Challenge for 2015: hackaday prize competition

Mar 29 2015 Published by under tech

So the 2015 Hackaday prize is happening, until at least August.

Somehow I’ve currently ended up involved with not one, but two entries!  The good thing is that with four months to go until the first round submission, I have been careful not to bite off more that can be chewed in the time available on weekends, or after the kids go to bed, etc. with other commitments. Along the way though it should be educational and fun, and with any luck I might at least win a T-shirt or something (some electronics test gear would be nice) … I’m under no illusion we will get anywhere near winning a trip to space!

The themes this year are is “Build Something that Matters”, around environment, agriculture and energy, with the related facet of solving a problem, and not necessarily a world-scale problem.

So my first project, of which I am making good progress, is a farm crop monitoring system for Australian conditions.  This utilises the ESP8266 wifi module and will exercise its deep sleep mode, and solar power, along with a yet to be determined Linux module for a local base station, and hopefully ISM band telemetry over long distances. I will also be helped by my neighbour who is a farmer who can use this system.

The second project, which is not my idea but that of a close friend, (but for which I am presently responsible for maintaining the page), is an Algorithmic Composting machine built out of repurposed parts and cheap electronics.  I’ll probably end up assisting with the embedded electronics, as well as keeping the documentation up to date.

I wont be posting here in a lot of detail as the contest progresses, as there is a project log built into the site intended for that purpose.  So follow along at and  instead! (And please like our projects if you have a hackaday account!)


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Remastering Youtube videos into AVI for your Set Top Box

Jan 22 2012 Published by under howto, tech

I wasn’t going to post here for a week or so as I need to clear my head and catch up with real world stuff, but I did this and thought it would be helpful to share.

As of now most of the sessions have been uploaded onto YouTube. All the LCA2012 videos can be found at There is speculation (most likely) they will be mirrored at some point but I don’t want to wait so I have started watching them from YouTube.

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How to Enable / Disable remote X connections in Debian Squeeze

Jan 19 2012 Published by under howto, linux


Using my AspireOne at LCA2012 I realised I had a hole that really needed to be tightened before using the Most Excellent LCA2012 wireless network instead of a 3G dongle.

One of these is that I was gaining an ipv6 address on the LCA network. (This was not the hole.) My 3G only has ipv4 and at I only run ipv4 at home.

After connecting I had both ipv6 and ipv4 addresses, but importantly upon running netstat -antp realised I had kdm [1] listening on 6000 wide open – I had it firewalled out on ipv4 but had never setup ip6tables (oops)

To sort things quickly I subsequently disabled ipv6 [2] but I first killed off my local X/server from accepting connections anyway (you cant be too cautious, in a large crowd of very skilled people, potentially prank-minded, right? following good advice – ‘take precautions’ …)

me@xxxxxxx:~$ sudo netstat -lntp

Active Internet connections (only servers)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State       PID/Program name
tcp        0      0  *               LISTEN      13494/X         
tcp6       0      0 :::6000                 :::*                    LISTEN      13494/X  


To disable network connections on port 6000 using kdm:

  1. Edit /etc/kde4/kdm/kdmrc
  2. Look for a section [X-:*-Core]
  3. If missing or commented out, add the line ServerArgsLocal=-nolisten tcp, if it is already there, instead append -nolisten tcp to the line starting with ServerArgsLocal
  4. Either reboot, or kill X and restart kdm


me@xxxxxxx:~$ sudo netstat -lntp

Active Internet connections (only servers)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State       PID/Program name

To _enable_ connections, simply ensure the -nolisten tcp arguments are not present.

FWIW I have had to do this on gdm in the past as well.
Instructions for this are actually provided in the Debian Reference Manual, Chapter 7 (section 7.4.2, tips)

YMMV if you have more than a basic configuration or are running some other variant or distribution.

[1] I only use kdm for login, for performance I run openbox
[2] Yes, I know, I should use ipv6, I even agree with all the reasons listed by Julien Goodwin at his excellent SysAdmin miniconf talk on why I should use ipv6, but that will need to wait until I get home (and depends on my ISP.)
(And facepalm to self for mixing up selinux with ipv6 before coffee this morning)

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Buy a raffle ticket and support the Country Fire Assocation

Jan 17 2012 Published by under realworld

At there may still be raffle tickets left for sale, from the registration desk, there are great prizes – most importantly this is in support of the CFA – I like this as my dear wife is a CFS volunteer (Country Fire Service – the South Australian equivalent.)

Ballarat CFA Station

Ballarat CFA Station

They fight fires but also attend country car accidents and may save your life one day.

In South Australia you can even monitor going incidents.
In Victoria the CFA also has a graphical system.

(Photo was taken by Zachary age 10. Please assume this is under a Creative Commons Attribution License.)

No responses yet A First Timer Day 2

Jan 17 2012 Published by under linux, realworld

Again instead of focusing on tech stuff I am sharing my personal experiences, hopefully this may prove useful to others in the future.

There is a great First Timers Guide and of course the main site and wiki. But I thought I would make a list of some LCA hints and gotchas in no particular order (apart from coffee!) Note I personally only stumbled into some of these, the rest I have garnered in conversations and third hand… of course all involved remain anonymous…

  • Most important: Coffee. Get to the Cafe early so you have time to get served before keynote / session, there is a long queue in the morning!
  • During breaks just walk up to a table and introduce yourself – this really works well!
  • Get there Sunday arvo there is an Intro session (which I missed unfortunately)
  • Be prepared to become an event organiser if you suggest an event :-) – and a big thank you to the organising committee!
  • Don’t press ENTER to tweet too soon especially during a keynote
  • For those in accommodation, take care not to lose door passes, tags or accidentally let doors shut behind you
  • Don’t put empty coffee cups in your bag they can still leak the leftovers (yuck)
  • Secure (attach) your USB keys to something
  • If you don’t want to keep fiddling with your phone print out the schedule before you come (or get a better phone)
  • (Important) Take time out to reflect and take a breather and catch up it is easy to become overwhelmed.

I have been trying to keep track of everyone I meet and reply to all email and tweet and SMS but I think I will be fighting a loosing battle to keep that up – so sorry in advance especially as I have trouble with placing and remembering names and faces sometimes!

Edit – also, buy a raffle ticket.

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