Off The Grid Great Barrier Island

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island is a website run by the Aoteaora Trust to promote and inform people on the issues surrounding off the grid living on Great Barrier Island.

There is a huge amount of information to process when deciding to go off the grid. Not only on Great Barrier Island but for the rest of the world as well. Who better to give advice on what works and what doesn’t work than the people who live with off the grid technology every day.

Micro hydroThe website gives information on power generation, power storage, harvesting water, hot water, waste disposal and septic waste disposal. Each subject also includes case studies using real situations on the Island.

It also promotes new technologies such as Lead Carbon batteries and Salt Water batteries and in the future will be adding a blog on the pros and cons of running an electric car on the island.

Since 2015, the Trust has run a yearly event to promote the Island in its technology.

The 2017 event started at the Auckland Bowling Club with speakers on solar power, batteries, water filtration, power systems,  and waste disposal. It then moved on to the Island where the theory became reality with a tour of the Islands solar powered shopping centre, rodent monitoring, off the grid cooking and other workshops.

It then moved onto the Claris Club with presentations from Integrity Solar, CanFarm Energy Solutions, Aqua Synergy Group and Aquanova.

There were tours of homes using off the grid technology with the owners speaking about the pros and cons, solutions and drawbacks.

Finally, on the Sunday, there is a field day with stalls from both locals and off Islanders and plenty of conversation about local sustainability initiatives and solutions.

More can be found out about event by visiting their website or going to the next Off The Grid GBI Event in 2018.

Off The Grid GBI 2015

Convert and split APE into FLAC using a CUE file

If you need to convert an APE file into a FLAC file then that is easy. It also turns out it is easy to split the APE file into different FLAC tracks using a CUE file.


Flacon is an audio file encoder that extracts individual tracks from one big audio file and separates them into different tracks. It can also convert them in the process.

Flacon is available for many Linux distributions and can be installed on Fedora 25 with an easy.

sudo dnf install flacon

To convert APE files you will need also to install mac from rpmfusion-nonfree in order to read the files.

sudo dnf install mac

Simply select the destination directory, the pattern you want your files to be renamed as, what format you want them converted to and whether you want to apply replaygain. Then convert. It takes a surprisingly small amount of time.

Flacon converting ape files to flac

Aotea FM Great Barrier Islands Solar Powered Radio Station

Aotea FM logo

Aotea FM has come a long way in a relatively short time. From an initial small set of batteries and a couple of solar panels up a hill it now has three transmitting stations to cover as much of the Island as possible and a new broadcasting hut near the Claris shops.

That’s not a bad feat for an Island with no power grid.

It offers Island news, interviews, and an outlet for people to share their diverse tastes in music and culture. There is also the occasional weather forecast which can start at Great Barrier but stretch all the way into the Pacific in order to give surfers an idea what might be coming.

Aotea FM is run by volunteers as a local not for profit community effort. These volunteers do more than just play DJ. They have built the transmitters, the radio shack, governance, provided money and time, and occasionally they have to run up a hill to start a generator if there has been heavy cloud for a couple of days.

A weekly schedule can  look like a who’s who of the Island population, for example…..

08:00 – Kick Start with Brownie
10:30 – The Cure (Michelle & Marie)
13:00 – The Adam from Okupu Show
15:30 – Mystery Monday with Sharon

08:00 – The Breakfast Club (John Tate)
10:30 – Leebee’s Lunch Break
13:00 – The Rook show
15:30 – The Penny Drops

08:00 – “T” in the morning
10:30 – Nikki’s of Angels, Love & Horses
13:00 – L’Indie’sClassicJazz’nBlues
15:30 – Cool Grooves & Hot Tracks

10:30 – Leebee & Lenny’s Music Mayhem
13:00 – Ngaire’s Thursday Cruize
15:30 – Cool Grooves & Hot Tracks

08:00 – Kit’s Morning Catch Up
10:30 – Phill’s Friday Fiasco
13:00 – Off the Record with Kathy
15:30 – Sali (Stolen Tuesday)

08:00 – DJ Fresh
10:30 – Toni’s Top 10
13:00 – Stop it! Live with Leon
15:30 – Sharon’s Saturday Arvo

10:30 – Sunday Buzz (Joseph Hodgetts)
13:00 – Tala’s Sunday session
15:30 – Lars and the Real Show

And you don’t have to be on the Barrier to listen. AoteaFM streams live online!

AoteaFM Collage

Democracy in the 21st Century

If you think the way we are governed isn’t going to change then you’re going to get a surprise.  New communication technologies have always changed the way we have governed ourselves and the rise of the computers and the Internet will continue changing democracy in the 21st century.

All over the world people are applying technology to the political problems of the day with the greatest of these being the problem of voter representation in our political systems. Billions of people feel they aren’t represented adequately by their government. This is going to change.

Forget electronic voting machines in polling booths. There are systems today experimenting in using blockchain  technologies to achieve complete and sometimes real time voter control of the government.

This is a roundup of some of those experiments categorised into blockchain and non-blockchain.


The Awaken Direct Democracy Project

Although The Awaken Direct Democracy Project isn’t up and running yet it still gets a mention as a New Zealand effort to “concept stage storyboards for a mobile web-app to enable NZ citizens cast private and secure digital votes into a public block-chain backed parliament. Vote in elections, acts and bills – on legislation past current and future!”

Awaken Direct Democracy Project

Democracy Earth

Democracy Earth is “building Sovereign, an open source and decentralised democratic governance protocol for any kind of organisation.” and seeks to make democracy border less for the entire planet. Fronting it is Santiago Siri who previously worked on DemocracyOS.

Democracy Earth


D-CENT describes itself as a “Europe-wide project creating open, secure and privacy-aware tools for direct democracy and economic empowerment” and is in use in Barcelona, Reykjavik, Helsinki and Madrid. It provides a tool kit for improved and secure participation.



Flux is an tool Australians can use to directly participate in parliament. It is also a registered political party. It promises, “you’ll be given a vote on every bill put before Federal Parliament, and can use that vote immediately on the issue at hand, give it to a trusted third party to cast on your behalf, or save it for an issue you care more passionately about later.”



“ is a free to use participation platform which makes possible a democratic, transparent, open, and goal-oriented discussion and decision making process for all organisations and communal interest groups. This new form of discussion and decision-making is not only able to be shared with an organisation’s membership, but it can also be shared with any interested citizens if so desired.”



“The D21 voting method allows you to choose multiple options and cast “minus-votes” against options you disfavour. This enables voters to express a richer range of preferences, and reveals points of consensus and controversy – a significant advantage over traditional single-vote polls, which simply show winners and losers.”


Debate Graph

“DebateGraph helps communities of any size to externalise, visualise, question, and evaluate all of the considerations that any member thinks may be relevant to the topic at hand – and by facilitating intelligent, constructive dialogue within the community around those issues.”

Debate Graph

Democracy Lab

Democracy Lab describes itself  as “a nonprofit organisation working to create and curate civic technologies that help communities frame issues, deliberate solutions, make decisions, and take collective action.” It seeks to match people values and objectives with the policies we create.

Democracy Lab


DemocracyOS is an Argentinian online collaboration and voting platform. It allows users to propose, debate, and vote and seeks to provide a common platform for any city, state, or government to actually put proposals to a vote. It is in use in Argentina, Mexico, and Tunisia.



“LiquidFeedback is an open-source software, powering internet platforms for proposition development and decision making.” It uses liquid democracy, collective moderation and preferential voting with a fully transparent process.

Liquid Feedback


Loomio is another New Zealand effort at enabling group collaboration and decision making. “Loomio saves time, gives clear outcomes, and keeps everything in one place.” It is used by many communities, companies and by the Internet Parties of New Zealand, Australia, and USA.



“Reasonwell helps people to engage in productive debate, by making it easy to map out arguments, assumptions and evidence. You’ll be able to find the best arguments for and against any proposition, have your say and give your reasoning. Reasonwell is not a forum or a wiki, it’s something new: a collaborative argument map.”



Voteflow is another implementation of liquid democracy. It states, “Rather than one person representing you for everything, you can pick representatives for topics. You can also pick someone you know and trust as a representative for you on a topic. Representatives can pick people to represent them in the same or subtopics and this means you get Chains, or trees of representation.  Particularly as you get deeper into sub-topics, a person may be able to represent a massive number of people. You are always able see what your representatives do, override their decisions – or pick someone else.”

Vote Flow




A New Zealand Policy Party?

A Problem with Policy

I believe there is a flaw in the New Zealand* political system with the slim range of policy that gets enacted. We end up with a dominant party in Parliament due to the major issues of the the electorate at election time and lose the input of the other parties.

On the face of it, possibly this doesn’t seem to be a bad thing. But what happens is that one or two issues cause the election of a party and/or the failure of another party’s representatives politically .

If you look at the 2014 General Election in New Zealand these both happened. The National Party won the election due to the failure of Labours leader politically and the economy being the prime concern of the electorate due to the Global Financial Crisis.

Nearly all the policies of Labour, Green, and New Zealand First were lost in a single day. Not the major policies. That was after all what New Zealand decided on. We chose Nationals economic policy over Labours. But nearly all the other policies were lost.

To show you what I mean (and I admit this isn’t the best issue as it is usually voted in a conscience vote) a survey done by Massey University in 2003 showed that 73% wanted assisted suicide legalised if it was performed by a doctor. Another in 2015 showed almost the same level of support yet because this is not a National Party policy the Prime Minister stated,“There is no chance of it being a Government bill,”.

This seems insane. On an issue that seven out of every ten people agree on the government of the day will not enact legislation? Why? Because National was not elected on the entirety of its policies. It was only elected for one or two of them.

The same point could be made using the legalisation of cannabis, or the TPPA to a lesser extent. Policies that New Zealanders want are not being enacted due to the other objectives of the government of the day.

A Solution

There seems to me to be a simple solution to this. We need a party that doesn’t create its own policy but instead allows New Zealanders to vote for each parties separate policies and then is bound to back them in Parliament.

This party would only be on the “List” and would not stand in the electorates. It would in no way represent its own political views but would instead exist to enable a wider range of publicly backed policy to be entered into law.

Some Problems and Possible Solutions

What would happen if the public voted for two policies that conflicted such as increase tourism and protect the environment?

I would suggest in this case that the party should vote for both. If they are economically nonviable then it would be the job of the Finance Minister to “veto any parliamentary bill which would have a significant impact on the government’s budget plans”.

What would happen if this supposed party held the balance of power?

OK, this would be an incredible achievement for a party that doesn’t even exist yet but, I would suggest that they not enter into any agreements with any other Party (such as confidence and supply). If the election results in a hung Parliament then it will have to be held again.

If the government enacted binding referendum then wouldn’t that have the same result?

Yes, in some ways it would. However, referendum are only held a few times a year and only where the government of the day has been forced to hold them. They are also very expensive.

How would this party get any votes?

There is a position both the major parties try to hold in New Zealand. The centre. This is actually part of the problem as because everybody moves to the centre on a few major issues to get votes they appear to do so in order get enough power to enact their non central policies. The true centre of New Zealand politics isn’t just one issue though. It is a wide range of views that cut across party lines.

Isn’t making MP’s in this party just vote for other parties policy wasting input into Parliament?

In one way yes. They would have no other input into legislation except supporting what the party members had voted for. However, as up to 51% of the elections total set of policies may be rejected by the current government. This would hopefully improve the situation.

To further improve participation I would suggest that MP’s in the party should be able to stand for only one electoral cycle and should be taken from the ranks of the young in proportion with ethnicity and sex. It would be a good training ground.

*Your usage of New Zealand throughout this proposition was insulting

Possibly. It is reader dependant and I vacillated on it for a while and then decided to call it it’s European name instead of Aotearoa. Personally I don’t think of it that way. To me it is a series of landscapes and people…with a fair amount of mud at this time of year.

Your Views

This is a possible suggestion and would rely on peoples support. There would need to me at least five hundred members of any such party before it could register with the Electoral Commission and that, if it ever happened, would be a long way off.

I would like to ask for your views though and start a discussion about it so if you have any input or questions please ask them in the comments below. If you would like to support such a party, and you are registered to vote or can be,  then please email and if there are enough people interested I will take it to the next stage.

Otherwise just register your thoughts on the poll.

Do you think a policy party is a good idea?

  • Yes (100%, 1 Votes)
  • No (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 1

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Parliament House New Zealand

Image provided by Michal Klajban under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.



Install Discord on Fedora 25

Discord logo

Discord is a voice and text chat application aimed at gamers but can be used by anyone. Is is currently available on Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Android, iPhone, Windows, OSX, and Linux….Basically everywhere.

Installation on Fedora 25 is easy. Open a terminal and enable the copr repository.

sudo dnf copr enable vishalv/discord-canary

Then install with this command (You will have to accept the copr GPG key in order to install).

sudo dnf install discord-canary

It does seem to use a lot of resources on first start but after updating itself it should work just fine.


Gnome Online Accounts – Credentials have expired

If you are having trouble with Gnome Online Accounts not logging into Google make sure you are fully updated and try again. If that doesn’t work, then open a terminal and try,

pgrep goa-daemon | xargs kill -9

This will kill the Gnome Online Accounts daemon which will then automatically re-spawn. Worked for me!


Fedora 25 Workstation – Simple Install

You can download the Fedora 25 Workstation image from If you use the Fedora Media Writer then it can download the image for you. In Windows I generally just download an image and then write it to a USB stick using the Linux Live USB Creator. In Linux distributions I usually write the image to a USB using the dd command.

There are a few things you should do before you install Fedora 25 on your computer. The first of which is to decide whether you really need to install it? You can just write it to a USB sick or DVD and boot from that into the live environment. This is good way to test your hardware compatibility and find out if your graphics chip and internet connection work?

Having decided to do that, the next decision is whether you want to dual boot it. This means partitioning your hard drive to run Fedora on some partitions and another operating system (eg; Windows 10) on another.

This is a simple guide and assumes that you want to use Fedora 25 as your only operating system. It isn’t going to go into setting up UEFI or disabling secure boot. Nor is it going to go into the complexities of installing on a Macbook Pro. It is ‘simply’ to give you an idea of the Fedora 25 install process and what to expect while installing it.

You may have to configure your bios to boot from the DVD or USB stick. Generally in modern computers there is a key you can press at boot to choose your boot medium. On my computer it is F11. Others differ.

On boot you will be presented with this screen.

Boot Screen

You can use your up and down arrow keys to change the selection. Choose “Test this media & start Fedora-Workstation-Live 25”. This will check that your media hasn’t been corrupted and will boot you into a live desktop environment.

Fedora will then check your media.

Live Environment

And after booting into the live environment will ask whether you want to “Try Fedora” (eg; stay in the live environment) or “Install to Hard drive” (eg; start the installation process). I recommend choosing “Try Fedora” and then checking whether your network connection and other hardware works properly.

At this point all changes you make in the live environment are volatile and will be lost on reboot. Changes to hardware are not though (eg; deleting files on your hard drive). You can find the “Install to Hard Drive” program again by selecting “Activities” in the top left corner.

Selecting “Install to Hard Drive” will take you to the first screen of the installer.

Welcome To Fedora 25

This screen allows you to choose your language on the left and your localisation on the right. After your choice has been highlighted, select continue.

The next screen is the “Installation Summary”.

Installation Summary

All items with red text under them must be completed before you can install.

If you wish to change your keyboard select “Keyboard” on the left under “Localisation”.

Keyboard Layout

Here you can add or remove keyboards using the plus or minus signs on the left and, having highlighted, a keyboard you can click the small picture of a keyboard to display an image of it. The up and down buttons can be used to highlight different keyboards.

On the right is an area you can test configurations by typing and using the options button allows you to set up a key combination for swapping between keyboard layouts if you use more than one.

After checking your keyboard is correct you can select “done” on the top left and this will take you back to the “Installation Summary”.

Time & Date

The second option in the “Installation Summary” is Time & Date. Here you have multiple ways to select your systems time settings.

On the top left there are drop down menus to select your “Region” and “City”.

On the top right you can choose whether to enable “Network Time” and by selecting the small gears to the right of this you can additional network time servers.

Selecting where you live in the world will automatically configure your time to that region.

Any final adjustments can be made on the base menu but shouldn’t be needed.

Selecting “Done” will return you to the”Installation Summary”.

Installation Destination

Under “Local Standard Disks” you can see the disk we are going to be installing to (With a tick on it. This means it is currently selected) In this case it is a 20GB virtual disk automatically created by Boxes (A Virtual OS installer and manager).

In real life the disk is usually much larger and there may be more than one disk. Some common scenarios for multiple disks might be an SSD to install the root file  system on with a separate disk for home or maybe two disks in a RAID 1 configuration to provide an exact mirroring of information on one disk to the other (For disk redundancy). Installing to multiple disks is outside the scope of this tutorial.

Beneath that is “Specialized & Network Disks”. Again this is outside the scope of this tutorial but clicking on this will allow you configure nonstandard disks.

Under the “Other Storage Options” heading is “Partitioning”. The “Automatically configure partitioning” option is selected by default. You may leave this selected but in most cases it is a good idea to choose “I will configure partitioning”.

Having selected “I will configure partitioning” if you select  “Done” on the top left you will be taken to a new screen.

Manual Partitioning

Here you can either select the option to create the partitioning scheme automatically (“Click here to create them automatically”) or you can create a new partition scheme using drop down menu.

By default this menu starts on “LVM” but since this is a completely new partition scheme and we won’t need more than four partitions select “Standard Partition” in the drop down.

There are a couple of reasons you should choose to set up your own partitioning scheme. For instance, choosing the automatic partition scheme on a 20GB disk means that your home folder is in the root partition.

Not the best scheme if you have to reinstall later on or you want to swap distributions. Also, no EFI boot partition has been created. This might be because none was detected but if you want to use UEFI boot then you will need that partition. Another reason could be that you have more than 2GB of RAM.  The reason RAM makes a difference to your partitioning is that if your computer hibernates then it writes the RAM to the swap partition to read back later. Redhat has some recommendations for this case.

At the lower left of the window there is a plus, a minus, and a refresh symbol (Until you have created a partition the minus will unusable)

Selecting the plus will bring the “Add A New Mount Point” dialogue.

Firstly, set the “Mount Point” as “/” in the drop down dialogue.  “/” is the symbol used for the root of the Linux file system. Since this is a 20GB disk we will only specify 5000 in the “Desired Capacity” box. This means 5000MB or 5GB. In a desktop install with lots of space you could enter  20000 or more in this box to make sure you don’t run out of room.

Select “Add Mount Point” to add it to the partition scheme and select plus again for your second partition which will be called Home. This will be where all your files are stored.

Each time you create a mount point the details of the mount point will be displayed on the right. The defaults are fine.

This time in the drop down menu select “/home” as the “Mount Point” and enter 13000 in the”Desired Capacity” box and then “Add Mount Point”.

Because we have already used 18000MB of our 20000MB disk our third and final partition can only be 2000MB large. It will be the swap partition. In the drop down menu select “/swap” as the “Mount Point” and enter 2000 in the”Desired Capacity” box and then “Add Mount Point”.

Having completed the partitioning scheme you can now select “Done” on the top left, confirm, and return to the “Installation Summary”.

Network & Host Name

You should already be connected to the network and the installer asks you to use those settings. You can specify your “Host Name” here though. Basically it is the name that other computers will call you on your network. This can be useful for  identifying you computer while browsing the network.

Enter your host name and select “Done” to return to the “Installation Summary”

Remember, nothing is written to disk until you select “Begin Installation” so you can go back and check or change all your settings as many times as you want. Because you are still in the live environment you can also start Firefox or another program if you want to find help on the Internet or “Help” in the top right of the “Installation Summary” screen.

If you are happy with your settings you can now select “Begin Installation”. This will begin your install and take you to the “Configuration” screen.




Internet Party

So, the Internet Party is back again. Well, not really back. It never really left, but after the drubbing it got in the last election it appears to be making serious progress once more.

And drubbing it was. Approaching the last election  the Internet party was the darling of the media but the shine started to go of it in the week leading up to the “Moment of Truth” and post that…..well, all the media concentrated on Kim Dotcoms failure to to provide a smoking gun instead of concentrating on the New Zealand government spying on it’s citizens and being complicit in the deaths of civilians in Iraq.

It was after the last election I joined the party. The day after in fact. It didn’t matter to me that the media was attacking it. It didn’t matter that the general population thought they looked like a bunch of idiots. What mattered was that they were right.

The GCSB was spying on New Zealanders. Why? Well, you tell me. There have been five so called terrorist attacks in New Zealand. The Huntly rail bridge bombing (1951), the Vietnam War protests (1969-70), the Wanganui Computer Centre bombing (1982), the Wellington Trades Hall bombing (1984) and the Rainbow Warrior bombing (1985).

There had been no attacks worthy of the label ‘terrorist’ in New Zealand for almost 30 years and yet now, in the interests of security, the GCSB is able to spy on New Zealanders legally. No charges for the illegal surveillance of at least 85 people during the period of 2003 to 2012. No comeback on the department or the Prime Minister (At that point the Minister Responsible for the GCSB) over lying to New Zealand people from 2012 till 2013 as he said that the agency, “isn’t and will never be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,”

But I rant…..

That was only one reason to vote for the Internet Party. Their support of Education and Health care. Their rejection of the TPPA (Ratified by our cabinet and now being resurrected by them) being forced through. One of the few parties that rejected the destruction of democracy after the Christchurch Earthquake. They had a host of decent policies from saving the Maui dolphin to updating the health system. Policies that were based on fact where possible, hope where needed, and aspiration where applicable.

And now they are back. Some policies have stayed, some have been updated. New policy has yet to be announced. Some policies appear to have been dropped. I hope, however, that they will continue to stand for what is right and true instead of what is politically feasible. We need to stop being #labnats and stand up for what we are, and what we want to be.


Batch convert PDF to JPG

So, last night I had to batch convert a large PDF called v35_22_31_Auckland.pdf into JPG. Or to put it another way separate out the PDF’s pages and convert them into JPG images. I tried it a couple of ways including Converseen which did the job but renamed all the files badly and changed the image size (from A3 to A4). ImageMagick was the same although probably more from my misreading of the man pages.

Eventually I settled on using pdftocairo (part of the Poppler utilities) and specifying the x and y  scale to retain the original page size. I found the page size by extracting one page using PDFMod and opening it in GIMP. After that I copied the original PDF into a folder and then opened a terminal in it and ran this command.

pdftocairo -jpeg -scale-to-y 1653 -scale-to-x 1169 v35_22_31_Auckland.pdf

It worked perfectly filling the folder with correctly sized JPG’s.