Monday, June 30, 2008

Killarney water rocket with video camera on board

Great innovation this past weekend.

Here it is again, but with the footage shot from the rocket in slow motion.

RocketLauncher.jpgNew technology is on the way.... Rocketeer Holland came up with a brilliant plan, to use water hoses and quick release joiners to launch with.

I've only seen this at night and unfortunately won't be able to try it out until next week due to an exciting train trip this weekend (reports to follow).

Friday, June 20, 2008

iPhone Australia countdown



The Vodafone store near North Sydney station told me today that all they know is that iPhones will be available on July 11 and that there will be new data plans announced soon.

I pre-registered and just received the following email:

"Here at Vodafone, we’re eagerly counting down the days until the launch of the new iPhone 3G - and we bet you are too! We are keen to make sure that we can give you the very best deals on your new iPhone 3G and we are putting the finishing touches to these offers.

So, what next?

Since you have taken the time to pre-register, you are now at the front of the line. We will be rolling out these exciting offers very soon, so make sure to keep an eye on your inbox to stay ahead of the game.

Stocks will be limited so you will need to be quick.


The Vodafone Direct Deals Team"

Well, I'm standing by...


Optus was taking $50 deposits for existing customers and $100 deposits for customers proposing to "churn" from another carrier. Shouldn't that be the other way around?

They have now ceased taking deposits, presumably if you've paid a deposit you'd expect to get your hands on the device on July 11. I guess they don't have enough stock coming in to meet that expectation.

They've now sent out the following email to people who've registered:

"Thanks for your interest in the iPhone 3G with Optus.

Apple has released details of the new iPhone, and it's exciting! With fast 3G wireless technology, maps with GPS and the new App store, you have even more features at your fingertips.

Check out the full features and tech specs today.

We'll be back in touch in the coming weeks to give you more information on Optus' great coverage, great content, great service - and most importantly, the Optus iPhone plans. All reasons why your iPhone 3G will be happy with Optus.

Stay tuned!"


They've come to the party, although they'll pay the penalty for being late. When the iPhone launched in the US it's estimated that sales in the first weekend were at least 700,000 units, with 200,000 on the first night. Now, Australia has a much smaller population but we are known as "early adopters" so it's likely that there will be a big pent-up demand.

If the opening of the Sydney Apple store is anything to go by, I can see overnight queueing for iPhones on July 10/11.

Telstra will miss out on this surge and further are likely to suffer the loss of customers who churn over to Optus or Vodafone just to get an iPhone without delay.

Let's not forget that Telstra's operations chief Greg Winn famously predicted that the iPhone would meet stiff competition from the incumbent mobile phone makers and he advised Apple to "stick to it's knitting".

More than a year has passed and while we are starting to see phones with large screens, I don't think anything so far has come close.

Perhaps Mr Winn should stick to his knitting and get Telstra operations working competitively? (Go to a Telstra shop around lunch time and try to get anything done...)


It's December 2012 and Vodafone's Search Engine Optimisation Manager contacted me asking me to fix a link to their iPhone page. Of course this article is now very old so I've removed the link. Thanks for your interest.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sydney Apple store opening

SydneyAppleStore.jpgChris, Coops and I wandered into the city to see if anyone had turned up to the opening of the new Sydney Apple store.

It was dark and raining but the queue stretched for several city blocks. Hard to estimate the numbers but it seemed like they would run out of the 2,000 T-Shirts that were up for grabs.

You've certainly got to hand it to Apple for generating a buzz. Passers by were asking what on earth all those people were lining up to buy.

What a pity they don't have any iPhones just yet.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Building a software defined radio

softrockfront.jpgI'm building the new Softrock "Xtall+Lite" v8.3 from Tony Parks KB9YIG.

He definitely needs to come up with a snappier name!

All seems well on the receiver front although it doesn't seem very sensitive and I suspect my front end isn't resonant in the right place. Shown above is the 40/80m front end.

Construction went well and all seems to check out ok. This board has a few surface mount components that take me a bit of concentration. The little DIP switches set the oscillator frequency.

First I had a go with Linrad on a Linux box but I seem to have sound troubles, so over to the Mac. My frustration is trying to get some SDR software running on the Mac. I spent several hours trying to get UWSDR to build on Leopard, after fixing all the little type casting complaints it wouldn't link with libfftw (missing symbols) so I'm stuck for now.

In other news, I finally heard some PSK31 stations on 80m, VK2BOJ and VK2DD were heard on about 3.660Mhz with excellent signals. We were on our way out the door but I transmitted a few Hz away and they noticed and said hello. I only had time to say I had to go but this is a good sign.

It puzzles me why people give reports such as "599" when using PSK31, surely "S9 and -23db IMD" would be a more useful measure.

Update: I've just been pointed to some SDR software for the Mac by Sebastian DO8SEM here. Looks very promising although still under development. Currently, I'm not hearing too much but it has great promise.

Here it is on 80m. The audio seems rather distorted to me but it certainly works and I'm happily listening to SSB conversations.


Tuning shortwave with a "waterfall" display is certainly the best way to operate.

Update 2:I figured out why my softrock was so deaf, the tuned RF front end is supposed to provide anti-phase signals at the input but in my case I had the phase of one side reversed. Works much better now.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Water rocketry in Killarney Heights

The Killarney Heights space program continues, but this time it's sustainable. These water and air pressure rockets work surprisingly well and can be used multiple times. The air is pressurised with a car tire pump.

Thanks Pete and kids for a fine afternoon out. Shot with a little Canon still camera.

Had a contact with a $5 80m DSB radio

80mDSB.jpgStephen, VK2BLQ, has been selling off his old projects and I picked up an 80m double sideband radio he built for $5.

The only modification I've made is to re-wire the microphone socket to suit the mic I have.

I ran into local ham, Rob, VK2ZNZ in the supermarket today and asked if he would listen out for a weak signal on 80m. We liaised by phone and without trouble he was able to find me and we had a fine chat with the radio. His only complaint was a slow drift in frequency but the audio was good both ways.

This design is one that was published in Silicon Chip in November 1994 and available as a Jaycar kit. A pity they don't offer anything like that now. It's 1.5W PEP out and Rob said I was a little noisy but perfect copy.

Thanks Stephen for the fine radio to play with. Thanks Rob for helping me out.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Looking forward to WWDC 08

This year I'm not attending Apple's WWDC in person. I try to go every few years as it's a very energising experience.

Like many, I'm looking forward to the announcement of a 3G iPhone that I can buy here in Australia, but I'm also wondering what goodies we might see on the MacOS X and developer front. "Snow Leopard" sounds like an incremental update to Leopard, (which seems to be a very stable OS to me), but it would have to have some major changes under the hood. What comes to mind is:

  • Switching to a more modern, faster kernel, such as L4.
  • Make other languages, hopefully python, a first class AppleScripting language
  • Dropping support for PowerPC and no doubt cleaning out the code somewhat
  • Home directory in the cloud, or at least properly on a flash key drive
  • Build in the best of Wine, to make it at least easy to port Windows software to the Mac
  • A framework for making application uninstallers
  • ZFS or something to update HFS+

I'm also looking forward to an updated copy of "Cocoa Programming for MacOS X".

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mobile phone operating systems list

I'm preparing a chat about smart phones and trying to get a rundown of the current mobile phone operating systems. Here's what I know, any further tips would be greatly appreciated.

  • Symbian Series 40 - Older Nokia, Foma, Motorolla, Panasonic, Sendo, Siemens, Sony Ericsson and UIQ

  • Symbian Series 60 - in Nokia smart phones and many others including FOMA, LG, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and UIQ

  • Windows Mobile - in Samsung, Palm Treo W, HTC, Motorola, Psion, i-Mate, Intermec,

  • RIM Blackberry - What OS is this underneath?

  • Apple iPhone OS - iPhone

  • PalmOS

  • Linux - Motorola, Grundig, HTC, NEC, Panasonic, Samsung, big list here

  • Google Android - Not out yet, coming to HTC at least

It looks like Symbian is currently dominant but clearly it's ageing which is presumably why Nokia bought Troltech. One year after launch, Apple has done well to get to 7% of market share.

Funny how it's hard to figure out the OS on many low end phones. I've used a Linux phone but couldn't tell really.

Had a chat about this on ABC Radio National this morning with Mark Bannerman.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sailing weekend in Melbourne

Photo 4.jpgCurrently on "Mark Twain" a lovely S&S 37. We're spending the weekend sailing around Melbourne.

Sailing is something that really brings me back to nature, it's great to be moving fast under just the power of the wind.

For someone like me, who spends so much time sitting in a chair in front of a computer, it's very refreshing to be in an environment like this.

While on board, we ran a wire up the mast which I tuned up as a vertical on 40m. I can personally recommend the little MFJ-16010 antenna tuner for these types of jobs and the in-built SWR meter in the FT-817 works well enough to tune with.ft817.jpg

The club we're moored at, Williamstown, has wifi that gives free access to Google and that's all. As I blog and do email with google everything just works for me.

The skipper.

The crew.

My role was mostly as ballast.


Stayed over night at Queenscliff, lovely place people leave their houses open and their WiFi open, thanks to Annie and Mr D. Link.