World famous in Whanganui

The front page of the local newchronicle_front_pagespaper featured yours truly today.

Whanganui really does have good internet.  According to the article itself, the UFB rollout will be complete by the end of the year.  Fibre is much better than copper ADSL or VDSL, mostly because it's reliable.  xDSL technologies are all designed to squeeze something out of the old copper network that it was never designed to do.  They play a whole bunch of tricks, but at the end of the day they're at the mercy of the length, and quality, of the long thin bit of metal between you and the exchange or local cabinet.

Truth be told, this isn't too bad in most of NZ.  Chorus has done a wonderful job of putting fibre-fed cabinets near houses, so the bit of copper may not have to be very long at all.  But it's still a variable it would be better not to have.  Some houses are closer and can get VDSL; some are further away and can't.  Some are out in the sticks and connected via a Conklin, and we weep for them.

There is a limit to what we can get out of copper, no matter what we plug into the ends of it.  Fibre will have limits too, but they're much, much higher.  Putting it in the streets is expensive, but will only have to be done once.

I spend a lot of time using Google Hangouts for videoconferencing, and uploading large files to our servers.  The 10Mbps upstream of even the cheapest fibre connection makes this much more bearable.

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Whanganui has much more to offer than fast internet.  It's actually a nice city.  It has lots of tree-lined streets.  The river is beautiful, as are the parks.  The Bason Reserve has lots of free barbecues if you want a day out in the sun.  Michael Laws is no longer the mayor.  Crime is low.  People here don't know how good they've got it -- they complain about crime, and about the poorer suburbs.  But our contents insurance is cheaper here than it was in Wellington.  I asked why, and the lady on the phone said "Lower crime."

Castlecliff, the "bad" suburb, is noticeably nicer than Wainuiomata or Cannons Creek.  And it's right beside the beach.  We actually looked at buying a cheap house in Wainuiomata until I went to look at a few, and went to the mall, and saw how far downhill the area was sliding.  The problem with Castlecliff is the locals don't like it, so if you buy a house there, you'll take a long time to sell it.  We've settled in Tawhero, which isn't exactly flash, but is close to town, the hospital and SH3.  Not that anywhere in Whanganui is very far from the centre of town.  We have a quarter acre, established fruit trees, and lawn for Africa.  Whanganui has the most affordable housing in the country according to the NZ Herald.  Our house cost under $200,000.

We have an opera house.  There are actual operas you can go to, the Royal NZ Ballet perform there, and the local Amateur Dramatics society, started in the 19th century, just put on the Broadway musical version of Young Frankenstein.  It was hilarious.  We saw Wheel of Experience here a month or two ago, and they were awesome.  Now we just need to persuade Tom Rodwell to make a visit, and maybe John Darnielle.  Well, I can dream.

* * *

We came here for family, for our long term plans, and this was enabled by my employer allowing me to work remotely.  Neither of us regret the move.  The fibre is great, but so are the grapefruit from the tree in our garden, the grandparents down the road, and the squeals of delight from my daughter as she chases the ducks by Virginia Lake.

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Silly Songs: Shampoo

I often sing silly songs to my daughter.  One of her favourites is the "Shampoo" song.  I think the silly song makes shampooing an eagerly anticipated event, even if she does sometimes end up with shampoo-y water in her eyes when it gets rinsed out.

Shampoo, shampoo
It's much better than real poo
Shampoo, shampoo
Let's put some in your hair


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I’m back!

The last time I had a blog at this address was a few years ago.  In typical Donald fashion, I probably spent more time writing the software that powered the blog, than writing blog posts themselves.  I may publish a few from the archives when there's a lull.  I'm sure you'd all love to know who made the best custard squares in Wellington in early 2009.

I've just finished CHTX204, "New Zealand Christianity," part of the theology degree I am working my way through.  So I have some weekday afternoons free for a few weeks.  I'm still undecided as to if I will take a course in the second half because in late July our second child is scheduled to show up.

My current project that hasn't really started yet is to put a roof over the area where we store our firewood.  It turns out that tarpaulins are great at trapping moisture in, which is a bit of a problem when you were hoping that your firewood would dry out.

This is what the inside of my Kinesis keyboard looks like.  Chris gave me one of his "why, of course I want to write my own keyboard firmware" boards.  Unfortunately it seems to be a bit flakey; I've just had to open it up (hence the picture) and give it a clean and check the connections.  The flakiness may just be due to its spending most of the last six months in a damp garage.  My other Kinesis has had similar treatment, but I need to spend some time improving the debouncing logic.


Update: the keyboard is fixed!  It turns out the wires from the connector on the 8051-replacement board (brown/copper in the picture above) to the USB cable were failing.  Replaced them and the keyboard no longer resets every 30 seconds!