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August 2018
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Wednesday, 1 August 2018 Dereel Images for 1 August 2018
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Garden “work”
Topic: gardening Link here

August already! Spring is just round the corner. But it's been a mild winter, and there are still leftovers from last summer:


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As I had predicted, there are still tomatoes on the vine, though the vine itself is looking pretty sad, at least at the front:


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It'll be interesting to see whether I get more flowers on the rear part. But we clearly have enough tomatoes for at least the next 2 weeks:


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Spent some time wandering round the garden spreading lots of fertilizer. Now I just have the bushes and the north side of the house to do, when I have more fertilizer.


Frying onions
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Lamb liver and onions for dinner tonight, the first time I've really looked at this combination, though it appears to be particularly popular. The versions I saw were all from English-language sources, but Yvonne tells me that she used to have it when she was a child, along with slices of roast apple. That was after I had chosen this recipe, which was a reasonable basis, even if some of the details seemed strange (mint in the onions?).

Part of the recipe requires large quantities of onion rings. OK, cutting them with the slicer was relatively simple. I decided that 3.5 mm thickness was about right. And frying them? Far too many for even a big pan. I tried half like that and the other half in the microwave oven. The results were:


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The onions from the microwave oven were at round 90°, about as hot as they can get, but they still smelt distinctly of hot onions. In the end I fried them too, after which they looked better.

The original recipe called for boiling the vinegar by itself until it became syrupy. I decided to put the onions back in instead. That worked well:


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But it still tasted too much of vinegar, and I wonder if I shouldn't use something else (caramelized sugar) instead.


House flash placement
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When we built the house, I provided for placement of two studio flash units at opposite ends of the kitchen/dining area (now kitchen/lounge). I still haven't used either of them, but today I put a flash on a stand next to the mount in the kitchen. With appropriate adjustment, that didn't work too badly: the whole kitchen area was illuminated corresponding to an aperture of f/5.6.6 and f/8.1, about half a stop.

All the kitchen? No, there was one corner that resisted, round the stove. There it was 2 stops darker. That's not surprising considering the location, but how do I fix it? To be considered.


Thursday, 2 August 2018 Dereel Images for 2 August 2018
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Jury duty!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Unexpected mail today. Some time between 25 September 2018 and 21 December 2018 I will receive a summons to perform jury service, which could involve me for up to 2 weeks, with a payment of the princely sum of $40 a day for my services.

Most people hate jury duty. I think that it could be interesting. I had to send in a reply, either on paper or on the web. OK, try the web. Enter date of birth. Not valid! They want silly numeric dates like 03/07/48, with the / delimiter and the ambiguity associated with the format (some people read 3 July, others 7 March). And then this question:


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But then, this is a government form. I entered “retired” as occupation, but they wanted to know what I retired from. So I entered “kernel hacker”, my job title at IBM, but after submission (too late) it occurred to me that I should have put in something more intelligible to the people who choose the jurors: potentially it could mean that I would be involved in a case related to my prior professional experience.


Analysing JPEG images
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Edwin Groothuis asked a question today: how do you extract individual images from JPEG images?

Huh? I know that TIFF images routinely contain more than one image, but JPEG? He pointed me to the output of file(1), here from one of yesterday's photos:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~/Photos/20180801 1207 -> file Liver-and-onions.jpeg
Liver-and-onions.jpeg: JPEG image data, JFIF standard 1.01, resolution (DPI), density 350x350, segment length 16, Exif Standard: [TIFF image data, little-endian, direntries=12, description=OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         , manufacturer=OLYMPUS CORPORATION, model=E-M1MarkII, xresolution=222, yresolution=230, resolutionunit=2, software=Version 2.0, datetime=2018:08:01 18:53:46], baseline, precision 8, 5206x3888, frames 3
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~/Photos/20180801 1208 -> exifx Liver-and-onions.jpeg
File Liver-and-onions.jpeg
Date taken:     Wednesday, 1 August 2018, 18:53:46
Exposure:       1/250 sec, f/7.1 (EV 13.6), 24/200 ISO
Camera:         Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Lens:           Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO
Focal length:   23.0 mm (full frame equivalent: 46 mm)
Focus:          S-AF+MF 0.43 m (0.40 - 0.47 m)
Field of view:  41.4 horizontal, 31.6 vertical, 50.5 diagonal
Meter mode:     ESP Manual
Stabilization:  Body
Size:           5206 x 3888 pixels
Copyright:      Greg Lehey

What's that frames 3? Jari Kirma pointed out that yes, indeed, there is a thumbnail image in most JPEGs, and there was one here, too, and it can be extracted with exiftool:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~/Photos/20180801 1209 -> exiftool -b -ThumbnailImage Liver-and-onions.jpeg > Liver-and-onions-thumbnail.jpeg
Warning: [minor] Fixed incorrect URI for xmlns:MicrosoftPhoto - Liver-and-onions.jpeg

The error message is because of something that the processing software (DxO PhotoLab? ImageMagick?) did wrong. And the image is really minuscule:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~/Photos/20180801 1210 -> file Liver-and-onions-thumbnail.jpeg
Liver-and-onions-thumbnail.jpeg: JPEG image data, baseline, precision 8, 160x120, frames 3

Here it is, compared to the original:


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I suppose you can't expect much more for 9 kB (“This picture is worth 2,250 words”).

But that's not really a second image in the JPEG container: it's hidden within the Exif data. And Edwin wanted more analysis of the image. Went looking for some programs online. There's JPEGsnoop, but that is intimately involved with Microsoft development software. jpegdump doesn't give the impression that it got anywhere. And though Exploring JPEG looks interesting, it appears to be for image manipulation, not analysis.

Finally he wrote a little program which I haven't had to time to look at yet. It would be nice to have a general-purpose image file analysis program, but my last attempts didn't get me very far.


Camera prices on the rise
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Four years ago I bought an Olympus E-PM2 and lens for Yvonne. Brand new, $ (AUD) 299 with standard M.Zuiko Digital 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens. Not a bad price at all.

And then 1½ years ago I bought an E-PM1 body, used, for $60. Also a good price, even after it eventuated that it forgets its time settings when I remove the battery.

And now? I have already established that the best prices on eBay for the (vaguely) successor model Olympus E-PL9 with standard lens are round $800. Looking on US eBay, the cheapest prices for the E-PM1 are in the US $ 150 range (about $200), and the cheapest E-PM2 and lens combination is $318—more than double what I paid for Yvonne's camera new.

OK, I got the cameras cheap. But it does seem that prices are on the rise. Is this the result of the demise of the compact point-and-click camera?


Kangaroos again
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

More kangaroos in the middle paddock, in fact quite a mob of them.


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Went to get my camera, and when I got back I found Nikolai chasing them away:


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There will be another day. But what amazes me is the sharpness of the images. Each of these is a small crop (8.5% and 17% of the frame). The “full-frame” equivalent focal lengths are 2800 mm and 1800 mm. In the old 35 mm days my rule of thumb was that you took the reciprocal of the focal length as the slowest shutter speed, 1/2800 s in the first case. But that was taken hand-held at 1/25 s, more than 100 times longer, nearly 7 stops. And it's still relatively sharp. Image stabilization (here on the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400 mm f/4.0-6.3) really does work well.


Friday, 3 August 2018 Dereel Images for 3 August 2018
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Huevos a la tigre again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Huevos a la tigre again for breakfast. I still don't have the cooking times right. Last time I discovered that cooking the eggs in the microwave oven for 2 minutes at 600 W (72 kJ, for what it's worth) was too little, and 4 minutes were too much. Clearly I should go for 3 minutes, and that's what I did today. Still somewhat overcooked. I think that the issue is with the temperature of the mixture before I add the eggs, and I'd put that at about 60° and cook the eggs for two minutes. Potentially a lower power level could help.


More gardening stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along again today. I had hoped that we could do less work in the garden in the winter, but somehow that hasn't happened yet. And he didn't get finished: round 12:30 a rain front set in, and we had to postpone the rest until next Thursday.


Still more bank pain
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Round the beginning of the month I generally have to transfer money from my Bank of Melbourne account to my ANZ account. That's normally not too painful: most of the information is stored in cookies, and all I need to do is to type in the “Internet password”.

But today that didn't work. The information wasn't filled in. OK, take it from my secret web page and paste it in:

 
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“Please match the requested format”. What does that mean? Ah, I've seen that before. It really wants to say “Your security number should be 6 digits only. Please don't enter anything else, because our parser is too stupid to cope”.

OK, enter the number manually. And it didn't complain. In fact, it didn't do anything: it hung. On three different browsers. Finally I tried it on Microsoft, and it worked.

Bank of Melbourne too leet to use Unix-like operating systems? Who knows? In any case, enough reason to call up their support line. Two minutes with a voice menu called Craig-uh, who added an -uh to every-uh word-uh. Through to a “consultant” who didn't understand the problem, and offered to reset my password. Finally he put me through to Mitch in 2nd level “Internet” support. And sure enough, Mitch knew everything, even before I finished talking. He interrupted me and told me that I had reset the login details last time I did a cleanup. What's a cleanup? Ah, that happens automatically every time you reboot your PC. I did reboot my PC, didn't I?

That's an interesting bit of information, even if it's completely irrelevant to my problem. Do cookies get removed automatically when you reboot a Microsoft system? It seems unlikely, but vaguely worth following up on.

I tried to explain that the problem had nothing to do with that, and that it was the reason for the error message that I didn't understand. Clearly their problem... interrupt with something completely irrelevant. Dammit, let me finish! No, better still, connect me to your supervisor.

While I was waiting, Yvonne came along and wanted to walk the dogs. Good idea. I was in no mood to talk to idiots any more, so I hung up.

Later I tried various things:

So we have at least four problems at the Bank of Melbourne. In increasing order of importance:

  1. Transient problems filling out the form. Is this really their problem? It proved to be the same thing as last time, and I suppose a change in field names in the login form could cause it. I can't see how it could happen at my end, in the same invocation of firefox.
  2. Simplistic parsers. The form could accept more characters and then ensure that nothing except white space and 6 digits were present. But this seems to be standard bank policy: on the one hand, they mandate that the BSB number consists of three digits, a hyphen, and another 3 digits, but no web forms that I know accept this format. The same applies to sums: I can't write $123,456.78, because no form I know will accept the symbols $, , or ..
  3. And there's still some bug there. Once this message has appeared, the web page is dead in the water.
  4. Finally, the biggest bug of all: know-it-all “support consultants” like Mitch, who know that it's the customer's fault. With people like him blocking error reports, it's clear that these bugs never get fixed.

So is this related to firefox? I went to the trouble of firing up Microsoft “Internet Explorer” to try it there. Yes, the problem exists there as well; in fact, it's worse:

 
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Now isn't that a clever message? But it confirms what I had suspected, that the error message comes from the browser, not the bank.

And why did it work yesterday? I couldn't recall how to paste into Microsoft, so I typed the numbers in manually.


Saturday, 4 August 2018 Dereel Images for 4 August 2018
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More kangaroos
Topic: animals Link here

Up early to discover that Thursday's kangaroos (presumably) hadn't been deterred much by Nikolai. I counted 13, most very close to the house:


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Cleaning broth
Topic: food and drink Link here

Dinner tonight was to include risotto alla milanese, which calls for a lot of broth. OK, I had some that I had left over from the Cantonese braised beef last week. It was frozen, and it still had most of the scum that had been produced. It had settled, but now I had a block of ice: How to remove it?

First I tried scraping it off:


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That didn't work well, so I left it to gradually melt. I was then able to wipe most of it off with kitchen paper:


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Cooking the risotto was interesting. Normally I use about 50% more water by weight for cooking rice, but these recipes call for between 400% and 500%. In the end, it seems that 400% was closer to the mark.

Margaret Swan was here, and she brought a truffle with her—just what we need for risotto alla milanese, and one of the reasons we cooked it. But this truffle was very different from the last one: much more aromatic. It seems that the trick is that the ground has to freeze, and it hadn't done last time. An amazing difference.


More fun with house photos
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

House photo day again today, and more tweaking my stitching scripts. Things look much better now, to the point where some panoramas don't need any tweaking at all. But there's still one that causes problems:


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What's unusual about that? Nothing, you'd think. But I wasn't able to get the control detectors to assemble it. Instead I got this:


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This isn't the first time I've had difficulty with this specific view. I should spend some time investigating.


Sunday, 5 August 2018 Dereel
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Reset your Apple ID!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In the mail this morning, HTML formatted in tasteful low-contrast text:

Dear Greg Lehey,

You recently made a request to reset your Apple ID. Please click the link below to complete the process.

Reset now >

If you did not make this change or you believe an unauthorised person has accessed your account, go to iforgot.apple.com to reset your password without delay. Following this, sign into your Apple ID account page at https://appleid.apple.com to review and update your security settings.

Where did that come from? It certainly wasn't me. So indeed it's a security issue, or at least potentially so. What's an Apple ID anyway? I seem to recall that I was required to create one to be able to use my iPhone two years ago. Where are the details? For some reason I didn't have the details stored. Did I delete it?

The message was sent to my canonical email address, not the one I uses to sign up for Apple ID. Spam? Last time this happened, the forgery was clear. It could only fool people using toy MUAs that are too polite to show the sender address (in that case the almost certainly forged APPLE ID <michael.j.froehlich@disney.com>). But this one looked genuine, including the DKIM signature:

From appleid@id.apple.com  Sat Aug  4 02:40:08 2018
Return-Path: <appleid@id.apple.com>
...
Received: from nwk-txn-msbadger0704.apple.com (nwk-txn-msbadger0704.apple.com [17.151.1.83])
        by www.lemis.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 5614D1B72838
        for <groggyhimself@lemis.com>; Fri,  3 Aug 2018 16:35:48 +0000 (UTC)
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed; d=id.apple.com;
        s=id0517; t=1533314147;
        bh=BNTJhgTeZNn/JoSqcgTMNCqBofuZpy19IIxLlLRWqk0=;
        h=Date:From:To:Message-ID:Subject:Content-Type;
        b=JK96OZ0ftzwPJE51ne7qkZH/UUxuXK8SaX2uaA92pNNp3vztEWbp/bJGWfN9spzOA
        OM7qRZfcsLSvS6arNbkWOsHLbZG5jnudwEhunlMNdmlK77mxBu55PGrFRzSnpRyZjB
        WN8o36qJoRvhGtCZvkziluQWiHKlK1aqyIEXD0CjuSxKcjCc4fIJCtfiV3jFRJbiOa
        USxNpB3EdhlaTyLOJrGiB1z3dRu5k3LuapFwx+NWFOulVO27Hwx+kVFOADiLg0tXHJ
        KDWnZ8WPyr0oK3brM2aEK3vUYTVHu6nN6DuDrcGuAVXzBLv+9F8VahX+Bxa+fju8Zx
        Is37cALm9wwhQ==

So what is this? How do I get a request to reset my Apple ID to an address which doesn't have one registered? My best guess is that it's a shotgun attack on the Apple web servers using known email addresses only, relying on a bug in Apple's verification that doesn't check IDs before sending the message. But it's exactly this sort of thing that makes me worried about putting sensitive data on phones, which can be stolen.


Monday, 6 August 2018 Dereel
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How much salt?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Cooking baked beans today. One of the variables I had been experimenting with was the use of meat broth instead of water. I had tried stock cubes, but found the quantity necessary to be excessive. But then I discovered this in the pantry, use-by date less than 10 years ago:


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OK, I could try that. How much do I use? My recipe calls for a total of 45 g of salt, and in the past I had used round 40 g of stock cubes. 40 g of this stuff? What do the instructions say?


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OK, I don't want a classic chicken stock, but the 20 g seem to fit with my expectations, though you'd only need 16 g of stock cubes. So 20 g it is, at least this time. How much salt is in there?


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No mention of salt, only sodium. 400 mg. In what? A “serving” of 100 ml. Is that 20 g? No, of course not, they're talking about decilitres. 2 g? How can I be sure? It doesn't say. But yes, there's the “servings per package”, 500 for 1 kg of mix. So yes, with a little mental arithmetic I see that there are 400 mg of “sodium” in 2 g of mixture. Why don't they just write:


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But what do they mean by “sodium”? Elemental sodium? Then that would correspond to marginally over 10 g of salt, about half the total weight. If it's “sodium as chloride”, it's only 4 g. I guessed at the latter, but the results suggest that I might have been incorrect. Or maybe my guess of 45 g total last time was too much. Or the information on the label is just plain wrong.


CJ's computer issues
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis has problems with his computer again. What are they? Hard to understand, but something to do with not enough memory for Gmail. OK, I have his passwords for exactly this kind of situation, so off to take a look. “Password incorrect”. That, too, is possible: I had a note that it was changed to something better last time we had issues. Logged in and discovered that his “inbox” had over 2,700 messages. Is that enough? Maybe not. But most seemed to have been spam. Where's his spam folder? Doesn't seem to be one. Dammit, I really hate Gmail. If it didn't do such a good job with spam (at least for me), I wouldn't touch it.

Later got CJ on the phone, and everything worked again. But he, too, had to reenter the password. Why? I'll never understand this stuff, and clearly it has caused CJ significant issues.


Tuesday, 7 August 2018 Dereel Images for 7 August 2018
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More flash pain
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking the photos of the stock powder yesterday should have been a straightforward issue: put the STF-8 macro flash on the camera and take the photos. To my surprise, things came out very differently from what I expected. Here the STF-8 on the left, and the studio flash on the right:


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Where do those reflections come from? This thing is supposed to illuminate from an angle. Somehow I find this unit to be less and less useful.


www offline!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Doing some routine stuff today, tried to connect to www.lemis.com. Timeout. Further examination showed that it had been offline since Tue 7 Aug 2018 04:10:56 UTC. OK, that's what the console is for. Logged in to RootBSD, which came up with the rather irritating message:

Huzzah! You have no servers down.

How do I get to the console? Once it was easy, via VNC. But then they changed it, apparently because of security considerations, and I had to go via a web browser instead. Only that hadn't worked then, and now I couldn't even find out how to do it; I had to go back and look at closed tickets to find the way through a maze of twisty little menus, all different, only to have my connection attempt fail with a status code 1006. It offered to send a Ctrl-Alt-Del, whatever that might have done, but I certainly didn't want to risk it rebooting the machine.

OK, time for a ticket. And by the time I had sent it, I discovered that the system was back up, at 05:44:18 UTC. OK, update, tell them to reduce the priority to medium (the interface didn't allow me to do that). And only a few minutes later, they closed the ticket!

New attempt to communicate, in particular with more details. Where does that error come from? This, too, was in older tickets:

The error 1006 when trying to access the VNC console indicates a web socket issue with your browser. If you receive this error please attempt to open the console again, or try a different browser.

OK, try alternative browsers. They shouldn't have any issue with them running on FreeBSD, but to be safe I tried Microsoft too:

Browser       OS       Result
firefox       FreeBSD       Error 1006
chrome       FreeBSD       Connection timeout
chrome       Microsoft       Error 1006
"Internet Explorer"       Microsoft       Connected, later error 1006
opera       Microsoft       Connected
opera       FreeBSD       Error 1005

That error with opera on FreeBSD is really 1005, not 1006. The error 1006 on "Internet Explorer" occurred without any action on my part. And these results are different from what I had experienced on the first time through. This looks like random breakage to me.

I've been with RootBSD for 10 years. For nearly 5 of them, I didn't even have a reboot. This is the second time this year that I've had significant problems, and I don't get the impression that they're doing much about it. Given that I'm running out of space anyway, is it time to move on?


Daily Gmail spurious warning
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Every time I access CJ Ellis' Gmail account, I get a whole lot of warning mail messages with incorrect claims:

 
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What's that? When did it happen? They don't even say! Followed through and discovered—again—that Gmail is too polite to give things like date, time zone or reverse DNS lookup. But I've seen this before: it's my proxy server in Frankfurt am Main, which of course is in Germany, and normal web services can locate it pretty clearly. And they don't even bother to report the final IP address. Once again I'm baffled by the fact that they continue to get things so completely wrong.


Wednesday, 8 August 2018 Dereel Images for 8 August 2018
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RootBSD console issues
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Somehow I'm getting nowhere with the issues accessing www.lemis.com via the console interface. The response to my ticket asks me to supply copies of the browser's developer console (screen shot, of course, which can only show a carefully cropped subset of the information). Surely the browsers are capable of saving the log. But how? There's a little box “Preserve log” at the top:

 
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Ticked that. Where did the information go? No idea. With a bit of searching, discovered that Chromium stores its data in the hierarchy ~/.config/chromium. OK, any file names there ending in .log? Yes, a number, all conveniently complicated by the choice of spaces in directory names. After a lot of cursing and swearing and careful choice of tools, discovered that there were two sorts of files: those that were empty, and those that contained binary data. Is that the way of the future?

Talking about it on IRC, Daniel O'Connor told me that I first had to save the file. How? Right-click. Of course! Isn't that intuitive? Right click. Nothing happens. Ah, I'm right-clicking in the wrong place. Not near the “Preserve log” box, but in the middle of the log itself. How could I have thought anything else?

The information itself is interesting. The whole point of this appalling interface is to improve security. The old way did things like pass root passwords in plain text. But what do I see here?

Navigated to https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3/vnc/5297
 .__                    __          .__         __               .__
 |  |__   ____  _______/  |_  ___  _|__|_______/  |_ __ _______  |  |
 |  |   /  _ /  ___/   __   / /  _  __    __  |  __   |  |
 |   Y  (  <_> )___   |  |       /|  ||  | /|  | |  |  // __ |  |__
 |___|  /____/____  > |__|     _/ |__||__|   |__| |____/(____  /____/
      /           /                                          /
=====================================================================
Are you a coder? Shhhh -  we are hiring. Hit us up via our contact page
or stalk us on LinkedIn to join a team of cool people a few blocks from
the Beach in Santa Monica, CA. - http://vr.org/contact
=====================================================================

Loaded with 5297
Console job successful!
Font from origin 'https://www.netactuate.com' has been blocked from loading by Cross-Origin Resource Sharing policy: No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource. Origin 'https://www.rootbsd.net' is therefore not allowed access.
Failed to parse SourceMap: https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3-assets/css/bootstrap.min.css.map
Font from origin 'https://www.netactuate.com' has been blocked from loading by Cross-Origin Resource Sharing policy: No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource. Origin 'https://www.rootbsd.net' is therefore not allowed access.
Failed to parse SourceMap: https://www.rootbsd.net/js/underscore-min.map
Font from origin 'https://www.netactuate.com' has been blocked from loading by Cross-Origin Resource Sharing policy: No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource. Origin 'https://www.rootbsd.net' is therefore not allowed access.
Failed to parse SourceMap: https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3-assets/js/jquery.min.map
Font from origin 'https://www.netactuate.com' has been blocked from loading by Cross-Origin Resource Sharing policy: No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource. Origin 'https://www.rootbsd.net' is therefore not allowed access.
Object {id: "65063", status: "5", host: "vnc-rdu.vr.org", port: "26081"}
Navigated to https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3/vnc/5297?v=dm5jLXJkdS52ci5vcmc6MjYwODE=
Mixed Content: The page at 'https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3/vnc/5297?v=dm5jLXJkdS52ci5vcmc6MjYwODE=' was loaded over HTTPS, but attempted to connect to the insecure WebSocket endpoint 'ws://localhost:17523/'. This request has been blocked; this endpoint must be available over WSS.
New state 'loaded', was 'disconnected'. Msg: noVNC ready: native WebSockets, canvas rendering
New state 'connect', was 'loaded'.
Mixed Content: The page at 'https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3/vnc/5297?v=dm5jLXJkdS52ci5vcmc6MjYwODE=' was loaded over HTTPS, but attempted to connect to the insecure WebSocket endpoint 'ws://localhost:17523/'. This request has been blocked; this endpoint must be available over WSS.
Mixed Content: The page at 'https://www.rootbsd.net/portal3/vnc/5297?v=dm5jLXJkdS52ci5vcmc6MjYwODE=' was loaded over HTTPS, but attempted to connect to the insecure WebSocket endpoint 'ws://localhost:17523/'. This request has been blocked; this endpoint must be available over WSS.
Skipping unsupported WebSocket binary sub-protocol

WebSocket connection to 'wss://vnc-rdu.vr.org:26081/websockify' failed: WebSocket is closed before the connection is established.
WebSocket on-error event
WebSocket on-close event
New state 'failed', was 'connect'. Msg: Server disconnected (code: 1006)
New state 'failed', was 'connect'. Msg: Connect timeout

New state 'disconnected', was 'failed'.

So the reason for the failure was a security bug in the interface. Sigh.

What's Vultr like? Tried that, and with much less juggling got a console display and a login prompt. And “Password incorrect” on root login, twice.

Damn! What's wrong? Connected via ssh, and all worked. After some investigation, it seems that the protocol was swallowing specific letters. root was none of them, but some were in my password, which of course didn't echo.

Still more experimentation. It failed with firefox, but worked with Chromium. Is that an excuse? Maybe. I'm still running a seriously down-rev system, and my firefox is really old. I must really upgrade the system, and then try again. But so far Vultr seems to be doing the right thing.


Block storage? Object storage?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The other thing I really need to do is upgrade my online photo storage, which is currently about to hit hard limits. How can I do that? Bigger disk on my web server? Block storage? Object storage? I've looked at this before and not understood it. Object storage is much cheaper than block storage, but for reasons I don't understand it offers a completely different interface. For over half a century there has been one preferred way to access files, via the file system paradigm. But that's old, worn-out magic.

For me it means at least three serious issues:

  1. I don't have object storage locally, so here I store my images in a file systems with names like home/grog/public_html/Photos/20150920/small/Groggy-3.jpeg, just like all other web content. And I have web code that converts this to a URL like http://www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20150920/small/Groggy-3.jpeg. If I use object storage externally, I need to special-case it.

  2. What special cases? I've seen at least two different, incompatible interfaces to object storage. Some really look hardly any worse than http://www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20150920/small/Groggy-3.jpeg. Others are too polite to show anything as old-fashioned as a descriptive file name, and I end up with some random string like D0E1A2D3B4E5E6F7.

  3. I have existing code to update the external web site. I can't just change that unless I move everything to object storage. And how does that interact with PHP? Still more special-casing, probably. More to the point, though, how do I update my objects? Yes, part of the tradeoff is atomic updates: if I have an image 20 MB in size and I change anything, I have to replace the entire object. I can live with that, but how do I know what to update? Currently I go by modification timestamp. That's a file system function. How do I do it with object storage?

  4. I need to learn a whole new set of functionality. How big is my photo directory for 20 September 2015? Now I just do:

    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~ 1 -> du -s public_html/Photos/20150920
    90      public_html/Photos/20150920
    === grog@www (/dev/pts/0) ~ 1 -> du -s www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20150920
    90      www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20150920

    That's a value in MB, the way I have set my environment.

    How do I do it with object storage? Clearly a new interface. And if I change, I can presumably start all over again.

People on IRC don't understand. This is the way of the future, and you can't map file systems to geographically distributed data.

Oh. What was this thing we had 35 years ago at Tandem? Partitioned files, spread around the world, accessed from a file system far more primitive than what Unix had even at that time. And I toyed with something like this with Vinum 20 years ago. No, it's impossible to address variable-sized objects with file system semantics. It is? Why? I thought that's what files were. POSIX doesn't play nice with objects. Doesn't it? And who mentioned POSIX, anyway?

It's quite possible that there is some basic incompatibility that I haven't seen yet. But what I've seen so far is that we're reverting to the 1960s, where everybody did his own, incompatible thing, and people aren't noticing. “Open Systems” seem to be a thing of the past, though I've seen no plausible non-marketing-driven reason why that should be the case.

I've come up with a number of links that may give me insight:

This page offers to explain, but so far it seems rather vague. This page explains:

What we now see is that much of the data that is being produced is “immured” or unstructured data. Content or material that will never be changed again. And this is where Object storage comes into play

In passing, that's an interesting word, “immure”, to enclose into a wall. I suppose that they mean immutable, but this may sound better to them.

OK, what I see here is a limitation, not an advantage. It's one that I accept, but it doesn't explain the need to break old paradigms. The same consideration applies to read-only media like DVD-ROMs, and they do fine with a file system interface. This page goes on to state:

The main difference between the other concepts is that the objects are managed via the application itself that supports Object storage. That means that no real file system is needed here. This layer is obsolete. An application that uses Object storage sends a storage inquiry to the solution where to store the object. The object is then given an address inside the huge storage space and saved there by the application itself.

This is an advantage? This is what we had before file systems. I can hear people using the same arguments in the early 1960s. Mount that tape, please!

Because of the much simple [sic] management of data – with no real file system in place – Object storage solutions can be scaled up much easier than File storage or Block storage based systems. You just add some disks in the solution and no big management is needed anymore to have more storage space. That´s a main benefit especially in times of exponential data growth.

It's statements like this that make me wonder just how well anybody understands the situation.

These were both “blog” entries. But this one, from Red Hat, is trying to sell something:

Objects in Object storage are “bundled data” (aka a file) with corresponding meta data.

This seems to imply that files don't have metadata.

File storage, also called file-level or file-based storage, is exactly what you think it might be: Data is stored as a single piece of information inside a folder, just like you’d organize pieces of paper inside a manila folder.

Wrong! This is one of the common misconceptions reinforced by the use of this silly word “folder”. And the implication is that it's static: once it's in the “folder”, that fixes its location. This kind of misunderstanding is one of the reasons I'm so critical of the whole approach.

Because block storage doesn’t rely on a single path to data—like file storage does—it can be retrieved quickly.

Object storage, also known as object-based storage, is a flat structure in which files are broken into pieces and spread out among hardware.

Need reliable, low-latency storage for your applications? ... Block storage is the go-to solution...

On re-reading, this still doesn't make sense to me. I think I first need to understand the context in which it was written (which includes the understanding of the author).

This one may have the greatest insight. In particular, the sections “Problems solved by object storage” and “Problems solved by block storage” are interesting:

Object storage systems are massively scalable and their flat address space along with adaptable metadata capabilities can help businesses cope with growing data volumes.

A URL is a flat address space?

The term object storage, or object-based storage, derives its name because it packages data and metadata into objects.

This could be an important difference, but conventional file systems have metadata too. UFS is already straining with additional metadata that wasn't in the original specification. Is it time for a different approach to file metadata than what stat(2) and friends return? It's certainly far preferable to throwing away old conventions and starting again.

The issue with additional metadata might be one place where conventional file system semantics aren't sufficient.

In any case, there's a lot at stake in the matter. People on IRC are all in complete disagreement with me, but I wonder how good their overview is. Until I've investigated further, I can't really say.


Baked barramundi
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the things that really disappointed me after returning to Australia was the lack of good fish. Recently ALDI has started selling deep-frozen Barramundi, and today Yvonne bought one. Cooked it according to their recipe, modulo omitting the breadcrumbs. Yes, a nice fish, something that could be useful in Chinese steamed fish recipes. I won't keep this specific recipe.


Thursday, 9 August 2018 Dereel
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Power fail!
Topic: technology, general Link here

Lying awake in bed at 3:22 this morning, I heard the external unit of the air conditioner make a choking sound. De-icing? No, that's a different kind of choking sound. Over to the thermostat. Dead: power failure.

What to do? Start up the generator? No, far too much work. Shut down the computers? Who knows how long it will last? So I went back to bed, and at 4:07 the power came back.

Up at 7:00 to turn on the machine again—I still don't have these things set up to come back automatically. At 8:15 I then checked on the progress of the fscks. “can't load 'kernel'”. Dammit, I've had this before. It had currdev set to disk0p2, and it should have been disk1p2.

Or should it? The loader (I think) told me that disk0 was drive A:, which was reserved for floppy drives in the olden days of BIOS. Have I somehow misconfigured the “BIOS” to include a floppy drive? To be investigated.

In any case, the system came up again, and for once /home came up without requiring a second pass through fsck. Started up the machine, and after about 3 minutes it froze on me. Next thing I knew, it rebooted.

OK, this time drop into single-user mode and fsck manually. And how about that, I needed two passes through /home (“Unexpected softupdate inconsistency”). But interestingly each pass only took about 32 minutes instead of about 55 on the boot-time automatic fsck. In addition, I was able to fsck /Photos (not so time-critical) in the background. That took longer, but I was able to confirm that the fsck was not aborted on going to multi-user mode. So a note to make: fsck manually, and also save the output (something I didn't do today).

On going to multi-user, I also confirmed what I had expected:

Aug  9 09:59:46 eureka savecore: reboot after panic: handle_written_inodeblock: live inodedep 0xfffff800146c5200

I don't know if that's because of the fewer checks done by the automatic fscks, but one thing is clear: I've been dragging my heels on upgrading eureka for nearly 3 years now. High time I do something about it.

On the positive side, this is only the second serious power failure in over 6 months. Still high time to install solar power, though.


More thoughts about object storage
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I still think that it's silly that object storage isn't accessible by file system semantics, but in mulling over the alternatives, one thing hit me: for the use to which I would put it (incorporating photos in web pages) URL access (via http) is preferable to file system access. Consider:

So in this case, object storage wins. This in no way impacts yesterday's considerations, in particular other operations on the objects, but for this particular application, it makes sense to just send the URL. Now to consider what that means for my PHP scripts.


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

In the middle of winter you don't need much garden work, right? No. Mick along again today and stayed for fully 6 hours without being finished. Now we finally have the second Schinus molle (peppercorn tree) planted in the paddock to the west of the garden, and various irrigation stuff done. Mick is also gradually removing the Vinca minor that has taken over on the south side of the house. Here the difference (run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour):


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He also planted a couple of random plants. And somehow that took up all the time.


Friday, 10 August 2018 Dereel Images for 10 August 2018
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Frying ikan bilis
Topic: food and drink, language, opinion Link here

Ikan bilis is the Malay language word for a kind of small fish, usually sold dried. I haven't found a good English name for it. Wikipedia tells me that it means “Anchovy”, which is probably biologically correct. But the anchovies sold in Europe are at least 5 times the length, so presumably 600 times the weight.

Ikan bilis needs to be deep fried. That's messy and smelly, and afterwards the oil is so contaminated that it's of no use for any other purpose. I keep my own oil for the job, which means manually frying instead of the friteuse. Today, however, I was preparing to change the fat in the second friteuse, so it made sense to do them in there. It worked well, modulo the usual smell, but after pouring off the fat I found lots of dregs in the bottom of the friteuse, here on the left:


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When frying in a saucepan, this just ended up in the results, but here is is nicely separated. What do I do with it? Clearly the entire fishes (less head for the most part) look nicer, but should I throw the rest away? There must be something that I can do with it.


Saturday, 11 August 2018 Dereel Images for 11 August 2018
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Objectivity in online answering
Topic: politics, technology, opinion Link here

I answer quite a few questions on Quora. To quote Wikipedia, it's “a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users in the form of opinions”. It gives quite an interesting window into the world of what interests the man in the street. The demographics are also interesting, if notably one-sided: apart from the inevitable North Americans, there are also a large number of Indians.

Politics are particularly interesting. Outside the USA, hardly anybody has a good word for Donald Trump, but there are a number of people who are very much in favour of him, sometimes to the point of idolization.

OK, that's fair, and it's an interesting insight into the demographics of the web. But some emulate their idols to degrees that I find unacceptable, and I've started a Quora bigots page. In the process, I followed up content from Johann Wegener. Apart from the one-sided terminology (can you say “Witch hunt” or “Hillary”?), everything looks so stereotyped that I'm left wondering if he isn't being paid for this content.

Jeremy White also repeats himself. One of his favourite terms is “leftwing”, which he combines with unrelated terms. I am, it seems, a “literate uninformed leftwing nutter fascist”, though I wonder if he didn't mean to write “illiterate”. He doesn't give me the impression that he is being paid for it. The original flare-up related to a response to the question Why don't the mainstream media simply report that Trump lies instead of downplaying his lying?, in which he disputed that Trump lies, and for which he produced no evidence. At least his final rant did produce some links, and he has me left wondering how much truth there is in them. There seem to be three issues:

So what does this have to do with Trump's lies? I don't see a connection, though potentially Jeremy is implying that these articles indicate that he wasn't. But for that he needs to say to which of the (currently) 4229 lies he is referring.


Chicken wings again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I eat deep-fried chicken wings as part of a nasi lemak breakfast, and I'm running out. I first cook them and freeze them, then thaw one and deep fry it as needed. How do I cook them this time? The last few times I cooked them sous vide, but that didn't bring any obvious advantage. How about in the sous-vide cooker, which doubles as a slow cooker, but without the bags? Theoretically I just need to put it on “slow cook” and see what happens.

The problem there is that I don't know what temperature that corresponds to. So in the end I put them in and set the sous-vide cooker to 82°. After an hour or so, the temperature at the top was still only about 65°:


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Clearly not the way to go. So instead I put them in a pot and cooked them in the oven. I started at 100° oven temperature, but after another hour that hadn't raised the temperature of the wings significantly. I didn't get much chance to experiment then: Yvonne was making ossi buchi, so we had to raise the temperature of the oven to 150°. No chance to check the temperature again, but after a couple of hours things looked OK. I'll see when I get round to frying them.


Sunday, 12 August 2018 Dereel
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Server fail!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Came into the office this morning to discover that my IRC proxy connection had failed again. This is nothing unusual: it doesn't handle transient network issues well. But this time I couldn't reconnect. Took a look at the status on www.lemis.com, where it runs. Not running. Surely the system hasn't gone down? Yes, rebooted yesterday at 11:42 UTC:

Aug 11 11:25:06 www qpopper[818]: Stats: yvonne 0 0 0 0 180-150-113-90.NBN.mel.aussiebb.net 180.150.113.90
Aug 11 11:42:26 www syslogd: kernel boot file is /boot/kernel/kernel
Aug 11 11:42:26 www kernel: Copyright (c) 1992-2014 The FreeBSD Project.

That last log entry is one that happens every 5 minutes, so it must have been down over 10 minutes. My network status logs (coincidentally) confirm:

1533986894 31.2862 5 1.0 # Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:28:14 AEST 17.113 ms
1533986966 29.9796 4 7.0 www # Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:29:26 AEST 17.965 ms
1533986981 29.7575 4 2.0 www # Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:29:41 AEST 17.547 ms
...
1533987738 29.186 4 3.0 www # Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:42:18 AEST 22.130 ms
1533987742 32.329 5 1.0 # Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:42:22 AEST 16.798 ms

Why? No evidence of any issues in the log files, and in the 10 years that I've had an external server, I've never had a panic. OK, enter a ticket and ask if they can explain it? Yes indeed. Here's the entire response to the ticket, less copious empty lines:

Hi Greg,

http://status.netactuate.com/pages/incident/59cd452c6a99786b77cab2f7/5b6eca5428f1be55b2b2ef35

“Unexpected power loss during planned maintenance...”. They didn't bother to tell me, and no apology. This is not the RootBSD that I knew 10 years ago, or even 5. The involvement of NetActuate may be the key here, but it's time to compare them with the Vultures. I've had my second server since 1 December 2017. How does it compare? I send one ping a minute to each server as part of my network monitoring setup, so I can find when a system doesn't respond.

A single lack of response is probably a transient network problem. To be sure that the system is off the air, I should give it at least 5 pings. And analysing this really needs some kind of program, but for the time being I'll do it by hand. I have:

Date       ffm       www       End time
Tue 5 Dec 2017 20:46:47 AEDT             2:06
Wed 6 Dec 2017 22:16:46 AEDT             2:04
Sat 9 Dec 2017 00:56:12 AEDT             52:47
Wed 20 Dec 2017 21:09:43 AEDT             4:02
Wed 20 Dec 2017 21:26:00 AEDT             4:02
Wed 20 Dec 2017 21:36:10 AEDT             2:32
Tue 2 Jan 2018 20:50:33 AEDT             3:38
Tue 2 Jan 2018 21:12:56 AEDT             3:37
Sat 13 Jan 2018 12:24:54 AEDT             2:30:07
Fri 19 Jan 2018 09:06:54 AEDT             28:03
Sat 20 Jan 2018 20:00:03 AEDT             1:05:17
Sat 3 Feb 2018 06:14:33 AEDT             10:58
Mon 5 Feb 2018 01:29:49       29:35             01:59:24
Thu 22 Feb 2018 20:01:58 AEDT             11:16
Thu 22 Feb 2018 21:19:15 AEDT             13:26
Fri 23 Feb 2018 15:46:14 AEDT             12:52
Mon 23 Apr 2018 21:03:25 AEST       8:38             21:12:03
Wed 25 Apr 2018 18:06:55 AEST             1:28:12
Wed 2 May 2018 00:54:35 AEST       14:13             01:08:48
Wed 2 May 2018 01:12:49 AEST       2:37             01:15:26
Wed 2 May 2018 04:39:16 AEST       6:48             04:46:04
Wed 2 May 2018 05:28:16 AEST       2:37             05:30:53
Wed 2 May 2018 20:50:31 AEST             44:33
Wed 2 May 2018 21:46:44 AEST             13:46:39
Sat 5 May 2018 09:22:51 AEST       6:31
Sat 5 May 2018 09:34:39 AEST       57:10
Sat 5 May 2018 10:44:54 AEST       7:09
Fri 11 May 2018 11:09:27 AEST       2:37             11:12:04
Sat 12 May 2018 22:38:53 AEST       8:44             22:47:37
Mon 21 May 2018 05:33:01 AEST             3:17
Tue 5 Jun 2018 12:33:39 AEST       2:10             12:35:49
Tue 12 Jun 2018 14:09:58 AEST             2:10
Tue 19 Jun 2018 01:07:09 AEST       5:38             01:12:47
Wed 20 Jun 2018 16:19:04 AEST       4:00             16:23:04
Wed 20 Jun 2018 14:06:27 AEST             37:01       14:44:26
Fri 22 Jun 2018 05:24:43 AEST       2:51             05:27:34
Fri 22 Jun 2018 23:16:38 AEST       17:22             23:34:00
Sat 23 Jun 2018 00:04:07 AEST       2:23             00:06:30
Sun 24 Jun 2018 20:40:12 AEST       6:43             20:46:55
Mon 2 Jul 2018 12:11:48 AEST       3:33             12:15:21
Sat 7 Jul 2018 12:42:23 AEST             3:23       12:45:46
Wed 11 Jul 2018 17:28:30 AEST             2:53       17:31:23
Tue 7 Aug 2018 14:09:46 AEST             1:34:32       15:44:18
Fri 10 Aug 2018 00:57:08 AEST       -       10:45       01:07:53
Sat 11 Aug 2018 21:28:14 AEST             14:08       21:42:22
Over 10 minutes       4       15
Over 30 minutes       1       8
Over 2 hours       0       5
Reboots       1       3

This list is more informative than I had thought. It shows in particular that availability of both systems is much less than I expected, and that outages tend to come in groups. It seems that most are network problems that don't get fixed on the first try, and I changed horses in mid-stream to account for them: I don't consider an outage over until I get 5 good pings. I also started adding the end time, mainly to be able to check my arithmetic.

So what does this tell me? Clearly ffm is more available than www, and it's probably time to say goodbye to RootBSD. But it's also not as reliable as I had hoped, so after migrating most of my content to object storage, maybe it would also be time to run two servers, in case one fails.


Monday, 13 August 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 August 2018
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Garden breakage
Topic: gardening Link here

Last month Mick planted our Salvia microphylla cultivar in the garden. It looked rather sad, and I was concerned about wind damage, so I put a wire cage around it with plastic foil to keep the wind out.

How do you anchor the protection? Two metal stakes (“dropper” in Australian) will do it. But wouldn't one dropper on the edge through the mesh do the trick too? That's what I did.

Today I found out why that's not a good idea:


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It's not dead, but it has certainly suffered. One stem has broken off, and I have planted it in soil in the hope that it will take root. And of course now there are two droppers round the protection.


Wheelbarrow breakage
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne's wheelbarrow had a flat tyre. How did that happen? It seems that wheelbarrow tyres are of particularly bad quality. Turned on the air compressor to pump it up again, without much hope that it would stay there.

I was right, though not quite the way I expected. The air pressure shot up, probably beyond the recommended pressure. How far? I barely had time to look before the thing exploded on me:


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Clearly there's no repairing that tyre any more.


Random breakages
Topic: general, gardening Link here

They're not the only breakages we have had recently. We also have the dish washer that I have been dragging my feet about, the ducted vacuum cleaner sounds like the motor is on its last legs—why, in a device only a little over 3 years old?—we have a power point that is still hanging out of the wall, and one of these silly halogen lights in the useless range hood has burnt out. What is it, anyway? There seem to be no markings on them whatsoever. It took me quite some time, with the help of eBay, to establish that it is a G4 bi-pin lamp similar to the one on the right of this image:

But what power? The manufacturer was too polite to include that information. After some searching I discovered a marking on the reflector in the range hood: 12 V, maximum 20 W.

Still, enough stuff to fix to justify a journey into town, something that I really didn't want to do. To Wiltronics, where they were just as confused as I was, but they finally gave me my 20 W globe, $5.95. It wasn't until I got home that I discovered that the 20 W were spread over 2 10 W globes. And later, on eBay I bought 20 20 W globes for $7.19, including postage. At that price, it's hardly worth returning the others.

Then to Bunnings to buy a new wheelbarrow—$99. I should have asked about wheels, but I couldn't find any staff. Also some irrigation hose and some fertilizer, not only cheaper than I expected, but also clearly labeled:


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7-1-7-9. What does that mean? It proves to be an approximation to the percentages of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Sulphur, conveniently in alphabetical order of English name, not chemical symbol (N-P-K-S):


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Isn't that a good idea! Yes, indeed, except...


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The bag on the right has the same description, and a completely different composition (9-1-7-12)! Not the slightest explanation as to why they have two different ones, nor the difference that it would make.


Tuesday, 14 August 2018 Dereel Images for 14 August 2018
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Spring on its way
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It's getting milder, and today we took the dogs to the „Große Linde“, really some kind of conifer. On the way we had flowering Acacia and—not so pleasantly—Oxalis, a rather pretty weed:


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We also saw the first few Pterostylis of the season, not really worth a photo.


More kangaroos
Topic: animals, photography, general Link here

We have had a lot of kangaroos on the property lately. Light is almost always against me: we live at the east end of the property, so the afternoon sun comes from behind. Still, I got a few good shots today:


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Wednesday, 15 August 2018 Dereel Images for 15 August 2018
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Coming to grips with Object Storage, day 1
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

OK, it's becoming clear that I will have to overcome my distaste with the implementation of object storage and learn to live with it.

It really seems that there are almost no tools worth using, presumably the result of choosing to throw away the file system paradigm and start again. But s3cmd, which the FreeBSD Ports Collection obfuscatingly calls py-s3cmd, seems to offer much of what I need. Tried to install it, once again tripping over the age of my installation on eureka, but finally got it installed on www and teevee. That's enough for today; tomorrow I'll look at the pain of actually setting one up.


apachectl graceless
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While installing s3cmd on www, discovered that the load average was over 50, and there were dozens of active httpd processes. Why? Has Apache got itself confused? Tried a graceful restart:

=== root@www (/dev/pts/2) /home/grog 1 -> apachectl graceful
Performing sanity check on apache24 configuration:
Syntax OK
Performing a graceful restart

And how about that, the httpd processes gradually diminished... until there were none left. Was the thing still running? Checked from home. No, connection refused. What went wrong there?

=== root@www (/dev/pts/2) /home/grog 3 -> apachectl start
Performing sanity check on apache24 configuration:
Syntax OK
Starting apache24.

After that, everything ran again. Why did the “graceful” restart stop Apache? Nothing in the log files. More head-scratching.


More pterostylis
Topic: gardening Link here

Walking the dogs up towards Progress Road, came across many more Pterostylis in flower:


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That's surprising, because I have never seen any there before. Time to take another look in the house forest. I have a suspicion that they might only flower every few years.


Thursday, 16 August 2018 Dereel Images for 16 August 2018
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Object storage, day 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

OK, now I have the local tools to move data to object storage. Time to take the plunge.

What issues do I still have?

  1. Which supplier? An obvious choice would be Amazon S3, but the web documentation looked confusing. DigitalOcean at least has better-looking documentation, including on how to use s3cmd. They also give me 2 months for free, after which I will pay probably only round $5 a month, compared to $30 odd that I'm currently paying over and above the price of a virtual server.
  2. How to get the data there? I can move it from here or from www.lemis.com.
  3. How do I modify my scripts to serve image URLs from the new server? My oneimage.php script is nearly 3000 lines long, and the function showphoto () alone is 800 lines of code that I wrote when I understood neither PHP nor my aims very well. I have a horror of modifying it.
  4. How do I modify my file upload scripts?

First, set up an account with DigitalOcean. That was straightforward enough, but creating a space and setting up s3cmd wasn't. It took me over an hour to work my way through a maze of twisty little menus and terms, all different.

How do you generate keys? How do you save them? It tells me to visit the API page, conveniently linked, which shows nothing about keys. When I finally found it, I couldn't work out how to generate the keys. I was presented with this page, with no explanations:


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Select More V, right? Wrong. By trial and error I discovered that I was supposed to click on the blue tick mark to the right of the space name in order to save the key that had already been generated.

Next, set up s3cmd, using this page as a guide. Suddenly there's a mention of a “bucket”. What's that? Some storage subdivision, presumably, but they're too polite to assume that I've never heard of it before, so they don't say.

Test the configuration:

Test access with supplied credentials? [Y/n] Enter
Please wait, attempting to list all buckets...
      ERROR: Test failed: 302 (Found)

Not quite “Error 0 (Success)”, but close enough. What's wrong? The obvious thing in the setup was that there is nothing there to identify my space. What's this dubious-looking statement?

Because Spaces supports DNS-based buckets, at the next prompt, supply the bucket value in the required format: %(bucket)s.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com

%(bucket) looks like some variable substitution. Should I substitute my space name? Tried that to no avail. Much discussion on IRC, most of which missed the point.

Authentication issue, maybe? It didn't look like, but what happens if I try the wrong key. Exactly the same thing! Is this its way of telling me that my key was wrong? Checked it, along with the secret key, and both looked correct. But they're only displayed on a web browser, and the Copy function doesn't work. That secret key takes up the entire width of its field on the browser. Could it be truncated? How do I tell? It's a secret key, so I can't get it displayed again. Maximize the browser window? No difference. Change the font size? No difference. Look at the source? Not there.

Finally tried setting up on a different system. This had all been on www, so I tried teevee (eureka is too old to install the software easily). And how about that! It worked.

What was different? Only one thing:

-use_https = True
+use_https = False

The instructions were to use https, and there was no reason to change them, but somehow I had managed to anyway.

Finally done, t+90 minutes! What I learnt:

  1. “Bucket” is a synonym for “storage space”.
  2. The entry %(bucket)s.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com is meant literally.
  3. The Copy function requires a clipboard, something that X normally doesn't provide. I needed to run xclipboard to provide a destination for the Copy function.
  4. You must use https:. http: not only doesn't work, but gives you unintelligible error messages.

OK, step 2: copy data to the storebucket. First, how do I organize them? The modern way seems to be to assign them random names, but then, that's one of my objections. I currently keep my photos in a clear hierarchy, like http://www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20180816/, where 20180816 is (today's) date. Inside this directory are some auxiliary files, including a list of images and their sizes, and three subdirectories big/, small/ and tiny/, which contain the original files, a smaller version (about 270 kP) and even smaller images (about 67 kP) respectively. I only really need to move the images. So why not keep the hierarchy as-is? Yes, it's not modern, but it Makes Sense To Me.

That's a s3cmd put or s3cmd sync. The latter looks more appropriate:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/1) ~/www.lemis.com 58 -> for i in grog/Photos/19640828; do s3cmd sync /big/ /small/ /tiny/ s3://lemis//; done
WARNING: Skipping over symbolic link: grog/Photos/19640828/big/KL-24.jpeg
WARNING: Skipping over symbolic link: grog/Photos/19640828/big/KL-2.jpeg
...
upload: 'grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/Bank-Negara-Malaysia.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/Bank-Negara-Malaysia.jpeg'  [1 of 29]
 47441 of 47441   100% in    0s   555.11 kB/s  done
upload: 'grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/Bikini-1.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/Bikini-1.jpeg'  [2 of 29]
 39759 of 39759   100% in    0s   379.06 kB/s  done
upload: 'grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/KL-1.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/KL-1.jpeg'  [3 of 29]
 50248 of 50248   100% in    2s    22.48 kB/s  done
upload: 'grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/KL-10.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/KL-10.jpeg'  [4 of 29]

The good news: it works. The bad news: not the way I wanted. Losing file system semantics also means losing symlinks. I'll have to work out how to handle that. The other is easier: it dropped the final part of the directory names, so grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/Bikini-1.jpeg ended up in grog/Photos/19640828/Bikini-1.jpeg. So did grog/Photos/19640828/big/Bikini-1.jpeg. OK, that's trivial:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/1) ~/www.lemis.com 59 -> for i in grog/Photos/19640828/big; do s3cmd sync $i/ s3://lemis/$i/; done
...
upload: 'grog/Photos/19640828/big/Bank-Negara-Malaysia.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/big/Bank-Negara-Malaysia.jpeg'  [1 of 29]
 1286811 of 1286811   100% in    0s     3.75 MB/s  done
...

Finally I have images in the space. Point a web browser at http://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/19640828/big/Bank-Negara-Malaysia.jpeg and what do I see? HTTP error 413: You are not permitted...

Where did that come from? The files that I uploaded had permissions 644 (owner read-write, group read, other read). Why are they not accessible? Ah, that's a feature, not a bug. By default, files are not world-readable. As Benno Rice said on IRC:

<benno>: If you want to know how much fun it is when the default is to public
there's plenty of examples out there.

Yes, the more I have to do with this concept, it seems that the thrust of object storage is not storing publicly available content. But that's not the point. There's no way to change the default! Peter Jeremy came up with the s3cmd setacl command, but it proves that the -P option to the sync subcommand sets public access.

One of the few advantages that I found that object storage has over file systems is a more modular permissions system, using ACLs. But there's little to be seen of that here. All the documentation I have seen so far has reduced the 512 permissions that Unix offers down to two: public or private. O brave new world! As Henry Spencer said,

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly.

While trying to fix the permissions, ran into one of these poor reinventions:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/1) ~/www.lemis.com 63 -> for i in grog/Photos/19640828; do s3cmd setacl $i/big/ $i/small/ $i/tiny/ s3://lemis/$i/ -P; done

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    An unexpected error has occurred.
  Please try reproducing the error using
  the latest s3cmd code from the git master
  branch found at:
    https://github.com/s3tools/s3cmd
  and have a look at the known issues list:
    https://github.com/s3tools/s3cmd/wiki/Common-known-issues-and-their-solutions
  If the error persists, please report the
  following lines (removing any private
  info as necessary) to:
   s3tools-bugs@lists.sourceforge.net

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Invoked as: /usr/local/bin/s3cmd setacl grog/Photos/19640828/big/ grog/Photos/19640828/small/ grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/ s3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/ -P
Problem: AttributeError: 'S3UriFile' object has no attribute 'has_object'
S3cmd:   2.0.2
python:   2.7.10 (default, Nov  5 2015, 01:15:39)
[GCC 4.2.1 Compatible FreeBSD Clang 3.4.1 (tags/RELEASE_34/dot1-final 208032)]
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/usr/local/bin/s3cmd", line 3172, in <module>
    report_exception(e)
  File "/usr/local/bin/s3cmd", line 3047, in report_exception
    sys.stderr.write(u"environment LANG=%s
" % unicodise_s(os.getenv("LANG"), 'ascii'))
  File "/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/S3/Utils.py", line 321, in unicodise_s
    return unicodise(string, encoding, errors, True)
  File "/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/S3/Utils.py", line 312, in unicodise
    return unicode(string, encoding, errors)
TypeError: coercing to Unicode: need string or buffer, NoneType found

This is s3cmd's way of saying “You may only specify one path name (I think). My error (I had forgotten to remove the source paths from a previous command), but what a message! The most important part is “unexpected error”: it doesn't cater for incorrect syntax. By comparison, chmod says:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/1) ~  -> for i in grog/Photos/19640828; do chmod 644 $i/big/ $i/small/ $i/tiny/ s3://lemis/$i/ -P; done
chmod: grog/Photos/19640828/big/: No such file or directory
chmod: grog/Photos/19640828/small/: No such file or directory
chmod: grog/Photos/19640828/tiny/: No such file or directory
chmod: s3://lemis/grog/Photos/19640828/: No such file or directory
chmod: -P: No such file or directory

OK, finally I have things going the way I wanted them:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/1) ~/www.lemis.com 64 ->  for i in grog/Photos/1*; do for j in big small tiny; do echo $i/$j; s3cmd sync $i/$j/ s3://lemis/$i/$j/ -P; done

And away that ran, copying all my data. But not exactly with the warm fuzzy feeling that everything was OK. Apparently at random I got:

grog/Photos/19630502/small
grog/Photos/19630502/tiny
WARNING: Retrying failed request: /?prefix=grog%2FPhotos%2F19630502%2Ftiny%2F ([Errno 54] Connection reset by peer)
WARNING: Waiting 3 sec...
WARNING: Retrying failed request: /?prefix=grog%2FPhotos%2F19630502%2Ftiny%2F ([Errno 54] Connection reset by peer)
WARNING: Waiting 6 sec...
WARNING: Retrying failed request: /?prefix=grog%2FPhotos%2F19630502%2Ftiny%2F ([Errno 54] Connection reset by peer)
WARNING: Waiting 9 sec...
grog/Photos/19630905/big
grog/Photos/19630905/small
WARNING: Retrying failed request: /?prefix=grog%2FPhotos%2F19630905%2Fsmall%2F ([Errno 54] Connection reset by peer)
WARNING: Waiting 3 sec...

Finally I have my 20th century photos copied; hopefully these ECONNRESET errors won't happen when people access the images. But it's clearly something to keep my eye on.

While waiting for the sync, I took a look at showphoto (). Surprise, surprise! Only one line needs changing:

  $servername = "https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com";

Good luck or good programming? Probably neither. That's what I got for sticking to the same file system hierarchy as on the local machine. And, of course, yet another indication that file system semantics are still important.


Garden flowers in late winter
Topic: gardening Link here

Middle of the month, time for the monthly flower photos.

Spring is clearly on its way, and some flowers are way ahead of the season. The red Anigozanthos has progressed further since last month, though the yellow ones in the driveway appear to have died, possibly because of inappropriate soil:


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The Grevilleas are also doing well:


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On the other hand, the Banksia, while clearly healthy, has not changed much:


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I had had hopes that one Canna would survive the winter cold, which it might have done had the wind not put paid to it:


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The Echium that we planted earlier this year (and which I didn't mention) is looking very healthy, and we can expect flowers soon:


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And one of the Carpobrotus is flowering sporadically long before its time:


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The Euphorbia that we planted only last month is flowering happily:


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The Chaenostoma cordatum that we bought in April have partially survived:


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One died, two survived. It was a silly idea to buy them in April.

The Hebes are gradually recovering, for the most part:


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We've never seen a flower on any of the variegated ones, and though this one looks particularly bad, I'm wondering if some cockatoos have been having fun with them.

The mandevillas have had a varied fate. The white one at the entrance to the house looked quite good until a couple of weeks ago, but that has changed dramatically:


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I'm not sure what caused that. Yes, they're (reasonably) frost-sensitive, but the position was relatively protected, more so than the red one, which seems to be doing much better:


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And the roses never cease to surprise me. We still have new buds, not pretty, but interesting:


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The tomatoes are still not dead:


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I'm hoping for a harvest in the spring.

And the Tropaeolum continue to show the difference between the two beds:


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The first one is the original bed planted 3 years ago, and the second is only 18 months or so old. What's wrong with the soil round the water tanks?

And there are also still a couple of resistant Buddlejas:


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Friday, 17 August 2018 Dereel Images for 17 August 2018
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Huevos a la tigre again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another attempt at huevos a la tigre today. The big issue is still cooking the eggs correctly, with yolks soft and whites firm but not leathery.

Today I added another variable: a new serving dish of roughly appropriate proportions. Heat the mixture in the microwave oven to about 72° and then add the eggs, heat at 600 W for another two minutes with a cover on the dish. Leave to stand for 2 to 3 minutes. The result:


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Doesn't that look nice? Well, yes, until you realize that the space between the two eggs is covered in completely raw egg white. And the yolks were firm. At least nothing was leathery.

Clearly this is more of a problem than I had expected. How do I proceed? One possibility would be to group the yolks in the middle and the whites towards the outside. Another would be, of course, to just do it in an oven, as the recipe intended, and to ensure that it doesn't get hot enough to turn the eggs to leather.


Object storage, day 3
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Overnight my syncing of the data to DigitalOcean completed. How many errors? Who knows? Re-ran the sync operation and was reassured by the fact that nothing else was copied, so I started copying this century's photos. But I'm still getting these request failures and timeouts:

upload: 'grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg'  [8 of 42]
 317099 of 317099   100% in    0s   516.75 kB/s  failed
WARNING: Upload failed: /grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg (('The read operation timed out',))
WARNING: Waiting 3 sec...
...
WARNING: Upload failed: /grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg (('The read operation timed out',))
WARNING: Waiting 15 sec...
upload: 'grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg'  [8 of 42]
  65536 of 317099    20% in    0s   496.12 kB/s
upload: 'grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg'  [8 of 42]
 317099 of 317099   100% in  300s  1055.80 B/s  done
WARNING: Too many failures. Giving up on 'grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg'
ERROR: Upload of 'grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-4.jpeg' failed too many times (Last reason: )
upload: 'grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-5.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/20020601/big/domingo-5.jpeg'  [9 of 42]

That happened over the space of about 3 minutes. Apart from the wait times specified, there were the timeouts. What causes this? It can't be network activity: the next file transferred without a hitch. I should try from a different system, but for the time being it looks as if it's DigitalOcean's fault.

On the positive side, I found:

 25926 of 25926   100% in    0s   162.58 kB/s  done
upload: 'grog/Photos/20051015/tiny/Barbecue-9.jpeg' -> 's3://lemis/grog/Photos/20051015/tiny/Barbecue-9.jpeg'  [13 of 13]
 25224 of 25224   100% in    0s    88.11 kB/s  done
remote copy: 'Barbecue-1.jpeg' -> 'barbecue-1.jpeg'
...
remote copy: 'Barbecue-9.jpeg' -> 'barbecue-9.jpeg'
Done. Uploaded 363417 bytes in 32.5 seconds, 10.92 kB/s.

What does that mean? These files are not links; by my error, they're real copies of the same image. So clearly sync has looked at the checksums and sizes and established that they're the same thing. That looks like the way to handle the symlink issues that I noted yesterday.


Saturday, 18 August 2018 Dereel Images for 18 August 2018
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Reactions to Trump's bullying
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

On of Donald Trump's worst actions as president of the USA was to cancel US involvement in the JCPOA. US involvement? No, everybody's involvement, at least as far as he can reach. Do business with Iran or do business with us. That's duress, and it's unlikely that China will pay much attention.

Today I read an article showing other problems that this action has caused: Iraq has many business dealings with Iran, at least partially because the US invasion forced them to do. And now they're expected to break them. What can Iraq do? He has the gun.

But it seems that they found a way anyway, to quote this article:

On Monday, Abadi walked back his earlier commitment, saying Iraq would refrain only from conducting business with Iran in U.S. dollars. He said there was no decision yet on whether Iraq would suspend imports of major goods from Iran.

That will probably work. How are the US Americans going to find out what transactions take place? One of the reasons that Daesh survived so long was because of illegal trade. That was a terrorist group, with relatively limited ways to escape observation. When the governments of two bordering countries carry out transactions, who is there to observe them?

More to the point, though, it shows what I think is going to happen anyway: more and more financial transactions will take place without US involvement. This will have the effect that the US currency will lose in importance, along with the rest of the USA. Bravo, Trump!


Roast pork again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Three months ago we had roast pork, and Chris Bahlo and I really liked it: juicy, tasty and with nice crackling. The rest of the meat proved to be just what I needed for various South-East Asian dishes for breakfast.

But I'm running out of leftovers. OK, another roast. Last time it had been a shoulder roast. This time it was leg (ham), considered to be a better cut. Cooked as last time at 210°, 60 minutes with recirculation and 30 minutes with top heat as well: 90 minutes to get 1.5 kg to 68°.

Not a success. The skin wasn't as crisp as it should have been, and the meat was decidedly firm. Should I have cooked it to a higher temperature? Should I have heated from above for the entire time? I don't know, but if I can persuade Yvonne to do it again (won't be in the immediate future), I'll try shoulder again.


Sunday, 19 August 2018 Dereel
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Object storage migration, continued
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My migration to DigitalOcean continued today, all day long, moving my data from the 21st century. And I continued to get ECONNRESET errors about once a minute. The speeds seemed to be faster, but by evening it still wasn't done.


Power fail?
Topic: general Link here

Two transient power failures today, at 12:48 and 12:55. They were enough to annoy the UPS and cause the printer to wake up and grumble, but not enough for the ovens to forget the time. How long is that? I'd guess somewhere in the range of ½ second. The real annoyance is the worry that something worse is to come.


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