Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Classic Fighters

April 17, 2017 Leave a comment

On Saturday I went to the Classic Fighters Omaka 2017 air show in Blenheim, New Zealand. I had been intending on going to this show since it first started, but being at the opposite end of the island I just never quite made it. This year I was visting my in-laws in Nelson, so I thought the 90 minute journey to Marlborough would be worth it.

And despite the bad weather a lot of New Zealand (including Marlborough) has experienced recently, the day was brilliant. There were almost no clouds, a light (to moderate) wind, and a temperature of 22 degrees. Great conditions for watching warbirds (although maybe a bit less wind would have been good).

I have been to the other big South Island, New Zealand air show, Warbirds Over Wanaka, several times in the past, and have put reports from all of these, including photos and movies on my web site, so I will do the same for this one over the next few days.

Both air shows have a variety of aircraft, but Wanaka seems to specialise in World War II planes and Omaka in World War I. So there were plenty of Fokker Triplanes, Sopwith Camels, and other aircraft from that era (all replicas, of course) plus Spitfires, a Corsair, a Kittyhawk, and some Yaks from World War II.

My favourite display was the Yak 3 Steadfast, powered by the 1750hp Pratt and Whitney R2000 radial engine and capable of over 650 kilometers per hour. It had smoke generators on both wing tips and left twin smoke trails which formed all sorts of cool patterns and smoke rings in the deep blue sky.

The saddest part of the show (apart from it taking over an hour to drive the 100 meters to the car park exit) was the A-4 Skyhawk sitting in a hangar. This one had it’s engine stripped out of it to use as a spare part when the other New Zealand Air Force Skyhawks were sold.

I remember watching the Skyhawk displays in Wanaka back in the 1996, 1998, and 2000 shows and they were awesome. Of course, they were a bit of an obsolete aircraft by American standards, but at least the NZ planes had updated avionics and weapons systems.

So I’m glad I went to the trouble of watching this show. I really didn’t like it quite as much as the best Wanaka shows, but it was still very good. My only regret is that I didn’t get there a little bit earlier because I missed some of the first WWI displays.

As I said above, I will have a report on this show with photos and videos on my main web site ( in the next few days so check there if you are interested (and I apologise in advance if it takes longer – it’s surprising how much time the photo and video processing, researching facts, and general writing of those reports takes).


What Did I Learn?

July 6, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m writing this blog entry in Sydney Airport as I return from a computer conference. At the conference we spent a lot of time discussing integrating Apple products into corporate environments, and there was a fair bit of general musing regarding the way IT support is changing, and I thought why not discuss some of that here. So, what did I learn?

First there is the great news about how Apple products are now being welcomed into the corporate world where in the past they would have been completely rejected.

Of course, this was an Apple conference so I would expect the spin to be positive towards Apple, but this is not the first time I have heard this sort of thing, so maybe it really does have some merit. And my experience working in an increasingly corporate university – although one which has always been more Apple-centric than most – is that iPads and iPhones have lead the way for Macs to start a small but significant invasion into areas they were previously unwelcome.

An unexpected question about this trend is: do I really like it? In the past Apple has always been the underdog, the maverick, the winner against all odds, and I sort of liked that. It was nice to succeed with Apple products despite the objections and lack of support from more the conservative IT staff. Now it’s no big deal any more. Maybe it’s just too easy? Actually, I don’t really mean that because, despite the fact that there are probably more Apple products than any other, in many organisations corporate infrastructures still tend to be Windows PC focussed.

So the second trend I saw come up in almost every presentation is that the days of central control and very inflexible rules are over… or should be. The user is now the key focus and if central IT management don’t like that then they should get used to it or get another job.

I do have to say that this has been my attitude “forever”. I have always been client focussed and have found ways to circumvent the rules when necessary. So if this trend is real then maybe my life will be easier in this way too. Honestly though, all the fun will be gone!

I’ve got to say here that I’m not against rules per se, but I prefer to see rules more as strong guidelines which should be used as a good starting position rather than commandments carved in stone. There should be enough flexibility within them to allow for optimum outcomes even when rules aren’t strictly followed.

The third trend is possibly too obvious to even present here, but I will anyway. It’s that conventional computers, especially desktop machines, are on the way out and the majority of users are moving to mobile platforms: laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

Being a mega-Apple geek I took all three devices: my MacBook Pro 15″ laptop, my iPar Air, and my iPhone 5 to Australia with me. While they all do “the same thing” to some extent I did find myself using all three for almost equal amounts of time, so if I needed to leave one behind it would be really hard to decide which one!

While I was away I did some email, a bit of gaming, wrote one blog entry, and stored travel and conference documents on the iPad; I did some email, web browsing, wrote another blog entry, and did some programming on the laptop; and did a whole pile of communications (iMessage mainly), looked up information on the web, and did navigation (mainly using the Tom Tom GPS) on the iPhone.

Now that I consider the matter, I probably could have used just the iPad for everything, if I was prepared to put up with a few inconveniences, and that is the point. Most people are much “lighter” users than me, especially when they are away from home, so an iPad would probably be quite satisfactory for them, especially when considering its light weight and excellent battery life.

So those are the non-technical tidbits I picked up, and based on that here’s what I predict in the near future: lot’s of Apple iPhones, iPads, and maybe iWatches will be run in corporations with minimal unnecessary restrictions. Truly, a golden age awaits us!

Xmas Travels 2012

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Before I get back on to my regular blogging topics such as politics, technology, religion, etc I will report on my holiday activities over the last 3 weeks. I just got back from a break in Nelson. If you are from another country you might not know that Nelson is a popular New Zealand holiday destination with some of the country’s best weather, beaches, etc.

Because we had some extra time this year we decided to make this a more leisurely trip instead of trying to do the almost 800 kilometer (500 mile) journey to Nelson in one day (I reported on this in a blog entry “Christmas Update” posted Christmas day 2012).

So we stopped overnight in the small Central Canterbury town of Geraldine on the way up, then spent 2 nights at Hanmer Springs before arriving in Nelson on the 24th. After a few days in Nelson we travelled over to Golden Bay for 3 days then back to Nelson and finally home via Hanmer Springs again.

The day in Hanmer and the first two days in Nelson were really hot – about 30 degrees – but then we had a bizarre mix of weather which is quite typical of New Zealand. It never got really cold but there was some rain and wind and cooler temperatures. The rain was only heavy once over night but on the West Coast – just a couple of hundred kilometers way – there was enough to cause major problems.

In fact, on the way home we had to take a detour because the main road from Nelson to Christchurch was washed out at Shenandoah Hill. But that was OK because we took a road I had never used before through the Buller Gorge and Reefton instead.

By this time the weather was really hot again and stayed that way to Hanmer, Canterbury and even back home to Dunedin where we were told it had reached 35.

So that describes the trials and tribulations of New Zealand weather, what did we do during our time away? Just the usual typical things really: sitting in the thermal pools at Hanmer, a few rounds of mini golf, some bush walks, exploring the local scenery, riding a giant flying fox, and a bit of “fishing”.

The main attraction of Hanmer Springs are the natural hot water springs and you can relax in pools ranging in temperature from about 34 to 43 degrees. During the winter when there’s snow on the ground the hottest pools are particularly appreciated, but in summer the cooler ones are usually preferred. There’s also a range of adventure tourism options available but these can be quite expensive.

Happy Valley Adventures near Cable Bay near Nelson operate a flying fox system where you fly 3 kilometers over a valley at a height of up to 150 meters and a speed up to 100 kilometers per hour. The view is great and it can be quite scary for some people. We hoped to ride quad bikes up to the top of the hill but there weren’t enough free so we took a mini bus up instead. There was also an informative talk about the native tress in the area.

If you are in a hurry and don’t have the patience for the traditional form of fishing you can go “fishing” at the Anatoki Salmon Farm where you really can’t help but catch a fish. We stopped at three fish which the staff there clean and smoke for you. It’s not real fishing, of course, but at least you get some results – unlike my 10 unsuccessful years of “real” fishing, trying to catch something in the Te Anau area many years ago!

When I get the time I will put photos and a full description of this trip in my web site. But first I need to get back to some more controversial blog entries so stand by for those!

Christmas Update

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Over the last few days we have had a leisurely trip from Dunedin to Nelson where we are spending a couple of weeks holiday over Christmas. Generally when we are making this journey (a distance of about 800 kilometers) we try to do it in 1 or maybe 2 days, but this time we decided to take our time. (For those of you from outside of New Zealand, two points: first 800 kilometers is about 500 miles; and second, distances here take longer to travel because our roads tend to be quite windy).

So on the first day we stopped overnight in Geraldine, then took the “scenic” inland route through Methven, Oxford, and Rangiora out to the main road and on to Hanmer Springs. We spent a day at Hanmer just doing the usual causal things: mini-golf, thermal pools, etc. The temperature started getting up to what you would expect for a real New Zealand summer (almost 30 degrees C, 90 degrees Fahrenheit) while we were there and we got the same driving through to Nelson the next day.

I’m writing this Christmas Day (as all true bloggers do) and it looks like it will be warm again today. I love Southern Hemisphere summers!

So it’s all pretty relaxing so far but a computer geek’s work is never done and I am currently in the middle of upgrading an old original iMac running Mac OS 9 to a much newer (but still kind of outdated) G5 iMac running OS X. Should be a fairly significant improvement for the user!

It did remind me of how far computers have come though: the flash drives I used had 10 times the capacity of the old iMac’s hard disk! And the general reliability of Mac OS 9 could have been better. I’ve had more crashes this morning than I would have in a year running OS X!

My friends and family seem to know me quite well: for Christmas this year I have received a whole pile or chocolate, some wine, and a variety of chilli sauces. Of course there was also the most useful gift I received: cash! Yes, that will be very useful to help out with home renovation projects.

As expected it has turned out to be hot again today but according to the weather app on my iPad we might be about to get some rain and thunderstorms for the next week or two! Yeah, New Zealand gets some great warm weather on occasions but it can change fairly quickly too!

Low Flying

April 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Last Sunday I did my usual biennial visit to the Warbirds Over Wanaka air show. I left about 7.30 in the morning and was there by about 10.30. Yes, I did a bit of “low flying” getting there (I won’t mention my maximum speed here) and got my first speeding fine for about 2 years. But I just see the occasional speeding fine as an added cost of driving. I know other people who have been let off with a warning for doing more than I did, so the whole thing is just not fair! (See my other blog entries for similar experiences of “Fred”.)

Once I got there I enjoyed the low flying of the various aircraft on display. I don’t think the show was quite as good as some in the past but it was still well worth attending, even though a lot of what was shown I had already seen in past shows.

One of my favourite planes is the Hawker Hunter and that flew at the show. I also saw a few planes I hadn’t seen before, such as the Avenger, Fokker D.VIII, Strikemaster, and Agusta 109 helicopter.

I did my usual photography, both still and video, and got some pretty brilliant photos (and I say that with all appropriate modesty). My report on the show, with photos, videos, and commentary is here.

A Few Days in Auckland

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

As I write this I am flying at about 10,000 meters on my way to Auckland (there‚Äôs my traditional opening for travel related blog entries, although the destination is not always Auckland of course). Yes, I have been back at work for a total of two days and I am away again already. Well, unfortunately, that isn’t quite true. The fact is that I am spending the next three days in Auckland doing some work on the computers at the Auckland Centre of the University of Otago, so it’s still work I’m afraid.

Interestingly I have spent a lot less time in New Zealand’s main city than I have in some similar places in other countries. For example, since I spent any time in Auckland last I have been to Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney (several times), and San Francisco. I hope that I might have a few hours to look around between the time time spent sorting out computer issues, but that will have to wait to see just how dire the problems actually are!

It sounds sort of unpatriotic but I can’t see a lot of point in spending time in Auckland because anything it has Sydney also has, but more. And the travel time and cost to get to Sydney isn’t that much greater. But they say a change is as good as a holiday and Auckland’s weather has finally improved so it should be quite pleasant.

On the subject of the weather, I will be in a good position on that front during my visit. Generally our friends from the more northern parts of New Zealand like to make subtle (and not so subtle) comments regarding the superiority of their weather in comparison to ours near the more southern, cooler part of the country. But this year the south has got great weather over the holiday period so I can reverse the trend on them this time.

This second part of the entry is being typed from my hotel room on the second day of my visit. There has certainly been plenty to do here and I could probably stay a week to get everything sorted out properly but instead it has turned into a frenetic burst of activity to get as much done as possible.

I have also had a chance after work to have a bit of a walk around the city and down to the harbour and I have actually enjoyed being here more than I thought, although I still think Sydney’s better!

I’m flying out early tomorrow afternoon so I have about 3 hours in the morning to get a few tasks finished. I also hope I have configured enough remote access services so that I can administer some of the servers, computers, and other devices by “remote control” from back in Dunedin. Or maybe I should avoid that technique and aim for another trip here in the future!

Fiordland Adventures

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

As I write this blog entry I am returning from a few days in Te Anau. For those of you not familiar with New Zealand, it is a small town on the eastern edge of Fiordland National Park in southern New Zealand. Fiordland is well known for its wet weather, and is mostly covered with rain forest, but on this occasion the weather has been quite brilliant (it is mid summer in the southern hemisphere of course) which is particularly gratifying considering the poor weather in the rest of the country.

Fiordland is mostly wilderness and covered with dense forest and it has some of New Zealand’s best walking tracks, including the Milford and Kepler tracks. We aren’t into serious tramping but we did do a few shorter walks along these tracks and I got a few photos which I will post on the relevant sections of my web site when I get the chance.

The main walk involved a bus trip from Te Anau to a small harbour half way up the lake, followed by a boat trip to the head of the lake where the Milford Track begins. The track is about 50 kilometers long and usually takes 3 days to complete but we just walked a couple of hours up the valley and didn’t get as far as the big climb up to the pass and out to Milford Sound on the other side.

I walked the whole track many (and I mean many, like about 40) years ago but it is hard to remember what the experience was like so it was good to have a small reminder of it. Of course, I would have loved to have got up the pass for the awesome views and gone down to Sutherland Falls on the other side (one of the tallest waterfalls in the world) but that will have to wait for another occasion.

The main purpose of the visit was to catch up with the rest of the family and to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. So we had 18 family members for meals and other events including a rather pleasant al fresco dinner at an Italian restaurant where we enjoyed some good New Zealand wines in the sunshine until quite late.

I can write this blog entry now instead of driving like I usually would because my daughter is driving. That has turned out to be quite useful and she is not too bad a driver. Good enough anyway that I feel reasonably secure sitting in the back typing on my iPad.

Yes, I took my iPad on holiday with me but it does get worse because I also took my iPhone and laptop, plus we had another iPhone, two other iPads and two other laptops there as well. I don’t think it’s bad using technology like that as long as it doesn’t keep you too much out of the sun enjoying the great outdoors. And knowing Fiordland it could just as easily have rained most of the time and then the technology would have been really welcome! As it happened I just used the laptop to process photos in the evening after we got back to the house.

So that’s by quick report on my summer holiday. Unfortunately the rest of my summer break is most likely going to be spent more on programming work than relaxing but that’s my fault for starting too many projects I guess!