Aus Update 27 - 

Ballarat (again), Moe & computer fun

11-Jan-2007

<Chris> 1-Dec. We've slept in a house for the last couple of days and on Friday Theo was going up to Ballarat to check on some gardening work at some units they have up there. I went along for the ride, retracing the trip we'd made on Wednesday. While we were there we demolished an old garden shed and fixed up some guttering and downpipes that were suffering from leaf blockage.

5-Dec. So we've been back at Theo & Katrina's for a few days and really I've done all the preparation I can, I've just got to start on changing the clutch while I've access to a nice dry garage with concrete floor and assistance from Theo in the evenings. We'd generally just been taking it easy, playing with Zeke and eating cheesecake. Let me explain that last reference. Katrina knows I like looking through the junk mail and local papers so she'd left some on the bench for me. While I was flicking through one of the local papers I couldn't help but notice an advertisement that said 12 cheesecakes for $15. Yes, that's right, cheesecakes for $1.25 each! I mentioned it (just commenting on the bargain really), not really knowing where the place was. Anyway, Katrina happened to be in the locality of the shop a couple of days later and we had a freezer full! (Yes, there was something wrong with them, for instance the strawberry topping was off centre - not a big problem for that price!)

Anyway, the clutch. I know some people won't be that interested, so it's a separate page Aus Car Update 3 - The clutch

6-Dec. Zeke was due a haircut, and he sat so well for Katrina, doesn't he look cute...

8-Dec. We're planning to go up to Moe to do some work on some of Theo & Katrinas units, so while everyone got ready for that I finished re-assembling the car from the clutch job by re-fitting the seats and checked it all worked. Sigh of relief, it was all good, the last 3 days of effort paid off.

It was about an hours drive to get to Moe. We took our wagon and Theo took his car both so he could bring a trailer and also so we could stay after the weekend when he went back to work. On the way there we followed our Navman icn530 navigator and managed to take some obscure roads Theo had never heard of. We came across a Toyota Hilux that had died in the middle of an intersection with a bunch of young people in it. I had a look but it appeared the battery was flat and not charging, so we towed them off the road (they were on a slight uphill in an intersection, and it was a bit difficult for them to roll back through the roundabout - yay the new clutch!).

The first thing we did when we got there was shift some top soil. There had been a garage here that had been removed to reorganise the section and the ground was lower.

I managed a "Doh" moment while we were shoveling the soil. I stepped up onto the back of the trailer. The back door of the trailer was open and I didn't notice the top bar. Luckily it bounced off my nose and whilst it hurt, didn't do too much damage.

We started repairing a garage door that had rusted through. It needed a new skin and bottom bar.

9-Dec. There have been a lot of fires in the area and we can see the results. Today we went up to a local dam for a picnic. When we got there we couldn't even see the other side of the lake.

Although the visibility was bad, it didn't smell strongly and we had a very pleasant time. When we got back to the units we had a look at the satellite pictures. This is what it showed...

The white is mainly smoke which you can see blanketing the coast to the east of Melbourne and another significant patch up by the border of Victoria & NSW. The red dots are computer enhanced additions, not actual flames, but these are the detected fire "hot spots". Moe is just south of the west side of the largest cluster of red dots.

10-Dec. Theo & I finished off repairing a garage door and were ably assisted with tool and drinks delivery by Paula & Zeke. Here's the repaired garage door.

It was so hot this day (~40 degC) - it really took it out of us working outside. Poor little Zeke just hated it and pretty much all he could do was sleep. Theo & Zeke returned home in the evening.

11 to 13-Dec. Paula and I stayed in Moe and did various demolition, painting & cleaning tasks on the units. Whilst it was hard work, it was really nice to be doing something productive for a change. Don't worry, 5 days of work cured us of the feeling :-) On Wednesday evening we returned to Theo & Katrinas place and spent the last couple of days before we headed off to Tassie for Christmas.

Katrina has been getting really into video work on her computer and asked if I could upgrade her storage. It was a slightly older machine and thus had all the usual problems of recognising modern larger hard drives. No problem, BIOS upgrade was available and I went to it with a re-flash. Reboot - oops. Dead machine. No problem I had saved the old BIOS to floppy, should be able to restore it from boot block routines. Oh no, nothing working. What went wrong? After another couple of hours of investigations I realised that this motherboard was version C of the model and there were 3 different BIOS's that had the same model number. Now I needed an EPROM programmer or another motherboard with the same socket. The local computer store didn't have the facilities, but pointed me to another store well across town that did. I went over and explained the situation, supplied them with the correct file and expected all to be well. It was taking a while and so I stuck my head inside the workshop door where one of the techs was puzzling over a totally dead machine. I took one look and knew what they had done. They'd peeled the sticker off the FLASH chip to read the chip type and stuck it back on upside down, then stuck the chip back in the socket matching the label, not the notch. I quickly turned it off and explained to them. While I was looking around to see where they kept the chip puller, the guy tried doing it with no tools. Well, anyone that's done that a few times knows exactly what to expect, 50% bent pins. Before he could make it any worse I told him to leave it and carefully straightened up the leads WITH PLIERS because they always snap if you do it with your fingers. Fortunately I managed to save all the pins and the chip hadn't been irreversibly damaged from the reverse insertion. I got a 50% discount for the FLASH reprogram after complaining that I'd had to save them from mucking up the job.

15-Dec. Paulas mum was coming to Melbourne for a music teachers conference and we went to the airport to pick her up.