July 2022

COVID-19: My turn

So, a few weeks back, COVID-19 went through my office at Milton. I had been at work just one day a week — basically I was working in the office on a Wednesday and working from home all other days of the week unless there was a special reason for me to do otherwise.

On the 3rd of July (Sunday), one of my colleagues reported he had tested positive on a rapid antigen test (RAT) after suffering symptoms, and would begin isolation. 2 days later (on the following Tuesday), another colleague reported he too, “had a bit of a cough”. I made the decision to not come in on the Wednesday, on the advice that it was likely better I work from home.

Over the coming days, more reported symptoms, but so far I was safe. Yes, my father and I were regularly going to the local cafés for dinner Monday-Thursday nights, but I was not exposing myself to the office cluster at this point.

I figured that, with all the cases now isolating, and a few days later, it’d be safe on the 13th of this month to work in the office… and so I did so. I think that was my big mistake. Sunday afternoon (17th), a cough started, and on the following Monday, this was the result:

Yes, the “C” is a bit weak but still present, the “T” is unmistakeable!

Some might quibble and say this one is inconclusive because the “T” marker (test result) is way stronger than the “C” marker (control result), but the fact of the matter is, both lines are there, so reason enough to count this as a positive.

A later one done on Wednesday showed more even shading of the lines, so clearly I still have the blasted virus. Even today, I’m a little on the snuffly side and coughing intermittently.

Personal risk factors

It’s worth noting that I’ve had issues with Asthma since the late 80s. My body also has a nasty positive-feedback loop: if I cough, it tends to make my nose run (the vigorous coughing causes bruising of the tissues in my nose)… that has a habit of running down into my lungs, making me cough more, and possibly developing into bronchitis. On one occasion in 2005, that developed further into pneumonia.

Unvented masks for me are bad news too because they seem to trigger my lungs into a coughing fit, which then triggers the above symptoms. Yet, everyone around me insisted that I return to working in the office and generally getting out-and-about.

Vaccination status

I have had two initial shots of the AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccine as well as a shot of the Moderna as a booster. I was looking to get a second booster, but the earliest I could book was on the 27th of July: too late for that now!

So yeah, ATAGI/Australian Health Department/Queensland Health — you can end your age discrimination on COVID-19 vaccination now — #1 undocumented policy goal: “get Stuart Longland infected” can be scratched off your list, and if some of the over 50s have never gotten their first shot by now, they probably never will! Time to stop playing around and just let all the adult population make their own decisions from now on.

China Communist Party (who won’t be able to see this without a VPN but anyway): Fuck you and the horse you rode on. COVID-19 is not the first virus to have jumped from bats via some intermediate animal to humans, won’t be the last, but somehow you managed to ensure that everyone got a share of something none of us want. Donald Trump might actually have a point calling it the “China” virus, I personally would rather call it the Wuhan virus since that’s where COVID-19 was first discovered.

Anyone who’s worked with horses already knows of another member of the Orthornavirae extended family: Hendra virus. The suburb of Hendra still seems to be flourishing, so the name hasn’t been all doom-and-gloom, but we don’t try to hide it. Furthermore, we managed to contain it in the 90s when DNA testing technology wasn’t even available in this country, yet China with far more sophisticated technology in 2019 let this “horse” bolt right out the gate!

Suffice to say, I’m not doing much in the way of development work right now. Software development needs a clear head not a stuffy one, and the bed’s the best place for me to stay warm.

Contact tracing

Well, here’s where I’ve been in the time both before and after infection. This is captured via the GPS logger on my tablet, not the most accurate device for positioning… but since the Queensland Government isn’t doing contact tracing anymore, it’s the best I can offer now.

For the sake of those who I might have come into contact with, here’s where I’ve been (all times are Brisbane Local UTC+10):

Overview of all locations… widely-spaced dots indicate I was mobile (private transport)

Ashgrove Central area

2022-06-28 (20 days before positive test)

  • 18:30 ~ 18:35: Coles Ashgrove, likely a cat food run
  • 18:42 ~ 19:24: Café Tutto, Ashgrove

2022-07-04 (14 days before positive test)

  • 17:47 ~ 18:36: Taj Bengal, Ashgrove

2022-07-05 (13 days before positive test)

  • 18:00 ~ 18:03: Coles Ashgrove
  • 18:20 ~ 18:54: Café Tutto, Ashgrove

2022-07-12 (6 days before positive test)

  • 17:30 ~ 18:33: Taj Bengal, Ashgrove

Ashgrove West area

2022-06-29 (19 days before positive test)

  • 19:05 ~ 19:54: Smokin’ Joe’s, Ashgrove

2022-06-30 (18 days before positive test)

  • 17:43 ~ 18:38: Osaka, Ashgrove

2022-07-07 (11 days before positive test)

  • 17:52 ~ 18:57: Osaka, Ashgrove

2022-07-13 (5 days before positive test)

  • 19:03 ~ 20:04: Osaka, Ashgrove

Keperra area

2022-07-06 (12 days before positive test)

  • 19:27 ~ 20:03: Finnigans Chin, Keperra

Redcliffe Area

2022-07-17 (the day before positive test!)

  • 10:58 ~ 14:40: Moreton Bay Boat Club, Scarborough

Redlands Area

2022-07-17 (the day before positive test!)

  • 16:55 ~ 17:28: Ormiston Dog Park (Small dogs area), Ormiston

Milton Area

2022-06-29 (19 days before positive test)

  • 11:10 ~ 11:12: Makya, Milton

2022-07-13 (5 days before positive test)

  • 11:08 ~ 11:15: Bagel Boys, Milton

The Gap area

2022-07-08 (10 days before positive test)

  • 18:04 ~ 18:22: Siam Garden, The Gap / The Gap Friendly Grocer

2022-07-09 (9 days before positive test)

  • 12:05 ~ 12:13: The Gap Village, The Gap
  • 12:16 ~ 12:21: Brumby’s Bakery, The Gap

2022-07-15 (3 days before positive test)

  • 19:53 ~ 19:59: The Gap Canteen, The Gap

I clearly walked past The Gap Friendly Grocer, but not sure if I went in or not… timestamps suggest probably not.

2022-07-16 (2 days before positive test)

  • 16:51 ~ 16:56: The Gap Friendly Grocer, The Gap

My actions now

So… I’m considering myself in hard lock-down until at least the 26th. That is, no visitors, no deliveries (unless already pending and I’m unable to reschedule them), no leaving the property for any reason.

I’ll be staying put. My father’s left on a big trip through Central Queensland (having tested negative to COVID-19), so I’m home alone, just me and Sam. I won’t be answering the door, for the safety of anyone who knocks. I do not want to spread this to anyone. Hard lock-down for me will be retained until all symptoms have cleared up.

If my symptoms clear up by the 26th, I will remain in soft lock-down until the 1st August: still no leaving the property or any visitors, but I may have some groceries delivered — the local shopping centre delivers for a nominal fee (seriously, you’d spend more in fuel doing it yourself), and I can meet the delivery person on the drive-way (maintaining 3m distance). They can drop the groceries down near the gutter, and when they’ve gone, I’ll go pick them up. Same with dinner deliveries: deliver to the end of the driveway, I’ll pick it up from there.

I will not leave the property until after the 8th August at the very earliest (except for very special circumstances), and there will be no dine-in until at least the 15th. Maybe after the 22nd, I’ll consider whether I resume workplace visits and other activities.

Boomer Boom Box: Compilations worth getting

Boomer Boom Box is a new blog series where I’ll be detailing my efforts to build up my personal music library to replace what I lost on commercial radio. As I know others have a taste for similar music, I’ll document where these albums can be purchased, ideally as CDs or FLAC recordings (which can be converted to CD format).

1960s

Feelin’ Groovy Volume 4: Swinging 60s Singles

If you ever listened to Brent James’ Sunday Morning 60’s, this is more or less a flavour of that in CD form. You won’t get the out-takes, or reminiscing of Brisbane at that time, but it does carry the sound track of that time and was compiled by Brent James himself.

JB HiFi have it for sale on their website (and you can find the track listing there too). Last time I was in the Carseldine store, I did see one or two copies there.

Ultimate 60s

This is available through Sanity (with a long lead time from my experience, they seem to have stock of it now), and includes a decent cross-section of the decade. This was one of the first 60s CD compilations I bought — purchased on a gamble, and it paid off.

1970s

Classic 70s

This is a 5-disc set with a lot of the 70s music featured on stations like 4KQ. Both Sanity and JB HiFi carry this.

Living in the 70s (Vol. 4)

(Not to be confused with the Skyhooks album of the same name!) This series is named after the 4KQ radio show of the same name, also which was hosted by Brent James. There are other volumes which are worth checking out if you can find them, but this is the one I have. I purchased mine through JB HiFi Carseldine, which no longer seem to list it on their website.

Brent James lists the tracks on his website.

70 Hits of the ’70s

This is one I downloaded as FLAC yesterday… and am currently playing it as I type this. I stumbled on this looking for Jeff St. John (who had an incredible voice… especially given he was singing from a wheelchair!), and happened to notice this had a lot of songs that I was looking around for.

Z-Digital offer this in FLAC and MP3 formats. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

  • Includes 4BC Lost Classic (2022-07-11): John Sebastian – Welcome Back (Theme from Welcome Back, Kotter)

One Hit Wonders (Re-recorded)

These are a lot of the one-hit-wonders from the 70s… most of them re-recorded, so they do sound a little different to what they did on the radio, but it’s the same artists, and are faithful to the songs we know.

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3.

  • Includes 4BC Lost Classic (2022-07-13): Alan O’Day – Undercover Angel

Boogie! – Australian Blues, Rn’B & Heavy Rock From The 70’s

I bought this as a digital download for the Spectrum song I’ll Be Gone… but realised it had a lot of the artists that defined the 70s here in Australia, so figured I’d take the plunge on the whole lot. It’s an interesting listen and definitely worth checking out.

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

6 x 6 – The Seventies

This is a deep-dive into the work of 6 iconic (well, 5 and one less iconic) 70s artists:

  • Hot Chocolate
  • Pilot
  • KC & The Sunshine Band
  • Mud
  • Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
  • Suzi Quatro

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.) Amazon have it on CD.

1980s

80s H It’s Huge: Rare & Recycled

Not sure if that album title is right… I guess that’s Z-Digital’s interpretation of the cover! This also appears to be a Brent James production, and includes a lot of one-hit-wonders which you don’t often see in compilations. I downloaded mine in FLAC from Z-Digital, it is also available there as MP3 if you’d prefer that. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

80 Hits Of The 80s

This has a decent smattering of music from that decade. My copy was purchased through JB HiFi Carseldine, however it is no longer listed there. A cursory search suggests Warner Music sell this directly, but are out of stock at the time of writing.

Brits In The 80s

It’s no secret that the UK were big in the 80s, and this set highlights a lot of what they were up to.

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3 formats. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

Just The Hits: 80s

The Just The Hits albums are a series of compilations all covering different eras and genres… this particular one covers a cross-section of the 1980s. My copy I think was a Sanity purchase, but I can’t find it online there. That said, Z-Digital do have it as FLAC and MP3.

100 Greatest 80s

This is an online-only release of 100 tracks from the 1980s. Z-Digital offer it in FLAC and MP3. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

Classic 80s

Another multi-disc compilation with a good cross-section of the 80s decade. This can be purchased on CD from Sanity or downloaded in FLAC or MP3 from Z-Digital. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

Update 2022-07-11: So playing this through for the first time today… the track Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now has a goof-up at the end. Someone made it cross-fade to Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days (which otherwise, does not appear on the album, if you want that song, see Just The Hits: 80s above), which is then abruptly cut off… instead of Thompson Twins fading to silence like it ought to have. Annoying… but maybe I can clean this up using the LP of Into The Gap I have.

  • Includes 4BC Lost Classics:
    • (2022-07-12) The Nolans – Gotta Pull Myself Together
    • (2022-07-15) Sharon O’Neil – Maxine

General compilations

101 No.1 Dad

Yeah, I bought this despite still having my virginity intact… this covers a pretty wide spectrum of 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even some from this century. Sanity sell this one.

Original Artists – Pub Jukebox

I had bought a copy of this for my mother who was wanting Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes… but when I had a good look at the track listing, I decided to order a second copy for myself. Again, like the other general compilation, this has a smattering right across the decades.

Amazon Australia sell this. The track listing is viewable on Last.FM.

Molly

This is basically a 3-disc compilation covering some of the work of Molly Meldrum and thus features many artists who made an appearance on the TV show Countdown.

My only gripe with this particular album would be that whilst Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok is featured, they cut off the dramatic introduction! Otherwise it’s a great album.

Amazon Australia sell this, there’s a photo there of the track listing, sadly no one has typed this out.

Demise of 4KQ: one week on

So, it’s been 8 days since we woke up to the non-stop sports yap-trap that we were promised would be coming on the 1st July. Not that I heard much of it. I made a point of staying up and listening to the last of the old station before it went. The final few hours of the broadcast were ad-free and the final things heard on the station were:

  • Don McLean’s American Pie
  • The Beatles The End (from their album, Abbey Road — minus the secret track Her Maj)
  • crickets sound effect — fading out to silence

Then, shortly after… it cut over to the new mob. They just had a playlist going for the first 6 hours, with the cut-over about a minute into Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger. I put the radio on mute shortly after and got some sleep… at 5AM they were still playing music, but with occasional cut-ins with various announcers mentioning what was coming after 6AM. When 6AM rolled around, I listened for a minute, then switched off for good.

The old website changed to being just a blank page.

Radio personality moves

Not sure where everyone has gone, but here’s what I do know:

  • Bob Gallagher, who some might know from 97.3’s breakfast program, and who chaired 4KQ’s last 4 morning on air… moved over to 4BH.
  • Vanessa Gibson (apologies if I have spelling wrong, I’ve never seen it written), who was one of the more promenant morning news readers at 4KQ has stayed with the 693kHz frequency on SEN-Q
  • 4KQ’s breakfast crew have moved to 4BC — an odd match if ever I saw one given that trio’s love for music and 4BC being a talk-back radio station

Station changes

4BH have switched formats to a “classic hits” format like the old 4KQ with a subset covering 1960 ~ 1989 (inclusive). I say subset because 4KQ in their final days were already playing Seal Crazy (released 1992), Natalie Imbruglia Torn (1997) and Savage Garden The Animal Song (released 1999).

Whether they’re playing any of Brisbane’s “historic” bands remains to be seen.

4BC’s program seems to suggest they’re still sticking with their “news talk” format. Maybe music in the mornings, then the gab-fest begins.

97.3 still don’t acknowledge the existence of anything prior to 1980.

River 94.9 is still a very weak signal into Brisbane — if you’re in the right spot you can get them but otherwise they’re practically inaudible. Odd, since they share the tower at The Knobby with VK4RAI, and I both hear that and can work that repeater quite reliably with far less power than what River 94.9 would be transmitting. Clearly they are still beaming west, and what we hear in Brisbane is just what’s coming off the back of the beam.

How things have changed for me

Well, from my perspective… that Friday morning was quite disorienting. You get used to the time-calls and regular news updates which give you an idea of how time had passed. I put my own music on that morning… and yes, was a minute or two late for my workplace morning stand-up because I wasn’t watching the clock!

A week on, and apparently I’ve broken one of my own music listening records according to Last.FM:

I had gone from listening to just 17 songs in total (most of those would have been the Friday afternoon), to over 1300. In the last 6 weeks of 4KQ I actually stopped listening to a lot of my music: I figured there was plenty of time for that once they went — I wouldn’t have 4KQ to listen to much longer, enjoy them whilst you’ve got them.

I also didn’t do any channel-hopping: previously if Abba came on (it’s a long story, but basically you didn’t want to be found listening to that group in a late 90s high-school), I’d switch stations or switch to my own music, sometimes for hours.

At mid-day I’d ordinarily flip over to Triple-M Classic Rock as they have a Essential Vinyl show which is often an interesting deep-dive into a particular iconic album from past decades, and is often interesting from the perspective of getting to know songs from an artist I might not otherwise know much about. Obscure entities like Buckingham Nicks (basically the precursor to the modern Fleetwood Mac) are in my shopping list thanks to that show. Just like a lot of my present collection can be tracked back to special features put on by 4KQ as well.

This last week… I didn’t do any of that. So where my music listening might’ve at most started at around 10:00AM or later… now basically I’ve been listening to my own music collection from 5:00AM through to to around 7:10PM. I have a cron job that manages it:

# For more information see the manual pages of crontab(5) and cron(8)
# 
# m h  dom mon dow   command
0 5 * * * ( pulsemixer --unmute --id $( pulsemixer -l | grep -F qt-dab | awk '{ print $4 }' | sed 's/,//g' ) )>/tmp/unmute.log 2>&1
0 5 * * * pidof strawberry > /dev/null && env DISPLAY=:0.0 strawberry -p
0 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -36dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -33dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -30dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
30 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -27dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
40 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -24dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
50 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -21dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 6 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -18dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 6 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -15dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -15dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -18dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -21dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
30 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -24dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
40 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -27dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
50 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -30dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -33dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 19 * * * pidof strawberry > /dev/null && env DISPLAY=:0.0 strawberry -q
10 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -36dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -192dB )>/dev/null 2>&1

The amixer calls were there before, and would control the volume. qt-dab would sit on the desktop and receive 24/7. Now, strawberry sits on the desktop, and I’m using its CLI to start and stop: strawberry -p to fire things off in the morning, then strawberry -q to finish playing that last song before going silent.

It’s got a lot to be desired… maybe if I get creative with a text-to-speech engine, I might get some time-calls and a bit of news headlines to replicate some of what I’ve lost, although it’ll be a very poor substitute to what I had on the old station. It might just be “good enough” though… it’ll give me a time reference.

My feelings on this

While I’ve been able to largely “replace” 4KQ on my own stereo… I’m still a bit peeved by the whole experience. There’s a lot of music that’s very hard to get / impossible to get, that they used to play. Railroad Gin’s You Told The World, Do Ya Love Me and The Academy Rock being three that used to play on 4KQ… but so far have proven unobtainium. Other bands like New World, Moscos and Stone, among others… are similarly buried somewhere in record company vaults, never to be seen again.

We’re just left to fight over what few second-hand albums exist in circulation… or pirate.

As to the mess that started this: so the ACMA have a rule that limits the number of radio stations a company can control. Fair enough, they want to promote diversity, and having all the eggs in one basket does not help this. I get where the ACMA is coming from.

Here, There & Everywhere own the Australian Radio Network, who until this year, owned 4KQ. They also own 97.3. Some bright-spark at HT&E saw dollars in buying up rival network Grant Broadcasting who owned various regional stations such as River 94.9 (Ipswich) and Hot Tomato (Gold Coast), and merging them into ARN. That meant ARN were now over the threshold.

That decision to chase the dollar, on the surface of it, seems to me to be nothing less than a complete slap in the face to the Brisbane radio listenership and the staff of 4KQ, the latter of whom had given their working lives to the station. 30 years for a single announcer to work a shift is an Australian record that 4KQ and Laurel Edwards broke. This is how HT&E pay her loyalty. I think that speaks volumes.

Plans now

Immediate plans

The morning crew I used to listen to are back on air on Monday, so perhaps I’ll set up the radio for 4BC, and see how they go.

I expect there’ll be quite a few gaffs from a trio that have been used to saying “4KQ” and “32230693” for decades (Laurel Edwards has been doing that on-air longer than anyone else). Mark Hine got so used to saying 4KQ he accidentally (as ground announcer) blurted “… on Classic Hits 4K-” to the audience at The Gabba… cutting himself off when he realised which workplace he was at.

It’ll be interesting to see how they work music into their news format. That’ll be a deciding factor as to whether I continue listening after the morning stand-up, or whether I switch to my own music until the next morning.

Radio station ideas / aspirations

So to be clear, I’m not going to rush into starting up something myself. While I do have some music knowledge, and that’s probably the subject about running a commercial music radio station I would rate as being strongest — my knowledge has gaps so large a sperm whale could swim through in comfort! If that’s the state of my knowledge in that field, this does not bode well for other critical-knowledge areas.

Really I’d need to team up with people who have some media experience. I have some technical knowledge, but there’s a big difference between a 100W SSB amateur radio station which is small enough to be bicycle-mounted, and a honking big 10kW broadcast MW AM station. I’d also need very deep pockets to commission said station.

Requirements for digital-rights management being imposed by the PPCA make Internet streaming impractical. That would basically just leave DAB+. There may be room there… seems channel 9B has a little more space than 9A does, but who knows? I’d have to ask, find out what their fees and technical requirements are. Then, I’d have to then figure out what the going rate was for advertising slots, and work out the finances from there.

I don’t know how the music needs to be obtained at this point. I’m guessing purchasing MP3s from legal sources (the same that we might as individuals) may be acceptable since they’re fundamentally the same recordings — and we’d have a separate content license that would cover their broadcast. This is a guess though, I might be wrong.

It’s a big job — and not one I’m particularly suited for. I’m happy to sit back and let someone who knows what they’re doing go ahead and do it.

The idea of such a station would be a very loose copy of 4KQ in so far as we’d be playing similar music. Not the same, because to be honest I actually do not know what songs were “hits” in this city. I have some recollections of what I’ve heard, but likely this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I did manage to grab some feature playlists (e.g. Sizzling 70s, Easter Count-down, all-sorts… etc) from 4KQ before the site went offline. Those, when de-duplicated, amount to about 3500 songs, about 70% I already had. I can’t publish these as they belong to the Australian Radio Network (I have contacted ARN about this but not heard anything — I’ll take that as a “no, do not publish”) … but nothing stops me picking through the listings and incorporating the artists mentioned into my library where see them. If I see collections that are readily available, I’ll make note of them here.

What would the format look like? Well, musically it’ll be a mix of the heavier rock that you’d hear on stations like Triple M, and the softer stuff of 4KQ. Not exclusively focused on Brisbane hits, as I don’t have a record of what was popular… I just have a “rough idea” of what artists were popular, and would likely work on that basis. That might change if someone who does have records of this came on-board and could basically guide me on this or take on the music-director role properly.

The first days would likely be ad-free as we try to build up an audience and attract advertisers. Those booking advertising slots would have to organise their own recordings since we wouldn’t have studios to help them with that. The station would be “automatic”: no announcers, news, weather… just music, and later we’d get ad breaks in to help pay the bills and start building up a revenue stream.

If revenue picked up enough, then maybe we could organise to hire studio time and do pre-recorded shows, or perhaps live ones if we can figure out how to link studio and transmitter.

Some ideas for shows that’d work pre-recorded:

  • Classic Artists Today: a look at artists we know from the 60s~90s that are still producing music and what they’re doing these days… for example Jeff Lynne is still doing music with Electric Light Orchestra, The Who and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did a few new songs in the early part of this century, Fleetwood Mac are still active.
  • Sunday Spotlight: a deep dive into an artist’s work (e.g. a show about George Harrison would start with his role in The Beatles, but then cover solo work and his work in The Traveling Wilburys; Graham Gouldman might cover his early songwriting for The Hollies, The Ohio Express then his later work with 10cc, solo work, and his team-up with Andrew Gold in Wax; Brian Cadd could have enough material to fill several hours I think with Axiom, The Groop and solo work, along with producing for other artists).

This is better done by someone who knows what they’re doing, and I know right now, that is not me, certainly not as a solo act. I suspect this will be at least a year off, likely longer if it happens at all.

A lot will depend on demand. I have a day job that’s paying the bills, there’s no sense of rushing off from that into the great unknown, no matter how much I might feel like a career change after some 20+ years connection with (and subsequent frustration with) the IT industry in one form or another! Time will tell.

Resurrecting an SGI O2

Years ago, I was getting into Linux on esoteric architectures, which started with a Gateway Microserver which runs the MIPS architecture… to better understand this platform I also obtained a few SiliconGraphics workstations, including this O2.

Originally a R5000SC at 180MHz and 128MB RAM, I managed to get hold of an RM5200 300MHz CPU module for it, and with the help of people on the #mipslinux channel on the old irc.freenode.net, managed to obtain a PROM update to get the RM5200 working. Aside from new HDDs (the original died just recently), it’s largely the stock hardware.

I figured it deserved to go to a new home, and a fellow on Gumtree (in WA) happened to be looking for some of these iconic machines, so I figured I might as well clean this machine up as best I can and get it over there while it’s still somewhat functioning. That said, age has not been friendly to this beast.

  • the CD-ROM drive tray gear has popped off the motor spindle, rendering the CD-ROM drive non-functional
  • in trying to fix the CD-ROM issue (I tried disassembling the drive but couldn’t get at the parts needed), the tab that holds the lid of the machine on broke
  • the PSU fan, although free to spin, does not appear to be operational
  • the machine seems to want to shut off after a few minutes of run-time

The latter two are related I think: likely things get too hot and a protection circuit kicks in to turn the machine off. There’s no dust in the machine to cause a lack of air flow, I thus suspect the fan is the issue. This will be my biggest challenge I suspect. It looks to be a fairly standard case fan, so opening up the power supply (not for the feint of heart!) to replace it with a modern one isn’t out of the question.

The CD-ROM drive is a different matter. SGI machines use 512-byte sectors on their CDs, and this requires CD-ROM firmware that supports this. I have a couple of Plextor SCSI drives that do offer this (there is a jumper marked “BLOCK”), but they won’t physically fit in the O2 (they are caddy-loading drives). Somewhere around the house I have a 68-pin SCSI cable, I should be able to link that to the back of the O2 via its external SCSI port, then cobble together a power supply to run the drive externally… but that’ll be a project for another day.

A working monitor was a possible challenge, but a happy accident: it seems some LCD montiors can do sync-on-green, and thus are compatible with the O2. I’m using a little 7″ USB-powered WaveShare LCD which I normally use for provisioning Raspberry Pi PCs. I just power the monitor via a USB power supply and use the separately-provided VGA adaptor cable to plug it into the O2. So I don’t have to ship a bulky 20″ CRT across the country.

The big issue is getting an OS onto the thing. I may have to address the sudden-shutdown issue first before I can get a reasonable chance at an OS install. The big problem being an OS that these things can run. My options today seem to be:

  • Debian Jessie and earlier (Stretch dropped support for mips4 systems, favouring newer mips64r2/mips32r2 systems)
  • Gentoo Linux (which it currently does run)
  • OpenBSD 6.9 and earlier (7.0 discontinues the sgi port)
  • NetBSD 9.2
  • IRIX 6.5

The fellow ideally wants IRIX 6.5 on the thing, which is understandable, that is the native OS for these machines. I never had a full copy of IRIX install media, and have only used IRIX once (it came installed on the Indy). I’ve only ever installed Gentoo on the O2.

Adding to the challenge, I’ll have to network boot the thing because of the duff CD-ROM drive. I had thought I’d just throw NetBSD on the thing since that is “current” and would at least prove the hardware works with a minimum of fuss… but then I stumbled on some other bits and pieces:

  • irixboot is a Vagrant-based virtual machine with tools needed to network-boot a SGI workstation. The instructions used for IP22 hardware (Indy/Indigo² should work here because IP32 hardware like the O2 also have 32-bit PROMs)
  • The Internet Archive provides CD images for IRIX 6.5, including the foundation discs which I’ve never posessed

Thus, there seems to be all the bits needed to get IRIX onto this thing, if I can get the machine to stay running long enough.