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2017/01/29 Nagano's Hakuba
π 2017-01-29 01:01 in Snow

As our first snow destination in Nagano, we went to Hakuba. They had the olympics, so like squaw, it must be great :)
Hakuba has multiple snow resorts, Happo One being the most central and famous since it had the olympic facilities. The first day however, we went to visit Hakuba 47, another big resort a short distance away, joined to Goryu, but sadly they were very strict, would stop the lift if I even dared to try to get off the lift bound in with both feet (which I do for safety and the welfare of my knee which can't take torquing from riding on one leg), and then they had this tree zone, the only place off boring groomers, where you had to be a member to ride. I figured that since all I do is ride trees and off piste, that would make me an honorary member, but turns out ski patrol disagreed, go figure...




Goryu was adjacent to Hakuba 47
Goryu was adjacent to Hakuba 47


Japan likes gondolas, way too many for my taste
Japan likes gondolas, way too many for my taste

tree riding zone, that's for me, right?
tree riding zone, that's for me, right?

The next day the plan was go to to Cortina, another further north resort known for actually allowing riding off piste, but sadly the rain falling was actually rain at lower elevation, the conditions at cortina were supposed to be horrible, so instead we stayed in our room a bit longer until the temps got lower, and we went to Happo One for a half day of skiing at the top elevations where the snow wasn't too bad, even if the visiblity was near 0. Not too many pictures as a result:





The 3rd day, we got luckier, and all the snow that fell overnight was actually snow and Happo One's top was excellent powdery conditions. We went all over the top of the mountain and enjoyed the fresh powder very much. As a result, we never got ot see Cortina, but since it was a warm storm, staying at Happo One was the right decision for snow quality. We then had to leave the resort not too late to catch a bus to Nagano and take a train to Shiga Kogen





avalanche gates
avalanche gates

at the time, it seemed like a great idea to go between them and enjoy the fresh snow, Arturo told me otherwise :)
at the time, it seemed like a great idea to go between them and enjoy the fresh snow, Arturo told me otherwise :)




See more images for Nagano's Hakuba
2017/01/28 Winter and Snow in Japan: Nagano's Hakuba and Yudanaka + Shibu Onsen
π 2017-01-28 01:01 in Japan, Japan2017, Trips
After multiple trips to Japan during the spring/summer, it was time to go to Japan during the winter to see the winter festivals, and do some snowboarding in its legendary dry snow. So, Arturo and I made plans for this trip, and our friend Regis joined us.

This started with a longish trip: SFO to Narita, skyliner to Ueno, shinkansen to Nagano, and bus to Hakuba:






In Hakuba, I found Atarashiya Ryokan a short distance from the main bus stop. It was a nice traditional ryokan with breakfast and dinner onsite, and where it was good that I was able to speak some Japanese, because their English was close to non existent :)



Atarashiya Ryokan was walking distance from Happo One lifts, which is good for the 2 days we went there:




>>> Go here for my snowboarding report of Hakuba's Happo-One and Hakuba 47 <<<

After 3 days in Hakuba, we took a bus to a subway/train to Yudanaka, and we stayed at Ryokan Hakura which was excellent and where Onozawa-San took good care of us, and thankfully also spoke better English than I spoke Japanese, making things a bit easier for us :)
The first 2 days we took an early bus from the station to Shiga Kogen to go snowboarding (report here)


the train to Yudanaka was a bit slower and less luxurious than the other trains we took, but it got us there
the train to Yudanaka was a bit slower and less luxurious than the other trains we took, but it got us there

Our rooms at Ryokan Hakura were half western, half Japanese, which was a nice mix
Our rooms at Ryokan Hakura were half western, half Japanese, which was a nice mix

We got to enjoy a very yummy dinner in our Ryokan after our first day of skiing
We got to enjoy a very yummy dinner in our Ryokan after our first day of skiing

the road to shiga kogen's remote bigger resorts was time consuming, nice curved bridge here
the road to shiga kogen's remote bigger resorts was time consuming, nice curved bridge here

At end of the 2nd day, we went to a walk from Yudanaka to Shibu Onsen around sunset, which was a bit of a trek, but a nice city to visit:










the 2nd night after skiing, we had dinner in a local restaurant
the 2nd night after skiing, we had dinner in a local restaurant


Our last day, we didn't have to leave so early for the ski bus, and were able to have breakfast in our ryokan, which was quite good and [Onozawa-San very nicely drove us to Jigokudani Yaen-Koen (Monkey Park)|] and then to the train station (which was welcome considering that my luggage was not fun to take uphill in snowy streets):



Onozawa-San giving us a farewell
Onozawa-San giving us a farewell

Next, was a trip to Hokkaido's Niseko.

2017/01/25 Tasmania Day 11: Queenstown Steam Train and Drive Back to Hobart
π 2017-01-25 01:01 in Australia, Tasmania2017, Trips

We did the steam train ride between Strahan and Queenstown except since we were driving out anyway, and the rack and pinion train ride left from Queenstown, we did an early drive there, which despite the very curvy road, we arrived there in 30mn instead of the recommended 1h drive :)
Since we had time to burn, we drove to a viewing point before finally going to the train, which left by 09:00:




those steam trains were mostly used to move mining product to Strahan to get to ships
those steam trains were mostly used to move mining product to Strahan to get to ships


we got the premium cabin with drinks and snacks :)
we got the premium cabin with drinks and snacks :)



rack and pinion to go uphill and downhill steep grades
rack and pinion to go uphill and downhill steep grades

this is how it works
this is how it works

a few places allow an oncoming train to cross
a few places allow an oncoming train to cross

the little engine is thirsty uphill
the little engine is thirsty uphill





we had a few stops while the engine was getting more water
we had a few stops while the engine was getting more water


we crossed paths with the strahan to queenstown train
we crossed paths with the strahan to queenstown train



a tree fell on the tracks, but the engineers had a chainsaw to take care of that :)
a tree fell on the tracks, but the engineers had a chainsaw to take care of that :)


If you like steam trains, here is a video summary:

When we got back to Queenstown, we got to pan for gold and went to visit the local historical museum:








On the drive out, we went to iron blow lookout, of one of the mining areas:



Then, we had the long drive back to Strahan, which we were able to do at very good pace though :)


I stopped for a quick hike
I stopped for a quick hike



After that we got to the famous "The Wall" art gallery, a huge wood carving:





And back to Hobart for our very early flight home the next morning:


We had a good time and definitely got to see a lot more of Tasmania than last time.

2017/01/24 Helicopter Flight from Strahan, Tasmania over Western Tasmania to Queenstown
π 2017-01-24 01:01 in Australia, Flying, Tasmania2017
While in Strahan, we got a 30mn-ish, very expensive helicopter flight to Queenstown and back. While the price was not a great deal (price of helis being always much more), it was quite scenic.

R44
R44



nice non straight road to Queenstown
nice non straight road to Queenstown






queenstown is a big mining town
queenstown is a big mining town






middle station where the steam train stop and can turn around
middle station where the steam train stop and can turn around


2017/01/24 Tasmania Day 10: Strahan
π 2017-01-24 01:01 in Australia, Tasmania2017, Trips
After finishing our long hike and mountain accent at Cradle Mountain, I drove to Strahan, a quick easy drive without traffic.


Our merc was a pleasure to drive and got us through the twisty roads to Strahan
Our merc was a pleasure to drive and got us through the twisty roads to Strahan

After a quick dinner, we walked to Hogarth Falls but didn't get to see any Platypus
After a quick dinner, we walked to Hogarth Falls but didn't get to see any Platypus

Nice view from our room, the big boat was the one we took for our tour
Nice view from our room, the big boat was the one we took for our tour

Jennifer was happy with our premium cabin and unlimited drinks :)
Jennifer was happy with our premium cabin and unlimited drinks :)



the british built a railroad line that went to the sea to load ships more easily
the british built a railroad line that went to the sea to load ships more easily


we then made it to gordon river and its rainforest
we then made it to gordon river and its rainforest

we got out for a quick walk
we got out for a quick walk


Next we went to mariah island, where many convicts were kept under bad conditions. A ranger gave us a great story of what happened:






Back on land, we had a look at a pine sawmill:




Next, we went to sand dunes to ride an 4WD ATV, that was a lot of fun:




we eventually got to the ocean dunes
we eventually got to the ocean dunes


our ATV guide
our ATV guide

I made it up the sand dune the first time (where others bailed and rolled back)
I made it up the sand dune the first time (where others bailed and rolled back)

Then, we got back to town to see The Ship That Never Was play. That was the biggest disappointment of the day, as well as waste of time. It was really silly and made for kids (only):



Next (yes, long days), we went to another river where we were hoping to see a wild platipus, but we weren't lucky enough:



And this was finally the end of our day. We had a sunset boat trip planned to see some mutton birds and penguins, but sadly it was cancelled, so that was it for our long day :)

See more images for Tasmania Day 10: Strahan
2017/01/23 Tasmania Day 09: Cradle Mountain
π 2017-01-23 01:01 in Australia, Tasmania2017, Trips
We arrived at Cradle Mountain in the late afternoon and went for a couple of hikes after an early dinner to see animals around dusk, and it was an awesome plan that worked beyond expectations. We saw more animals in those few hours than the entire day after that.


nice dinner at our hotel after we arrived and before a dusk/sunset walk
nice dinner at our hotel after we arrived and before a dusk/sunset walk

We found this little guy eating grass and totally unfraid
We found this little guy eating grass and totally unfraid

it didn't even mind being pet, which is unusual as adult wombats are usually not friendly
it didn't even mind being pet, which is unusual as adult wombats are usually not friendly


lots of wombats came out in the evening to go forage
lots of wombats came out in the evening to go forage

more wallabies than we could count
more wallabies than we could count


we were hoping for this water hole to be overrun, but it wasn't
we were hoping for this water hole to be overrun, but it wasn't

but we found some elsewhere
but we found some elsewhere


then I got super lucky and spotted this echidna
then I got super lucky and spotted this echidna


This was a great few hours out, the most wildlife we've never seen. After all that, we got some good sleep and got up bright and early the next morning for hiking the overland track all the way up to cradle mountain peak:










Wild life was limited, most animals stay put during the day:








The problem is that my hiking boots totally failed, the sole peeled off both of them:. I used the very limited amounts of duct tape I had, and then Jennifer's head band, and twisty ties, but honestly it barely held things together:



this is the peak we climbed, it was very steep and rocky at the top, and very hard with my broken shoes
this is the peak we climbed, it was very steep and rocky at the top, and very hard with my broken shoes


the trail kind of disappeared
the trail kind of disappeared

and it got worse from here
and it got worse from here

finally got to the top
finally got to the top


I did an Arturo at the top
I did an Arturo at the top

Getting back down was not fun, especially with my broken shoes. It was actually kind of dangerous since I didn't know when my shoes were going to fail and slip, but eventually we got back to the trail, and finished the loop going towards the lake.




we got back down to the lake
we got back down to the lake



We eventually got back to Rony Creek bus stopped and got a ride back to the parking lot, picked up our car and then I drove to Strahan for our next 2 days.

See more images for Tasmania Day 09: Cradle Mountain
2017/01/22 Fine Dining in Stillwater, Launceston, Tasmania
π 2017-01-22 01:01 in Dining, Tasmania2017
As luck would have it, I randomly picked a restaurant in Launceston that was conveniently located where we'd be, and it turns out it was a top rated Michelin rated restaurant. We went with Andy and had a great dinner:






2017/01/22 Tasmania Day 08: Launceston - Mole Creek towards Cradle Mountain
π 2017-01-22 01:01 in Australia, Tasmania2017, Trips
After a night in Launceston, we left reasonably early to go to the nearby Tasmania Zoo as soon as it opened.


Breakfast in our B&B
Breakfast in our B&B

Tasmania Zoo had fun animal encounters, so we did a couple :)
Tasmania Zoo had fun animal encounters, so we did a couple :)





the keeper picked up a female tasmanian devil for us
the keeper picked up a female tasmanian devil for us

I'm not sure I would put my fingers there though :)
I'm not sure I would put my fingers there though :)




Jennifer practised her wombat petting technique
Jennifer practised her wombat petting technique

cockatoos are awesome birds, they always love my sunflower seeds
cockatoos are awesome birds, they always love my sunflower seeds


we then got some pictures with meerkats
we then got some pictures with meerkats

they are very curious and fidgedy
they are very curious and fidgedy


From the zoo, we were originally going to stop at Trowunna Wildlife Park on the way, but given the limited time in the rest of our day, and the zoo we had just seen as well as the animal encounters, we were told that it would be a bit of a repeat, so I drove directly to Mole Creek Caves where we did their 3 cave tours. The first two had quite a bit of overlap but showed different parts of the cave, so doing both instead of one, wasn't an entire waste:














The cave had glow worms, although they were picky about allowing us to photograph them:




After the cave, we drove to Cradle Mountain and did some nice hikes in the evening, but those pictures are on the Cradle Mountain (next) page.

2017/01/21 Tasmania Day 07: Frecynet National Park/Wineglass Bay to Launceston
π 2017-01-21 01:01 in Australia, Tasmania2017, Trips
After a week in Hobart (mostly for the conference), we took an early morning tour bus from Hobart to the northern city of Launceston, but most of the time was spent at Frecynet National Park/Wineglass Bay on the way up.


We had a quick stop on the way, showing an old sawmill:




And we finally got to Wineglass Bay:





beautiful rock beaches, like bay of fires we saw in 2009
beautiful rock beaches, like bay of fires we saw in 2009




and did I mention wallabies?
and did I mention wallabies?




On the way out, we stopped at a winery and eventually got to Launceston, where we met my friend Andy who had driven there, and did a nice walk around Cataract Gorge Reserve:











We then enjoyed a nice dinner at Stillwater with Andy


2017/01/17 Linux.conf.au 2017, Hobart
π 2017-01-17 01:01 in Linux
As another full circle LCA, this one came back to Hobart, Tasmania (our last time was in 2009|/perso/linux/post_2009-01-21_Linux_conf_au-2009-in-Tasmania.html].



As every year, a nice collection of talks












and of course great parties too:






And afer a week, it was over, 'till next year:



See more images for Linux.conf.au 2017, Hobart
2017/01/16 IoTuz Driver for our ESP32 board built at Open Hardware Miniconf at Linux.Conf.au 2017
π 2017-01-16 01:01 in Arduino, Linux
I went to meet the Open Hardware Miniconf team to hang out the previous day and see them at work finishing the last boards:


last minute hardware patching
last minute hardware patching


The IoTuz board was a challenge compared to previous years. It was based on the still new ESP32 and had very little example code. Most of the hardware had never been exercised since the board had been designed, and with a few other people I took the task to heart. Within the week, I was able to get the SPI touch screen working at the same time than the LCD (which required cable select switching via I/O expander lines. It took longer to get the two APA106 (neopixel-like) LEDs to work:

I had the first etch-a-sketch working :)
I had the first etch-a-sketch working :)

So, that all in January. But IoTuz was the gift that kept on giving. It had all those I/O bits that didn't work at all and no one had ever used. Hell, some of them had no existing drivers at all (Neopixel no support under arduino IDE, IO expander needed some access functions, No support for the IR receiver, touch screen needed a few hacks, joystick needed some code to support the huge dead zone in the center), while some other hardware worked out of the box with existing drivers (temp/humidity and accelerometer). The rotary encoder also needed custom ESP32 interrupt code to work properly (nothing too fancy, but there was no existing driver to use).

So, I embarqued into a mega library/object to support most of the hardware and ended up with almost 1000 lines of code for my IoTuz library, and another thousand lines or so for the main example code (examples/fulldemo) and that does not include 3rd party code of existing demos I was able to re-use and port to IoTuz.

In the end, that took about 100 hours of work since I had to write/port drivers as I went along, and learn how some of that hardware was even supposed to work :) (ok, non trivial time was also spent finding and chasing platform bugs which have now been fixed, as well as merging driver code with upstream maintainers).

Here is a quick video summary (longer videos at the bottom):

And here is the result (thanks to https://github.com/marcmerlin/IoTuz 's examples/fulldemo)

I made an adjustable touch menu system
I made an adjustable touch menu system


drawing circles with the accelerometer by rotating the board
drawing circles with the accelerometer by rotating the board

touch color selector
touch color selector

hardware scroll of bitmap using the rotary encoder
hardware scroll of bitmap using the rotary encoder



Just like the joystick not being very precise or centered right, the touchscreen isn't quite the same for everyone, but especially in my case I broke my touchscreen, had to buy another one and that one was wired reversed, so I designed a screen touch screen calibrator which auto adjusts and supports touch screens that are inversed like mine:


Enough bla-blah, show me the code: https://github.com/marcmerlin/IoTuz

And here are some video clips:

Hardware Intro

IoTuz Controls

IoTuz Infrared Support

IoTuz Demos

IoTuz Breakout and Tetris

Again, here's the code: https://github.com/marcmerlin/IoTuz

2017/01/15 Tasmania Day 01-06: Hobart
π 2017-01-15 01:01 in Australia, Tasmania2017, Trips
Time flies, it was my 16tth trip to Australia and New Zealand for linux.conf.au.

After a longish trip to Hobart, Tasmania, the next morning I started with the botanical garden, which I found out later, I had already been to in 2009 during our previous visit to Tasmania, and wasn't that impressive, but it was open before everything else, so I went there:

of course I was up early, so I got to enjoy sunrise
of course I was up early, so I got to enjoy sunrise



I then went to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which I had seen in 2009 too, but I quite enjoyed it, and I signed up for a couple of animal encounters, which were quite worth it:



got to feed some tawny frogmouth
got to feed some tawny frogmouth


then, we got a baby wombat (they are cudly when they are small, but not when they grow up)
then, we got a baby wombat (they are cudly when they are small, but not when they grow up)



Then went to see the rest of the sanctuary, because it's fun:

some kangaroos were very nice, even if you didn't feed them
some kangaroos were very nice, even if you didn't feed them







Next, I went to Mona, the local museum of modern art:






very small pretty spiders
very small pretty spiders

this male was excited and showing off
this male was excited and showing off

and then the female spider gets conned :)
and then the female spider gets conned :)



they had an unusual wall of vagina plasters
they had an unusual wall of vagina plasters




I didn't take the ferry to museum since I arrived from the north, but I took it back to the town
I didn't take the ferry to museum since I arrived from the north, but I took it back to the town

where you can ride on sheep, because why wouldn't you?
where you can ride on sheep, because why wouldn't you?

The ferry got me back to Hobart downtown where Jennifer eventually met me fresh off her plane:


Another evening, after the conference, we went for a nice dinner, and hiked down from a higher point in town, where we walked down and saw some wild wallabies:





And this was it for Hobart. We had already been 8 years ago, so there wasn't that much we hadn't seen already. We however the next Saturday morning, after the conference was over, we took a bus tour towards the north of the Island.

See more images for Tasmania Day 01-06: Hobart
2017/01/05 2 days at Heavenly with Louis and Ovidiu
π 2017-01-05 01:01 in Snow
Louis was nice enough to accept a trip to Tahoe and do all the driving a mere 8 hours after landing in SFO and getting home from our Paris trip. I didn't get to sleep a lot, but thankfully Louis was more awake than I was. We were on the road by 04:50. Now, our plan was to go to Kirkwood and see what happens, but sadly Caltrans never opened SR88, so we couldn't get to Kirkwood directly and had to change plans and drive to South Lake Tahoe. At that point, I made the mistake of saying "Eh, well, we're here, let's just go to Heavenly, it's low winds today, it should just open without problems".
Big mistake, I didn't actually know how much Heavenly sucked nowadays. For various reasons they got very little open (Sky never opened and Canyon opened past 11:00 and had 20-30mn lines on a thursday!). I ended up mostly running Canyon despite the lines, thinking about how much better it would be if Heavenly wasn't so lazy and actually opened sky.



4 lifties to get sky ready, and then not open it. Good job!
4 lifties to get sky ready, and then not open it. Good job!


canyon was good for the first ride and then went downhill fast :(
canyon was good for the first ride and then went downhill fast :(

yeah :(
yeah :(

some people were fed up and hiked up towards sky express
some people were fed up and hiked up towards sky express






After the disappointment of day #1, not due to lack of snow, but mostly due to Heavenly suckage, we went back with Ovidiu (who nicely hosted us the previous night), and finally they did bother to open sky express. As expected the conditions were great:









Ovidiu then took us to fire break, an gate to exit the ski resort and ride down all the way to the bottom of the gondola. That was prety sweet:




untracked
untracked



don't miss the bridge
don't miss the bridge

After taking the gondola back up, we did a last run in the rock field off tamarack (but the entrance we took was not good), and then called it a day:




Thanks a lot to Ovidiu for hosting us, guiding us around heavenly, and Louis for driving us.

2017/01/03 Paris Aquarium
π 2017-01-03 01:01 in Aquariums
While in Paris, just a few minutes from the Eiffel tower, there is now an aquarium. Actually it's been around for 10 years now, but honestly I had never heard of it. It's been dug into the ground where there was nothing before, so honestly I didn't expect much, and to be honest it wasn't much, but eh, it's still an aquarium, worth about 1h or so.
The highlight was actually the touch pool at the end with big carps that were happy to come brush towards your hands, I even had several that tasted my hand with their mouth. Funny how curious they were, maybe they were hoping for food.





small sharks
small sharks

slipper lobster
slipper lobster

leopard shark?
leopard shark?


shark egg
shark egg







and the carps at the end (no, they weren't magikarp, but they were friendly :)
and the carps at the end (no, they weren't magikarp, but they were friendly :)

See more images for Paris Aquarium
2017/01/03 Cafe des Chats in Paris
π 2017-01-03 01:01 in Cats
During our time in Paris, I figured we'd go check out a somewhat new cat café in Paris (one out of only two). By the time we arrived, we found out that it was actually kind of a real café/restaurant with a proper menu, and somehow they are allowed to serve food with cats roaming around.
There was however a line to get in, and once in people were actually expected to order food or at least a drink and stay at their table with maybe cats that could come by you, or not. It didn't seem like you could roam around and go find the cats to pet them.

Clearly that looked underwhelming compared to other cat cafés we've been to, so we didn't bother going in. I just took a few pictures from the outside:









See more images for Cafe des Chats in Paris

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