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Michael Still: Forster trig

Sat, 2015-02-21 11:28
Its been too long since I've attempted a trig walk -- 15 days to be exact. That's mostly because I've been really busy at work these last couple of weeks. That said, it was time for another trig, and this one was a bit of an adventure.



Forster Trig is in the Bullen Nature Reserve and is one of the least urban trigs I've attempted so far, which is why this post is a bit more detailed than normal. Big Monks is probably the other trig walk most similar to this one. One of the challenges with this trig is that there is no track to the trig point. Reading John Evan's walk notes from his single assent of this trig, it seems that many people follow the 132kV power lines to the trig, but I consider this "cheating" as the power line is on private land and I didn't want to spend effort on getting permission to walk on someone's farm.



Instead, I followed the Kambah Pool to Cassurina Sands track, and then turned right to bush bash to the trig when I got reasonably close. There wasn't any formed track this way, so I don't think this is a common approach. On the map you'll notice a fence marked -- that's where I had to jump a barbed wire fence, which wasn't the best plan ever. On the way back down from the summit I found a vehicle track, and I'd recommend that others follow that route (the one on the map with two gates marked and some stairs). The stairs are interesting -- a previous walker has mounded stones on both sides of the fence to make it easier to cross.



Either way, its a bush bash up the hill itself, which is covered in reasonably dense spiky vegetation. You're going to want gaiters or long pants.



             



Interactive map for this route.



Tags for this post: blog pictures 20150220-forster_trig photo canberra tuggeranong bushwalk trig_point

Related posts: Big Monks; A walk around Mount Stranger; Two trigs and a first attempt at finding Westlake; Taylor Trig; Oakey trig; Urambi Trig



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Michael Still: Confessions of a middle aged orienteering marker

Wed, 2015-02-18 21:28
I was an orienteering marker for the kid's scout troop tonight -- I guess it could have been a trick, but I think they were genuine. The basic idea was I went and stood at where the mark on the map was, and then noted which kids found me. Nice little hill in MacArthur, with pleasant views. I think I've found a good place for a geocache as well.



Interactive map for this route.



Tags for this post: blog canberra bushwalk tuggeranong

Related posts: Big Monks; Geocaching; Point Hut Cross to Pine Island; A walk around Mount Stranger; Another lunch time walk; Forster trig



Comment

Michael Still: Little Black Mountain

Wed, 2015-02-18 08:28
I went on a walk on Monday with the Canberra Bushwalking Club up Little Black Mountain. Its a nice area and I mostly enjoyed the walk. I say mostly because the walk leader was quite un-welcoming. There was the lecture about emergency beacons, and then the lecture about how he's never been bitten by a snake. It was quite an odd experience. I think I might avoid that leader in the future.



Interactive map for this route.



Tags for this post: blog canberra bushwalk

Related posts: Goodwin trig; Big Monks; Geocaching; Confessions of a middle aged orienteering marker; A quick walk through Curtin; Narrabundah trig and 16 geocaches



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Tue, 2015-02-17 17:28

Bus to work, after discovering that I had no spare clothes at work, somehow. That won’t be a problem for a couple of weeks now.

Horrible nights sleep meant I had to skip the new software engineering meetup.



Filed under: diary

Andrew McDonnell: Expanding Horizons

Mon, 2015-02-16 22:27

Looking back, I do seem to blog a lot about the software & open source technology!

I do have wider interests though, I read widely & ponder about space technology, graph theory & network science, open data, math, economics, history, politics, or anything really. I find that taking the time to learn about new and unrelated topics, just like taking the time to meet new people with different interests, tends to increase the chance of serendipitous opportunities, or provide “outside the square” insights into problems I am currently working on.

Everyone has Jargon

Along with last months foray into music & content, I have been studying the tech startup economy. I find it fascinating learning how to decode the jargon, and I guess I experienced a bit of what other people probably get when relating to IT / software developer people :-)  One thing I discovered is the extent to which the startup scene itself has spawned an industry built on servicing the startups and the venture capital firms that provide funding. Whether this is an indication of a maturing market since the days of the DotCom boom, time will tell.

The startup industry has a cross-over into open source. Many new businesses are founded using open source: nearly every web app that is not a pure Microsoft build would be using some combination of open source tools (and the Microsoft Azure service supports Linux); many provide premium services related to an open source product which helps spur further development in that product.  I think this is a good thing for open technology generally as it benefits the entire community, not just that business, as would be the case with a purely closed product.  By contributing to open source, the business can concentrate on value adding around its core “thing” whilst leveraging the community in a two-way effort to improve the overall software ecosystem.  Paraphrasing Bob Young from one of the Linux.conf.au keynotes, open source is a long term form of barter benefiting everyone.

Another cross-over is the Lean Startup methodology. A friend dragged me along to a workshop the other week, and it was really interesting to see some of the parallels with agile software development.

In Adelaide there is a growing niche / tech startup community which I think is refreshing and important to the future of this city, for so long  heavily reliant on either the vanishing manufacturing sector, the illusory and fading mining boom, or the defence sector so often cut at the whim of a government.  High technology must form a core of our economy into the future if we are to remain a vibrant state!  I have become more aware of this since participating in the hackathons, which although a fun activity for myself, often cross-over into the startup community.

Sharing the Load

One discovery I made is AngelList Syndicates, a way of letting small investors pool funds and invest small amounts (say, in the order of $1000-$5000) into high tech startups. This is probably not for the novice investor, but I would not be averse to investing a percentage of my superannuation into this area.  I will be doing quite a bit more research first however, to try and get a better handle on the investment risk, and the impact of Australian superannuation law! I found available information about the many small and non-listed technology companies, largely US based, but also in Australia,  opaque to say the least.

As part my research I am subscribed to a few startup sector  mailing lists, interestingly this has led me to discover quite a few new websites or technology services I would not otherwise have found  about.  I try out a lot of free web apps, but usually skip the paid services because I cant justify the cost at this point.  Sometimes there are trial offers for various services though, and I came across one interesting site, Mattermark, that claimed to track private and startup companies, many of the kind found on AngelList.  I asked some questions about whether it was relevant to my interests in Australia and along the way ended up having email conversation with one of the developers which was actually really pretty cool, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Trial Run

After I accessed the web app, obviously the first thing I did was find the Location menu and switch to Australia :-)

This produced a spreadsheet-like display with companies in rows, and various metrics across the columns. I was quite surprised to recognise several businesses I knew, such as CoinJar, muru-D and other companies I didn’t even realise were Australian, such as Canva. Oddly the NSW Greens were reported as a company despite being a political party.  It seems Mattermark uses in machine learning to aggregate data from multiple feeds, and there were not too many other oddities, so having only one or two out of place entries in such a large database is pretty good.

Companies are initially ranked by ‘Growth Score‘ a term I had to research, and it seems to be a metric combining funding and employee count with social media and downloads, all things I presume are important to measuring a business growth in a period where it might not be producing much revenue as yet.

Another search I tried was ‘Space Travel’, which was provided as one of many possible categories.  This was very interesting to me because I keep coming across new space commercialisation ventures on twitter, but seeing a whole pile of them listed in one place was rather exciting. (As in, the future is finally nearly here!)

In fact there are rather a lot of categories!

I have some screenshots but until I get around to posting them there is a video showing how it might be used by its primary customer base on Youtube.

I regularly canvass LinkedIn for interesting & local technology businesses, for networking opportunities and community event promotion, but that can be hit and miss. I think Mattermark could be a helpful complement to that, although the subscription is too pricey for me in my situation as a hobbyist / small investor.  This would likely be a useful tool for anyone working in the startup services industry or dealing with managing investments but if thats your thing you should probably do your own research and take the trial for a spin rather than relying on my opinion as an amateur.

Now, hopefully I’ll find something to blog about in space technology soon!

 

Sridhar Dhanapalan: Twitter posts: 2015-02-09 to 2015-02-15

Mon, 2015-02-16 00:27

Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 14:28

Felt rather ill after Humbug, I’m assuming it was the sushi place at Sunnybank yesterday.

Catching up on these here diary notes..



Filed under: diary

Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 14:28

My first CoderDojo down at Sunnybank Hills.

I find the connection between shopping centres and libraries rather confusing, for former are loud, commercial and horrible places, very different to the latter.

I think the CoderDojo group went well, with some obvious room for improvement. Don’t try to lecture kids, give them a small, simple instruction and get them doing stuff immediately. One slide, one thing to try. If a kid has interest in a subject, don’t try to teach them something else, and that goes for both parents and teachers.

Have been asked to help with a Python course in the next few weeks..

Humbug later that night, some discussion with Russell around the sponsor prospectus.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 14:28

Early morning walk to work.

A little bit of anatomy work later at The Edge.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 14:28

Early morning walk to work.

Catch up meeting at The Edge, broached the subject of running the PyCon Australia workshops here again.

3D printing induction, which went quite well, except for running out of time. Tinker cad is quite a fun easy tool to get into. I attempted to design a key holder that my key could slide into, it ended up being too short, but the sliding mechanism was perfect.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 14:28

Worky work. There’s a building site across the road from work, and the three jackhammers are *really* starting to get to me. It used to be the case that I could kind of ignore them until later in the day, and only then would they get on my nerves. Now, ten minutes after I get in and I’m grumpy.

A Humbug member organised an OpenBSD hackathon at UQ this week, and tonight they held a few talks about what they’d been working on. Some of it was interesting, just to get an insight of where BSD is. A lot of it was just complaining about other Open Source projects and standards committees not doing things in the correct way. They are trying to do something things to improve the situation, but I still feel like they’re being arrogant about much of it.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 14:28

Waking up in Brisbane again.

After work I organised a bowling night for my birthday. It ended up working out quite well I think, except that the dj outside the venue and the constant music inside bore down on me.



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Matt Palmer: The Vicious Circle of Documentation

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:35

Ever worked at a company (or on a codebase, or whatever) where it seemed like, no matter what the question was, the answer was written down somewhere you could easily find it? Most people haven’t, sadly, but they do exist, and I can assure you that it is an absolute pleasure.

On the other hand, practically everyone has experienced completely undocumented systems and processes, where knowledge is shared by word-of-mouth, or lost every time someone quits.

Why are there so many more undocumented systems than documented ones out there, and how can we cause more well-documented systems to exist? The answer isn’t “people are lazy”, and the solution is simple – though not easy.

Why Johnny Doesn’t Read

When someone needs to know something, they might go look for some documentation, or they might ask someone else or just guess wildly. The behaviour “look for documentation” is often reinforced negatively, by the result “documentation doesn’t exist”.

At the same time, the behaviours “ask someone” and “guess wildly” are positively reinforced, by the results “I get my question answered” and/or “at least I can get on with my work”. Over time, people optimise their behaviour by skipping the “look for documentation” step, and just go straight to asking other people (or guessing wildly).

Why Johnny Doesn’t Write

When someone writes documentation, they’re hoping that people will read it and not have to ask them questions in order to be productive and do the right thing. Hence, the behaviour “write documentation” is negatively reinforced by the results “I still get asked questions”, and “nobody does things the right way around here, dammit!”

Worse, though, is that there is very little positive reinforcement for the author: when someone does read the docs, and thus doesn’t ask a question, the author almost certainly doesn’t know they dodged a bullet. Similarly, when someone does things the right way, it’s unlikely that anyone will notice. It’s only the mistakes that catch the attention.

Given that the experience of writing documentation tends to skew towards the negative, it’s not surprising that eventually, the time spent writing documentation is reallocated to other, more utility-producing activities.

Death Spiral

The combination of these two situations is self-reinforcing. While a suitably motivated reader might start by strictly looking for documentation, or an author initially be enthused to always fully documenting their work, over time the “reflex” will be for readers to just go ask someone, because “there’s never any documentation!”, and for authors to not write documentation because “nobody bothers to read what I write anyway!”.

It is important to recognise that this iterative feedback loop is the “natural state” of the reader/author ecosystem, resulting in something akin to thermodynamic entropy. To avoid the system descending into chaos, energy needs to be constantly applied to keep the system in order.

The Solution

Effective methods for avoiding the vicious circle can be derived from the things that cause it. Change the forces that apply themselves to readers and authors, and they will behave differently.

On the reader’s side, the most effective way to encourage people to read documentation is for it to consistently exist. This means that those in control of a project or system mustn’t consider something “done” until the documentation is in a good state. Patches shouldn’t be landed, and releases shouldn’t be made, unless the documentation is altered to match the functional changes being made. Yes, this requires discipline, which is just a form of energy application to prevent entropic decay.

Writing documentation should be an explicit and well-understood part of somebody’s job description. Whoever is responsible for documentation needs to be given the time to do it properly. Writing well takes time and mental energy, and that time needs to be factored into the plans. Never forget that skimping on documentation, like short-changing QA or customer support, is a false economy that will cost more in the long term than it saves in the short term.

Even if the documentation exists, though, some people are going to tend towards asking people rather than consulting the documentation. This isn’t a moral failing on their part, but only happens when they believe that asking someone is more beneficial to them than going to the documentation. To change the behaviour, you need to change the belief.

You could change the belief by increasing the “cost” of asking. You could fire (or hellban) anyone who ever asks a question that is answered in the documentation. But you shouldn’t. You could yell “RTFM!” at everyone who asks a question. Thankfully that’s one acronym that’s falling out of favour.

Alternately, you can reduce the “cost” of getting the answer from the documentation. Possibly the largest single productivity boost for programmers, for example, has been the existence of Google. Whatever your problem, there’s a pretty good chance that a search or two will find a solution. For your private documentation, you probably don’t have the power of Google available, but decent full-text search systems are available. Use them.

Finally, authors would benefit from more positive reinforcement. If you find good documentation, let the author know! It requires a lot of effort (comparatively) to look up an author’s contact details and send them a nice e-mail. The “like” button is a more low-energy way of achieving a similar outcome – you click the button, and the author gets a warm, fuzzy feeling. If your internal documentation system doesn’t have some way to “close the loop” and let readers easily give authors a bit of kudos, fix it so it does.

Heck, even if authors just know that a page they wrote was loaded N times in the past week, that’s better than the current situation, in which deafening silence persists, punctuated by the occasional plaintive cry of “Hey, do you know how to…?”.

Do you have any other ideas for how to encourage readers to read, and for authors to write?

Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

A very early start for the flight back to Brisbane.

Collapse into bed basically as soon as I get home.



Filed under: diary

Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

Melbourne!

Went to a few of the exhibits that had caught my eye when looking for things to do in Melbourne.

The Walkley photography in journalism exhibit at the State Library of Victoria was a small set of high quality, moving photos.

Spent a large chunk of the day at the National Gallery of Victoria, practically everyone else was there to see some Paul Gaultier fashion thing, while I was there to see Alex Prager who does elaborate photography and film work. I was a little surprised that every exhibit, bar Gaultier, was free, so went through pretty much everything there, history, design, jewellery, art, modern.

A nice long dinner with F followed by a cup of tea at her place with M.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

Melbourne!

Catch up and breakfast with F. Straight after went for a walk with F&M to do a little shopping..and to make sure I got on the right tram for my next appointment.

Coffee and tea and lunch with M followed by a park wedding critique.

Killing some time in a gift store, found a world map covered in scratchy material that you scratch off once you’ve travelled to a place, bought for a Brisbane friend who travels a lot.

Dinner with D&P, then laps of Melbourne looking for a parking spot to grab gelato. Way too many people for me to be comfortable down there.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

Bringing more stuff into work for this evenings Melbourne flight.

Flew to Melbourne, it was kind of hot! I tried to use the several phone apps to figure out the trams, but despite google maps knowing I was in Melbourne, all the apps still thought I was in Brisbane. With help from a local friend got the tram to the hotel.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

Bringing more stuff into work for the Melbourne trip, bus is easier than walking with all that.

Walked home from work.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

Bringing stuff to work for the Melbourne trip.



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Clinton Roy: clintonroy

Sun, 2015-02-15 13:28

Walked to work.

Lunch with a friend at her workplace, bumped into another friend who just started working there :)



Filed under: diary