Entomological Description

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Sydney, NSW, Australia
I'm a Christian husband currently finishing a Software Eng degree and wondering what God's plan for my life is. I sleep soundly in the knowledge that time will assuredly answer that question with little effort on my part.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm not dead yet

Reasons why I haven't been blogging:

  • I've been working
  • I haven't had Internet
  • I was eating cheese in the Hunter Valley
  • It was Christmas. I was having real conversations. And ham.
  • My life is dull and uninteresting
  • I wrote a Christmas newsletter instead. Check your email if I know you personally.
  • xkcd is too engrossing.
Til next excuse, adios.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A little slow

So I'm a bit behind on the blog updates.

Uni is almost finished, though it's in a slight state of limbo until I can finish this special research project. When that will be, who knows? Industrial Training seems to be working out alright though, which is encouraging.

Weekends are getting strangely busier, despite the fact that its apparently meant to be holiday season soon. Go figure. For n weekends timeslots, there seems to be approximately 3n weekend events or obligations. Hence, a problem, though I guess a good problem to have.

Never worked out my problem with getting Uniwide access on my E71. It's a bit of a moot point now that I'm not really spending any time on campus. My home router works fine (mostly).

Next door is now a large, shallow hole in the ground with a giant pile driver making small, deep holes in the large, shallow one, and filling them with concrete. Between the cement mixing trucks, the giant concrete pump, the giant drill for making the holes, the excavator and the potty-mouthed workers, it's all a bit noisy here in the morning. They follow the usual construction worker's pattern of starting around 7am and knocking off by 3pm, which I still don't understand and don't think I ever will. Don't give me the "avoiding the heat of the day" reason either, because I don't buy it. They do it all year round, rain hail or shine so it doesn't seem to hold.

Still no new house to speak of. Yet another weekend of inspections awaits us. Pray for us that we'll find a place soon.

That's as brief as I can be! You're now (within a certain allowable tolerance) up to date. If you want more to read, go see what Kevin is doing.

Friday, October 31, 2008

There's a new kid on the block

For a time there was peace in our street. Then came the arrival of the black horde. The earth was rent in two and all green things were torn asunder. And now the construction of the unknown behemoth has begun. Who knows when it will end. We shall be gone; fled to the safer northern hills.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

UNSW Uniwide Wireless on a Nokia E71

OK, this post is really meant to catch some flies. Looking at my site logs, I know that people sometimes stumble upon my blog looking for solutions to things that I haven't really got solutions for. Here's another such thing, but hopefully we can work something out.

In a previous post I sang the praises of my new Nokia E71 running Symbian S60 3rd ed. It's a great little unit and has the full complement of connectivity options, including 802.11g Wifi supporing WPA/WPA2/802.1x authentication.

In case you also weren't aware, I go to the University of New South Wales, who recently provisioned their campus with a free wireless network for students and staff.

The Uniwide network, as it is known, uses WPA2/EAP-PEAP/MSCHAPv2 to authenticate students, all of which are supported by the E71. The ITS setup page lists these details but rather unhelpfully only provides an actual guide, or support, for the iPhone and its bretheren. (I'll have a rant about trading one monopoly-type technology organisation for another in a separate, future post. Go FLOSS!)

So here is a run down of what I tried, in order:

  1. The "I'm an iPhone user" approach. That is, I went to uni, scanned for networks, found the "uniwide" network, and told it to connect. Result: Authentication failed. No network, no way.

  2. The "OK, I was just pretending. I actually do like fiddling with settings" approach. That is, taking the automatically created Access Point as a starting point, I delved into the settings to see what was wrong. It had correctly set the network up as a WPA2, EAP-based network, but was attempting to use EAP-SIM or EAP-AKA to authenticate. "Aha!" I cried, deftly enabling EAP-PEAP and disabling the other EAP protocols. In so doing I also then found that the settings for EAP-PEAP allowed you to set up another layer of EAPs, which were also defaulting to EAP-SIM and EAP-AKA. This time I enabled EAP-MSCHAPv2 and set my username and password for MSCHAPv2 accordingly. Feeling rather pleased with my own powers of reasoning, I tried connecting. Result: No network, no way. "EAP-PEAP Authentication failed"

  3. The "This is starting to get a little ridiculous" approach. I happen to know, from setting up my laptop with this network, and from the iPhone setup guide, that you have to accept UNSW's security certificate to connect to the network. I also happen to know that the Authority certificate that the uni is using is called UTN-USERFirst-Hardware, and is issued by a company called Comodo. It is available for download here. I cleverly determined that this CA isn't installed on the E71, so maybe the poor phone can't authenticate the certificate it's being presented with. Not knowing a huge amount about certificate chains and all that, I installed those certificates onto the phone from the comodo website. This in itself didn't change anything. So I went one step further and in the EAP-PEAP settings, I set the Authority Certificate to be the UTN-USERFirst-Hardware certificate that I had just installed. Result: The phone takes a really long time thinking about connecting before finally failing in exactly the same way as before. Not happy.

  4. The "Somebody out there must have worked this out already" approach. I wrote a blog post about my troubles and will wait for some kind soul who finds this through Google to comment on the post with their experiences, be they positive or the same as mine.

Seriously. Any Symbian S60 users out there who have worked out the voodoo that makes these little suckers want to play nice with Uniwide? I'm a little bit perplexed by it all.

And while you're here, you might as well comment on this too: does anybody else have issues connecting to some wireless networks with a "No Gateway Reply" error? This is unrelated to the Uniwide network, as it seems to happen consistently at my parents home network, which is just a regular WPA-PSK network, with MAC restriction, and it also occassionaly happens at my own home (oh the shame...)

So although I am pleased with my E71 and it does what it's told most of the time, I am also looking forward to the next firmware update, which will hopefully be not to far away, thankyou, Nokia.

Obligatory Countdown

It's not an LTS, but it's still important! Not sure if I'll immediately upgrade yet. I'll have to weigh up the new features against the high likelihood of something breaking... Still, it's after thesis is due so I might have a little more time on my hands to fiddle with configs again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Finally joining all the other smart people out there, I have got myself a Nokia E71. It looks a little something like this...

(Source: Wikipedia, released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, author Mark Kamichoff)

It's a little beauty. No, it's not an iPhone. I won't compare it to an iPhone either, because unless you've spent considerable time using and exploring a device you don't really have enough knowledge to speak to it. And I haven't used an iPhone much.

But I love my Nokia E71. I won't bore you with the specs, they're all here. It's pretty much the phone that I wanted to have two years ago and couldn't find. Given that I've entered into a two year contract with the good folks at Virgin Mobile, I'm hoping it will keep working for at least that long! A few firmware upgrades along the way wouldn't go astray either, just in case you're listening, Nokia. There's already a few well-documented bugs and omissions that I'm sure Nokia will be keen to correct.

You'll probably start to see some blog posts from this device too, as it's the first device I've had that's been able to do the take photo/write blog post/upload to blogger bit all on its own. My old Nokia 6280 had a camera but had issues getting things to Blogger. My old Palm T|X would happily make blog posts, but had no inbuilt camera, so I either had to Bluetooth them over (ick) or grab them online somehow. But it also only had Wifi, so blogging was still tethered to my house, really.

I'm sure I could rave about all the little things the E71 will let me do now, but you probably don't want to hear it. Perhaps I'll spread that ranting out a little over a few blog posts. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This existence is fleeting...

It's taken me a couple of days to actually post this, but here is a sobering reminder that the expression "safe as houses" is a little over-rated. There used to be three houses in this shot. Now, only a flat sandy patch and the orange instrument of their destruction.

Don't get too attached to the bricks and mortar of this world. It'll all wind up like this, eventually! And you don't even have to be a Christian to acknowledge that particular truth.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dose of daily destruction

In case you had been missing out on your daily demo-fix, here is an update on next door.

And an image for you too:

The big orange thing showed up last Friday. The people to drive it came on Tuesday. It's quite remarkable how quickly one of those things can level two houses. They've already started on the third, and quite amazingly the residents of the fourth house moved out over the weekend! So maybe this development is bigger than we even thought! Or maybe they had just had the jack of living next to a disaster zone...

With any luck, we'll be gone-ski before things start going up instead of down. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New style

Background: I have a large, widescreen monitor.
Problem: I don't like fixed-width web pages.
Observation: My blog has a fixed-width style.
Solution: Voila! New style.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

LHCb sees where the antimatter's gone...

Three posts in one day! Will wonders never cease! But this is doing the rounds, so I have to keep up with the 'sphere.

Stargate Continuum

It being our 9 month anniversary yesterday, Libby and I celebrated in style by renting a DVD. Being the undisputed nerds that we are, we got Stargate Continuum, a movie based on the Stargate SG-1 series that we all know and love.

It actually exceeded my expectations for this kind of movie. I mean, dedicated fan though I am to all things Stargate, when you consider a flagging series in its 10th season that's already spawned a spinoff, a couple of telemovies, and has its own convention circuit, the hopes are not high. And, to be honest, I wasn't as big a fan of the later seasons of Stargate as the early ones. The technology got cooler, the aliens got meaner, and the special effects got more "ooh, ahh", but the plots got tired, the dialogue got a little lame, and the characters had been plundered to death. The fact that I am not moved in the slightest to see Daniel die anymore speaks volumes about the overuse of that particular plot line.

But this is all sounding very negative. I still love SG-1 and enjoy watching it, but it's a mother's love. I can understand why somebody trying to join the Stargate bandwagon at this point would find it all a bit... well, twentieth century, I guess.

Continuum, as the director Martin Wood puts it, is "old school Stargate". Gone are the Ancients, the Asgard, the replicators, the free Jaffa nation, and all the other acoutrements of the latter series. It's just SG-1 (though not as we usually know them), a shedload of Goa'uld motherships, some seriouslly evil System Lords, four F-15s, six MiGs, a few dozen Death Gliders and a time machine. Barrels of fun!

With a name like Continuum, it's hardly a surprise that it's a time travel movie. And also the first movie I can think of watching that has two adjacent "u"s in the title.

It's a lot of fun, and leaving aside the minor problems with integrating the multiple timelines (just explain it away by saying "we were in transit through the Stargate at the time and thus weren't affected") it's also a fresh take on the characters that we all know, by putting them in a different version of reality. Even if Richard Dean Anderson is looking a little decrepit, and Christopher Judge and Amanda Tapping look weird with so much hair. Daniel still looks exactly the same, although he's now a macho, gun-toting commando as well as a bookish nerd.

So if you're a Stargate fan, get Continuum. You'll enjoy it. If you aren't, then you'll find the movie hard to follow, the characters inexplicable, and the whole thing a little too fantastic. But you wouldn't have read this far anyway.

The value of editing

I haven't done any proper sustained writing since high school. Doing an Engineering/Maths degree at uni has restricted the forms in which I write to the bland "report", the almost entirely symbolic "proof" and the all-but-regurgitation "article".

I'd really love to write something approaching an "essay", and to do it properly. The Borrodalian pieces that I wrote served primarily a venting purpose, but deadlines meant that they were always poorly edited and rarely well thought out (with a couple of exceptions).

So while listening to Tony Payne (http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au) talk about his experience as a professional writer at church the other day, I pondered the possibility of producing a written work myself. Something which has no publishing deadline, no spur-of-the-moment, bee-in-my-bonnet, crisis-of-the-minute kind of agenda, and something in which I can invest a modicum of time actually editing. My first thoughts on any given subject are rarely totally correct, but my Jedi training as a debater has gotten me into bad habits of justifying any kind of persuasive sounding argument in order to sound convincing, rather than pursuing objective reasoning.

This is a problem.

So what shall I write about? My current thinking is that this project will be of short book length, be written on a worthwhile subject and have some value to people other than me. But I have no current intentions of publishing it in any way, except maybe to this blog. In addition, I hope it could get me into some good working habits, because sod all else has.

I could write about something I know something about, but I have this sneaking suspicion that in doing so I would simply re-present all my existing, preconceived, and not well-researched ideas, thereby avoiding the point of the exercise. The alternative is to find a field which I know little or nothing about, and seek to become knowledgeable just for the sake of the project. Ultimately, I suspect I'll have to reach a compromise and relearn some things that I feel like I already know.

So, oh few readers (only 4 through FeedBurner, as I write this) of this, my lowly contribution to the blogosphere, what think you? Any ideas for a worthwhile subject of my writing project? Be warned that you will probably never see the fruits of any suggestion you may choose to make!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hurricane Duke has struck!

Shame about the rain... Oh yeah, and the missing roofs. Although yesterday it did give those houses a nice sunny, breezy feel.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chainsaws? At 7:30am?

I can understand how appealing a job in demolition might be, but in a display of enthusiasm for that occupation unrivalled since the sacking of Rome by the Vandals, our neighbourhood destructioneers started up not one, but several chainsaws and let them rip through roof struts for an hour and a half. And now, after 9, all is silent.

I may never understand.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A new vista

It's a bit different to what we're used to...

Hitting the roof

Behold. Notice anything slightly more interesting in this totally uninteresting view? Hint: anything missing?

PS. It's really hard to take photos of your neighbouring houses without appearing to be nosey, a civil complainant, a psychopath, or just plain stupid. But I'll endure, for the sake of my blog readers.

Monday, September 01, 2008

An uninteresting view

This is not a very interesting view. Three roofs. Other than the fact that it is the primary vista from our lounge room balcony window, it is insignificant in the extreme.

So why do I draw your attention to it? Well, this has something to do with it:

Stay tuned. I'll try and keep the photographic log flowing.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I'm back at uni, in a manner of speaking. Which is to day, I've only been on campus once in the last couple of weeks. But officially, session has started again.

Oddly, it's been quite a challenging experience having no structure to my day. I never thought I'd miss the days of running late for class, three hour lectures and tutorials as dull as dish water, but at least all of those activities gave me the vague impression that I was doing something productive towards eventual graduation. At the moment, I spend a lot of time sitting at home pondering what the next thing I should do is, and hoping that it's not the washing up.

My supervisor was away until last weekend, and although he has now returned I am yet to visit him to determine some forward direction. But I have been doing a fair amount of reading in preparation for going to see him. And waiting to hear about a job - I should be getting a final "yes" or "no" today. Which affects how I'll be spending my time for the next couple of months as well.

Returning to the title of this post, I've found that the day passes mighty quickly when you stay at home. By the time you get up and get prepared for the day it's lunchtime, and then you start work after lunch to get a little done before school finishes and then Libby's home. Then after some QT and the business hour chores (shopping et al) it's time to cook dinner, then it's bed time in a snap. So I've found I have to be very careful about how I spend my time, because it slips away if I'm not.

Perhaps this is some kind of pre-emptive role-reversal growth exercise designed to make me understand the kind of position that Libby may find herself once the little feet are pittering and pattering. Or maybe if it isn't, it should be.

Oh well. More to ponder as I avoid watching Dr Phil and Oprah. I really only want to watch the news, but if I forget to turn the TV off, I can get caught.

Matt out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blogorithms and Procrastination Techniques

OK, I've received a complaint that I haven't been blogging enough. Which is to say, I have been studiously avoiding procrastination in an attempt to finalise all my uni work over the last few weeks.

However, my blog is feeling the neglect, so I thought I'd at least say hi. I'm sitting with a bunch of guys studying for our Algorithms and Programming techniques exam tomorrow. The lecturer has very kindly decided that because we had a midsession and assignments during the session on the earlier part of the course, he won't assess us on those portions of the course in the final.

That's the nice way of looking at it. The realistic way of looking at it is that he's taken all of the easy stuff out of the exam in order to give him more time to test us on the really, really hard stuff. So it looks like it might be a killer. Oh well. Programming is enjoyable, and in reality even the hardest stuff he throws at us is still quite achieveable, it just gets your brain cells kicking along.

Here endeth the procrastination, meagre though it is...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The New Math

Came across this on last.fm

I think I actually learned something...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

As time goes by...

And so passed my first job interview. All at the expense of a couple of hours and a class or two. It went reasonably well, and I'll find out just how well by early June. But I can't tell you any more than that ; I'm sure the men in brown trenchcoats are already reading this blog. It's OK, I'll check my analytics logs later.

And now we return to our regular programming, which is a lecture on patent law from two representatives from Freehills Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys. Hopefully will be useful information for my upcoming essay.

The fundamental things apply...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Order is restored

Just in case you were getting really worried about how I'd cope without a laptop, the in-warranty replacement hard drive arrived the other day and tarantula is back on his feet (so to speak) running Ubuntu 8.04 like it's never been run before. I've finally taken the real plunge and am slowly extricating myself from the world of Windows. Although tarantula does currently run XP, it's through the relative safety of a VirtualBox. Meaning I can have my cake and eat it too, and run Office 2007 right alongside gvim, tuxracer and gnome's prettiness.

If you haven't heard about the free desktop revolution, you should go find out.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

RIP Tarantula

After all the relevant backups were made, Tarantula (the system name for my aging laptop) was wiped clean last night. He now awaits a new hard drive from Singapore (thank you manufacturer's warranty) and has received a tripling of his RAM in preparation for his spiffy new operating system - Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron! Bring on the release!

This screen, by the way, may be the saddest screen ever to see...

Pride and Privilege

I make this post from the CSE Undergraduate Thesis Laboratory, which I have only just discovered is set aside especially for us. And there are TWO of them, no less!

I think I've just found a really good place to actually study on campus - I have a computer, but not one that allows me to be ultra distracted, I have a quiet and clean work environment and it's really close to my supervisor...

Perhaps, after almost four and a half years of uni, I'll develop a work ethic?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's a Hard Drive

I seem to have an effect on hard drives. Or rather my laptop does. I now have a pending RMA (warranty claim) for the hard drive in my laptop, which has died in a slightly less-than-spectacular, but nevertheless frustrating manner. At least it had the dignity to give me advanced warning through a SMART error detection (Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Tool) so I've had time to dump the data into safer bit-buckets, but it still leaves me with an untrustable laptop for some time.

This is the third hard drive for this notebook. The original manufacturer's drive wasn't very good, always made very loud clicky noises and failed after a couple of years. The second was a new one that I purchased (the first was outside warranty) and it worked fora while before showing significant signs of distress (each and every program in Linux would segfault, and Windows would simply bluescreen - I couldn't read the data when I attached it to another computer either) so I had it replaced under warranty.

All very well and good. But the new one had exactly the same problem. After much umming and ahhing and bitter complaint about a hard-drive-eating laptop, I ran a memtest from an Ubuntu installer CD. Corrupt memory. So I replaced the RAM and things have been hunky dory since then.

Until now, when it seems I have a genuinely dying hard drive, four assignments due in the next three weeks, no working Linux box (my desktop got borked), a thesis implementation to do on Thursday without a computer, and a thesis presentation to deliver in two weeks with nothing more than a blackboard and chalk.

Argh! Three things are certain in life. Death, taxes, and the utter failure of technology at precisely the most inopportune moment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Despite my earlier enthusiasm for the imminent release of Ubuntu 8.04, which has in no way abated, it seems that I may be forced to delay my installation of said superior OS in deference to the weight of assignments and thesis-related presentations that need doing.

And somewhere along the way, I should also determine whether or not when my laptop's hard drive says "1702 - SMART Hard Drive detects Imminent Failure", it really means it or not.

There's only 119 bad sectors on disk. I don't see what all the fuss is about...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's coming!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My friend Tammy

Well it's been a happy little Easter week off, although the timing of our midsession break is a little bizarre (like it's only 17% of the way through the session and all).

We watched the film Pleasantville last night on Libby's recommendation, which was reliable as usual. We both decided that it would be a fantastic film to write HSC essays on because it's just dripping with filmic techniques and low-hanging essay fruit - like the part where all the store-owners in Pleasantville put signs in the windows saying "No Coloreds" or the Mayor of Pleassantville gives a Hitler-esque speech calling for them to "separate out that which is pleasant from that which is unpleasant" right in front of a giant Swastika handshake symbol.

If only I could go back and resit my English exam! Either that or go on to become curriculum developer for the NSW English syllabus and put it in... Nah, we'll have a national certificate by the time that happens (I'm about three graduate degrees away from being able to do that)

We also rented Serenity, the Firefly movie, which we hope that my family will watch after we've left, and the full second season of the television series Thank God You're Here, which has some fantastic comedic actors on it.

Anyway, showertime now. Until next time, adios.

Monday, March 24, 2008

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

I hope everyone in Blogger land had a happy and holy Easter. For my own part, we went over to Libby's parents place for the weekend to spend time with Paul and Heidi who were down from Brisbane. Twas marvelous.

Short blog post as we rush out the door yet again! God bless.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm watching you...

In the spirit of full disclosure, I feel it necessary to warn you that I've just installed some Google Analytics tracking code on this blog which allows me to find out all sorts of things about you. Like your address, phone numbers, Medicare details, credit card numbers, email passwords, and other silly things like that.

Actually it will just get your browser type and maybe a rough physical location (like "Australia" kind of rough) so that I can know how many and what kind of people are viewing my site.

Please don't be offended, o blog reader. I do trust you. It's just that I'm so insecure that I'd like to know more about who I'm writing for. And I want to play with Google Analytics. And I don't trust you.

Peace out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Frustrated yet?

I've been trawling the blogs for an hour getting frustrated at people who haven't posted recently. The word "hypocrite" jumped into my mind.

The holiday stretches ever on, having just returned from the Central Coast where me and Libby have been chilling for a few days with family. Besides reading and tinkering with my network topology, the days have been fairly relaxed. To all those people who came to our wedding and gave us a present, rest assured that the thank you cards are under construction. Trust me, I have at several times contemplated a group email with just the two words "thank" and "you" in preference to another dreaded publisher-design-then-mail-merge-then-print-then-trim-then-glue-then-post dance of death, but I think insanity won the day. Never fear, we've simplified and streamlined our production line (pretty much to eliminate any traces of electronics) so they should be ready before the next major family gathering at least.

Until the next pang of guilt arises, adios.

Friday, February 01, 2008


In case you haven't visited us yet (or aren't able to!) here's a selection of our wedding photos for your delectation

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Holiday" is a relative term

Our honeymoon ended quite a while ago but the holiday is sort of stretching out and ending in a very indistinct sort of way. We have some kind of work to do now, mainly involved with setting up the house and keeping on top of groceries and things, but nothing we can get fired from.

Centrelink keeps us relatively occupied and moderately bemused as we deal with setting up Youth Allowance. At once I want to rejoice that a system exists that thinks I deserve to be paid for spending most days at home watching cricket on TV, and complain bitterly at how messed up and inefficient that system is. That feeling is compounded by the fact that their internal computer system and associated website is fairly well messed up. And not even in terms of its reliability, but in terms of its basic design from the end user's perspective. All the staff we've dealt with have mentioned how the "system" requires them to do strange things, but also commented how normal that is - we've received confusing automatically generated letters which have been dismissed by the telephone operators with a simple "Oh yeah, the computer sometimes sends those out, we'll just get that fixed up for you now." Of course though it is just managing to keep everything working just well enough that no money will be spent on it to redesign it. Oh well. Maybe next government.

Blogging may resume more regularly now as our net connection has stabilised a bit and I may remember a bit more. It's not like you really wanted details of my honeymoon or anything!