Sunday, May 11, 2014

Parking at Cape Town International Airport: Cost Calculator

Parking at airports is expensive and Cape Town International is no different. Every time I return from a trip I'm surprised how much my parking cost. Sometimes it's expensive than the flight.

I made a quick chart of parking price vs days parked for various options, including getting an Uber Taxi or MyCiti bus from Cape Town CBD to the airport.

Cape Town International Airport parking cost chart

While MyCiti bus is the cheapest I want a door-to-door service (either my own car or a taxi.) But if you're on a budget then MyCiti is the clear winner (about R50.00 each way.)


  • Shaded parking in P3, P4 is cheapest up to 5 days.
  • Long Stay parking in P5 is cheapest up to 12 days.
  • And then Uber to the airport and back is the best option.
Interestingly, the Katanga Valet parking (which includes a wash, vacuum, polish) is not much more expensive than the Garage parking (in P1, P2.) Having used them before, I'd recommend it - especially if you are late and just want to dump your car and run to the check-in.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interns: How to improve your CV

tl;dr: Make your CV's easy to parse and ensure it stands out from all the other CV's that I receive. I am looking for passion and a history of self-directed learning.

Last Saturday I attended #breaktherules hosted by the University of Cape Town Developer Society to help place Comp. Sci. student interns at local companies.

Even though Nomanini is a small company (compared to the likes of Amazon and Oracle who were also there) we received well over 100 CV's and Gerrit and I spoke to more than 50 hopeful students.

Most of the CV's that we received were useless as a recruiting tool.

In my follow-up emails to everyone who gave me their CV I included some pointers, which I thought I would expand here.

My biggest piece of advice: Make your CV's easy to parse and ensure it stands out from all the other CV's that I receive. I am looking for passion and a history of self-directed learning.

Things which help are:

  • Clearly show your degree and major and your current year of study. (Don't make me work it out based on when you started, or when you hope to graduate.)
  • Make it easy to find your name, email address and cell number. Add a photo to help me recall who you are from all the conversations that I had.
  • Write a paragraph on personal projects that you have worked on outside of your course work. Include links to your code and applications.
  • Describe the sort of work that you'd like to do during your internship as well as what you hope to gain from an internship. 

Less important (to me) is

  • listing every course/module that you have done or your high school results. (Highlighting subjects where you got 90%+ is fine, but I really don't care that you got 63% for "Word Power" two years ago.)
  • your references. If I need it I'll ask.

Really useless info is your age, your health status (always "Excellent"), marital status, drivers license.

I also hand out my business card at these events. If you really want to join my company email me afterwards, attach your CV, write a cover letter telling me why you are a perfect fit.

Remember, you are competing with your peers who largely have the same skills and experience that you do. Use any advantage to differentiate yourself.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

8tracks iPod Shuffle

I love 8tracks. And I love listening to my music while running or in the gym. Up to now I've used 8tracks’ fantastic iPhone app while out, and website and iPad app when at home or work.

Streaming music over my phones 3G is expensive, and strapping a phone to my arm is uncomfortable (and frankly looks silly.)

Also, Apple's matchbook sized iPod Shuffle, which holds 2GB of music, is a thing of beauty.

I wanted to marry the two and clearly I'm not the only one thinking along these lines: Check out Alecsandru Grigoriu's fan art product brochure.

This weekend I decided to write a simple 8tracks client in Python that saves the audio files locally for later upload to my Shuffle.

I’m using the 8track API and Python Requests library which vastly simplifies http comms. (I can’t believe I used to use httplib for this stuff…)

The client is it’s own user on 8tracks which happens to follow another user (me) and also just happens to play all the mixes in my iPod Shuffle collection. The client is well behaved: It downloads the tracks only as fast as if it were really playing them and reports the songs as played at the 30s mark, as per the API docs.

For anyone who’s interested I’ve got the code on BitBucket at Feel free to contribute.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Take me to Funky Town

I don't know why, or who started it but ever since the all-nighters at Regus, Centuary City with 8 developers in a 10 square meter room, Lips Inc's 'Funky Town' has been our theme tune.

We've been threatening for the better part of two years to get our device to play that tune. That story is forever being deprioritised. But no more. Today we have an official command in our software stack called play_funky_town.

It was a quick dev spike to test the piezoelectric buzzer on our next revision of hardware where we changed from a self-driving, through-hole mounted buzzer to one that needs a 3 kHz square wave from the microcontroller. It also works at frequencies from 100 Hz to about 10 kHz, plenty for Funky Town!

And we can do other more serious stuff, like when we loose our device we can find it by triggering the play_funky_town command from the server and it bursts in to life, complete with a disco LED light sequence on the keypad.

The original awesomness that is Funky Town?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Scaleconf 2013

I gave a talk at Scaleconf about how Nomanini uses Continuous Deployment (and TDD and CI) across our full stack of hardware, embedded firmware and server backend code.

Quick plug: We're hiring. If you're interested in joining our team, let me know.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Almost 10 mechanical museums to visit with an autistic, boy-genius in Cape Town

Close friends of mine have a high-functioning autistic son of 11 who is crazy about anything mechanical. I'd say he was obsessed, but him mom says that obsessed is just a word that lazy people use to describe someone who's dedicated. William's particularly dedicated to Technic Lego and Mechano.

As a kid I remember going on plenty of outings with my parents to museums with a mechanical theme. Even 20 years later I could probably still describe their layout, how they worked and why. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to study mechanical engineering and work on big machines.

Josephine Mill, Newlands

An operating water-wheel powered stone mill. The foul they produce is used to bake fresh bread. Loads of belts, pulleys, gears, shafts and moving parts to keep Will happy.

Steam train, Cape Town to Simons Town

After riding a steam train all I wanted to be 'when I grew up' was a train driver. Little did I know that the romantic age of steam had long passed. To me there is nothing more raw and mechanical than steam powered machines. Babbage had it right when he designed a steam powered computer.

Kleinplasie, Worcester

Just over an hours drive from Cape Town the Worcester Museum has an industrial agricultural display, including my favorite- a donkey powered water pump. (Bonus points: fly in to the Worcester airstrip, visit the museum, have some lunch and fly out.)

Mostert's Mill, de Waal drive

Another stone mill, this one powered by wind and sail. Much simpler than Josephine's mill but no less fascinating to watch. Open and woking on the third Saturday of each month (wind permitting.)

Water tunnel tours under Cape Town, Castle of Good Hope

Okay, so not really mechanical but something I wanted to do, anyway. Old water tunnels that used to carry water from the mountain to feed the Company Gardens. A new perspective of history of Cape Town.

SAS Sommerset, V&A Waterfront

Not currently open to the public, but open during school holidays for children's sleepovers. Once a coal burning ship it was converted to burning oil. Engine room is dingy, cramped, smells of oil and is jam-packed full of pipes and brass fittings- just as it should be.

Fort Wynyard, Green Point

Also closed to the public, but hopefully opening soon. (Best call the Simons Town Museum for details.) I remember being able to sit on and manoeuvre the anti-aircraft guns. My brother, cousins and I used to hand crank the ack-acks raining imagined destruction on Table Bay.

Athlone power station, Athlone

My uncle worked for Koeberg and managed to get his son and I a tour of Paarden Eiland coal power station shortly before it was demolished in the90's to make way for a container depot. The one at Athlone is likely almost identical inside. Wandering amongst the coal conveyors, boilers, turbines and generator halls was a surreal and fascinating experience. (I wonder if any coal power stations up-country are open for tours?)

Do you know about other mechanical themed outings for William? Let me know and we will take him.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

American Electricians' Handbook, 1953

I was going through some old scans and images from a few years back and found this little gem.

I'd love to know if anyone has the original. In this day of Occupational Health and Safety it doesn't seem possible that this advice was considered safe.

[Quick check this excerpt isn't fake]