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Z80 based systems still kicking July 29, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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It’s nice to know the Z80 is still alive and kicking in one form or another. 

Melody bought a chinese ipod knockoff, and it is powered by a 32Mhz Z80 based CPU.  Scarily enough the thing plays video too, although admittedly a custom format called AMV, which only had windows software available for conversion. Since we are currently using a mac, we downloaded a special version of ffmpeg, which supports AMV, however it crashed unless we disabled altivec support (we are using a G3), and then actually failed to link because a subroutine was not compiled unless altivec was enabled.  

After some coaxing, I managed to get it to compile, and we can now convert videos to the device quite happily.  I’ll need to get around to creating a patch for ffmpeg so this problem is fixed permanently.

Oh, well.

The journey that was July 29, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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In what now counts as our longest commute in history, we finally arrived in Langford at about midnight on the 15th. 

Before we even got off the ground, our flight was delayed by almost four hours leaving Melbourne Airport, as it was late leaving LAX previously, and that delay carried through. This meant that we had already lost our connecting flight and we were told that arrangements would be made at the other end. Qantas gave us a meal voucher so that we could get some breakfast and apologized for the delay.

After about four hours in the air, one of the passengers took ill, and we were advised that we were to make an emergency landing in Fiji in the middle of the night, about one hours flight in the previous direction. We landed at the airport in Nadi, and Fijian paramedics boarded the plane to assist with the stricken passenger. While this was happening, we were refueling, as the plane had expended extra fuel during its detour. 

After what seemed like an age, the plane was refueled, but we were unable to depart due to security rules as they had been unable to easily locate the passengers luggage, and ended up having to unload all the luggage to more easily search for the missing bags. Eventually we were in the air again, but another 3 to 4 hours behind schedule.

We flew faster to try and make up time to LAX, but we didn’t arrive until about ten minutes to two in the afternoon, a full six and a half hours after our scheduled arrival time. Because of the lateness of our arrival, there wasn’t a proper arrival gate available and we ended up berthed at one of the departure gates. We were escorted out across the tarmac (and under the wing of our 747-400) by armed TSA officers and onto a series of buses which deposited us at the regular arrivals area. 

Thankfully immigration processed us quickly (special priority was being given to our flight) and then we had to collect our baggage, and queue up to find out what our new connecting flights were. As far as we knew we had missed the last flight to Vancouver, but thankfully it turned out there was a 4:44 flight we had been rebooked onto. 

Next we had to go through American customs, which would not normally happen, but since our connecting flights were lost, we would have to check our luggage into the new flight manually. Customs cleared our bags, and we proceeded to the Domestic terminal to check into our new flight. We got the dreaded “SSSS” on our tickets and were subjected to additional security screenings. This was fine, but took forever for me, as they pulled everything out of my carry on luggage and swabbed it for traces of banned substances. Eventually we made it to the departure lounge with about half an hour before our flight left.

The flight to Vancouver was fairly uneventful, although at one point we flew over the top of Mount Baker, which looked absolutely amazing. We came in for landing hot at Vancouver, which was a little unnerving. Apparently airlines are doing this to save fuel, but it made us very nervous. 

We raced through the airport towards Immigration and Customs as if we were on “The Amazing Race”, as we had a very limited window in which to catch the bus to the Ferry. Unfortunately due to a hold up waiting for our baggage, we missed the bus (the last for the evening), and instead ran to the Taxi rank, where we hailed a cab and got him to get us to the Ferry terminal in time for the last Ferry. The driver obliged, and made record time, getting us to the terminal a full half hour before departure.

On the ferry, like the victims of airline food that we were, we ordered lavish helpings of food from the cafeteria. At about 10:30pm, we made it to Swartz bay, and Melody’s father and brother were waiting for us in the arrival lounge. Another hours journey, and we were back at our Canadian home.

Thankfully, gidget (our cat) forgave us quickly for being away.

It’s been a few difficult nights sleep for us as we fight jet lag, but things are returning to normal. Early next week we plan to go camping for a while, and I will get to see the Rocky mountains. 

After some trepidation, it is good to be back…

Preparing for Canada July 13, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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It’s been a while since I last posted, and a lot has happened since.

Melody was granted her temporary residency visa (which means she is legally able to stay here), and we are preparing to head to Canada for a month in a couple of days, for a holiday and to visit Melody’s family.  During that time we hope to go camping in Bannf, and this little black duck will see a mountain the way that nature intended it – big!

We are looking forward to a lot of simple things while we are there.  For one thing, we plan to eat a lot of Salmon.  A whole salmon big enough to feed four people as  a roast dinner costs around five dollars there, which is amazing when you see it costing around thirty to forty dollars a kilogram here.  We also plan to have ice-cream (in my case it is Rice cream hehe), as there aren’t many deserts in Australia that are sweetened by fruit sugar or Splenda.  Everything here is sweetened with dreaded sweetener number 951.  In addition to that we will wash down our ice-cream coated Salmon roast with ludicrous amounts of decaffinated drip coffee, something conspicuously absent in Australia.  A coffee in Canada costs about two dollars and change for something that fills a medium sized slurpee cup.

Our journey will take us via LA International Airport, which we are not so pleased about, but it will be the last time that we will have to pass through there, as we will be returning via New Zealand, as Air New Zealand does a flight from Vancouver to Auckland to Melbourne, which means we don’t have to pass though the United States at all.   The last time we flew to Canada, I got the short straw with an “SSSS” on my ticket stub, which meant that I was subjected to tighter security checks than a person would normally encounter.  I’m not fond of getting patted down by a TSA officer, and would prefer not to repeat the ordeal.

But I do feel a measure of excitement at the prospect of visiting Canada again.  Its just the prospect of forty hours of transit that makes me feel a little aprehensive.