Tag Archives: auckland

A reminisce of Auckland

During the year (late 2011-late 2012) I spent in Auckland after moving up there to be with Lisa, I collected a number of good memories and pictures from the region that I want to share to showcase what I consider to be the best bits of Auckland in my personal experience.

Waiting at the Devonport ferry crossing

Waiting at the Devonport ferry crossing

Auckland and I certainly have a love-hate relationship, it’s easy to be negative about Auckland with it’s transportation chaos, massive sprawling size and huge (by NZ standards) population, but at the same time it faces challenges that no other NZ city faces and serves up it’s own slice of awesomeness in the face of these issues.

If you can survive the sprawling road network and the urge to murder all other drivers, Auckland isn't actually all that bad. :-)

If you can survive the sprawling road network and the urge to murder all other drivers, Auckland isn’t actually all that bad. :-)

An example of Auckland transport policy.

An example of Auckland’s transport policy.

I personally loved the Auckland region from an explorer point of view – being in a new city, especially one with lots of island and other areas I’ve never been to before was a really exciting change. Wellington has it’s collection of interesting places of course, but you always know your home city too well for it to be surprising and new after a while.

My personal highlights of my adventures in Auckland would have to be my visit to Rangitoto Island, regular Takapuna to Devonport walks and my wanders along Takapuna Beach.

At times the warmer climate of Auckland, whilst a constant source of annoyance and suffering when working from home, also served up some beautiful swimming weather during summer in which I was able to visit the beach and swim in the sea just enjoying life.

Auckland does a remarkable job of being both ugly and beautiful at the same time – sometimes you’re stuck in a bland generic corporate business park, yet an hour later you can be on the harbour bridge looking over the city whilst a ship cruises under you, up in the Sky Tower cabling servers or getting up early and exploring the near empty city as the sun rises.

Viewing Auckland CBD from up on Mt Eden.

Viewing Auckland CBD from up on Mt Eden.

Takapuna beach, a summer gem. Plus there's amazing gelato right on the beach.

Takapuna beach, a summer gem. Plus there’s amazing gelato right on the beach.

One night in Mirangi Bay

One night in Mirangi Bay

My time in Auckland was particularly people orientated. I had moved up to Auckland to be with Lisa, but at the same time I missed my Wellington friends and family terribly leading to a really weird contrast where I was happy to be with her, but sad to be away from those who have played such a big part in my life.

On the plus side, my time in Auckland strengthened some existing friendships and created some new ones, which I’m very thankful to have. I have many great memories of good times spent over bottles of wine or delicious gin, going for a swim in the beach or flooding apartments during my time there. :-)

Lisa and I outside our apartment building.

Lisa and I outside our apartment building.

My dear friend @pikelet!

Partners in crime with @pikelet

In beer we trust.

Over beer we plot how to unleash our awesomeness on the world.

I was also fortunate enough to take part in Auckland’s Thursday Night Curry (TNC), a collection of great geeks meeting at a different curry venue somewhere in Auckland city or suburbs every fortnight. TNC features a range of very smart and very awesome people and is something I really miss having left Auckland. Plus the curry was excellent. ;-)

Delicious, delicious curry!

Delicious, delicious curry!

The TNC crowd and my other friends helped me seek out some of the good food locations in Auckland – Pikelet even managed to introduce me to some decent coffee in Auckland’s CBD a task I feared impossible after Wellington’s high standard in caffeinated deliciousness.

Delicious delicious coffee with chocolatey addition.

Delicious delicious coffee with chocolatey addition.

I even discovered some great food places such as Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant, as well as some amazing local breweries and pubs including Britomart Brewery, Galbraith’s and Brew on Quay.

Hidden vegetarian gem - Sunflower vegetarian resturant.

Hidden vegetarian gem – Sunflower vegetarian restaurant.

Whilst living in Auckland, I was also able to get out and around the city and experience different parts of it, both whilst working but also whilst exploring on a personal level.

Auckland is New Zealand’s economic power house and most large companies base their head offices here, the unfortunate side effect has been that the city keeps growing and growing as more people base themselves there for work opportunities and there’s easily a risk of the city becoming a very corporate and developing an all-business, no-play feel.

Whilst some will argue that Auckland is already a soulless corporate city, I argue that whilst it does have it’s downsides, it has more than enough great features to make up for them.

Whilst a city like Wellington is generally great all round, Auckland has a contrasting mix of horrible problems yet amazing areas to visit and great places to go.

I even found greenery inside Auckland's CBD!

I even found greenery inside Auckland’s CBD!

Marshlands around Auckland

Marshlands around Auckland

Touches of old and new throughout Auckland

Generally speaking, Auckland is a young city, but there’s still a lot of older buildings amongst the glass and steel towers.

Suburban Auckland

Suburban Auckland (view from Takapuna down Fred Thomas drive).

The waterfront has to be one of Auckland's more redeeming features.

The waterfront has to be one of Auckland’s more redeeming features.

Whilst I don’t regret leaving Auckland to spend time over in AU, and as a devout Wellingtonian, I must admit that I do have a special place for the city and I’d happily live in it again if it wasn’t for the strong pull of dear friends and family in Wellington.

I suspect Auckland is somewhere I will consider visiting semi-frequently, even if it’s just for the beach visits and warm weather during summer, the region with it’s harbour and islands is one of the best feature and a strong pull for an excuse to visit the city.

Escape from Auckland!

We finally managed to complete the move out last weekend! I don’t know how we managed to collect so much stuff in just 11 months, but we managed to fill my Starlet and an entire van with all Lisa’s stuff…

Broken down the office, next few weeks is living on the laptop only.

When boxing up all my stuff I realized that most of this is going into storage or being sold, very little that I’ll actually be taking with me to AU.

Most important part of the flat ;-) Sadly this will be staying in NZ rather than coming with us due to the size of it :-(

Books add so much weight. :-( There’s not a lot that I want to take – going to look at getting something like a Kindle for future books, but at the same time, there are things like code references or coffee tables books I really want to take. :-(

Sitting inside on outdoor furniture is all class. ;-)

It’s Mac World! They managed to escape my presence without getting Linux installed on them…. this time. ;-)

This is about half the stuff loaded into the van…

Had a pretty good drive down to Wellington, but of course it now means that I have to go through all my stuff and finish selling off things on Trademe, I don’t really want to end up storing lots of stuff at my parents place, particularly since any computer equipment would be obsoleted within a few years.

Also selling off my trusty Toyota Starlet and pretty much anything computer related that isn’t my laptop or my server, so keep watching my TradeMe listings over the next couple of weeks.

Next stop: Melbourne! I’m flying over on the 15th of September with the aim of lining up some work, with Lisa following me over as soon as I get something signed and a flat sorted.

Auckland Sky Tower

For my last day at work, I was lucky enough to get a task to go up the Auckland Sky Tower to perform some maintenance in the data center up there – despite living in Auckland for the past 12 months, I hadn’t yet gone up the sky tower; no thanks to the excessively high fees to visit the viewing deck.

The Auckland Sky Tower Data Center is located high up on levels 47 and 48 and is a popular location for routers and peering, thanks to the great line of sight range for any wireless telcos or microwave point-to-point links and is also the home of the Auckland Peering Exchange.

It’s one of the weirder data centers I’ve been in to thanks to the floor to ceiling windows with sun streaming in and the odd bungy jumper flying past the windows on the northern side.

I got some great pictures out over the city from up there – sorry no rack pictures however, didn’t want to upset anyone by posting pictures of their racked equipment.

They’re beaming the bits into my brain!

Looking out over the Viaduct with Takapuna in the distance.

Looking over the CBD – the line in the middle of the picture is the bungy jump wire.

Middle of the CBD and the port. Devonport in the distance, with Rangitoto behind that.

Weird looking microwave transmitters.

Auckland harbor bridge and the viaduct.

Motorway to the south of the harbor bridge.

Mmmmm non-ionising radiation :-D

When I buy a house I’m totally installing cable run trays like this for all my servers.

Dreamiest blogger ever!

Panorama!

Over all a very cool trip and considering it’s free to go up (if you have equipment racked there) and parking is free for data center customers in the sky tower, it’s the best value observation level around. ;-)

Getting there!

Whilst I’ve been selling off a lot of stuff lately, I started attacking the apartment properly this weekend and the evenings since, going with a system of 3 piles –  stuff to take to Melbourne, stuff to store in Wellington and stuff to sell/donate/trash.

The Melbourne pile is actually really small, at the moment I might be taking as little as some clothes, my laptop, some books and a router. I’ve cut down the stuff to store in Wellington a lot, mostly just a few boxes of personal stuff I want to keep (mementos, books, Libretto laptop collection).

I haven’t decided whether I want to take my IBM Model M keyboards yet or not, they’re amazing keyboards, but part of me is pondering going laptop-only whilst in AU – giving my laptop only a go this week as I’ve now packed away the keyboards and LCDs.

OMG look at all the desk space now!

OCD box organization.My label maker and I are having a lot of fun together with this move.

Couches are gone, lounge looks like even more of a bombsite.

The computer desk, TV and bed have now sold, but still need to sell the dining table, otherwise it’s going to have to squeeze into the van heading to Hawkes Bay and to be sold from there. :-/

Other items that haven’t sold, I’ll re-try from Wellington, along with a lot of additional things I have down there.

Meanwhile I’m loving the new found minimalism in my flat, I kind of want to go to Melbourne and have an empty apartment with nothing but my laptop and a stereo.

I’m particularly resistant to having a TV again, I find them a real intrusion into regular life – when there isn’t one around, I’m much more productive and do useful things or read, rather than blobbing – even when it’s not set to recieve TV broadcasts, they just consume so much space and become a focal point of the lounge.

I am taking my Mac Mini to use as a media center, but may just attach a large 27″ computer panel to it when in AU to watch movies when wanted – just pondering the best way to setup my flat that it’s still easy to watch stuff when desired, but in such a way that the media center isn’t the focal point of the lounge – I really want to spend my time in AU being way more productive and creating lots more content, rather than consuming.

Of course considering that my big KVM and file server is going to stay behind in NZ, I’m going to have much less access to my content, which may force me to do useful things like blog and code more. :-)

Goodbye NZ, hello Aussies!

So it’s official, Lisa and I are heading off from NZ for a while to try our luck over in that other small island nation across the Tasman.

The idea is that we’ll spend a couple years in AU and from there, either do further overseas adventure or end up returning back to NZ – presuming of course that we manage to escape AU at all. ;-)

Whilst part of the lure is naturally AU’s strong economy and plentiful IT jobs, the real drive is to have a bit of a change of lifestyle and for me personally, to get involved in some more challenging and exciting projects.

We haven’t decided on the exact city yet, it’s most likely going to be Melbourne, but keeping options open and considering other locations such as Sydney, depending what interesting challenges are around.

 

We’ve both given work our notice and finish on the 24th of August, with a departure date from Auckland of the 26th of August. That’s only 3 weeks now, so starting some pretty frantic efforts of selling off all our stuff, trying to line up work in AU and organizing a million+ other details and things to be done.

At this stage it’s looking like I’ll end up spending 1-2 weeks in Wellington before flying to AU for a week or two aiming to line up some job opportunities, however still trying to figure out the details. We’re mostly focused on sorting out some work for myself, it’s much easier to live on just my IT salary than just Lisa’s writers salary. ;-)

I have a number of job types I could go for, but will probably aim for a Linux/Open Source engineering or consulting role in a senior space, I’ve been getting a bit bored with my current role simply due to the low challenge level of work, so really need something that pushes me into new challenges – and I don’t even want to *see* a desktop computer ever again. ;-)

If you know of any employers seeking staff or some good contracts for this sort of work, send me an email and I’ll send through my CV. :-)

 

Meanwhile, I’m selling almost all of my stuff before I go – check out my Trademe auctions, there’s anything from computers, components, cushions, furniture, cables and more, most of the smaller items I’ll ship anywhere in NZ.

Once I get to Wellington I expect I’ll list a few more items as well, I want to clear out what I have left at my parents some more as well, there’s a lot that’s ended up there since I moved to Auckland last year, and I probably don’t need to store a toaster for the next several years or a small data center worth of Cat6 patch leads.

Ideally my dream apartment in AU is going to have a laptop and a router on the floor with nothing else in the room, but I suspect that Lisa will want a few more comforts than just this, so maybe I’ll have to compromise a little….

 

I’ll do another blog post once I’ve confirmed dates for our initial trip over to AU and hopefully I’ll be able to confirm “final move” dates not long after that. :-)

LDAP & RADIUS centralised authentication

I recently did a presentation at the June AuckLUG meeting on configuring LDAP and RADIUS centralised authentication solutions.

It’s a little rough (first time I’ve done a presentation on the topic), but hopefully is of use to anyone interested in setting up an LDAP server. In my case I’m using an OpenLDAP server with my self-developed open source LDAPAuthManager tool.

You can watch the presentation (about 2 hours) on YouTube, it includes a lot of verbal and visual demonstrations, so conveys a lot more detail than the slides alone.

You can download a copy of the slides here if wanted (pdf).

MOTAT Visit

Whilst I’ve been in Auckland for about 8 months now and driven past it a number of times, I had yet to visit the Auckland Museum Of Transport And Technology (MOTAT). However this month (June) there’s free entry for all visitors, which gave me a pretty compelling reason to head over there and check it out. :-)

Being a free weekend, it was pretty nuts with huge crowds there, but the staff did a great job and once we got in, as long as we avoided the major kids-focused attractions, the crowds weren’t an issue.

And wow, I’m glad I went. It’s actually one of the best things I’ve found in Auckland –  huge range of trams, from Wellington, Auckland and Melbourne, a massive aviation display and a solid number of trains, cars and other displays including Antarctic machines, Kiwiana display, old printing systems and a Victorian village.

Definitely the place to take geeky out-of-towners wanting something to see other than just traffic jams and the sky tower whilst in Auckland. ;-)

Motorised Auckland Fire Truck

Seeing how exposed drivers were on early cars are trucks is amazing, it must have been like driving whilst sitting on a park bench…. and no such thing as a seatbelt, or even doors to stop yourself from falling out sometimes :-/

I didn’t get many pictures of the other cars they have, although there’s a big selection of icon cars from the 20th century – quite surprising seeing how big some of the early models were, compared to the compact size of modern vehicles – some of their engines must have been at least 4 times the physical size of my modern 1.3l engine.

Mechanical printing press.

The mechanical printing press was pretty interesting to watch – the machine has an arm with various suction cups on it, which is used to pickup each sheet of paper and feed it into the print rollers.

The photo doesn’t really do it justice, so I’ve uploaded a youtube video of it in action here, you wouldn’t expect something that looks like such a crude mechanical machine to do such as accurate job of feeding and printing the pages.

Wonder how long until the news paper printing presses of the 2000s era end up in there as well, with the shift to digital it might not be that much longer…

Trams! And a Melbourne tram no less! :-D

Wellington Tram! (double <3)

Steam powered tram - it's effectively an engine only, designed to pull/push tram trailers.

Auckland Tram!

Double decker Wellington tram! I wonder how popular the upstairs was on a cold windy Wellington day. :-/

Map of Auckland's tram network - really wish they had kept it, Auckland needs all the public transport it can get. :-/

Trams on Queen Street.

It’s probably pretty clear that I love trams and MOTAT offers a great experience with a large number of them in excellent condition, as well as a number of ongoing restoration projects in the works, including an interesting sounding “freight tram”.

There’s at least a couple Melbourne trams and several trams from Wellington which are in good running condition, not sure about the Auckland ones, but they look pretty good so I presume they may also be in running condition,

What’s really cool is that since MOTAT is split into two sites, they run several trams regularly which you can ride between the two sites, with an in-between station at Auckland Zoo – you get a free return ticket with your MOTAT entrance fee.

Tram ride ticket :-D

Historical sandwich maker :-P (just kidding dear! don't hurt me!)

 

The mini from Goodbye Pork Pie

Retro buses!

Massive locomotives - would love to see that steam train when it was running!

Steam punk throne! m/

OMG OMG OMG steam train!!

I was fortunate in that I chose to come on the right weekend, as the steam train only runs on select Sundays. Whilst it’s not a long run of track, it’s always a treat to see steam locomotives when running – I took a video and uploaded to youtube of the train running. :-D

Standing on trams is great for holding cute females closely. Watch out Melbourne ladies! ;-)

Tank rides! I didn't get a chance to go on it myself, but looks quite fun. They move surprisingly quickly over the muddy field too

Quite neat seeing planes in various stages of assembly in the workshop.

Lots of planes outside in various conditions, many military options, some DC3s and some sea planes.

Massive sea plane - size becomes really noticeable when you see the people on the ground near it.... it amazes me that these things actually fly sometimes.

Avro Lancaster Bomber

Bombing bay... I wouldn't want to be anywhere near bombs that size when they drop....

The Avro Lancaster is one of the best pieces in the aviation hall – it’s got to be one of the most famous and well known aircraft of the war, but for all the pictures and videos, you don’t really realize how massive the aircraft really is until you get up close to it IRL.

Especially the massive tires, rather than modern designs with groups of numerous smaller tires, the Lancaster has two massive tractor-sized tires that retract up into the wing.

Apparently one of my great grandfathers was on these during WW2, although I’m unsure of his exact position/role onboard.

Ah, the NZ skyhawks.... the most action they ever got was firing a warning shot over the bow of an illegal fishing ship, then got to sit in plastic wrap for years until the government decided nobody wanted to buy them, so scrapped them.

Aerial Mapping Plane

Large number of interesting bombers like this around the hall.

Old NZ Air Force VIP transport.

NZ-build Gyrocopter :-D

"Flying Flea" kitset aircraft

Overall it was a pretty excellent trip – we spent about 3 hours there, but I could have spent maybe 5 or 6 even, if you stopped to do everything and took the time to watch more of the scheduled activities and events.

It’s actually one of the few touristy things that I’d be happy to pay the entrance fee for, at $14 per adult, it’s pretty cheap – especially when compared to other Auckland attractions like Kelly Tartons ($34 per adult, maybe 2hrs activity at most).

It’s easy to get to with a car, there’s an abundance of parking, and there’s also a bus stop right outside if you’re going to brave the Auckland public transport system. :-)

Bit Flipping Cycle Lanes

On my recent walk to Devonport I was amazed at the design of the cycle lanes made by the North Shore City Council (now part of the amalgamated Auckland City Council).

Aside from the initial amazement that such a car-focused city knew what cycle lanes where, I was also extremely amused to see how exactly they chose to implement them….

 

Exhibit A: The flipped cycleway.

Having a standard such as “people to the left, bikes to the right” clearly wasn’t exciting enough, so let’s have bike and pedestrian lanes randomly swapping sides at each junction.

Quick everyone, change places!

 

Exhibit B: Multipathing!

Having just one bike lane isn’t enough, let’s add a second bike lane – one on the footpath and one on the road. And whilst we’re at it, let’s make it so it goes bike, pedestrian and then bike again. :-/

Pedestrians: Cyclist sandwich filling.

Not pictured are the other great cycle designs I came across on my wander including:

  • The suddenly ending and then re-starting bike lane.
  • The going-on-and-off-the-footpath bike lane
  • The bizarre invisible bike lane – I found it in one suburb, where a single bike symbol was painted on the side of the road in a side street, with no other markings around, not even  a cycle lane line marking.

Whilst it’s great to see a council working to lay some cycle lanes, the lack of thought around planning and standardization of the lanes is a source of great amusement, but also a potential risk to both cyclists and pedestrians if these lanes start getting used more heavily.

Early Morning Auckland

My good friend @LGnome was transiting via Auckland and had a day to spend up here to see the sights. Naturally I delivered with one near side-swipe, two cars running a red light right in front of us and congested roads.

I also had to get up early (06:00) to get to the airport, before heading into the CBD to get some decent breakfast and coffee and took a few early morning pics – it’s amazing how much nicer Auckland is earlier in the morning when the roads are dead.

Because Shaky Isles doesn’t seem to open before 08:00 on a Sunday, we went for a wander around Auckland for a bit first and I got a few decent pics with my trusty professional grade photographer setup.

Good morning Mr Sun!

I do like Wynyard Quarter's mix of resturants and industry, get some pretty big ships in there at times.

"Gateway To The Cloud" (punny since the Sky Tower is one of NZ's main network exchanges)

No early morning is complete without coffee from Shaky Isles. :-D

Up in Mt Victoria, not a lot of traffic (car or boat) early Sunday morning.

Pimping my ride with high pitch painful sounds

I got my car back from the repair shop on Friday following it’s run in with the less pleasant residents of Auckland, with all the ignition and dash repaired.

Unfortunately the whole incident costs me at least $500 in excess payments, not to mention future impacts to my insurance premiums, so I’m not exactly a happy camper, even though I had full insurance.

Because I really don’t want to have to pay another $500 excess when the next muppet tries to break into it, I decided to spend the money to get an alarm installed, to deter anyone trying to break in again – going to all the effort to silence an alarm for a 1997 Toyota Starlet really won’t be worth the effort, sending them on to another easier target.

(I did consider some of those fake stickers and a blinky LED, but a real alarm does mean that if you hit the car, you’ll quickly get a chirp confirming there is an alarm present. Plus I get one of those chirpy remote controls to unlook the doors! :-D)

I do really hate car alarms, but it’s worth it to have something that will send anyone messing with my car running before it wakes up half the apartment complex.

I wanted to get a decent alarm installed properly and ended up getting referred to Mike & Lance at www.carstereoinstall.co.nz who do onsite visits to install which was really handy, and totally worth it after seeing all the effort needed to do the installation.

Car electronics spaghetti! Considering this is a pretty basic 1997 car, I'd hate to think what the newer ones are like...

There’s a bit of metal drilling, cable running, soldering, un-assembling parts of the car’s interior and trying to figure out which cables control which features of the car, all up it took two guys about 2 hours to complete.

Cost about $325 for the alarm and labor, plus an extra $40 as they had to run wires and install switches for the boot, which is pretty good when you consider it’s a 4 man hour job, would have taken all day if I’d done it at noob pace.

Would recommend these guys if you’re in Auckland. As an extra bonus, Mike turned out to be an ex-IT telco guy so we had some interesting chats – NZ is such a small world at times :-/