NZ #1: Wellington (with no mention of Wellington)

By: | Post date: December 28, 2009 | Comments: 10 Comments
Posted in categories: Countries, Information Technology
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I salute you, those of my readers who have not already wiped me from their RSS feeds. A couple of months of radio silence have passed: once again Your Correspondent has fallen off the blogging bandwagon, as has happened before and may well happen again. With the benefit of paranoid introspection, I can even venture a guess as to why I’d fallen off the blogging bandwagon, after returning from New Orleans. Although, Dear Remaining Reader(s), neither of us are inebriated enough yet that I can divulge why.

Not that I can tell this side of the Intertubes, anyway.

But lapsing in blogging calls for drastic measures, to restore my voice and pedantry to the Ether. And so it is, Dear Remaining Reader(s), that I am typing these lines from Cuba St, Wellington, New Zealand.

Following the pattern that sees me find more oddity to blog about when I’m out of the country, I have just hauled myself to Aotearoa, for the next 18 days. My connectivity will be spotty: I’m already having; to rely on citywide commercial Wireless, rather than anything in my hotel, to get online. So there’ll likely be less hyperlink treasure trove goodness than usual this time around in my posts.

(The wireless provider I’m resorting to is CaféNet. Of course. It *is* Wellington, after all, and Wellington deems itself to be all about coffee and Peter Jackson.)

A drastic solution to a blogging lull, perhaps, going across the Tasman Sea; and that’s not quite the reason I had bought the airline tickets. What was more of a reason is, I am embarrassed to acknowledge that I know exceedingly little about the sister country next door. As is the norm for someone from an elder sibling country (US vs Canada, Germany vs Austria, Greece vs Cyprus, Brobdignag vs Liliput). To rectify that, I’m doing what Australians abroad tend to do: I’m going to entirely too many places in entirely too short a time. The itinerary, as far as I can tell right now, is:

  • Wellington
  • Auckland
  • Wellington again
  • Nelson
  • Blenheim
  • Christchurch
  • Akaroa
  • Oamaru
  • Dunedin
  • Queenstown
  • Tourist Daytrip stuff in the vicinity of Queenstown
  • Wellington Schon Wieder Mal

Lots of downtime in buses. Good thing I’m typing this on something portable.

And while I could spent my first blog post in New Zealand writing about the three-dimensional picturesque of the Wellington back hills, instead I’ll write about what I’m typing this on.

You’ll recall that I had purchased a 9″ eeePC in Heathrow in March. I didn’t actually need an extra laptop, what with me already onwing a 13″ MacBook, which was plenty portable. Nor did I really live out the dream of taking my eeePC to the café or the park, and communing in agile computational portability against a backdrop of live people walking around. And the 9″ keyboard was just that little bit too small to type on comfortably anyway. At least I’d bought an ex-display model, so I hadn’t broken the bank.

Persons unknown, and possibly affiliated with the security scanning of my suitcase in LAX, took care of the 9″ eeePC conundrum for me. Once back, I had no 9″ computer, and no 13″ computer. I did have a 15″ MacBook—lovely screen, can almost put two documents side by side, but just that little bit too large to whip out comfortably in public transport—and utterly impossible in planes. Which means that now there was an ecological niche around me for a Netbook after all.

I still didn’t actually *need* a Netbook, as such; but in a bout of Holiday Retail Therapy on Boxing Day, I picked up an eeePC 1000H. At 10″, it confirmed what my colleague Steve found when he purchased his 10″ model: the 10″ keyboard is almost comfortable to type on. And mercifully, once more, I got to pick up an ex-display model. It still cost a smidgeon more than last time, and I still don’t actually need it…

… but this one’s black. I mean, that’s got to count for something, surely.

It’s also reimmersing me into the world of Linux. The world has changed since 2007, when the eeePC was introduced. Then, there was a serious prospect of Linux (or at least the preinstalled Xandros version of Linux suitable for children and small animals) making serious inroads on the netbook market. A year later, no computer retailer in Australia was selling anything on the eeePC but XP Home. But my household does not enrich the coffers of Redmond. And the Hackintosh on eeePC, which you get when you bit-torrent Some Guy’s edit of MacOSX, cudgel into the eeePC as long as it isn’t a 900, and cross your fingers, remains what it was a year ago: just like a Mac netbook, only crippled. Having to type in my wireless password each time I wake the computer from sleep really is a deal breaker.

So, I’ve hoisted eeebuntu onto the eeePC. Which has made my reacquaintance with the world of 1GB distros and 1GB system updates.

Short of an initial hiccup or two (as is inevitable under Linux), the installation has happened, and in all it’s a pleasant surprise how much Linux can do these days. The essential software is all there, and Linux even manages to communicate to my digital camera. The applications I’ve ended up with are rather more opaque to me than I’m used to; I don’t yet know what the division of labour is between Banshee Media Player, Rhythmbox Music Player, and gtkpod iPod Manager. And I’m not sure I’m going to feel compelled to find out. But the machine is doing what needs doing so far, and I’ll be giving it the baptism of fire over the next couple of weeks.

I’ve managed not to post about Wellington, and I’m already in Auckland tomorrow. Must post about Maori TV soon though. The mix of classical anchorwoman cadence and tribal warrior metaphor in the sports news certainly took me aback:

“Is Britney Teei old enough to understand that she must regain her mana at the Māori Tennis Championship?!”

There was enough cultural weighting to make the Maori News feel quite alien. And that’s greatly cool: alienness in this age is something to be cherished. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time watching Maori TV while here.

(And is it just me, or does Maori sound unexpectedly like Japanese? Not just because of the CV syllables either. I swear that u was unrounded…)

Also nice to know Kiwis deride Australian accents on their TV, just as we deride theirs on ours. Ad for Australian Gladiators just came on (not on Maori TV). In a whiny, nasally, Dave Hughes kind of voice:

“Everything’s Big in Australia! Big Muscles… Big Talk… and Big Idees!”

To explain: Australians love to deride the New Zealand backing of [ɪ] to [ɨ], immortalised as “fush and chups”. Across the ditch, of course, the Australian [ɪ] sounds ridiculously fronted, as in “feesh and cheeps”. (Yes, Australians sound to New Zealanders like Speedy Gonzales.) And if that’s how Australians sound to New Zealanders, then it has to be idees, and not ideas

OK, midnight NZ time. More later. Preferably not another two months later…


  • opoudjis says:

    Choice. Pfft. 🙂 (Yes, my soul has been destroyed by Apple and Microsoft.)

    I checked, and the Maori >u< is in fact [ʉ]. Not quite the Japanese [ɯ], but it explains why I thought there was something non-stereotypical about the u's in Maori.

  • John Cowan says:

    In Leenux, my friend, we have this concept called 'choice'. We in the Leenux community do not believe that there must be exactly one app for one job. Why, if you want to display a PDF, you are not condemned to use and curse Acrobat! You can use evince (aka "Document Viewer"), or kpdf, or xpdf, or Okular, or gsview, or ….

    And all of these have their good points and their bad points. And that's a good thing.

  • opoudjis says:

    Stazy: Oddly enough, the beached whales were the first item on Te Kāea (the Maori news). Again, the culture-specific coverage was a surprise: the emphasis was on the community building of working together on saving the whales, and the rituals over the whales that didn't make it. A lot of the news had the unsubtle subtext of rebuilding the community and restoring pride; but it still had the slickness of any modern newscast. And its clichés: a marae fundraiser was signed off on with "Roma wasn't built in a day, as the saying goes".

    A few items on, "the new canoe has the nets, as the saying goes" introduced a sports item, somehow.
    And every random Maori interviewed in the news was credited with name *and* tribe affiliation. Like I said, alien enough to be intriguing, framed in a familiar enough way to be accessible…

    Good thing it had subtitles.

  • opoudjis says:

    Philip: Yes, Maori <wh> is indeed meant to be [ɸ], although often enough it is realised as [f], and there is meant to be regional variation anyway. (Maori TV seemed consistent in using [ɸ].) That's like Japanese as well, isn't it?

  • Στάζυ: Greek's fine. Ἀκόμη καὶ τὸ πολυτονικό.

    Now, this is music to our friend's ears over at Nikos's. 🙂

    Have a nice time, you poor traveller! The only thing we hear of NZ is disoriented dead whales…

  • pne says:

    I think that the sound written "wh" is prototypically an unvoiced bilabial fricative (IPA phi), though a labiodental fricative /f/ is, I believe, not unheard of.

    But the phi agrees with the typical sound (as I understand it) of Japanese /h/ in the syllable /hu/ – so, another similarity between Maori and Japanese.

  • opoudjis says:

    Nakku: I didn't know! (Or you've told me and I've forgotten, which is just as likely.) That means he's here permanently, or on holidays?

    Mail me details. I'm back in Welly evening Dec 30, leaving morning Jan 2, so it would be a bit of an ask to catch up with him.

    Greetings from Wellywood International Airport. Next stop, Auckland. Or Dorkland, as everyone here not from Auckland endearingly calls it. Got a Lonely Planet Guide to read on the plane.

  • opoudjis says:

    Στάζυ: Greek's fine. Ἀκόμη καὶ τὸ πολυτονικό. But then again, this is Ubuntu, not Xandros homebrew Linux, so I was not that surprised the localisations were OK. I *was* pretty happy to have a US Macintosh keyboard available.

    Haven't googled yet to find an IPA keyboard; one's not included in the distro. But again, I'm sure something will turn up once I do…

  • Nakku says:

    My bro's in Wellington, you know. He'd probably be up for a coffee, or show you some Wellingtony thing or other.

  • Should I ask if the Greek keyboard layout and fonts work smoothly, or haven't you tried them yet?

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