We took an early bus from a dreadful company that is indirectly responsible for severely damaging one of my cameras, after leaving at 07:30, we arrived just after 09:00 to connect to a Wilsons boat that took deep inside Abel Tasman to our kayaking point (it's a 5 day backpacking trip from end to end):
about 1h later, we arrived to our beach
it's stable, but hard to paddle in the sand :)
We got to see seals and sea lions
so cute :)
after much paddling in current, we got to our destination beach
a mixed couple, I'm told it's rare
low tide, this all get covered
beautiful insect, we called it 'clack clack' for the noise it makes
Thanks to a very nice british couple that was part of our group, we were able to stay 2H longer, enjoy extra beach hiking time, and get back to Nelson 2h later thanks to them giving us a ride (the bus leaves early for no good reason). Abel Tasman was beautiful, we really loved it
Because we had seen Wellington some years back, we went to Napier airport to drop our rental car and flew directly to Nelson, the gateway to Abel Tasman, a very nice national park and the first part of New Zealand discovered by westerners, in this case a Dutchman who got in trouble with the Maori, left, and never came back, leaving the true discovery of New Zealand by Captain Cook.
We had to change planes in Wellington, which was a fun airport to visit with its Lord of the Rings theme:
Once we arrived in Nelson, our awesome motel had bikes they were able to lend us, so we biked downtown to a small museum which quite frankly was skipable, but we figured we'd give it a shot anyway :) and we went to check out their small cathedral:
We checked out a couple of wine shops for Jennifer, went around Queens park and walked up to the middle of new zealand for a bit of a view:
some birds with webbed feet have learned to stay on trees
Because there were too many things for us to see in Rotorua for the time we had, our first drive in Taupo was really just driving through to get to Tongariro NP. On our day back, we actually first spent the morning flying around Tongariro before heading back up.
I was told to stop at the National Trout Center (a trout hatchery), so we did just that.
plenty of trout, kids can even fish there :)
Next, I wanted to catch the damn opening by Hukka falls, but despite my best driving efforts and beating the google maps time estimate by a fair bit, we still got there 2mn too late to miss the damn opening (they open the damn 15mn after 2 hours to release extra water). That was vexing. I'll pretend that we saw it by playing the pictures in reverse :)
Next door was Rapid Jets where we got a nice jet boat ride except for the fact that Jennifer was talked out of wearing her sunglasses and couldn't see anything as a result while later we were doing 70kph flying on the water (impressive) but in pelleting rain which was somewhat painful when the water hit your face. The experience was much lesser than it should have been, shame...
the driver was incredibly skilled
And this was it for lake Taupo area, we then had to drive to Napier by the coast for our next area (which will be the next post)
After arriving from Lake Taupo, we still had a few hours in the day, so we went to check out a local winery for Jennifer before doing a quick tour of Napier for its art deco style (it was destroyed by an earthquake almost 100 years ago, so they used the opportunity to rebuild it differently). It was nothing to write home about, but still fun to see:
On to the art deco:
The next morning, we took a tour to see Gannets, birds related to boobies we had seen in Galapgos:
native NZ ducks
here they are, they like company :)
they have no fear of humans, you can be 1m from you and they'll ignore you
the babies were already somewhat grown
couple preening one another
and making a little dance
It was late in the mating season, but the males find sea weed to offer to females so that they can pair for life:
who wants my nice seaweed?
this poor bird is late for finding a mate
offering a feather seems like a nice gift too ;)
After the birds, we quickly stopped a small petting zoo on the way:
I'm a little piggy and here's my snout. Oink oink oink :)
The rest of the day was spent in wineries:
I had to suck wifi wherever I could, wifi in hotels had sucked
and by 17:30, it was all over, everything was closed, so we had to go home and find dinner
Per recommendation from Arturo and others, we went to the national park to do a nice 6H hike across a volcano.
Unfortunately, I didn't realize when I was offered a guide to get across that it was utterly useless and because I don't really like being in a middle of a pack with other people, I paid ever more to get a private guide who eneded up waiting for another private group we got effectively stuck with, and sometimes he was just with them chatting as Jennifer and I just pressed forward without him.
Putting aside the waste of money, it was a very nice hike, and while we got rained on for the last 3rd with virtually no visibility, it fortunately happened at the end when the views were that that important anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal.
down down and down, but it was easy, I could just jump down and land in soft dirt, almost like sand
then the weather turned to shit :)
after more than 1h in the rain, we got below the cloud layer and rain
this birdie actually came to me to check me out and kept flying around me
almost at the bottom
and done! :)
Here is the track: 19.6km, 1000m altitude gain, 7h with more than 1h of breaks and waiting for the other slower group.
The next morning, we went for a quick flight to see it from the sky, but weather wasn't good, so we only so a little bit:
So Rotoruta is actually tourist destination and as a result has a lot of things to amuze tourists that have nothing to do with the region. Usually we'd skip them, but this time we made an execption because they were just so much fun, and not something we were able to do elsewhere.
We started with rainbow springs to go see Kiwis as part of a backstage tour where you see how they take care of the babies that hatch in their nursery (kiwi birds do a very poor job raising their young and only 5% survive to adulthood in the wild. Actually kiwi birds are just not meant to survive unless they are alone, they don't fly, don't run fast, and can be easily eaten by any of many mammals that were introduced to New Zealand):
while they don't care for humans, they are cute :)
baby kiwi being weighed
kiwi in its enclosure
The park had a few other animals and birds:
kea, their local parrot
the tallest land bird, now extinct (Moa)
their local pigeon, it's quite fat :)
Next, we went to the Gondola for a view of the lake higher up, and 6 consecutive rides of luge, which was a lot of fun. You can go quite fast with them, catch serious air, and if you're too fast in turn they'll tilt and slow you down without flipping over. They are quite well designed. You then go back up with a ski lift chair and go again :)
Needless to say that I went full bore on the expert track quickly being a bit competitive and all :) and let Jennifer get a good head start before trying to catch up with her. I managed most times except when the tortoise beat the hare :)
(I get good air around 0:47 and pass Jennifer at 0:55)
Next, we went to Ovo to try Zorbing, a New Zealand specialty. You're inside a giant double layer ball which itself has water inside, so the ball is falling down the hill while you are sliding around the ball on the water (if you wonder, you can't be inside too long since you'd run out of breathable air, but for the downhill length, it's not an issue):
This left us just enough time to drop our luggage at our hotel, and go to Mitai, a 3H Maori experience, including slow cooked lamb and chicken in the ground:
We then had a tour of the grounds and saw another Maori performance:
The next morning, we quickly went around Rotorua to see some of its geothermal activity and went to see a Maori Village built on heat vents for free cooking and hot water (in hindsight, Rotorua was totally skipable compared to what we were going to see later):
nice hot bath
hot water is channeled
Mud pools are fun to watch:
Next, we went to Waimangu, towards Taupo Lake and did the walk down to see geothermal activity down the road
The next location, Waiotapu, also had a mud pool next to it and a long walk showing you all the features there:
When we were done, we drove through Taupo to get to our Chateau Hotel for the Tongariro crossing the next day:
After diving diving in Tutukaka, we took a bus back to Auckland, picked up a rental car, and drove towards Hahei. We lost 1.5h due to having to swap rental cars (the one we got in Auckland didn't have a trunk that could fit our luggage), and then we got stuck by an accident on the freeway out. Nonetheless we made it to hot water beach a bit late, but still in time to appreciate the hot water coming out of the sand which you could use to make your own hot pools given the right mix with cold water (the hot water on its own is scalding).
we stayed until the tide started coming back up and giving us some cold water to mix with the scalding hot water in our pool
Next, we hiked to cathedral cove, a nice beach and cove that is usually filled with people but because we went there late (20:00), it was quite nice and quiet. The relative low tide also allowed us to cross the cove without getting our shoes wet (the next day, you had to swim across):
oyster catcher birds
there was also a waterfall, nice...
we then hiked back to our car and got to our B&B
The next morning, we enjoyed a nice breakfast before going to the beach for our kayak tour:
interesting rock formation
cathedral cove see from the sea
this is where we crossed on foot the previous evening :)
looks like running around that corner to avoid the water wasn't going to work this time :)
After the kayak ride which was fun and scenic, there didn't seem to be much to do besides staying on the beach which isn't much what we enjoy doing :) so my hiking book recommended the Karangahake Gorge and its Windows Walk. It's a very scenic place which mostly made up for the unfortunate 3H it took to drive all the way there and back (with a detour via Waihi). In hindsight, we should have stayed in Waihi the 2nd night or actually gone all the way to Rotorua to be onsite for the next day.
Anyway, Karangahake Gorge was very pretty, unfortunately windows walk was closed in the tunnel, preventing us from doing the full loop and wasting some of our time while we figured out where we could go and where exactly the track was closed (inside a mining tunnel turns out, so when your loop is almost over, you have to turn back and do it all again in reverse).
From there, it was too late to go to Waihi Beach before Orokawa Beach Track, so we went to the later directly. WE just happened to be driving by another mining town along the way, and they had an open mine you could look at:
For Orokawa Beach, you had to park somewhere obscure and hike 30-45mn to the beach:
nice place for dinner
I went for a swim, but it was kind of dicey with all the rocks
having a fresh shower afterwards was nice :)
I did apply sunscreen almost everywhere :)
we then had to hike back up
From there, we had to drive back to Hahei which was a bit tedious. The mountain roads at night would have taken almost 2h for the average driver. Google gave me an optimistic 1h25 (it uses the speed limit without knowing that you can't typically drive 100kph on curvy mountain roads). Thankfully mountain roads are my bread and butter, so I did it in 1h15 :) .
As part of our trip through New Zealand, my guidebook mentioned Poor Knights Islands as some of the best sub tropical diving in the world (and especially New Zealand], so we took 3 days to go dive there with Ocean Blue Adventures. It's a small liveaboard, but they were nice enough to give us the one room (they had some bunks for the rest of the folks), and it was comfortable enough for that duration. The crew of 2 did everything they could to make the trip and diving as nice as possible.
Poor Knights Island is a 2H boat trip from Tutukaka, so it was nice to be able to stay on site and do more dives than the other boats that only did 2 dives per day.
Water was on the cold side (19 to 22C). Jennifer got too cold on her first day due to not putting 2 wetsuits on right away (ideally one would have been enough, but her body just gets colder than mine and then needed more time to recover). She missed a few dives as a result, but enjoyed the ones she did. I did all the dives myself, although 19-21C with a 7mm suit was really on the cold side.
The diving was interesting. There were scorpionfish everywhere, as well as nice nudibranch (some quite fat), and even nudibranch on top of scorpionfish (that was weird):
I totally missed the scorpionfish underneath when I took the picture
There were loads of rays too:
Loads of moray eels of all kinds:
nice blue moray eel
that poor fish had a tumor
We did one night dive. Lots of little food floating around :)
And that was the conclusion of our 3 days of diving at Poor Knights Islands. It was cold, pretty tough for Jennifer and borderline for me, but it was interesting to see different critters from what we usually see during tropical diving
As part of our trip to New Zealand's Northland, we flew in an interesting plane I hadn't seen before, an Australian version of a Kodiak. It had very good payload for 300hp, and it only burned about 15gph while carrying 8 people (albeit at 120kts):
The flight was very nice:
We landed on what looked like a sketchy grass runway that went unhill and curved, but our pilot did fine with it :)
Takeoff was also "interesting":
Our flight back was just as scenic:
Russel, where we spent the evening the day before
It was a super nice flight, best way to see North New Zealand. Thanks to Salt Air!.
We took an early bus from Auckland to Paiha, the place where all tourists to Northland get dumped :) As my guide book says, the town itself isn't much of a destination, but it's a convenient base to explore locations around from. When we arrived around noon, we were met by the owners of our B&B, Decks of Paiha, who nicely came to pick us up and drove us up the hill to their place. From there, we went for our boat tour of the neighbouring islands. As part of the trip, we got dropped off an island where we hiked a bit for views:
the bus ride was pretty comfortable
the locally famous hole in the rock
we got lucky to see some wild dolphins on the way back
To be honest, the boat trip is probably what people do there, but not what we enjoyed the most. At the end of the trip, the boat dropped us off at Russell across from Paiha, and we hiked to the flagstaff and the beach by Takeka Point. Ironically that was actually free and fun ;)
passion fruit, but not quite ripe yet
After our hike at the beach, we got back to the ocean front for dinner and took the ferry back to Paiha to our BnB:
The last but most fun part of that excursion was going to sand dunes and doing dune boarding:
long climb up :)
Jennifer struggled a bit with directional control :)
After another great flight back, we went to Waitangi Treaty Grounds and learned about how the british went to New Zealand and actually treated the Maori with more respect than they have of any other country they tried to invade. From what I can tell, it's actually because the Maori were bad ass: all the tribes were unified against the british if needed, and they were scary warriors. The british likely feared them which is understandable considering how they look when they do their dances. All this to say, I have much respect for the Maori and I'm happy that it's probably the only native people to a land who stayed ahead and didn't get crushed like most others (Australian Aborigines, US Indians, and so forth).
(but rest assured the british of course still did their best to screw the Maori later, but only managed to do it so much)
where the treaty was signed with the Maori
The Maori gave us a very nice show:
The treaty grounds are also quite nice to visit:
The 3rd day, we had a nice breakfast at our B&B before heading out with a rental car. We then went to Kawiti Glow Worm caves:
you can see the glow worms if you look carefully
Next, we went to the parrot place, which was quite fun:
yeah, scratch me right here :)
very small baby quail
On the way out, we went to see the oldest house in New Zealand, the brick house and rainbow falls:
We finished with a couple of wineries for Jennifer:
From there, we returned our rental car, took a bus to Whangarei and a minivan to Tutukaka where we slept before going to our diving boat the next morning
This year, LCA went back to New Zealand for the 3rd time. It was great to see the usual suspects again, and this time Jennifer and I used the opportunity to go visit the rest of New Zealand as part of this trip.
For the first year, I went to all 5 years, starting with the openradio miniconf where we built our own radio with an arduino to do tuning before passing on the audio stream to the PC for analysis.
my first surface mount soldering
receiving and decoding the signal
The 2nd day, we built a small robot based off both an arduino and a raspberry pi:
Some pictures from the main conference:
my updated talk on btrfs went well
Tridge gave a talk on ardupilot again, much fun
The LCA Team had an impressive video recording setup they built with their own video capture board:
And after 5 days of great talks and fun, it was over again. See you all next year!
Steve Walch got the Rusty Wrench award this year, well deserved
This year, for the 3rd time, linux.conf.au was in New Zealand, and conveniently in Auckland which is a nice direct flight for us. We arrived 2 days before the conference started, which gave us 2 days to visit Auckland. While 3 or 4 would have been better, I feel that we got the highlights in 2 days :)
Our first day was a bit tough since we landed around 05:30, and went directly to the hotel to drop our luggage and start exploring. Thankfully our flight in business was quite pleasant and the lie down flat beds were very good:
the entertainment system was top notch
The flight was almost over too soon, I'd have happily slept there a bit longer :)
Welcome back to NZ!
After arriving at our hotel around 07:00, we did a portion of the coast to coast walk although we only got as far as the War Museum (which is actually a lot more than just a war museum). We stopped by the botanical garden on the way:
happy bee :)
heavily loaded bee
Finally got to the auckland museum
The museum had one display showing you a simulation of what willl happen when the next volcano errupts around Oakland (and that's just a matter of time, we just don't know when):
Oakland is full of volcanoes
The war museum part is the 3rd floor, which actually was the least interesting to us, but we still went through it quickly:
We then went to the art museum before heading back after a quick dinner (actually I went back out to see a couple of movies at the planetarium that were only showing that evening), and then it was time for well deserved rest :)
The next morning, we took a ferry to Rangitoto, the youngest volcano around Auckland:
we took the easy way up :)
you can still see that the island is volcanic
that's the volcano crater, but you can't really tell with all the trees
nice view of Auckland from there
we went by the lava tubes on the way down
After getting back to Auckland, we went to MOTAT, the museum of transportation:
After MOTAT, we went to Auckland Sky Tower:
you can walk around the top, tethered
That was it for day #2, we were still a bit jetlagged (not just the difference from California, but that we had flown from France 2 days prior), so we were happy to be in bed by 22:00 so that I could get an early start at the conference on monday the next day.
The rest of the week was indeed spent at the conference, but friday night, before leaving, I went to fly a jet auckland to try a 737 simulator again (75mn of flight), and joined Jennifer for dinner at Clooney, probably the best restaurant in Auckland, where we enjoyed a very nice 5 course dinner:
And that was it for our time in Auckland. It's a nice little city that isn't too crowded and we lucked out with the weather
Code download: Multi Color PWM LED Matrix Driver.
Many LED matrices come with a MAX7219 driver chip or equivalent. Those are great since you program the columns and rows, and they do the line by line scan and refresh for you. Unfortunately, you can't do color mixes with different intensities for each color. For instance the Adafruit LED backpack is super easy to use, but you cannot control each color to mix different shades between them.
Then, I also happened to have some raw LED matrices a dual color one and a triple color one ordered from china, equivalent to these two: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/682 and https://www.sparkfun.com/products/683 . Those didn't come with any driver chip, so that gave me an excuse to program my own code to do line scanning and refresh like many examples you find on the net.
My bycolor matrix has common cathode, green and red on the 2 anodes. Like other matrices you have to disable all the lines, set the rows you'd like for each color, and then turn on the common ground to illuminate those pixels for a little while. Then, you go to the next line, and continue. Many examples do this in the main arduino loop, but I wanted to use Adafruit's excellent Adafruit-GFX library. As a result, I wrote an ISR (interrupt routine) to rrefresh the lines, like an old cathodic raw tube, in the background, while leaving the main loop for programming what you want to do and display. This soon allowed me to display the smiley face bitmap from the Adafruit LED Backpack library.
This was pretty major accomplishment for me since I wrote a generic C++ library that could allocate an array of any size (it supports anything, not just 8x8), and do all the work in the background in an ISR. I then got busy with other projects and hobbies.
Later, I came back to this and added code to support more than one color, and especially support programming an LED array of 1 to 3 separate colors wired either directly or via shift registers, or a combination of the 2 (shift registers save pins, but also make IO 50% slower). By then I was hitting issues where I had to refresh the lines very quickly (200 microseconds) to allow for 16 shades per color and still offer a 40-50Hz refresh rate for the whole array. If my refresh became slower than 200 microseconds, I could not support 16 shades (4 bits per color) without getting too slow and creating an array that would visibly flicker.
I fixed this by doing the following:
Fast Digital IO to make digitalwrite 3x faster and my ISR routine 2.5x faster
Instead of having 16 interruptions for 16 levels per color, I switched to binary code modulation where I could do the same 16 levels of shading with only 4 interrupts instead of 16. This also leaves more time for code in the main loop.
I've published my resulting code here: Multi Color PWM LED Matrix Driver. While it uses more resources than the adafruit backpacks, it's cheaper in hardware and ends up giving more flexibility (many more colors).
Before you ask me for help, READ THIS PLEASE :)
If you don't know the basics of LED matrices and shift registers, go read the links at the bottom of this page which show wiring for direct wiring and shift registers.
But basically you should get the basics working before trying my library, make sure you can turn on LEDs one by one, understand the basics, and then you can use my library which will give you much faster access to your matrix while offering a GFX graphical library on top.
You can look at the results here:
The original Adafruit::GFX library doesn't support multi color bitmaps, but I added support for it here: https://github.com/adafruit/Adafruit-GFX-Library/pull/39
After doing the above, I went to add support for Tricolor Matrices, which was not much work, except for adding those 2 bits:
allowing shift registers to be wired to rows in reverse order when it makes wiring easier
3 colors at 16pwm values and 40Hz runs against the speed limits of an arduino nano v3
My tricolor matrix had a common anode which was opposite from the bicolor with a common cathode.
Again, the pictures don't do a good job showing the PWM values because of the CCD trying to capture a consistent amount of light. Also, anything close to white uses all 3 LEDs, this draws too much current from my arduino on the common anode. Before I add FETs or ways to improve current per line, it's still good enogh for demos. This setup uses 2 shift registers for 16 pins (blue and red), while green is connected directly to 8 pins, and 8 pins for common anode (which is where the current for 3 LEDs at once is lacking):