X World 2016 Was A Great Conference

So last Thursday and Friday was the AUC‘s annual conference for Macintosh system administrators, X World.

Held at the University of Technology it is a combination of workshops, presentations and social events.

This year it started with pre-conference drinks organise by the Sydney Mac Admins group. We meet once a month or so and made sure our July meeting coincided with the start of the conference.

The first keynote was from Rich Trouton on OS X security. Then the first afternoon saw other presentations. I had to miss them as I was giving my workshop “Bash For Beginners”. If you want the slides and other materials from the workshop then they are in my github here.

The rest of the conference was equally good with a dinner on Thursday night, more presentations on the Friday and time to meet and gossip with many other Macintosh administrators.

If you are a Mac administrator in Australia or New Zealand then I recommend you start your planning to attend next year’s conference. It is the best place to learn and meet others that you will find. The AUC has a YouTube channel  where you can check out presentations from previous years as well as their other conferences.


Why Alex Is Wrong And What Are Apple’s real Software Problems

OK, that headline is a bit inflammatory and an insult to a perfectly good tech journalist but Alex Kidman here is the latest in a long line of commentators to take a swipe at Apple for the quality of its software. Unfortunately he grabs the wrong end of the clue stick.

I am not going to argue that there aren’t some things that Apple could do to improve software quality, indeed I will point out some of them before I conclude. What I would like to do is look at some of the reasons there are problems. I will also point out some of the things that won’t fix the problems and why. As I do I’ll show why Alex is partly wrong though partly correct at the core of his arguments.

First, software is hard. I started out my professional life as a programmer, mostly writing code for accounting software, most of the time in C. It is impossible for anyone who has not spent several years writing software to understand the complexity of what you do and the difficulties you find in proving it’s correct. Continue reading

Hacking The Philips Hue

Philips hue mot vanlig lampa...

Philips Hue (Photo credit: Patrick Strandberg)

A short time ago I bought myself a Philips Hue starter pack and installed the three globes in my lounge room.

I must say that I love the way you can set the colour and brightness of these things. Having installed and played with the iPhone app it came to me that I should have a bit of a hack and see what I could do.

My first need was to find a way to turn the lights down as the evening gets late. I thought that would be a nice way to remind myself it was getting late and to think about going to bed.

I decided Python was the way to go since I can run it on both my server, the iPhone and iPad. I discovered a nicely usable library for Python and quickly wrote the required script. Then I just installed it as an item in the root crontab so now the lights get turned down to half power at 10:30 every night. The script required is tiny:


from phue import Bridge
b = Bridge('')
b.set_light([1,2,3], 'bri', 127, transitiontime=300)

Continue reading

The Pebble Watch

Pebble Watch


I often support interesting projects on KickStarter and one I supported was the Pebble watch. Mine arrived a few days ago.

First impressions were good, it arrived in a nice custom cardboard box and the watch and charge cable were in a custom cardboard holder. All made from recycled and recyclable cardboard. There were no instructions beyond a note to “Get started at go.getpebble.com”.

The introduction page you end up on needs some work but I managed to get the watch hooked up to power and talking to my iPhone without too much trouble. It hooks up to power with a custom USB cable with a magnetic latch and two power dots. This is so that the watch can be totally waterproof – you can swim or shower with it on.

I then updated the software on the watch and added a couple of watch faces using the iPhone app.

The appearance of the Pebble is acceptable, for me it is a fraction too large but it is certainly no larger than a lot of mens watches. I really like the “Text Watch” face that tell you the time in words. I may have to change the band as I prefer a metal or leather band to plastic in Sydney’s warm weather.

The screen is a low power LCD with a backlight – in dark conditions you can turn on the backlight by touching a button, tapping the phone or even giving it a shake – a quick rotate of my wrist works fine. The screen is 144 by 168 pixels – large enough for a decent watch face or to show an SMS. The screen is easily seen in most daylight and office conditions though the white is more a light blue-grey.

Inside is an ARM processor, an accelerometer, a light sensor, a BlueTooth radio and a small vibration motor (easily felt when it’s on your wrist).

Once connected to my phone it worked fairly well. Due to some problems with iOS 6 it has trouble showing notifications from a lot of apps but it does fine showing an SMS, caller ID or details of a song when you use your watch to control your music.

At the moment that pretty much sums up all the functionality of the watch, there is promise of more to come with Pebble promising more software updates to add more apps and more functions to the current software.

Every so often the iPhone pops up a dialog asking of it’s OK for the app to communicate with the watch and hitting OK runs the app. When it does this is totally mysterious.

At the moment I have to say that the Pebble is a great start and a perfect addition to my network of things. I think the people at Pebble have been a little overwhelmed by the demand they’ve seen. I hope in the weeks to come we get some of the promised apps. I’m waiting for the cycle computer or Run Keeper apps in particular.

Some Notes On Real Racing 3

After a few more days with Real Racing I’ve made a few notes.

Race Types

Autocross is certainly the hardest of the race types – there are a few I’ve come across that seem impossible. I’ve raced in one where I had the best car in the series with all upgrades and my time was over 50 seconds when the time for first was 36 seconds. This is currently my biggest complaint about Real Racing 3.

Drag races are by far the easiest. You don’t have to worry about your steering since the car will always go straight, just concentrate on the tachometer and hit the gear up paddle when it hits the red.

There appears to be a couple of bugs in the endurance races, sometimes I see what looks like a ghost car and sometimes my car suddenly brakes as if it’s avoiding an invisible car. It has to be said that I often get an incredible result in endurance once 2nd was 6.4km and I managed 43.4km.

Continue reading

Review: Real Racing 3


Real Racing 3
(click to see image full size)

Since I am in Australia I get to play Real Racing 3 (RR3) before the general release on the 28th.

I enjoy racing games and I am a huge fan of the Real Racing franchise, I enjoyed both 1 and 2 enormously. I was looking forward to RR3 with bated breath.

I have to say at one level it doesn’t disappoint, the graphics, controls damage modelling and the addition of having to service a car make it better than RR2 and there are a wide range of tracks and cars to play. There are 27 different racing series to compete in and each series has three or four different cars that can compete in it. A given car can usually compete in several series and might find itself the best possible car in one series but seriously outgunned in another. The cars range from the old Nissan Silvia S15 all the way through US muscle cars and Italian sports cars such as the Lamborghini Aventador to European exotics such as the Bugatti Veyron and Pagani Huayra. Ferrari didn’t license any of their cars to the game and they and Mercedes and the most obvious holes in the supercar lineup.

The tracks are also varied from the almost impossibly tight and unforgiving Southbank track in Melbourne, Australia to the Indianapolis Speedway and more traditional tracks such as Silverstone or Brands Hatch to the wide open long straights of Hockenheim. Mount Panorama, better known as Bathurst, in Australia is even included. So far I’ve found 9 tracks but some have variations of layout so in total I’ve found 17 layouts.

The game play is good with excellent graphics, sound and realism. I love the way my Dodge gets light and skittish when it’s roaring down a long straight. There are a number of different sorts of race; a traditional motor race with a field of 22 called a Cup race, elimination races with a field of eight where the last car gets eliminated every 20 seconds, drag races comprising three rounds, autocross where you have to post the fastest time for a short stretch of track, speed snap where you have to hit the finish line at the highest possible speed, speed record where you have one lap to attain the highest possible speed, endurance where you have a certain amount of time to gain the longest distance with time bonuses for passing and finishing a lap and head to head where you race against one other car.

Continue reading

Foldify Gets An Excellent Update

Me as "SuperLover" - OK, you can stop laughing now. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Me as “SuperLover” – OK, you can stop laughing now. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Foldify, the papercraft app for the iPad I previously wrote up was updated to version 1.1 today and they have hit the ball out of the park.

The biggest new feature and high on the wish list of many users, including myself, is the ability to import a photo to place on your papercraft figure. This works extremely well as you select or take a photo then you can crop it before placing it on the papercraft just like a stamp so it can then be resized and rotated to place it perfectly.

They have also added a paint bucket tool which I found extremely useful in re-colouring an existing model. It works just as you would expect it to work though I think it would be nice if it didn’t go over a fold line. The final tool added is an eye dropper so you can pick up a colour, extremely useful when working with one of the example models.

The developers have also added to the blank templates, 6 more to take the total to 16 including a heart shape for Valentine’s Day. Also for Valentine’s Day are two new packs of extras, a free assortment of 28 elements (you can see most in my picture above) and 35 elements of underwear, most only suitable for female figures but seven or eight could be used for male figures.

The final change is the addition of a “Trending” tab on top of the previous “New” and “Best” tabs in the online template “store”.

There are still some things I’d like to see added. The biggest would be some more examples already painted and ready to alter. I’d also like it if you could touch up a model you download from the online ones rather than just be able to print them. To really nitpick I’d like to be able to adjust the size of the paintbrush and eraser — now you can add a photo I found myself erasing large areas of a model and this can be tiring with the tiny tools as they are. Even the ability to choose three or four sizes would be good.

That said this little app is an essential for iPad owners who like to do some cutting and folding. Kids will love it now they can have their face on a model.