Merry Christmas – 2014!


GPG Key Transition

This post originally appeared on Matt’s Musings (Matt’s computer focussed blog).

Firstly, thanks to all who responded to my previous rant. It turns out exactly what I wanted does exist in the form of a ID-000 format smartcard combined with a USB reader. Perfect. No idea why I couldn’t find that on my own prior to ranting, but very happy to have found it now.

Secondly, now that I’ve got my keys and management practices in order, it is time to begin transitioning to my new key.

Click this link to find the properly signed, full transition statement.

I’m not going to paste the full statement into this post, but my new key is:

pub   4096R/A48F065A 2014-07-27 [expires: 2016-07-26]
      Key fingerprint = DBB7 64A1 797D 2E21 C799  3CD7 A628 CB5F A48F 065A
uid                  Matthew Brown <matt>
uid                  Matthew Brown <mattb>
sub   4096R/1937883F 2014-07-27 [expires: 2016-07-26]

If you signed my old key, I’d very much appreciate a signature on my new key, details and instructions in the transition statement. I’m happy to reciprocate if you have a similarly signed transition statement to present.

If you feel the need to comment, head over to the original post on Matt’s Musings.

Some news

Yes, baby #2 is due on the 30th of August. We’re very excited to welcome another little person to our family!!!

Long time no see

It’s been a while since our last update here. Life’s been good. We’ve been setting up our new home in London, returning home for family celebrations, watching Olympics, and enjoying long summer days filled with park walks, swims, BBQs and picnics.

We arrived in London mid May and stayed in a temporary apartment in central London while we got settled and started looking for a permanent home. It took several weeks to get our bearings, decide on an area we liked and hunt down the ideal house. The rental market in London is expensive and fast moving. The good places are often listed and taken a month or more before they’re actually vacated and available to move in to.

Thankfully, the search was successful in the end. We found a spacious detached home with plenty of grass out the back for Micah to run around. The local area has shopping malls, groceries, movie theatre, river walks and parks all within 10-15 minutes walk. I couldn’t be more pleased. Except perhaps if the rent were less… but this is London after all, one must be realistic haha.

We moved into our new home and then a few weeks later we were on the move again, back to NZ to see family and celebrate my sister getting married. It was a whirlwind trip packed with as much family time as we could fit in. Also, there was a bridal shower to be thrown, wedding cupcakes to bake and Ring Bearer duties for our handsome little boy. Hannah and Caleb’s wedding was a great day and the perfect high note to end our time back home.

Back in London now, the summer is flying by and I’m starting to feel at home. I can find my way round the warren of shopping streets in Kingston now and know where to go for this and that. We’ve sampled a few of the cafes and restaurants around, walked different parks, discovered different playgrounds. We still have a church to find and new friends to make but we’re gradually starting to find our way. I like this place and I’m optimistic about what the future holds.

Final baby clinic appointment

We had Micah’s final (1yr corrected age) check-up at the hospital this morning.

The doctor was very pleased with his progress and pronounced him a normal 1 year old baby. He didn’t see any need for us to get referral letters for any specialist follow-up in London.

There was a medical student sitting in on the consultation and the doctor was telling her how 20ish years ago a baby like Micah, born 10 weeks early, would have had less than 20% chance of survival. To go from that to being indistinguishable from other babies at 1 year old is a pretty awesome advance in medical technology, and apparently much of the research and pioneering improvements in premature care happened in NZ!

I was looking back at our photos of Micah’s first minutes the other day, just to remind myself how far our little boy has come. The tiny fragile looking baby in a plastic bag and then an incubator is now a bouncy, energetic bundle of excitement and love, days or weeks away from taking his first independent steps.

We’re very proud of him, and very thankful to be living in a time and place where we have access to the (free!) medical knowledge, expertise and care that gave him such a strong start to his life.

Kindle Reading Stats

This post originally appeared on Matt’s Musings (Matt’s computer focussed blog).

I’ve written before about my initial investigations into the Kindle, and I’ve learnt much more about the software and how it communicates with the Amazon servers since then, but it all requires detailed technical explanation which I can never seem to find the motivation to write down. Extracting reading data out of the system log files is however comparatively simple.

I’m a big fan of measurement and data so my motivation and goal for the Kindle log files was to see if I could extract some useful information about my Kindle use and reading patterns. In particular, I’m interested in tracking my pace of reading, and how much time I spend reading over time.

You’ll recall from the previous post that the Kindle keeps a fairly detailed syslog containing many events, including power state changes, and changes in the “Booklet” software system including opening and closing books and position information. You can eyeball any one of those logfiles and understand what is going on fairly quickly, so the analysis scripts are at the core just a set of regexps to extract the relevant lines and a small bit of logic to link them together and calculate time spent in each state/book.

You can find the scripts on Github:

Of course, they’re not quite that simple. The Kindle doesn’t seem to have a proper hardware clock (or mine has a broken hardware clock). My Kindle comes back from every reboot thinking it’s either at the epoch or somewhere in the middle of 2010, the time doesn’t get corrected until it can find a network connection and ping an Amazon server for an update, so if you have the network disabled it might be many days or weeks of reading before the system time is updated to reality. Once it has a network connection it uses the MCC reported by the 3G modem to infer what timezone it should be in, and switches the system clock to local time. Unfortunately the log entries all look like this:

110703:193542 cvm[7908]: I TimezoneService:MCCChanged:mcc=310,old=GB,new=US:
110703:193542 cvm[7908]: I TimezoneService:TimeZoneChange:offset=-25200,zone=America/Los_Angeles,country=US:
110703:193542 cvm[7908]: I LipcService:EventArrived:source=com.lab126.wan,name=localTimeOffsetChanged,arg0=-25200,arg1=1309689302:
110703:193542 cvm[7908]: I TimezoneService:LTOChanged:time=1309689302000,lto=-25200000:
110703:183542 system: I wancontrol:pc:processing "pppstart"
110703:193542 cvm[7908]: I LipcService:EventArrived:source=com.lab126.wan,name=dataStateChanged,arg0=2,arg1=:
110703:183542 cvm[7908]: I ConnectionService:LipcEventArrived:source=com.lab126.cmd,name=intfPropertiesChanged,arg0=,arg1=wan:
110703:183542 cvm[7908]: W ConnectionService:UnhandledLipcEvent:event=intfPropertiesChanged:
110703:193542 wifid[2486]: I wmgr:event:handleWpasupNotify(<2>CTRL-EVENT-DISCONNECTED), state=Searching:
110703:113542 wifid[2486]: I spectator:conn-assoc-fail:t=374931.469106, bssid=00:00:00:00:00:00:
110703:113542 wifid[2486]: I sysev:dispatch:code=Conn failed:
110703:183542 cvm[7908]: I LipcService:EventArrived:source=com.lab126.wifid,name=cmConnectionFailed,arg0=Failed to connect to WiFi network,arg1=:

Notice how there is no timezone information associated with the date/time information on each line. Worse still the different daemons are logging in at least 3 different timezones/DST offsets all interspersed within the same logfile. Argh!!

So our simple script that just extracts a few regexps and links them together nearly doubles in size to handle the various time and date convolutions that the logs present. Really, the world should just use UTC everywhere. Life would be so much simpler.

The end result is a script that spits out information like:

B000FC1PJI: Quicksilver: Read 1 times. Last Finished: Fri Mar 16 18:30:57 2012
- Tue Feb 21 11:06:24 2012 => Fri Mar 16 18:30:57 2012. Reading time 19 hours, 29 mins (p9 => p914)

Read 51 books in total. 9 days, 2 hours, 29 mins of reading time

I haven’t got to the point of actually calculating reading pace yet, but the necessary data is all there and I find the overall reading time stats interesting enough for now.

If you have a jailbroken Kindle, I’d love for you to have a play and let me know what you think. You’ll probably find logs going back at least 2-3 weeks still on your Kindle to start with, and you can use the fetch-logs script to regularly pull them down to more permanent storage if you desire.

If you feel the need to comment, head over to the original post on Matt’s Musings.

A new chapter begins

Life is full of surprises.

3 months ago we had our sights set on a 2012 return to New Zealand. We imagined setting up home in Hamilton and “settling down”, putting our adventuring days behind us. Then at the end of last year Matt was offered a move to Google’s London office, a new location and a new set of challenges and opportunities. In short, a very tempting offer.

My first reaction was an absolute, no-holds-barred, with-all-of-my-being “NO”. But after a short time to process the news, it was clear we needed to give this some consideration. We couldn’t return to NZ if either of us would be feeling disappointment about the opportunity we’d passed up. So we spent some time considering. We weighed up all the pros and cons, we researched, we made a short scouting trip to London, and after much consideration we made a decision. We are moving to London.

It is an understatement to say this was a hard decision to make. I’m sad for the times we’ll miss with family and also keenly aware of our family’s disappointment over the time they’ll be missing with us and even more so with Micah. However, I’m also confident that London is the right move, the next chapter for this little expat family.

At the moment we’re in the process of organising and planning the details. The move is likely to happen in late April, contingent on visa processing times. We’re not sure where in London we’ll be living yet but we’re aiming to find a nice 3+ bedroom home with a patch of green out the back for Micah to run around in, within reasonable commuting distance of the Google office in Victoria. Easy, right…?

Although we’ve visited London several times it is a big city with lots of diverse areas, so any advice or comments from those with some first-hand London experience is welcome.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Matt, Kat & MicahMerry Christmas to all!

Reading back, we seem to have begun every recent post with a comment on how quickly time is passing, but it really is an accurate description of how this year, 2011, the year of Micah Brown, has felt for us. It has been a good year, rocky at the start with Micah’s early arrival and stint in the ICU, but extremely rewarding and enjoyable towards the end, particularly visiting NZ and introducing Micah to his extended family and friends. The little chap has never seen so many new faces and had so much excitement compressed into 3 weeks before and probably finds life terribly dull now that we’re back to our quieter routine in Dublin!

Our time in NZ passed in a blur, as it always does. Micah’s dedication was an awesome day with brilliant blue skies and sunshine as we committed to do our best to bring him up in a loving Christian home with the support of all our friends and family. We enjoyed some early Christmas celebrations with our families before flying back to Dublin. Incidentally, I highly recommend Air NZ’s new premium economy cabin if you’re travelling with a young baby. if you request seats in the middle of the plane, you’ll find a handy little armrest space between the two seats that is just perfect for the baby to sit on. Excellent food and service too, easily on par with business class on many lower-class airlines. Thanks to that, despite being long, the flights to and from NZ were comfortable and Micah was well behaved. Stories of baby induced travel disaster have been avoided for now.

Right after we got back Micah had a cold for about a week which made for some rough going and sleepless nights, aggravated by the fact that he’s getting some teeth! I discovered the first obvious protrusion while putting him to bed last night, and we managed to get him to open his mouth and hold up his tongue for long enough today to see a very definite white thing starting to poke out from the skin. Exciting times, thank goodness for cold flannels, chewy toys and paracetamol! Luckily he’s a strong little trooper and doesn’t complain too much. Correlation between this and Kat singing “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” to him for the last few weeks is yet to be positively confirmed.

That brings us to today, Christmas eve, sadly there is no snow outside, but it is cold and windy and we’re all bundled up warm inside with the heating on and the Christmas tree and sparkly lights shining on the hearth. We’re looking forward to introducing Micah to the magic of Christmas and kick-starting some family traditions that will hopefully live on for many years to come.

2012 is just around the corner and will certainly bring plenty of changes and new experiences for us in all aspects of life. We look forward to catching up with as many of you as we can in the coming year, and send you all our best wishes and prayers for a safe, happy and enjoyable 2012.


Matt, Kat & Micah

How I’m voting in 2011

This post originally appeared on Matt’s Musings (Matt’s computer focussed blog).

It’s general election time again in New Zealand this year, with the added twist of an additional referendum on whether to keep MMP as our electoral system. If you’re not interested in New Zealand politics, then you should definitely skip the rest of this post.

I’ve never understood why some people consider their voting choices a matter of national security, so when via Andrew McMillan, I saw a good rationale for why you should share your opinion I found my excuse to write this post.

Party Vote
I’ll be voting for National. I’m philosophically much closer to National than Labour, particularly on economic and personal responsibility issues, but even if I wasn’t the thought of having Phil Goff as Prime Minister would be enough to put me off voting Labour. His early career seems strong, but lately it’s been one misstep and half-truth after another, the remainder of the Labour caucus and their likely support partners don’t offer much reassurance either. If I was left-leaning and the mess that Labour is in wasn’t enough to push me over to National this year then I’d vote Greens and hope they saw the light and decided to partner with National.

Electorate Vote
I live in Dublin, but you stay registered in the last electorate where you resided, which for me is Tamaki. I have no idea who the candidates there are, so I’ll just be voting for the National candidate for the reasons above.

MMP Referendum
I have no real objections to MMP and I think it’s done a good job of increasing representation in our parliament. I like that parties can bring in some star players without them having to spend time in an electorate. I don’t like the tendency towards unstable coalitions that our past MMP results have sometimes provided.

Of the alternatives, STV is the only one that I think should be seriously considered, FPP and it’s close cousin SM don’t give the proportionality of MMP and PV just seems like a simplified version of STV with limited other benefit. If you’re going to do preferential voting, you might as well do it properly and use STV.

So, I’ll vote for a change to STV, not because I’m convinced that MMP is wrong, but because I think it doesn’t hurt for the country to spend a bit more time and energy confirming that we have the right electoral system. If the referendum succeeds and we get another referendum between MMP and something other than STV in 2014, I’ll vote to keep MMP. If we have a vote between MMP and STV in 2014 I’m not yet sure how I’d vote. STV is arguably an excellent system, but I worry that it’s too complex for most voters to understand.

PS. Just found this handy list of 10 positive reasons to vote for National, if you’re still undecided and need a further nudge. Kiwiblog: 10 positive reasons to vote National

If you feel the need to comment, head over to the original post on Matt’s Musings.

New Zealand, Photo sharing

We’re safely back in New Zealand for our semi-annual visit and we’ve all adapted to the change in time zone without too much issue. Micah was very well behaved on the flights. The only minor hiccup was explosive residue being detected on Micah’s stroller and food as we transited through LAX (worst airport in the world, by the way) but we managed to get that resolved without too much of an issue…

If you’ve already forgotten, a reminder that we’re having Micah dedicated at Hillcrest Chapel this Sunday the 27th November, at 10:30am, if you know us you’re most welcome to attend. We’re also having a BBQ with some family and friends afterwards, email for details if you want to come and hang out with the little man. Since we’re unlikely to be in NZ for his 1st birthday on the 19th Feb, it will be a little bit of an early birthday party for him too.

For the past few years we’ve been fairly public with our lives through this blog and our photo gallery. That’s been a calculated trade-off – we don’t necessarily want to share everything with the world, but restricting access raises all sorts of tricky management issues about how to reliably and simply give access to all those people who should have access, some of whom we might not know directly (e.g. friends of parents, siblings, etc). It was easier to just open it up to everyone.

Two things have changed recently that have made us re-evaluate that. The first is Micah, he’s awesome, but we’re not really sure how thrilled he would be in later years to find that his early years are entirely public on the Internet for anyone to follow. Secondly, a more palatable alternative to Facebook has arrived on the scene in the form of Google Plus, which provides us with a reasonable technical solution to the problem of how to provide access to our photos/lives to those who we’re happy sharing with, without inviting the whole world in.

If you haven’t heard about Google Plus yet, it’s a new part of Google that allows you to interact with circles of friends and family online, sort of like a cross between Twitter and Facebook. Although unlike Facebook it tries to respect rather than trample over your privacy settings, and more usefully for us it’s tightly integrated with other Google products like Picasa which we use to display our photos online. With Google Plus, instead of sharing our photos publicly to the world, I can choose to share them with my “Extended Circles” which means anyone within 2 degrees of me in the social graph formed by circles is able to see them. For example, if I have you in one of my circles, you’re one degree away and can therefore see the photos. Then, everyone that you have in one of your circles can also see our photos, since they’re 2 degrees away from me via you.

The “Extended Circles” sharing option seems like a good balance to us, it means we don’t have to personally know or approve everyone who wants to see our photos, but the world at large doesn’t have access. The obvious downside is that you will need a Google account, and that account must be in the circle of at least one person who I have in a circle, but from talking to our friends and family that doesn’t seem like it will be a major barrier, just head to and you’ll be up and running in less than 5 minutes. Once you’re signed up add Matt’s Google Plus Profile or Kat’s Google Plus Profile to one of your circles, we’ll get a notification, add you to our circles, and you’ll be away laughing. If you get stuck, just flick us an email and we’ll do our best to help!

We are still sharing some photos to the world, mainly of things like our overseas holidays, but all of our more personal family style photos will be kept in the extended circle of our friends and family.