Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Micro Men - docu-drama about the early PC industry in the UK

Just watched an entertaining 2009 TV program called "Micro Men" that tells the story of the early days of personal computers in the UK. Clive Sinclair is portrayed in competition with Acorn in the battle to produce the computer to be used in a BBC show.

The program is available for free viewing and even download here at the internet archive. I found it fascinating and it includes a soundtrack with the highlights of the 1970s - 80s.

Acorn went on to produce the ARM CPU that we find in almost every mobile device. I still have a ZX80 computer here in the shed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Labor backs a revival of Asia Pacific broadcasting

Great news!

In a foreign policy speech yesterday opposition leader Bill Shorten gave the Pacific a priority it hasn't had in decades and today Penny Wong has backed it up making explicit Labor's desire to see a revival of Australia broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific.

Bill Shorten's speech is here. Penny Wong's here.

Regular readers (and listeners) know that I've long called for a re-vitalisation of Radio Australia in the Asia Pacific region and this is a hopeful sign. I personally think that rather than being a relic, shortwave can continue to play an important role in reaching audiences and is particularly important when there are disasters or censorship. But shortwave is just one technology that should be used today including FM relays, podcasts and live streaming.

For more info there is a Facebook group for supporters.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Vanlife: Rebuilt with bad carpentry


The van, as it came when I bought it, was built for sleeping and not much more. The whole back of it was filled with a double bed spring mattress. Under the mattress was a large drawer at the back and if you lifted up the mattress in front there was storage there - but it was difficult to do.

I decided to rip all of the original interior out and replace it with a storage cupboard / bench top along one side and a single bed / couch on the other.

My hope is that when the weather isn't pleasant, I can sit on the bed and make dinner comfortably inside the van.

While my skills at pulling things apart are excellent, my basic carpentry skills are almost non-existent.

On the top right here you see how it looks now. There is a small sink with a grey water tank below. A hand operated pump tap is on the way and will go next to it.

The long bench is really cupboards all the way along with lips in front and on the sides to stop things sliding off as we drive.


The far left cupboard with plywood hanging in front is the chemical toilet. The refrigerator will sit on the floor while driving and when stopped I put it on the back of the folded down passenger seat.

There is a sink with a pump tap. Under the sink is a large grey water tank connected to the drain.


There's a slide out desk for eating and laptop use.


Before the upgrade

Here's a reminder of how it looked before. The large drawer at the back was good but so big that things would get lost in there.


The mattress was so thick and the base so tall that I couldn't sit on the bed without my head hitting the roof of the van.


Living space was very small in the old configuration.


I'm sure that a few days away living in the new space with throw up lots of ideas for improvement but at least now I feel a bit more confident about modifying things myself.

I took the van to QRP by the Harbour and showed it to Peter, VK2EMU. When I mentioned my poor wood working skills he said "it's carpentry not cabinetry".

Monday, October 22, 2018

Exporting Notes from iOS 12 in python

A friend, who doesn't use iCloud, asked me how to export the Notes on an iPhone. Searching around I found that the way to do this is to do a non-encrypted backup of the device and then pay a surprising amount of money for an app to read the files and export the notes. There are multiple apps and they are free for the first few notes and then $60 or more to get the rest!

Backup files, including notes, are stored as sqlite3 files (but using cryptic names).

Here's the procedure.

Connect your iOS device to your Mac and say yes to any trust questions. Click on the little icon of the device that appears and look for the "Manually Backup and Restore" panel:


Click "Back up Now".

You don't need to transfer purchases if it asks. Under normal circumstances it's best to encrypt backups but in this case you must click "Don't Encrypt"


When the backup has completed. Go to Preferences in iTunes and click on Device Preferences. Select the backup you just did.


Now, right click on the backup and choose "Show in Finder". You'll see a scrambled mess like this:


Copy the highlighted folder (by holding the Option key and dragging) to your desktop.

Below a little python program I wrote that you run with the path to the copy of the backup folder. It will create a folder on your desktop with all of your notes as separate HTML files.


I hope this helps you and saves a little money. Apple should make this easier. Note that this only works for iOS 12 and it's likely it will break in the future.

import sys
import os
import sqlite3

output_folder = "%s/Desktop/Notes_exported" % os.path.expanduser("~")


def main():
    if len(sys.argv) < 2:
        print("Usage: %s " % (sys.argv[0]))
        return
    backup_path = sys.argv[1]
    notes_db_path = "%s/ca/ca3bc056d4da0bbf88b5fb3be254f3b7147e639c" % backup_path
    conn = sqlite3.connect(notes_db_path)
    c = conn.cursor()
    c.execute("SELECT COUNT(*) from ZNOTEBODY;")
    all_rows = c.fetchall()
    total_rows = all_rows[0][0]
    print("There are %d notes found" % (total_rows))

    print("Checking for %s" % output_folder)
    create_dir(output_folder)

    c.execute("SELECT ZCONTENT FROM ZNOTEBODY;")
    all_rows = c.fetchall()
    counter = 0    for row in all_rows:
        note_text = row[0]
        if note_text:
            file_name = "%s/Note%04d.html" % (output_folder, counter)
            out_file = open(file_name, "w")
            out_file.write(note_text)
            out_file.close()
            counter += 1
    conn.commit()
    conn.close()
    print("Done!")


def create_dir(directory):
    if not os.path.exists(directory):
        print("Creating %s" % (directory))
        os.makedirs(directory)


if __name__ == "__main__":
    main()

Update: A reasonable commercial option

One of the commercial options I looked at was iMazing. I rejected it as I thought that US$70 is a lot to pay for a one time use. In a Reddit thread on this topic, Minority shared a link to a US$20 offer.

I think this is a reasonable price and I have bought the program. It's good and does what I want and lots more.

My theory with the wild price variations is that they make a large sum on people who desperately need the feature and still make sales for people with less urgency. I'd be pretty annoyed if I'd paid the full price.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Enhanced Frog Sounds low cost transceiver

The ultra-low cost CW HF transceivers you see on eBay such as the Pixie and Frog Sounds kits are great fun and certainly value for money. You couldn’t buy the components for the price.

Local ham Stephen, VK2BLQ, and I have played with these in the past (we had a Feld Hellschreiber contact once), but he’s gone on to enhance a Frog Sounds transceiver by adding a CDV VFO from OzQRP, a Rockmite iambic keyer and a variable CW filter and speaker amplifier.

Here’s how it looks.



As you see it's even "Juliano" blue.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Van trip north and an awning tent

On the latest trip north in the van I took along an awning tent that was on sale at Aldi recently for $190. It's quite good quality but takes a bit of effort to put up and wouldn't be worth it unless I'm staying in the one place for several days.

An awning tent is nice for giving a bit of privacy and protection from moderately wet weather. It wouldn't stand up to strong wind though.

On the way back I drove down the highway until about 4:30pm and then started to look for somewhere to camp before it got dark. Scanning around on Google maps, and using the satellite view, I looked for a track that ended without any houses near by. I found the place you see top right here which turned out to be a lovely quiet (free) spot for the night.

I did add the location to WikiCamps as it's clear people had camped here before and didn't seem to disturb anyone. While there's no signs relating to camping, there's also no signs saying that camping isn't allowed. There are probably many locations like this that can be slept at without causing any problems and modern mobile mapping is a great way to find them.


Here's the inside of the awning tent. It's big and airy enough to let me make breakfast without too much concern.


There is a sturdy ground sheet that can be zipped on to the walls to enclose the space.



I'm not planning to take the tent on every trip but will keep it for longer stays.