Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011

Congratulations New Zealand!! Rugby World Cup 2011 Champions!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

iPhone Taking Forever to Back Up?

So I'm finally taking the plunge and upgrading my iPhone to OS 4.1. As I've mentioned here before, I very rarely plug my iPhone into iTunes. I just charge it from the wall or car charger, rarely sync it. Mostly because it takes so damn long to back up.

But this time, since I'm doing an OS upgrade, I figured I'd better let the backup run. Several hours after kicking it off, the backup progress meter has hardly moved. I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow, so I don't have time for Apple crapware shenanigans, so I start doing some reading.

It turns out that there's an obscure setting that gets defaulted to 'true' that has your device send it's usage data and crash reports to Apple every time it sync's. You have to queue up to upload that data alongside everyone else on the planet that's currently synching. When I found my crashdump folder it had over 60 dumps in it. Goddammit Apple!  Get your garbage off my computer!

This forum posting has instructions for how to reset that setting. It's not easy, you won't find it by poking around.
The Idiots Guide to Making your Iphone Backup fast

In case that forum thread ever vanishes, here it is in a nutshell.

1. Start a sync, but cancel it, so you have your device listed in iTunes, but not currently locked up.
2. Right-click and select "Reset Warnings" from the context menu.
3. Next time you sync, you should see a dialog box like the following.
4. Click "No Thanks".  That'll get you out of the queue for crashdump reporting on every sync.

I'll drop an update later as to how the upgrade goes and the backup situation.  Don't get me started on the fun of moving an iTunes Library from computer to NAS drive . . . which is what I spent the first half of the weekend doing.  

Friday, June 04, 2010

Seeker, Spartacus, and The Hobbit

Sam Raimi's Legend of the Seeker series is done now. His team are now filming Spartacus in New Zealand (in fact I hear one of the guys I used to play rugby with has a gladiator part!). So I wonder with the recent news of Guillermo Del Toro leaving The Hobbit, if they might grab Sam Raimi to pick up the pieces? I heard he was very keen to be involved when they were first talking about it, and he definitely doesn't seem to mind spending half his time in NZ!

In any case, I just finished watching the Season 2 Finale of Legend of the Seeker. They definitely got their mileage out of the North Island Bethells Beach shooting locations in these last couple episodes. They were travelling up and down the black sand dunes, and they finally brought in the recognizable landmarks on the main beach itself. Cool to see places you know transformed like that!

Bethells Beach

Superdune - The Dunes

Monday, May 31, 2010

New Zealand Music Month

May was New Zealand Music Month. It's been a bit tougher to keep track of Kiwi music now that I'm back in the states. But some of my favorite artists have just released new stuff, so there's no trouble rounding up enough for a post at the moment.

Evermore have just released an album intended to be their U.S. debut. I'll have to keep an eye out for it in stores over here.

Evermore, Underground.

OpShop, Pins and Needles. I've seen these guys a few times, always a great show.

Dane Rumble, Don't Know What To Do. Kel, Claire, and I went to see these guys in Auckland. We were the oldest fans in the crowd, but it was a great show.

Ladyhawke, Magic. I've heard this used as background music in a couple of promo things for CW shows. Great 80's sound.

Tiki Taane and Antiform, Got to be You. I like Tiki Taane's collaborations, especially the dance music. If you like this, check out last years post with Tiki and Bulletproof.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Boundary Waters, May 2010

I've often wished I could remember all the places I've been in the Boundary Waters. So this time I'm writing it down. :-)

A couple weeks ago, we took a trip in via Entry Point #9, just west of Ely. We were staying only two nights, and there were only two campsites within a days range of the entry (both on the same lake), so we planned on just setting up base camp. The distance looked fairly short on the maps, and none of the portages were long, so we decided to haul in the good stuff (cast iron cookware, steaks on ice, etc).

Dinner DoneThe distance turned out to be a bit longer than it looked, due to the meanderings of the rivers, but it was still worth it for the food. :-)

The first day was an upstream paddle up the Little Indian Sioux River to the Little Pony River to Bootleg Lake. The Little Indian Sioux was fairly wide and deep, but the Little Pony was quite narrow, meandering, shallow, and obstructed with quite a few beaver dams. That first day in was about 15km, we paddled from about 11am to 6pm or so.

Beaver Dam Mini-Portage

Our campsite on Bootleg was fantastic. Perfect spot for a layover day. Nice landing for the canoes, good hammock trees in the site, nice flat tent spaces for three tents, and a good branch for a bear rope. We had plenty of firewood (thankfully no burning ban), no bugs, and perfect weather.

On the way out we hit the water a little after 9am. We decided to take the long portage out at the far end of Bootleg Lake to take us directly back into the Little Indian Sioux River. We did that partially to avoid the Little Pony River, and partly just to see some new scenery for at least part of the way. In any case, the way back was about 24km and we pulled out of the water around 4:30. The downstream current didn't seem to contribute much. ;-)

Notes for next time: The only thing I'd have done differently is to bring one spare Duluth pack for the cooler and grill. Even if we pulled them back out at every portage to repack them in the canoes, it would make for much easier portaging to put those two items on our backs instead of carrying by the handles.

That said, I think next time is going to be a light-and-fast long distance trip. Those are fun too in their own way.

BWCA - May 2010

Template Upgrade

Since Google announced the Blogger Template Designer I've been meaning to rework my site. There was a fair amount of hackish stuff in my template HTML, including a bunch of monkeying around to make my main post column wider yet still use the rounded corners on the old table based layout.

The new template I picked out is much simpler and cleaner looking. Amazingly, pretty much everything came over with no effort on my part. I did end up spending some time reworking the color schemes of my Tumblr and Flickr widgets. And I cleaned up some minor CSS and Icon annoyances.

I also took a look out at Flickr to see if they've upgraded their Badge Widget generator anytime recently. They have not, so my Flickr badge generator is still valuable. Looking at it again after all these years, it basically just hides the default Flickr table, draws my 2x5 table, then uses some script to pull the InnerHTML of the the Flickr cells containing 10 random images, and poke them into my cells. Like so:

<td class="robCell"><div id="rob1"></div></td>

. . .

= document.getElementById("flickr_badge_image1").innerHTML;

I'm sure there are much more elegant ways to do this (one of these days I'll get off my ass and finish learning JQuery and/or Prototype), but for now, this is still working. No need to fiddle with it now that I've updated the colors and fixed the margin/padding/border issues that were bugging me.

The Tumblr Badge was even easier, that was just a few color tweaks, though again I messed with the margin/padding/border settings to bring things in a bit tighter.

/* Rob Styles*/
width: 125px;
height: auto;
float: right;
margin: 3px;
padding: 0px;
border: 3px #444444 solid;

float: left;
margin: 0px;
padding: 0px;
margin-left: -10px;

font-size: x-small;
list-style-type: none;
width: 215px;
margin: 0px;
padding: 0px;
margin-top: 5px;
margin-bottom: 5px;
overflow: hidden;
border: thin black outset;
background-color: #222222;
padding: 2px;
margin: 2px;

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Minnesota River Valley Trail Recon

Now that I've set my mind to it, I'm making good progress on settling in. I've just found an apartment in the Highland neighborhood of St. Paul. It's a bit busier than I would have liked, and I'll miss having trees right off my balcony, but it's a great location.

It's 4.5 miles to work, straight down Highway 5. But even better, that neighborhood is right at a nexus of the major trail systems in the Twin Cities. I can take the River Road north on either side of the Mississippi, cross the river and take the Minnehaha Creek parkway west to the lakes, go east down Shepard road nearly all the way to my brother's place, or cross Highway 5 on the bridge and drop into the Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Speaking of the rivers, I'm right over the confluence of the Mississipi and Minnesota rivers at Pike Island, so once I have a car that can haul my kayaks, I'll be heading down there as often as possible. I've found a place to store kayaks and bikes as well, just down 7th, so hopefully no more big drives to my parents place to pick up the boat before paddling expeditions.

Weather was pretty nice today, and the flood waters are down a bit, so I finally got myself motivated to get out for a recon expedition into the River Valley trails. The objective of this one was to find the link between the Wildlife Refuge that surrounds the building I work in, and Ft. Snelling State Park. I know from camping in Ft. Snelling for the Mississippi River Challenge that you can get onto the Highway 5 bridge footpath from the Fort. So if I could find a way into the park, I can run or bike from my new apartment to work using only trails. :-)

It turned out to be much much easier than I expected. I ran from Ceridian to the NWR Visitor Centre on the road, from there I followed the road to the western side of the 494 bridge over the Minnesota River. At that point there was a little path beaten down the hillside under the bridge. That was slightly dodgy . . . I had to laugh at the two taggers who suddenly decided to causally saunter away from their open cans of housepaint, rollers and spray cans in their hoodies and huge backpacks.

On the other side of the bridge there was a bit of trouble picking out trails to get around the fences of the Air Force target range bordering the park. Once the river's back down to lower levels it should be easy, but as it was, I was crossing what appeared to be mud covered gravel roads tracked only by water birds and river otters ahead of me. :-) On the way back, I discovered I can bypass that stretch via Post road along the top of the bluffs for now.

After about a half hour of half-assed running around, I found a way through to the edge of Ft. Snelling State Park. I could see the Mendota Bridge in the distance over Snelling Lake. So that was mission accomplished. I know there are trails from end to end that would bring me back up the bluffs and into the Fort. So discovering whether or not those are above water is another run, probably starting from the other direction.

Next trip I definitely need to remember to bring my little Fuji, I saw so many critters . . . flocks of wild turkeys, and hordes of scraggly looking deer. So next mission is linking my apartment to the north end of this run, and the trip after is linking the Wildlife Refuge trails to Ceridian's little walking path without using any roads. That may have to wait for the flood waters to drop.

iPhone Not Recognized as a Camera

It's not very often that I physically plug my iPhone into my computer. Mostly because when I plug it into my old laptop, it's a hassle to get it recognized, then it takes hours and hours to back up and synch. I've mostly got what I want on it, so I only plug it in if I really have to grab a firmware update, or really want some bit of new music or a large app update that won't come down over 3g.

But every now and then, I do use it as a camera, and there's something I really want from it. I'll dig out the white Apple proprietary USB cable and plug in. Usually I get the 'searching for driver' bit, then a fail. At work, I'd written it off as a big-brother firewall problem at first (blocked driver download). Then I discovered that my cube neighbor's iPhone worked on my machine, and my phone also failed on his machine . . . so much for a driver issue. I figured maybe a phone issue. Anyway, I can't be bothered with troubleshooting USB devices to get one photo, so I'd email it to myself. At home I'd just roll my eyes and fire up iTunes . . . after a few restarts of the Apple Mobile Device Service and a couple unplugs and replugs, maybe a reboot of the phone, it would be recognized as a device, and I could get the pictures out with Picasa.

But now I've got a new laptop. I really don't want to put iTunes on it until I'm ready to retire my old laptop, because I don't want to mess around with having to deauthorize all my former computers in order to authorize my new one (don't get me started on that, that's a whole other topic).

So when I plug the phone into my new laptop and it comes up as 'random usb thing which by the way failed to start' - it's on!

Google's taken all the fun out of low level troubleshooting, but there's no sense spending hours and hours on something that's common knowledge, so I did some searches. I turned up the usual crap from Apple and Apple cultist forums about updating to the latest firmware, rebooting your iPhone, rebooting your PC, updating to latest iTunes, reinstalling iTunes, blah blah blah.

Then I spotted something on a Microsoft site: 'Windows 7 will not recognize my iPhone as a Camera' [1] . That's promising, my exact symptoms, and a Microsoft forum, so it should (one would think) be free of Apple bullshit. So taking a look at it, the first response (which by the way is marked as 'the answer') links to some Apple KB article talking about USB drivers being 'out of date'. What an absolute load of crap, what kind of flakey garbage hanging on the end of the cable is going to have a problem with fresh out of the box Win7 USB drivers, or any drivers for that matter. You're doing something wrong if your hardware is worried about USB driver minor versions on various operating systems.

Just out of curiosity regarding peoples luck with this 'solution' I scrolled down the page . . . where I spotted this:

"There is something wrong with the firmware in the iphone. If you have any photos that are in your photo album within the phone that are there from any source except the phone itself such as an emailed photo or downloaded photo, PC's and Macs will not recognize your phone. You must delete the "foreign pictures" then the Mac or PC will recognize the phone."

Now that sounded more like the Apple crapware I know. I've always had 'foreign pictures' in my Camera Roll. And I know that was not always a problem, as I've used that space to move images from photo collection to photo collection at times. But annoying as it was, it had the sound of the sort of bug Apple would roll out, so I thought I'd give it a try. I did a quick run through and deleted every image that wasn't taken by the iPhone. Lo and behold, plug it in, it pops up as a camera . . . hmm. Figuring I'd repro it, do my bit, and properly report a firmware bug to Apple Dev. . . I pulled down a couple large images from my Flickr, and some PNG files off XKCD, but was unable to reproduce the problem again . . . go figure. *sigh*

How do people that make such terrible software, get their hands on such awesome hardware to defile with their garbage?

Anyway, if your iPhone's not recognized as a camera, try cleaning out your Camera Roll.

I'm gonna go kick a mac.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Travels and Back In the States

TitiKaveka, Rarotonga, Cook IslandsAlright, I'm long overdue for a post here. I thought I'd post something when I was all employed and settled in, but that's looking like it's going to take a bit longer than I'd originally thought. I'd been keeping up with posts in Flickr and Facebook, but nothing here. So here goes, more of a photo-dump than anything, I think I've also been put off by the sheer volume of stuff to write about.

The day after my last day of work Kel, Gayle and I headed to Rarotonga. Claire flew over from London to meet us there a day or two later. There's not a lot to do on the island, but after the stress of wrapping up everything at work, that was fine by me. It was windy and not quite hot enough to make the water as inviting as it looks in the photos, so we did a lot of reading, eating and lounging around. Oh, and thanks to my inattention while grocery shopping we did an unintentional detox while DRINKING DECAF PLUNGER COFFEE ALL WEEK! Gah! I thought it was the water that made it taste funny until Kel noticed the Decaf marking. They should put bright colored warning labels on that stuff and sugar-free crap. :-)

Hermit CrabWhen I got bored, I'd harass the local wildlife or paddle around the lagoon in the house kayak. One morning I went for a run over the highlands in the center of the island on the cross island track. Unfortunately, I'd just missed the annual cross island race which was held the week before we arrived. It was a good 10-15k run, with about half dirt road and half muddy steep jungle track.

Rarotonga Cross Island Track

White Island Steam VentAfter Rarotonga, we headed over to Whakatane. Kel booked Claire and I on a trip out to White Island, an active volcano about an hour offshore by boat. Despite being seasick the whole way out, that was a great trip. Imagine Yellowstone without all the boardwalks and fences and warning signs. There are just random thermal features that pop up and fade away, and the crater lake changes colours dramatically, depending on what's going on below. When we were there, the water table was quite high due to recent rains, so there was steam everywhere, and new mudpots had recently opened. Our guide also said a second crater appeared to be forming. It had gone from the size of a plate to the size of a house in a matter of weeks. We couldn't go anywhere near that or the sulphur stacks due to the steam.

MahiaAfter Whakatane, we drove across through Gisbourne to Mahia on the East Coast, for a second attempt to go swimming with Moko the dolphin. He'd been hanging around Mahia for years, stealing people's beach toys and bringing them fish . . . until the week before we showed up. Now he seems to have moved up the coast to Gisbourne. That's unfortunate for Mahia, as in the off season (when the water's too cold for swimming) there's not a whole lot to do there. Also unfortunate is that it looks like Moko's been having more negative interactions with people in the more populated Gisbourne beaches, knocking surfers off their boards and harassing lifeguards . . . not good. They should maybe try to lure him back to Mahia for his own good.

'Friendly' Dolphin Strikes Again - New Zealand Herald.

With the dolphin swim off the agenda, we went to the local pub to drink some beer. We were all excited to see Crayfish (Rock Lobster) dinner on the menu, only to learn that they were out of Crayfish . . . Mahia: the bay of disappointment. Probably best to visit in the summertime. ;-)

Elephant Hill VinesNext we continued along to Napier. Kel had booked us for a Wine Tour with a place called 'Grape Escape'. I should capture the names of the Wineries here before I forget them: Brookfields (excellent Pinot Noir), Ngatarawa/Farmgate, Elephant Hill (where Kel and I had the best gnocchi for lunch), and Matariki.

Claire and Kel at Ngatarawa Winery

One funny thing about our wine tour was the fact that the rest of the tour group were Americans, including two officers on leave from Afghanistan.  I think that's the largest group of Americans I'd seen in NZ since the Te Reo Maori classes we'd taken a year or so before.

On the way back from Napier, we stayed at The Chateau Tongariro for a couple nights. The intent was to do some skiing, but it was quite late in the season, and the weather wasn't cooperating. But the Chateau is nice whatever the weather. They have an excellent restaurant, and a nice pool/sauna setup in the depths of the building (At least when it's not infested with screaming sproglets. There seemed to be something about the acoustics down there that amplified kid screams to horrific levels). ;-)

From there we had a couple of free days up in Auckland, then Kel and Claire took off for Sydney. I flew over to join them a couple days later.

Surfing BondiThey'd gotten all the shopping out of the way, so we just hit some restaurants (in particular Bill Granger's place) and made a trip over to Bondi Beach. Kel and Claire relaxed in the sun while I went out on a surfing lesson. Those were the best waves I've had in a few attempts at surfing. Makes me wish I'd gotten out at Ohope a few times . . . one of those things you think you'll always have time to do. Then again, as fun as that was, I felt like I'd been hit by a train the next day. ;-)

Claire headed back to London from Sydney (via Hong Kong) while Kel and I flew back to Auckland. The next week was a blur of packing and getting stuff ready to ship, meeting up with friends, and visiting old haunts for the last time. As far as I've heard, my stack of boxes and the kayak Kel gave me for my birthday are still waiting to ship from Albany.

Kel and Gayle saw me off at the Auckland airport with gifts of NZ gear, Pineapple Lumps, and Conchords tunes!

My Brother and his Halloween DisplayOn the other side of the 20 hour trip, I took a cab to my parents place from the Minneapolis Airport after waiting an hour or so for my brother to pick me up. He'd dislocated his shoulder playing volleyball earlier in the evening, and was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital.

It didn't dampen the Halloween spirit though.

I made it a point to get back to Minnesota in time for Halloween as David always goes all out at his place. We took my nieces to the pumpkin patch the next day. A couple days later we had a pumpkin carving night and horror-movie festival. Halloween night, I handed out candy while David took the girls out trick-or-treating.

David, Mya, Tammy, Trinity

The View from the Candy Door

Since October I've been catching up with friends, and working on finding a job, which is the first part of getting settled back in over here. That seems to be done now, but more on that soon . . .

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

XTerra 6 and a Crazy Few Weeks

August 31st was the last race in the XTerra 2009 Trail Run series. This one was up at Shakespear Regional Park, a nice short drive from Albany. I ended up running with a few coworkers from ASB: Marco and Stephen, who also did the Riverhead race, and Rohith.

As usual for the XTerra races, the organizers did an excellent job in designing the course. We covered some of the same ground as the night run the evening before, but we also made our way all the way around the headlands on the rocky shoreline. I'm really bummed that all my photos from my little waterproof camera came out overexposed (I was trying an experiment with higher ISO setting to keep the shutter speed fast). But suffice to say that it was pretty tough keeping 10k per hour pace across slippery low tide rocks. :-)

After the coastal part, we cut into the center of the peninsula and did some running through the paddocks with the cows and sheep. That portion went a lot faster, even with the hills.

This was actually the first XTerra Long Course that I managed to finish in under two hours! It was only 17k, but still, I'm quite happy with that. My overall rank at the end of the series was 11th of 114 in the Men's Open Long Course category. Overall, there were about 300 runners in the Long Course group.

View Larger Map

In other news, for those of you that haven't heard: I'm going to be moving back to the states at the end of October. So yesterday was my last day at ASB, and today is my last day at Datacom. Over the next few weeks, we're going to be doing some travelling around. First up is a week and a half in Rarotonga with Kel, Gayle, and Claire. Then Kel, Claire and I are headed around the East Cape, and back to Chateau Tongariro for some Skiing at Ruapehu. Kel and Claire are then headed down to Wellington for a weekend, then the three of us are headed to Sydney for a couple of days. Yow! Anyway, probably lots of photos coming soon!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Night Trail Run at Shakespear Regional Park

I just got back from an 11.5 Km night trail run up in Whangaparoa. I never would have thought that the limiting factor on my run time would be my cardio fitness, and I certainly wasn't expecting to finish so close to an hour (1:04:06), but I fell in with a group that had nice bright headlamps. I pushed hard to keep near enough to take advantage of multiple lights. One guy in particular had a huge spotlight mounted on his shoulder, there must have been a battery for it in his hydration pack. It was nice having him about 20 meters behind me for a good chunk of the race. :-)

The course was exellent . . . it was about an even mix of gravel road, single track, and paddock fence-lines. At one point we were running along a ridge with views of the Auckland skyline across the harbour on one side, and a stream of little multi-colored lights trickling up the hill out of the dark on the other.

I wish I'd had my little camera and a gorilla-pod along for that moment. At the finish, I did manage to grab my SLR and a tripod in time to catch some of the later finishers coming through:

Night Run Finish Line

As usual for TotalSport events, there were beer and sausages at the finish! Tomorrow is the last XTerra race at the same location. I'll get to see what we ran through tonight, plus a bunch of coastal rock scrambling.

Night Run Post Race BBQ

Tumblr Badge for Blogs and CSS Troubleshooting

My post on how to use CSS to restyle Tumblr's default blog widget has been quite popular. One commenter pointed out that it wasn't displaying properly in IE6 or IE7 (surprise). After a bit of investigation, it turned out to be the Usual Suspect: browser differences in default Box Model behavior.

Specifically, it appears that IE versions lower than 8 use a large amount of default margin to move elements to their default starting position in a container.  Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, on the other hand, seem to use about the same amount of space, but in Padding. You can see the difference in the two screen captures below.   The Red border is the Tumblr_Posts div.

Note that in Firefox above, the whitespace is on the inside of the Div, it's "Padding" of about 50 pixels. In IE below, it's also about 50 pixels, same resulting position, but caused by outside the Div "Margin" space.

My goal with the stylesheet was to keep a minimum of whitespace between the outer container (Green border), and the little photo boxes (inside the red box). I did that with the first CSS property that came to mind: Margin-Left. I raised that number until it looked how I wanted it in Chrome, doublechecked it in IE8, Firefox, and iPhone Safari, then published it. Unfortunately, since IE6 started with Margin-Left at about 50px, the impact of setting Margin-Left to -30px was a 80px move in IE (compared to 35px in most other browsers). The result was the posts were chopped off about halfway across by the border of the sidebar.

The solution, as with most things in computing, is to reboot. ;-) Specifically, set all the box model numbers to the one number that puts all browsers on equal footing: zero.

Zeroing out both margin and padding did exactly what I wanted in the first place: let the Tumblr Post boxes fill the containing div. Any number would work actually, as long as you set them all explicitly, rather then letting the browsers use their assorted defaults.

    margin: 0px;
    padding: 0px; 

Anyway, hope that helps. If you went and read up on the CSS Box Model, or have wrestled with this stuff before, you'll probably find this amusing:

CSS is Awesome! Mug on Zazzle

Here's the current, corrected CSS:

    width: 110px;
    height: auto;
    float: right;
    margin: 7px;
    border: 2px black solid;
    margin: 0px;
    padding: 0px; 
    font-size: x-small;
    list-style-type: none;
    width: 210px;
    padding: 7px;
    margin: 5px;
    overflow: hidden;
    border: thin black outset;

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Legend of the Seeker

Kel and I have gotten hooked on the Legend of the Seeker TV series. It's the latest from one of my favorite writer/producer/directors: Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead, Hercules, and Xena). Like Hercules and Xena, it's filmed here in New Zealand.

I had to laugh while watching the pilot when I saw them go from riding horses in the Southern Alps to rolling down the North Island West Coast dunes in a matter of seconds.

I'm pretty sure the spot in the dunes where this scene was filmed is at Bethell's Beach where I was running The Superdune race just a week earlier. Though it could be the Te Paki Dunes up north. Either way I've been there . . . love it! :-)