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Craige McWhirter: Solarized xmobar, trayer and dmenu for xmonad

Fri, 2017-03-10 18:36

Like many other people, Ethan Schoonover's precision colours for machines and people, known as Solarized is my preferred colour pallet, especially as I spend most of my time in terminals.

I've "Solarized" most things in my work environment except my window manager, xmonad. Well to be more specific, the xmobar, trayer and dmenu applications that I use within xmonad.

The commits:

Modifications were made to xmonad.hs, .xmobarrc and trayer in .xsession that switches out the existing and default colours for those I've selected from the Solarized palette. I now have a fully Solarized window manager that fits in much better with the rest of my workspace.

Relevant code snippets:


, logHook = dynamicLogWithPP $ xmobarPP { ppOutput = hPutStrLn xmproc , ppCurrent = xmobarColor "#859900" "" . wrap "[" "]" , ppVisible = xmobarColor "#2aa198" "" . wrap "(" ")" , ppLayout = xmobarColor "#2aa198" "" , ppTitle = xmobarColor "#859900" "" . shorten 50 } , modMask = mod4Mask -- Rebind Mod to the Windows key --, borderWidth = 1 } `additionalKeys` -- Custom dmenu launcher [ ((mod4Mask, xK_p ), spawn "exe=`dmenu_path | dmenu -fn \"Open Sans-10\" -p \"λ:\" -nb \"#073642\" -nf \"#93a1a1\" -sb \"#002b36\" -sf \"#859900\"` && eval \"exec $exe\"")


-- Appearance font = "xft:OpenSans:size=10:antialias=true" , bgColor = "#073642" , fgColor = "#93a1a1" ... --Plugins , commands = -- CPU Activity Monitor ... , "--low" , "#2aa198" , "--normal" , "#859900" , "--high" , "#dc322f" ... -- cpu core temperature monitor ... , "--low" , "#2aa198" , "--normal" , "#859900" , "--high" , "#dc322f" ... -- Memory Usage Monitor ... , "--low" , "#2aa198" , "--normal" , "#859900" , "--high" , "#dc322f" ... -- Battery Monitor ... , "--low" , "#dc322f" , "--normal" , "#859900" , "--high" , "#2aa198" , "--" -- battery specific options -- discharging status , "-o" , "<left>% (<timeleft>)" -- AC "on" status , "-O" , "<fc=#2aa198>Charging</fc>" -- charged status , "-i" , "<fc=#859900>Charged</fc>" ... -- Weather Monitor ... , "--low" , "#2aa198" , "--normal" , "#859900" , "--high" , "#dc322f" ... -- Network Activity Monitor ... , "--low" , "#2aa198" , "--normal" , "#859900" , "--high" , "#dc322f" ... -- Time and Date Display , Run Date "<fc=#268bd2>%a %b %_d %H:%M</fc>" "date" 10 ...


exec /usr/bin/trayer --edge top --align right --SetDockType true --SetPartialStrut true --expand true --width 10 --transparent true --alpha 0 --tint 0x073642 --height 22 &

That at least implements the colours I selected from Solarized and should be a good starting point for anyone else.

James Morris: Hardening the LSM API

Thu, 2017-03-09 23:01

The Linux Security Modules (LSM) API provides security hooks for all security-relevant access control operations within the kernel. It’s a pluggable API, allowing different security models to be configured during compilation, and selected at boot time. LSM has provided enough flexibility to implement several major access control schemes, including SELinux, AppArmor, and Smack.

A downside of this architecture, however, is that the security hooks throughout the kernel (there are hundreds of them) increase the kernel’s attack surface. An attacker with a pointer overwrite vulnerability may be able to overwrite an LSM security hook and redirect execution to other code. This could be as simple as bypassing an access control decision via existing kernel code, or redirecting flow to an arbitrary payload such as a rootkit.

Minimizing the inherent security risk of security features, is, I believe, an essential goal.

Recently, as part of the Kernel Self Protection Project, support for marking kernel pages as read-only after init (ro_after_init) was merged, based on grsecurity/pax code. (You can read more about this in Kees Cook’s blog here). In cases where kernel pages are not modified after the kernel is initialized, hardware RO page protections are set on those pages at the end of the kernel initialization process. This is currently supported on several architectures (including x86 and ARM), with more architectures in progress.

It turns out that the LSM hook operations make an ideal candidate for ro_after_init marking, as these hooks are populated during kernel initialization and then do not change (except in one case, explained below). I’ve implemented support for ro_after_init hardening for LSM hooks in the security-next tree, aiming to merge it to Linus for v4.11.

Note that there is one existing case where hooks need to be updated, for runtime SELinux disabling via the ‘disable’ selinuxfs node. Normally, to disable SELinux, you would use selinux=0 at the kernel command line. The runtime disable feature was requested by Fedora folk to handle platforms where the kernel command line is problematic. I’m not sure if this is still the case anywhere. I strongly suggest migrating away from runtime disablement, as configuring support for it in the kernel (via CONFIG_SECURITY_SELINUX_DISABLE) will cause the ro_after_init protection for LSM to be disabled. Use selinux=0 instead, if you need to disable SELinux.

It should be noted, of course, that an attacker with enough control over the kernel could directly change hardware page protections. We are not trying to mitigate that threat here — rather, the goal is to harden the security hooks against being used to gain that level of control.

Rusty Russell: Quick Stats on zstandard (zstd) Performance

Thu, 2017-03-09 13:02

Was looking at using zstd for backup, and wanted to see the effect of different compression levels. I backed up my (built) bitcoin source, which is a decent representation of my home directory, but only weighs in 2.3GB. zstd -1 compressed it 71.3%, zstd -22 compressed it 78.6%, and here’s a graph showing runtime (on my laptop) and the resulting size:

zstandard compression (bitcoin source code, object files and binaries) times and sizes

For this corpus, sweet spots are 3 (the default), 6 (2.5x slower, 7% smaller), 14 (10x slower, 13% smaller) and 20 (46x slower, 22% smaller). Spreadsheet with results here.

Binh Nguyen: Prophets/Pre-Cogs/Stargate Program 8, Github Download Script, and More

Wed, 2017-03-08 21:41
Obvious continuation from my previous other posts with regards to prophets/pre-cogs:

Matthew Oliver: pudb debugging tips

Wed, 2017-03-08 13:06

As an OpenStack Swift dev I obviously write a lot of Python. Further Swift is cluster and so it has a bunch of moving pieces. So debugging is very important. Most the time I use pudb and then jump into the PyCharms debugger if get really stuck.

Pudb is curses based version of pdb, and I find it pretty awesome and you can use it while ssh’d somewhere. So I thought I’d write a tips that I use. Mainly so I don’t forget

OpenSTEM: Oceanography and the Continents

Wed, 2017-03-08 11:04

Marie Tharp (30 July, 1920 – 23 August, 2006) was an oceanographer and cartographer who mapped the oceans of the world. She worked with Bruce Heezen, who collected data on a ship, mapping the ocean floor.

Tharp and Heezen

Tharp turned the data into detailed maps. At that time women were not allowed to work on research ships, as it was thought that they would bring bad luck! However, Tharp was a skilled cartographer, and as she made her maps of the floor of the oceans of the world, with their ridges and valleys, she realised that there were deep valleys which showed the boundaries of continental plates. She noticed that these valleys were also places with lots of earthquakes and she became convinced of the basics of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Between 1959 and 1963, Tharp was not mentioned in any of the scientific papers published by Heezen, and he dismissed her theories disparagingly as “girl talk”. As this video  from National Geographic shows, she stuck to her guns and was vindicated by the evidence, eventually managing to persuade Heezen, and the scientific community at large, of the validity of the theories. In 1977, Heezen and Tharp published a map of the entire ocean floor. Tharp obtained degrees in English, Music, Geology and Mathematics during the course of her life. In 2001, a few weeks before her 81st birthday, Marie Tharp was awarded the Lamont-Doherty Heritage Award at Columbia University, in the USA, as a pioneer of oceanography. She died of cancer in 2006.

The National Geographic video provides an excellent testimony to this woman pioneer in oceanography.

Lev Lafayette: Multicore World 2017: A Review

Tue, 2017-03-07 17:05

Multicore World is a small conference held annually in New Zealand hosted by Open Parallel. What it lacks in numbers however it makes up in quality of the presenters. The 2017 conference included a typically impressive array of speakers dealing with some of the most difficult issues facing computational science, and included several important announcements in the fields of supercomputing, the Internet of Things, and manufacting issues.

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Craige McWhirter: Adventures in Unemployment

Mon, 2017-03-06 14:15

Due to a recent corporate fire sale, implosion, what ever you'd like to call it, I found myself joining thousands of my former colleagues unemployed and looking for "new opportunities" (hire me, I'm dead set amazing).

As a parent who also has an ex-wife and children it is incumbent upon me to inform the Department of Human Services (DHS) of any changes to my income within strict time frames. So like a dutiful slave of the state, I called them to advise of my new $0 income status.

The following conversation actually happened:

[DHS] "So taking into account your new income of $0, you will need to pay $114 / month."

[McW] "With an income of $0, how would you expect me to pay that?"

[DHS] "Borrow money from family and friends."

[McW] "You know you just said that out loud, right?"

[DHS] "Yes sir."

[McW] "Okay, so let me clarify this. I have an income of $0, 3 dependent children living with me, one dependent adult and the DHS priority is not for me to provide food and shelter for them but to pay child support?"

[DHS] "That is correct."

[McW] "..and this is something you've not only said out loud but on a phone call that's being recorded for 'service quality and training purposes'."

[DHS] "That is the nature of the legislation and what we are trained to say."

[McW] "You do see the problem here, don't you?"

[DHS] "Yes sir, I do."

[McW] "Are there any other things you're trained to say that might help?"

[DHS] "You could apply for work benefits."

[McW] "Okay, let's think this one through. Let's say I did get the dole, which would be about $400 / fortnight, less than my fortnightly rent even before I commence buying food, would the DHS still want $114 from that?

[DHS] "Yes, child support would be taken from the benefits before they were paid to you."

[McW] [long pause] "Back to the $0 income and obvious incapacity to pay, when the inevitable non-payment occurs, what does the DHS do next?"

[DHS] "Despite your excellent payment history, the DHS would have to pursue avenues for collection."

[McW] "So I have a family of 6 to shelter and support and the DHS will still end up going collect to strip us of whatever they can? That's not particularly helpful to anyone, not those I'm directly supporting nor my children for whom the DHS is collecting child support."

[DHS] "That's correct sir, once a child support debt of $1,000 is accrued, DHS will pursue collection avenues. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

[McW] "Unless you can change the legislation, I think we're good here. Thank you."

Having been in the child support "game" for about 13 years, having seen female friends dudded by former male partners, have seen male friends rorted by former female partners, it's not as though I was unaware the system was truly broken and unfair to all parties in so many cases.

This conversation however, was truly breathtaking. I doubt Douglas Adams could have scripted this any better. :-)

OpenSTEM: The Week in HASS – term 1, week 6

Mon, 2017-03-06 11:04

HASS students have a global focus this week. The younger students are looking at calendars, celebrations and which countries classmates are connected to, around the world. Older students are starting to explore what happened at the end of the Ice Age and the beginnings of agriculture and trade. These students will also be applying the scientific method to practical examinations – creating their own mini Ice Ages in a bowl and making mud bricks.

Foundation to Year 3

Our standalone Foundation/Prep classes (F.1) are looking at calendars and celebrations this week, starting to explore the world beyond their own family and gain an identity relative to each other. Integrated Foundation/Prep (F.5) and Year 1 (1.1) classes; as well as Year 1 (1.1), 2 (2.1) and 3 (3.1) classes are examining our OpenSTEM blackline world map and putting coloured dots on all the countries that they and their families are connected to, either through relatives, or by having lived there themselves. It is through this sort of exercise that students can start to understand the concept of the “global family”.

Year 3 to Year 6 Making an Ice Age

Students in years 3 (3.5), 4 (4.1), 5 (5.1) and 6 (6.1) are consolidating their learning and expanding into subjects, such as Science and Economics and Business. The ever-popular Ice Ages and Mud Bricks activity links to core Science curricular strands and allows students to explore their learning in very tactile ways. Whilst undertaking the activity, students make a mini Ice Age in a bowl, attempting to predict what will happen to their clay landscape when it is flooded and frozen, and then comparing these predictions to their recorded observations, during empirical testing. Students also make their own mud bricks by hand, once again predicting how to make the bricks strongest and testing different construction techniques. We have even had classes test the strength of their mud brick walls under simulated flood conditions, working inside a tidy tray.

Making mud bricks

Students move on from studying the Ice Age, looking at what happened as the climate changed and global sea levels rose. The pressures that these changes brought to people’s lives is examined by looking at the origins of agriculture with domestic plants and animals. Students consider how people needed to wok together to survive. The cooperative Trade and Barter activity allows students to role play life in a Neolithic village. Faced with a range of challenges, such as floods and droughts, students discover how to prioritise their needs for food to survive the winter, against their wants. They also discover that trade, counting and writing all grew out of the needs for people to exchange items and help each other to survive. This activity covers all the basic concepts in the Economics and Business curriculum, whilst providing a context that is meaningful to the students and their own experiences. Replicating the way that people developed trade, counting and writing in the historic period, the students’ experiences during the Trade and Barter activity lay the foundations for a deeper understanding of the basic concepts of Economics and Business.

flooding the mud brick wall

Ben Martin: Non self replicating reprap 3d printer

Sun, 2017-03-05 19:21
The reprap is designed to be able to "self replicate" to a degree. If a part on a reprap 3d printer breaks then a replacement part can be printed and attached. Parts can evolve as new ideas come along. Having parts crack or weaken on a 3d printer can be undesirable though.

A part on this printer was a mix of acrylic and PLA, both of which were cracked. Not quite what one would hope for as a foot of the y-axis. It is an interesting design with the two driving rods the same length as the alloy channel at the back of the printer.

A design I thought of called for 1/2 inch alloy in order to wrap the existing alloy extrusion with a 3mm cover. The dog bone on the slot is manually added in Fusion 360 so it is larger than needed. The whole thing being a learning exercise for me as to how to create 2.5D parts. The belt tensioning is on a 6mm subassembly that is mounted on the bracket in the right of the image below.

The bracket and subassembly are shown mounted below. Yes, using four M6 bolts to tension a belt is overkill. I would imagine you can stretch the belt to breaking point quite easily with these bolts. The two rods are locked into place using M3 tapped grub screws. The end brackets are bolted to the back extrusion using two M6 bolts.

The z-axis is now supported by a second 10mm alloy custom bracket. This combination makes it much, much harder to wobble the z-axis than the original design using plastic parts.

Pia Waugh: Service Innovation in New Zealand – the new digital transformation

Fri, 2017-03-03 11:01

Over the past fortnight I have had the pleasure and privilege of working closely with the Service Innovation team in the New Zealand Government to contribute to their next steps in achieving proper service integration. It was an incredible two weeks as part of an informal exchange between our agencies to share expertise and insights. I am very thankful for the opportunity to work with the team and to contribute in some small way to their visionary, ambitious and world leading agenda. I also recommend everyone watch closely the work of Service Innovation team, and contact them if you are interested in giving feedback on the model.

I spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand looking at their “Service Innovation” agenda, which is, I can confidently say, one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen for genuine digital transformation. The Kiwis have in place already a strong and technically sound vision for service integration, a bunch of useful guidance (including one of the best gov produced API guides I’ve ever seen!) and a commitment to delivering integrated services as a key part of their agenda and programme along with brilliant skills and visionaries across government.

I believe New Zealand will be the one to watch over the coming year and, with a little luck, they could redefine the baseline for what everyone should be aspiring to. They could be the first government to properly demonstrate Gov as a Platform, not just better digital government, which is quite exciting! Systemic change and transformation generally happens once a generation if you are lucky, so do keep an eye on the Kiwis. They are set to  leave us all behind!

There is more internal documentation which I encourage the team to publish, like the Federated Services Model Reference Architecture and other gems.

In a couple of weeks, on the back of a raft of ongoing work, we analysed why it is with such great guidance available, why would siloed approaches still be happening? We found that the natural motivations of agencies would always drive an implementation that was designed to meet the specific agency needs rather than the system needs across government. That was unsurprising but the new insight was the service delivery teams themselves, who wanted to do the best possible implementations but with little time and resource, and high expectations, couldn’t take the time needed to find, read, interpret, translate into practice and verify implementation of the guidance. Which is quite fair! So we looked at models of reducing the barriers for those teams to do things better by providing reusable infrastructure and reference implementations, and either changing or tweaking the motivations of agencies themselves.

This is an ongoing piece of work, but fundamentally we looked at the idea that if we made the best technical path also the easiest path for service delivery teams to follow, then there would be a reasonable chance of a consumable systems approach to delivering these services. If support and skills was available with tools, code, dev environments, reference implementations, lab environments and other useful tools for designing and delivering government services faster, better and cheaper, then service delivery teams and agencies both would have a natural motivation to take that approach. Basically, we surmised that vision and guidance probably needed to be supplemented by implementation to make it real, moving from policy to application.

It is great to see other jurisdictions like New Zealand starting to experiment and implement the consumable mashable government model! I want to say a huge thank you to the New Zealand Government for sharing their ideas, but mostly for now picking up and being in such a great position to show everyone what Gov as a Platform and Gov as an API should look like. I wish you luck and hope to be a part of your success, even just in a small way!

Rock on.

Binh Nguyen: Life in Iraq, Random Stuff, and More

Fri, 2017-03-03 07:38
- ~40M people. Main industries are petroleum, chemicals, textiles, leather, construction materials, food processing, fertilizer, metal fabrication/processing. Export goods are crude oil 84%, crude materials excluding fuels 8%, food and live animals 5%. Main export partners: China 22.6%, India 21.1%, South Korea 11.2%, United States 7.8%, Italy 6.7%, Greece 6% (2015). Main import partners: Turkey

OpenSTEM: Mildred Dresselhaus, the Queen of Carbon | NY Times

Tue, 2017-02-28 13:04

“Dr. Dresselhaus, who helped transform carbon into the superstar of modern materials science, was renowned for her efforts to promote the cause of women in science.”

1948 A tribute at Hunter High School.

“Mildred (Millie) Dresselhaus, a professor emerita at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose research into the fundamental properties of carbon helped transform it into the superstar of modern materials science and the nanotechnology industry, died on Monday in Cambridge, Mass. She was 86.”

Read more.

Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) Announce: LUV Main March 2017 Meeting: Multicore World / Patching with quilt

Mon, 2017-02-27 21:04
Start: Mar 7 2017 18:30 End: Mar 7 2017 20:30 Start: Mar 7 2017 18:30 End: Mar 7 2017 20:30 Location:  Level 29, 570 Bourke St. Melbourne Link:


Tuesday, March 7, 2017
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Level 29, 570 Bourke St. Melbourne


• Lev Lafayette, MultiCore World 2017 Wellington
• Russell Coker, Patching with quilt

570 Bourke St. Melbourne, between King and William streets

Late arrivals needing access to the building and the twenty-ninth floor please call 0490 627 326.

Before and/or after each meeting those who are interested are welcome to join other members for dinner. We are open to suggestions for a good place to eat near our venue.

LUV would like to acknowledge Dell for their help in obtaining the venue.

Linux Users of Victoria Inc., is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

March 7, 2017 - 18:30

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Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) Announce: LUV Beginners March Meeting: node.js workshop

Mon, 2017-02-27 21:04
Start: Mar 18 2017 12:30 End: Mar 18 2017 16:30 Start: Mar 18 2017 12:30 End: Mar 18 2017 16:30 Location:  Infoxchange, 33 Elizabeth St. Richmond Link: node.js workshop

Node.js® is a JavaScript runtime built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient. Node.js' package ecosystem, npm, is the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the world.

Members will be invited to install and learn about node.js with peer assistance.

The meeting will be held at Infoxchange, 33 Elizabeth St. Richmond 3121 (enter via the garage on Jonas St.) Late arrivals, please call (0421) 775 358 for access to the venue.

LUV would like to acknowledge Infoxchange for the venue.

Linux Users of Victoria Inc., is an incorporated association, registration number A0040056C.

March 18, 2017 - 12:30

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OpenSTEM: This Week in HASS – term 1, week 5

Mon, 2017-02-27 09:04

This week students are exploring a vast range of topics, across the year levels. From using a torch and a tennis ball to investigate how the Earth experiences Day and Night to case studies on natural disasters, celebrations and indigenous peoples, there is a broad range of topics to spark interest.

Foundation to Year 3

Our youngest students (Foundation/Prep – Unit F.1) are talking about where they, and other members of their family, were born. Once again, this activity gets them interacting with maps and thinking about how we represent locations, whilst reinforcing their sense of identity and how they relate to others. Students in Years 1 to 3 (Units 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1) are using a torch and a tennis ball to investigate how the Earth experiences Night and Day, Seasons, Equinoxes and Solstices. This activity ties in what we experience as weather, seasons and their related celebrations to the Physics of how it all works, allowing students to draw connections between what they experience and what they are learning, and providing essential context for the more abstract knowledge. Teachers can easily tailor this activity to the needs of each class and explore the concepts in as much detail as required.

Years 3 to 6 Charlotte St, Brisbane 1893 floods

Students in Years 3 to 6 (Units 3.5, 4.1, 5.1 and 6.1) are looking at a range of different case studies pertinent to their year-level curriculum requirements, this week. Year 3 students are examining celebrations in Australia and around the world (the Celebrations Around the World resource has been updated this year, and contains some new material, please check that you have the latest copy, and re-download it if necessary) and Year 4 students examine areas of natural beauty in Australia. Year 5 students are looking at the effects of natural disasters, especially here in Australia. Case studies on floods, such as the Brisbane Floods of 1893, and bushfires, such as the infamous Black Friday fires in Victoria, are available for more in depth study by teachers and students wishing to explore the topic in more detail. Year 6 students are examining Indigenous groups of people from Australia and Asia. A range of case studies are available for this topic, from groups within Australia, holding Native Title, such as the Quandamooka People, to groups from the mountains of Southern China, such as the Yi people. The larger number of case studies available, which can be found in our store resource category Indigenous Peoples, allows for Year 6 students to pursue more individual lines of enquiry, suited to their developing abilities.

Binh Nguyen: Life in Afghanistan, Random Stuff, and More

Mon, 2017-02-27 03:08
On Afghanistan: - the place reminds me of a lot of other Middle Eastern countries.... Despite this and their internal stability issues clear that they have their own 'identity'. The deeper you look the more you'll realise why the US/West is having such difficulties there Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within South Asia and Central

Lev Lafayette: Nyriad: An Agile Startup Done Right

Sun, 2017-02-26 17:03

I have recently spent a few days in the company of Nyriad, a New Zealand IT company specialisng in GPU software. I wish to make a point of a few observations of the company because they are an example of both a startup company that uses agile project management, two terms much maligned and subject to justified cynicism, and does it right. Because I have seen so many colleagues burned by companies and organisations which profess such values and do not do it right, I hope the following observations will be useful for future organisations.

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OpenSTEM: This Week in HASS – term 1, week 4

Thu, 2017-02-23 15:05

This week the Understanding Our World program for primary schools has younger students looking at time passing, both in their own lives and as marked by others, including the seasons recognised by different Aboriginal groups. Older students are looking at how Aboriginal people interacted with the Australian environment, as it changed at the end of the Ice Age, and how they learnt to manage the environment and codified that knowledge into their lore.

Foundation to Year 3

This week our standalone Foundation classes  (Unit F.1) are thinking about what they were like as babies. They are comparing photographs or drawings of themselves as babies, with how they are now. This is a great week to involve family members and carers into class discussions, if appropriate. Students in multi-age classes and Years 1 to 3 (Units F.5, 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1) , are examining how weather and seasons change throughout the year and comparing our system of seasons with those used by different groups of Aboriginal people in different parts of Australia. Students can compare these seasons to the weather where they live and think about how they would divide the year into seasons that work where they live. Students can also discuss changes in weather over time with older members of the community.

Years 3 to 6

Older students, having followed the ancestors of Aboriginal people all the way to Australia, are now examining how the climate changed in Australia after the Ice Age, and how this affected Aboriginal people. They learn how Aboriginal people adapted to their changing environment and learned to manage it in a sustainable way. This vitally important knowledge about how to live with, and manage, the Australian environment, was codified into Aboriginal lore and custom and handed down in stories and laws, from generation to generation. Students start to examine the idea of Country/Place, in this context.

Julien Goodwin: Making a USB powered soldering iron that doesn't suck

Wed, 2017-02-22 23:03
Today's evil project was inspired by a suggestion after my talk on USB-C & USB-PD at this years's Open Hardware miniconf.

Using a knock-off Hakko driver and handpiece I've created what may be the first USB powered soldering iron that doesn't suck (ok, it's not a great iron, but at least it has sufficient power to be usable).

Building this was actually trivial, I just wired the 20v output of one of my USB-C ThinkPad boards to a generic Hakko driver board, the loss of power from using 20v not 24v is noticeable, but for small work this would be fine (I solder in either the work lab or my home lab, where both have very nice soldering stations so I don't actually expect to ever use this).

If you were to turn this into a real product you could in fact do much better, by doing both power negotiation and temperature control in a single micro, the driver could instead be switched to a boost converter instead of just a FET, and by controlling the output voltage control the power draw, and simply disable the regulator to turn off the heater. By chance, the heater resistance of the Hakko 907 clone handpieces is such that combined with USB-PD power rules you'd always be boost converting, never needing to reduce voltage.

With such a driver you could run this from anything starting with a 5v USB-C phone charger or battery (15W for the nicer ones), 9v at up to 3A off some laptops (for ~25W), or all the way to 20V@5A for those who need an extremely high-power iron. 60W, which happens to be the standard power level of many good irons (such as the Hakko FX-888D) is also at 20v@3A a common limit for chargers (and also many cables, only fixed cables, or those specially marked with an ID chip can go all the way to 5A). As higher power USB-C batteries start becoming available for laptops this becomes a real option for on-the-go use.

Here's a photo of it running from a Chromebook Pixel charger: