Greg
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August 2008
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Friday, 1 August 2008 Dereel Images for 1 August 2008
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What horrible weather! We had been toying with the idea of going riding, but it was too windy, so did a little bit of work in the garden before it got even worse.

Instead, finally got round to doing something I've been planning for some time. I do nightly backups (dump) to disk, and the first of the month is a level 0 backup, which in past months has consistently overflowed the disks. Put another 250 GB disk into eureka, so now I have four backup disks. Spent some time shovelling around immense quantities of data.

Chris Yeardley around in the evening. We've stopped taking photos of her with Lilac now that they're in position 1 in the Google search. In the process noted that a search for +lilac +chris is far less successful. Why? I need to put Lilac before Chris more often.

Also talking about blogs; Yvonne is thinking of starting a diary (not a blog), but I went to take a look at my blog, which has been sitting on Livejournal for a couple of years. Took another look and discovered 10 comments, none of which said anything, and some of which appear to be spam. How bored some people must be!

In the process, also discovered that AUSWEB have finally both removed the block they put on me. They still claim to be authoritative for narrawin.com.


Saturday, 2 August 2008 Dereel Images for 2 August 2008
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Into the office this morning to discover that dereel had hung, and that the other machines desperately trying to perform backups were complaining vociferously:

Aug  2 05:22:51 eureka kernel: nfs server dereel:/: not responding
Aug  2 05:22:53 eureka kernel: nfs server dereel:/dumpb: not responding

There was no display on the monitors, so power cycled and watched how the display on the primary monitor couldn't sync. Fearing the worst, swapped the monitor connections; the secondary monitor had no problem with the video, and neither did the primary monitor when I reconnected it. After it came back, found:

Aug  1 22:00:43 dereel kernel: ad2: FAILURE - device detached
Aug  1 22:00:43 dereel kernel: subdisk2: detached
Aug  1 22:00:43 dereel kernel: ad2: detached
Aug  1 22:00:43 dereel kernel: g_vfs_done():ad2h[WRITE(offset=70688833536, length=32768)]error = 6

FAILURE is a surprisingly non-specific message (and yes, there was nothing before it). And why did the system just report I/O errors after that (3500 odd in the next 30 seconds, after which the system appears to have gone catatonic)?

That meant, of course, that brewer also hung. There was something on the display, but it seems that the display card is dying, and it only displays properly for about 10 minutes after boot. Probably one of the NFS problems we had back in 2000. I think I've proved my point that FreeBSD 5.0-CURRENT was stable enough, and now I should upgrade the hardware.

And, of course, IPStar wasn't to be outdone and gave me more problems. I had visions of being without a network all weekend, but fortunately it came back relatively quickly.

High time for garden work, and did some transplanting. We have a number of what we had thought were Olearias until Laurel Gordon put me right and confirmed that it's a Marguerite daisy. There were a number of these bushes in far too cramped conditions in the north bed, so on transplanted two of them to a border to the south-east paddock:


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They're a bit lop-sided; hopefully they'll pick up when they have space to grow.

Our work had spectators. While taking the photos above, discovered some of them:


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Also transplanted some Gazanias and some Dianthus which we had planted in inadequately prepared soil which is now so overrun with weeds that we can't really do anything. Instead, we'll let them grow elsewhere and plant something else where they were once we have done our weeding. It's amazing how much root they have developed in a little over three months of autumn. Planted the Gazanias at the north:


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I'll be interested to see how they change in the course of time.

In the Spring we got a single piece of Carpobrotus glaucescens, which we pulled apart and planted in the succulent bed. The bed proved too small, and it just about smothered everything else in it. Now we've pulled it out and planted some of it along the east border of the big bed:


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The remainder (on the left in this photo, which also shows the overgrown beds after removing the plants) will have to go to Chris.


 
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Sunday, 3 August 2008 Dereel Images for 3 August 2008
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More work in the garden today. Finally the weather is dry enough that I was able to spray some weeds. Also planted some more irises, probably too late for this season.

For obvious reasons, they say you should plant irises with the shoots pointing upwards. That doesn't always work:


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Planted that one (near the SW corner of the wooden frame nearby) with the side with two shoots pointing up. I wonder whether the other shoot will do.

Yvonne and Chris picked up more hay today, hopefully the last load of the winter.


Monday, 4 August 2008 Dereel Images for 4 August 2008
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Paying bills: the stupidity
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Invoice for my “driver license” today—why do they have a different name in every place I've been? I first got a driving license decades ago in Malaysia, then transferred it numerous times. When I moved to South Australia I got a drivers license instead, and now I have a driver license—not to mention the license to be a Führer, which I've had for a third of a century and which is still valid.

It seems all I need to do is pay the sum and they'll send me a new license valid for 10 years. And, theoretically, I can do that with BPAY:


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But this incredibly annoying, glacially slow ANZ web banking application first hangs while entering the details, and then told me my session had timed out (hint: don't re-enter the login details in the same window after already logging in. You'll always get a “session timed out” message, even when there's no timeout in sight). Finally I entered the instructions on the invoice, and got:


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That's two stupidities in one: first, if BPAY can't accept blanks in the reference, the instructions shouldn't include them. And secondly, how difficult is it to remove spaces from the reference? Even a novice ANZ web programmer must be able to do it.


Plants and sinks
Topic: gardening, brewing Link here

Chris left her big trailer here yesterday, so off with Yvonne a couple of scrap yards. She was hoping for a harrow, which potentially we could find at Norm “Smitty” Smith's yard in Haddon:


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It certainly fits the bill as a scrap yard, and anything harrow-like that we could find was in such poor condition that we couldn't be bothered. Headed East to Lal Lal, stopping on the way at the Ross Creek nursery “to look around”, and left with a couple of jasmine plants (Chinese Star), a Tahiti lime tree and a pink grapefruit tree with an unripe fruit on it:


 
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In fact, the “Chinese Star Jasmine” isn't real jasmine at all, but Trachelospermum jasminoides.

We should know better than to visit nurseries.

On to Lal Lal:


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Picked up the sink that I had looked at on Thursday, and off home. Almost immediately the sink separated itself from the cupboard, and one of the doors swung open, bending itself in the process. Stopped, shut it, and drove on—for about 200 metres, when it happened again. Tied down the doors, drove another few hundred metres, and the whole thing took off and landed on the road. Fortunately nobody was following. Picked it up, tied it down firmly and drove on more slowly, but even at 80 km/h it started lifting. Continued home at 65 km/h—I would never have expected a cupboard to lift off that easily.

Back home, we had a number of Osteospermum to pull out and bring to Chris—we have decided to leave more space for the Gazanias in front. Made short work of that:


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As the EXIF data on the photos show, it took me ten minutes. Also ripped out a number of Gazanias, but there are plenty of roots still in the ground, so Chris can have them.

On the way to Chris' place, discovered that I had learnt nothing. The entire load blew off the trailer:


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The mystery of Erysimum colours
Topic: gardening Link here

We've transplanted a number of Erysimum bushes recently. In particular, I transplanted quite a large bush which I believe is Erysimum cheiri, Fair Lady Mix:


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In the process, broke off a relatively large branch, so stuck it in a vase, where it continues to flower—with completely different colours:


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Instead of variegated brown and yellow, there are now pure yellow flowers, looking much more like the base Erysimum cheiri, and others that are bluish, more like another bush which we've identified as the Bowles mauve cultivar:


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I had thought it might be related to sap pH or some such, and put both a blue and a yellow petal in some vinegar overnight, but there was no change in colour. Very puzzling. Maybe it has something to do with the sunlight.


Tuesday, 5 August 2008 Dereel Images for 5 August 2008
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Up this morning to discover that we had had an overnight frost. The Bureau of Meteorology knew about it too—after the event. Here two successive weather forecasts:

Issued at 1531 on Monday the 4th of August 2008

Ballarat
Tonight and Tuesday
Partly cloudy with a shower or two clearing on Tuesday.  Moderate northeasterly
winds tending light southerly.
Min 2  Max 10

Issued at 0540 on Tuesday the 5th of August 2008

Ballarat
Tuesday
Local early frost or fog.  Partly cloudy with the chance of an afternoon shower
but mostly fine.  Max 10

Still, it wasn't overly heavy, and now that I don't have chiles after all, it doesn't seem to have done any harm. Things warmed up pretty quickly, and later, working in the garden to transplant more irises, I found it too warm for a jacket. Somehow spring is in the air.


Wednesday, 6 August 2008 Dereel
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Didn't do much of importance today. I've been meaning to brew another batch of beer, but my HLT problems still exist; my attempts to seal the hole failed. More head-scratching.

Garden work is becoming urgent, but I have left it too late to spray the weeds, and we're running out of mulch, despite the immense quantities we got (10 m³). What little we have left will have to go on the hops, once they have emerged from the weeds.

Yesterday I got a number of special issues of c't, including one about digital photography (one of the two they number “02/2008”). It's disappointing in the same way as other such documentation: it's nearly all Photoshop-oriented, and it has too much “click here” and relatively little explanation of the concepts. But it does come with a DVD with video tutorials (which only run on Apple and Microsoft), and unfortunately my Apple is too slow to play the sound smoothly, and the Microsoft laptop won't play sound when using the remote desktop. But some of the software looks interesting.

Today tried Ashampoo (what a name!) Photo Optimizer, which unfortunately only runs on Microsoft. It's somehow typical of my issues with Microsoft: it does one thing that I want, automatic adjustment of the exposure, contrast and colour, and it does it reasonably well. But it's packed in this emetic Microsoft GUI framework that makes it positively painful to use. My photos are on dereel, of course, so I had to revive my Samba installation, which worked without problems on the FreeBSD side and without too many on the Microsoft side, but then I had to select an “Ordner” (this is a German program). “Ordner” means “file”, but it's more of this stupid bad langage and is supposed to mean “directory”. Then I had to descend through 10 levels of directory tree to find what I should have been able to just type in, and use the mouse to confirm:

 
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The good news: it works relatively well for what it does. It also saves the old versions in a subdirectory (unfortunately called _Ashampoo Photo Optimizer Backup), so you don't have to worry about the thing going crazy. I tried it on the photos that I took on 23 December 2007, and which I hadn't been able to compensate well. It didn't do a perfect job, but that's not what you expect from an automatic tool.

The bad news: the interface also makes it difficult to specify which photos are to be processed; it gives you the choice of one-at-a-time or all, and there's no control over the heavy compression it also applies. Another example of a useful tool enshrined in toy plastic casing.


Thursday, 7 August 2008 Dereel Images for 7 August 2008
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It's getting dry enough for me to run the sprinklers overnight. On the mulch they show clearly how unevenly they spray:


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They seem to spray mainly at a distance of about 1 m, and some, like this one, miss out part of the circle. The sprinkler is in the middle of the dry circle; the wetness in the foreground is from another sprinkler.

In fact, this proved to be the result of a blockage in the filter mesh of the solenoids, which also caused a significant loss of flow.

Horses never fail to amaze me. Seven years ago we lost Miss Teak when she caught her hoof in a fence wire. Clearly Lady is of a different calibre. When Yvonne fed the horses this morning, she didn't come; she just stood at some distance and whinnied. On closer examination we found this:


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She stood calmly there and waited for us to cut through the fence wire.

The oven in the kitchen is terrible! It's tiny, it heats unevenly and slowly, and it doesn't even have a grill setting; for that, there's a separate even tinier compartment below, so you can't combine different kinds of heating. All in all, a lot worse than the one we replaced two years ago, and which has been in the shed since we moved here. I'm currently slowly tidying up the shed, and finally found it again and took it apart. The rear (fan) heating element kept burning out, and that's the current state:


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Now to find a new element.

Chris over for dinner in the evening.


Friday, 8 August 2008 Dereel
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Another quiet day. Baked another loaf of bread and spent a lot of time reformatting old diary entries. My collection of Emacs macros helps a lot, but not enough, and somewhere I've included a bug which stops a lot of the changes happening. I suppose there must be some XML reformatter that does what I want, but HTML tidy gets really confused with PHP code, and xmllint gets all upset about valid HTML entities:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp3) ~/public_html 151 -> xmllint diary.php
diary.php:64: parser error : Entity 'rdquo' not defined
        &ldquo;directory&rdquo;.  <b><i>Then</i></b> I had to descend through 10 levels
      

Also more work on tidying up the garage, and managed to move two shelf units into place. With only a little more work, I should be able to catch up with all the dependent tasks.

Identification by product analysis

At the last hackers' barbecue at Wantadilla, Mark Newton did us a dubious service: he brought along a pack of crackers confusingly called “crispbread”. They have the advantage of being very dry and really crispy, and since then we've eaten a lot of them.

So what's wrong with that? Nothing, really—thanks, Mark. But the things are ridiculously expensive, and they're getting more so. Currently they're selling for $3.95 per 100g, somewhat more than the most expensive cut of beef. So we've been looking for alternatives, until today without much success. Most of the other crackers aren't as crispy, and many of them have artificial flavours or too much salt. So when ALDI had something similar in their weekly specials, we decided to check: how much salt do they have? To compare, we checked the salt content of the “crispbread”: 1.31% sodium by weight, according to the “nutrition information” printed on the packet.

Yvonne returned with the special—which in fact contained significantly less salt than the “crispbread”—and another packet from Safeway, correctly labelled as crackers, that looked very similar to the original “crispbread”. Checking the labels showed that they were marketed by different companies with no obvious connection between the two. The “nutrition information” told a different story, though:


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The values they have in common are identical, and they're not round: 1.31 g sodium and 1.679 MJ per 100 g, for example. The crackers are, of course, identical—but the new ones, from Waterwheel (or is that Philemon?) cost only $2.99 for 150 g, or almost exactly half the cost of the others.


Saturday, 9 August 2008 Dereel Images for 9 August 2008
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We've been keeping rainfall records now for a year. The drought has been terrible—or has it? Our rainfall records show:

+------------+-------------+---------+
| year(date) | month(date) | sum(mm) |
+------------+-------------+---------+
|       2007 |           8 |    14.9 |
|       2007 |           9 |    55.7 |
|       2007 |          10 |    19.7 |
|       2007 |          11 |   142.3 |
|       2007 |          12 |    79.6 |
|       2008 |           1 |    34.4 |
|       2008 |           2 |    95.8 |
|       2008 |           3 |    30.6 |
|       2008 |           4 |    23.2 |
|       2008 |           5 |    52.3 |
|       2008 |           6 |    47.2 |
|       2008 |           7 |    62.2 |
|       2008 |           8 |    12.0 |
|       NULL |        NULL |   669.9 |
+------------+-------------+---------+

So, 670 mm rain in a year. I suspect that's more than we had in Germany, though the Deutscher Wetterdienst make it almost impossible to find any useful data, and it's almost identical to the Bureau of Meteorology's median rainfall for Ballarat (675 mm). And even the worst rainfall in a full month (October 2007) was 20 mm. But the photos of the dam over time confirm that not much stayed behind. I suspect that the real issue with the “drought” isn't the lack of rainfall, it's the evaporation. I wonder how best to measure that.

Spent far too much time working on my web pages today; my reference to the hackers' barbecue yesterday found a whole lot of breakage in old pages, and I spent much of the day tidying that up, in the process converting more diary pages to PHP. It's getting easier, but not much.

Also a bit of work in the garage, which is looking marginally tidier. I should devote more effort to this task.

Broken web site of the week: SNCF

In the evening we watched a film involving a train journey from Calais to Nice, and we wondered how the trains really ran. Tried the SNCF web site and were greeted with a screen telling us to download flash player, and nothing else. Following the Accessibilité tag brought me to a typically broken page which seemed to have nothing to do with trains. After some difficulty, discovered that we should have been followed HORAIRES BILLETS (time tables and tickets) to a different web site, but even finding that was difficult. When we did, we found no time tables; we had to look for a ticket, and the database lookup took 25 seconds, close enough to forever.

Looking later, it seems that we missed the timetable tag. But I searched the page for the text horaire and didn't find it: it was an image. The search was no faster.

And if we had the version of Flash they wanted? I tried it again later on my office computer, and got this screen:


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One other thing I found was a link to an apology page for recent outages, apparently due to the heavy load on their web server. It would be nice to say that it was running Microsoft, but in fact it's Apache and Linux. But when will companies realise that people want information, not kiddy toys?


Sunday, 10 August 2008 Dereel Images for 10 August 2008
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Had planned to continue with the garage today, and also to transplant some plants ahead of our planned building of the east verandah, but the weather was really terrible, wet and windy, making it difficult for our brain-damaged air conditioners to keep even a normal temperature through the day. Later discovered that we had had 19.2 mm rain, the fifth highest reading since we started measurements.

Instead did yet more work on my web pages, which are definitely in need of it. It seems that a number of my photo pages were deficient, and I ended up converting hundreds of photos. Also discovered over 5000 left-over html files which freed up a total of 27288 kB of disk space when deleted. Why so much? The files must all have been less than 2 kB, which would account for about 10 MB on a standard configuration of a UFS file system. This is a Linux ext3 file system, but 5 kB per file seem strange whichever way you look at it.

A couple of months ago I commented that the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens left a somewhat mixed impression. In particular I had found that one bed looked a real mess. Today the ABC Gardening Australia programme included material from the gardens, in particular from exactly the bed that I thought completely neglected. It looked no better today, but it seems that the presenter (John Patrick) liked it that way. Amusingly, I took a photo of one of the plants (Kleinia mandraliscae) in that bed in June, and by coincidence we got another shot on TV:


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And of course I had forgotten to raise the TV image before the capture. It's interesting that it's so easy to recognize that it's exactly the same plant, only a few weeks older.


Monday, 11 August 2008 Dereel
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CJ along this morning to talk about the planned verandah, and also some fences (or is that hedges? We're planning to make minimal supports for climbers such as Clematis and Jasmine to screen off all the tin sheds currently visible from the garden. If I finally get round to it, it'll vastly change the appearance of the garden quite quickly.

Also looking at the web server error logs, not too early. There's lots of breakage there. When I started putting photos up on my server, a little over 10 years ago, I used a directory Images, which doesn't scale. For some years now I've been putting them in a subdirectory of Photos based on the date; but many links still point into Images. Today spent some time cleaning up the photos from 1997 to 1999, which look a lot cleaner—but I'm sure we'll still have problems. In particular, I need a way to automatically redirect to the new photos. My 404 document can't do it: 404 documents only work for web pages, not image links.

Finally tried the first beer I brewed with the new brewing setup. It's very young, of course, but I needed to know what it was like so that I can plan the next one. It's not too bad; a little bitterer than I had intended. If I could just work out how to make an HLT, all would be well.


Tuesday, 12 August 2008 Dereel Images for 12 August 2008
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Still more web site breakage to attend to today, and spent much time ensuring that all my diary pages since 2000 render correctly and display their images correctly, with the exception of April 2005, where some of the graphs I had had are no longer available.

Also some more work in the garden. The weather has been pretty terrible, but there's so much to do. Replanted some of the Erysimums that will be covered by the deck, and did some weeding. I wish I could find a better way of eliminating weeds.

Spam: stronger than God?

There's an old Yiddish joke that seems to have come to the end of its validity:

An old rabbi has been praying every day for the last 50 years: “L*rd, let me win in the lottery”. One evening, after such a prayer, the synagogue fills with light, and a warm, all-pervading voice says “Jossele! Give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”.

That no longer seems necessary. I've grown used to the daily spam that tells me things like

From j_gould@nf.sympatico.ca  Wed Aug 13 02:23:04 2008
Return-Path: <j_gould@nf.sympatico.ca>
X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 3.2.5 (2008-06-10) on ozlabs.org
X-Spam-Status: No, score=2.0 required=5.0 tests=BAYES_05, ...
Received: from tomts52-srv.bellnexxia.net (tomts52-srv.bellnexxia.net [209.226.175.177])
Received: from toip38-bus.srvr.bell.ca ([67.69.240.39])
          by tomts52-srv.bellnexxia.net
From: ©New Media Lottery Promo <j_gould@nf.sympatico.ca>
To: <info@winner.org>
Reply-To: dr.mcguire08@googlemail.com
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 12:22:36 -0400

Contact Dr.  McGuire for the claim of £540,000 GBP which youwon in NML LOTTERY.Provide your
Names
Sex
Age
Occupation
Address
Tel
Country
Email:dr.mcguire08@googlemail.com

Clearly you don't need a ticket to get this kind of spam, and for a bonus it breaks my spam filter. And yes, the commercial ISPs who sent me this junk are genuine and continue to do it.

In fact, everybody's jumping on the games-of-chance bandwagon: today I also got dead tree spam from Readers Digest and the Royal Melbourne Hospital:


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I'm particularly annoyed that the Royal Melbourne Hospital should resort to such tactics. I'll bear that in mind if I make a donation to a medical institution; it'll be a different one.


Wednesday, 13 August 2008 Dereel –> Warrnambool –> Dereel Images for 13 August 2008
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It's still pretty moist—we can't complain about not enough rain at the moment. Today the weather was better. It was also the day we had earmarked for spraying the paddocks, but it was too wet for that, so decided to head to Logans Beach to watch the whales. Chris had other things to do, but Fifi, who arrived back a couple of days ago, came along. Got there relatively easily and with still more sunshine than rain, but despite information on the whale watching web site, there was none to be seen.

Into Warrnambool for lunch. I had eaten here before, at the “Beach Babylon”, in the process taking a photo which I was later able to sell to Weight Watchers for an anti-gluttony commercial. Today was different: we just wanted a snack, and the whole atmosphere of the place looked run-down. This Chinese restaurant seems to have escaped from the 1960s; it had apparently already been closed for a while:


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Yvonne didn't want to go to one of the noodle franchises, and we ended up at a little snack bar—also no longer the most modern—at the north end of the main street. The food was edible, not more.

Then back to Logan's beach, picking up some weeds on the way. Still no whales, but at least we have proof that we were there:


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Back home via Camperdown, and up Mount Leura, but the weather was against us; the rain wasn't just unpleasant, it also blocked the view. Across on the road between Lakes Corangamite and Gnarpurt, which is still as dry as it was 10 months ago:


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About the only thing we discovered was what's at the rainbow's end:


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Back home and planted the weeds we found in Warrnambool.

I've been waiting for our daisies to stop blooming so that I can prune them, but they've been blooming continuously since the beginning of September last year, and there's no reason they should stop in the next couple of weeks, so decided that today was the day:


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Took rather more off the second one than I had planned; but either it grows back, or I'll trim it yet more.

Chris and Fifi to dinner. David's due in the middle of the night.


Thursday, 14 August 2008 Dereel Images for 14 August 2008
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I've been meaning for some time to do some work in the garden, but somehow I keep doing more on the web site. Today I had a reference to the last time I was in Warrnambool with Ollivier and Élodie; and of course, the diary entry hadn't been converted to PHP, so did that. In the process discovered further issues: the page referred back to the AUUG 2002 conference, claiming to have fixed the mess that the photos were in. That wasn't the case: they were off in the date by up to a month. Now, with the help of the EXIF data, I was able to get it right.

Also reconstituted the I/O performance graphs that I did a couple of years ago, and which I mislaid when I left Rocksoft. They were, of course, on archive.org. Almost as good as a backup.

Did manage to get some work done in the garden; it's high time we filled in the remaining trenches and tidied up things like odd stones lying around. The weather didn't help, but got some work done.

One thing that's been worrying us for a while are the swallows under the roof. I like birds, but, like kangaroos, they can become a nuisance. In particular, they leave droppings in what will be part of the main verandah when we finally get around to doing something:


 
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I don't want to put them out in the cold in the middle of winter, but I had to act before they started to use the nest again, so we couldn't wait any more:


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Also put in some wooden slats to block off one of the two rafters, so that they'll have time to migrate before being left completely out in the cold. It seems to work: when I looked later in the evening, the other rafter wasn't full.


Friday, 15 August 2008 Dereel Images for 15 August 2008
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dereel had hung again when I came into the office this morning. Or at least, I thought it had. After rebooting, I discovered that the NFS error messages only started when I rebooted, so maybe it was just a keyboard and mouse problem. More care needed next time.

It's been raining quite a bit lately, and the horse paddocks have minor flooding. Spent some time digging drainage trenches, but it's clear that we need to level the area. Also finally—and still provisionally—set up the electric fence unit, which has been out of commission since we rebuilt the fences. Before we can do it properly, we need to connect up the power between the sheds, and I'm continually finding reasons not to do that.

Towards a better web page

One of the things I've been meaning to do with these web pages is improve the way photos are displayed. Currently I have the option of displaying all photos on a page in “tiny” format (longer side 300 pixels) or “small” format (longer side 600 pixels) or individual photos in “big” format (full width or full size). It's not practical to display all the photos in big format, firstly because it looks silly, and secondly because of the memory requirements on a big page. But the way I do it now is sub-optimal: I then have to revert to the photos on a particular day, whether or not they occur on the original page, because I no longer know which photos are there.

So it makes sense to be able to display images in different sizes on the same page; maybe one small and the rest tiny, or one big and the rest small. Spent some time trying to do that before the fragility of the coding framework dawned on me: when I process a script with PHP, I can only know the information I have already processed, so I can't build a complete list of photos until the end of the page. And then it's too late to embed them in the text in the middle of the page, unless I do a dual-pass system, which seems to be contrary to the intention of HTML. But then, what is that intention?

Microsoft breakage, installments 37112 and 37113

Received a strange mail message today. Here are excerpts:

From abuse@hotmail.com  Thu Aug 14 16:52:44 2008
Return-Path: <abuse@hotmail.com>
X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 3.2.5 (2008-06-10) on ozlabs.org
X-Spam-Status: No, score=1.5 required=5.0 tests=BAYES_50,FORGED_HOTMAIL_RCVD2,
        SPF_PASS autolearn=no version=3.2.5
Received: from BAY0-XMR-005.phx.gbl (bay0-xmr-005.hotmail.com [65.54.241.47])
        by ozlabs.org (Postfix) with ESMTP id E752BDDF37
        for <grog@lemis.com>; Thu, 14 Aug 2008 16:52:43 +1000 (EST)
Received: from mail pickup service by BAY0-XMR-005.phx.gbl with Microsoft SMTPSVC;
         Wed, 13 Aug 2008 23:35:29 -0700
To: grog@lemis.com
From: MSN Hotmail <abuse@hotmail.com>
Subject: Greetings to you
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=iso-8859-1
Content-transfer-encoding: 8bit

Thank you for reporting spam to the MSN Hotmail Support Team.  This is an auto-generated response to inform you that we
+have received your submission.  Please note that you will not receive a reply if you respond directly to this message.

Unfortunately, in order to process your request, Hotmail Support needs a valid MSN/Hotmail hosted account.

We can help you best when you forward the spam/abusive mail as an attachment to us.  The attachment should have full
+headers / message routing information displayed.  This means that the complete \223From\224 address of the offending
+message should be displayed.  If you need help to do this, please visit the following website:

http://safety.msn.com/articles/junkmail.armx

For further instructions on how to submit spam and abusive emails to Hotmail, please visit:

http://postmaster.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/postmaster.asp?ContextNav=Guidelines

For more information about MSN Hotmail\222s efforts and technologies used to fight spam and abusive e-mails please
+visit:

http://postmaster.msn.com/cgi-bin/dasp/postmaster.asp?ContextNav=FightJunkEmail

This is amazing:

I've been very critical of Microsoft in the past, and I continue to be. If anything's changing, it's getting worse. The other day I was involved in a message thread between Ian Stanley of healthpartners.com.au and Microsoft discussing some minor defect in Microsoft “Exchange”. The message shows the major problems, none of which were discussed:

The message is completely incomprehensible. It's upside down, written with lines which go off the screen, it appears to contain all the previous correspondence, including unnecessary headers and repeated disclaimers. To read and understand it, I would first need to spend a serious amount of time reformatting it.

In general, it shows the most serious problem I have seen with Microsoft: standards compliance has been mutilated to a point where standards compliant MUAs can't display them.

Of course, the whole infrastructure has locked people in. It doesn't do them any good. Health partners run their web site on Microsoft, of course. It shows:


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To be fair, you don't have to use Microsoft to create a display of this quality. But it helps.


Saturday, 16 August 2008 Dereel Images for 16 August 2008
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Saturday's my weekly photograph the garden day, but gradually the sheer number of photos is becoming an issue: I started with 4 photos last September, but in the meantime it has grown to 24, and today it became apparent that I need two more to show what the verandah will look like when it's done:


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Each photo is about 10 MB in size on disk, though the versions I publish are only a little over 1 MB. But the total is adding up: this year alone I have collected 26 GB of photo data, 3 GB of which is on the web. And photos like the View from the Swamp don't change much over time. Here views of today and 2 months ago:


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Clearly I don't need to take a photo of each view every week. Spent some time thinking about ways to handle sets with missing photos, with only partial success.

Despite all my work, the photos of the garden still don't look very good. Spent some time investigating HDR (“high dynamic range”), which may offer a solution—at the price of even more disk usage. Found an interesting article on the topic by somebody with a healthy disregard for the status quo, and installed some of the software, but didn't get round to playing with it.

It's been over a year since I bought the boards for the shelving in the cupboards, and to date all we had to show for it was a single frame in Yvonne's office. Today went one step further and put a shelf into it. What a pain! It should be relatively straightforward, and I suppose it will be from now on, but all the unexpected details really got on my nerves.


Sunday, 17 August 2008 Dereel
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First thing this morning, Yvonne told me that her keyboard wasn't working. Took the opportunity to swap my own keyboard, which is suffering from age (it's a Northgate OmniKey/PLUS, probably the one that Richard Sharpe brought for me second hand on 17 October 2002, and it seems to be having problems with the shift key logic). I have another one that might (now) work better, so put that in and tried the old one on lagoon, Yvonne's machine. No change. Investigation showed that it had failed the probe, possibly because of a loose connection at boot time, and it seems that the keyboard driver was not able to recognize it later. Possibly I could have fixed it without a reboot, but I had other problems:

When I got back to my machines, I had the keyboard view out of sync between dereel (to which it's attached) and eureka (which it controls via x2x). As xev showed, x2x was convinced that a modifier key was set (numerical value 0x10). Spent some time trying to work out what that one was; here's the list for future reference:

      Value       Key
      1       Shift
      2       CapsLock
      4       Ctrl
      8       Alt
      10       NumLock

After that, managed to reset the modifier bit by playing around with the NumLock key on both keyboards. I must keep more careful track of exactly what it is that resets the bit.

Did a fair amount of work in the garden. We had planned to mulch the north bed, but it really needed weeding first, and there were a number of daisy bush seedlings—I ended up potting 23 of them, over and above the number that Yvonne did a couple of days ago. Also transplanted some bulbs, probably too late for them to flower this year. By the time that was done, it was raining again.

Also—finally—planted one of Yvonne's oak trees. She had been given a number of seedlings a few years back, and she brought three of them with her to Dereel, but despite the large garden area available, we have had a really hard time of it working out where to plant them. Finally we decided to plant one near the pigsty and the paddocks, where it won't take up too much of the view or garden space, but will still be visible. No idea what to do with the other two.

In the afternoon, spent more time looking at photographic software and decided to install hugin, which took forever. After nearly two hours of compilation it failed while trying to install gcc 4.3:

===>    Verifying install for gcc43 in /usr/ports/lang/gcc43
Making GCC 4.3.2 for FreeBSD 6.3  target=i386-portbld-freebsd6.3
You need to increase the datasize limit to at least 700000 (and set
kern.maxdsiz="734003200" in /boot/loader.conf) to build with Java
support.
*** Error code 1

700 MB of data segment just to run a compiler! And I have to reboot to set it up. O tempora, o mores! Decided to build the compiler without Java (as appears to only be documented in the Makefile, with -DWITHOUT_JAVA), which again took 2 hours. The first time I built gcc was in about 1990, and it took 2 hours on an 8 MHz Tandem LXN with a Motorola 68020 processor. The hardware I have now is about 1000 times as fast, but the software is equal to the task of using up all that power.

Things weren't over then, either. Went back to continue my build (“make clean all install”), and then discovered that I had only built gcc 4.3, but forgotten to install it—so I could start all over again. That's all I had time for today.

While that was going on, moved on with the shelving. Still not much to show, but the preparations are doing well. Also under the house again to look at the structure of the decking. It's much less bulky than I had expected.


Monday, 18 August 2008 Dereel Images for 18 August 2008
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Continued today with my attempts to compile hugin, and finally got it installed after another 90 minutes of compilation; that's a total of 5½ hours, not counting the problems installing gcc 4.3. Starting it brought up an error message in a font so small that I couldn't read it; proved to be some perceived issue with /usr/local/etc/mailcap, though I can't see what's wrong with the entry, and nothing else reports it.

But these fonts! On my secondary display (1600x1200), it looked like this (full screen image):


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xmag output shows:

 
This should be tiny-font.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: tiny font
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Dimensions of original: 334 x 368, 6 kB
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The capital letters in the headings are 5x7 pixels. That corresponds to 6 points—barely legible. On my main display (2048x1536) it was completely illegible.

Spent some time trying to work out how to change it, helped by people on IRC. We made a number of observations:

Spent much more time looking for ways to set the font size, but my best guess now is that there is none. Daniel O'Connor gave me a .hugin config file with a surprising number of settings, including font size for something (apparently not the text). Finally started hugin on eureka:0.2, which has a resolution of only 1280x1024, and where it was legible if painful.

Running hugin is the same pain that occurs with all “user friendly” GUI applications. Not only does it call directories folders, but it doesn't understand concepts like working directory. Changing directory is this screamingly frustrating series of mouse clicks, or alternatively the almost equally frustrating slow-as-molasses file name completion. And once it has been chosen, it doesn't update the information in the config file. It kept looking for Daniel's “folder” (why does it want to have only one?). And there's no easy way to specify a list of files; *.JPEG means nothing to it. You have to select the files manually with a mouse click from a display that shows some of them, not forgetting to hold down the Ctrl key.

The good news: it seems to work, and it didn't take me long to join two pictures together:


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For a first attempt, that seemed quite acceptable, but the exposure was not as uniform as I would have liked. Decided to play around in conjunction with Ashampoo Photo Optimizer, but it failed:

make: don't know how to make /home/grog/Photos/20080816/_Ashampoo\.  Stop
      

It's nice to see that even “user friendly” programs trip over these nonsensical directory names. But of course, hugin liked it so much that I couldn't get it to change to another directory. Decided that the easiest course would be to give hugin its own directory, so edited the config file to point to /home/grog/Photos/bloody-stupid-hugin/. Now I can just link in the files I want to that directory, and move them out again when they're done.

Outside with a tripod to take some more photos with more controlled exposure, this time a 360° panorama:


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That took a while, of course, and in the middle of it I got:


=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp4) ~/Photos/bloody-stupid-hugin 72 -> enblend --compression NONE -w -f23551x2009 -o blah.tif blah0000.tif blah0001.tif blah0002.tif --blah0003.tif blah0004.tif blah0005.tif blah0006.tif blah0007.tif blah0008.tif --blah0009.tif blah0010.tif blah0011.tif blah0012.tif blah0013.tif
Loading next image: blah0000.tif
Loading next image: blah0001.tif
enblend: out of memory

Confirmed that enblend had used all of its 512 MB address space, so decided that maybe it really was time to reboot the machine with larger data segment sizes; but it looked as if the 700 MB that the gcc 4.3 port wants wouldn't be enough. So how much? Recalled my first experience with large memory, now 10 years ago, when I put 2 GB of RAM into a NonStop UX machine (really a Compaq ProLiant). NonStop UX (really UnixWare) refused to boot with the message “not enough memory”: clearly it had used a signed comparison, and so memory was -2 GB. So decided to go just short of the 2 GB limit at 2,048,000,000 bytes.

That worked: enblend quickly used up to 1.3 GB data segment, and then stayed there until the end.

Wide panoramas are an issue: how do you display them? My standard build procedures set only the width, so the panorama above displayed like this:

Image

Clearly that's too small, but what's the right size? The one above may go off the edge of the screen on many displays. My current rules are widths of 300 pixels for “tiny” and 600 pixels for “small” images; decided to impose minimum heights of 100 and 200 pixels as well.

The image went off the edge of the screen on my display too: it was 2110 pixels wide, wider than just about any screen. I've since tamed it.

None of that helps the fact that the images are big; the original sized image is about 11 MB, which takes quite a time to load even with a fast connection. And the build used about 1 GB of disk space. Not a thing I should do often.

Didn't do much in the garden, but did make some progress with the shelves. Why does this take such a long time?


Tuesday, 19 August 2008 Dereel Images for 19 August 2008
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Into the office this morning, and gcc 4.3 had finished compiling with Java support:

===>   Registering installation for gcc-4.3.2_20080814
    15042.50 real      7927.76 user       652.21 sys

Well over 4 hours to build a compiler! I wish I had recalled the times I had back in 1993 when I was building the ported applications for UnixWare. All I have is a comment at the beginning of Porting UNIX Software:

... few packages take more than a few hours to compile on a fast workstation. Even the complete X11R6 windowing system takes only about 4 hours on a 66 MHz Intel 486 PC.

How times have changed! Interestingly, I think that the PC I was referring to in 1993 is the one that I'm still using for my brewing temperature control system.

More playing around with hugin, and managed a couple more panoramas of dubious quality. Also discovered that I could get legible fonts—in fact, on all of the other three monitors I tried. Further investigation showed interesting details of my X configuration. Amongst many other things, xdpyinfo said:

screen #0:
  dimensions:    2048x1536 pixels (400x300 millimeters)
  resolution:    130x130 dots per inch
screen #1:
  dimensions:    1600x1200 pixels (542x406 millimeters)
  resolution:    75x75 dots per inch

The dimensions for screen #0 are correct. But screen #1 (the LG Studioworks 900B monitor, also the primary monitor when booting dereel) is most definitely not 542x406 mm. That's a 27" diagonal. Further investigation of /var/log/Xorg.0.log showed: in

(II) NV(1): I2C bus "DDC" initialized.
(II) NV(1): Probing for analog device on output A...
(--) NV(1):   ...found one
(II) NV(1): Probing for analog device on output B...
(--) NV(1):   ...can't find one
(II) NV(1): Probing for EDID on I2C bus A...
(II) NV(1): I2C device "DDC:ddc2" registered at address 0xA0.
(II) NV(1): I2C device "DDC:ddc2" removed.
(II) NV(1):   ...  none found
(II) NV(1): Probing for EDID on I2C bus B...
(II) NV(1): I2C device "DDC:ddc2" registered at address 0xA0.
(II) NV(1): I2C device "DDC:ddc2" removed.
(II) NV(1):   ...  none found
(--) NV(1): CRTC 0 appears to have a CRT attached

Somehow the DDC/EDID information couldn't be located, and the server (presumably) fell back to its default of 75 dpi, creating nonsensical screen dimensions in the process. This might be related to the display problems I mentioned earlier this month. It certainly hasn't always been this way, as my records of 12 February 2008 show. Maybe the monitor is dying. I wish I could find cheap medium-resolution LCD screens.

So, was I wrong in blaming hugin for the tiny fonts? Partially. But it should be possible to change the font size, and that still seems not to be the case.

Did a bit of weeding in the garden—it certainly needs it. We need much more mulch. Also finished the shelves in Yvonne's office. Now I just need to wait for her to fill them up, and I can continue with the shelves in my office.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008 Dereel Images for 20 August 2008
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Finally a bit of sun today—it's been rare lately, and we had been waiting for it to do some mulching. So what did I do? Spent just about all day inside. First, tried some new panorama shots. I still need to do a lot of work to get something better than this:


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Still, it'll be interesting as time goes on, and in time I'll find a way to make better shots.

Apart from that, spent most of the day working on my web pages. I have finally bitten the bullet and written code to send me a mail message when I get a broken link from within the web site. It didn't generate as much noise as I had feared, but of course manual tidy-up takes a lot of time.


Thursday, 21 August 2008 Dereel
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Now that I had time to mulch, of course it rained all day. Spent it investigating many error messages about broken links on the web site—fortunately, most were correctable (typically index.html becoming index.php, which the 404 document corrects automatically), but it also gave me an interesting insight into access patterns to the web site.

Finally the rain stopped, and we were able to spread some mulch. There's still a lot to be done, and we'll probably run out of mulch before we're done.

One of the programs I've found surprisingly useful is Ashampoo Photo Optimizer, which almost invariably improves the appearance of photos. It's a pity it's written for Microsoft, and I considered using it in conjunction with wine. I've tried wine before and had very little success, but today everything just seemed to work: it installed without problems, didn't have much difficulty finding out how to move the Photo Optimizer files to dereel:

C:\Program Files\Photo-Optimizer>xcopy /s * r:\usr\local\wine\photo-optimizer
      

The issue there was the /s switch, meaning “copy subdirectories [sic] too”: I would have expected /R for “recursive”, of course, and there seems to be no documentation for this program beyond Google. But then I was able to Just Run the executable. The only issue was the immense load on the X server: the program itself ran fine, but simple things like changing directory took up to a minute of CPU time on the X server. To be investigated.

Another thing of interest was that the first time I ran the program, it found the current working directory correctly—but only the first time. After that, it reverted to that directory. Clearly something is saving the path name—but why?


Friday, 22 August 2008 Dereel
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More playing around with photos today, and made some progress:

ABC web site breakage—only me?

One of my personal pages has a link to http://abc.net.au/tv/guide/, which appears not to be the preferred name for the site; they prefer http://www.abc.net.au/tv/guide/. That's OK; they could serve a redirect. What happens, though, at least for me, is that they return an invalid response:


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This has been going on at least since 14 February 2008; you'd think they would have fixed it by now. The puzzling thing, though, is that others say “it works for me”. Is this another example of selective breakage? The text displayed is exactly the text in the response (no HTML headers or anything).

Phone call from Lyndon Watts, lead bassoon of the Münchner Philharmoniker today: he's interested in the 1842 Savary jeuene I have had for sale.


Saturday, 23 August 2008 Dereel Images for 23 August 2008
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House photo day today, and for once took fewer than normal; there was too much repetition, so I've modified the exterior view page to display the most recent photo if it's missing. Also tried some panorama stuff:


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I need further changes to the web page before I can include it; currently it has a fixed display format that compresses the images.

In the afternoon, finally went riding again, and ended up at the Yeardley's place via a route we have never taken before, which appears to include about 150 metres of somebody's drive way.

ABC web site breakage: more discoveries

Also did some more investigation of the ABC web site breakage. Since others said “it works for me”, it seemed reasonable to assume that it was something to do with my configuration. But that's not the case: wireshark clearly shows that the “web server” returns non-HTML text:

 
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Note particularly that the line starts with TTP, not HTTP. Not surprisingly, all my web browsers display effectively the same text. Well, “Safari” under MacOS X and firefox under Microsoft did. “Internet Explorer” modifies the picture slightly by wrapping the text. In this case, you can't even complain that it's typical Microsoft breakage, though it seems in keeping: but the text returned is not standards compliant, so there's no standards compliant way to render it.

Daryl Tester sent mail on the subject:

I saw your diary entry for ABC's web redirect breakage, and wanted to add "works for me" (which it does) ... *BUT* - there is something weird going on with the abc.net.au web site ...

$ telnet abc.net.au 80
Trying 202.6.74.117...
Connected to abc.net.au.
Escape character is '^]'.
GET /tv/guide/ HTTP/1.1
HTTP/1.0 301 Found
Location: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/guide/

Connection closed by foreign host.

It's interesting to note that in this case the H is present. I wonder what the difference here is. The IP addresses are the same.

Daryl continues:

Their web server issued the redirection response before I had even completed the HTTP request. The following line I was going to enter after the GET request was the Host: header, then followed by an empty line to terminate the request, but their server responded immediately after my initial GET request. A bare minimum HTTP 1.1 request should be:

GET /tv/guide/ HTTP/1.1
Host: abc.net.au
<<Empty Line>>

It's certainly possible that your web browser/proxy/other middleware was confused about getting a response while still sending the initial request. There is also a distinct lack of identifying headers in their response, which leads me to suspect it's someone homegrown application that's just providing a redirect for any arbitrary URL - e.g. the following also worked:

$ telnet abc.net.au 80
Trying 202.6.74.117...
Connected to abc.net.au.
Escape character is '^]'.
GET /fnord/hamster/ HTTP/1.1
HTTP/1.0 301 Found
Location: http://www.abc.net.au/fnord/hamster/

Looking a little further shows that abc.net.au and www.abc.net.au resolve to different IP addresses (and presumably different hosts & servers). The whois for the IP address for abc.net.au shows it to be pointing to ABC themselves ("descr: Technology Research and Development Laboratory"), while the www. addresses point to the usual akamai.net distributed madness (Internode on my end of the 'net).

Documentation: WTF?

Yesterday Yvonne brought back a knife sharpener from ALDI with the unexpected model number WTF-28D. Clearly the people responsible for that model number don't use the same jargon I'm accustomed to. And, of course, the documentation was abysmal: 8 pages, including two different sets of safety instructions and two different descriptions of the warranty, but only a little over a page describing how to use it, relying heavily on “Figure 1”, which was not present. Still, with a little interpretation, it might be a useful device. But why can't people write usable documentation any more?

To the Yeardleys for dinner in the evening.


Sunday, 24 August 2008 Dereel
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Somehow spring is in the air. I don't know what it is; the temperatures are no higher. Maybe it's that it has finally stopped raining all the time, and the sun is shining. In any case, Yvonne reported that the horses are behaving as it's spring, and various spring flowers are either flowering or promising to do so really soon. All we need now is for the temperatures to finally rise.

Spent a fair amount of time in the garden. We still have plants to plant that we planted two years ago in Wantadilla, and finally the weather's appropriate for spraying weeds. Also spent some time removing the rampant Acanthus mollis in the north bed; their survival chances changed dramatically with the installation of the sprinkler system. As Laurel Gordon says, they should be planted where they can spread without too much danger. I think we'll give them a single dripper and leave them to grow where it's moist enough.


Monday, 25 August 2008 Dereel Images for 25 August 2008
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As if to confirm my opinion yesterday, we had yet another (mild) frost last night. Despite the feeling, there's not much evidence of spring yet.

More garden work. Finally got round to doing some soil pH tests. I bought the equipment nearly a year ago, but the instructions seemed quite complicated. In fact, there's nothing to it: put the indicator on the soil, then dust with barium sulphate, presumably so that you can see something, and compare with the indicator card. The result looked like this:


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Those samples are, from top to bottom:

So far, nothing unexpected. But it looks like we'll need about 10 tons of lime to adjust the pH.

Also tried mixing the soil with water and using my electronic pH meter. That was a complete failure; it just showed the pH of the water, which is slightly alkaline (about pH 8.0), presumably because of the magpie droppings on the roof.

Amusingly, had another coincidence on ABC Gardening Australia: in the evening they were talking about measuring soil pH, with exactly the same kit I have.


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Looking at the photo, it's difficult to decide whether she used the kit correctly; the colour of the indicator could equally well be due to the colour of the soil as represented in the TV recording.

Also a visit by Ashley Musgrove to (finally, after all this rain) spray the paddocks:


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Also finally dug out the agaves that somebody had planted right next to a nectarine tree. It had sprouted a number of smaller plants; after removing them—which was surprisingly easy—discovered that there were a total of 24 of them:


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Now to find somewhere to plant them. I suspect the Yeardleys will get a number of them.

More on ABC web site breakage

Mail from Malcolm Caldwell on the ABC web redirector breakage today, effectively confirming Daryl Tester's experience, but also with some new insights:

One thing interesting, is that when you connect using telnet it shows that the server does not wait for you to finish sending headers, but returns the 301 straight away. I notice in the latest post on your diary that Daryl Tester noticed this as well.

$ telnet abc.net.au 80
Trying 202.6.74.117...
Connected to abc.net.au.
Escape character is '^]'.
GET /tv/guide HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.0 301 Found
Location: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/guide

Connection closed by foreign host.

I am fairly sure this is broken and illegal according to the protocol. The server should wait until you have finished sending at the whole header before sending a response.

What I think is happening to you is that this broken http is confusing a web proxy somewhere. It may be that you have a transparent proxy between you and the internet, or, more likely there is a http accelerator in place. http accelerators are very common on satellite links. Given the way http accelerators work I can easily imagine that this broken http would cause issues.

This makes a lot of sense to me, especially relating to the dropped H in the web browser, but not when I repeat the experiment above. Confirmed that it has nothing to do with my local squid, so it's probably Wideband's transparent proxy server. It's also interesting that Netcraft can no longer identify the server kind; it used to be Linux and Apache until late last year.

Also heard from ABC, who at least took the matter seriously—a definite difference from earlier cases. I wonder if it will get forwarded to the correct people.


Tuesday, 26 August 2008 Dereel Images for 26 August 2008
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It's funny: I've had my 1842 Savary jeuene bassoon for over 15 years, and for 10 years I've had it “advertised” for sale on the web site. Then in January of this year, Aligi Voltan of the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto contacted me about buying it. Over the course of two months of discussion, he finally persuaded me to part with my 1847 Savary jeune. Lyndon Watts, who first contacted me last Friday, took less time to accept the other instrument, possibly because I mentioned the wrong price. He wants it, and he wants it in Darwin by the weekend.

Spent some time trying to work out how to send the instrument to him. Packing was more of a problem than last time, since it didn't have a case. Found some left-over 8 cm PVC piping from the bore drilling, which would have been ideal had it been 20 cm longer; as it was, it will take the whole instrument except the bell.

Finding a transporter was a different issue: AusPost can't guarantee getting it to Darwin by the weekend, and in any case, it's too long (maximum they take is 105 cm). There are no other courier companies in Ballarat, so tried the Web once again and found e-go, who looked like the right people to find a way for me. But I seem to be too stupid to enter the names of the towns:


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Maybe they wanted the names in capitals, but it's not clear. Send an “email” (bad language for “web form”) and got a quick response by (real) email saying that there was nothing wrong with their system. Replied with the details, but heard no more.

Finally Lyndon decided to get his father (currently on holiday in Melbourne) to come and pick up the instrument. That's doubtless the easiest for me, but heard no more for the rest of the day.

Rather amusingly, also got a mail message from Aligi Voltan today—he's in Paris. Both he and Lyndon confirm that they don't know each other, which I find somewhat surprising. Lyndon is also no relative of Andy Watts, whom I met in Oxford decades ago.

As I've mentioned before, Ashampoo Photo Optimizer almost invariably improves the appearance of photos. There's an exception to (almost) every rule, however, and today I found one. Here's before and after “optimization”:


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In the afternoon, more work in the garden, mainly to find out where to plant the Agaves. Decided on the bed to the south of the house, outside our offices. There's a lot of mess in there, including old, dead bushes. Spent some time trying to tidy it out, without complete success. Looks like another candidate for weed spray.

France, more or less

Yvonne spent much of her life in the French département Hautes-Pyrénées, and today the SBS programme “Global Village” broadcast an episode entitled “Hautes-Pyrenees” (or, depending on where you look, “Haute Pyrenees”). We used to watch Global Village until we realized how inaccurate it was, but this time we thought it would be interesting.

We were disappointed: it mentioned NOTHING of the Hautes-Pyrénées; the whole programme was about that part of Catalunya Nord between Banyuls and Perpinyà (Perpignan in French). It's all in the French département Pyrénées-Orientales. You'd also think that Silvio Rivier, the presenter, would have learnt enough French to correctly pronounce the names Banyuls and Argelès (in both cases the terminal s is sounded), or “Escargots Grillés”, which he pronounced “Escargots Grilles”, sort of: for some reason, the British and the Australians seem to deliberately ignore the fact that all French words, almost completely without exception, are emphasized on the last syllable. And the content of the programme? They talk about cookery, but what they actually showed was anything but typical (fish with ginger and chilis, lobster cooked for 2 hours! Where do they get this stuff from?)

And why did they title the episode “Hautes-Pyrenees”? You might think that there's not much difference between the two départements, but in fact there's another département between them (Ariège), they're in different régions (Hautes-Pyrénées is in Midi-Pyrénées, and Pyrénées-Orientales is in Languedoc-Roussillon), and as the name suggests, Hautes-Pyrénées are high mountains with no coast line, while this programme didn't show any hills at all.

That's not the only inaccuracy. The maps are wildly inaccurate:


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This shows Roussillon to be in the middle of Vaucluse (in the région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). And the part marked “Catalonia” shows only the Spanish part of Catalunya, but I suppose that was to be expected.


Wednesday, 27 August 2008 Dereel Images for 27 August 2008
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Jeffrey Watts, Lyndon's father, came along to pick up the bassoon this morning, leaving a gap:


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Still, it wasn't as painful as last time. I've been meaning to get rid of this instrument for years, and I still have as many instruments as I did a year ago, only now they're more playable.

Spent quite a bit of time writing up my diary for yesterday, in the process investigating the SBS web site. Some of the breakage is astounding. In the following page, the search text (“global village”) appears to the left of the input box:


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I tried to find out where the misspelling “Haute Pyrenees” came from. No help from the programme itself, which didn't carry the title, nor the “programme guide”, which said no more than:

 
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The most amazing, though, is the month display:

 
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The relationship between day of month and day of week is off by 3 days, the maximum possible. How could they manage that? The calendars for July and September are correct, so this looks like they've been entered manually.

More work in the garden. We have a new mystery flower:


 
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Yvonne apparently got fed up with the appearance of the Pelargonium in front of her office window. I didn't get a “before” photo, but it once covered the entire bare space in front of what little is left of it:

Also more work on the sprinkler system, laying the pipes for the entire south side of the house. Now if we only had more mulch!


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More garden work, including more on the irrigation in the south of the house, and also a bit of transplanting. There are some kind of plants across the road which seem to be growing wild, but which have spectacular flowers:


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I suspect it's on the plot belonging to Helen and Robert, though when I saw Helen today she said they were going to build a boundary fence at least 5 metres further from the road. Still, it doesn't harm to ask, and so I was allowed to take a few corms and plant them. Another entry for my mystery plants.

I'm now pretty sure that this is a Chasmanthe floribunda

Also transplanted another plant, one whose name I thought I knew:


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This is a popular indoor plant in Germany, and I always knew it as Zyperngras. Unfortunately, that's incorrect—Zyperngras is Cyperus alternifolius, closely related to Papyrus, so this one is yet another of my mystery plants.

And this one is a Chlorophytum comosum

It's clear from the photo that it's not frost-tolerant, but since it obviously survives as in indoor plant, it should also be OK in the shade, so planted it under the trees in the shade area that we haven't used much since February.


Friday, 29 August 2008 Dereel Images for 29 August 2008
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More pottering around in the garden today. It's gradually getting milder, more evident in the higher overnight temperatures than in the daytime temperatures, but the plants are responding well. Even the rose that I trimmed back to the ground less than three months ago has come back with a vengeance. Here the photos immediately after pruning and now:


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Now I have some money from the sale of my 1842 Savary jeune bassoon, I can afford to upgrade my camera equipment. Spent some time looking round on the web, and decided that a Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.0 SWD Lens (what a mouthful!) would be a good acquisition. But where can I get one? I've long since realized that eBay isn't worth the trouble: most companies are in the USA, and they're so insular that doing business with them is a real pain, as demonstrated by Cameta last year. Somewhat unexpectedly, discovered that Amazon also sell cameras. At least I've had no trouble with them in the past, and they still recalled addresses from years ago—my brother-in-law in Germany, Daniel Demuth in Switzerland, and the Wantadilla address—in French. Updated my details and continued investigating.

That wasn't made any easier by computer problems: my X server seemed to be looping. Restarted it without any improvement, and even rebooted the machine (dereel), something that I only do in a real emergency, considering that it might have something to do with the problems I have had with wine a while back. No, that wasn't the problem. I still don't know what it was, but it seems that it's not (only) wine's fault.

CJ along today to discuss once again how we do the verandah. Things are a lot more concrete now, and we should be able to start on Tuesday.


Saturday, 30 August 2008 Dereel Images for 30 August 2008
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Into the office this morning to find dereel non-responsive; it failed my standard test of being able to toggle the NumLock key on the keyboard. It wasn't until I rebooted that I saw the top output on echunga:0.2, showing that the X server was looping. I've already fallen into the needless reboot trap; I should be more careful in the future.

But why is the server looping? At one point I thought the motherboard might be going, but it could be something else as well. I recently manually set the display size to 400x300 mm, since it wasn't reading the EDID, but now I see:

(II) NV(1): Probing for EDID on I2C bus A...
(II) NV(1): I2C device "DDC:ddc2" registered at address 0xA0.
(--) NV(1): DDC detected a CRT:
(II) NV(1): Manufacturer: GSM  Model: 4a5b  Serial#: 22621
(II) NV(1): Year: 2002  Week: 11
(II) NV(1): EDID Version: 1.3

That's very different from last time; but why should any of this make the X server loop? Or is it some client that's doing it?

The weather was pretty unfriendly today: a little moist and very windy. Did a little bit of work outside, but my heart wasn't in it.

Mail from Daniel Nebdal today. He identified my “Zyperngras”: it's Chlorophytum comosum. Interestingly, it's also suitable for hanging baskets, which we've been trying to fill for a while.

Spent more than usual taking my house exterior photos today, and also optimized some other photos. One of them showed a surprising detail about Photo Optimizer: here are “before” and “after” photos of an Erysimum:


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Where did it get that highlighting from? It looks completely gratuitous, though admittedly not bad. I'd like to understand it, though.

My display issues made me wonder if I shouldn't be running xfstt, the TrueType font server, so off to reinstall it. I've done this twice before, on 16 November 2004 and 16 December 2006, and on each case I've made notes. And, as I noted last time, not enough—not even last time. After restarting the X server, I discovered a note that you don't need to: the first time I noted that you just need to enter:

xset fp+ unix/:7101

That didn't help much, though: I still didn't have a fonts.dir file in my TrueType fonts directory, and I didn't note how to build one. Spent some time looking, without success. Time to write another HOWTO.



Sunday, 31 August 2008 Dereel Images for 31 August 2008
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Our grapefruit has finally dropped. It was surprisingly light, and on cutting it open, it seemed to have consisted mainly of pith:


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I hope that's not typical, but then, it was a winter fruit off a tiny tree. But it's yellow! This is supposed to be a pink grapefruit. I wonder if that will change when it really starts to bear fruit. At least the fruit didn't taste bad for a yellow grapefruit.

Finally got round to ordering the lens I've been looking at, from B&H Photo Video, whom I chose because of marginally better web presentation than Adorama, whose web site, I suspect, is involved in some of my X server crashes recently. That doesn't mean that the B&H web site is good, though; it has many of the problems typical of “modern” web sites:

Also started scanning in some more old photos. In the process, ran into more problems with Apple's stupid use of spaces in file names:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 4 -> l
total 54
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000    140832 Jul 19 15:04 Picture 1.png
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000    223544 Aug 31 11:38 Picture 2.png
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000    223445 Aug 31 11:38 Picture 3.png
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000     42348 Aug 31 11:39 Picture 4.png
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 5 -> mv "Picture\ *" /dereel/home/grog/Photos/20080831/
mv: rename Picture\ * to /dereel/home/grog/Photos/20080831/Picture\ *: No such file or directory
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 6 -> despace ()
>  {
>    for i in "$@"; do
>        mv "$i" $(echo "$i" | tr ' ' '-')
>     done
>  }
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 7 -> despace *
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 8 -> l
total 54
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000    140832 Jul 19 15:04 Picture-1.png
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000    223544 Aug 31 11:38 Picture-2.png
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000    223445 Aug 31 11:38 Picture-3.png
-rw-r--r--    1 grog  1000     42348 Aug 31 11:39 Picture-4.png
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 9 -> 
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 10 -> mv Picture* /dereel/home/grog/Photos/20080831/
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Desktop 11 ->
      

In the process, it's interesting to note that the intention of spaces in file names is to make things more “user-friendly”—but this is the same convention that requires files to end in specific extensions, as shown in the example above.

The weather's been pretty terrible, but we still managed to do some more work in the garden, adding some irrigation to the nectarine tree west of the house, in the process relocating many more succulents, which Yvonne planted in a part of the garden newly freed (we hope!) of grass. Also more work in preparation for building the verandah, transplanting irises and pruning the Grevillea rosmarinifolia.


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