Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Another website about to go live...

Another website build is about to go out the door... some long hours when I'm doing a full-time contract during the day, but I'm really enjoying getting to grips with Wordpress, and getting back into doing 'public' facing work, rather than the enterprise-y stuff I do during the day (which nobody outside the NZ Govt will ever know about).

Details of the site are on my commercial portfolio site - go take a look. I'll update this post when it goes live.

Using the MyProduct theme from Elegant Themes, graphics from WebTreats ETC, and stock imagery from iStockphoto.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Finally got around to getting my films from Russia and China developed.
Shot on the antique Lomo 135M I bought in a flea market in Moscow, and a lot of fun trying to interpret the manual!

Cheated a bit, as we used the DSLR as a light meter to work out exposures, but over time I'm hoping to learn a bit better. The Lomo has funny little icons on the focus, apeture and shutterspeed dials that are supposed to help with guessing the correct settings - which don't make much sense anyway! So it's all rather hit an miss.

One cool feature on the 135M is the winding spring, where you can wind it up for ages, and shoot 8 frames in a row without having to wind again. Most of the close up pics are out of focus, so might have to do some experimenting on those.

I have a suspicion the photo lab might have auto-adjusted the colours, as Lomos usually have quite a green/yellow cast, but they still look great! Looking at the cd versions, most have a slightly wonky top edge, looks kinda cool tho.

Rest of the series are on my flickr account here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Naked Vet Calendar

In Feburary this year, I worked my biggest assignment so far (in photography anyway!), shooting an entire calendar for the Massey Uni Vet Students. Shot over a weekend, we had a hilarious time, rounding up animals, dodging cow poo and carefully positioning props!

They do a calendar every year, to raise funds for their 'halfway day', to mark half way through their vet degrees. 10% of funds this year are going to Paw Justice also.

I've put a few images up on my portfolio site. Here's one of my favourites - didn't go in the calendar, but has been used on their website. Calendars are available to order on their website for a short time at NZ$16 each (incl. postage - NZ or international). Publicity has been great also - on TVNZ Breakfast show (Paul Henry was rather mean to one of the models!), The Dominion Post, stuff.co.nz and other NZ newspapers and TV shows.

Yet Another Theme change

Changed the theme on this blog yet again...
Latest theme is called 'Translucence' and came originally from Webtreats as a Wordpress theme, and was converted to a Blogger template by bloggerstyles.com. Thanks!

One day I will get around to creating my own theme, but when you're working full time, and doing paid work 'after hours', it can get a little hard to find that extra 4-5 hours to design and code up a whole theme.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Brew labels

Just worked on some labels for our own home brew, which should be ready for 'sampling' (yeah right!) in a week or so.

Fonts - both from 1001freefonts.com: Artistamp Medium and Bleeding Cowboys.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

New reading

Found an interesting new blog to read yesterday from Abakas - a testing company in Boston. Lots of interesting Ruby stuff, and just testing in general. I agree with a lot of it, and a lot is stuff I've been thinking about anyway :)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Alternative Context Images - new site

I've FINALLY set up a new portfolio site for my photography work - at http://alternativecontext.com.
Go check it out :) Using the lovely ePhoto theme, on a wordpress install. Content is still a little thin, but I'll keep uploading over the next week.

Most images are available for sale, just email me for details on pricing and licensing.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Mac OSX Snow Leopard and SMB mounts... more!

Yet another post on mounting smb shares on Mac OSX...
Now I have a Snow Leopard machine, I had a little hassle getting reconnected to our network drives, and had totally forgotten how to connect multiple shares from one server with different passwords...

The Mac help doesn't help on this (how ironic!), and a bit of googling for the smbmount commands made me remember how to do it :)
  1. Using 'Connect to Server' in Finder (CMD+K), enter your smb share in the format: smb://username:password@servername/sharename
  2. Repeat for each share you have
  3. To make life easier, set your server up with static IP's and edit the file found in /etc/hosts (or create it if there isn't one)
  4. Go to your hard disk in Finder, and the share will be sitting there - drag it into your devices list
  5. To have the drives mount next time you log in, go add them to your login prefs
Easy peasy once you know how, huh :) Does mean your passwords aren't hidden away in the Keychain - anyone have a better method?

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies

As a birthday present, I was given "A Treasury of New Zealand Baking", a fantastic baking book gathering a stack of traditional and not-so-traditional baking recipes from NZ chefs.


I made my first recipe from the book today - "Classic Chocolate-Chip Cookie Sandwich", and my chief taste tester seems to like them :) Will have to drop a few over to my other taste-tester out in Petone in the next few days. I followed the recipe (which is by Al Brown), almost exactly, just substituting cream for cream fraiche when making the chocolate sauce for the 'glue'.

Assembly line in progress.

The finished product (yum!).

Monday, 22 March 2010


Strangely, for all the good things I have to say about Apple computer products, I'm giving Apple service a big thumbs down.

I have an old(ish) MacBook, that I'm preparing to sell, so hoped to get a small crack in the corner of the top case repaired. For the first time ever, after owning three MacBook/MacBook Pros, two iPhones, and various accessories over about four years, I've needed support from Apple, and found it rather lacking.

I've read hundreds of threads online about people waltzing into Apple Stores, and the Genius Bar replacing top cases free of charge, no matter the age. I went into the Regent St store in London mid last year, and they also said they'll replace it free of charge, but they had a 3-4 week repair wait time as they were full up. So I thought no probs, I'll get it sorted once we're in NZ.

But.... I've taken my MacBook into an Authorized Repair Centre, where I've had nothing but bad service. They won't repair the crack, and refused to call Apple Care themselves to confirm. After spending an hour on the phone with Apple Care myself, I finally got a case raised, where they confirm they'll fix the crack. But... only if I have a receipt proving it's under 3 years old.

And of all the hundreds of receipts we have archived, this is the only receipt I can't find.

I'm really disappointed with the fact Genius Bars in stores can repair things at their own discretion, but in NZ we don't have Genius Bars, or even Apple Stores, so we're stuck with whatever the repair center say. And we have to pay for them to do nothing also....

Apple, I'm still an avid fan, and own an awful lot of your products, but I'm giving the huge thumbs down on the support options available for us poor cousins out in NZ.

Some threads where people have confirmed they've got this fix done:

AppleInsider article about this issue: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/04/08/apple_addressing_cracks_on_white_macbooks_casings.html

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Mac and WEP

After a few minutes of frustration, I found out the hard way that Mac devices don't like WEP passwords...

  • Mac and iPhones will refuse to connect to a Wifi network with WEP encryption enabled, says 'invalid password'
  • Use a different security scheme (ie WPA2)
  • Enter the WEP generated key into the password (something long and impossible to remember, usually a random alphanumeric string)
  • Scream a lot
And don't hassle me for using WEP, we didn't find out that Netgear devices using Wireless Repeating functions only support WEP until after we purchased the first router and tried messing about.... something else to gripe about!.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

trading away

I've been using Trade Me (NZ's equivalent of eBay) for a whole lot of buying and selling since we've been back - got a lot of furniture from there cheaper than the 2nd hand stores. Being a seasoned eBay'er in the UK, I'm missing a lot of the eBay functionality that I think Trade Me could definitely use...
  • PayPal integration - in eBay, once your auction is done, all the payments are taken care of in PayPal, and it's all kept linked up with the auction status in eBay, so very easy to see what's going on. Trade Me doesn't allow credit card processing until you've got 50 feedback, which takes a while (see my feedback gripe below), and bank processing is a bit frustrating to work out when there are lots of payments coming in.
  • Buyers here aren't great at providing feedback - of the 8 auctions I've just finished as a seller, none of the buyers have placed any feedback. Annoyingly, this puts me further and further away from being able to use the credit card payment system... a 'default' feedback of 'good' after say 10 days of the auction closing would be great.
  • No third party apps for creating and managing auctions - instead everything is lumped into a single 'selling' or 'sold' page on their website. I used GarageSale when trading on eBay to create and manage auctions, which of course integrated with eBay and PayPal so everything moved through a nice workflow and was easy to see what's going on at any time
  • No HTML or markup in auctions! Again, on eBay I used GarageSale a lot, which had some nice templates for auctions, making it easy to provide lots of info, but in a tidy readable manner, and also host images on other sites.
Apart from those gripes, Trade Me is great for buying and selling. It's driven most of the second hand stores in the Wellington region out of business, but makes for some great bargains for buyers, if you're willing to sit out an auction. I picked up a lovely (slightly infested with borer, but hey!) antique Oak Dresser for a teeny NZ$30 last week, just needed some no-borer spray, and needs a bit of a sand and revarnish.

My tips for sellers:
  • Photos photos photos! Spend 5 to 10 minutes getting a GOOD photo of your item - move furniture to somewhere uncluttered (against a wall, or outside if there is nowhere else), put small items on a table or on the floor with nothing around them, and get some good light on whatever you are selling, so buyers can actually see it. Get LOTS of photos, and spend the few extra cents to post multiple photos where needed, and a gallery display so the photo shows up in searches. Rotate your images up the right way - I've gotten a sore neck from looking at sideways photos :)
  • Details... buyers want detail, no matter how boring it is to type in, get as much info as possible in the listing. Has it had borer or treatment for borer? What condition is your item? Links to specifications if you don't want to type 'em in.
  • Reserves - be realistic on reserves. If you bought it for $1000 new a year ago, it's probably already lost 50% of it's value. Don't moan about what YOU paid for it, as buyers will only pay what it's worth if it's second hand, and not vintage or a premium item.
  • Answer your email! Be on the computer when your auction ends, and get quickly onto the buyer to finalise payment and delivery/pickup. I've had auctions where it's been DAYS after the scheduled end before a seller emails re pickups etc, and it's almost made me want to cancel the auction. Also answer any questions in a timely manner - it could be the answer that prompts a sale or Buy it Now.
So, happy trading! I'll be posting some more books up over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for my listings :).

Home, home again!


Long time no posts... we arrived back in NZ mid December, and have been flat out sorting somewhere to live, jobs, visiting everyone and generally winding down.

Yeah I haven't finished the blog yet - still need to do entries for Shanghai and Hong Kong some time in the future....

Now we've finished travelling, my posts are going to be much more mundane again, back towards tech, internet, photography and general NZ and Wellington based rants. I expect to lose any readers I had previously, so farewell if you choose to go, and welcome if you're planning on putting up with my rambling.