Auckland, and beyond

We’ve been in New Zealand a week now, and I’m just starting to think that I’ve finally got over the jet-lag. Woo-hoo!

Impressions of Auckland varied from day to day, depending on where we were and how tired we were feeling. At first, neither of us was particularly impressed, but we warmed to the place over time. I think our initial reservations were based in part on the fact that we arrived at the beginning of the Labour Day weekend – the city was uncharacteristically quiet, and we found ourselves wandering the streets wondering where everyone was. Things livened up a bit when the normal week resumed.

[Downtown Auckland]

The highlight was probably Auckland Museum, which is also a war memorial (and was in fact initially built as one). It’s a neo-classical building situated at the highest point of the Domain (the city park). It holds a lot of good Maori and Pacific Island exhibits, most of a floor devoted to the subject of New Zealand at war (in keeping, I suppose, with the building’s origin as a war memorial) and a fantastic set of rooms devoted to the geology and biology of the islands. All of it is interesting, well laid out and obviously designed with cross-generational appeal in mind – as evidenced by the stream of noisy school parties that kept us company during our wanderings through the halls.


The suburb of Devonport on the north shore of Waitemata Harbour, opposite the central business district, is another spot worth visiting. A network of streets lined with old buildings surrounds the remains of a volcano called Mount Victoria which provides great views of the city. It’s from there that these photos were taken. There are lots of little shops selling books and souvenirs and knick-knacks as well as plenty of cafes to sit and eat in .

I’m sure we saw only a fraction of Auckland in the few bleary days we spent there (in addition to the above we checked out the K’ Road, Ponsonby and Parnell, each of which was cool in it’s own way), but we didn’t come to NZ on a citybreak. So we’re off into the hinterlands before our cash runs out and we have to head home or get a job. Still, we’ll be back so if anyone surfs across this page and has any Auckland suggestions, then please leave a comment!

Sony Vaio PCG-C1F

So, I got this Sony Vaio PCG-C1F, right. My mate Gavin loaned it to me. The particularly good thing about it is it’s size – small enough to carry round without any hassle.

[Sony Vaio PCG-C1F]

Thing is, I’ve put a nice new Slackware 9 install on it. Sounds good – but I’ve got to do all the configuration myself. If I didn’t know any better I’d assume that Gavin thought I needed a project to keep my mind busy. Still, I suppose it gives me something else to post about, too.

Linux can be a little bit of a pain to install on laptops sometimes – there’s a lot of scope for non-standard hardware and the like for which no-one has got around to hacking out device drivers for yet. Still, at first glance, installing a recent distro on the little Vaio seems like a fairly straigtforward task. Touch wood.

The basic install goes well. The machine boots, and the kernel recognises the cards that came with the machine – the ethernet card Just Works. The modem and wireless cards are recognised, and just need some configuration – I can easily whip up a chatscript for the modem, but I’m a bit less certain about what to do with the wireless card, having never used this technology before. Still, one thing at a time, and the first thing I want to do is to get XFree86 running satisfactorily.

The standard XF86Config file installed alongside with Slackware is actually enough to start X despite the fact that it thinks the screen is 1024×768 whereas it is actually 1024×480. A bit of manpage reading and a quick surf later, and I have a nice little example of an XF86Config file as hacked together by Jochen Topf for his Sony Vaio. (This page has a lot of other stuff on it, too. I plan to read it a bit more thoroughly, and it might be useful to you if you’ve arrived at this page because you’re researching getting linux running on a Vaio.) This doesn’t quite work – he uses the svga driver which I don’t seem to have, and one or two other little minor errors crop up – but a quick glance in /usr/X11R6/lib/modules/drivers turns up a rather promising little file called neomagic_drv.o. The Vaio uses the NeoMagic MagicMedia 256AV, so this looks good.

And sure enough, between this, Topf’s mode line for 1024×480 and a bit of a ripoff from the stock config file, I’ve pulled together an XF86Config file that allows me to startx quite happily and launch the XFce Desktop Environment, which for some reason Gavin and I selected as the default window manager when we were doing the original install without knowing much about at the time.

Despite prioritising getting the X server running, I find that I’m spending very little time using it anyway. Oh well. Next thing I did was to get my digital camera working, a Nikon Coolpix 3100, which proved very simple. This simple: plug in the USB cable, and type

# mkdir /mnt/flash
# mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/flash

And off we go. Straight out of the box, as they say.

Next up: the modem and wireless cards. Not to mention a bit of trimming in /etc/rc.d/ to cut down on a raft of unnecessary services.