Life & much, much more

Australian electrical infrastructure maps

Today we’re going to take a brief look at Australia’s electrical infrastructure. The dataset is available publicly from Geoscience Australia, but for those who don’t dabble in GIS software it can be a little hard to get to. I’ve put it all together in QGIS, and here’s a few snapshots for the curious. Now you can pretend you’re an expert electrical engineer and say judgemental things about Australia!

These maps cover major national powers stations, electricity transmission lines, and substations. If you’ve ever wondered where your electricity comes from, or how it gets to your house, this may give you a brief idea of how it all fits together.

Let’s start with Australia as a whole. Translucent circles represent electrical power stations, and their size is weighted by the generation capacity. For convenience, any power station that has a generation capacity of greater than 250MW is labeled. Any non-renewable source is shaded black, and renewables are shaded in red. Transmission power lines are in red, and substations are the small red dots. Transmission lines are weighted based on their voltage capacity – thicker means more kV, thinner means less. Dotted transmission lines occur underground and the rest are overhead.

You can click any map for a high resolution version.

Australian electrical infrastructure map

Detailed analysis aside, we can see that Australia is still largely based on non-renewables. This is unsurprising. Similarly unsurprising is the south-east coast concentration, and proximity to densely populated areas. Tasmania is mostly devoid of non-renewables, which is great, but what’s that large red circle in the south east? Let’s take a look in more detail.

NSW electrical infrastructure map

Zooming into NSW, we can capture Talbingo Dam, which services the Tumut hydroelectric power station. Tumut is special as it is the highest-capacity renewable power station, and according to the list of major power stations by the Department of Resources & Energy, it has a capacity of 2,465MW. Put into context, this is just under the 2800MW capacity of the Bayswater coal plant, the second largest non-renewable power plant in NSW.

All this talk about capacity is really important because most renewable power stations have a capacity of less than 100MW. So you would have to build say 20-40 renewable power stations to equal the capacity of a single coal plant. If you excluded Tumut and Murray (the next high capacity hydro after Tumut), and added up every single renewable power plant in NSW (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biofuel, and biogas), you would only then equal the capacity of your average NSW coal plant. Snowy Hydro, which runs the show, are damn successful, and the secret is in the name: snow makes for good hydro! All that melting and sudden runoff is great for electricity.

Sydney electrical infrastructure map

Zooming further into the Sydney region shows coal around the perimeter, as well as the local contender which is the Warragamba dam hydro. Despite the promise of the Warragamba dam hydro, it is important to note that it is disconnected from the grid and only provides power when the dam is at a certain level. This is quite a rare occasion for Warragamba, which provides 80% of the potable water of Sydney. On my recent visit to Warragamba, I was actually told that the hydro is being shut down due to high operating costs. Simply put, the dam is better as a reservoir instead of a hydro source.

Sydney electrical infrastructure map zoomed in

Let’s take a closer look at the Sydney region. We see a spatter of renewables and non-renewables. Still, the non-renewables outweigh the renewables – we’ll take a closer look at insolation and local solar capacity in a future blog post, but right now the only renewables of note are the biogases. In short, these stem off landfills (Eastern Creek, Lucas Heights, and Spring Farm) and industrial wastelands (Camellia). Also interesting to note is that just like the Warragamba dam, all of these landfills are already shut down or close to shutting down. We’ll talk about the waste issue and landfill capacities in a future blog post too.

In summary, Australia has a little bit more work to do. Of course, the issue is a lot deeper than these maps, but we can’t cram everything into one blog post, so hopefully it’s enough to whet your appetite.

Creative

So then I built an oil lamp

A few months ago I was walking in the park near my university and stumbled across a rather warped but stylish fallen branch. Immediately I knew that this branch was destined to become an oil lamp. A couple months later of on-and-off work, I had finished.

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The lamp itself was made out of laminated rings of wood, which encased a copper oil container. A sculpted nozzle allows the wick to raise out of the wooden container and light up. The container is hinged and can be refilled whilst the lamp is burning. The nozzle was made out of laminated ply, whereas the alternating colours of the container were various hardwoods. The heat distributors were zinc (if I recall right), and the glass was cut out of an old soya bean milk bottle.

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The branch itself didn’t become the lamp, but rather the stand for the lamp. The slight uneven and rustic look makes it suited more for the outdoors, placed on top of lawn.

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The wick passes through a wick raising mechanism. The design for the mechanism, built from steel and aluminum, was actually taken by a patent advertised by the International Guild of Lamp Researchers (yes, you read that right).

It consists of two cogs, one with pointed teeth, and another indented so that they mesh together. These are encased inside a block with a two channels – one for the cogs to fit into, and one for the wick to pass between them. Turning the cog with teeth catches the wick, and allows you to raise and lower the wick. This feeds in extra wick when existing wick burns out, and allows you to “dim” and “brighten” the lamp.

Each cog spins on an axle, but the indented cog’s axle has a extended slot, and by twisting a screw outside, you can push the cogs closer to one another. This allows the wick mechanism to accommodate for differently sized wicks.

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This entire project was built from scratch (with exception of the wick and metal fastener at the top with the ugly blue plastic which was bought), with thanks to the helpful folks over at the university workshop.

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All in all, I call this project a success. I’ve learned a ton about woodwork and metalwork, and got myself a rather unique lamp in the process. I hope you all enjoyed taking a peek too :)

Life & much, much more

Game of Homes – upcoming Architecture Revue

Have you ever watched Game of Thrones? I haven’t, but that hasn’t stopped me or the rest of the folks from our faculty from creating this year’s annual Architecture Revue performance.

Game of Thrones - Architecture Revue

If you’re in Sydney and want to kill some time, come along and watch the show. If Australian university humour isn’t quite your thing, come along anyway to listen to the band.

Apparently it’s got knife-wielding priests, ghostly giraffes, and moose- but don’t take it from me, take it from yourself after you watch the show.

OK, enough blatant advertising, and apologies for the terrible pun.

For those interested, my main role is as musical director, though of course I do a bunch of Audio/Visual stuff too, and I shall post a bit more about that later.

Life & much, much more

Another year awaits.

Well, it’s been another month since my last post but my online slumbering isn’t the result of laziness, but rather the shifting of focus towards more of real life and less of the fantastical world wide web.

Since then, I had returned to Shanghai to continue studying Mandarin. Upon my return, my ever-faithful Acer Aspire 4530 had decided it was time to corrupt its hard drive and stop displaying things on the monitor. I am now the happy owner of a Thinkpad T420i, whose notable features include choosing discrete/integrated graphics at the BIOS level, which subverts any possible Linux NVidia Optimus problems, things just working, thanks to the series being a developer favourite, and a very rough-textured nipple and touchpad, which are like heaven to my sensitive hands which suffer from hyperhidrosis. Even when my hands do act up, the keyboard has a drainage system.

Software-wise it runs Gentoo Linux with KDE. Files were easily transferred without any problems from my backup server at rsync.net – whom I’d recommend to anyone in an instant.

I have included a picture of it below (or rather, a stock photo of it). Aesthetically it looks not much more than a black box, but given its reputation as something which just doesn’t give up on you, it’s an appropriate design.

This caused quite a bit of a setback in my office work as well as personal projects, of which the latter got severely cut back upon. Not helping was the fact that in a couple weeks time I moved back to Sydney, Australia to prepare for my second year of university. Also not helping is that I am moving around quite a bit during my first couple of weeks in Sydney.

In terms of personal projects, I finalised and synchronised the latest live.WIPUP design with the stable version. Those who were checking WIPUP would’ve seen the first animation sequence of ThoughtScore finished and posted online on the 24th of Janurary.

Uncategorized

SLUG Feb monthly meeting

Being completely new to Australia and since Malaysia doesn’t have any sort of open-source community whatsoever I searched around for a linux/blender/open-source group when arriving. I found SLUG, or the Sydney Linux User Group. They hold monthly meetings, and though I was unavailable to join their January meeting, I did manage to join the February meeting on Friday. It was my first meeting of this nature so I must say it was very interesting regardless of the actual content of the meeting.

The meeting was kindly hosted by the folks over at the Google Sydney office, which was an experience in itself. It was certainly the most open and personalised set of offices that I had ever seen. I’ll let a picture speak for itself. (Why yes, that is a tire swing there)

The talk was given by Dr Silvia Pfeiffer about HTML 5’s video and audio capabilities – which are, needless to say, extremely powerful. The talk inspired me to implement HTML 5 video support in WIPUP, and for those that are interested in the talk, she gave at LCA too and is available here.

But what was more interesting was the people. They were your usual ragtag group of geeks.

How unexciting to meet such regular people.

Life & much, much more

G’day, mate!

As some might be aware, I’ve recently moved from my nest in Malaysia to the charming country of Australia to begin university. I’m officially a university student now. Well, classes haven’t started yet and won’t for the next 2 weeks, and I haven’t even been to orientation yet, but according to the university’s crappy intranet system I’m enrolled in all my courses for Architecture.

I haven’t posted anything in a while. Normally I’d be able to blame it on my being busy on other things but truth be told I’ve actually just been plain lazy and have taken a liking towards twiddling my thumbs in bed. I still dabble in my projects here and there but there isn’t a sense of over-caffinated hysteria over finishing whatever task I’m currently working on. This means that the KDE-www war is still on hold, my ThoughtScore script is progressing reaaaly slowly, and I haven’t done any composition for the past month. However things are still getting done (yes, live.WIPUP has been updated with a much improved UI!) and will pick up soon as I start settling into a brand new and improved routine. Meanwhile, you can see my work trickle into WIPUP, and despite the horrendous simplicity of my blog design I’ve brought myself together to add a somewhat borked navigation at the top which references my work, hosted on – as it should be – WIPUP.

On the other hand, Australia is excellent. There are weekly $2 barbeques and I’m walking distance away from the harbour, the rocks (where touristy stuff like the Opera house and their iconic bridge are), the SLUG (Sydney Linux User Group) meeting place as well as the central station, which can pretty much bring you anywhere else in Sydney. I’ve also got this wicked view out my window of Darling Harbour which means pretty much unobstructed fireworks displays (so far I’ve experienced two, one during CNY and another during – believe it or not – Valentine’s day.) No, I haven’t yet been to the beach, but plan to in the coming week, and I’m still working on my Aussie accent.

As for open-source stuff, though I haven’t contributed anything in a while I have really been enjoying activites in KDE 4.6 and can’t see how I managed to survive without it in the past. I’ve also been using Diaspora as a sort of “entry hub” when posting social status updates. Now that the newsfeed is starting to see a little bit more activity with people using Diaspora I’ve found their aspects system really awesome, and allows me to share exactly what I want with exactly who I want. I also got myself an Android phone (yes, reflashed with a custom rom) and that’s actually really helped my productivity.

In social news, I’ve met my long-time server sponsor and webhost Tarik from OpticEmpire and talks on new projects have begun (start more than I finish eh?), and somehow formed a weird troupe of acquaintances involving a chilean, italian, hong konger, indian, and miscellaneous.

No, I’m not dead.

Technical

Toronto’s “mini-sprint”, and Sydney’s KDE/FOSS Community

During the holidays I met up with Eugene Trounev, (aka it-s), one of KDE’s awesome artists to discuss our reorganisation of KDE.org and the design aspects of it (which is coming soon in the series). It was a 2-day meeting and it was my first time meeting another KDE enthusiast face-to-face, as given my inconvenient geographical location in Malaysia I don’t know anybody else here. I won’t post the outcome of the sprint here but it will be released periodically with the rest of my kde-www war series. It was extremely useful and awesome of course (and yes, lots did get done), and since no photos were taken, here is one of a random conifer tree to make up for it:

I’ve just arrived in Sydney, Australia to get ready for my upcoming year of university, and so I wanted to quickly throw out the question to see if anybody in the KDE / Blender / FOSS crowd lives there. If you do, throw me an email/comment and if there isn’t an existing community, let’s start one :D

Uncategorized

Back from Australia

I’m back from my trip to Australia and greeted with the Deepavali holiday. It was a great trip – visiting Sydney and Melbourne, my cousin’s wedding and checking out 6 universities. I met a lot of relatives I didn’t know before, didn’t know when I met them, still don’t know, and don’t plan to know. I close to perfected my mobile experience when limited to my phone and my cousin’s wifi, I learned what you could only learn about universities if you visit them, and of course the wedding dinner was (really) delicious.

I also got a Google Wave account to play with (from Marvin, whose shared interests are in the downfall of TMNet, our ISP – or an optimistic person would say the upgrading of TMNet), and will update you on my impressions later (no, I don’t have the send-invite ability yet, see the explanation, but if you do send me a kind request when I do I’ll send you an invite).

This is somewhat of a filler post as I’m quite tired and also have a lot of catching-up work to do. thinkMoult posts will resume its usual 2-day schedule. Of course WIPUP will continue development once I’ve catched up a sufficient amount. But to keep this post friendly here’s a paranoramic shot I shotted with my phone camera (hence the tiny size).

If you look closely you can spot Sydney Opera House.