Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ah, time for another blog entry. It's all quiet, and we are counting the days before going home. Just a few days to go! The trip has been busy but uneventful. At home there are a few developments. Our current neighborhood is a bit dodgey, and noisy day and night. We love our house, and have spent a long time making it pretty and Isolde did amazing work with the garden. Unfortunately, no amount of work will improve the neighborhood, and so we decided to move to a better neighborhood in the same town. We'll certainly miss our old house, and I will take a few photos just as we move out. The new house id a gem, though. I was leasing it out, and it will take a month before the current tenants vacate the place. Then it probably will take another week of serious fixing and painting before we can move in. The we will have to do a bit of painting on the old house and then we can start looking for tenants for that house. One of the unexpected benefits of the new house is that Ethen's current best friend will practically become a neighbor. Here is an image from google earth.
We will have to start all over again with gardening, but at least we have the sea to one side, and the desert on our doorstep. Hmm, maybe I will need a better picture of just the sort of neighborhoods involved...
Yep, I am actually looking forward to moving!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Proud daddy...

Ah, it was just the other day that Aiden was born, and at only 7 months of age he has already destroyed his first computer. Definitely his daddy's genes there.

It's been a lovely break this time around, with a camp in the Hauchab fontain farm, and some really adventurous sand driving with a bunch of people from the coast.

More about that later, when I get around to shrinking down the videos to youtube standard.

There are now exactly three weeks between me and being home with the family again. I am really looking forward to it. Amazing how much one gets to miss being home.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


This is the code of the engine that have finally made it into my Land-Rover Discovery.

Here it's a bit noisy, as it does not have any exhaust fitted. When it's idling, however, its surprisingly quiet.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Ah, the roar of the big machines.

Every year they all come and try their skills, course makers and competitors alike.

Here is the highlights from the 1 July 2011 event:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My last holiday in short....

While I was at work, Aiden was growing and growing. And not giving his mum a lot of sleep. Anyways, I was quite surprised at how much he had grown by the time I got back. Luckily Isolde was taking pictures in my absence. Here Aiden is posing a little on a sunny afternoon.

So, being back at home, and Aiden coming along so nicely, we decided to go for a little drive. First we went down to Paaltjies, the beach south of Walvis Bay for those who don't know, but it was far too cold and windy, being the middle of winter for us. Then we went looking at the Kuiseb river that was still coming down. It was only a few centimeters deep, and so we went to visit one of our favorite camping spots:

Notice all the greenery. Usually this place is quite dusty, and can be seen on some of my earlier videos.

So, we decided to camp a little the next week. We packed the trailer, and I got a chance to try out the Kaudom... it's the big tent in this picture. We have had it for a year, and never been used, as Aiden's arrival was imminent. It takes about an hour to pitch. It was a lovely camp, nice and quiet and far away from people.
We had a full eclipse of the moon during my break as well. Amazingly, it was a clear night and I had a tripod handy. Finally I have a good picture of the Moon colored red by sunlight shining through the Earth's atmosphere. The previous couple of times I saw an eclipse it was always at work where a tripod does not do much good.

Aiden got to be four months old during this break, and he is looking to become quite a handsome fellow. Must be his mom's genes, I guess....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The car saga continues....

Yep, it's again at the end of another five week holiday of which an effective four weeks were spent at home.

It sucks when travel sucks out 20% of your holidays.

Anyways... back to the Land-Rover. The Land Cruiser 2H gearbox arrived just before me. When I went to look at it, it was clear that this would also not fit my Lexus V8 engine. So, back to square 1. Don't pass go, don't collect anything.

Apart from not fitting, it's an amazing gearbox, and I would have used it in a heartbeat, if I could. The power outputs are in the right place, and it's an automatic, and it's quite a beefy beast. So beefy, in fact, that it's bigger than the Lexus V8 engine's mounting places, where the problem of it not fitting comes in. So, the muppets at JapanAuto screwed me again. I did ask on the phone and in an email whether this gearbox would fit the Lexus V8.

So... what to do? I decided to just bolt a Lexus V8 auto box to the engine, since they were designed for each other, and there is a glut of these auto boxes around here. I am currently the proud owner of two, and know where to get a few more, should I need one.

And then I just had a propshaft and adaptors made up for the lexus box so that I can test the stuff we have in the car in 2x4 mode.

Good news is that this path seems to have worked in part. I found another failed bit. The gearbox computer that was ordered with the engine computer is faulty. We tested the hell out of everything else, and found quite a few small and easily fixed problems.

Bad news is that it's the end of my holiday, and these custom gearbox controllers are not commonly available, so the one I ordered is going back to it's manufacturer to be checked out and repaired.

Hopefully, by the time I am back in the country, I will have a working gearbox controller unit, and a Land-Rover that can drive long gravel roads, but not sand... yet.

The second part of my brilliant plan was to buy another Discovery's transfer case, and have an engineering shop in Walvis Bay make me the adapter. As it happens, Walvis Bay is a harbour town, and we have a glut of engineering shops. I picked one that looked like they have the right tools and experience, and am hoping for the best.

This route is the route originally suggested by Adaptor and Conversion Centre in Johannesburg, and if they made the adapter and returned me the transfer case like agreed, I would have been mobile last year this time. I still cannot fathom why the boss of the place acted like such a dick.

From all this adventure, there are a few points that stand out clearly.

1. If you have a Land-Rover with a broken engine/ECU, put a Land-Rover engine in it. It's more expensive than the engines around it, but cheaper than modifying a Land-Rover. Aftermarket ECU's can be used, but your mileage may vary.

2. Should you _still_ decide to modify your Land-Rover, get the Lexus V8 engine with a rear sump. It fits better in the engine bay. There is a Toyota Surf gearbox out there that does bolt on to the Lexus UFZE1 engine, but I have still to see this mythical beast. This option also leaves you without a Handbrake or speed sensor.

3. If at all possible, go to the place where you are getting your spares from, and check that you have everything you need and that it all fits together before you start. This way, you don't close the door on option 1.


So, here's to hoping that there will be a shiney new gearbox controller installed in my very clean Landy when I come back in five weeks. I cleaned the thing waiting for a mechanic one day before test driving it. Also, that the engineering shop makes a spline adapter shaft and adapter housing that I will not manage to break, in time for my eventual return.

All that should then be left to do, would be to sort out the linkages and 4x4 lever in the cab, the adaptor mountings, rear propshaft, if a standard one won't fit. ( measured the adapter to place the transfer case approximately where the Land-Rover one used to be. )
Then, I have to assemble the handbrake, as the transfer case that I bought is about as bare as you can imagine and still be called a working transfer case.

And then patching the hole around the gearbox/transfer levers and sound-proofing the cab.

One very nice touch was that we were able to make the exhaust on this break. It silences the engine quite nicely, but I had to re-seal the manifold flanges.

Luckily, all the other cars have been behaving themselves quite nicely.

Lastly... When we first wanted to start up the Landy, we saw that the tank was about as empty as you can get. So, we put in 20L from a jerry can. The reserve light was still showing, and the needle did not move. 20l is half a tank for a normal road car, or about 1/3 of my Jetta's tank.

The needle did not move. As if it was insulted by this puny amount of fuel.

So, once I was test-driving it, I decided to fill it up. 114 litres it took. Not a typo, folks. One hundred and fourteen litres of unleaded petrol, after putting in the twenty litres and just idling around a little.

So, I am guessing that the tank holds 130 litres. At 8km/litre, she should have a reach of almost 1000km, and 8km/litre is what my mechanic is getting on his Lexus V8, driving around in town.

I can't wait for this car to start working. No really, it's way overdue!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sorcerer is amazing...

Hmm, I'm back at work, and the car saga is on hold... for now.

I'm trying what I can from the other end of the world, but so far it's just an excersize in frustration.

The wrongly delivered gearbox I sent back to Johannesburg in South Africa, but I got a message from my courier that it's stuck on the border, in need of some paperwork only JapanAuto can provide. So far I am not too impressed with their service... first in sending me the wrong part, then in their lacklustre attitude in fixing the mistake.


So, I rather play with the things I have more direct control over. I am messing with the Operating System on my laptop. It's my favorite... Sorcerer, a sources-only flavor of Linux. I'm halfway through an update of KDE now. The entire download was 14mb... and 12 of those were for the graphics!

There is no binary that can beat Sorcerer on lightness of network traffic.
There is no other distro that can beat Sorcerer on configure-ability.
Keeping up to date is also quite easy, but not so painless for nVidia users. So far every time I had a kernel update I had to spend some time in the command line more.

So, yeah, I am impressed again on just how light Sorcerer is on the network... Good job, Kyle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Land-Rover Toyota conversion so far...

So, almost a week into getting the landy back on the road.

The inside is still a mess, but it is starting to look better. We had stripped off the dash to remove the Disco's original ECU. It's almost a whole carry bag og wire loom and computer. This we replaced with Dicktator ECU and gearbox control unit.

Fuel pump is also controlled off the Dicktator ECU, so we hunted down the line for that, and connected it up. Fuel lines are now correctly connected up.

We made a dual battery system with a huge battery that only kicks in when the car ignition is turned on to do the starting. Since this is an automatic transmission, getting stuck with a non-starting car in the bush is not a good thing to think about.

Engine is basically wired up, all injectors and coils working together. Well, almost. Only six of the eight pistons are firing, and we found some perished O-rings. Since the car had been standing so long, stuff like this is to be expected.

Gearbox is getting some lubricant now, it's a painfully slow process as it can only be filled through the dipstick tube.

The thermostat did trip us up a little, as I expected the Thermostat to be the exit for hot water from the engine, and built the hoses for the radiator accordingly. To my surprise when we started the engine, water came out of where I thought the inlet was going to be.

So, I had to re-route the water. Interestingly, there is not quite enough space in front of the engine for a radiator viscous fan, so we put two slimline fans on there. We still need to go do some testing and see whether this will be enough to keep the engine cool, or whether we will be moving the entire engine back to accomodate a viscous fan. Anyways, getting the fans to kick in we need a fan switch, so I made a fitting for that out of stainless steel. The stuff actually welds pretty nicely... if only it was not so very expensive!

I am still stuck with a gearbox from a Prado in there... Hopefully I will be getting the 2H transmission delivered while I am at sea, and fit it pretty quick when I get home. I should also have a little more funds to see this project through.

My advice for anyone attempting to build a Lexus V8 in to any car.... make sure you have ALL the parts laid out before stripping apart a perfectly working car... And this goes double when the car in question is an automatic transmission.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The neverending car saga....

Well, our Land Rover is been out of action for more than a year now. I thought that changing the engine in it would be relatively easy, at first. So, January last year we gave it to the mechanics for them to work their magic. Straight off the bat we ran into trouble, as the business in South Africa we contracted to manufacture the adapter between the automatic Lexus gearbox and the Discovery's transfer case just did not deliver the part.

Six months later, after many deliberations, we decided to sue, and try getting the Land Rover going in a different way. We decided to go all Toyota, for the gearbox and transfer, and then just do the conversion in the prop shafts. It's just something round that can be cut and welded, right?

First order of business was to locate a 4x4 automatic gearbox. We found one from a Prado, and promptly bought it for N$10,000. Once we were looking at this gearbox on the workshop floor, though, a small detail became apparent. The drive for the front wheels is on the wrong side! We thought about flipping the front diff upside down, and actually built it out before deciding that it was a bad idea and bolting it back in.

Then we decided that we were just going to use the transfer case from a Toyota Hilux. I finally managed to get my grubbies on one, but it turned out not to fit.

Pretty much fed up with the whole thing, I decided to speak to the experts in South Africa, and find something that will bolt on to my Lexus engine. The friendly guys suggested the gearbox from the Land Cruiser 2H. It was relatively cheap, too. N$8500 later my gearbox was on it's way from South Africa.

This should have a happy ending, right? And that happy ending should be about now, right? Nah, I'm not that lucky, and it looks like the entire Universe is conspiring against us putting a Toyota engine in to a Land Rover. The gearbox that arrived was a manual Land Cruiser VX gearbox. There was no chance of me using it, and currently we are trying to swap the gearboxes so that I get the proper part.

At least the guys at Japan Auto in JHB are being really nice about this screw-up.

Pieter finished the engine installation, and delivered the Landy with the Prado gearbox last week. We still need to wire up the engine, and then build an exhaust system. Once this is done, I'll be driving around in 2x4 mode until the proper gearbox gets here and then we can build the front prop shaft. Yay!

Towards the end of last year the Jetta started giving us hassles too. So, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I gave it to Newton to get a new top gasket. Once we opened the engine, we realized that we are going to need new top bolts, as my old ones were stretched and mismatching. Also, one engine mounting was faulty, and I put on another air intake too.

So, I order the parts, and go back to work. Isolde was about seven and a half months pregnant at this time. So, Chrismas happened, while we wait on parts. Turns out that my timing pulley on the crank was broken again, and this part needs to be especially manufactured for my very rare Jetta. Then my mechanic's wife has a baby. Finally, he is able to sort the car out just a week before I get back. On the test drive, however, the engine threw a bearing, and back to the workshop it went.

I got home to an eight and a bit month pregnant wife and the only working car I got is the Yellow Range Rover from the 1980's that has been converted into a competition off-road vehicle. So, it's got no windows, terrible handling on the road and the fuel economy is shot, too.

We had to do something drastic.

I bought my wife the Ford Figo, brand new out of the box. It's a nice little car with ABS and airbags, and a great fuel economy. More importantly, it starts easily in the mornings.

Then Aiden was born. The first month after his birth we were still patiently waiting for the cars to be finished up. The Jetta was running first, with basically a whole new engine and CV joints. Unfortunately her air conditioning unit broke, and so she is currently at another set of mechanics to get that sorted.

So, finally, today Newton will be looking to wire up the Land Rover, and in my eternal optimism I have already booked the Land Rover to have an exhaust fitted on Friday. School holidays start on Thursday, so hopefully we will be able to fit in exactly one camp in the Land Rover before I have to go back to work.

Friday, March 4, 2011

True Desert Dwelling

Well, the day before yesterday was the first time in months that we had running water from our taps all day long in a couple of months.

This may strike people dwelling in other cities as a little weird, but for us it is nearly a yearly experience. You see, our town's water supply comes from the Kuiseb river. This is a river that rarely has any visible water, and the riverbed is actually a popular destination for people that want to camp under a tree for a day. The drive is also quite nice if one drives up the delta. :)

Unfortunately, when the rest of Namibia gets good rainfall, and the Kuiseb river starts flowing, it destroys the pumps and pipes that supply our water. One would think that with the 20 million Namibian dollars that was spent on this system last year our water supply would be safe this year, but no such luck. We had some pretty heavy rains, and the river ran deeper and more strongly than in previous years. You can tell how thoroughly we are desert dwellers by just how unprepared we are for rain.

Roofs were leaking all over town, and for a month all the hardware stores were sold out of roofing felt. Even I was up on a ladder with a few tubes of silicone, patching holes in the roof of my garage. The town's streets were flooded as we don't have any storm drains, and the normal sewage system was just not up to the task. I sneakily opened the sewage drain in front of my house to drain a lot of the water in the street away. There were water trucks all over town, sucking up the larger puddles.

So, yes... severe water restrictions, with taps only running a couple of hours per day, and everybody had lots of drums of water, just for in case the taps do not come on at night. Luckily, with my families love for camping, we had no shortage of water containers, and we tackled the shortage as a little bit of a challenge. We filled our toilet from the pool during the day when the water was off, and adjusted our schedules according to the availability of water. Dishes were done at night, and our lawns only got water from the washing machine.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sorcerer Multilib

Well, when Kyle was building a multilib implementation of Sorcerer, I thought he was wasting his time. He got a newer, faster computer, and in the space of a couple of months he built enough of a Multilib distrobution for me to start beta-testing.

It's truly a statement of the power of Sorcery to be able to entirely reconfigure the way the distrobution fits together, and have dependencies resolved automatically, in the space of a couple of months. I don't even think that Multilib was Kyle's main objective... he was slogging through our grimoire of spells, and I suppose he needed a distraction and something to challenge his mind.

So far, beta testing is going well. One I/R beta had uncompressed tarballs on it, and the installer could not handle that. The next I/R beta had a broken glibc, but Kyle mailed me a proper one. Soon my computer was running a multilib install and I was able to run quite a large chunk of software ever written natively, and the rest through emulators. Quite a feeling to know that you are operating something that could run any software ever created. :)

Unfortunately, a small change to Sorcery blew up that install. I should have backed up my filesystem, I know. Two days of troubleshooting later, with me doing broad strokes and Kyle investigating the particulars, we tracked it down to cp misbehaving in a Sorcery script, and so we had to use the force to fix it. "-f" in two places in one script, and I am well on my way of having a completely rebuilt Sorcery Multilib install. It's amazing just how much everything fits together, and how a small error in millions of lines of code could have such a huge impact on the stability of the system.

Some of the tricks I am using here is an MBR that lets me select which install of Sorcerer to run. Right now I am running x86_64 pure, and rebuilding the multilib in chroot. I'm thinking of reconfiguring the boot loader to just include the "other" boot option, rather than having three boot loaders, as they don't play well together, and I have been using a rescue boot disk much more often than I liked.

So, bleeding edge, wave of the future stuff in OS land here. One day this Multilib will be the default Sorcerer install. There are still some things to be sorted with the installer. It's certainly not for the feint of heart. We have been battling to get it more simple, for years, actually. Unfortunately, once a Sorcerer box is installed, it tends to stay that way. Most horrible blow-up-your computer errors usually happen to me, as I like to thoroughly test all my software at least once a month. When my system blows up, I usually restore from system backups when I remember to make them. So, the installer does not get used nearly enough... Maybe I'll have a bit of time to do some testing in that regard.

New arrival....

In the morning of 14th of February, at 5:41, Aiden Vorster was born. Here is a picture of him taking a nap, not even one day old yet. I would have been traveling back to work on this day, but luckily I got a trip off.

It was a natural birth, and I was blessed enough to be right next to my wife throughout. A natural birth really is something to see, and no words can describe it.

Little Aiden weighed 3.65kg at birth, and was 50cm tall. We got Aiden a car seat, and he has already been shopping with us twice so far.

It has been raining quite a lot in Namibia, and I would have loved to go out to the desert to see it, but my Land Rover is STILL in for repairs. At least I can see some changes being made every day, and hopefully it will be done in a week or two. It should hopefully still be nice and green in the desert. We can't wait to take Aiden on his first camp.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

WG Columbus Christmas trip 2010/2011

Our trip started out as normal.

Some of the crew left for greener pastures at other companies, and some days we had good weather, other days not so good. Streamer work was done on the good days, and we actually set about cleaning the entire spread of slime.

Which turned out to be a good thing, as not too long after that one of our electric engines burned out and we had to recover all our gear and head back to port for emergency repairs. So, we went to Mobile, Alabama for repairs. On the way there we had a nice Christmas party, and a few nights out with beers in port itself.

I bought a new camera in port as well. The old Canon video camera just did not take good enough pictures, and the format was NTSC. I am now the very happy owner of a Canon 550D. It takes video, and it's picture taking capability is quite good as well.

We were out of port before the trip ended, and we almost got all the gear out before crewchanging on the 11th. There was even some rough weather to make crewchange interesting. However, our helicopter pilots did not disappoint and soon we were all on our way home.

The video has been made, but unfortunately it can't be put on the internet due to SLB's policies on it's technology... no worries, it's not that interesting anyways...