Trains in Tasmania

Recently my parents converted an old VHS tape of train videos to DVD. The video tape was an old tape from my parent’s neighbour who spent quite a lot of time making videos of trains. Since the Internet never loses anything, I thought I’d take advantage of the NSA’s backup capabilities to make sure this three-hour gem isn’t lost forever.

The majority of the tape features M and H class steam locomotives, as well as X and Y class diesel-electric locomotives.

As well as uploading to Youtube, I’ve also created a far bigger than necessary torrent of it: here. If there are ever no seeders, poke me via email or IM and I’ll make sure to start seeding it again. 2012 – Day 2 (Tuesday)

This week I’m at, the southern hemisphere’s premier open-source conference. This year it is being held in Ballarat, about an hour’s travel from Melbourne. I’ll be documenting the trip and conference as much as I can given the limits of my enthusiasm and awakeness.

Tuesday 17th January:

Bruce Peren's Keynote
Bruce Peren's Keynote

Day 2 was full of a lot more great talks. First up in the morning was Bruce Peren’s keynote address. He talked a lot about trying harder to maintain the ideals we’ve worked for in the past. He says the fights we fought in the past, using our moral high-ground to our advantage, we might not win now because we have business groups (like Ubuntu and Redhat) speaking on our behalf… and businesses always have to put profit first.

After morning tea I saw two great kernel-related talks, the first by Jonathan Corbet and the second by Mathew Garrett. Jonathan basically gave a rundown of the Linux kernel development work that has happened over the last year, including the release of Linux 3.0 and for the first time ever, a kernel release having less source code in it than the last one (due to some cleanup work). Mathew Garrett gave a really impassioned talk on the good and evil of EFI. From what I gathered, the runtime services stuff offered by EFI is a great idea with a half-arsed implementation. On the other hand, the secure boot offered by EFI threatens to make open-source deployment to normal users a right pain in the arse… if it is possible at all. That’s a bit of a worry.

Greg Banks' "This Old Code"
Greg Banks' "This Old Code"

After lunch I watched a talk by Greg Banks (who works for Opera) on renovating old source code to get it up to scratch with modern systems. His examples came from the Cyrus IMAP server, and there was a heap of great tidbits of information there. The second talk after lunch was given by Robert Mibus from Internode, about how they are implementing reverse IPv6 DNS mappings for their customer. With a possible 4TB of mappings for each customer, they have to generate them on the fly… but no existing DNS server did this. So they wrote their own. One thing I was very interested in, being an Internode customer, is that I can request to get IPv6 reverse mappings delegated to my own DNS servers; something I have already put in a request for.

More trainspotting!
More trainspotting!

The second last talk for the day was about moving large amounts of data and essential services from one datacenter to another with no loss of downtime… an impressive feat! Given by a team from Mozilla, it detailed how they prepared for and moved thir crash reporting system from San Jose to Pheonix. The last talk I saw was given by Sarah Novotny about caching databases, and how the many caches on a system can sometimes work against each other. It covered performance benchmarking and monitoring as well, just to make sure everything is running fine.

Dinner this evening was at the Irish Murphy’s we visited the night before. While a bit unadventurous, I was with a group who hadn’t been there before, and the food was still quite excellent. I was happy. On the way back to the hotel I got to do a bit of train spotting as well, which made me quite happy. 😀 2012 – Day 0 (Sunday)

This week I’m at, the southern hemisphere’s premier open-source conference. This year it is being held in Ballarat, about an hour’s travel from Melbourne. I’ll be documenting the trip and conference as much as I can given the limits of my enthusiasm and awakeness.

Sunday 15th January:

Southern Cross Station
Yay! My favourite mode of transport!

Sunday was spent travelling. My flight from Hobart to Melbourne departed at 8:35am, and it was a perfect day for flying. Warm, clear skies and little wind. An almost perfect flight. I landed in Melbourne before schedule and caught the SkyBus into the city. I was there by 10am, and my train to Ballarat (which I was travelling with my friend Michael Wheeler on) left at 5:08pm, so I had quite a number of hours to spare. Needless to say, I did what any tourist would do, and set about travelling on as many forms of public transport as I could in one day.

St. Kilda Pier
The View From St. Kilda Pier

I caught a tram down to St. Kilda, the light rail (which was merely a glorified tram) back, a suburban train out into a random suburb and back, as well as the plane, car and bus I had already travelled on. I took a few pictures, mostly from St. Kilda pier. A poster detailing the risks of getting in the way of a tram also caught my eye.

Melbourne Trams Poster
A rhino on a skateboard? Sure...

After my random adventures in Melbourne’s transport system came to an end, I met Michael (fresh from his trip down from Rockhampton) and we proceeded to get on the VLine train to Ballarat. We fired up our laptops and were just getting comfortable in a game of OpenTTD, and then the train was off! But not for long. After about 200 metres of travel it was announced that the train was cancelled, and we would all be transported on coaches instead. We finally arrived in Ballarat two hours late, at about 9pm.

My 2012 Plans

This summer, like last summer, I’ll be travelling to This year it’s being held in Ballarat, which presents the opportunity for one of my favourite modes of transport: TRAIN! Here, tentatively, are my plans for that week:

  • On Sunday the 15th I’ll awake early, catch the 8:45am Jetstar flight from Hobart (HBA) to Melbourne Tullamarine (MEL). That arrives at 10:00am. I’ll then make my way into the city, have lunch at a trendy café with friends from Melbourne. I will then catch the 3:08pm train from Southern Cross Station to Ballarat. My good friend Michael Wheeler will join me for that leg of the journey. I will then be in the conference city, ready for finding all the cool people to annoy.
  • I will stay at the on-campus accommodation, for maximum NCSS-style bonus points.
  • I will attend the Penguin dinner.
  • The next Saturday (the 21st) I will do the same journey in reverse. I don’t have lunch plans that day, so if you’d like to catch up in Melbourne (and prevent me from spending all my money in stationery shops) let me know!

I’ve also recently re-installed Debian on my laptop. Running Windows 7 last conference was embarrasing. I ran PuTTY full-screen the entire time just to cover up the fact.

I hope to see you all there!

Trip to Berlin: Part Four

This is part four of my trip to Berlin. For part three, click here. This is the wrap-up of the trip.

Firstly though, the trip home. It was a bog standard 40 hour plane trip, with the only two things of note the really nice girl I met in Singapore airport, and the delay on the last leg. Just after landing into Singapore airport for refuelling and so on, a girl (well, woman, about 25 or so) came up to me and asked if she could follow me because she didn’t understand what she was supposed to be doing (and I must admit, it was confusing). I said yes, and so together we trundled off the plane, looked lost in the middle of a big hall full of shops and no chairs, and then back into the gate through security. We talked, mostly about the country we were from (in my case, Australia, in hers, Serbia). She was travelling to Melbourne to meet her aunts and the rest of her extended family.

The Qantas flight from Melbourne to Hobart was delayed by the fact that the controls for the air conditioning in the cockpit weren’t working. As the pilot said, “we don’t care, but it’s not legal to fly”. The flight time from Melbourne to Hobart is 65 minutes, and we spent almost that much time in the plane on the ground. Apart from those things, and the crappy reruns on the in-flight “entertainment”, it was all fairly normal.

There are a lot of differences between Tasmania and Berlin that I’ve noticed. The first difference was in the public transport system. In Berlin, it’s functional. The trains and buses run perfectly on time at predictable intervals (3 minutes past the hour, 23 minutes past the hour, 43 minutes past the hour and so on for all of them), and are clean and always large enough. They only service the areas where it is profitable to run (not having bus stops and routes in the middle of nowhere). Compare that to Tasmania, where buses come at random times, don’t run near enough in peak hour times, and services areas where there is obviously no profit, which doesn’t help the bottom line, degrading central city performance.

The other huge difference was when talking about buildings. The whole of Australia has had an architectural history of just over 200 years. In Berlin, a house can be “only” 100 years old. In Australia, a 100 year old house is covered in protection acts. They also have a lot of efficient heating, solar panels on a significant portion of rooftops, and double glazing is everywhere (even on some of the trains, as far as my bad eyesight could tell). In addition, recycling was a lot better organised than in Tasmania: bins in the street were organised into 4 sections for rubbish, glass, packaging and paper. A big difference from a single bin for “rubbish”, into which is thrown everything under the sun.

I’ve tried a few new foods too. Sauerkraut was one that when placed in front of me I was a bit skeptical of, though is actually rather nice (it basically tastes like less-harsh vinegar). I’ve tried cherry-banana flavoured yoghurt and cherry-banana yoghurt soft drink, neither of which were very nice. For breakfast, new items included chocolate-covered muesli and scrambled egg spread (bought in jars from the supermarket). Last item of note was the large pretzel, which tastes exactly the same as the small pretzel I am used to. Meal structure was different too. Although occasionally using the large evening meal structure, most of the time it was a smaller evening meal and a larger lunchtime meal (which I quite enjoyed).

Overall, my trip to Berlin was brilliant. Since July last year I’ve been talking to Stephanie online through IRC, MSN, and eventually Skype, and the chance to meet her in real life was awesome (so much so, I can’t even think of decent words). As soon as I can afford to do so I’m going back there for another trip. I’ll make an effort to try and see a bit more of Germany, perhaps staying a bit longer to do so. I’ve convinced Stephanie to visit Tasmania in July, so that should be interesting too.