Looks like some of my students think I'm a reincarnation of Werner Kuich - not because of any brilliance on my side but because of his really special first lectures which scared off a good number of prospective students (the subsequent lectures were then held at a quite humane speed and pretty good IMHO).

So a number of the more unwilling members of my flock decided to bail out early - which is of course their call (at the ork place they can switch subjects until end of week 2) - but it still rankles to have this kind of desertion just because you a) expect them to start working in week 1 (duh!), b) don't dumb down the content to the level of 'reading for dummies' and c) require that they allocate a few working brain cells to this here university education thing.

[ published on Mon 06.06.2011 19:35 | filed in brainfarts | ]

From the Faroe Islands to Tahiti and the Tierra del Fuego, there's snafu readers all over the place. Amazing :-)


I've just cooked up a quick visualization setup for my machines' logs (think: let's see where the spammers and scammers and port scanners come from) and couldn't resist running the last 52 weeks of webserver logs for this site through it.

Dim red is few hits, bright yellow is lots of hits. I didn't filter out search engines, so there are definitely some spurious robotic yellow yanks in there.

(But things must be /really/ boring in Coober Pedy...)

Technically it's all very simple; the free (in the beer-sense) GeoIP city database tells me where you fellows are (lat+lon from your ip address), the map comes from NASA's beautiful "Blue Marble" data sets and the glue code is mine.

[ published on Tue 03.05.2011 02:30 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Writing exams is definitely not my favourite work, in particular coming up with clear, nice, sensible-looking, unambiguous - but still red herri^W^Wwrong answers for multiple choice questions.

At least I can give students a proper workout with my style of multiple choice questions, which - quel surprise! - usually have multiple correct answers. Every now and then it's also correct to tick none or all the boxes, just for variety's sake (and to discourage guessing).

Nasty, what, me? Now where do you get that impression from?

[ published on Fri 18.03.2011 15:13 | filed in brainfarts | ]

How I love the annual "Performance Development Review" at work; it's always such a matchless source of positive stimulus to increase one's devotion to Due Process, Academic Applications of Hot Air, and Higher Revenue.

[ published on Wed 16.02.2011 17:39 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Using this dremel knockoff with not-so-stable speed control is Not A Great Idea for polishing scratches out of the glass of your Swatch.

Sure, I got the offending scratches out but in the process I added a new ugly scrape near the rim: even with the smallest polishing wheel/cylinder the damn non-dremel spins pretty fast, and the Swatch face is not glass but polycarbonate - quite sensitive to pressure and heat - and it seems I pushed down just a little bit too hard or long. GRRRRR.

The original scratch removal took less than 5 minutes, messing things up I accomplished in just 1 sec, and the cursing and subsequent repair cost me a good 25 minutes.

Next time I'll do this with a backing plate and polising pad on my normal drill.

[ published on Tue 08.02.2011 20:31 | filed in brainfarts | ]

This week my sister Nina finally completed her degree, after gallivanting around the universe for the last decade and a half or so. She's now what she once jokingly called a "diplomierte Strickliesl" (sorry, untranslatable) and what everybody else would call "magistra artium (textile restoration and conservation)".

Well done, sister!

With that achievement our branch of the Zangerls has well and truly overfulfilled the quota of academics (as in "100%"). Maybe, with the generational pendulum being what it is, Conny and Emil (Nina's recently hatched son) will decide for Something Vastly More Practical for their careers, like plumber or machinist or farmer or mason?

[ published on Thu 27.01.2011 10:55 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Some say Vegemite belongs to the "acquired tastes" (polite for "hideous"), but I'm not so sure - maybe growing up with Maggi sauce predisposes one towards yeasty/salty stuff?

Anyway, I like Vegemite despite being not a native of this place. And some of the mity clones I like, too. For example ProMite is quite ok.

But I will certainly not buy "Brekkiemite" ever again: we all know that Vegemite is made from yeast waste, but this other goop tastes like said yeast scraps were ran through a dog first and then liberally cut with axle grease.

[ published on Mon 20.09.2010 11:59 | filed in brainfarts | ] buy yourself a cheap used Ixus 70 (to replace an good but aging and clunky Ixus 400), and the first thing you do is...(drumroll)
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Sat 31.07.2010 23:09 | filed in brainfarts | ]

I've got that on a tshirt (with a photo of the Rodney King beating) and I swear, I could wear this tshirt almost every day to work - it rarely isn't spot-on.

The newest bit right now: somebody higher up in the food chain decreed that the whole level 5 (where the IT school offices are) must be renovated, presto. Not at the end of the semester, or during the slightly longer christmas break, no: now, three quarters into the semester. Duration: just until the beginning of next semester (but don't hold your breath, plans in this place never work out).

And we get no temporary offices at all.

We are allowed to do our research and lecture prep work from home.

And not all types of prep work are easily doable from home, plus the work firewall is setup fairly strictly and VPNs? Can't have that, would be too useful.

The lectures and labs are of course held in person, so we'll have the joy of wandering around campus between the scheduled sessions, just like hobos.

So over the last few weeks, with all the fun and excitement of packing up our office contents and preparing our workarounds for all the damn mess this thing causes us, some semi-subversive posters have popped up all over around our offices (wasn't me, honest).

And here they are, for your amusement.

 unhappy signs at work unhappy signs at work unhappy signs at work

The last one especially reinforces my opinion that this workplace almost beats the Australian International University - and that's pretty disgusting, given that the AIU is fictional. "More Better Education", indeed.

[ published on Wed 21.07.2010 13:42 | filed in brainfarts | ] beautiful Conny looks.

 conny plus basti und jasmin

(the other two are her cousins.) But I'm way more proud of her being a good and capable person.

[ published on Sat 11.07.2009 14:00 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Here's a very nice radio feature (complete text and mp3) that ran recently on ABC (local gov't-backed broadcaster).

It discusses the mess and mindset that contemporary MBAs represent. Food for thought (bwuahaha - thinking, what an outdated notion, we've got leadership instead!) for my employer's vPHBs, oh yes indeed.

[ published on Thu 30.04.2009 12:40 | filed in brainfarts | ]
 grinning conny conny at robs conny moto grinning conny

I'm happy she's turned out to be a good person :-)

[ published on Wed 31.12.2008 20:36 | filed in brainfarts | ]

My newish Treo 680 has blue teeth, which is better than a kick in selfsame (but not very much as shoddily as it was implemented by Palm). Being only a moderate gadgeteer (and far from rich) I've been lusting after a good/cheap/simple (yeah, I know RFC1925) navigation setup for the car - and cable-less as much as possible.

So I got a cheap Bluetooth GPS receiver which is branded "HP iPAQ Bluetooth GPS BTG-10H". Interestingly that model seems to have been orphaned by HP and is now sold under the name Siraya. $20 for a new 12-channel receiver with data logging, some other goodies and a car charger; not bad I think.

A bit of digging determined that it uses an iTrax03 GPS chip made by Fastrax, a Finnish company.

Now I don't know about Finnish attitudes towards the Dutch in general, but this Finnish piece of electronic wizardry absolutely killed the Dutch fount of navigational wisdom. (Apropos nothing in particular: the Dutch have a reputation as lousy drivers all across the mountainous parts of Europe.)

Tomtom Navigator 6 works quite well - when it works at all. Specifically Treos and Bluetooth receivers are well known sources of horrible interoperability problems. Same here: my receiver gets a fix moderately quickly and the TomTom shows the way, but after no more than 10 minutes the TomTom locks up my Treo completely - until the GPS is switched off or the BT connection is lost.

This obviously sucks, and is a tale of woe oft repeated elsewhere on the intertubes.

I am, however, really stubborn about fixing problems. So I started digging through all the horror stories, tried all kinds of suggested things, learned a bit about NMEA, to no avail - until the really simple, really stupid cause dawned on me: During a session with a serial terminal reading the NMEA data from the iTrax I realized that the volume of stuff it sends is quite..substantial.

The FasTrax docs about NMEA and their chips are quite good. NMEA has a bunch of required and optional messages, and I learned that for barebones navigation one only needs RMC messages as often as possible; if one also wants to know things like satellite positions and fix quality, one needs GSA and GSV.

Other GPSs seem to have configurable separate output rates for these messages; most tips I found mentioned setting RMC to 1/sec and GSA/GSV to once every 5 secs - which makes a lot of sense, because there will be multiple GSV messages depending on the number of satellites in view.

Not so with the iTrax: you can configure the output rate very precisely (up to 5Hz) but only one rate for all messages - and by default it spews its (nonstandard) figure-of-merit message as well as a full set of GSVs every second. At least on the Treo this overwhelms TomTom after a few minutes (which sounds like very shoddy programming to me) and everything locks up hard.

The fix? Get rid of the GSV messages: you do lose the per-satellite signal quality and azimuth/elevation info, but that's all. The satellite status screen simply shows blank bars with the satellite number and the GGA and GSA messages still tell the TomTom enough to know how many and which satellites are in use and how good the nav fix is, so all is well.

FasTrax has made configuring the iTrax very simple: you send it ascii (nonstandard-but-NMEA-formatted) commands over the serial/BT connection and it stores them persistently in flash, done. I used BT Serial on the Treo, which works very well.

The online docs have all the necessary configuration info and the only thing you'll actually have to do is send it this one message, once:


22 is the SYS_NMEA_MASK parameter, controlling which messages you want, and A002 means "send only RMC, GGA and GSA". (The default mask is A023, which includes the above plus FOM and GSV. Sending $PFST,CONF,22 shows you the current value of that parameter.)

Wasn't that easy?

[ published on Wed 05.11.2008 00:00 | filed in brainfarts | ]

(I know it, she knows I know it but still it can be said publicly ;-)
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Mon 15.09.2008 23:32 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Actually it's not just low on blood but stone-dead, but it'll come back -- eventually (like in the film Reanimator...).
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Fri 06.06.2008 09:55 | filed in brainfarts | ]

...I would rate this Brand-New and Shiny Aluminium door sign.

 loo door

However, as I'm just one of those no-good overeducated academics with a profound distrust of manglement and the consequential cynical attitude, I have to make do with a heavy dose of Dilberts and some homemade jokes.

 my door

(The white felty things are the velcro where they took off our previous not-shiny-but-sufficient door signs. I'm not holding my breath waiting for this to be improved.)

Remember: Toilets are any company's most valuable asset.

[ published on Tue 27.05.2008 19:16 | filed in brainfarts | ]

(or, translated for the en-natives: we'd far rather blue bread than blue blood!) Here's our proof:
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Tue 20.05.2008 21:42 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Five-and-a-half months after buying it, I actually still like my Subaroo - except for the lousy excuse for a high beam (which is the nr. 2 complaint about the older Outbacks, trumped only by Hal).
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Tue 13.05.2008 21:47 | filed in brainfarts | ]

A few days ago the rearview mirror in my car parted company with the windscreen glass. Looks like it had been re-(super?)glued before.

So I read up on a number of (un)suggested glues:
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Thu 08.05.2008 11:37 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Just read the announcement (and news item) which tells us peons that from now on, Ebay Oz is only allowying the inhouse-bank Paypal as payment mechanism, and also that Paypal may keep your cash for up to 21 days (IOW a big "screw you, sellers!" from the greedy bunch).

I'm not certain about how I take these badly disguised price hiking changes: as a buyer, fine, doesn't cost me anything and makes it easier to stuff around with a recalcitrant seller.

But as a non-commercial seller of leftovers every now and then, this set of changes sucks: the ebay/paypal combo is quite expensive. A commercial vendor will factor these in and eat them as side-costs do doing business, but on a $10 garage sale item the fees are not fun: 0.50 listing plus 5.25% of the final, 0.30 paypal plus 2.4% of the final for paypal again.

I just wish there was a reasonable alternative in Oz/the Asia-Pac region.

[ published on Sun 13.04.2008 13:31 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Just kidding.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Fri 11.04.2008 16:12 | filed in brainfarts | ]

What a perfect match, down to the brown garb. The only thing missing is the glowing index finger, but I'm sure we can rig something from a few LEDs...:-)

[ published on Sun 16.03.2008 20:54 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Should you end up with this cheap DVD recorder you'll note that by default it is region-crippled. The thing has divx support, records to dvd and dvd-rewritables and has vga-out, which is why I bought it for AU$130: my Zensonic Z330 player is badly on the way out.

Region-lockout is at least close to breaching the law in this country and thus region-free gear is actually way more common - and legal.

Should you - like me - be very pissed off by the manual not saying anything about how to make the fellow region-free, don't despair. I voided my warranty by opening the box, found out that it uses a Mediatek MT8105DE chipset - and that on a no-name unidentifyable mainboard. No go so far.

However, looking around further I found out that the sequence Power on, Setup button, 8 1 0 5 gives you its internal system info screen (alas, with the region unchangeable). On a Hungarian board I found the crucial info that Setup, 5 0 1 8 gives you a menu with the region changeable (use 0 for any). Hit setup afterwards, power off and on again and everything works. (apprently the firmware is similar to another noname called chili/yanada dvr-8500x, for which i found the 5018 thing...)

This success helps at least a bit to offset the disappointment of lots of shite weather in the last 8 weeks (and counting). The farmers are happy, the dams fullish, the beaches are gone and the wind howls and/or it rains. Soon I'll have to develop gills and webbed fingers - unless the mould gets me before.

[ published on Thu 10.01.2008 23:24 | filed in brainfarts | ]

I have a new car (new for me, that is; June 2000 was its birthday).

 2007_12_16-subaru-side.jpg  2007_12_16-subaru-rear.jpg

As you can see the rego is "554 JTH", which I've decided stands for "Just Tell HAL": the car has a few very stupid gimmicks.

The first and foremost is HAL, the climate control system. It's a completely stupid FPOS and works only properly when lobotomized (aka non-auto mode). Asking gargle about HAL is enlightening.

Here's a pic of HAL de-brained, which is actually part of the major disassembly job that is required to install a car radio. HAL lives in that innocuously looking top box with the LED blinkenlight panel.


The radio install was...painful. First I couldn't get a matching wiring harness and had to solder up my own (cursing the idiots at VDO for mislabelling the ISO connector pins in their excuse for a manual), then I needed to make an antenna extension (the previous radio, a clarion with cd but no mp3 capability used an odd diversity antenna setup: there's two coax cables in the car, no idea if both are active - anyway, the antenna is in-glass, performs ok and one of the coaxes worked). Then of course the dismantling and reassembly job times two (because I ripped it apart yesterday but couldn't finish and put it back together then), plus trying to figure out where to put the UHF radio later on. Anyway, we have sound. And I'm in control of it.

The next gimmick I could do easily without, thank you very much, is the hill-holder. No, stupid car, I want you not to keep applying the brakes after I lift my foot and until I let the clutch go, I want you to roll. Roll, goddammit! ROLL! Do I have to push? ROLL! I can hill-start on my own (and without handbrake), and if I wanted such gadgetry I would have bought a bloody automatic! I don't and so I didn't.

Most of the other features are quite ok. What wasn't ok was that some idiot mechanic, wannabe or detailer had disconnected the fuel pressure regulator vacuum hose from the inlet manifold and left it to dangle in the wind: idle a tad high and slow to return on stopping, lousy starting behaviour. I found and fixed the dangling hose when hunting for the fuel filter (which this oz model apparently didn't get? Silly, as if this place wasn't dusty and dirty... And I had bought a replacement filter already, well maybe I'll retrofit it) in order to figure out the odd starting behaviour.

The 2652 pages of factory service manual that I sucked earlier came already very handy for figuring out where the hose should go. The result was immediately improved starting and lower/better idling. Very good.

As to HAL, well, at least there is the "Lobotomy, Now!" button. BTW, this is how the system is supposed to work; a fairly rotten setup if you ask me. Consequentially, this is how it actually works out for most Outback/Legacy/Liberty/Forester owners:

The Outer Limits Control Voice... "There is nothing wrong with your ACC. Do not attempt to adjust the settings. We are controlling operation. If we wish to make it warmer, we will bring up the heat. If we wish to make it colder, we will set it to 65. We can reduce the fan to a soft breeze, or sharpen it to full blast. We will control the vents. We will control the AC. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you feel and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind of the Legacy Automatic Climate Control to... your rarely comfortable body."
[ published on Sun 16.12.2007 23:25 | filed in brainfarts | ]

A mnemonic I memorized once for recalling the layers of the OSI model. Unfortunately it seems to be true outside of the OSI/ISO academentia, too: I'm missing two recently acquired ebay bargains...


[ published on Thu 11.10.2007 01:48 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Just had the joy of having to deal with the backscatter of a spam run with addresses from my domains (nonexistent boxes though) as sender. And while my Mimedefang setup is reasonably sophisticated, that run actually showed yet another minor loophole.

Minor as in "nothing bad happens that affects the public" but not minor otherwise: I got postmaster-bounces of every single "thanks for your bounce of the spam, but there is no such address here anyway". About 200 of them every few minutes.

Well, no longer. Mimedefang now fully checks whether cyrus boxes exist before letting sendmail get its greedy paws on the stuff. Still, the effort necessary to keep the assholes out but the good mail arriving at the same time is quite annoying.

[ published on Thu 04.10.2007 13:27 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Mucking out the garbage box, I saw this spam/scam/whatever junk today:

Subject: Not for oversmart people

I think so, too. :-)

[ published on Fri 28.09.2007 11:20 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Rob gave me his surplus nice caliper (Thanks again, BTW!).
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Sat 22.09.2007 17:47 | filed in brainfarts | ]

On my recent trip to Austria I got exposed to/fed a bunch of really nice musical stuff. Thanks go to Nina, Julia and Tamara (in no particular order).
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Wed 19.09.2007 16:07 | filed in brainfarts | ]

click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Fri 07.09.2007 10:29 | filed in brainfarts | ]

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