Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter weekend fun

Back in England, the Easter Bank Holiday is traditionally celebrated by spending hours in deep meditation, while stuck behind another caravan in a 10 mile traffic jam. The M25 is usually involved as well, and rain is usually a dead cert, definitely more so than a white Christmas these days.

So what else can an expat Brit do at this time of year, then head out of town in search of some sunshine, and instead find copious quantities of rain, and not a few traffic jams. Of course, not to be outdone, England instead had heavy snow. Tell me more about this global warming, it sounds fascinating.

Our first destination, apart from the take-a-break stop for those who had drunk too much tea at breakfast, was Fitzroy Falls, in the Southern Highlands, about 90 minutes drive south-west of Sydney.

Fitzroy Falls

(those are the falls in the bottom left corner - the foreground is rather underexposed, but it's not my photo anyway). That's what it's supposed to look like on a good day. This is what we saw:

Misty Falls

There's something very eerie about standing on the edge of a cliff and not being able to see more than 50 metres in any direction, due to the thick mist. Especially when you know it's 80m straight down...

Fortunately the cold and the rain eased off a little after Fitzroy Falls - Kangaroo Valley was quite pleasant, although my raspberry sorbet was a little suspicious. We did try keeping Lauren quiet with the age-old trick of applying gobstoppers, but we obviously didn't get one big enough, because it only kept her quiet for about 20 minutes. The rest of us availed ourselves of various refreshments...

Have A Coke

Back in the car again, and on to Seven Mile Beach, which proved to be incredibly windy, so we didn't stay there long. Emily had already swiped my jumper, so we didn't stay too long to admire the view, otherwise Unee would soon be turning blue to match her dress. It didn't stop some people from going surfing though.

Two Chilly Sisters

Our last stop of the day was Kiama and its famous blowhole. You need a good tide and a storm to really get it spouting, but it did its best to put on a show for the crowds.

Kiama Blowhole

I'm told it can be much more impressive than that. Personally, I found the waves breaking against the cliffs below to be more interesting, especially as below when a rather large rockpool was filled up.

Waves filling a rockpool

Lauren found her own rockpools, fortunately not the one above, and spent the remaining time filling her pockets with shells.


For her, this was probably the highlight of the day, and fun for me to, because I got to do some father-daughter stuff for once, helping her scrambling over the rocks.

External hard drives

In my last post, I mentioned that backing up to an external hard drive. Most hard drive manufacturers have already considered this, and sell out-of-the-box backup solutions. Some then take this one step further and add a network port, whether wired or wireless, so that the drive can then be shared between computers on the network.

Western Digital is one of those, but here's a word of warning - if you are a typical home user, do not buy their 1TB My Book World Edition - it very kindly refuses to share any music or video files. So if I wanted to, for example, use it to share the video I took of my sister-in-law's wedding, or of a friend's new-born baby; or if (God forbid!) that I got into podcasting - none of these files that I created could be shared by this device, even on my own private network between my own computers.

Welcome to the wonderful world of DRM.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No, I will not fix your computer

Being known within my circle of acquaintances as a geek tragic, I am usually the first port of call when something goes wrong. I think anyone who can tell one end of a SATA cable from the other knows exactly what I'm talking about - it means spending Sunday evening trying to sort out Uncle Bob's email problems when you could be watching Battlestar Galactica.

What strikes me every time is that I have yet to see anyone running backups on their computers when I fix them. At home, my laptop gets backed up twice, once to an external hard disk using Acronis True Image 11, and then again to my Windows Home Server, which also takes care of all the other computers in the home (currently two media centres and two other laptops). The former backup gets done when I feel like it, the latter gets done every night. Two backups may seem a little paranoid, but I take a lot of photos, and would not like to lose 10 years of data to a crashed hard disk.

It's not expensive - these days, a 500Gb hard drive with an external enclosure and the aforementioned Acronis software costs less than AU$200. Backup can be automated, and restoring is incredibly easy. They're also usually contain tools allowing you to upgrade hard drives and migrate to new computers.

So, I've just made a new resolution. People who call me out also get the benefit of a small lecture on the need to run backups. I might even prepare a little hand-out detailing just how to set it all up, and would probably do it all for them at cost.

If they ignore my advice though, the best they'll get from me is a shoulder to cry on. Friends, you've been warned.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Updates to SvnRevisionLabeller

It's a been a while since I uploaded my SvnRevisionLabeller code to the CruiseControl.NET community site. If you don't know what it does, it allows you to label your Continuous Integration builds with the Subversion revision that they were built from. If you still don't know what it does, I suggest you stop reading now...

I wrote this plugin because it was useful for me, and seeing as CC.NET is a useful piece of Open Source software, I decided to contribute back to the community. I have no idea how many people use it, but I know the number must be greater than four, because three other people have emailed me with bug fixes and enhancements.

With these changes coming through, I decided that it was time to move away from the traditional source control known as a zip file buried somewhere in my email archives. Seeing as I'm currently going through a Google love-in, I uploaded it to Google Code, which appropriately enough means I have my code under SVN revision control.

On a similar note, my other contributions to the Open Source community, at least that part of the community that develops using .NET, is a GuidTask for NAntContrib, but the process for adding code there seems to be a lot more obtuse than Thoughtworks', so at the moment it doesn't appear in the code anyway; but at least I have it on my servers.