About

Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

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Friday, 17 October 2014, 15:38

A sprung spring

Obviously pruned at the right time of year this time. Also got rid of most of the black spot, but not all.

One way ...

The other way ...

The biggest of the lot (bit past it's prime, and doesn't get enough sun, but wow getta load of the size of that).

And that's only half of them. About half of the total are scented and 'smelling roses'. The blurry purple one at the back of the first shot has a rich musk scent and there's a couple more of those.

I can't take credit for the choice of cultivars as they came with the house when I bought it, but one tries to keep them in shape and so far this year they're doing rather well. I did kill one last year but i think it was wild stock and not much to worry about.

Tagged horticulture, house.
Monday, 14 July 2014, 12:35

kettle + bucket

Hmm, no wonder my gas bill has always been high, and rising to stupid levels. Big gas leak :-/ Well plumber came, checked, turned it off. Given the volume of the leak i'm surprised I couldn't smell it more but it's underground in a steel pipe.

I've been thinking of getting solar hot water so maybe it's time to finally do that but I just don't want to have to sort anything out right now (i.e. my life; the story so far).

Perhaps cold showers will get me thinking faster. Although it's not bloody likely i'll have any of those; middle of winter and just washing your hands in cold water is ... well cold. Last time I had a hot-water problem was also in the middle of winter and it was an electric kettle and a bucket for a while (I was just about to sell the house and it needed a lot of renovation so getting it replaced wasn't worth it).

Tagged biographical, house.
Thursday, 06 March 2014, 15:04

cheapo amp

After i blew my AVR/amp a few months ago i've just been using my tv to play music. It's got a screen-off mode but yeah it's not ideal - particularly with the standby power saving thingo that turns it off after a few hours because it's not drawing enough power to indicate it's on.

That amp was about $2K so this time I thought i'd go all cheap and buy what I presume is a d-class amp just to see how it works. I was going to buy a PCB module to play with but I know i'll never have the time to case it properly. I find amplifier technology pretty interesting from a technical perspective and digital amps in particular (the way they work and their efficiency).

I got one of these. FWIW I don't think i'll use "audirect" again to order anything, it just seems to get lost in deal-extreme's ordering system which is still just in china anyway. Actually I was a bit drunk when I ordered it so I got 2 (well I have a 4 speakers + a centre) and the second is the model with the usb input mp3 player which hasn't arrived yet. Yeah I don't know what I was thinking with that, but maybe it'll come in handy or at least doesn't affect the amp part if I plug it into something else.

Anyway ... yeah it's tiny - it's not as deep as a DVD case is wide either. It's about the same size as my mele. It came with a small laptop power brick that's about the same size as the one for my thinkpad. It's marked 19v @ 3.42A so that's a 65W PSU which is clearly not enough for "100W" no matter what ohmmage the speakers are! Probably the spec of the amp chip I guess. Still amp power has always been fraudulently advertised so there's no surprise here.

My VAF speakers although a bit long in the tooth are pretty sensitive so it puts out enough volume for a suburban house and I managed to burn one out with my old amp so i don't really want too much anyway. I've got it plugged into the mele and am using it as an internet radio player for the moment. I tried it plugged it into the tv monitor output but for some stupid reason the tv sends the signal after it has been through the volume control so it wasn't any good as a line-out (maybe i had the wrong output, it's hard to get to). I didn't try the headphone output.

I haven't run it very loud for very long but I had it running for a few hours yesterday at about as loud as I might want it while working. After that the box itself was stone cold although the PSU was only a little warm (much cooler than my thinkpad) so I guess it wasn't using many watts.

I'm sure the sound isn't going to win any audiophiles over but i'm not sure their opinion is worth much either. It's more bassy than my old amp which isn't a bad thing although it seems a bit harsh in the mid frequencies when I turn it up, but loud things are harsh so it's hard to tell what's to blame. Could also just be the signal, mp3 artifacts becoming audible, tired speakers, or just the gyprock box of a room it's in.

Not sure i'd recommend it to anyone else but for now it saves me having to get something better and i had a reasonable idea what i was getting.

I just got a mail about my contract restarting soon. Well to be honest I was getting a bit bored with life as a 'man of leisure' but that doesn't mean I wanted it to end either. But I suppose that crust wont earn itself. Good reason to get away from this thing for a bit and get out into the fantastic autumn weather we've been having anyway. Off to buy a new bike tyre and then find some cold beer.

PS I just read the back of the box. One of the better* engrish translations I've read in a while.

  Products  throughout  the  sound  system  components  using  the United  States imported
  high precision components, static,  dynamic  output digital audio  signal  waveform  is
  ideal, the  sound  is really beautiful!Digital power amplifier, sound, very resistant to
  high  and low frequency balance,  control force quite amazing,  sweet voice soft, medium
  thick warm, low frequency driving, high frequency resolution is very high and the soft
  linear flavor, the sound very melodious, very resistant to. Listen to the modern style
  of music performance is very outstanding also does not appear harsh, just feel  very clear
  transparent, maintain one's original pure character. Listen to  the violin to restore enough
  soft enough soft, let tweedle to maintain a proper and just bright luster, but also can be
  the powerful piano keystroke behaved most in cisive,  great sense of shock; listen to  the
  orchestral music with various  musical instruments to further improve the texture,  can
  exhibit a  woodwind instrument  soft delicate texture,  also can let a  brass instrum ent the
  sound  become more and more high and clear. With high sensitivity to sound better!  Playing
  soprano light, sweet moisture, melodious sound,  very resistant to. Application: automotive,
  mobile advertising, clothing store,  barber shop, recreation, library, business super,  home
  theater,  factory workshop,  compact, simple,  high-quality  sound system  solutions, etc..Can
  external audio input.  you can connect the computer, mobile phone, CD, VCD, DVD, MP3 digital
  audio signal input......

Spacing as in the original but formatted for screen.

* worse.

Update: Just has the other one delivered. At first I couldn't seem to get any sound out of it ... but it turns out that it just isn't very loud - nothing comes out until you're about 50% position. It also uses small press connectors rather than banana plugs - I really should've looked at the pictures when I ordered.

It uses a different PSU too - 4A @ 12V (48W). Other differences are that the volume is also a power knob - although it's got a pretty nasty speaker-pop when you turn it off. The pots are a bit more greased up so they feel a bit more solid to touch which whilst cosmetic does make a difference. Has bass and treble (why?). The input selector toggle on the back seems to be mounted backwards but that is neither here nor there. The USB port is in an inconvenient place relative to the buttons. Might have to get one of those super-short USB memory sticks.

Verdict: The one with the mp3 player isn't worth it as I kinda suspected once I sobered up. Not really loud enough, mp3 player is a tricky because of the button locations and the speaker pop-off is not good.

I guess I lucked out a bit on that one. Still better than the shitty pc speakers or music-angels i've been using so I it's not a total waste.

Update 2: Ok I tried the remote. You can get a (tiny) little bit more volume out of it. And it's got an 'EQ' button which makes the bass/treble knobs redundant (i.e. where the usb port should have been). And a standby mode which stops blowing your speakers with the pop-off thing. I was gonna move my rears into the kitchen/dining area (approx rectilinear 7.5mx6mx3m room with an internal passage-way to the dunny) so it should more than suffice for my purposes and being in the same room means i don't need so much volume anyway. I suppose it's about as loud as I might listen to music whilst working (enough to drown out everything outside from trucks to chainsaws) but not loud enough to dance to (although perhaps the less said about that the better). Should do well with some wine and good mates.

Still probably wouldn't recommend since there are better ways to get sound into speakers than a usb port (e.g. phone, tablet, music player, pc, tv - maybe i can find a use for a spare beagleboard). But i'm happy enough with the bare-bones approach of other one so far.

Tagged house.
Monday, 11 February 2013, 18:17

Hanger for Pots & Pans

Got sick of shovelling dirt - and besides I finished most of the hard stuff and need the electrician before progressing - so I thought i'd hack up a hanger for my pots and pans and get them out of the draws and cupboards they're choking up at present. Yep, a bit of physical hacking ...

It's something i've been meaning to do for a while - I had some salvaged jarrah which came up something wonderful with a bit of a plane and a sand down, and finished with linseed oil. I kept the design 'simple/modern', and just put a chamfer around the whole piece, there is a larger chamfer in the mid-section which is a rough attempt at hiding a piece missing from one side (it didn't completely remove it and it can been seen in the second shot, but it reached the limit of my tools). It's not very visible so not very important. In general I could've finished it a good bit better but a bit of lived-in rusticity just adds to the charm.

The hooks and chain cost about $50 - mostly from the ceiling hooks which are stainless steel (~24$ for all 4), but otherwise it was just a bit of elbow grease. This old jarrah is almost as hard as steel but luckily I didn't have to do much to it. Trying to locate the beams in the ceiling was a bit tricky and trying to measure square to the walls didn't work - the window end came through right on the edge instead of the middle. At least I know those are in the middle of the beams but i'm not sure about the other end. The anchor points are further away from the centre than I would have liked but I didn't have much choice for stability vs length.

I estimate the total weight is around the 30kg mark - pretty hefty but apart from some initial anxiety I don't think there should be any trouble with it holding up even if it is only anchored in pine. I was worried at first that it would cast too much shadow from the down-lights, but as it sits toward the rear of the kitchen bench it isn't a problem. Same with respect to head-clangers.

It's just under 2m long, and mostly over the sink anyway.

All in all, i'm "well pleased"[sic] with the result. The oil turned the wood from a deep brown-red to a dark chocolate, which works particularly well with the brass plated fittings.

Now I probably need something for the lids ...

But for now my next project is a toe^H^H^Hbiltong cutter, and I think I came up with a cheap and easy-to-procure source for the cutting blade (vs a bench plane blade, which rusts anyway). More on that when i've got it sorted.

It wasn't the only thing i've been up to, I filled all my bottles with homebrew (4x worts), did a batch of biltong, and did some work on one of the gutters today. I really should've written down the second spice mix recipe for the biltong because it's really tasty! From memory the differences were black pepper, pimento (all-spice), fennel seeds, and i'm not sure if coriander came along too. I'm still making some of it a bit too salty (i'm kind of mixing up various recipes on the net but I think i've worked it out for the next lot), although it goes very well with beer ...

Tagged hacking, house.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013, 14:24

Short hacking break

Finally got into some house stuff so have had a break from hacking. I'd hit a few 'milestones' anyway and thought it time for a decent break from it whilst i'm still on leave. Haven't been particularly interested in reading much net or watching much tv either.

Been fairly busy - cleared some overgrowth, did some downpipes, adjusted my suit trousers for a funeral (after 15 years and that adjustment, the suit still fits), got some road-base and barrow-ed it around the house, bought some pavers, ... That and a few other things should keep me busy for a few weeks.

Tagged biographical, house.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012, 11:03

Dishwasher

So the dishwasher that came with the house finally died: I've hardly ever used it. It's been flakey for ages and I've mostly been waiting for it to die so I can replace it with one that cleans properly and uses less water so I can actually use the thing. Not that I would even bother with a dishwasher myself if it wasn't there, but well i'm getting lazy and the rest of the house seems to waste a lot of water doing dishes. It washes glasses well too.

I think it's only a solenoid gone; if I add water into the sump it pumps it down the drain so the pump works. Or maybe it's the logic board: it runs for half an hour with no water in it and sits there blinking at me.

Ahh decisions. I spent hours very late last night (for some reason I wasn't tired), trying to work out what to get. Money isn't an issue: but I don't like getting ripped off either. I've a Miele washing machine and plenty of people swear by those for dishwashers too but they do seem a bit pricey. But then there's Asko and Bosch too ...

I'm thinking the latest Asko at the moment, but I guess I should try and find somewhere that sells most of them so I can have a look. Unfortunately the big-box retailers are miles away and mostly in people-unfriendly strip-malls; or they're so fucked I'll never return to them (Radio Rentals, Main North Road: unfriendly shop design, with one-way doors and no staff, Spartan Electrical, Henly Beach Road: fuckwit salesman when I was after a stick blender I knew I could get $15 cheaper 5 minutes away by bicycle).

So it could be a long purchasing cycle: waiting until I could be bothered to make the long trek to a shop, hoping they have the ones i'm interested to look at, and putting up with being treated like shit by salesmen who will say anything to sell. Or getting fed up and going on-line again with a sight-unseen buy.

Hmm, maybe i'll poke around the back of the one I have ...

Update: Well the back-look was worth it. Apart from finding the remains of a mouse and nest - which explains at least one of the weird smells in the kitchen over the years - I gave up and shoved it all back together (in a rather slap-shod not-caring kind of way so now the door's a bit stiff). And now it's taking in water ok, will have to see how the full load of glasses and jars I wanted to clean goes. Either I jolted something in the process or it was just the act of re-seating the solenoid connector ...Update: Ahh fuck it, it wasn't that: it just keeps puming for 10 minutes after the initial spray, and eventually times out. Water sensor must be out. Something for another day.

Tagged house.
Sunday, 26 June 2011, 11:15

Stuff

Been pretty lazy this week - I seemed to spend too much time reading a few sites I frequent from time to time, mostly about the GFC and some of the local political-media clown-show (they are no longer separate entities). But the picture they paint of the world is pretty bleak so it's really all just a bit of a downer; although i'm not sure if it's just the reading that gets me down or feeling a bit flat in the first place that tends to drive me toward reading it.

So no spare-time hacking this week. I did however prune back the golden rain tree in the back yard yesterday - and given we had a couple of days of sunlight I even got a little red in the face. Always nice to get some sunshine in the middle of winter even when such days are few and far between. I also made that lime cordial last week.

For work i'm hitting some big performance problems on the target platform - partly because I think the customer has some unrealistic expectations, and partly because I didn't do enough research at the time on card performance, or they just weren't up to scratch. Oh well. I presume it's something to do with the EOFY purchase dash as well but buying new hardware has come up as a possible solution. Fortunately things have moved a bit since then so at least buying new hardware should be a big help although it wont solve everything.

I'm also pushing for AMD hardware this time - although the Nvidia hardware has been ok as far as that goes, they've obviously given up on OpenCL (no released 1.1 driver, and their opencl 'zone' hasn't changed in a year) and it doesn't seem like a company that wants my money or deserves any support (even the forums are pretty quiet so it seems i'm not alone - we all get the hint). Expanding ones experience and educating yourself about the alternatives is always a good thing too.

By coincidence AMD just had some marketing event about their heterogeneous computing plans, and Anandtech has a really interesting article on where AMD are going with their GPU/CPU architecture. Looks quite promising, although i'd really like to see a bump in local-store size. Although there is certainly enough there to be useful it is still a bottleneck, and with even more parallelism possible due to the design, the limited global bandwidth will only become more of a bottleneck.

Pity it's still a way off, because a change in architecture of that magnitude will require a different approach for performance, although in general it looks like it will be easier and it will also map well to OpenCL.

Tagged biographical, house, opencl.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011, 09:29

A house full of stuff

Stuff stuff everywhere - it's amazing how much stuff one accumulates over the years, even for someone like me who detests shopping.

After being a bit of a shut-in for a few weeks just doing nothing or poking away at the back yard i've been trundling about on the deadly treadly trying to procure a few more items.

First I was after a West Indian Lime (although I have since discovered that the 'Sublime' my sister in law gave me is basically the same). Unfortunately the closest nursery had none. Neither did the next closest (it was stupidly expensive anyway). So a bit of a hike to the next one - Bunnings at Mile End. Gigantic shop. Gigantic nursery. Not a single fruiting lime tree in their stock. Plenty of grapefruit. I mean who buys grapefruit any more? And fucking greeters and grumpy old ladies as checkout chicks. At least the greeters are hidden behind a 'desk' now, and not assaulting you as you enter the shop. I try to avoid Bunnings but I thought with their super-sized-shop they might at least have some. But once again they've demonstrated they have quantity of quality or range - I found another local hardware store anyway so hopefully that's the last time I ever have to go there. So the last place I could think of was in Beulah Park on the other side of the city across the road from where I used to live. Fortunately they had plenty of lime trees - and hot checkout chicks too. And their prices were even a fair bit cheaper. I bought a couple of tall ones (one for my sister) and rode home with two tree-flags flapping in the draft. Pannier bags are awesome. Now I have to work out where to put it.

That, and making some tomato sauce pretty much did the whole day in.

So the next day I set out to get another PlayTV (for a mythtv instance - only because I know for certain it works well with the computer, the TinyTwin TV tuner I am using currently is a bit crappy) and a chest freezer. I first went to Radio Rentals because it's close. But my patience was already tried somewhat - I got pissed off with the lack of freezers (they had 2 on display), the lack of staff in the giant shop - and the bizarre one-way doors. You go in the front and have exit out the back. I jogged through the isles to get out just to make the point how silly it was.

Next stop was Hardly Normals, or so I thought. I don't like shopping there (or shopping in general) but it was worth a comparison since it wasn't too far away. Unfortunately I had forgotten they closed the one I was headed to and moved it another 5km up the road to a disgustingly giant strip mall. Well to put it bluntly - fuck that, how do they expect people to shop there if you have to travel 10km each way just to get looked at funny and treated poorly? On the way i'd dropped by tricky dickies to see the price on the PlayTV but didn't get one thinking I could try to 'deal' with Hardly Normals to get both, but the lack of shop put a dent in that idea and then I was so pissed off I forgot about it.

I decided to head to the other side of town instead since I know of a few shops that way - but since I was going past home I stopped to look up other shops on the internets and to cut a long story short decided to really 'fuck that', and just bought it online. Last time I bought something just up the road they wanted $50 or more for delivery anyway, with no indication of when it might arrive other than the day (i'm often home but i don't like being tied home unnecessarily). I ordered this from Sydney, $130 below retail, $40 delivery and within 5 hours someone had called to say it would arrive between 11 and 2 the next day (obviously it isn't coming from Sydney). Assuming it arrives that was a much easier experience.

On the plus side I discovered an independent hardware store on the way home - and one somewhat closer too. That'll give me another option when I want to avoid Bunnings. Although the manager warned me not to leave my bike outside for the thieves which frequent the area - unfortunately I missed the opportunity to suggest a bike rail which are sorely lacking in almost all of Prospect (so much for their 'sustainable vision') - there isn't even any parking control signs to lock your bike to ...

So on Sunday I also made up a batch of Tomato sauce. I'm fairly happy the way it turned out although I probably should've reduced it a little more as it is a touch runny. But in the end I simply lost patience after cooking and simmering for more than 6 hours, and it should do. I couldn't find the recipe I used last time and since I had a bottle of Ezy-Sauce I'd bought more than 5 years ago I thought it was about time I used that. There's a recipe on taste.com.au as 'Grandma's Tomato Sauce' but it's really just the same as the one on the bottle so I followed that instead. Unfortunately I forgot to shake the bottle before opening it so I stuffed it up a bit, but I made it up with a few more crushed cloves, black pepper and a huge pile of chillies. It's got a nice little kick to it although perhaps a bit sweet for my taste. I don't even use it much myself but it is absolutely scrumptious on a bit of burnt snag in a fresh slice of bread and perfect for hot dogs - so the 4.5L I made should do me for a while.

I'm also a couple of weeks into making some fermented 'tobasco' sauce. I have some 'Cayesan' chillies which have gone ballistic and the chillies were so heavy one of the branches broke off. I didn't even pick all of them off (I managed to save the branch by tying it up) and ended up with about 750g of green chillies. Ideally i'd use red ones but since I had a whole lot of fresh chillies at once I thought i'd see how a green version of the fermented sauce works out. Still a few weeks left on that. Now the Cayesan's are starting to ripen I'm getting a few red ones each day and waiting till I get enough to make something with.

My habanero plants are starting to produce fruit at last too. They taste fantastic as always - I put a couple of green ones in the tomato sauce, I love the almost apple-like sweetness followed by the searing heat. I only just finished the last of the big crop I had 2 years ago and I finally have some in the ground rather than just in pots so I'm hoping for a crap-load again. Although i've had the occasional problems with pests on the ones in pots in general the pests have been under control better this year, and that's perhaps because i'm growing a bigger variety of stuff and it's all a bit healthier with all the rain we've had.

I've finally levelled off the lawn at the back and well on the way to having it full of lush grass. After 3 odd years of having piles of crap, dirt, and general mess it's a relief to have it almost done. It's a pity I don't have a bit more room for horticulture but I think I have the balance about right given the layout of the yard. There's always pots I guess - but I have heaps of those already and they take a lot more work and the plants usually don't grow as well.

Oh, I got my BeagleBoard polo shirt and Beagleboard-XM yesterday evening, at long last - a bonus from working on GSOC 2010. That took a while to arrive. I haven't got it working yet because it uses a different gender for serial cable and I don't have the right PSU and all my cables are in a box behind other boxes, but hopefully i'll get it working soon. It looks like a tidy little unit anyway. I've barely been touching the computer for the last few weeks other than to read a few blogs and keep up with the news (there's been a lot of it lately), but hey, it's summer so that stuff can wait for the long rainy days of winter.

Tagged biographical, horticulture, house, rants.
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