet I can access a full interface which is easier for entering events than through the phone.
  • As it syncs over the air I have a constant backup, instead of the occasional sync with my PowerBook.

It has proven to be the right decision to get an iPhone, but unlike some other people I know, I have no need to upgrade to the 3GS.

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Learning more from photo competitions

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 at 11:50pm

Today is the first Tuesday of the month, this means it is judging night at the camera club, when I find out how the photos I submitted a month ago have been judged.

This is also the deadline for next month’s competition – topic of ‘Blue’ this time- so that has been dominating my thoughts for the past week or so. But those photos are done and submitted, so it was time to listen for feedback.

As the September competition was open, aka no topic, there were a record number of entries. Good for the club, good for learning, bad for me individually as there is more competition.

Then it was announced who the judge would be: Pele Leung. After seeing that he was interested in architecture I didn’t expect this fairly safe image of the Sydney Opera House to get much of a reaction:

The house on the point

In his comments Pele said that although technically quite good, it was a pretty standard shot and would have been better from an different perspective than everyone else. Despite this he awarded it a merit.

Earlier that same night I took this photo:

Bridge at night

The judge back in May gave this a highly commended award. Significantly because of the interest created by the unusual angle. He said that at first he didn’t recognise it as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

And my three (because I am entering the full two printed and two digitial) other entries?

On the club outing to Macedon I took this photo low to the ground down from the waterfall in Stanley Park:

Close to the ground

I quite like the shallow depth of field and for me the small green leaves are the item of interest. However Pele didn’t agree, he wanted something of interest amongst the leaves.

My third entry was from the War Memorial which we visited on the third Melbourne Photo Walk:

Late afternoon in the forecourt

This is actually a cleaned up (some cloning to not have floating body parts) version of the photo for which I received an unexpected prize:


If I hadn’t received the prize I would have entered this photo of the flagpoles on the other side of the forecourt:

Flagpoles in the forecourt

I had spent some time in GIMP to correct the perspective from this:


Maybe I should have entered this one as in this case the feature (the flags flying from the flagpoles) are nicely backlit. The comment from the judge about the other photo was that he considered the Cenotaph to be the feature, yet it is too much in shadow.

And my final image? As I wan’t sure what to enter I chose an image of the peacock from Montsalvat for the humour aspect:


This is a modification of this photo:


For the competition entry I increased the crop, rotated the image further and added a vignette. I like the quirky aspect, but apart from that it’s nothing special.

I believe that I am learning from this experience and hopefully my photos perform better for the ‘blue’ theme. But as they have been submitted I need to think about the November competion.

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