Dion Moult Seriously who ever reads this description.

Eight rotary phones – an art installation

Late last year, I helped run the University of Sydney annual graduation exhibition for the Architecture faculty. One of the things I was responsible for was helping set up an “artistic” installation. Architects have strange concepts of what is and isn’t art, and apparently an isolated network of eight rotary phones qualifies.

An old rotary phone

The concept was simple: throw eight hipster phones around with a few numbers and see what happens. You could call each other around the building. I’m sorry, were you expecting more? Nope. That’s art for you.

It did, however, give me an opportunity to learn the basics of traditional phone systems – from things like pulses, tones, VOIPs, PABX, switchboards, right down to the physical labour of installing more than 200 meters of phone cable across a building.

On the night itself, I’m happy to say that the installation (in both the technical and artistic sense) was a success. I’ve never heard such creative instant role playing or even inappropriate words said to would-be employers.

… I wonder how long I can keep that phone network running before people realise it’s not a legitimate part of their system?

Installing Gentoo on Android with chroot

Note: recently edited 8th Nov 2014

Installing Gentoo in a chroot alongside Android is easy, so if you already use Gentoo and have an Android phone, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t do it. With a ginormous phablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and a bluetooth keyboard, you can get a super-mobile full Linux workstation everywhere you go.

Before we begin, let’s see the pretty pictures. Here’s Larry saying hello :) (Installing a talking cow should be the top priority once the base system is up and running)

Larry saying hello on Android

… and of course a shot of emerging stuff …

Gentoo on Android compiling stuff

… and finally we’re running Enlightenment 17 with the Webkit-based Midori browser with X, accessed via (Tight)VNC …

E17 on Android with Gentoo Linux

Installing Gentoo on Android

Prerequisites first: you’ll need a rooted device. You’ll also need a terminal with busybox. I recommend Android Terminal Emulator and busybox by stericson. I would also recommend installing Hacker’s Keyboard, which gives you a full keylayout.

Installing is rather straightforward: modern Android phones usually run on ARMv7 so just follow the appropriate handbook. If you are installing it onto your internal storage (not on an external SD), you can skip to chapter 5 :)

You will need to be root to install, so su - in your terminal emulator of choice. Similarly, remount Android into read-write so that you can create the necessary files for Gentoo with mount -o remount,rw /. Finally, remember to install in /data/gentoo instead of /mnt/gentoo so to not conflict with Android’s mounting preferences.

Since we’re only installing a chroot and not booting alongside android, you can safely skip configuring the kernel, configuring fstab, configuring networking, and setting up the bootloader.

When mounting, you will need to do so as root user, and use the busybox implementation for --rbind support, as so:

$ su -
[ ... superuser access granted ... ]
$ cd /
$ mount -t proc proc /data/gentoo/proc
$ busybox mount --rbind /dev /data/gentoo/dev
$ busybox mount --rbind /sys /data/gentoo/sys
$ chroot /data/gentoo /bin/bash
[ ... now in the chroot ... ]
$ source /etc/profile

This is assuming you’ve put Gentoo in /data/gentoo

Android quirks

There doesn’t seem to be a /dev/fd on Android, so let’s fix that:

[ ... in Gentoo chroot ... ]
$ cd /dev
$ ln -s /proc/self/fd

Portage won’t be able to download files as it doesn’t download as root, but instead as another user by default. No problem:

[ ... in /etc/portage/make.conf ... ]

Sometimes I’ve noticed that on bad reboots the /etc/resolv.conf can get reset. This will cause host resolving issues. Resolving is as easy as:

[ ... in /etc/resolv.conf ... ]

It will be a good idea to set your main user to the same UID as the Android normal user. Also, running id -a in android will show you that your user is part of various reserved Android groups. To fix issues such as your Gentoo user’s (in)ability to go online or use bluetooth, just create these groups in your Gentoo install with matching GIDs, and add your user to these groups. Here’s a list of Android UIDS and GIDS. For example, I needed to add my Gentoo user to groups with GIDs 3003 and 3004 before it could successfully go online.

If you want an X server, VNC will do the trick. I recommend android-vnc-viewer 24-bit colour seems to work, and perhaps change the input method to touchpad rather than touchscreen so it’s relatively usable.

Finally, with no fan and big heatsink on a mobile phone, you might find yourself running hot. So even though monsters like the Galaxy Note 2 have 4 cores, I recommend sticking it to MAKEOPT="-j2"

USyd Architecture Exhibition website released

Today I’d like to officially release the Usyd Architecture Exhibition website.

USyd Graduation Exhibition Website Homepage

USyd Graduation Exhibition Website Catalogue

Taken from the site itself:

The University of Sydney Architecture Faculty puts together an annual exhibition for its graduating Bachelors and Masters students. This gives students an opportunity to showcase their best projects. An event is held to exhibit these works, and along with this a hardcopy curated catalogue and a digital catalogue is released.

So as expected, the site hosts this year’s digital catalogue, and will continue to host future year’s submissions. There are currently about 100 submissions listed across five diverse project briefs. Feel free to look around, but I’d like to issue a word of warning to my readers that you might find the project descriptions more affiliated towards the romantic and social science-esque narrative.

If you’re wondering why a lot of the work is more art than design, I’d like to highlight that we aren’t incapable of making functional, logical and real-world problem solving designs. However it does seem that a lot of students aren’t taught how to write, and end up romanticizing the design into an artwork. That said, some designs do aim to be utopian and speculative, but I guess if you’re going to be spending the rest of your life looking at glazing and bolts, you’re excused for a little fun during university.

I’d also like to get the chance to highlight my own submission on the website.

Flinders Street Hotel Proposal Render

My project this semester involved proposing a Flinders St Hotel. It’s a rather large scale project, and would take too long to explain fully, even for the generous space that the online catalogue allows. I recommend viewing my project page and reading the full description there. It gives an overview of the project.

Finally, I’d like to quickly highlight the under-the-hood of the website. The website runs on vtemplate, is responsive, and has it’s technology colophon visible at its humans.txt. In particular, it was designed to be quite generic and highlight the work itself, and function on a phone or iPad as you scanned QR codes during the event itself. The entire website is open-source (view repository), and I’ve just tagged 1.0.0 today :)

vtemplate 1.0.0 released

Today I’d like to release vtemplate 1.0.0. I’ve blogged about vtemplate before, but now I am relatively confident about its maturity to make an official release. Jeff Atwood has spoken about The Rule of Three in Reusable Software, and I’m happy to say that I’ve used vtemplate in far more than three sites since then. Oh, and if you are not a web developer, this post is probably not for you.

What is vtemplate?

The Git repository says it well enough: vtemplate is a boilerplate setup for starting new [web] projects which combines various industry standards. There are a few tweaks here and there, but otherwise it’s loyal to upstream. You’ll recognise many favourite technologies used in vtemplate, ranging from Stylus to Kohana to Behat. But before I run through these technologies, I’d like to highlight the ideals behind vtemplate:

  1. Favour industry standards over proprietary and personal hacks
  2. Promote standards that emphasise readable, maintainable, and simple code
  3. Don’t restrict or govern your desired code architecture

Let’s take a brief tour over the awesome stuff we get with vtemplate.


You really can’t go wrong with HTML5Boilerplate. It’s a great piece of collaboration by very experienced frontend web coders and very well documented. This is a great first step to writing responsive, cross-browser, HTML5-valid code. This also brings in so many other frontend joys like HumansTXT, Modernizer, JQuery and so on.


If If you’re using another CSS preprocessor, this’ll show you just how clean your CSS can really be. If you’re not yet using a preprocessor … well, you’ll soon find out why it’s so awesome. Admittedly Stylus isn’t as popular as the big boys like LESS, but it has a very lenient syntax and is easy to swap out.


Learn why writing logic in your templates is evil! Stop writing Model-View-Controller and start writing Model-View-Template-Controller. Don’t let the backend team hold up the frontend or vice versa.


Why are your clients modifying their site with bloated CMSes and complex, unsemantic rich text WYSIWYGs? Keep things simple, and let your code govern the CMS, not the other way around. WYMEditor reads and writes directly to clean segments of frontend files and understands your CSS. Best of all, it makes it easy to review changes with version control. Read more about the simple CMS approach here.


Modular (quite literally split into many Git submodules), PSR-0 compatible, forward thinking and high coding standards PHP web delivery mechanism with extremely flexible routing and HMVC architecture.


Composer is everything you wished PEAR could’ve been, and more.


Most webapps need a mailer library. Swiftmailer is a great one.


We all love TDD, right? BDD is even better because it’s semantic TDD! PHPSpec2 provides a really simple (but powerful) BDD tool complete with clean mocking and stubbing.

Behat and Mink

Another great tool from the same guys who brought PHPSpec2. Whereas PHPSpec covers all your unit testing, Behat is excellent for full stack and UI testing, with the beauty of a semantic Gherkin syntax. Mink is just icing on the cake, giving an easy to use abstraction to emulate browsers.


Test. Configure. Build. Deploy. Do it again!

So if you’re developing a web application with PHP, check out vtemplate :)

What’s new in vtemplate 1.0.0?

Well, apart from being the first release, where by definition everything is new, there have been a few more tweaks since my last post on it.

Feel free to fork :)

The Architecture Graduate Exhibition – University of Sydney

On the 5th of December, there will be the Architecture Graduate Exhibition at the University of Sydney. Yes, that’s right, my Bachelors degree is over! But before I move on to Masters, other projects, and life, I would like to dedicate a post to the exhibition itself.

The Architecture Graduate Exhibition is an annual event which showcases the work of all the graduating students. This year, it’ll feature the the graduating Bachelors, who show projects tackling the controversial redevelopment of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, and the graduating Masters, who’ll showcase three distinct projects. Our organising team of five including myself are happy to present “ANALOGUE” (that’s an artsy theme, in case you haven’t guessed).

Architecture Graduate Exhibition - USyd - Logo

If you are available in Sydney on the 5th of December, be sure to drop in at the Wilkinson Building at 148 City Road around 6PM for live music (which I shall participate), free booze (which I shall graciously donate), and perhaps some design here and there.

This year shall also feature the release of the first online graduate exhibition catalogue. This’ll be reused in future years. It’s still under wraps but will be released at UsydArchExhibition.com once I have enough entries. You may also follow our Analogue Architecture Exhibition Facebook page where we post ongoings – you might witness the 200 plinths we built (don’t mind the mess in the backdrop, that’s the natural state of a creative environment).

Analogue Architecture Exhibition Plinths

Back to work!

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