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Saturday, 1 August 2015 Dereel Images for 1 August 2015
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More E-M1 strangeness
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Now my Olympus OM-D E-M1 is back again, time for lots of photos, including the weekly “house photo” series. That required setting manual focus. But it didn't work! It looked as if the other wheel was jamming.

Oh yes, it did. But it took a delay of nearly one second, and it's repeatable. That's not the only issue: entering the setup menu now takes 3 seconds. Leaving it again takes 5. What have they done?

As if that wasn't bad enough, while taking photos in the evening, the shutter release was also very slow. It sounded like the shutter was being released twice, about 0.3 s apart. That's just what you want from a fast camera. In the end I took Yvonne's E-PM2, which worked normally.

The setup: manual exposure, flash trigger and studio flash. The same problem didn't happen when I was taking the house photos, also with manual exposure.

What's going on here? Olympus updated the firmware in my camera, without being asked, to release 3.1. In principle that makes sense, but it really looks as if there's something seriously wrong with the firmware. It's possible that some obscure undocumented function is causing the problem, but it's not obvious what: I had only made specific changes to the defaults, and none seemed to apply. But then, Olympus have made undocumented or barely documented changes to the functionality. For example, there are no release notes or updated documentation for release 3.1, but on the download page they write:

The "Live View Boost 2" function was added.

What does that mean? They're far too polite to say. Looking at the menus, the entire area has changed. In the last manual (2.0) they write:

Live View Boost If [On] is selected, priority will be given to making images clearly visible; the effects exposure compensation and othe settings will not be visible in the monitor.

And that's all. Release 3.0 has a vestigial release note, half a page each in 3 languages, explaining that C-AF now works at up to 9 fps, and how to set it (no change from previous releases). But now I see that there are four different scenarios for setting live view boost: Manual Shoting, Bulb/Time, Live Composite, Others. What's Live Composite? Again, no word. The only clue is in the irritating popup in the setup menus. It seems that there's also an “On1”—clearly they've run out of terms to explain the difference. From the popups:

So it's “slow frame rate”, whatever that means. Maybe that explains the smearing I'm now seeing in the viewfinder.

All in all, I'm not at all happy. This is an expensive camera. It should work, especially after coming back from service. Grrr.


Rain gauge strangenesses again
Topic: general, gardening, opinion Link here

More rain overnight, and heavy winds. How much rain? 3.8 mm or 7.8 mm, depending on the rain gauge. I've been puzzled about the discrepancy in the past, but then the discrepancies have always been less than 2 mm. Now it's 4. Does this have something to do with the wind?


Wild grevilleas
Topic: gardening Link here

We have a number of Grevilleas growing along Stones Road. This one has a particularly large number of flowers:


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What is it? It could be a Grevillea rosmarinifolia, but potentially there are other similar species.


Lilac deaf
Topic: animals Link here

Our cat Lilac is now coming on 19 years old. Yvonne tells me that she's looking feeble. I can't say that she looks like a young cat any more, but on the whole she doesn't look too bad. But lately it has become apparent that she's stone deaf: no reaction at all unless she can see you. Today she was outside, meowing at the door to come in. By the time I got there, she had turned away, and didn't respond to being called—until she turned around. And when she's sitting on my lap, I can clap my hands behind her head, and she doesn't react.

I suppose there could be worse problems, like the bouts of incontinence that she has experienced.


Fjodor again
Topic: animals Link here

Chris Bahlo along to dinner this evening, bringing Fjodor with her. To his credit, he didn't crap on the floor this time, just lifted his leg against the potted lemon tree. Clearly he needs to understand indoors better.

Many photos:

 
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Sunday, 2 August 2015 Dereel
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Selling Kleins Road?
Topic: general Link here

Leah Mayor and her mother Doreen around today to look at the Kleins Road house. They seemed suitably impressed. Now all they need to do is to decide to buy it.


Monday, 3 August 2015 Dereel
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Zhivago sick
Topic: animals Link here

Woke this morning to hear Zhivago screaming. That's not uncommon for Borzois: they may not bark much, but the slightest pain causes them to scream. But Yvonne told me it had been going for some time, and he was lying in his basket looking very sorry for himself, and we couldn't get him to get up—attempts caused just more screaming. Called Pene Kirk, who came almost immediately, considering the 20 km distance she had to drive.

Based on our description, I think she was half prepared to put him down, but she diagnosed some pain in his upper spine, gave him a painkiller and an antiinflammatory, and in due course he was up and about. We won't know until tomorrow whether it was just the painkiller, or for 3 days until the antiinflammatory works off, but things are not as bad as they seemed.


Off the net again!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Zhivago wasn't the only problem this morning. After we had looked at him, Yvonne told me we were off the net. Again! How do I even contact Aussie Broadband to tell them? It proved that I did have adequate mobile phone coverage in the garden (out towards Wendy's house), and I left a message. Of course network connectivity came back before anybody seemed to have looked at it again, but it was still nearly 70 minutes without coverage.

What was the cause? I've had (a very few) cases where the NTD status indicators showed some connectivity problem with the tower, but here there were no problems. And although I religiously power cycled the NTD, it made no difference, and when connectivity did come back again, it was not due to anything that I did.

This was the longest outage since we've been in Stones Road, but by no means the only one: we've had 41 outages in 87 days, or nearly one every 2 days. Whose fault is it? Who monitors the net? Nobody can tell me. It's about time to raise awareness. Sent off a request to Aussie to address the issue.


House, 90 days after handover
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's been 90 days since the handover of the house, a day before expiry of the 13 week Defect Liability Period. Last week JG King should have arranged for and performed an inspection of the house. Of course they didn't.

Nearly 3 weeks ago Evan (surname unknown) and Wayne Jones of JG King came to address the other issues, in particular the slow problem resolution. So far not a single issue has been resolved. The only action I have seen was the arrival of Craig from City to Surf Whitegoods, who confirmed that the range hood could hold a piece of A4 paper against the centre filter of the hood (but not against the other two). So he reported back that the unit was functional. No explanation that it couldn't even hold the paper on the side panels, nor how this related to the claimed throughput of 214 l/s.

Yesterday I sent Wayne an email asking for final dates for resolution of the problems. Today I got a call from him: the range hood was OK, the gaps under the doors would be addressed by Greg of Delta, who would also fix various issues with the trim, and the stove would be discussed at my meeting with Electrolux tomorrow. And Trevor would contact me about the defect liability period inspection.

Only: the range hood is not OK. Greg contacted me—he hadn't done so last Thursday—and confirmed that he knew nothing about the gaps under the doors, but could provide some help, up to a difference of 2 mm height—nothing like what we need. He'll come along tomorrow at 16:00 and take a look.

And Electrolux? This was the first I had heard of a meeting with them. But not the first time that Wayne had claimed that we had arranged a meeting about which I knew nothing.

A call from Rob[iy]n from Electrolux later in the morning. Unfortunately the technician's father was in hospital, and he had taken the day off, so could we put it off until next week? No, we bloody couldn't. I've been complaining about this stove for 3 months now, and nothing has happened. Yes, I strongly suspect that Wayne had only just contacted them, but that's not my problem. Why don't they just take it back and refund the costs? But no, she found that they could come on Thursday, at a time that they would negotiate later.

Then a call from Trevor of JG King to (belatedly) do the defect liability period inspection. He'll be along on Thursday at 11:00, hopefully not the time that the Electrolux people choose.

So: the email seems to have had its effect. But why was it necessary? At the very least I get a strong impression that Wayne is not monitoring progress effectively, if at all.


Range hood throughput
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

It's becoming clear that I'm going to have a dispute about the range hood. I strongly doubt the good will of all involved: the first time they sent somebody by, he confirmed that the thing wasn't working correctly. But they reported that all was working normally. Then the second time the technician measured the wrong parameter, found it wanting, and reported that everything was OK.

What neither of these people did was to measure the actual air flow. OK, I can do that. The correct way to do it is with an air speed meter, equipped with a Pitot tube, but they're expensive (though not expensive enough to explain why the manufacturer doesn't have one). But I can get a cheap anemometer for $14. It's not as accurate, but it can certainly give a good idea of the order of magnitude, which I'm sure would be way off from the specifications, so I ordered one.

So what am I measuring? The specifications state an air flow of 770 m³/h, corresponding to 214 l/s or 0.214 m³/s in the metric system. The ducting is 15 cm in diameter, so even ignoring compression effects and boundary layers (both of which reduce real throughput), to move that much through the duct would require a wind speed of 0.214 ÷ (π . 0.015² ÷ 4) or 12.1 m/s. That's about 44 km/h.

Is that reasonable? Compared the air conditioner reverse air. It's rated for a maximum of 1000 l/s, and the reverse air duct is 62 by 66 cm, or 0.4 m². The air flow through the duct should be 2.5 m/s, or 9 km/h. But it's much stronger than the flow through the range hood.

Of course, it's difficult to measure the air flow at this point in the range hood. I'd have to take the ducting apart. But there's also the filter surface on each device. On the range hood it's three insets 26×28 cm in size, or a total of 0.22 m². For the air conditioner, it's two insets 1.46×0.38 m, or 1.1 m². So at maximum rate the air flow is 0.214 ÷ 0.22, or pretty much 1 m/s for the range hood, and 1 ÷ 1.1 or 0.9 m/s for the air conditioner.

How do they compare? At full fan, the air conditioner attracts an A4 sheet of paper from 10 cm distance. The range hood doesn't attract it at all, even in the central filter: it just barely holds it in place. On the other two filters it can't even manage that. Clearly the air flow is nothing like what they claim. I wish I had thought of this comparison before the technicians came.


Tuesday, 4 August 2015 Dereel Images for 4 August 2015
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How not to poach an egg
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Somehow I've always had difficulties with eggs. Fried eggs are never perfect, and in the past the quest for perfection has cost me my job. Nowadays Yvonne fries the eggs, but normally we eat boiled eggs.

Eggs have changed since my childhood. In those days, they were almost invariably white, and you could cut off the top cleanly and eat them. About the only issue was the cooking time.

Nowadays things are different. Eggs are almost invariably brown, but it seems that the shells are much thinner now, and it's really difficult to cut the top off smoothly. I've tried the alternative of breaking the shell and peeling the bits off, but that's a mess.

So how about poached eggs? I've done them before, of course, but there's nothing like a bit of research. All recipes agree that poached eggs produce “streamers”. What do you do with them? “Joy of cooking” doesn't say, so presumably nothing. The Constance Spry Cookery book instructs you to put a clean dry cloth in your left hand, lift each egg into this hand and cut them off with a sharp knife. It's quite specific about using the left hand, something that Muslims wouldn't appreciate.

Across the English Channel, Madame Saint-Ange make it very clear that you should hold the egg, after cooling, in your right hand and cut off the streamers. There! No offended Muslims.

But the idea of discarding edible food offends me slightly. So when Yvonne bought some non-stick silicone poaching pouches (for want of a better description), we tried that. Eggs in pouch, pouch in boiling water, and we're away:

 
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How do you get them out? There are two issues. First, the shape doesn't make it easy to pick them up: you need to pick them up at three points. I tried chopsticks through the holes, but it's difficult to handle 3 chopsticks. And then how do you get them out of the form if they stick? Simple, reverse the form. A good idea, but in practice it didn't deliver:

 
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So much for “non-stick”. Maybe we should oil the forms, maybe we should poach in the traditional way, or maybe we should find some other alternative.


Understanding OM-1 firmware issues
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've already commented on the slow reactions of the new firmware for my Olympus OM-D E-M1. Wouldn't it be a good idea to do a video of it? Yes, of course, and I tried yesterday. The results were catastrophic: with the E-PM2 it's really difficult to get the focus right, and the best I could do was out of focus.

Today I tried again. I still wasn't sure whether it was in focus, but it didn't matter: the problem no longer occurred. So out of focus or not, here's the clip:

What caused that? And why did it go away again?


Cleaning the floors
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

One of the least of my problems with the house has been that the joins between the flooring tiles have oozed adhesive. We could scrape it off, but it's a warranty issue, so we left it to the experts. Today Greg of Delta, whose surname proves to be Forte, came out and took a look. He brought some solvent and left it with me, rather than doing the work himself. I'm a ambivalent about that: on the one hand, it's his job, but on the other it's not much work, and standing there watching him doing the job and moving all the furniture seemed at least as much work, so I'm not too unhappy.

Greg has been here before. As I noted four months ago, the tilers were not very happy with the floor, and Greg was quite happy with the success they had under the circumstances.

As discussed, he also brought some trim with him for adjusting the height of the gap under the doors. It was completely inappropriate: curved trim intended for holding down carpet at the edges. And that's all he could get. Clearly Wayne didn't communicate the situation very well. He agreed that the simplest solution would be to put in doors of the correct height.

I don't know whether Wayne thought he was supposed to be the person to address the transition in the en-suite bathroom:

 
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Greg didn't, and he hadn't come prepared. He agreed, however, that it really looked stupid, something that nobody from JG King had accepted.


Wednesday, 5 August 2015 Dereel Images for 5 August 2015
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Communication, Government style
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

A message in my inbox this morning. It's worth including the entire text:

To: <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
From:<centrelink.email.delivery@centrelink.gov.au>
Reply-To: centrelink.email.delivery@centrelink.gov.au
Subject: New Centrelink letter available online
Date: Wed, 5 Aug 2015 13:13:49 +1000

Please DO NOT REPLY by email as this mailbox is not monitored.

This is a message from the Department of Human Services.

You have a new Centrelink letter available online.

You should view your letter as soon as possible. You may view your letter by going to:
-    the Inbox in your myGov account. If you do not have a myGov account, you will need to create one first by going to the myGov website and then linking it to Centrelink
-   one of our Express Plus mobile apps. If you do not have an Express Plus mobile app, you can download one to your smart device from the App Store or Google Play(TM), or
-   the Australian Government Department of Human Services website and logging on to Centrelink services online.

For more information about online letters, go to the Australian Government Department of Human Services website and search for 'online letters' or go to the myGov website.

**********************************************************************
IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable and/or subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that any review, re-transmission, disclosure, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately and delete all electronic and hard copies of this transmission together with any attachments. Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail
*******************************

***************************************

********************************************************************** IMPORTANT: This e-mail is for the use of the intended recipient only and may contain information that is confidential, commercially valuable and/or subject to legal or parliamentary privilege. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that any review, re-transmission, disclosure, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information is prohibited and may result in severe penalties. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately and delete all electronic and hard copies of this transmission together with any attachments. Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail **********************************************************************

And apart from a reference number in the Subject: line, that's all. The two disclaimers are identical except for the line breaks. Confidential indeed! It's a form letter telling me nothing except that they're too polite to send me the message directly. Instead I have to log in with this emetic and slow myGov interface. It started well:

 
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What do they mean, session has timed out? This is the first session I have started with this instance of the browser. They clearly don't recognize when a session is complete.

Next I discovered that even spaces in the answers to the “secret questions” count. So I suppose a particularly sneaky reply would have two spaces somewhere in the middle. Then I followed the link. It took several minutes, but finally I was given an important document (really: if I don't react, I could lose my pension) in PDF format. Sorry, people, this infrastructure is far too flimsy and difficult to use to entrust important documents to it.

But there's a possible way out:


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OK, I can do that. I've been signed up for MyPost for over a year. So I clicked on the link and was presented with a surprising dialogue box:

 
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A Yes/No question, only, with the information that the answer was required. How bureaucratic can you get? On, and it seems that MyPost (or is that MyPOST? They can't make up their minds) has included a new hurdle. To use the service, you must have a mobile telephone, be in a coverage area, and have SMS enabled:

 
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Basically, they've made themselves useless to me. Others at least allow sending a code to a normal telephone number, but this one specifically excludes non-mobile numbers, presumably because it wants to send an SMS. Goodbye MyPost.

Back to my.gov. Clearly there's no point in having them send me email. To my profile to remove the “service”. But:

 
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So after 15 minutes I had got nowhere. People, this isn't rocket science. Web sites of this complexity have been around for over 10 years. Keeping DNS servers running is simplicity itself. When will you get your act together?

Of course, the original question is: why didn't they just send the document as an attachment? There is an almost valid reason: since it's confidential, they don't want to entrust it to an unencrypted medium like email. So why not encrypt it? Ah, you can't do that. Or at least you can't in the Microsoft space: I've been using encryption technology in my email for decades. When is the Microsoft space going to catch up?


More AusPost online fun
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I've already noted that Australia Post has an option to send you tracking information on parcels. A couple of weeks ago I tried it with some parcels I had sent. No response. Today I got one, though: a parcel delivered to me. So it seems that this tracking information only works for parcels sent to me. What good is it to tell me I have received a parcel?


Spam traps
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In this diary, I change my real mail addresses to groggyhimself@lemis.com. On my home page I mention the mail address honigtopf@lemis.com. Both, of course, don't exist. And how about that, my caution was warranted:

Aug  5 04:31:35 www postfix/smtpd[62315]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[124.73.159.164]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [124.73.159.164]; from=<rxdraonjd@wotja.com> to=<honigtopf@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<wotja.com>
Aug  5 04:33:16 www postfix/smtpd[62360]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[124.73.153.162]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [124.73.153.162]; from=<rxdraonjd@wotja.com> to=<honigtopf@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<gmtmk.com>
Aug  5 04:37:37 www postfix/smtpd[62315]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[219.157.200.18]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [219.157.200.18]; from=<Benjamin_Lilia@innerhofer.bz> to=<groggyhimself@lemis.com> proto=SMTP helo=<hn.kd.ny.adsl>
Aug  5 05:29:58 www postfix/smtpd[63373]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[123.88.166.217]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [123.88.166.217]; from=<re@uid.com> to=<groggyhimself@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<uid.com>
Aug  5 06:27:46 www postfix/smtpd[64083]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[204.151.195.161]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [204.151.195.161]; from=<colleen.duncan2@aol.com> to=<honigtopf@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<mail.vps.com>

It's interesting that almost all the messages are rejected simply because the sending MTA doesn't have reverse DNS.


JG King: When will things happen?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over two weeks ago Duncan Jackson called me to tell me the replacement for the damaged solar panel would be there by the end of the week (24 July 2015). It's still not there. Sent him an email and asked him what was going on. Chromagen were looking at it, he said.

Shortly later a barely intelligible Alissa called from Chromagen. They had just now had a report of the damage from O'Neill plumbing, and they needed to send somebody out to look at it.

This isn't the first time that JG King have dropped the ball on following up on problems. I still don't have resolution for any of the main problems I have mentioned, and I get the impression that they're not even trying. I'll give them until tomorrow evening to resolve the stove issue, but it looks like we're going to have to involve CAV.


Thursday, 6 August 2015 Dereel Images for 6 August 2015
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Damaged solar panels, take 2
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Brett and Keith from Laser Plumbing (what a name!) along today to take another look at the solar hot water panel damaged nearly 3 weeks ago. They found that it was defective, of course, but also that the frost sensor had not been connected properly, thus explaining the problem in the first place. That's good news, I suppose: after they reconnected it, there's no reason to expect a repeat of the problem. And they hope to have a new panel next week.


Defect Liability Period Inspection
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Trevor (surname unknown) and Duncan Jackson from JG King along today for the Defect Liability Period Inspection that was due last week. There wasn't much to do: they finally filled in this silly gap between the skirting board and the tiles. Here before and after:

 
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I don't know which one looks worse; both show a complete lack of professionalism.

Apart from that, they adjusted the door catches so that they would no longer rattle when it's windy—they say. I'm not convinced, but we'll see.

They also took another look at the range hood installation. I showed them the difference in force between air conditioner and range hood, and Duncan went up into the roof to take more photos. He thinks that some of the ducting is only 12.5 cm in diameter, and Trevor produced a document saying that that's OK:

 
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I had to show him the second page:

 
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Presumably by “atmosphere” they mean “outside the house”. But look what else it says (and admire the character sequence):

 
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Both the specifications (in HTML) and this document (PDF) are on their web site; the former links to the latter. It's not the only discrepancy: the EAN specified is also different. The HTML spec states 8017709156268, while the PDF spec states 8026493048550. It would be nice if they had put the EAN on the compliance certificate inside the unit, but that would also have been too difficult:

 
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These details are not very relevant to the problem, of course: they just show how little attention the manufacturer pays to his own specifications. Duncan's not sure that the ducting is 12.5 cm; when Wayne from Barclays came, he also inspected it and found no problem with the diameter. He also checked it with recirculation, and the throughput was still inadequate. So basically we're no further.


House defects, the third
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Another Brett along later, this time from Electrolux to look at our Westinghouse gas stove. He said there was nothing wrong with it. I'm increasingly getting the impression that these people are sent out to reject any suggestion of a problem. I pointed out to him that I can adjust the flame much lower than the “minimum” setting by setting the regulator between “maximum” and “off” (the latter on the right):

 
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He fiddled with the adjustment and couldn't get it any lower, then claimed that it was necessary to avoid the flame going out. What bloody nonsense! I had just shown him that it's possible to set it lower. Then I showed him the results of trying to simmer a gravy on those settings:

And he didn't find anything wrong with the first one either.

Finally I showed him the diagrams from the installation instructions (which he didn't bring with him):

 
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“But that's just a drawing”. Of course it's a drawing, you bloody idiot: it's from the black and white installation instruction. But it's intended to show how to adjust the flame size, and he can't just ignore it.

I pointed out that this kind of issue only applies to LPG connections. No, that's not the case, he says. I can't prove him wrong, but if other plumbers tell me that the normal setting for natural gas is at the other end, he can't possibly be right.

All in all, I'm more than a little annoyed by the whole matter. He's clearly trying to block any objections. The trouble with this one is that there are no specifications to point to, with the exception of the diagram above.


Defective appliances: who's responsible?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Last month Evan told me that they didn't feel responsible for defects in the equipment they supplied: that's the manufacturer's problem. I disagree: they recommended the equipment, and they supplied it. Called up CAV and spoke to Heinz, who agreed with me completely. For statistical purposes, he also wanted my post code and the name of the builder. I wonder how JG King rate in the number of complaints.


CAV complaints: the pain
Topic: Stones Road house, technology, opinion Link here

So it's time to file formal complaints about JG King's lack of problem resolution. Went to the CAV “Building disputes, defects and delays” page, where they asked me to fill out a Domestic building complaint—in Microsoft “Word” format! OK, I have a Microsoft box now, so loaded it there. What did I get?

 
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That's what Microsoft does with its own formats! Not only that, but it seems that it then corrupted the file, so I couldn't process it with other programs either. In the end I downloaded it to eureka and processed it with OpenOffice. That's still painful, and for some reason the form insists on mutilating my correct dates: “20 July 2014” gets truncated to “20/07/14”, although the former is the preferred format for use by Australian Government Agencies. But I suppose I should be grateful that the Microsoft space forms didn't reformat it to “07/20/14”.


Bratwurst again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's been nearly a year since we last made Bratwurst: the issues surrounding our move didn't give us much time. But finally we're coming back to normal, and today we made about 4.2 kg of them. We had casings enough for 5 kg, according to the information on the packaging, but in fact the quantity was almost exactly right. We had casings for 1, maybe 2 sausages (out of 59) left over:

 
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One of the problems with our sausage machine is that it leaves a lot of sausage meat over at the end. Today we weighed 260 g, or about 6% of the total. What do we do with it? In the past we've frozen it, and then thawed it out for the next batch. But it doesn't look good. It's grey, where the new sausage meat is pink. It's easy to see which were from the old meat:

 
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Not only is the colour unpleasant, but they don't seem to be as elastic as the new ones. We ate them tonight, and in fact they didn't taste very different, but I think next time we'll do something else with the leftovers.


Friday, 7 August 2015 Dereel Images for 7 August 2015
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How to live with a Borzoi
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Yvonne forwarded me this URL, a readable version of this Microsoft “Word” file, explaining how to live with Borzois. It makes interesting reading; anybody interested in the breed, including those misguided people who think that they're vicious hunting dogs should definitely read it.


More TV reception problems
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Since playing around with the cable connections last month, our TV reception has been quite good, with almost no recoding errors. But today the Al Jazeera news failed catastrophically. I recorded simultaneously it on two different tuners and two different program streams (both from SBS, however). And in each case the recording was perfect for the first 15% or so, and then failed badly. That's not the cables in the living room: some glitch at the transmitter? Or interference to the north-west?


Nasi goreng kimchi or 김치 볶음밥?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

In Malaysia, nasi goreng is a typical way to use up cooked rice. I've spent some time looking through the Wikipedia page, which seems to have been usurped by Indonesian ultranationalists: they have even removed references to the Malay usage. So I looked at the Malay page, which mentions a number of variants, including Nasi goreng kimchi. That's an interesting idea, especially as Kimchi tends to accumulate juices that normally just get thrown away. So I looked further and found:

In the end I faked it. No fried egg, but instead fish:

 
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And how was it? Deathly boring. Of course, I shouldn't have been looking at Indonesian/Malay recipes at all. They're just rip-offs of the real Korean dish Kimchi bokkeumbap (김치 볶음밥). But the original doesn't look much more interesting. So I'll have to look for some other way to use up the leftovers.


Saturday, 8 August 2015 Dereel Images for 8 August 2015
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Pumping out the groundwater
Topic: general Link here

It's August again, and though it's not as wet as last year, the ground water is only about 20 cm below ground level. Today Yvonne bought a pump on special at ALDI, and I tried using that to pump water out of one of the solenoid boxes. It worked well—once. Now things are back to normal:

 
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For some reason, it no longer wants to pump. Yet another priming issue? If this thing needs priming every time it's used, it's useless. At least I can take it back with no questions asked.


Nothing much at length
Topic: general Link here

Apart from that, I didn't do much of interest today: baking bread, tidying up, watching online courses, preparing for dinner. But somehow it's hardly worth mentioning. In the evening, Pene Kirk and Don Larpent over for dinner. And that was the day.


Sunday, 9 August 2015 Dereel Images for 9 August 2015
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Arranging events via Facebook
Topic: animals, general, opinion, technology Link here

Chris Bahlo arranged a seminar on (horse) saddles and saddle fitting for today. Margaret Swan (who lives about 450 km away) is here this weekend, and Nele Kömle also braved the over 100 km from Garvoc to attend. In addition, Chris had advertised on Facebook and had a further 8 registrations from people round here.

Who came? Margaret and Nele. Not a single local person showed up. No apologies, just no show. Is this typical of the Facebook mentality?


Zhivago still under the weather
Topic: animals Link here

Since Pene's visit on Monday, Zhivago seemed to have perked up quite a bit. Came into Yvonne's office this morning to find:

 
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Dogs vomit, and in itself that's not unusual, but the quantity is impressive. But what's in the vomit? It looks like needles from some tree in the garden:

 
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I didn't pay much further attention to him until the afternoon, when we took the dogs for a walk. That's literally what he did: he didn't even break into a trot. On the whole, he was looking very sorry for himself, and we truncated the walk. In the evening he was breathing heavily, and it's clear that something is still seriously wrong. Looks like more vet examinations.


Pump issues understood
Topic: general Link here

Why did my new dirty water pump stop working? On examination, there was a large stone caught in the bottom, and it had managed to pass a smaller stone through to the exit, where it got stuck in the pipe junction. Clearly we'll need a cleaner trench for draining the ground.


Porting again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The current version of Hugin in the FreeBSD Ports Collection is 2013.0.0, two years old. It's always a pain to update the port, because of the dependencies. Tried today and discovered that it didn't like the current version of libpano13. OK, no worries, let's update it.

===>   An older version of png is already installed (png-1.6.17)
       You may wish to ``make deinstall'' and install this port again
       by ``make reinstall'' to upgrade it properly.
       If you really wish to overwrite the old port of png
       without deleting it first, set the variable "FORCE_PKG_REGISTER"
       in your environment or the "make install" command line.

OK, remove the old libpng and replace it with a new one (another new port). Try again:

checking for png_get_io_ptr in -lpng... no
checking if PNG package is complete... no -- some components failed test
configure: error:
        the png library must be installed on your system
        but configure could not find it.

Huh? It's definitely installed. Looking in config.log, I found:

configure:12675: cc -o conftest -O2 -pipe  -fstack-protector -fno-strict-aliasing -I/usr/local/include/gtk-2.0  -I/usr/local/include/glib-2.0  -I/usr/local/include/pango-1.0  -I/usr/local/include/atk-1.0 -I/usr/local/include  -fstack-protector -L/usr/local/lib64 conftest.c -lpng -lz -lm  >>5
/usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lpng

Look at those library paths. Ports libraries are in /usr/local/lib, but it's not looking there. Instead there's this /usr/local/lib64, a Linuxism. One of the patch files for the port fixes that:

--- m4/ax_check_graphics.m4.orig        Wed Jan 17 11:09:58 2007
+++ m4/ax_check_graphics.m4     Wed Jan 17 11:11:53 2007
@@ -44,7 +44,7 @@
   ZLIB_OLD_LDFLAGS=$LDFLAGS
   ZLIB_OLD_CPPFLAGS=$CPPFLAGS
   if test "x$ZLIB_HOME" != 'x' ; then
-    if test "x$HCPU" = 'xamd64' ; then
+    if test "x$HCPU" = 'xamd64' -a "x$HSYS" != 'xfreebsd' ; then
       LDFLAGS="$LDFLAGS -L$ZLIB_HOME/lib64"
     else
       LDFLAGS="$LDFLAGS -L$ZLIB_HOME/lib"

And sure enough, the patch got applied. Why am I still getting lib64? On the face of it, it looks as if HSYS is not set to freebsd. What a pain these configure scripts are! Things don't seem to have improved since “Porting UNIX Software” over 20 years ago.


50 years of Singapore!
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Fifty years ago today Malaysia expelled one of its states, Singapore. It wasn't a happy day. But looking back, it's amazing what a turnaround they managed. Things haven't stood still in the Western world, but Singapore has changed beyond recognition. I'm still filled with admiration for Lee Kuan Yew.


What Grevillea?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

We normally take our dogs down Stones Road toward Enfield State Park. On the way there are a large number of Grevilleas that I think are Grevillea rosmarinifolia.

But there's something puzzling about at least one of the bushes: it flowers much more abundantly than the others. Why? It's right next to another bush, and the difference in the flowers is amazing:

 
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Clearly the second one isn't flowering yet. But why not? It's growing in the same place, the same soil, the same conditions. To be observed.


Dinner at Chris Bahlo's
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

For years Chris Bahlo has been coming to our place on Saturdays for a better-than-usual meal. Now she finally has her own house, and she invited us over for dinner.

The saddle seminar didn't help: it was supposed to finish round midday, but went on until 16:30. At 19:00, the chicken was only just ready to go into the oven:

 
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A chicken normally takes between 50 and 55 minutes per kilogram at 180°, and like most chickens, this one weighed 2.1 kg. Chris is off grid, so she only uses her electric oven in an emergency. Instead, she has a wood stove with an oven underneath it:

 
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It's certainly a lot hotter than 180°. There's an almost illegible thermometer on the door, but that doesn't matter: it suggested that it was too cool, so at best it's an ornament. After 80 minutes, it was done, at least externally:

 
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In the meantime, Margaret, a vegetarian, had cooked an entrée of Coquilles Saint-Jacques with sweet potato purée and truffles:

 
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And by the time we finished that, the chicken had had enough time to rest, and was well and truly cooked. I'd be very interested to find out what the oven temperature was.


Monday, 10 August 2015 Dereel → Bannockburn → Dereel
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More VoIP debugging
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis has a strange problem with his VoIP connection: it works normally for outgoing calls, but incoming calls are rejected. I took a look at his ATA and found nothing wrong. So called up MyNetFone support, who told me that the line wasn't registered. That's clearly wrong, since CJ can call out with it. My guess at this stage is a misconfiguration at the server end, possibly related to the port number: he had been receiving spam calls on port sip (5060), so he had changed to 5061 (ostensibly sip-tls, but without TLS). It's almost exactly a year since he got the service; is that a coincidence? In any case, they're going to have to take a look at his setup themselves, but I can't see what they will be able to find.


Goodbye Zhivago
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Zhivago still didn't look much better this morning. I had to force him to get up and go outside, where he appeared constipated. There was clearly still something wrong, so followed up on Pene's suggestion to have him X-rayed. Down in the afternoon to Golden Plains Vet Practice in Bannockburn, where Kiera Shine examined him. She noted a number of issues: elevated temperature (over 40°), enlarged prostate, and of course his laboured breathing. She took him out for an X-ray and blood tests. Alex Pearce, another of their vets, came back with the results. Not good: much fluid in the lungs, and many tumours larger than the 5mm resolution of the X-ray unit. That certainly explains the coughing.

What to do? We could have given him some painkillers and taken him home, but Kiera was concerned that he wouldn't last the night, and it was clear that he wouldn't survive much longer than that. But putting him down is pretty final, so I gave Pene a call, and she discussed the matter with Kiera. Then she, too, recommended putting him down.

What a shock. He was only 9 years old. Leonid's father Yoshi is four years older than Zhivago. We thought he had some minor infection that could be cured, and that he would have another few years' life in him. But it's clear it had to be done. In retrospect, it's good that he was happy and healthy to within a week of his death. But Yvonne is inconsolable.


Goodbye Lilac
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Lilac is coming on 19 years old, and she has been on regular doses of Meloxicam for her arthritis, and the supplies were running out, so when we went to the vet we took her with us, mainly in case they wanted to look at her. Yes, Kiera wanted to look at her, and was worried about her kidneys—which are frequently endangered by long-term use of Meloxicam. They took a urine sample. SG 1004 instead of more typically 1020 to 1040: kidney failure. No more Meloxicam for Lilac. After her discussion with Kiera, Pene recommended having her put down too.

We still have 2 dogs and a cat, but somehow it seems empty at home.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015 Dereel Images for 11 August 2015
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Another quiet day
Topic: general Link here

Somehow we didn't get much done today. I spent some time bringing the web pages for Lilac and Zhivago up to date, and Yvonne is gradually getting over her loss, but there's a bit of a numb feeling. Life goes on.


Living without Zhivago
Topic: animals Link here

How are our animals handling the loss of Lilac and Zhivago? So far, it seems, quite well. Piccola has been wandering round a bit, but it's not obvious that she's looking for Lilac. In my experience, that will take a few days. And the dogs haven't shown much evidence that they're missing Zhivago—maybe. Yvonne went shopping today, and when she got back, as ever, Nikolai jumped into the back of the car. But first he sniffed the floor of the loading area a lot: that's where the freshest scent of Zhivago is. And earlier I had seen him in the lounge room:

 
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That's a toy “bone” that they chew on. But they normally don't destroy that sort of thing. Frustration?


More VoIP debugging
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A call from Farnaz of MyNetFone this afternoon, wanting to speak to CJ regarding his fault. I explained that he wasn't here, so she wanted his phone number. I explained that his phone didn't accept incoming calls, so she read the ticket (finally) and told me that the reason he couldn't make any calls was because his ATA wasn't registered. I asked her to read the rest of the ticket and note that he can place outgoing phone calls. Finally she agreed to send him email and get him to call them. About the only sensible thing she said was that my suspicion that the change of port from sip to sip-tls was not the cause of the problem. I still suspect a misconfiguration in their network, but it's not clear what.


Pizza in the oven
Topic: food and drink Link here

Our new oven has a “pizza” setting, heat from below and the fan. How do you set it?

"Pizza" is a combination of "Base Heat" and "Fan Bake" and offers you the combined benefits of both functions. Heat comes from the elements surrounding the fans as well as the clean heat element below the oven floor. The "Pizza" function is ideal for foods that require cooking and browning on the base. It is great for foods such as pizzas, quiches, meat pies and fruit pies. Simply place the food in the middle of the oven and set the desired temperature.

And what temperature do I desire? I decided on 220°. Sure enough, it cooked in about 8 minutes. The canonical time is 10 minutes, and other methods have taken up to 25. Things didn't look too bad:

 
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But I got the impression that the heat from below wasn't enough.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015 Dereel → Warrandyte → Dereel Images for 12 August 2015
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Goodbye Ron Frolley
Topic: general, animals Link here

Ron Frolley, the breeder of our Borzois, died last Thursday after a long fight with Pancreatic cancer. Today was his funeral, so we went off to Warrandyte to pay our last respects.

The service started at 11:00. It takes about 2 hours to make the 170 odd km to get there, so we left at 8:40. Just as well, too, since the traffic was particularly bad, and we got stuck behind one truck doing 40 km/h for over 10 km. We were barely there on time.

The chapel was packed: I'd guess that there were 150 people there, and the eulogies were surprisingly interesting. I knew that Ron had had an interesting life, but it seems that we had just seen the tip of the iceberg. They should really publish it.

We skipped most of the subsequent refreshments and went shopping, coming back in plenty of time for the burial itself. That was a sad event; Steve was completely heartbroken. Times will be hard for him in the next few weeks, I fear.

Ron was active until the last. On Sunday last week he showed his bitch Ginger, who won. In the evening, he was taken to hospital for the last time. Coincidentally, this was the time that Zhivago first showed symptoms of his cancer. They'll both be missed. Here a photo taken last month:

 
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They'll be missed.


More car problems
Topic: general Link here

On the way back home, just before leaving the freeway at Ballarat, the car's temperature warning light went on. There was a service station a few hundred metres further on, so in there to check. Looked like loss of coolant, of course, so the first thing was to top up the header tank. It ran straight out the bottom!

Fortunately we weren't too far from town, and we got Chris Bahlo (fortunately in town and able to knock off early for an emergency) to pick us up. While we were waiting, Yvonne discovered a voucher for roadside assistance, including towing for up to 25 km. At the time I thought it wouldn't be much use, but of course now it's exactly what we wanted. Everything went very quickly—they would have been there in 15 minutes—but Chris was there even more quickly, and we didn't want to hold her up, so we left the car there until tomorrow.

Somehow it hasn't been a good week.


Thursday, 13 August 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 August 2015
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Fixing the Commodore
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to sign a form to pick up the Commodore from the service station where we left it last night:

 
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I was really only needed to sign the form. In the process discovered that we had made a good choice of car service people: the Sperbers are the only ones who issue free towing vouchers. At least everything went smoothly.

On the way back, stopped at the nursery near the freeway exit to look mainly for Grevilleas, but in the process discovered an interesting plant, which I had been told was a Leucadendron near the entrance:

 
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Further research shows that it is in fact a Mimetes cucullatus, not even the same genus. Also a couple of interesting Grevilleas, but nothing that really grabbed me:

 
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Stopped in at the car service on the way home. It seems that we were trying to fill the radiator in the wrong place, and we got the overflow instead. There wasn't in fact any burst hose, though we had lost 2 l of coolant. Paul later replaced the filler cap, and tomorrow he'll check if there was any damage.

Going home through Enfield State Park is pretty at this time of year. The Acacias are in flower, and there are a number of red Epacris impressa along the road as well:

 
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I have my doubts as to how natural all this is. Looking into the forest, there are very few flowers. It's almost as if somebody had planted them along the roadside. The only Grevillea bedggoodiana I have ever seen is also along this stretch of road.


German food: theirs and ours
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We bought some German food at Fleischer's in Boronia yesterday, including things that we usually make ourselves. Today we tried the Bratwurst. Theirs are thicker than ours, and also a little pinker, though that may be because we had frozen ours:

 
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In the first photo, a sole Fleischer Bratwurst is at the top, and in the second in the middle. The consistency was different too, presumably because they minced the meat finer. Here a couple of slices:

 
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The Fleischer Bratwurst have much less in the way of spices, and you can taste the difference. But they're not supposed to be an special variety, while we aim for something like the thüringer Roastbratwurst, which is spicier. They're both good, but we prefer ours.

The other great German staple is bread, of course. Here ours (on the left) and theirs:

 
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I note with interest that their bread is less uniform in texture, and in general less aerated. What can't be seen there is that it's also much lighter. I cut two slices of our bread, weighing 62.5 and 67.1 g (why such a difference when it's cut on a slicer?), while the Fleischer slice weighed only 26.8 g. OK, it's smaller, but not that much smaller. Our bread measures 11.5×13.5 cm; approximating to a rectangle that's 155 cm². The Fleischer bread measures 12.3×8.7 cm. Approximating to an ellipse, that's 84 cm². Both slices are 9 mm thick, so the volumes are 140 cm³ and 75 cm³ respectively, and the densities are thus 0.46 g/cm³ and 0.35 g/cm³ respectively. That's a surprising difference.

One reason is presumably the moisture content. We toast our bread, and the Fleischer bread toasts more strongly:

 
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And the taste? Good, but again more neutral than ours. Once again, I think I prefer our own.


JG King: everything is OK
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

A letter from JG King today, saying that there were no problems. The manufacturer's representatives had said so. I've already commented in various places about the manipulation of the truth that they had to perform to come to such an absurd conclusion, but it's looking more and more like legal proceedings, particularly as the tone of the letter suggests lack of good faith.


Friday, 14 August 2015 Dereel Images for 14 August 2015
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Spring on its way?
Topic: gardening Link here

Only two months ago we brought some of our plants over from Kleins Road, notably a Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and a potted lemon. The hibiscus was the worse for the cold. It flowered once and then dropped most of its leaves. But it has made a good recovery, and today the first of the new flowers opened:

 
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The lemon doesn't look as happy. In fact, it seems to have gone downhill over the past couple of months. I wonder if I should repot it.


Relics of a byegone time
Topic: history Link here

While unpacking things, found a plastic bag with bank notes marked „Finnland“:

 
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With the exception of the bottom one, they're all Swedish. Henrik Johansson tells me that the top one (10 SEK) is no longer legal tender. Nor is the 10 markka note at the bottom; it was replaced by the Euro over 13 years ago.

When did I get these notes? With Henrik's help discovered that most of the notes have a clearly recognizable date on them: 1984 for the 10 SEK note, 1986 for the 50 SEK and 10 Markka notes. We decided that the date 1729 on the 100 SEK note was not the date of printing, but the date of Linnaeus' thesis Praeludia Sponsaliorum Plantarum, particularly since there's a mention of Uppsala there too. This note seems not to divulge its age.

The last time I was in Finland before 2002 was round 1990. That was also about the last time I was in Sweden before this date. One way or another, it seems that I have had these notes for 25 years.


Saturday, 15 August 2015 Dereel Images for 15 August 2015
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Garden flowers in late winter
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

In past years I've been amazed at how many flowers in the garden flower towards the end of winter. But that was in Kleins Road, and though the garden in Stones Road has started off well, it's looking a little tired now. The heavy frost last month didn't help: I'm sure that several plants are dead. But we still do have some flowers:

 
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Of course, they're not really garden flowers: they're indoors. Outside, the Azaleas had already been flowering, but they stopped. There are signs that new buds are forming:

 
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The first bulbs planted here are now coming out:

 
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And apart from that, only the Hellebores are showing much sign of flowering:

 
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Unix-based mallet
Topic: technology, history Link here

One of the weirder entries in the BSD calendar files regards yesterday:

Aug 14  First Unix-based mallet created, 1954

We've puzzled about it in the past. The FreeBSD project has a member called Juli Mallett, but she was born over 30 years later, and she doesn't understand the entry either. But Google keeps growing, and finally I found this page, reaped by archive.org, via this page. Finally the mystery has been uncovered, but like so many, the result is less than exciting.


Sunday, 16 August 2015 Dereel Images for 16 August 2015
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Light at sunset
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Sunset here can be pretty:

 
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But there was a problem. The thumbnail doesn't look too bad, but in fact the light was so poor that I ended up making a 1 second exposure, which even the E-M1 can't easily stabilize. The larger versions of the image have clear camera shake.

That was with aperture priority exposure at f/8, so I switched to automatic, and got 1/20 s at f/8. Still not ideal, but sharp enough:

 
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That was taken only 20 s later, but the effect had already faded. I need to keep the camera at hand.


Monday, 17 August 2015 Dereel
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What protocol?
Topic: technology, history Link here

Peter Jeremy is currently messing around with arcane net configurations. I haven't been following carefully, but he mentioned that he is happy that his ISP doesn't block IP protocol 41. That's a leading question, of course. What's protocol 41? Took a look in /etc/protocols and discovered that it's IPV6. OK, why not?

But then something else caught my eye:

# $FreeBSD: src/etc/protocols,v 1.22 2007/05/20 03:55:22 grog Exp $

That's my login. I can't recall ever having done anything with /etc/protocols. OK, we have a date. What did I do on 20 May 2007? My diary entry showed nothing. Is this an artefact of checking out the source tree from CVS? Took a look on stable, a more up-to-date system:

# $FreeBSD: releng/10.0/etc/protocols 250453 2013-05-10 13:57:44Z eadler $

That's Subversion, of course, and no longer directly comparable. But there's still the log, even if the version numbers have changed, and there I found:

r169786 | grog | 2007-05-20 13:55:22 +1000 (Sun, 20 May 2007) | 8 lines

Update /etc/protocols with IANA list updated 2007-02-12

Gotcha:  Number 48 (mhrp) is replaced with dsr.

Submitted by:   edwin
PR:             config/112732

edwin is Edwin Groothuis, also on our IRC channel. Did we discuss it? Peter Jeremy went looking through his logs; I have only been keeping mine since 29 June 2010 (eat your heart out, Facebook users). He found the logs, but no, I didn't discuss anything with Edwin on that day.

OK, there's still the bug report. But that was about LDAP, something that I really have never touched. Yes, Edwin was involved in that too, and my commit message ended up in there, but clearly it was only because I mentioned the number in my commit message. In particular, this was net/112732, not config/112732.

Still more searching brought me to config/112723. How about that, Edwin (at the time not a src committer) entered the PR, and I somehow found it—not via IRC or mail. And I managed to put a typo in the commit message, and subsequently forget that I had ever been near the file. But it goes to show the importance of keeping long-term logs.


Where was this photo taken?
Topic: history Link here

Over 50 years ago I took some photos of Kuala Lumpur, one of which has become particularly popular:


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I recently received the fourth request to use it, from a Lydia who is opening a new cafe in Jalan Pudu, KL.

While researching the photo legacy of the times, I had found some other photos, including this one on Flickr by williewonker:

I had little doubt that it was in Jalan Mountbatten (now Jalan Tun Perak), looking south-east towards Jalan Pudu. Robinsons department store is clearly visible on the left. And behind that were two of my favourite haunts, Eastern Photographers and Williams music shop. And then the bridge.

What bridge? I can't see any bridge there. Instead I see the UOB building with the complicated emblem on top (designed to make it the tallest building in KL at the time; that always seems to have been important in KL). It's a long way from the rest. Looking down Jalan Mountbatten in the other direction, from the top of the IBM building:

 
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The OUB building is to the right, outside the field of view in this photo; it's visible at the right of the panorama above. The only building with this kind of construction on top is another bank, the United Malaysian Banking Corporation, now part of RHB. And that was there at the time. Where is it now? I had thought that williewonker's photo would have been taken from approximately the other end of this view. That's certainly where Robinson's used to be, and the building looks similar. It took me quite a bit of analysis to establish that yes, indeed, the UMBC building is there. The emblem on the roof is just below the UOB emblem, and there's a sign on the side of the building, just before the end of the picture. The green area at the end of the road must be the transition to Jalan Pudu, where even today there's some green.

The perspective becomes clearer with a crop of the panorama, looking from the side:


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Here we have the OUB building on the right, the UMBC building to the left of St. John's Cathedral, just below the radio tower on Bukit Nanas, and much lower. The Masjid Jamek is visible on the left, and williewonker's photo would have been taken from just behind there.

It's amazing how difficult it is to recognize these things.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015 Dereel
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Epigenetics: done!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Today was the last day of the Coursera course “Epigenetic Control of Gene Expression. It's been a tough course, but very interesting for a number of reasons: it's held at the Melbourne University (in the institute where Chris Bahlo's sister Melanie works), and it addresses an area that is still relatively unknown, and it's well presented (though I get the feeling that the course materials are a year old, an eternity in this discipline). But it's been keeping me busy enough that I think I'll give Coursera a rest for a while.


Exploring Haydn's symphonies
Topic: music Link here

How many symphonies did Haydn write? I had to look it up: 41 or 43, depending where you look, though it's not clear if that includes KV 444.

This evening we were listening to Radio Swiss Classic, which we're doing increasingly frequently. It has an interesting choice of less well known music. This evening there was a bassoon concerto that I had never heard before. Took a look at the ICY information:

ICY Info: StreamTitle='Michael Haydn - Sinfonie Nr.14 B-Dur';

Huh? That's a concerto, not a symphony. What does Wikipedia say? No mention of solo bassoon. Just the movements:

Allegro molto
Adagio mà non troppo
Menuetto e Trio, both in E-flat major

More investigation in the Naxos music library (available for free via the State Library of Victoria) shows a different picture:

Symphony No. 14 in B-Flat Major, P. 52          00:14:00
        5.  »  I. Allegro molto                 00:05:37
        6.  »  II. Concertino per il Fagotto    00:05:45
        7.  »  III. Menuet                      00:02:38

Is that just this version, or is the Wikipedia page inaccurate? It would be nice to find another version, but Naxos only has this one (presumably not coincidentally, the same one we heard on the radio). In the meantime,this one is very pretty.

As if that wasn't enough, the next piece on the radio was also for bassoon:

ICY Info: StreamTitle='Johann Ludwig Böhner - Introduktion und Variationen op. 27 für Fagott und Orchester'

Unfortunately, the Naxos music library has nothing at all by Böhner, though it manages a few false positives based, apparently, on the name „Ludwig“. I wonder how much more interesting music is waiting to be discovered.


Taming Kookaburras
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

We have a Kookaburra that seems to think we have invaded its territory:

 
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Yvonne has been wondering how to tame them. Today a couple of her friends, Karen and Joan, came to visit her. They're German Shepherd Dog owners, and that's where Yvonne met them, but they decided against bringing their dogs with them. Not all dogs are as docile as our vicious hunting dogs.

Yvonne mentioned taming kookaburras to Karen, who told her that she had done it, and it's easy. I can see some interesting photos coming up.


Drawing arrows
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday's photos really need markup with arrows pointing to the features I mention in the text. But how do I get them there? My standard processing software is DxO Optics “Pro”, but that's not designed for that sort of thing. And most of the other photo software I've tried is either incredibly complex, incredibly expensive, or difficult to use. Did some googling and found this article relating to GIMP using this plugin. Score one each for incredibly complex and difficult to use, but then, it is GIMP. Score one also for “don't work for me”.

On looking at alternatives, including serif (“This web page is not available The connection to www.serif.com was interrupted.”) and inkscape (a YouTube video showing nothing much). inkscape had the irritating habit of shrinking the image and talking about DPIs, as if that had anything to do with digital images. After messing around for a while, Peter Jeremy pointed me at XPaint, which was at least easier to use, though clearly I'll have to spend some time to become more familiar with it.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Health test results
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to hear the results of the blood test and abdominal ultrasound scan I had done two months ago. It took me the best part of 5 minutes just to register, and based on my last appointment, I was expecting at least half an hour wait before I was seen. But no, I had barely sat down in the waiting room when I was called, and taken right in to see Dr. Turner (last time I had to wait again in a different corridor).

The results? Nothing interesting. Fat deposits in the liver, but not serious enough to make an impression on the blood test results. So the usual: more exercise, less alcohol, less sugar, lose a bit of weight. And I was out 30 seconds before my appointment was due at 12:00. I think that was the clue: as Dr. Turner said, “now we can get some lunch”.


Pentax 110 cameras?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I'm in the process of typing in my diaries from 50 years ago, something that presumably interests nobody but myself. Today I did 13 October 1966 and 14 October 1966, and came across this entry:

Then over to Stoneleigh, and got the shock of my life in Yel's BJ: two new Pentaxes, a 110 model and “Metalica”, both with electronic shutter, and bayonet mount!

I have no recollection whatsoever of this event, and had to go researching on the web to compare things. Yes, there was a Metallica II prototype shown at Photokina that year. But it was only a prototype, and it never went into production. It apparently looked like this, just about the same as the Spotmatic:

The 110 model is a mystery. Pentax did manufacture the Pentax Auto 110, but not for another 12 years. And of course, how did a schoolboy in England come to be in possession of either camera?

The explanation came the following day.


Thursday, 20 August 2015 Dereel Images for 20 August 2015
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Understanding historical cameras
Topic: photography, history, opinion Link here

Yesterday's discovery of a mention of a Asahi Pentax 110 camera in my diary of 13 October 1966 continued to intrigue me. I really couldn't find any mention of it anywhere. Yes, there's a mention of a “Metallica II” prototype, though the photo shows that my spelling “Metalica” was correct, and there's no mention of the suffix II either. But where was the 110? Aren't the magazines of the day on line? No, it seems not.

The other question that puzzled me was the abbreviation “BJ”. What does that mean? I wrote:

Then over to Stoneleigh, and got the shock of my life in Yel's BJ

We normally used the word “scob” to refer to where we kept things. Chaun (“Yel”) had a study place in Stoneleigh, but his scob would have been in the common room, several hundred metres away. I used that same study room in the previous term, but I can't recall what storage we had, let alone what we called it.

Then I wondered if it might be the name of a magazine. Bingo! It's the British Journal of Photography. That clarifies the most confusing thing: Chaun didn't in fact have the cameras himself, it was just a magazine article. OK, where can I find it? The BJ doesn't have old issues on line (why not?). And Google and friends found the Metalica, but not the 110 camera.

What about libraries? Tried the National Library of Australia, but as the name implies, it tends to concentrate on Australian documents. Then to the State Library of Victoria, where I found various search tools, including free access to ProQuest. And sure enough, with some frobbing of the sub-optimal search tools, found the issue in question, dated October 14, 1966 (a day after I read it), on pages 911 and 912.

... the Metalica has a through the lens automatic exposure meter cross coupled to the focal plane shutter. In this camera, Asahi have finally decided to take the step of going over to the bayonet type mount, although all existing lenses for their 35 mm cameras will fit via a screw adaptor [sic].

The shutter runs vertically, and is transistor controlled. The user has the choice of auto or manual use. When set to auto, the shutter speed which is automatically determined shows up in the viewfinder. On the manual setting, the exposure meter needle can be read and the user's own choice made and set. ... The electronically controlled shutter enables the rated shutter speed to be maintained through the working life of the camera, and the linear relationship across the scale enables precise shutter speed intermediate settings to be given. ... The specimen handled by the writer seemed very close to a production model, with all details and engravings present, so that it may not be long before this interesting camera is available.

So this the camera had optional aperture priority automatic exposure and electronically controlled shutter speeds. I had forgotten how the speeds of the old mechanical shutters could drift. But the review proved wrong in one point: the first production Pentax camera with all these features was the K2 in 1975, nearly 10 years later, though it's not clear that even this camera had the advanced shutter of the Metalica.

And the mysterious 110 camera? A figment of my abominable handwriting. It was 120, not 110! The camera in question was a prototype of the Pentax 6×7. What a let-down!


Kuala Lumpur 50 years ago
Topic: history, opinion Link here

This panorama I made of Kuala Lumpur from photos taken in September 1964 has been very popular:


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The latest person interested in using it is the Tedboy Bakery Cafe, who are opening a new outlet in Jalan Pudu, opposite the Pudu Sentral bus staion.

Where's that? My mother used to have an office in Jalan Pudo in the late 1960s. I only went there once or twice, and have only a vague recollection where it is; about the only detail I recall is that the site next to the building was not built up.

Lydia tells me that there used to be a Shell petrol station on that site. By chance I found an old and very poor map of KL, dating to December 1964 and published by Shell, and thus illustrating the location of the Shell stations at the time:

 
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The thick line through the middle of the detail is Jalan Pudu, and the second Shell station from the left is the one that Lydia meant. And I'm pretty sure that's exactly where my mother's office was.

In passing, the map has another function: it shows the old British names of the streets, before they were changed to Malay names. Where's Jalan Mountbatten now? It's Jalan Tun Perak. Where's Jalan Campbell? It's Jalan Dang Wangi. Jalan Weld? Now Jalan Raja Chulan. It's really difficult to establish where many of the streets are that I mentioned in my diaries of the 1960s.


KL history: breaching copyright
Topic: history, photography, opinion Link here

Of course, my map of Kuala Lumpur isn't the only one. Went looking on the web and found surprisingly few. In the end, did a Google search for kuala lumpur photos 1960s, which brought back a surprising number of photos, many of which looked very familiar:

 
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I suppose there are only so many ways you can take photos of landmarks, but I went to compare with my own. Sure enough, of the 14 photos in that extract, 5 are mine. No acknowledgement. No query in advance. I have copyright conditions that allow that—for a fee of $10,000 per image. And it's not just one breach. The photos in this selection are on the web sites lowyat.net, vintag.es (this one almost only my photos), ehoza.com, anakwilayah.wordpress.com and even Flickr. This last comes up with something like an attribution:

 
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What to do? That's $50,000 waiting for me, if I can claim it. But it looks as if the people who posted the images are just normal people, not making money out of it.


View from lounge room
Topic: animals, general Link here
 
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More TV reception errors
Topic: multimedia Link here

TV reception has been acceptable for the past couple of weeks, but today it got bad again. Not coincidentally, I suspect, it was very windy. But why should that cause poor reception?


Friday, 21 August 2015 Dereel Images for 21 August 2015
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40 years of uncontrolled growth
Topic: general, music Link here

As a hoarder, I have all sorts of old things that I don't use, going back over 55 years. Today I found an old bass recorder that I got in 1960 or 1961, and which I managed to damage beyond repair the day that I got it:


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It was made in Germany and shipped to Malaya, where the humidity caused the cork joint to swell to the point that just forcing the top joint onto the middle joint caused it to split. The white marks on the surface are candle wax that I used to attempt to seal the split. I was never able to use the instrument properly, but I still have it.

Others are useful, and in particular I have a number of old clothes going back nearly that far. Last week was Ron Frolley's funeral, so I dragged out my old funeral suit. Times have changed:

 
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When did I buy that suit? It must have been the best part of 40 years ago, when two of my wife Doris' uncles died. It would be certainly well over 35 years ago. Have I really got that much fatter in that time? I ended up wearing another suit that I had bought in 1990, which still fits me, so the bloat must have taken place in the 1980s.

It was a pretty nasty suit anyway. Apart from the cheap cloth, it had bell-bottoms reminiscent of the 1960s:

 
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The Salvos will get it, if they want it. Who would wear that nowadays?


Saturday, 22 August 2015 Dereel Images for 22 August 2015
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1970s personal computers
Topic: technology, history Link here

Unpacking the removal cartons in the “music room” (or should we call it “library”?) is progressing, and in the process I keep finding old stuff. Today there was a collection of old computer boards representing most of my first three computers.

I must have got the first machine some time in April 1977. It was made by Kontron and designated “kit”. It was a 4 MHz Z-80 based single board computer with 256 bytes each of RAM and ROM, and also serial and parallel interfaces, all on a “Eurocard” board 10×16 cm in size:

 
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The CPU and ROM are missing on this board. The parallel port was a Z80 PIO, a chip I came to hate. I seem to remember something about no status registers. If an interrupt came and you didn't handle it immediately, there was no way to know that it had ever happened.

This board shows a number of hacks I made. The transistor next to the 8251 was, I think, to convert from RS-232 to the 20 mA current loop that Tandem terminals used. The DIN connector was to connect a tape cassette recorder, which I still have and may photograph some time.

All in all, for the day it was a surprisingly compact system. But the problems outweighed the advantages. The ROM monitor was so buggy that it was just about useless. I patched it, but there's not much you can do in 256 bytes without the ability to re-assemble the code. And clearly it needed more memory. The backplane had provision for 5 cards, so that was possible, and I designed and built both RAM and ROM boards with wire-wrap technology:

 
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This shows how far I got: 1 kB memory, though the board was laid out for another 3 banks, so I could have had a whopping 4 kB.

The ROM card was similarly never completed:

 
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I suspect that the sockets are for 2702 PROMs, 512 bytes each.

I didn't use this machine much: it was far too limited, and the proprietary bus meant that I couldn't buy extension boards except from Kontron. In contrast to the kit, the other boards were very expensive. On the other hand, in the USA they were building relatively cheap systems based on the S-100 not-quite-standard, so the next two machines were S-100 based. The photos are there, but I'll describe them later.


Chinese prawns?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Chinese food this evening, and we decided that we needed a prawn dish. How do you cook prawns? All the recipes I know fry them, frequently very short deep frying. But that requires precise timing, and I'm not sure that it's optimal. Today I tried sous vide instead, cooking them at 43°.

Success! The prawns tasted cooked, but juicy and not hard. Used them to make a fake chile prawn recipe.


Drunken prawns
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While researching the prawn recipe above, I came across this recipe. I don't see us making it in the foreseeable future.


Teaching Fyodor manners
Topic: animals Link here

Somehow we need to teach Chris Bahlo's dog Fyodor how to behave. They came along this evening, Chris for dinner, and Fyodor, it seems, to mark his territory. That's the third time he's done that. We need to find a way to stop him.


Sunday, 23 August 2015 Dereel Images for 23 August 2015
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Don't invent email addresses!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

A few years back I had a rather interesting exchange of views with Mark Teel, the author of the wview weather station software. It was remarkable enough that I published the mail exchange.

Of course, I changed the email addresses. Mine is easy: groggyhimself@lemis.com, which also serves as a honeypot. But I changed his to a fictive gmail address.

Bad idea. It wasn't that fictive after all, and the real owner contacted me today, justifiably complaining about the fact that he was made to look like an idiot, but also that he was getting spammed as a result. Why did I do that? In any case, my new fake email address is notarealaddress@example.com. My apologies to the fake Mark Teel.


Old computers: Number 2
Topic: technology, history Link here

As I mentioned yesterday, it proved impractical to expand my Kontron kit computer, I only had 1.25 kB of memory, and expanding it would have been really expensive. Then I saw an advertisement in Byte: 32 kB of memory on four boards for only $790! The problem was that it was for the S-100 bus. But that was so much cheaper that I decided to migrate. It wasn't all progress: in those days the S-100 bus was so flaky that it was difficult to run a Z80 faster than 2 MHz—and that where my Kontron CPU managed 4 MHz! But in the course of time I built up a reasonable system. Here's the motherboard:

 
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The CPU was from SD Systems:

 
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Here's one of the RAM boards that started the ball rolling:

 
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This was the first of two S-100 machines, and today it's difficult to be sure which boards I used in which machine, but I think the following is relatively accurate. I bought four 8" floppy disk drives. Here's the controller:

 
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The 32 kB memory left space for a ROM monitor, which I implemented with this board—I think:

 
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I bought a half-populated I/O board and put two USARTs on it:

 
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The pre-populated chips appear to be bus interface logic and a couple of primitive parallel ports. The mess of resistors and transistors on the cable connector are almost certainly a 20 mA current loop adapter.

I also built a ”console“ for the machine, in the days when that meant a set of switches and LED display:

 
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The switches were on a calculator keyboard that connected to the orange DIP connector at bottom right. The 16 LED display was the address bus, and the 8 LED display the data bus. I had switches that allowed stepping single cycle and single instruction executions.

The 32 kB of memory only half filled the address space. I ultimately increased this, though it's no longer clear by how much, nor with which board. I needed to leave space somewhere for a boot PROM. One candidate could be this board, but even when fully populated it would only have offered 8 kB:

 
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But the other boards I built had more than 32 kB, so they were probably for the next machine. I have some recollection of a dynamic memory board by SD Sales, which I don't see here. If my memory serves me, I bought it in the hope that its would work with the SD Sales CPU board, but I think a considerable amount of the patch wiring on the CPU board was to get the timing right.

This board may have been a replacement for the previous ROM board, with the added advantage of a PROM burner, though I'm not sure I ever got that to work. The PROMs are 2708s, 1 kB each, so this board needed a 4 kB hole in the address space.

 
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The next one puzzles me. Clearly it's an I/O board, but I already had one. It has two 8251A USARTs, 2 8255 parallel port chips (a total of 48 bits of I/O; where are the connectors?) and an 8253 timer chip. Did I ever use it?

 
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Starter F: lost the vital spark
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've had two near-failures with my sourdough rye bread over the last few months, on 4 June and 11 July. The next failure was thus predestined for 18 August, but it wasn't until yesterday that I started a new loaf.

Why should this happen at regular intervals? Superstition? Superstition defines superstition as beliefs that explicitly contradict natural science. I don't like that definition. The Oxford English Dictionary has many more, including superfluity and excessive scrupulousness, but it seems that it, too, roots superstition in religion. I think this is too short-sighted a view: for me, superstition is based in attempts to explain things you don't understand. It's not until a real, contradictory explanation comes along that it can be proven wrong.

Today's expectation has a rational explanation: I bake bread about every 12 days, and I have three different starter strains that I use in rotation, so every 36 days or so I repeat the starter strain. On 4 June I used starter F13 and created starter F14 with it. On 11 July I used starter F14 and created F15 with it. And today I used F15.

Why use a suspect starter? I wasn't sure that it was the starter: in each case I had tried to force the bread to rise faster than normal, because I had something to do in town. Today I didn't, so I tried it normally. As a precaution I mixed the loaf very early, and it was in the oven to rise by 9:35. And it needed the time: after 9 hours it had barely risen enough to be acceptable. So there's definitely something wrong with strain F. I won't use it any more.

Looking back at my records, it seems that I started strain F on 2 February 2014, from strain B and after the untimely demise of strain F (which only made 3 iterations). Strain B is now also defunct: it seems that starter B16, created on 15 March 2014, didn't make it.

Most of the dead starters were spectacularly dead: mouldy or otherwise useless. This is the first time I've had one that has Just Slowed Down.


Not so fast food
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We cook almost everything from scratch, a far cry from today's fast food. In fact, so far that there's a middle way: buy food at least partially prepared and finish it at home. We're trying some of that in the hope of finding something worthwhile—pies sound like a good choice, for example.

Last week Yvonne bought some Arancini:

 
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We ate them this evening. They claimed to be filled with “Bolognese sauce”. But what's in them?

 
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There's some slimy stuff in there, some of which might once have been meat, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with ragù bolognese. It was barely edible.


Monday, 24 August 2015 Dereel Images for 24 August 2015
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Old computers, the third
Topic: technology, history Link here

I built my third computer in 1980. It was also an S-100 bus machine, this time with an Intel 8086 processor. This was very much cutting-edge technology at the time, and there wasn't even an operating system for it. For whatever reason, Gary Kildall of Digital Research wasn't overly keen on releasing CP/M-86, and so the offer I had, from a small company called Seattle Computer Products, was a two board set with their own operating system called 86-DOS.

I was a little dubious about that, and some time round October 1980 I called the company and spoke with Tim Paterson. He told me that he had absolute confidence that 86-DOS would survive. “We have an order from a really big company. If I told you how big, you'd know who it was”. The company was IBM, of course, and 86-DOS developed into PC-DOS and MS-DOS. But that wasn't announced until nearly a year later, and when it was, it was just an 8088 running at 4.77 MHz, no comparison with my 8 MHz 8086.

Here's the CPU board:

 
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And this is the CPU support board:

 
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This board contains an 8251 USART and some parallel port that I don't recognize—presumably performed by the SSI chips at right centre. The AM9513 is apparently a timer chip, and there are two Intel 8259A interrupt controller chips, suggesting more than 8 interrupt levels. There's also a (boot?) ROM. What's missing is the floppy controller. It seems that I now only have one controller board; maybe I swapped it from machine to machine as I used them. I would certainly have done that with the terminal. Here's the Delta floppy controller again:

 
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I used at least two of these memory boards on the machine:

 
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This is a 256 kB board, populated with 128 kB.

 
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This appears to be a 32 kB board, so it may belong to the Z80 machine. Some of the chips have found use elsewhere, but it's interesting to note that it appears to have a parity bit.

 
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This one is a 64 kB board.

I'm not sure which of these I used. They were all based on a the Intel 8202 dynamic RAM controller chip, which had the interesting feature of not being fast enough for the chips. I had untold grief getting the thing to work.


Completing the irrigation
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Craig Mayor around again this afternoon after spending the morning doing some tidy-up stuff in Kleins Road. Finally we have the high-pressure side of the bore finished.

Well, that's what we thought. Everything Craig did was OK, but we had a late greeting from Brett Chiltern:

 
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The water was coming from where Brett and his mate Craig (not Mayor) went through the underground piping not once, but twice. Here's what happened on 6 May:

 
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And 3 weeks later they did it again!

 

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On the second occasion, it looked as if the bore water pipe was undamaged:

 
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But we weren't in a position to confirm that until today. Now how do I get hold of Brett? I've already tried dozens of time to call him on 0403 510 843 about the failed paint job in the troughs, but I think he recognizes my phone number. I wonder if he would answer if somebody else called him to tell him about the problem.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015 Dereel Images for 25 August 2015
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Contacting Brett
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Brett Chiltern has never been an easy bloke to contact, but now it's proving completely impossible. Yesterday evening my last attempt went straight to “voicemail” (a stupid voice non-recognition system that turns my message into an unintelligible SMS message), so he was either using the phone, or, more likely, had turned it off.

Either way, even if I was really unlucky in getting hold of him, he should have a whole list of call attempts that should alert him to the fact that somebody's trying hard to get hold of him. What do I do now?


NBN charter and reality
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A surprising number of people in Dereel can't get NBN access. Some, like Stewart Summersby, are in a dip and have no adequate visibility (“line of sight”) to the tower. But it seems that a large proportion of the problems are due to trees, which are up to 25 m high.

But wait. Before building the tower, people came out here and took a look. They saw the trees. They saw the lie of the land. And they decided on a location for the tower, along with a coverage map, which currently looks like this:

 
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The map keeps changing, and is wildly inaccurate, as I've commented in the past, but the updates don't show the reality of the areas with demonstrated lack of coverage. The map can't even show the location of the tower correctly:

 
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The real location is about 300 m north west, on the other side of the road junction.

I get good coverage, but one of the people who doesn't is 260 metres north of us, also on Stones Road, roughly where the bullseye of the red mark is. Why can't they get it? They have trees round the house. But I'm pretty sure that they would get good reception from the corner of their property, the corner with Progress Road: the only trees between there and the tower are the same ones that we have to contend with. Unfortunately, the installation crews are only instructed to install on top of a building.

I spent some time looking at the NBN Statement of Corporate Intent. It contains:

Mission Statement

To facilitate the Government's objectives, NBN Co will roll out the NBN to all Australian premises using a combination of technologies.

OK, that includes satellite. It's quite possible that our neighbour really does have NBN satellite. But why? The cost of installing a satellite dish is comparable to the cost of installing a mast. The prices to the consumer are the same (for a 12 Mb/1 Mb link), but the operating costs are incomparably higher. And there's still the issue of latency, which makes even a reliable satellite connection the worst choice by a long way.

Is that what they want? Not according to the Statement of expectation:

The Australian Government is committed to completing the National Broadband Network and ensuring all Australians have access to very fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices, and at least cost to taxpayers.

Before anybody says that the new government has changed all that: no, this letter was signed by Malcolm Turnbull and Mathias Cormann. So why aren't they even thinking about the fringe cases that evidently didn't get adequately addressed when setting up the Dereel tower?


Wednesday, 26 August 2015 Dereel
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Time for a change in direction
Topic: history, opinion Link here

I've been following up on a lot of old stuff lately. The most interesting for most people—and then not overly—would have been my computer stuff of 35 years ago, but I've also been completing entering my 1966 diary. It's been instructive: on the one hand, I recognize myself as I am today, but on the other hand it's clear how many stupid things I did at the time. I don't think I'd want to be that age again.

And somehow that's enough. I should be doing something now. What? I've finished my epigenetics course, getting a surprisingly good grade. It seems that out of the 15,000 people who started, only 110 finished the final (necessary) assignment, and I came out pretty much at the top of the list. It doesn't have any significance except for personal satisfaction, but that's enough. And that's also enough Coursera courses for the moment.

So what do I do? Back to gardening? Music? Just (shudder) tidy up the house? For the moment I have a book review to do (The practice of cloud system administration) for FreeBSD Journal, but that's as good as submitted. Somehow I'm at a loose end, a term I used a lot in 1966.


Thursday, 27 August 2015 Dereel Images for 27 August 2015
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Let's go!
Topic: animals Link here

Nikolai loves cars. Any time we open the tailgate of the car, he jumps in:

 
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Where does he want to go? It doesn't seem to be important. Today he stayed in there for 3 hours before coming out again. Steve Zuideveld tells me that Yoshi, his father, does the same thing.


Refugee crisis
Topic: history, opinion Link here

It's horrifying to see how many refugees there are out of the Middle East this year, and how they're being treated. At Gevgelija the Macedonians tried to turn them back. I've been there, done that, but, like the refugees, finally made it to Hungary.

But how serious is the flood of refugees? It seems that it's nothing compared to what happened to Germans after the Second World War, up to 14 million of them. I suppose just about everybody knew a refugee in the post-war period. One of them was my father-in-law. Another (from a later flight) is my wife. But they all got treated far more humanely than the current wave, despite the extreme hardships of the time. Shame on the Australian Government in particular for their inhumane handling of refugees.


Friday, 28 August 2015 Dereel → Warrandyte → Dereel Images for 28 August 2015
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Yet another new dog!
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

It's been only two weeks since Zhivago died, and already Yvonne has found a replacement.

Replacement? The idea was to only have two dogs, and we had only increased to three because we wanted two dogs of roughly the same age when Zhivago died. Now he's dead, and we had the dogs.

But there's more. Ron Frolley, the breeder, is also dead, and this was his last litter. No more Zolotos, as far as we can see. The puppy we were offered was really the very last to be had. So in the end I agreed, and we headed off to Warrandyte, the third time in five weeks, to pick up Zoloto Pitch Black, whom we will call Sasha or Alexandr.

We didn't stay long—Yvonne had an idea of getting back home for lunch. Back home, I had intended to get some video of him meeting the other two vicious hunting dogs. The first video was bearable:

Then I went round the back and let Nikolai and Leonid out. They were jumping for joy to see me again, of course, and then it started pouring with rain. So instead of letting them sniff each other across the fence, I let them in together. Bad idea. Sasha was terrified, and ran off screaming his head off. The other two quickly lost interest, but the harm was done:

Then we got them inside and let Sasha calm down a bit:

 
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Things even went relatively well with Piccola:

 
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By mid-afternoon we were able to take him for a walk on a lead for the first time in his life:

 
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And by the evening they were lying together in the TV room:

 
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Now we just need to teach him the things he needs to know.


Artificial insemination and twisted pedigrees
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

Sasha was bred by artificial insemination using sperm from Grand Champion Leicro's Russian Zoloto Zima, knows as Zed. Zed was the grandfather of Nikolai and Leonid. So, despite the age difference, Sasha is their uncle.

On the other hand, Sasha's dam is Zoloto Vasilia the Beautiful, Niko's litter sister, and Leo's sister. So looking at it from that perspective, he's their nephew.

Aren't pedigrees fun?


More GPS navigator fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

How do you get from Dereel to Warrandyte? Let me count the ways. Warrandyte is on the other side of Melbourne from Dereel, and we have the choice of fighting our way through the west of the city (thanks, State Government, for spending hundreds of millions of dollars to cancel the freeway extension that would have made it bearable), or drive round to the north-east end of the ring road and then fight our way across country for another excruciating 20 km from Watsonia North to Warrandyte.

Today we travelled via Watsonia North with two different GPS navigators, each of which wanted to go a different way once we left the freeway. I took the advice of the new one on the way there, though at one point the old one suggested avoiding the narrow, curving road where we got stuck behind a truck last time. How about that, the road it suggested was wide and straight. How could the new navigator make such a ridiculous mistake when I asked for the fastest route?

So on the way back we took the advice of the old navigator. No overview, of course, no idea in which direction we were going. It wasn't until we were nearly at the Eastern Freeway that we realized it was taking us through the middle of town. And by then it was too late.

The only interesting thing about the matter, apart from the fact that there was little difference in time, was that the new navigator wanted to turn off in some inappropriate direction at least 10 times. Is this an issue with the maps? More investigation required, but somehow GPS navigators are still not what they should be.


Saturday, 29 August 2015 Dereel Images for 29 August 2015
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GPS navigators: violation of POLA
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been over five years since I bought my first GPS navigator. Since then I have bought two more, not counting the Android tablet that can also run GPS navigation apps. After that time, I still have serious issues with them.

What do I want from a navigator? Here's a start:

  1. At the very least, I need a substitute for paper maps, for whatever purpose I want to use them.
  2. I want to be able to plan trips. Start here, go there.
  3. When I'm on the road, I want it to tell me where I am and where I'm going.
  4. The navigator should calculate the optimum route. What's optimum? A good map (look at the old Michelin maps for an example) will give you an idea of the road conditions and restrictions such as tolls.
  5. Getting beyond the paper map paradigm, there are lots of things that navigators can do that paper can't. The obvious one is current road conditions. For that you need some online functionality.
  6. It should be easy to use when driving, meaning a minimum of interaction on the part of the driver. I find that the best display shows the next 2 or 3 km on the freeway, or several hundred metres on slower roads. But it should be easy to get an overview of other views, like an overview map or a summary of parameters such as distance to go and ETA.
  7. There are many others, of course, like speed cameras and amenities along the road.

And how do they perform? At the moment I have maps, three navigators, Google Maps and my Android tablet. The 3 navigators all run various versions of software by NNG (formerly Nav N Go; clearly they have tired of the name too). I started with that, and after my ALDI navigator died, I compared it with big commercial names, I found that it had features that the big names didn't. So I bought another with effectively the same software (the oldest of the three under discussion). It's now four years old, the battery is dying, and the maps are out of date. Buy new maps? Why? They're more expensive than the navigator. So I bought a new one, running iGo primo. What version? No idea. They have changed all the menus, and there's no obvious way of finding it. In general, I'm not very happy with it; it seems to be a step backwards.

So when ALDI had a new one on special, it seemed worth trying. It also runs NNG software, but this time it's Go Cruise 11.4.06. And all the menus are different again! In particular, I can't find most of the menus that the first navigator has. It appears that each successive iteration scrambles the menus and throws some of them away, rather like musical chairs, a clear violation of POLA. They've managed to make the thing completely useless for me. Have they been bought out by a big name and forced to make themselves uncompetitive?

  1. Substitute for paper maps: this works, up to a point, with some of the navigators. The oldest of my three can show an arbitrary map, but only with menu:

     
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    Maybe it's possible to show this same map without the menu, but I haven't found out how yet. Its successor can do it, sort of:

     
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    That's a different scale, though I entered the same search criterion (“Ballarat”. To get something similar with the first navigator, I need to press “+” about 20 times, and then I get:

     
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    The third navigator has a smaller screen, and shows:

     
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    The first two have a display size of 800×480. Reducing the display of Google Maps to those dimensions still gives a better map:

     
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    Arguably the last two are too fine for use in a car. But why not have something like this as an alternative? As it is, the navigators aren't very useful for planning purposes.

    Android devices should be even better. My tablet has a resolution of 1280×800, 2⅔ the resolution of the navigators. Here's a similar view using MapFactor:

     
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    That's actually not too bad. The problem here is that it uses Open StreetMap, and round here the coverage is vestigial. I'm used to map applications not finding my new address in Stones Road, but these maps don't know Stones Road at all, nor most of the other streets in Dereel:

     
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    In the end I had to choose the main Colac-Ballarat Road and give it a choice of two crossroads: either the Dereel-Mount Mercer Road (several kilometres from Dereel), or itself!

     
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    Still, MapFactor comes with a choice of TomTom maps, and maybe that would be better.

  2. Planning trips. The current breed of GPS navigators are very bad at this. Very few will allow you to set a start anywhere except where you are. If you're inside the house the night before, you probably don't have a GPS signal. What do most navigators do? Refuse to plan at all, because they don't know where they are. My old navigator allows me to set a start address as well, and so does MapFactor. Then you get an overview like this:

     
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    At that scale, about the only thing I can see is that both want to take me through the middle of Melbourne. At least the MapFactor map can be stretched, and potentially that would make it useful.

  3. When you're on the road, they should give you a good feeling of where you are. But newer navigators don't even show the direction you're travelling in. The result is that you don't really know where you are. Just trust the navigator! That's how we ended up coming back the wrong way yesterday. The oldest navigator at least has the option to display the direction, as does MapFactor. But it would be nice to have a one-touch option to display the route and where you are on it.

  4. Which route should I take? All of them allow the choice between fast and short, and some also offer “easy” and “economical”. But how accurate are they? Yesterday's trip round Melbourne showed wildly different ideas of what constitutes “fast”, and they can't all be blamed on the maps. Without understanding the algorithms, it's difficult to decide what the problem is. But in the past I've repeatedly found routes so suboptimal that they could only be blamed on software bugs. Whatever it is, this kind of navigation “aid” is not worthy of the name.

  5. Current road conditions: none of my navigators has online functionality, so I can't address this one.

  6. Easy to use when driving: None of them. The oldest navigator is probably the easiest, but that's maybe only because I know it best. The Android offerings seem particularly poor in this respect.

Gradually I'm seeing a trend. Five years ago GPS navigators weren't new—I had seen one in action in July 2000—but I got the feeling that they still needed to mature. Yes, they've changed—for the worse. Why? Lack of documentation, perhaps? People don't use the more complicated functions because they don't know about them? And if nobody uses them, why maintain them? In any case, after 5 years I'm no closer to finding an ideal navigation solution.


Acclimatizing Sasha
Topic: animals Link here

Sasha is gradually getting used to living here. This evening Margaret Swan came along with Chris Bahlo for dinner, and we got a few photos:

 
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Sunday, 30 August 2015 Dereel Images for 30 August 2015
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Hibiscus in bloom
Topic: gardening Link here

I've had my Hibiscus rosa-sinensis for nearly 7 years, and it has had its ups and downs. The Wikipedia page claims that Hibiscus don't tolerate temperatures below 10°, but that's clearly nonsense: this one is a cutting of a bush outside my uncle's house in Camberwell, where it's subjected to near-0 temperatures every winter. And this one has had its share of such temperatures, most recently three months ago, after which it shed most of its leaves. But being inside has changed all that, and now it's flowering more heavily than I've ever seen:

 
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Unfortunately the lemon tree I brought here at the same time has not fared as well. It may not survive.


More thought on vicious hunting dogs
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

In the past we had some misguided neighbours, coincidentally owners and breeders of hunting dogs, who consider our dogs to be “vicious hunting dogs”. Apart from the fact that it's completely ridiculous in the case of our dogs (but not one of theirs), the question arises: are hunting dogs typically vicious? Chris Bahlo observes that her Borzoi is the only one of the three which is gentle. The other two are Maremma sheep dogs, and they could be vicious with strangers—or indeed with each other.

And then there are others, like German Shepherd Dogs, who are also not always easy to get on with. Why? When you think about it, it seems reasonable that sheep dogs should be aggressive: they're there to protect the herd. Hunting dogs, on the other hand, hunt together, so they need to get on with each other. I'm sure somebody has written more on this subject, but the first recognition for me is that hunting dogs are less aggressive than sheep dogs.

As for the character of our dogs, we had visitors today: Nele Kömle with her son Nelson—the first time I had seen him—and Jen and her daughter Leonie, two more horsey people who had come to inspect Gneisti, the new Icelandic stallion that Margaret and Nele (really Magda) have just had received from New Zealand. While they were at it, they came over to look at Sasha. And once again, Jen and Leonie were amazed by the temperament of all three dogs.

In passing, it seems that I haven't seen Nele for nearly 18 months. She's been at Chris' place a couple of times, but never made it here.


Acclimatizing Sasha
Topic: animals Link here

Sasha continues to adapt to our household. We've now given him a spare harness, and he's gradually becoming more active. This was his third walk ever:

 
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We still have issues feeding him, but then, the other dogs are fussy too. I just hope he's getting enough to eat. Yvonne weighed him: 18.5 kg.


Monday, 31 August 2015 Dereel Images for 31 August 2015
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Replacing the burst solar panel
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It has been six weeks since the frost damaged one of our solar hot water panels. On several occasions people promised a replacement within a week. Last week I sent Duncan Jackson a mail message, but there's still no reaction. Today I sent another stiff one to Wayne Jones, who arranged a phone call from Chromagen, the strangely named manufacturer of the panels. A couple of hours later I got a call from Alana asking me which choice I wanted.

Huh? But she claimed to have sent me a letter last Tuesday. She sent it again by email. The address is one of the better ones:

 
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The name is wrong, the street number is wrong, and the post code is wrong. At least they got the name of the town right. But is this enough to explain non-delivery? And why did it take them nearly 3 weeks, why didn't they call me, why didn't JG King call me? And why did they send it to that address when the file name is 29 Stones Road, Dereel VIC 3356.pdf?

And the date? It may have originally been written on 25 August, but this version can't have been sent any earlier than 27 August:

         <xmp:CreateDate>2015-08-25T15:14:04+10:00</xmp:CreateDate>
         <xmp:CreatorTool>Microsoft\302\256 Word 2010</xmp:CreatorTool>
         <xmp:ModifyDate>2015-08-27T13:10:39+10:00</xmp:ModifyDate>
         <xmp:MetadataDate>2015-08-27T13:10:39+10:00</xmp:MetadataDate>

And what did they offer? I had a choice between simply replacing the panel or:


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The prices are chargeable to JG King, so that's not of importance. But what is a TZ58/1800-20R? She attached a couple of data sheets which described complete systems, not just the “EVAC TUBE”. But there was no mention of TZ58/1800-20R, just SR20, SR30 and SR40. Rang back and asked for a call-back. After 2 hours nothing had happened, so I called again and waited, speaking to mumble, who somewhere along the line claimed that the TZ58/1800-20R and the SR20 are the same thing. OK, that's obvious. And how does the thermal performance correspond? It's not in the spec sheet, of course:


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She didn't understand the question, so I said that I wanted to know how much power I would get out of each panel, and how it compared to what I have. Ah, I had that wrong. The power I get out of the system depends on the tank, not on the panels. And I should just accept the suggestion: the people who wrote it know what they're doing.

I asked to be connected to somebody who could explain it to me, and she connected me to mumble2, who sounded a little more intelligent, but who also couldn't tell me what I need to know: for that we need to speak to the R&D people. Finally she agreed to get Walter to call me back.

Walter called me back, but he couldn't tell me either. People, this is the single most important thing about the panels! Why don't they even understand the question? He confirmed that the TZ58/1800-20R was the same as the RS20, um, SR20, and the only performance information he could give me was STCs.

What's an STC? Most certainly not a metric unit. He wasn't sure, and said something about Small Technology Certificates, which proved to be a government programme. It seems (though it's not immediately obvious from the web page) that the number of certificates corresponds to the power output. OK, so what are the STCs for the two alternatives? That depends on where I live and what kind of storage tank I have. For Ballarat and a 400 l electric-boosted tank I need (mumble mumble) 2 20R panels, which will give me 34 STCs. Alternatively with the ones I have I need 3 panels, which will give me (mumble mumble) 36 STCs. What if I take a 40R panel? There's no such thing (see above). Oh yes, that's what we call 2 20R panels. What about a 20R and a 30R? Sorry, no can do, we don't have STCs for that.

By this time I felt like screaming. Chromagen doesn't know its own specs! It doesn't know its own part numbers, and it uses different numbers for the same thing. The only measure is yet another of these stupid government programmes that don't really tell you anything, like the stupid star ratings for houses, which are clearly incorrectly documented. I said thank you, hung up, went out and tried to relax.

Looking later on the web, I found this page, which suggests, based on this document, conveniently not accessible, that evacuated tubes are the way to go, giving graphs:

 
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Winter:

Based upon solar insolation of 296W/m2 and an ambient temperature of 9.9 degrees Celsius in Melbourne, the Hills Esteem evacuated tube solar collector is on Average 163.5% more efficient per m2 of aperture over the flat plate solar collector.**

Summer: Based upon solar insolation of 861W/m2 and an ambient temperature of 19.8 degrees Celsius in Melbourne, the Hills Esteem evacuated tube solar collector is on average 51.5% more efficient..**

OK, modulo markup, incomplete specifications of the conditions (what temperature are we heating to?) and implicit advertising, this looks like just what I want. In particular, the graph for winter is very compelling, though some of the boundary conditions don't make sense. In summer with ambient temperatures of 20°, they measure efficiency of less than 100% when heating the water to 0°. So how trustworthy are the other values?

Of course, we're not home yet: the areas are different. Fortunately I have some information on that: two SR20 (or whatever) panels have an aperture area of 3.76 m², and the flat panels have an aperture area of 6.42 m², 70% more. To get a useful water temperature of 45° in the winter the evacuated tubes have approximately 75% efficiency, or 296 × .75 W/m², for a total of 835 W. The flat panels have about 17% efficiency, 296 × .17 W/m², a total of 323 W, only about 39% of the performance of the evacuated tubes. So it seems that the evacuated tubes win in the winter.

And in the summer? The flat panels win (58% vs 85%, adjusted to 99% for the flat panels). But does that matter? The assumptions are for 861 W/m², so the actual power for the evacuated tubes would be 861 × 3.76 × 0.85, or 2.7 kW. Assuming that the insolation lasts for 12 hours, that would be 33 kWh, or about 118 GJ. Heating a litre of water from 20° to 45° needs 105 (25 × 4.2) MJ, so this would be enough to warm 1000 odd litres of water. Clearly that's more than enough.

Why do I have to do all this? That's what the vendors should be doing for you. Instead they don't even give you the information on the spec sheets.


GPS: Use Google Maps
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Considerable commentary on IRC today about my last rant on GPS navigation. Andy Snow said that Google Maps on Android was the answer to all my issues. That hasn't been my experience in the past, but it was worth trying again. Tried the route from here to Steve Zuideveld in Warrandyte. It gave me a nice, clean map of the start of the journey, with directions on the left, just like I know from Google maps on a real computer:

 
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But how do I show the whole itinerary? Shrinking the map with two fingers works, but it's not what you want to do while driving. The other day I had suggested a single touch somewhere, but I can't find a way to do that. Still, the map looked good—at first:

 
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Where's that routing? It avoids Ballarat completely, taking tiny side roads:

 
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Is that some setting? Tried the settings, but found nothing beyond the fact that it reverted to the initial view round Dereel. That's an absolute knockout: the very least that I can expect from a navigation application is that it chooses a sane itinerary.

Strangely, people on IRC didn't see it like that at all. Andy Snow pointed out that I live in the middle of nowhere. And Edwin Groothuis pointed out that I know the area, so I don't need a navigator.

I'm amazed. There are so many things wrong with this viewpoint:

Andy then decided that I must have an older version of the maps app (updated yesterday). Or my Android is too old. But that's missing the point: should I go out and buy a new tablet just because my version of Google Maps is broken? Who says that the newer versions are any better? Looking at the maps on a real computer, I at least get an overview:

 
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But it still routes me around Ballarat, so it's clearly not an out-of-date version. Interestingly, though, the time estimates are almost exactly correct. But where are the alternatives? This map shows three alternative routes, but not the optimum route calculated by other programs. And this particular one (captured later) shows a route via Geelong, whereas before there was only a route bypassing Ballarat. Arguably that's taking traffic conditions into account, though it shows that the route is two minutes longer.

Was that the only bug? What about this horrible twisty road that the new navigator took us down three weeks ago? At least Google Maps (on a computer) can show it and its fast counterpart:

 
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This is unbelievable: of the two alternatives, it chooses the worse, although it calculates it to be longer and slower. And savour the second alternative (11 min; 12 min without traffic). Apart from that, the real times are vastly different, at least with even mild traffic.

So: back to my six criteria:

  1. A substitute for paper maps. Yes, Google Maps does this relatively well, and I've been using it like that for a long time.
  2. Plan trips. Yes, with reservations below.
  3. When I'm on the road, I want it to tell me where I am and where I'm going. Partially. I can't get an overview easily.
  4. Calculate the optimum route. Big Fail. The routes are demonstrably bad, maybe the worst I've found.
  5. Current road conditions. I didn't test that, but it's reasonable to assume that it works.
  6. Easy to use when driving, meaning a minimum of interaction on the part of the driver. No, not at all.

In passing, there's another criterion that didn't occur to me the other day: I want to be able to enter multiple destinations and have the navigator work out the sequence for me (think of weekly shopping trip). Google Maps can calculate multiple destinations, but I can't see any way to optimize them. My el-cheapo navigators can all do that.

So why do other people think it's a solution? Andy wasn't the only one who disagreed with me: just about everybody did. But Andy had the most obviously (to me) wrong views. Maybe it does help in congested city traffic, but there are other apps that do what I need better, and I don't think they're good enough.


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