Vanuatu 2009

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Well, I thought the last trip would be my last to Vanuatu but with the Tec course happening, it seemed like a good idea.

The main issue with this particular dive destination, although its not alone in this problem, is the weight limit getting there and back again. We had a 20kg limit and had to take all our gear in that so its difficuly to say the least. On arriving at the airport, we found out that the dive travel company had not only told us the wrong number (it was 24kg) but they had also neglected to mention that as its a ‘sporting’ trip, we actually could just ask for and get a limit of 30kg. the 25kg I had therefore was not going to cost me anything as I had expected.

In the ‘Olden’ days, we flew on very small planes that had serious weight limits, these days however, the plane is a 737-800 all the say to Santo so I think its far easier for them to be flexable.

On arrival in Santo, as always, we were keen to get diving. I had a Hollis HTS harness and a single 65lb wing to use with twins so we had to go over the road to setup our gear with the dive operator. I had pre-reserved a pair of 300bar DIN tanks with bands so it was quite an easy excercise.  The diving was a little colder this year (26 degrees) where on other trips we had been 28 but its still fantastic compared to local diving tempratures.

Its strange that after a few days, ‘Island Time’ starts to operate and as easy as the diving is, you start to get lazy and not do every dive. As the dives are also long and deep, its nice to have some time out of the water to make sure you are diving withing your nitrogen limits.

As recently as four years ago, when I was in Santo last, the usual pattern was Wake, Eat, Dive, Reset Gear, Eat, Dive, Reset Gear, Eat, Sleep. The ‘Reset Gear’ was something that had to be done at the end of every dive and included things such as re-charge torches, re-charge cameras, download photos, then re-pack silica gel into the camera housing etc ready for the next dive. This trip however, with just a few years difference, its so much easier. The camera has enough storage for 3k photos, the batteries in the camera, last charged in townsville on the motorcycle trip a year ago, lasted well past half way through the trip before needing to be recharged again, and the torch, filled with 3 ‘C’ batteries, lasted the whole trip. The batteries at the end were donated to the dive operator as they were still virtually full as they have trouble getting decent batteries over there. The torch, incase anyone cares, was a Hollis 3×3 and is fantastic.

This trip was also the first real dives with my new Uwatec SOL computer. What a brilliant machine that is. As typical with Uwatec, the transmitters are not the best (I had a dive where one interfeared with the other and I had no SPG at all) but when they work the interface on the computer is great. I wish someone would make a Uwatec computer with all the information it provides, with the algorithm it uses, with an Oceanic transmitter system.

Every dive I had 2 computers (and extra depth/time piece) and apart from a single dive, they worked beautifully. The new PDIS (Profile Dependant Intermediate Stops) and the micro bubble radius consertive limits were great and I never once felt close to the limits of what we should be doing. Even on the last dive, when after about 13 mins at 45 metres we were heading back when another group silted out our exit, we had to go another way racking another 10 mins at depth, the computer of course did what its designed to do, calculate the required decompression because it was unplanned. I had over an hour decompression to do on that dive. I wouldn’t like to have to calculate the required decompression on that dive with tables. That dive alone justified the cost of the computers.

Santo has also change a lot this trip, last time, getting on the net was difficult at best but this time, theres lots of wi-fi available in the town and while its still slow (seems like shared dialup speed) its better than nothing. I probably checked things too much but its nice to know that everythings under control at home. Internet via the mobile phone network is still non-existant which is probably a good thing as it would be expensive anyway.

So, overall, I’m very glad I went. Its relaxing and amazingly easy to get some great diving in.

Asterisk, Digium and dCAP

I haven’t blogged that much lately as I have been struggling to keep up with the workload I have.

I thought I should however, let you know about a new certification available from Digium.

Digium are the people that create Asterisk. Its an open source telephony system we have been using at work for some years now and I have done quite a lot of customisations with it.

I thought I should try to get more real world customers and jobs with this technology rather than just setup my own systems and therefore wanted to get certified.

So, after a week in Melbourne, which only covers a small amount of the content in the exams, I am now a Digium Certified Asterisk Professional (dCAP #1360)

Just thought I would post something :-)

Driving

Yesterday was a long day. Kids woke up early so we decided to get going. We left the house at 3am and headed north. In total, it took 14hours (incliuding 2 hours combined of stops). Its not so bad but its not over once you arrive. Then its the shopping etc.

On getting into the room, I had to setup the wireless internet access (had to use Optus as 3 network sucks here) and re-configure the 3 laptops to use it. The kids have to share one but I think having 4 laptops here would be overkill. It is a holiday afterall.

So, with 3 laptops, 2 iphones, 1 ipod touch, 2 ipod shuffles, 2 nintendo DS, 1 wifi 3G router and an amazon kindle 2 we seem ready to be on holiday.

Its morning now, Christy is still asleep, each of us has his/her face buried in a laptop adn the TV on in the background I’m about to show Amy how she can use google chat with me so we can at least communicate while on the couch.

Some things I’ve learned about dancing

Well, anyone could tell you that I’m not a dancer but I do, once a year, shoot the kids dance concert. I’ve done it two years in a row now and wanted to write down the things I’ve learned (twice now) so that I don’t need to re-learn them next year.

Firstly, when shooting, I was using four cameras (and had a friend also shooting). The order of the rehersal (I can only shoot the final dress rehersal) is different from the main show as they like to get the little kids home to bed earlier.

The show night program therefore is useless in working out what each photo was of. So, heres the new rules.

1. Syncronise all the clocks on all the cameras. that way all shots ordered by time taken will be of the same things.
2. Have a video camera shooting all of it (all 5+ hours) so that you can match the photos with the music and be able to put them in the correct categories. The video camera should also have the time code put on the screen and have it also synchronised.
This year, I had a pre-release copy of the show DVD’s available but the order made it difficult to match up. Also, during rehersal, there were some items repeated which was confusing looking at the photos.

The Lighting really sucked and was mostly too dark to shoot at fast enough speeds to make it blur free. I shot manual at about 1/500 on iso 1600 and tried to shoot at f2.8 for most of the single person shots and about 5.6 for group shots (to get some DOF back)

Also, as about 4000 photos were taken on the night, only JPG images were recorded to save time and space. of these about 3200 were available to the parents etc so thats quite a good ‘keeper’ percentage.

This year was also the first year that I wandered around on stage to shoot. I was waiting to be told to get off as I was in the way but it didn’t happen. It also allowed me to get some better angles I think.

Anyway, as always, this post is more for me to read next year rather than for others to get much benefit from but I hope you enjoyed it :-)

heres a small selection of shots that I liked for some reason or other.

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What the hell are we doing

Yesterday, I was at the inlaws house for a pre-christmas lunch where we meet up with friends that we haven’t seen for a while. normally its quite nice and the company was certainly great but just before lunch, we had bonbons that mother in law always buys. Apart from the packaging, shipping and unnecessary expense, theres always the ‘toy’ which is almost but not quite entirely useless and unwanted but this year had a special treat. Instead of a indulgent bang you normally get, this year they had plastic boxes about the size of matchboxes installed. then the cracker was pulled, plastic tabs were removed from it and it played a song for about 30 seconds. Thats it. Its clearly designed for a single use as theres no way to re-set it. I had to pull one apart to see what was inside, and discovered a coin battery, small IC and speaker, all packaged and assembled in china and shipped over in plastic and paper for a 30 second song.

These batteries alone contain heavy metals and corosive materials, the speakers of course had magnets etc in them and all this for a 30 second song.

I couldn’t think of a single thing these could be used for (although we could at least play the song again once I worked out how to reset them. once the contacts were closed on the device, the IC stays running and using power even once the song has finished.

This seems to me, to one of those things that in 100 years time, we (ok not us, but someone) will look back and look at the sort of things we do, like christmas lights, and wonder what the hell we were thinking to decide that was a good idea.

Linda, on hearing my amazement, said that they must be ok for the environment as they clearly had to pass a standard to be allowed to be sold didn’t they ?

Maybe we should have such standards. It seems the only thing stopping items like this being sold are people thinking and doing some research on whats in them and thats really too much to ask of people with lives to lead. We need some standards or at least an easy way of knowing whats good and bad to buy.