Sunday, December 25, 2005

Xmas

Yet another Christmas, when consumer spending is in the spotlight of our economy and the analysis make their judgments about how we'll survive next year on how much useless shit people buy for each other to make themselves feel better - I'm sure that the positive feeling is merely a tool marketers use. Honestly I like the public holiday and the guaranteed time spent with family - something I didn't get to enjoy very much this year...

Yes, this Christmas Eve, Christmas day and Boxing day I am on call to do support for work. Also, it would appear that I will be doing support on new years day as well. Mind you that no one formally asked me if I wanted to do it, nor has anyone offered to compensate me for it. It was just expected that I would pick it up and do it out of sheer generosity. I think I'm one of the first victims of Australia's new Industrial Relations reforms - even tho they haven't even come into fruition yet.

All this after having to spend a lot of time away from home grinding hard in hotel basements. It didn't leave me any time to do any Christmas shopping, so the marketers will be disappointed with me and maybe the family too. To summarise - to work long hours, being away from home and working public holidays for next to nothing is apparently 'normal' these days. There was a time when I was sure I wouldn't let myself get into such a position.

The trip to Canberra, our beloved nations capital, was interesting. Apart from all the issues caused by lack of organisation by others, it came to together in the end. The city is quite pleasant; I could spend quite some time there just looking around at the attractions and maybe even live and work there for a while. The people are fairly nice, well the ones I met anyway, and the place is tidy. I had 45 minutes before the flight out to check out the war memorial - upon a quick tour I worked out that it would take me 3 days to fully appreciate what it had to offer. My mate Andy who lives down there was good to me and took me for a quick whirlwind tour of the city and the Telstra Tower on Tuesday night - he bought me dinner too!!

The hand break on my car has decided to play silly buggers and not disengage properly. Quite annoying since I wanted to leave for Townsville early Wednesday morning. Now I'll have to try and get it into the mechanics first thing and leave afterwards.

It has been a pretty crap month.

Monday, December 19, 2005

To Canberra I go

Once again I find myself waiting to leave for Brisbane airport to leave to some far away land, well, kinda far away, further than I normally go anyway. This time we're going to Canberra, where our esteemed federal government resides. I'm going to have to restrain myself from doing something silly like throwing a urine filled water bomb at the prime minister - he's on holidays now so I guess the chance won't arise anyway.

I will be installing stuff at two locations - Quality Inn Dickson and Quality Inn Woden. So if you find yourself in dire need of in-room Internet access while staying in Canberra, then those are the two places to try. Both sites are Ethernet type installations, fairly simple and straight forward as long as the cabling is done correctly and the distances between the MDF and rooms isn't huge.

The lead up to this trip was just as disorganised and stressful as the Cairns trip. No one thinks ahead very far and given that they don't think of anyone else either. I just configured the two Cisco SOHO97 DSL routers and two Colubris MSC3200 this morning when the Telstra DSL activation info came in - the day before the installation will take place... I've already put in place procedures that will prevent such issues in future - basically making sure the sales people hand off all technical tasks to the technical people, one would think that was expected, but obviously not.

Don't know what airline I'm flying with, I'm hoping Virgin given the last Jetstar flight from Cairns. Although I did appreciate that Jetstar provide you with fragile (aka, don't play tarmac footy with this one) tags for your laptop bag etc when booking it on as baggage - although Virgin could be treating all baggage as fragile...

I'm currently reading a book about the Australian SAS - The Amazing SAS: The inside story of Australia's Special Forces. It provides good insight to what our leet lads get up to and how they operate. Although the book could do without the stupid Liberal/Howard government propaganda bullshit - personally I don't see any need for it given the subject, what ever happened to the abstraction between the government and the military? Anyway, I won't be too critical until I've read a few other books about the subject, however I have read a few books about the British SAS and there wasn't any mention about their government apart from what was necessary to explain the finer points.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In cairns

So here I am sitting in my motel room at the Best Western Cairns. It's a nice motel, I recommend it - room rates start at $89.00 per night.

As you know we arrived here yesterday afternoon at 3:45pm - the plane was 15min early. I like bigger planes, the VirginBlue Boeing 737-400 was far more comfortable to fly in compared to the Metro I flew to Coffs Harbour in. Having hot air hostesses to perv on is definitely a big plus in my book anyway.

After checking in at the Motel we passed the rest of the afternoon sticking Ethernet cables in these holder thingies - merely a better way of presenting them to guests. Once we were done with that we drove over to the CBD and had a walk about the place. They must have known I was coming that night so they put on a big Christmas show with song and dance and hot chicks wearing translucent tight white pants with g-strings. I couldn't remember what they were singing, carols I think.

Neil suggested an Italian place to have dinner, and while we were looking at the menu a nice chap having dinner with his wife said they had great food and that they were regulars. I discovered that they were the owner of the Paronella Park tourist attraction located just south of Innisfail. I had been there about three times, and was amazed that I was dining with the owners many years later. They provided me with a free group pass for when I head up there on holiday over new years - I'm chuffed.

Anyway, the Italian restaurant is called LA Fettuccina and I highly recommend it to anyone who happens to find themselves in Cairns hungry. Excellent food, great service and don't forget to have the Gelati with a port - best dining experience to date I reckon.

LA Fettuccina Italian Restuarant:
1 Shields St
Cairns
QLD, 4870
Australia
Ph: (07) 4031 5959

Today was fairly smooth, all the equipment got installed as expected. Although the maintenance guy didn't stay around long enough for me to brief him on what was required - I mentioned to him what was needed to be done but I guess he felt he didn't need to be shown. As it turns out I'll have to make another short trip up here again in the very near future to complete these two jobs - so I can finalize any loose ends then. Hopefully no one will steal the adaptors between now and when they're fixed to the walls.

I spend dinner with Neil and a Mr R Spencer, who is one of the seven Cairns Magistrates. He had some good stories to tell, although be it that they were a bit sickening - I admire the resilience of our public legal system and the shit they must have to put up with on a daily basis. We had dinner at a Turkish place just across the road from La Fettuccina. It was okay, although I had higher expectations from lastnights experience.

Tomorrow the sparky we're working with is going to pick me up at 8am (*groan*) and drag me out to Trinity bay where we'll install Sea Change Beach Front Apartments. Should turn out pretty much the same - however there are no adaptors to install into each room, just a cable and holder.

Wednesday we'll be doing a few sales/site surveys in the morning and then flying out that afternoon. More about that later I hope.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Passing the time

I don't leave for the Airport for another hour, so here I am updating my blog.

The reason I'm going to the Airport this time is to embark upon a journey to Cairns. Apparently I'm going to successfully install two new AccessEzy sites, one at the Best Western Cairns and the other at the Sea Change Beach Front Apartments. The Best Western is a VDSL install, while the Sea Change Resort is a much nicer Ethernet install. The preparation to date has been shithouse - always the case of everything being done at the last minute with no regard of the consequences. I'll be up there until Wednesday, seeing a friend for a beer on Tuesday evening so at least something good will come out of the trip.

I think its about time I got myself a MP3 player. All this traveling demands one and so far I've just borrowed Mick's Creative Muvo thingy with the million dollar canalphones. Not sure on what to get, I think I might just play it safe and get a iPod Nano, hopefully they would have fixed the scratching issue - I'd just get the white one anyway.

Well, better go and run the final checks on my luggage.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Coffs harbor in Two Days

The last two days were spent in Coffs harbor. It was actually my third journey into New South Wales this lifetime, although the first two trips were to Armidale to visit family.

The trip started with Neil calling me the morning we were due to go to the Air Port saying that I was the one driving, not him as was originally planned. I don't know why I let other people plan my engagements. So eventually we make it to the Brisbane Airport where I managed to make it to the coffee shop at the Gate 1,2,3 departure lounge before the lack of caffeine claimed my life. I must say the two young ladies running the show were both attractive - and effective barristas. I can make this safe judgment because the plane was 30min late because of 'technical issues' - I took advantage of the coffee facilities.

Once the airline was prepared to test out their newly repaired plane on me, they herded us onto a bus to drive the 100m out to where the Fairchild 'drain pipe' Metro 3/23 awaited. At that point it was starting to rain - it made take off a bit more interesting as a cross-wind had kicked up a bit and caused the small aircraft to float around a bit just after the wheels left the ground. Apart from that the flight was okay. I will have to say that the Etymotic ER-6i Canalphones worked flawlessly at blocking out most of the noise generated by those 700kW Garret Turboprops.

Once we arrived at the Coffs harbor Airport we hired a small Toyota Corolla hatch and buzzed over to the 'Jetty' for a quick peak at the ocean. I must say I was taken back by the beauty of the 'cove' like shoreline of the far eastern coasts of Australia; I think I rather them than beaches. We then proceeded down the coast to the Opal Cove Resort for one reason or another, we really didn't need to go there then - another reason why I like to make my own arrangements. After doing nothing of much use there we went off to what would become my home for the night - the Zebra Motel.

The Zebra Motel is a Best Western property consisting of two 2-story buildings in a L shaped configuration that host 46 rooms. The two buildings wrap around a central reception/restaurant building, with car parks separating each. Yes you guessed it, its like every other Motel on the planet. The theme of this particular motel was that it had a African style - like the restaurant was called 'Zulu's' and there are was African paraphernalia littered around the place. We were there to sell a VDSL (Very-High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line) HSIA (High Speed Internet Access) solution to them. Oddly enough, they seemed quite interested and we might hear back from them in 5 - 6mths time. They had only acquired the place two weeks earlier. The bed was comfortable.

Neil got to stay at the Opal Cove resort, it only costs $10 more than the motel and honestly the rooms were pretty much identical. However the resort had all the resort type things like grossly overpriced food and drinks, stupid games and a view that you would kill small, cute kittens for. The cove was a wonderful setting between two enormous bordering rocky cliffs and a perfect beach with a small estuary placed perfectly near one of the rocky cliffs on the northern side. The resort consisted of 135 rooms with 6 conference rooms, a wedding/function room, huge multi-level reception that included the restaurant/bar and games areas. All with ocean views (bar the conference rooms). They too were interested in our VDSL solution and wants everything done by Christmas - no chance of that happening as far as I'm technically concerned but hey, who am I to dispute that...

I liked Coffs harbor for its beauty, both the seaside and hinterland. Its still a small town, surrounded by little seaside villages and in-land hamlets. I could probably spend a few days there checking things out in more detail and possibly hunt down some decent size block of land to plunder when money permits later on. You are bound to drive though it if you're migrating up or down the far eastern coast, I recommend you stop for a bit.

The flight back was better than the first, however due to 'weight restrictions' our luggage was left behind for the next flight to pick up. I received that via freight at lunchtime today. Lucky I kept my car keys on my person and didn't do the usual thing of throwing them into my bags.








Friday, November 25, 2005

Viruseses

Woke up to the sound of SMSs hitting my phone at an alarming rate - something was dying back at the office and the Network Management Station (NMS) is making sure that I feel guilty about it. After quickly showering my beautiful body, drinking breakfast and feeding the fish (the little bastards just float around on their arses all day pecking at the occasional bug) I rush to the office to find Don fiddling about in the machine room unplugging suspect networks from the main links. First signs of a virus infection.

Turns out that one of our co-lo subnets was pumping out shit faster than I can scoff down pints on a Friday arve (/me takes swig of a Speights Gold Medal Ale). So after disconnecting that we trace through the logs, find the server in question and notify the client. Then we h4x0r the box and run a bunch of antivirus removal tools and whatever else that takes our fancy. Eventually we cured what ales it (/me drinks more ale).

While all this was happening, Dave and I were doing tag team battle with a mail virus that presents itself as a zip attachment. We netted so many that we had to manually purge the filth from our mail filters file system. At its peak we had 3500 emails in the queue totaling 350Mb, it took 3hrs to clear it all out after we fixed everything up.

Once I had all this done I ate me bacon/chicken/avo filo for lunch and then began the normal day at 1pm, catching up on the usual reading of slashdot and giving shit to my mates on irc. But really, it was working *wink*

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New webapps

It seems that there's a big push in the Web Application sector at present. AJAX (Asychronous Javascript and XML) is the new tech in town and everyone is quickly rushing their applications based upon the technology out their door. I don't mind a bit since its all based on open standards and thus there are Open Source applications available for me to play with.

Two such applications that I'm playing with at the moment are Zimbra and SugarCRM.

Zimbra is pushing e-mail and collaboration software to new heights. They're taking what Google started with their Gmail and Blogger and merging it with current collaboration tools and methods to come up with a modern, scalable and cross-platform suite that promises to change the way we communicate in the work place.

I have installed and set up the latest version (Beta 2) as my mail host for naturalnetworks.net. So far its going quite smoothly, however there are issues getting it to work normally through a firewall with 1-to-1 NAT, it's pretty insistent upon its IP addressing and DNS. I read through the Zimbra forums and it would appear that the main issue would be with the way it uses IPTables to redirect ports - it might be getting confused and could be double NATing in a way.

The next release won't depend on the firewall, instead it will startup with root permissions and then suid to a user - similar to many other network applications. The reason for doing this is because only the root user is allowed to open ports below 1024. Another positive reason for not using IPTables is because only Linux has it, FreeBSD and others don't have it, or normally don't use it.

Update: I have since upgraded to the 'M2' release of Beta 2 and the issues I was having with the remote access have all been resolved. M2 has added a few more nice tweaks to the web user interface and various other additions listed on the Zimbra forums in the announcement.


Zimbra Web Client Interface

CRM (Customer/Client Relations Manager) software has been around for quite sometime now. CRM software is usually designed for use by sales people and perhaps marketing as well - probably because traditionally they're the ones who are continuously facing the client. However many other features have crept into the standard recipe for a good CRM package, including interfaces for support/technical staff and project management. This is expected since things have shifted from a sell and forget attitude to developing a continuing relationship one.

This brings me to SugarCRM, a suite of modules that make up a complete CRM package. I'm using the free to download and use Open Source version - the main differences between the free to use one and the pay to use is support and a few other little things that make its integration with other existing systems easier. I'm not a sales person but I did do a bit of marketing and project management study while at Uni and Tafe - so from what I can gather from the suite is that its pretty comprehensive and sticks to the simple bare bones approach to getting the job done. If you want more detailed/complex structuring of information then it wouldn't be too difficult to modify it - just need to find a PHP developer (most decent Web Developers should know it).


SugarCRM Interface

Monday, November 07, 2005

Adding Wifi to the WRAP

I've been running WRAP style routers with the Mikrotik RouterOS software for a while now and I have always been interested to see how the built in wireless functionality worked. Up until now we have been using separate Cisco AP352 access points connected via ethernet.

When it came time to order another set of WRAP bits from Yawarra I got a Senao NL-2511MP PLUS miniPCI wireless card. These tiny adaptors pump out 200mW of power, makes it easier to deploy a wireless access point as you run the antenna cable longer or use a smaller (cheaper) antenna. The Cisco's we use are 100mW for comparison. I also got the correct tail from them as I couldn't be bothered working out how to make my own, but now that I've seen one, it doesn't seem that difficult - might need a special crimping tool for the I-PEX connector though.

Now the case that houses the WRAP board doesn't have any holes for the RP-SMA bulkhead connector. Easily fixed with my trusty cordless drill and a few bits - use a small bit to drill a pilot hole, the right sized bit for the actual hole and then a huge bit to tidy the edges of the newly drilled hole (removes dags and unsharpened the edges). Then simply secure the connector using its nut and washer - I stuck the washer on the inside.

Mind you that I did all the drilling with the board removed and replaced the board before mounting the tail.

Once that was all in place I flashed a CF card with RouterOS 2.8.28 and went through the usual install process. Once I had applied the Marinanet configuration I bridged the hotspot ethernet and wireless interfaces and modified the configuration to suit. The wireless interface is set to AP Bridge mode and I left the rest at their defaults for the purpose of testing.

So far it all seems to be working fine. I did a bit of signal strength testing using various antennas and it would appear that I need to go a bit further than 5m to test it properly :P. The management interface for the wireless is quite good, has everything a purebred AP would have.

Some piccies as expected:

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Still kicking

After a relatively smooth relocation of servers and reconfiguratoin of the 56million gateways spotted all over the east coast I had breakfast and then went and did 16 more room installations at the Peninsular resort. Only one room had a problem, no dialtone what so ever - so I guess I need to have that looked at. Got back into the office at around 5:30pm only to be met with a dead site that's in the Gold Coast, looks like I'm going for a road trip tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we're having a seminar where all the Maroochydore/Mooloolaba accomodation managers are invited to attend - same as the one we had a while ago in Noosa and just recently in Cairns. That starts at 4pm, so I have to fit four hours on the road with repairs and a stop over in Brisbane between 8am and 3:30pm.

I've already booked my Friday morning. I have to talk someone through the process of ripping out their network and redoing everything in the inclusion of a firewall. Mind you that this person is in Yeppoon and if it all turns to shit, I'm up for a 8hr drive up on the weekend.

Early Awakenings

So here I am at 4am in the morning waiting for someone to bring a server over so I can shove it in a rack and then proceed to modify 56million sites to suit it. Being in the IT industry I find myself doing this often and honestly I believe its a sign of a failure - there should be failover systems in place so that I can be doing this kind of shit whenever I feel like it and not in the middle of what could of been dreams of nekkid females and whatnot. Truely gammon.

At least I have some time to read yesterdays paper...

Monday, October 17, 2005

H4x0r3d

On the weekend my webserver got haxored by some scriptkiddie. Made the link it was on a bit saturated, too many connections. Now I have to recover a server, pain in the arse. Doesn't appear that any data was compromised, looks like some IRC bot was installed and was used to relay files or something. Typical.

BF2 Comp
We got slaughtered by 6Pack on the next level of the Battlefield 2 comp. They pwned us in 10min...

Mothers Birthday
Was the mothers birthday yesterday. Mick and I gave her a watch, she has 10 and they're all broken. So hopefully this decent one will last.

Timber Screens
Finished the screens, look fantastic. My next project will be to get a screen door for the front enterance. I like having it open but I don't like all the bugs getting in. Stupid fish aren't eating them :\ After that it'll be some sails for covering the cars and finishing up the exterior repairs and painting.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Another screen finished

Got the screws for the timber screen this morning from a heavily populated Bunnings Store. Amazing how many people must be renovating their houses etc, I can see why hardware stores are now the largest shopping centers around. Didn't take much to finish the screen after that, now I have to work out how to do the more tricker screen that has to merge with a handrail.

Once I've done the screens I'll organise an industrial floor sander and take the paint off the floors and look into varnishing it. I think it might turn out to be quite expensive but I reckon it'll come up really nice. I'll paint the outside wall a dark Cumberland blue/grey and the ceiling white, that should help draw the outside in. After that I just need to install a power point above the BBQ area and the outside deck area is complete, apart from a new handrail or three, and some facia boards, and a new persplex roof... *sigh*

Little Birdy is playing at the Sands Tavern in Maroochydore on Saturday, 5th of November. I think I'll be going to that, don't mind her stuff. Now to find some young lady to take along so I don't look like some loney ghey dude.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Cold Showers

The start of our summer has been marked by westerly winds blowing hot dry air from our inland dust bowls straight into the pilot flame in my gas water heater. As one would expect this would blow out the flame and disrupt the normal functioning of the heating system. This in turn provides me with nothing but cold water in which to cleanse myself with. I guess it reminds me of camping...

Lastnight our game clan were talked about by the folks on the Gamestah chatback online radio segment. Was pretty funny because we're a bunch of north Queensland bogans that have made it to the big league in BF2. Who'd think that online gaming would become an e-sport with commentary and all. Where's my Nike contract?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

First SMC TigerAccess Equipment Installation

Almost completed the installation the SMC VDSL equipment at the Peninsular Resort at Mooloolaba (Queensland, Australia). As mentioned before we mounted the equipment and had everything ready to go for the phone guys. Well they should finish the line terminations to the Splitters today and everything will be all go for the core equipment.

Now I have to go through a few installations of the CPE (Client premises Equipment) with Peninsular's maintenance guy to make sure he knows what to do.

All the equipment including cabinet, Access Controller and DSL Router came to around $12,000. Labour is at about $2000 not including room installations. Compared to the cost of the PBX system which was over $50,000, our system is pretty cheap, particularly when looking at the revenue generated from it compared to the phone system.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Another day

Nothing special about today. Willow was back with us again for the Peninsular installation, basically sticking the VDSL switches into the cabinet and then making sure it all hooked up okay and the internet was working. Have to wait for phone guys to finish connecting it all to the phone system, which will be late this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

In this mornings coffee conversation with Willow; she suddenly came out and asked if I had a girlfriend. I know she's has a boyfriend (his name is Ben too, must be some awesome lad) so it sparked my interest as to why she wanted to know. The tone and pace of the question expressed some motive other than small talk, it was a planned question. Maybe she's matchmaking, I wouldn't mind.

Spent the afternoon tidying up and organising site inspections for tomorrow. All ready for the next major rollout. One day I'll have these rollouts for the VDSL equipment down to a fine art so I don't have to make return visits to each site, can only imagine what it would be like doing them all over Australia.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Janice of Wyoming

Had to go down to South Port and conduct a site inspection at a 87 appartment building (Ocean Sands). Thought I'd take advantage of one of the views and got this pic of the $25m yacht 'Janice of Wyoming':



It's the one just to the left of center, with the huge mast behind some trees. Gives you a good idea on just how big that 130m long lump of aluminium is. More information can be found in this Sea-Spray article (PDF).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A weekend of work

It was time for getting stuck into the house renovations again. Mick had taken two weeks off to do it and still wasn't done thanks to playing BF2 all the time. So we got stuck into finishing off the screens this weekend and also filled in the newly dug greywater hole in the rather steep backyard. The screens came up looking pretty good and so far the grey water hole is holding up okay.


Tonight is the grand final NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys. Since I'm originally from Townsville, I back the Cowboys all the way. I went to many of their first matches while I lived up there. Only now have they made it to a grand final match so I'm pretty chuffed. I'm well prepared for the game, got a carton of beer, bag of chips and the TV is all warmed up. I would have loved to have been able to be in Townville to watch it with my mates and then hit the town afterwards.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Paper Work

I think I have avoided using any sort of structured documentation for long enough. While it has been handy to not have to sit down for hours on end typing up monotonous reports, I can't ignore the need for it when faced with the masses of information coming in my direction. So here I am at almost 9pm typing up reports of the 5 site inspections I conducted. Mind you that this is off my own bat and I'm probably the only person who firmly believes in paper work and record keeping, must be my public service experience kicking in.

I was tempted to purchase a 2nd hand bike today, not the motored kind. It was an Avanti Vivacé Pro Road. It was chained loosely to a fence, I'm sure I could have simply slipped off its quick release seat and stolen it. There was a 'For Sale' sign with a mobile number and $850.00 on it. I was tempted to call him and offer $650 since I found out it was worth $1300 off the shop floor -- after calling mick and asked him to search the web for pricing.

I love climate control.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Preparing for tomorrow

I have about 6 sites to inspect for in-room broadband services tomorrow. Starting at 9:30am and finishing at 3pm, not including time spent travelling to and and from Noosa. I've allocated about 30min per site, I'm hoping that's enough. Don't really want to give away too much of my time, especially when the client isn't really a client yet... at least its keeping me busy (not that I need extra work to do so).

Had lunch at home with Nat and Mick. Went down to the Nambour macca's and got a couple of those Deli rolls. Why is it that they always wrap that sticker thing down the end you rip off, preventing you from doing so neatly, and why do they wrap it so tightly?

Think I might catch up on a few CDs that I've been meaning to get for quite sometime. Now that I can actually listen to them while driving it makes it a lot more worth while. Hooverphics and the Dandy Warhols would be on the top of my list at the moment.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Another drive to Brisbane

It's a simple ask. I have requested from Billion a means of allowing permanent remote admin of their routers to be a 'tweakable' feature. But of course it could mean some noob out there might allow his router to become open and exploitable. The lack of this one particular feature caused me to drive down to Brisbane just to update the firmware of such a router so its VPN functionality would be restored. The traffic was pathetic - grand final game on in the suburb that I need to go to (Milton) and being Friday everyone was escaping the big smoke for the clean beaches of the Sunshine coast, so the traffic was crap both ways.

The folks are about to sign a contract on another house which is just around the corner from me. Sounds nice, might check it out tomorrow if they let us. Living near ones parents couldn't be all that bad, its not like under the same roof let alone within view. It'll give me an excuse to go for a walk anyway.

It looks like its going to be a fairly intensive weekend. Carting gravel down the backyard to fill the grey water pit we dug out last weekend. I'll be planting some palms down there too, hopefully they'll enjoy the excess water. Got some lawn fertiliser for the tiny strip of new grass along out footpath; I'm hoping that if I keep it nice and green, the council will overlook the fact that I've stolen half of their footpath...

Saturday morning (this morning for that matter) will be spent car shopping. I'm really hoping to get a Land Rover Discovery TDi. It'll be awesome to be able to just go camping whenever and wherever.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Quick trip up the coast to Noosa

I remember when Noosa was fairly enjoyable and quite a small place to visit. I was 8 years old the last time I enjoyed the place. Now its merely another tourist trap. Can never find a car park in the place.

Went and did a site inspection at Coolum, nice 22 unit job that turned into a 47 unit 3 building deal. Pretty much a case of 'can it be done and how much' which I absolutely love as someone who is almost purely technical when conducting these inspections. I don't like to get involved in the sales/marketing tripe, I only get involved when what's being said or written is absolute garbage.

After that we had a look at another building in Noosa and then went into the Noosa Sheriton where we're hosting a seminar tomorrow at around 4pm. Neil and Kris will be doing a presentation about the whole in-room broadband thing and I'll be there to answer any technical questions people may have (there's always one genius in the crowd).

Spent the afternoon screwing around with the SMC VDSL switches that will be going into the Peninsular building. Hopefully Willow will be able to assist in that install too.

In the evening dad and I went and had a look at a '97 Mazda 626 Eclipse. Had 123,000k on it and it was the 2ltr hatch. I wasn't too impressed with it and the realestate agent owner who looked like he had money to burn wouldn't budge from $9k, I offered $8k. No use dealing with someone who thinks $9k is spare change and is wondering why your wasting time trying to save $1k.

The bank will only lend me $8k, not such a big deal as work will toss in the extra 3/4k if need be. That and I have a fair bit saved up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A day spent in Redcliffe

Woke up around 2am this morning to work out why the Colubris device wasn't letting me NAT to the internal devices. Mainly because I wanted quick responses from the US based support folk. Turns out that something is suss about the link I had the equipment running on, even tho it was a definite unrestricted outside network. All worked fine at the client site...

Day started with me getting a couple of coffee's from macca's and arriving at work at around 7:45am. Willow turned up at 8 as arranged and after a bit of me catching up with the usual 'first thing' tasks we loaded up her nifty Astra and were on our way at 8:30. Traffic wasn't bad, trip took around 45min.

Unloaded the gear and got straight into hacking up their cabinet to squeeze in 30 odd 3m leads to patch all the units to the two Linkys SRW224 switches, don't know what I would have done without help from Willow (she's doing work experience with me on her RDO's from the TAFE). Once that was complete I then proceeded to destroy their phone system and render their phones useless for a period of a couple of hours. Turned out that their main extension is somehow hooked into the DSL line, beats me how DSL and a PBX system can be combined. I then worked out how their intraoffice cabling worked and got the Cisco DSL router hooked up.

Sorted out some configuration errors with the SAB Server and everything was go.

We had lunch at the Coffee Club on Redcliffe Pde.

Willow and I then ran around like idiots testing for a connection from each unit and marking which point has the data on it. Manage to locate 5/6 units that didn't have any connection - left that for the cable monkey to deal with.

There's still a few little things that need to be tidied up but its all there and working for anyone who wants to walk in on Friday and use it. So if anyone is seeking a place to stay in Redcliffe, call into the La Vida on Anzac - 41 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe. QLD.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Electricity is a good thing

A site went down today because Energex was doing PLANNED work on the buildings. Pity the client didn't forewarn us of this pre-arranged power outage. So a mad rush later and the site is back up using the handy generator we keep handy for such occasions.

On a funnier note, Don had to borrow the GPA to quickly go see a prospective buyer of some bits on his old Range Rover. Can't wait to hear his comments. It takes people some time to get used to the right understear and left overstear, sticky rear brakes and dodgy electrics -- odometer doesn't work, fuel gauge works sometimes and the indicators can short out sometimes.

Now to start playing with the VDSL equipment...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Day of productivity

Optus woes cured (as expected - a MTU issue), La Vida equipment and configuration is all set to go for Tuesday (bar a PoE adaptor for the Linksys AP) and we successfully hooked up a new client to our Metroplex wifi network. Now I can concentrate on vehicle shopping and catching up on documentation.

Some pictures of the La Vida equipment on the bench:



The SMC Tiger VDSL switch and splitter for the Peninsular installation:

Optus upgrade woes

Yesterday morning Optus completed a scheduled upgrade of a core router in Brisbane. This is where our Sunshine Coast Frame Relay link terminates. Essentially a MPLS service. The upgrade entailed replacing the router with a larger chassis for scalability and hence the layer 1 and 2 configs would have changed as a result -- the probable cause of our issues.

After this upgrade we discovered that any sort of traffic that utilised larger packet sizes stopped working. This included traffic too and fro our database services and the Brisbane based webservices and any kind of secure connection such as online banking and eBay (noo!).

We circumvented the database woes by rerouting outgoing packets from the database server via our Telstra Frame link, creating a circular route. This is because the connection between the two would be established but the reply traffic was too large and the connection would time out. So now replies go out via Telstra and it all works fine -- this saves us having to change source addressing etc.

We're now waiting on the Optus network monkies to do their thing. As much as we love Optus, it just proves that you can't sit with any single provider and having a backup link with another is very worth while.

Now I have to start planning for the new installation at Brisbane today and try and resolve configuration issues with Colubris CN3200 that's going into La Vida on Tuesday.

The Dockside Marinanet upgrade went fine yesterday. We now have our own DSL with static IPs and the MT Router is happily running with its new config and software.

Looked at a few cars last night. There's a Nissan Navara Dualcab 2.4l ute for $14,000, only has 76,000 on the clock too. Real men drive utes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The day after the trip

I hate coming back from being away from the office. Its not like work back home stops while you're away, it simply piles up and waits for you to come back and do it. Of course by the time you come back everything is now urgent and instantly you find yourself a week behind for the rest of the year. At least a bunch of new toys arrived, those will keep me occupied for the next week.

I'm trying to get a bunch of trees cut down in my backyard. You think this would be a fairly straightforward exercise. Ring the tree people for a quote and they came on time without a problem. Say yes to quote and organise for them to come out and do the work, don't see them again. What is with people and not keeping schedules? I'll have to call them tomorrow.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Does the work ever stop?

After such a hectic week up north on a supposed holiday (basically working for most of it), I thought I might take today off at least. Too much to ask obviously. Some disrespectful person on one of our networks got fested by some virus that spews out lots of small packets. Such traffic causes wireless networks to fail. This particular wireless network feeds a number of sites that operate 24/7. So we all had to deal with that one. I think I'll forcibly install packet shapers on all wireless links shortly.

Now to top it off there's a electrical storm over us at the moment that will probably cause at least a few clients trouble tonight. They'll respond by calling us tomorrow. *sigh*

I doubt I'll get many personal projects done in the next six months as the work just seems to keep building up.

On a lighter note I just finished watching that 'Hostage' movie with Bruce Willis. It was quite good, different enough to keep my interest and I have a soft spot for Bruce Willis movies in general.

Home once again

Probably the most eventful of my trips down the coast. Before leaving Mackay I went to the Mackay Marina as scheduled to meet the antenna guy to adjust the antenna. Since the meeting time was at 10am I had a half hour to kill as I had arrived at 9:30am, so I ordered myself breakfast and a coffee from the restaurant next door to the Marina office. It took a bit longer than I had expected to cook so I had to leave to assist the antenna guy. I told a nearby waitress that I would be back in about 10min. 10min later I arrive to see the owner eating my breakfast with a confused look on his face as he looked at me. Apparently the waitress didn't tell him that I would be back soon and so he ate my breakfast... 15min later I had my breakfast and another coffee for a discounted rate :)

Having had such a great start I managed to get to Rockhampton by around 2:30pm where a Magpie took it upon itself to fly into my front bumper. Poor little bugger, wasn't a whole lot I could do about that one - it was near the correctional center just north of the city. Must have been eating the stuff they give the crims.

After passing through Rocky I was starting to get jack of this driving stuff. There's only so much driving one can do in a week and I was up to my four thousandth kilometer. I then relised that I needed to swing past Gladstone to do the upgrade there *grumble*.

Arrived at Gympie at approximately 8:30pm and boosted my reserves at my arnty's place before heading off on the final stint to Nambour. So from 11am to 11pm on the road with a few breaks in between, screw that for a trip.

Hopefully I won't need to go back up for a while although it looks like I'll be doing it again in two months time anyway...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Heading Back

I bid my farewells to my friends and hosts in Townsville last night and left at 4am this morning.

Arrived at Abel Point marina (Airlie Beach) at 8am where I met with Barry for an hour to go over the weeks progress. Also had a look around there for more possible repeater points around the bay. This was after I upgraded the software on both the Abel Point and Laguna Quays hotspots.

After that I departed for Mackay and about a hour and a quarter later I'm doing a site surveys at Carlyle Gardens and the local Best Western. Staying at Nanna's and Grandad's place for the night.

Tomorrow I have to hang around till 11am for antenna guy to adjust antenna on Mackay Marina while I test it from the ground. Which means I won't be getting home until 9pm tomorrow night. Not looking forward to that trip, especially since I'll probably get pwned by school traffic at some point along the way and pass through peak hour as well.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Finally, A meeting with Mariners North apartments!

Met with the management today and had a quick tour of the building. Took the usual pictures of the PBX and structured cabling and where the phone points are in the rooms. Not a bad place however the rooms are showing signs of ware, but I understand they're in the process of renovating them.

Simple installation, plenty of space near the phone system and the units have phone points in the kitchen/common area and in the master bedroom.


Funny moment of the day:


Perp flying! How did it happen? Who knows, but it cracked us up.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Haven't been that far north for quite sometime

Today I made my most northern journey in over 10 years. The last time I went up there was for holidays to Mission Beach -- I remember white water rafting and mango daiquiris, thankfully not much more.

The drive up was quite good as there was not a lot of traffic around 7:30am. I was tempted to stop in at the Frosty Mango for a smoothly but I resisted the temptation as I was going to spend most of my time sitting on my ass anyway. It wasn't until yawning many times on the way back that I relised that I hadn't even had a coffee! I remedied that as soon as I got to Tim's place.

Cardwell is pretty much the same as it was when I was last there as an 8 year old kid. Except for the large marina/resort less than 5min south of the township. Typical reclaimed land deal, sticks out like a sore thumb and all the buildings are made to the same boring design. Anyway, my main purpose was to check out the Marina and Resort and make plans for an eventual installation. Not make small talk with the rather attractive resort receptionist who I discovered was a Cardwell native, never caught her name though.

The installation will be a slightly different one. Essentially it will entail getting a broadband feed to a point where its available and redeploying it via wireless to the Resort and Marina where it can then be fed out to the clients. We use a similar configuration at the Keppel Bay Marina just on a larger scale.

Its odd walking into these places as someone from 'Brisbane'. They treat you like your from some other world and that you are there to either dominate them or act dumb. Considering that that actual person I had organised to meet went out fishing and left me with some random without notifying me isn't a good impression of you 'northerners'.

Got stood up again by the meeting I rebooked yesterday, this time I called them before getting too far... Hopefully I'll have better luck tomorrow.

Some random happenings:
  • Llew called me from the TAFE back home after a example Web Statistics package
  • I dropped my digital camera on concrete, it survived
  • I ate fish burger for lunch, it was a good one

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another day in Townsville

This morning I started my day with a suspect Macca's coffee -- they asked me if it tasted 'burnt' as they had to repair the machine earlier on. This didn't fill me full of confidence that today would be as good as I had hoped. From there I had a meeting with the Breakwater marina management about Marinanet which went quite well. Probably be doing the installation there in a month or two.

I was meant to meet with the Mariners North resort at 1pm, however upon arrival I discovered that the person I was meeting was sick. Now I have to resquedule my day tomorrow and try and fit it in for the afternoon when I get back from Cardwell. So I went back to playing BF2 with Tim for the rest of the day, and making appointments for tomorrow of course.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Magnetic Island installation

Its been ages since I last went to the island and it felt odd hopping off the ferry at Nelly Bay instead of Picnic bay. Fairly uneventful trip over, ocean was flat as a tack. It appears that tourism on the island has increased a great deal so instead of the occasional tourist and majority of locals there are probably a greater number of tourist now.

Turned out to be a fairly straight forward Marinanet installation. However there were a few issues with the internet side of things that were out of my control.

There was a pre-existing wifi link at the location and we agreed to share the internet supply that was fed by wireless. They supply internet to the backpackers lodge.

So having a wifi link already in place meant that a mast and equipment cabinet was there for me to use. I simply made up the antenna cable and plonked the antenna on the tip of the mast and then shoved the active equipment into the cabinet. Kept everything fairly neat and ended up with a cable run of no more than 2.5m -- double sided tape is quickly becoming my favorite 3M product. The mast needs better staying though, the addition of the waveguide created a greater sail and added top weight; they will organise that at a later date (hopefully before the cyclone season...).

Possible problems that could arise later are the more obvious issues involving the upstream provider -- the current connection is a Westnet business ADSL type which will soon be changing to a wireless link from the mainland with a fibre service behind it. Apart from that there are environmental issues that may need to be addressed. Such issues include the lack of ventilation of the equipment enclosure -- the WRAP became quite warm to the touch after no more than an hours use. This will either require a larger cabinet with vents or some kind of heat shield to insulate the cabinet from direct sun.

The usual pictures:

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bluetooth!

The technology has been in existance for quite sometime but only now have I actually the means of using it. I grabbed a D-Link DBT-122 Bluetooth USB adaptor so I can sync it up with my laptop/desktop.

A few images from the phones camera:

Friday, September 02, 2005

Last dash to Townsville

Left Mackay at 4am and drove like mad, arriving at chestR's at 8:45. I made Chloe wake him up, she didn't know who I was.

The drive itself was okay; busy going through Home Hill and Ayr as it was their 'peak hour' and the farm tractors were clogging up the highway. I'm sure I developed an accent during my 15mins of passing through those towns.

I was thinking about swinging past either Laguna Quays or Abel Point on the way however that would have added a good hour and a half on the trip time. I can do that stuff remotely just before I leave back home anyway. Priority is getting to Townsville in time to get pissed.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Yet another long drive

With a 3:30am start and almost 900km later I have arrived at my final destination for the day. I successfully replaced the antenna at Keppel Bay Marina and upgraded both Keppel and Mackay. The old antenna at Keppel was a pain to remove, the brackets were rusted so I had to saw them off. Such hard work for someone who's more familiar to the light distributed by a fluro than a large burning orb.

Only one near miss on the highway, some dork panicked when a oncoming truck decided to overtake a caravan in front of him. There was plenty of space to avoid it but he stopped instead, thus creating a nasty obstacle in my path amplified by the fact that I was doing 110kph. Thankfully I tend to leave twice the usual gap and managed to pull up with 2m to spare.

Note to self: The Astra likes to wobble a shitload while under heavy breaking...

Now that I've had a beer, a nice stew for dinner and a few wines I'm going to bed so I can wake up at 5am tomorrow morning and drive the remaining 4hrs to Townsville.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Brisbane Revisited

Quiet Sunday morning spent in Brisbane looking at the cousins new residence. Located in Kangaroo Point it's an old Queenslander nestled between a block of units, a few other similar houses with a park across the road. Rent is $350pw so they are seeking a third person to make it a bit easier.

The best part of the day would have been checking out the hot trainee chick that was working at the Bakers Delight up the road when I was getting the bread for lunch. Life can really suck when single and looking at all these beautiful young ladies.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

PC Engines WRAP

Recently a little device had come into my possession that goes by the name of 'WRAP'. I know of smaller x86 compatible devices, however there are not many that can brag about having 3 independantly operated ethernet interfaces and a mini-PCI slot while still consuming less than 5watts.

These appliances, have been available in one shape or form overseas for quite sometime, perhaps a few years. The reason I did not purchase the units earlier is because of the complexities of dealing with an overseas distributor; you can kiss the warranty good bye and you are forever playing the exchange rate game.

The purpose I have implemented the WRAP for is to power Marinanet hotspots. I run a software product called RouterOS that is produced by Latvian company Mikrotik. Until now I have been using normal PCs crammed onto shelves, cabinets and ceiling spaces with varying levels of success. With the WRAP I can safely mount the little appliance on the wall out of the way and not worry about moving parts and environmental extremes.

So far I have successfully installed these units at two Marinanet sites: South Port Yacht Club and Hamilton Island Marina. At South Port the unit lives on a wall in the administation/reception office which makes for a nice airconditioned environment, but space constraints were well addressed due to wall mounting. The Hamilton Island install will be an interesting one during the summer as the unit lives inside a tin shed with limited insulation. So far it has been operating quite well but I have no sensors for temperature at the site. The next site will be on Magnetic Island, North Queensland. This will definately test the temperature tolerance as >40°C during the summer is normal.

Specifications:
CPU: 266 MHz AMD Geode SC1100 CPU (fast 486 core)
Memory: 128Mb SDRAM
Storage: 64Mb Compact Flash
Interfaces: 3
National DP83816 Ethernet,1 miniPCI, 1 Serial Port (console)
BIOS: PC Engines tinyBIOS
Operating System: Mikrotik RouterOS 2.8.28

Links:
PC Engines Creators of the appliance
Yawarra The Australian distibutor
Mikrotik Producers of the RouterOS operating system
Marinanet The company that installs and runs the hotspots using the aforementioned combination of device and software