Outside either end of the tiny town of Glendambo, South Australia, is a sign that includes population figures for people, animals, and then some millions of flies. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been through this town twice now, spending the night the first, and we didn’t manage to get a photo of this sign. I did manage to take some great long-exposure night shots though:
Anyway, back to the flies… they weren’t kidding. Growing up in Australia, I’d never really had too much of a problem with flies – they’re annoying, sure, but you get used to them. Central Australia breeds a completely different type of fly. They’re vicious, climbing into your nose if you stand still for even a second.
On the trip back through, we stopped for fuel again and Duncan looked around, noticing we’d parked in the same exact spot as the day before, and asked quizzically “Where’s Poppy?” It was a little bit heart-breaking, that he didn’t understand the concept of adults having to leave to work. Unlike the day before, we weren’t stopping the night. No time to break out the outdoor furniture and set up camp – Before he knew it we were off again, making the last part of our precarious trek across mobile-service-barren lands in a van that could seemingly die at any minute, before returning to the waiting bosom of civilization.
Coober Pedy is a place that’s always intrigued me, but until recently I’d never actually set foot in the entire state of South Australia. Pretty pathetic considering I grew up the son of a Truck driver, when you think about it.
Primarily known for being the source of much of the world’s Opals, Coober Pedy’s also intriguing because of the sheer number of buildings that are built into the hills. I’ve long toyed with the idea, simply because being underground protects you from the effects of the weather to a huge extent, and this place is pretty much built around the idea.
We blew right by it on the way up, so there wasn’t much to see. On the way back, since we were coming back empty, we decided to stop and take a look around, despite the fact the van’s playing up. It’s a sight to see, I’ll say that much… Take one of the local churches for example:
I’m not religious in any shape way or form, but even this little church was quite moving really. It was almost eerily quiet being underground.
Some parts of the town are not as interesting – there’s quite a bit more conventional housing than I’d expected, some mobile homes, along with what can only be described as an over-representation of slums for such a tiny town.
At the moment I’m in absolutely no hurry to go back, but I’m not sure how much of that just might be the fact that the van threatened to leave us stranded there.
We’ve now officially set foot in Australia’s Northern Territory, albeit only a few kilometres over the border. Duncan probably won’t remember this:
The night before we left we were up until 2am getting Dad’s ute ready for it’s maiden voyage: we were to be the rear pilot and Dad the front. We had a sign to put on, flashing lights to wire up, and a metal bunk bed and kitchen to install. It was worth it in the end, Dad made some money with us and Duncan really appreciated having his Poppy on the trip with him.
The trek up and back was a little nail biting: the Transit’s been playing up. We ended up stopped at Marla for the night, simply because it had phone and internet service.
It’s not like I have to think very hard for gifts for Mothers Day 2012. Sabriena has made it abundantly clear that she would very much like a Kindle. She originally wanted the Kindle Fire – good luck. We’re starting to do a lot better financially, but that’s still a ton of money on a toy. She’s now decided she’d much prefer the battery life and readability of an e-Paper Kindle.
I don’t really know why she wants one so bad, because she’s mentioned multiple times about her chronic inability to read in the car without getting sick. Considering that pretty much all we do is drive different places, I’m really puzzled by the usefulness of such a device – but if it makes her happy, we’ll have to look at getting one soon.
So that’s that taken care of, all I’d need to work out is what the heck I’m going to get my Mum.
CSIRO Parkes is a not-insignificant part of the Australia’s contribution to the astronomical sciences, and while I’m not near as well-versed on space-related stuff as I’d like to be, the geek in me still digs things like this. Plus, it’s a friggin’ big dish.
When you drive past it on the Newell Highway, you can see it from quite a fair distance away, but you really don’t comprehend just how big this thing is. Standing next to it is another thing entirely. Here’s a shot from the road leading up to it (they actually have a spot you can pull off the road to take a photo):
… and here’s a shot standing next to it:
Now the aspect is still a little wrong, so I’ll just point out that the white building on the right that looks like a spaceship lander is actually the old radio housing that sits up at the top of the middle of the dish. The thing’s enormous and really quite impressive. The free part of the museum is quite interesting as well, but we didn’t stay too long. Apparently there are shows and things you can go to that are even better.
On our way back from dropping off a load in northern NSW, we ended up spending the night in a town called Muswellbrook. I looked around for a more secluded spot than the initial rest area on the northern side of the town, right next to the highway. A friend of ours suggested the football field, because the toilets should be open all the time and it’s set back away from the highway – but when we finally tracked the thing down, it turns out they were ripping up all the car park so we couldn’t stop there.
There’s apparently another one 1KM off the main highway on the north side of town, but after crossing a rickety one-lane bridge and driving around for a while we couldn’t find it. We ended up going back to the first rest stop we saw and spending the night. The next morning we woke up to find that there was actually a Viet Nam memorial there.
It turns out there was actually a J. Fraser who lost his life in Viet Nam – I’m not sure if he’s any distant relation to us or not, the Fraser name is so ridiculously prominent in people of Scottish descent that it’s probably not very likely. Apparently he died after triggering a captured mine (the ones that jump in the air like Casablanca ceiling fans), using his body to smother the blast to minimize casualties. I wasn’t actually aware of that sort of stuff ever happening outside of movies, but there you go.
After a couple weeks of stuffing around with Telstra not liking the fact that I’ve got zero history with them (having lived in the US for 12 years until just recently), I finally managed to get a hold of a 4G hotspot through Bigpond. While I have several friends who loathe Telstra, they really were the only option for what I want to do – travel frequently up the guts of Australia and still have internet access as much as possible.
My experience with it thus far has actually been quite grand. The speeds are pretty excellent: I’ve pretty much never had faster than 6mbps ADSL, so of course the 12mbps down and 1.2mbps upstream I’ve averaged outside of the LTE service areas is going to seem awesome.
After taking almost an hour on the phone to activate the bastard, the device has pretty much functioned exactly the way it’s supposed to. I turn it on, open my laptop, and I have internet access (a few dead spots like central Australia notwithstanding). I plan on picking up an external antenna for it, and I may look at getting a Yagi (the ones that look like decorative coat racks as opposed to rods) as well if I can find or make an Android application that tracks Telstra towers and points at them for you.
I don’t think I’ve made any secret of the fact that the #1 thing I want to do with my professional life is MumbleDog, but it’s just not making the sort of money our growing family needs to accomplish the things we wanted to do. We came out to Australia to visit, but I always had the idea that I could pick up a part-time job to make a bit of extra cash (considering that minimum wage in Australia is so high, and the AUD to USD rate is so ridiculous) to pour back into MumbleDog to make it grow better.
Well I did that for a while, then my Dad ended up getting about ready to quit the job he had for health reasons. He was driving an escort vehicle for wide loads, and the owner of the van simply wanted him to put on more miles than he really wanted to do. An idea flashed through my mind, which I then ran by Sabriena… what if we did it instead?
It’s turned out pretty great – it’ll be a little while before I can get accredited so I can do the really big stuff, but we’ve been doing a couple of trips and it’s basically a way for us to get paid to see some of this awesome country.
It’s a pretty easy job too – basically a lot of talking on the CB and occasionally closing a bridge down (because unless the truck driver, sitting in front of several tons of momentum watches out for cars going over a bridge, he might just take someone’s roof off and then he’s in trouble), but mostly just driving for hours on end. We have to organize some sort of remote internet connection, because I can see that working from my phone is going to get extremely tiresome, but other than that it’s been pretty fantastic and I’m really enjoying it (and it doesn’t get in the way of MumbleDog to boot).
If it’s not immediately obvious from reading any of my websites, I’m a FreeBSD guy. It’s just comfortable: I’ve been a FreeBSD user since the late 90s, and I just know my way around it. Despite using various Linux flavors here and there throughout my life, they always feel slightly alien to me.
That said, for what we do at MumbleDog, FreeBSD has proven to be a liability at times. Sometimes it feels like I’m about the only maintainer of Murmur on FreeBSD (though that’s obviously not actually the case), and there are quite a few issues that have been “well, it’s fixed on Linux” that I’ve had to go and battle with myself. It just seems like a whole lot of work, so I decided to give Linux another shot.
Playing with a few VMs for test machines, I also decided to take the opportunity to give puppet a go as well. After much messing around and documentation reading, I’ve successfully managed to set up a build box, where I build a custom package for murmur and mutter, which I then push across to an apt repository, then build and sign a “Release”, before telling puppet to install it.
I’ve just finished with it, and I haven’t actually tested it from a blank VM, but I think I’m a couple of scripts away from having a “click here to add a new Mumble server” setup.
To my darling wife Sabriena, there are very few things more horrifying than a family reunion – her family is very tight-knight and almost don’t speak to any of her extended family for one reason or another. Due to requests though, Mum organized a “little” family get-together down in the teeny tiny town of Bayles (because it’s close to where my Grandmother lives).
All in all, I think about 40 people showed up and it was quite a surreal experience. A few of my cousins haven’t changed much from how I remember them – mostly the older ones, along with aunts and uncles and so on. It was quite mind-blowing to meet kids like “baby taylor“, who was about Duncan’s age when I left and is now a teenager.
Most of the kids spent the day bashing on the old upright piano that was in the hall we rented, which made conversation a little difficult depending on where you were standing (and one managed to get their hand stuck in the keyboard cover) but other than that and the sweltering humidity everything was great.
It took Duncan a bit, but he opened up quite well and was running around by the end of it all. We took the camera, but managed to leave it in the car all day which was a little bit silly, so there’s no photos of the occasion. It wasn’t as traumatic as we thought it’d be either.