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December 2012
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Saturday, 1 December 2012 Dereel Images for 1 December 2012
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More house photos
Topic: photography Link here

Another weekend, another round of house photos. I've decided to do the dam panorama only once a month, and have retired the two views I mentioned last week (first two images) and replaced them with the third:


This should be house-e.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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In particular the first image won't be missed.

The sun was shining, and I had problems with the skies, particularly in the garden centre panorama, but also with one of the others:


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Clearly more work to be done there.


The Palestinian State
Topic: opinion Link here

So finally Palestine has gained some recognition in the world. And promptly Israel (“we only want peace”) retaliates by authorizing the construction of still more fortified settlements in what is supposed to become the Palestinian state. How can they get away with it? How can the US continue supporting a country that so rigorously suppresses a neighbour?

My objection here isn't to the Israeli people or their right to be there. The government doesn't necessarily speak for its people, any more than the Australian government's horrible human rights abuses against asylum seekers reflects with my views. But particularly a state founded after the catastrophe of the Nazi persecution of the Jews should show compassion, not persecution. It would be in their own best interests.


Sunday, 2 December 2012 Dereel Images for 2 December 2012
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Fisheyes and stitching suboptimal panoramas
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

My investigation of fisheye lenses is on hold for the moment. The lens I was looking at fetched a record $532, far more than I had thought it was worth. But the discussion goes on, and on the Hugin discussion Erik Krause pointed me at this description of the projection of the Samyang lens. Much more to learn.

On the German list a side topic sprang up: Subhash wanted a tutorial on using Hugin, and then ran into trouble with a series of photos not originally intended as a panorama and thus not taken with a panorama bracket. And he couldn't get them to stitch. For the fun of it, I took a look. The photos were taken with an Olympus E-5 and a Zuiko digital ED 7-14mm f/4 at 7 mm focal length:


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My first attempt at stitching them ran into trouble because panomatic couldn't find any control points for the fourth image. I added them manually, and all was well, though the lack of panorama bracket gave me an average error of 2.1 pixel and a maximum of 6.7:


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But Subhash had been using the built-in cpfind, and that was a different business. It found control points between the third and the fourth images, but not between the fourth and the fifth. But at the same time, it reported that the focal length of the lens was 7.92 mm, something that I've seen before. Tried several approaches, in the course of which I discovered that the recalculated focal length varied a little, between about 7.88 and 7.96 mm. Resetting it didn't help, and try as I might, I couldn't get a better image than this:


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But Subhash has also been complaining about the quality of Hugin. Is commercial software better? Tried a demo version of PtGui “Pro” (and yes, there is a non-“Pro” version). It wasn't much more reassuring. First, it didn't want to recognize my images:

 
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It seems that it insisted on using the name, rather than the contents, to decide what the image was. It added blank images to the panorama anyway, along with a focal length of 38.6 mm that it seems to have plucked out of nowhere. Linked the photos to the same name with .jpeg at the end:

-rw-r--r--  4 grog  lemis     187,606 22 Nov 13:52 00
-rw-r--r--  4 grog  lemis     187,606 22 Nov 13:52 00.jpeg
-rw-r--r--  4 grog  lemis     225,542 22 Nov 13:53 01
-rw-r--r--  4 grog  lemis     225,542 22 Nov 13:53 01.jpeg
-rw-r--r--  4 grog  lemis     212,269 22 Nov 13:53 02
-rw-r--r--  4 grog  lemis     212,269 22 Nov 13:53 02.jpeg

Then it was happier, and added those images too, without removing the non-loaded images and still with the claimed 38.6 mm focal length:

 
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So I started the program again, and it loaded the images by their .jpeg name, and extracted the information from the EXIF data:

 
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Circular fisheye? This is a 7 mm rectilinear lens! But I had to uncheck the EXIF data box to say that, and it promptly changed its mind:

 
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That's three completely unrelated attempts at guessing focal length, something that Hugin never has. Set it to 7 mm and let it find the control points, which it did an order of magnitude faster than Hugin, and found control points for all images—the only advantage I see so far. But there's something familiar about the results:


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Again there's an additional corner in the image, and it has changed the estimate of focal length. All in all, not sufficient. On the positive side, control point detection is much faster, but on the negative side:

To be fair, it offers some features that Hugin doesn't, but I didn't bother after that. There are other panorama programs, so decided to try them. The first I came across was autostitch. This seems to be a bare-bones product, strangely marketed by the Computer Science Department of the University of Bath. It didn't want to recognize my files either, not even the ones with .jpeg hung off the end. It insisted on them having a truncated .jpg extension:

-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     187,606 22 Nov 13:52 00
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     187,606 22 Nov 13:52 00.jpeg
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     187,606 22 Nov 13:52 00.jpg
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     225,542 22 Nov 13:53 01
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     225,542 22 Nov 13:53 01.jpeg
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     225,542 22 Nov 13:53 01.jpg
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     212,269 22 Nov 13:53 02
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     212,269 22 Nov 13:53 02.jpeg
-rw-r--r--  5 grog  lemis     212,269 22 Nov 13:53 02.jpg

How silly that looks on a Microsoft display!

 
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To be clear: both the 00s (for example) are identically the same file, a link and not a copy. And this brain-dead software thinks one name is of a “File” and the other of a “JPEG File” (and not “JPG File”). It's not clear whether that is Autostitch's or Microsoft's fault, but why do people have to hide and mutilate file names and try to guess the content from the name? Tried stitching, and got what looked like only a partial panorama, but while trying to find a way around it, ran into more pain than I could handle, and gave up. Certainly I haven't found any reason to buy a commercial product yet.


More X hangs!
Topic: technology Link here

While working on the panoramas, ran into an old enemy: the X hang with the cursor jumping between the screens. Not once, but twice in quick succession. I suppose I should report the bug, but they want me to log in, and I'm not sure I want to share my account details with them.


More weeding
Topic: gardening Link here

I've been neglecting my work in the garden recently. The weeds haven't been neglecting theirs, and at the moment things seem to be going backwards. Now that summer's here, hopefully there will be less rain, and I'll be able to make more progress. Spent a couple of hours today weeding in the south-east part of the eastern garden, where I've been planning to plant some ground covers once I get rid of the weeds. It could happen Real Soon Now.


Monday, 3 December 2012 Dereel Images for 3 December 2012
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More panorama stitchers
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My attempts with commercial panorama stitchers yesterday were more based on names I remembered rather than any particular recommendation. Today I took at look at Reinhard Wagner's “Profibuch HDR-Fotografie” (there's that “Pro” word again), which also talks about panoramas. And he uses Autopano “Pro” (the “Pro” apparently means “no frills”; there's also an Autopano “Giga”, designed for larger panoramas). Like PtGui “Pro”, the control point detector ran faster than any of Hugin's detectors, and found control points for all the images; I'm coming to the conclusion that the difference is with Hugin, not the others. But it, too, had problems with Subhash's panorama. The preview shows it:

 
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But I've seen differences between preview and result before, so I stitched it, ending up with a file with the emetic name c:\Users\grog\Desktop\[Group 3]-00_06-7 images.jpg, in a directory completely unrelated to the source. Yes, I could have set the destination before stitching, but I wasn't expecting it. The result looked reasonable at first sight:


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It's not until you look more carefully that it becomes apparent that it's Just Plain Broken. The shelf on the left goes beyond the (only partially shown) corner of the room, and the planks on the floor run at an angle to each other:

 
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Even the watermark from the demonstration version is broken. In addition, the right-hand radiator has discontinuities:

 
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For some reason, Autopano decides to convert the focal length of the lens to a 35 mm equivalent, and it also claims that the lens is a fisheye. But it doesn't change the focal length like cpfind and PtGui:

 
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All in all, it's clear that this set of photos is a particularly difficult one. Tried with last week's verandah-centre panorama, which it managed without difficulties. But I make two different views of this panorama: one for direct viewing with Miller Cylindrical projection, and one with Equirectangular projection for the animated version. And I couldn't find either of those on Autopano's list of projections. The best I could get was cylindrical, and even then I couldn't find a way to move the centre point of the panorama. I suppose it must be possible, but there's only so much time I'm prepared to invest in these things.


Internode: 3 ADSL dropouts per day are normal
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've put in a ticket with Internode support about the continued poor quality of service I've had with my wireless Internet connection, which continues. I made the mistake of supplying not only the obvious information, like the remote termination requests, but also supporting information like the frequent cell hopping. So I get a reply saying that cell hopping is normal, and ignoring the real problem. From my reply to them:

You also haven't addressed this part of the ticket:

Apart from this, I continually receive remote termination requests:

Nov 29 09:55:42 nerd-gw ppp[63956]: tun0: LCP: deflink: RecvTerminateReq(7) state = Opened
Nov 29 09:55:42 nerd-gw ppp[63956]: tun0: LCP: deflink: LayerDown
Nov 29 09:55:42 nerd-gw ppp[63956]: tun0: LCP: deflink: SendTerminateAck(7) state = Opened
Nov 29 09:55:42 nerd-gw ppp[63956]: tun0: LCP: deflink: State change Opened --> Stopping
...
	

This clearly shows that the other end is terminating the connection. You may like to compare with RFC 1661, section 3.7:

3.7. Link Termination Phase

PPP can terminate the link at any time. This might happen because of the loss of carrier, authentication failure, link quality failure, the expiration of an idle-period timer, or the administrative closing of the link.

Clearly in this case the cause is not loss of carrier (or I wouldn't receive the terminate request), or authentication failure (wrong state). Link quality failure also seems unlikely, since there is no associated change in signal strength. To the best of my knowledge there is no idle period timer with this service, as evidenced by the fact that I can stay up for weeks at a time. So this must be an administrative closing of the link. And that is Optus' decision, and nobody else's. But in any case, the log files will show this request, and hopefully the reason. If you can't find this information, presumably you don't have access to the correct logs. That would be a reason to ask Optus to look at the matter.

So I get a response back which seems completely out of keeping with the Internode I know:

It is normal for even a fixed line ADSL service to drop out up to 3 times per day, and 3G services are not intended to be a fixed line replacement. It is not likely that Optus are terminating your session, and as the service does not appear to be dropping out at an excessive level, we will be unable to log a fault.

Not likely? No explanation why, when I've provided continuous information to that effect. Abut the only question is whether it's Optus or Internode that is dropping the connection. The more I think about it, the more likely it is that Internode is dropping the connection. And it's neither normal nor acceptable for a fixed ADSL line to drop out up to 3 times a day. If Internode offered that level of support, they'd be out of business. It seems that there's a new wind blowing in Internode now. That's a pity.


Electronic level
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My new electronic level arrived today, so tried it out:


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It's pretty much exactly what I expected it to be, and it works about as well as I expected. One thing's clear: the less accurate version is completely adequate. With the ball head it's almost impossible to get it completely level; maybe something with adjusting screws would be a better choice.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Topic: general Link here

Yvonne off at the crack of dawn today to Rokeby this morning, round 5:45. A good two hours later she called me from Melbourne, where she should have been at least half an hour earlier: somehow the GPS navigator had hung, and she had to reset it—the first time ever! After that, apparently, it worked, but she had lost some of the settings and (I think) it tried to take her the shortest rather than the fastest way. That's fatal in the East of Melbourne, but fortunately she ignored it and made it there with only an hour delay.


Gone shopping
Topic: general Link here

Into town for a number of things today: my new bread pan has finally arrived from Hong Kong, after only 3 weeks, and I had to pick it up. It's tiny! But yes, the dimensions are what they say they are, so I had just underestimated the size difference from my current pan:


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It's strange that this is one of the biggest pans available on eBay. Do people really make such tiny loaves? Still, the height is right, so we'll see how it works out.

Also to the Ballarat Pump Shop with the pressure cell from our water pump. As I had feared, they confirmed that the bladder had ruptured and they wouldn't repair it (any more), since it was just too much work. So I had to spend $120 on a new one, which turned out to have too long a thread to attach properly to the pump, so I had to replace the old one—a good thing I didn't leave it there. Not the first time I'll have to go back there to get things to work.


Friends computers, more pain
Topic: gardening, technology, opinion Link here

While in town, dropped in to the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens with intent to attach an Ethernet cable for the third computer and a USB cable extension for Lorraine Powell, who hates fiddling round behind the computer. It turned out that the third computer already had a cable—it looks like I had done it myself and forgotten. And I couldn't attach the USB cable because the computer only had two sockets at the back, and they were both in use. It's a funny looking little metal cube with strange controls on the front—I'm continually looking for the power button—so I investigated and discovered a couple of secret flaps, one hiding a DVD drive, and the other a set of connectors, including two USB sockets! So I didn't need to do anything there either.

But I wasn't done. Lorraine wanted to download an image from the web and send it to somebody via email—the image itself, not the URL. How do you do that with Microsoft? I was just about to start braving “Outlook” when it occurred to me that we have a Gmail account, and that I had already learnt to use it. So connected up to that. But how to add the image? There's a button “Attach a file”, but that does exactly that: it attaches a local file. How do I get the thing on the local machine? Normally I'd do something like

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) /var/tmp 8 -> ftp http://www.lemis.com/grog/Photos/20121203/tiny/Autopano.jpeg
Requesting      
100% |***************************************************************************| 30619        1.10 MiB/s    00:00 ETA
30619 bytes retrieved in 00:00 (1.09 MiB/s)

But that doesn't work with Microsoft. What do you do? Genevieve knew: “open” Microsoft “Word” and copy it there, then send the “Word” document as an attachment. And she was really upset at my horror about the solution! But I didn't know any better solution, so we tried sending it like that. And somehow we got timeouts; maybe it was a combination of the Microsoft bloat, the slow machine and the slow ADSL line. But that was as much as I could stand, and I left the matter in Genevieve's capable hands. I later checked: yes, they had sent the message:

 
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At the next computer, Rudolf Huebner was trying to access the web. And it kept giving popups about out-of-date virus software or some such, and I gave up with that one too. I told him that I didn't use Microsoft, and he said something that impressed me: “Yes, I find this all rather neolithic. I use Apple too”.

I suppose it's par for the course that he didn't consider a different alternative, but on the other hand it's interesting that even people of the age of the Friends—most are older than I—are moving to Apple. I'm relatively certain that it's a sizeable majority, and I wonder why. I'm reminded of a opinion piece I read recently, titled “Microsoft has failed”. It's interesting, but a little one-sided. For example, it doesn't mention the reason I'm locked in to Microsoft: it's the only platform I can easily run DxO Optics “Pro” on. Many other people use Microsoft for the same reason, either because it's the only option, or it's just “easier”: most people aren't as stubborn as I am.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012 Dereel Images for 5 December 2012
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Nothing doing
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Relatively slow day today. Did some baking, a little weeding in the garden, and that was about that. Yvonne back in the evening without any further mishaps. The GPS navigator seemed correctly configured, and I can't understand why it wanted to take her a different route yesterday.


Thursday, 6 December 2012 Dereel Images for 6 December 2012
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Why I don't like Facebook
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Everybody uses Facebook today, even most of the people I know. And I spend a lot of time talking in IRC, which is arguably something very similar, and I also keep this diary. But try as I might, I can't get to like Facebook. Why? There are a number of reasons:

The last point is interesting. Some time ago Yvonne (who is not my friend on Facebook) updated her profile and added that she was married (to me). I know when it happened, because something in the Facebook profiles decided that this was our wedding day, and it added it to my profile:


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So for the fun of it I tried it out again and created a fake user, Maria Theresa (the mother of Maria Antonia) and married her to me. That didn't work for some reason, and I forgot about the whole thing. But Facebook didn't, and keeps sending her messages with texts like “You have more friends than you think” or “Interesting pages on Facebook”:


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I'm amazed at what Facebook thinks is interesting. Clearly they have very little information about Maria Theresa—just her name, portrait and (faked, of course) date of birth (30 August 1912); but even that should be enough to identify her and decide that, at 100 years of age, she probably doesn't want to go to the Omni Fitness & Nutrition North Ryde, 1000 km away. Google identifies her positively based on the portrait alone.


Laziness continues
Topic: gardening Link here

Another day with little to show for itself. A little more work in the garden, catching up with not just weeds but some particularly vigorous sweet peas, which have been taking over much of the north garden. Hopefully the drier weather will help me in my fight against the weeds.


Friday, 7 December 2012 Dereel
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Laziness and World Peace
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Yet another day where I did (almost) nothing. Why? Because I can? The weather certainly helped: the last few days have been unseasonally cool, so today was unseasonably warm to make up for it. Managed a bit more weeding, in the process unearthing a Delphinium „Völkerfrieden“ (World Peace) that had been almost completely hidden by a Salvia microphylla next to it. It's still a little wobbly (that's a bamboo rod holding it up):


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But on the other hand, despite all that I didn't do, I didn't get round to reading c't, which is somewhere down on my list of priorities. So presumably I was occupied enough after all.


Saturday, 8 December 2012 Dereel Images for 8 December 2012
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Weeds and insects advancing
Topic: gardening Link here

While having breakfast this morning, noticed an interesting coloured flower at the top of the garden arch: yellow. Further investigation showed that it was a weed, one of a kind that usually grows to 40 cm or so. Not this one. It was well over 2 metres high:


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The Alyogyne huegelii isn't looking overly happy at the moment. Given the treatment it has had, that's not overly surprising. And it seems that at this time of year it's not in its best either—the cuttings I have made are all looking less happy than they were a couple of months ago. But maybe there's more. Insects:


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We see the first kind wandering around back to back for weeks at this time of the year, apparently locked in a protracted mating ritual. They're about 1.5 cm long, and I haven't seen them do any damage. The others are about 2 mm long (and thus present a significant challenge to photography). No idea what they're doing, but it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that they're contributing to the state of the tree.

And then there are these insects on the Iceberg roses:


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They're clearly eating the petals. The good news is that they all respond to Pyrethrum.

Keeping the Alyogyne upright is also a problem. I've tied it to a star dropper with baling twine, but that eats into the bark. I've tried wrapping various things around it. Plastic sheet unravels amazingly fast, sometimes in seconds, and I haven't found a way to keep it together. So then I tried some of the metal straps we used to tie the parts of the verandah together. That stays in place, but somehow the twine slips:


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So I've put some wire through the holes to hold the twine in place. Hopefully this time things will work. But why is this all so complicated?


Polarizing filters: cheap or expensive?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

There's another round of “how much should I spend” going round the German Olympus forum, this time about polarizing filters. The general opinion on the forum is “you gets what you pays for”, clearly an attitude that has kept companies like Novoflex in business. In the case of polarizing filters, there are three main arguments for more expensive variants:

  1. Better optical quality: cheap filters distort the image.

  2. Less flare. Cheap filters exhibit a lot of flare.

  3. Colour casts. Cheap filters can change the color of the image.

My experience has been that the cheap filters I have bought have been satisfactory on all counts. Here a comparison taken with and without my el-cheapo $9 polarizing filter. Mouseover alternation shows the difference better, and also that my el-cheapo tripod managed to move the images while I was removing the filter:


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Clearly it can't show much difference for flare, but apart from that I don't see significant problems.


French cooking by Americans
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Recently we saw a film Julie & Julia, about Julia Child, a cook of whom I had barely heard, and Julie Powell, who cooked all the recipes from Julia Child's “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. I'm not overly interested in American views of French cooking: we have our own originally French books such as La cuisine de Mère Saint Ange, which I trust more than any foreign book on the subject. But the story was interesting, so I went through the catalogues of the local libraries and ended up with six books, two of which proved to be the same. Discovered that “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is in two volumes, and I only got the second.

What was I expecting? Mainly, I was curious. The film implied that the other two authors of the book (Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) were displaced and that it appeared only in Child's name, but that's not correct. Bertholle is missing from the second volume, but that's because she really wasn't involved, but Beck is listed as the first author of the first volume.

And? The recipes? Yes, it's American, and some of the statements are amazing:

And, of course, there's the inevitable use of inappropriate measures, such as cups and tablespoons, that thoroughly confuse me. But apart from that there are some surprising positive sides: nearly 100 pages on bread and other bakery, and over 50 on charcuterie, something that you won't find in French cookbooks. As they put it:

The average French household ... does no bread making, and there is no need to because every neighbourhood has its own boulangerie... Thus you cannot even find a bread pan in a French household supply store, and there are no French recipes for home-made bread.

And that's exactly the point. We're not in France, we're in AmericaAustralia, and both bread and charcuterie are a real problem. The recipes here look interesting, so much so that I'll probably get hold of a copy of the book. Who would have thought that?

That's only one of the books, of course. I didn't think the others (all newer) were nearly as good. But even one good cookbook is worth finding.


Where have all the flowers gone?
Topic: general Link here

Chris Yeardley had cause for celebration today. She has finished her 4 year computer course in 3 years, with High Distinctions all along. Yana has also completed her Bachelor of Arts and Diploma in German course, also a 4 year course—in ten years! Still, it's good that she went back and completed things.

So today Chris brought some champagnebubbly to celebrate, and then we had dinner—and I had forgotten the flowers! But we were able to make up for that:


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The main course was Cordon bleu, which were held together with toothpicks. Sometimes the tools you need aren't typical kitchen or table implements:


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Sunday, 9 December 2012 Dereel Images for 9 December 2012
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More panorama insights
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The weather yesterday was pretty terrible for panoramic photos: bright sunshine and high winds, so did my house photos today. And again a few more experiments.

The first: I've been thinking about leveling my panoramas for a while, and bought an electronic level a while back. The problem there has proved to be the difficulty of adjusting the head to get things really level. I've thought of several Heath-Robinson methods do achieve better control over the leveling process, but then a more obvious question occurred to me: how level does it need to be? To try that, I took two separate series of photos of the north garden, one aligned as accurately as I could with my el-cheapo ball head, and one where the bubble on the level was touching the surrounding ring. I later measured the accuracy with the electronic level: the “level” was 0.25° off level, while the other was 3.5° off level, a considerable proportion of the 5° adjustment that the Manfrotto leveling base offers. And the results? Not quite what I expected. I took them all from the same vantage point, so they could easily be stitched together. I deliberately cropped so that the edges were visible, and this is what I got:


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The images show exactly the same field of view. Running the cursor over either image chances it to the other one. Clearly there's very little difference, though the first (skewed) one is marginally more impacted. Basically, though, this suggests that the required accuracy is really not very high, and that even a cheap level is sufficient.

The other experiment was to add a nadir to the “verandah centre” panorama. I've seen some clever ideas with tripods at an angle, but I didn't have that, so I just did it hand-held. As expected, that wasn't the easiest subject, and the results were substandard:


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The flash panorama shows it clearly.

Even after removing the nadir area, it was pretty rough:


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So it's close, but no cigar. More equipment needed?


Weeding and tomatoes
Topic: gardening Link here

Managed to get some work done in the garden in the afternoon. The last two tomato seedlings in the greenhouse were ready for planting, so into the veggie patch and planted them, marvelling at how both the potatoes and the weeds have proliferated. It looks like it's time for Glyphosate for the front half of the patch, but the rest isn't looking bad. Spent some time removing lots of weeds. There may be hope yet.


Monday, 10 December 2012 Dereel Images for 10 December 2012
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More calendar fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For various reasons, I've had more to do with the calendar(1) program than I would have expected, notably when Chris Yeardley tidied it up for a university project. And then at the end of last month I discovered this:

25 Nov* First Sunday of Advent (4th Sunday before Christmas)

That's nonsense, of course. The earliest date for the first Sunday in Advent is 27 November. So what did it say for the real first Sunday in Advent, 2 December?

 2 Dec* First Sunday of Advent (4th Sunday before Christmas)

What's that nonsense? The real issue is that calendar is too stupid to understand the concept of Advent. The best that can be done (and what is done) is:

11/SunLast      First Sunday of Advent (4th Sunday before Christmas)
12/SunFirst     First Sunday of Advent (4th Sunday before Christmas)

And that is so stupid. calendar already understands things like Easter (in two different incarnations) and now it even knows about Chinese New Year, as I discovered while looking at it. So why not Christmas? Because I'm too lazy.

And then Jaakko Heinonen posted a message on one of the FreeBSD mailing lists, citing numerous problem reports, but not the issue with the C preprocessor that I noticed last month. Decided it was time to take a look.

What a surprise! In release 7, calendar had a total of 1476 lines of code. Now it's 3613! What happened? Clearly a makeover. The entire parsing of the input file has been rewritten—without removing the use of cpp. Took a look at that and found one bug, where negative offsets such as Thurs-1 didn't work, but not before I found this marvel of efficient coding:

        if (s[0] == '+' || s[0] == '-') {
                char ss[9];
                for (i = -100; i < 100; i++) {
                        sprintf(ss, "%s%d", (i > 0) ? "+" : "", i);
                        if (strcmp(ss, s) == 0)
                                return (i);
                }
                return (0);
        }

This code converts a decimal number with an explicit sign to binary, as long as the number is in the range -100 to 100 and is written without leading zeroes. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Who said that “open source” software is better because many eyes look at it? I'm not sure that even two eyes have ever looked at this before.


Virtual hardware problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I do my test building in a virtual machine, and today it hung. The console messages were unnerving:

Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): WRITE_DMA. ACB: ca 00 ff bb 74 40 00 00 00 00 00 00
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): CAM status: Command timeout
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: (ada0:ata0:0:0:0): Retrying command
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: g_vfs_done():ada0s1a[WRITE(offset=3917053952, length=65536)]error = 6
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: (ada0:ata0:0:0:/: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: 0): lost device
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: /: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: (pass0:/: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: ata0:0:0:/: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: 0): passdevgonecb: devfs entry is gone
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: g_vfs_done():ada0s1a[WRITE(offset=3917250560, length=16384)]error = 6
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: /: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: softdep_deallocate_dependencies: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: softdep_deallocate_dependencies: got error 6 while accessing filesystem
Dec 10 17:31:12 swamp: kernel: g_vfs_done():softdep_deallocate_dependencies:

That's a fatal disk error on the root file system. On a virtual machine? There's clearly a real disk behind it, and that's on eureka. But eureka didn't report any problems. Is this a real disk error or something in the mind of VirtualBox's disk emulation?


Tuesday, 11 December 2012 Dereel Images for 11 December 2012
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More calendar pain
Topic: technology Link here

Spent most of the day looking at calendar(1). What I had expected to be a simple bug fix goes much further; partially code is missing, in many cases it's (almost) duplicated, and I'm left wondering whether to apply a band-aid or rewrite the parser. But then, there's always a tendency to reinvent the wheel. More thought needed.


Baking with non-stick bread pan
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Today was bread baking day again, the first time since I got my new non-stick bread pan. To be on the safe side, I baked two loaves, one in the old pan, and one in the new. A good thing too: “non-stick” appears to be a pious wish rather than anything to do with reality. Even after running a knife around the entire sides of the loaf, I couldn't get it out. It stuck to the bottom too. Finally removed a small section, which pretty much fell apart. I need to think about how to remove the rest.


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In any case, I don't see that pan being used much any more. Grrr.


Subhash's panorama problems, continued
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Subhash is still having problems with Hugin, so I got him to send me his latest batch. He has asked me not to show them, but there's not much to see: It Worked For Me. Why not for him? More investigation needed.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012 Dereel Images for 12 December 2012
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More hugin stitching issues
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Subhash sent me his photos to look at overnight, along with a project file. The photos stitched perfectly! The project file, on the other hand, was a complete disaster. He described what he had done, and it all made sense. So what's the problem? He keeps all his images in DNG format, and converts them to TIFF before processing. I don't have the same tools as he does: I extract the raw image from the DNG using the Adobe tool and then process it with DxO Optics “Pro”. But I've seen problems with TIFF images and Hugin before. Could it be something similar?

Tried converting his images to TIFF. It wasn't simple: I know there's a way to select output format and name with DxO, but I couldn't find it. None of the menus on any of the tabs showed me anything. In principle it should have been on this screen, “Processing”, which needs to be enlarged (click 3 times) to be legible. But I couldn't find it.


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Finally RTFM time. Sure, of course it's there:

 
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What's that? An arrowhead at left. Where is it? Centre left, and that's original size. Click on it and you get the menus:

 
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Now isn't that intuitive?

So I created my TIFFs. No change. Nothing I could do could provoke the problem. I'm really confused.


Extracting the bread
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

So the bread I baked yesterday in the new non-stick pan stuck to the pan. Yesterday I extracted a small slice, some of which didn't self-destruct. Today I considered the options for removing the rest, and heated the pan from underneath to toast and hopefully toughen the base. Then I was able to remove half the bread, but it's not clear the effort was worth it:


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The second image shows the bread from underneath; the bottom is still in the pan. What a disaster!


Thursday, 13 December 2012 Dereel
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More Hugin experiments
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I've been doing more thinking about the control point mismatches that have been plaguing Subhash (mainly) and me this last week or so. One unexamined clue was the problems I had in August, where the control point detectors discovered control points in exactly the same location on each image. Could this be a problem with the sensor, maybe dirt or flawed pixels? And conversion to JPEG would be enough to hide them, but TIFFs are too accurate a representation?

Tried multiple conversions of August's images, using both CPfind and panomatic. Nothing. I couldn't reproduce it. OK, that's enough for the moment. I'll wait for Subhash to respond or the problem to reoccur. Maybe I should convert to TIFF from now on.


Emacs C indentation
Topic: technology Link here

I've been using versions of Emacs for ever, about half the history of digital computers. It's wired into my fingers. But Emacs hasn't stayed the same. One of the very first things I wrote for MINCE (“MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs”), in about 1980, was a set of functions for indenting C sources. When I got GNU Emacs, I hacked the indentation macros to match. And gradually the indentation functionality in the Emacs distribution increased, to the point that it became desirable to change to it.

But how? I have my own style of indentation that nobody else seems to use, and my attempts to adapt to it ultimately came to nothing. But now I'm working on FreeBSD code, which uses a modified K&R indentation style completely incompatible with mine, and I'm continually running into trouble with indentation issues. Surely somebody else must have solved this issue.

Did some searching and found precious little in the way of specific settings. The best was probably Tony Finch's file, which is very detailed, but over 10 years old. Tried it anyway with little success. More RTFM until my eyes went funny. I wish this documentation were better. By evening I had something that didn't look too bad, but it still needs improvement.


Extracting the last of the bread
Topic: food and drink Link here

So: I have removed two parts of the bread I baked in the “non-stick” pan 2 days ago. Both were in tatters when I got them out. But about 40% was left behind, and I was able to get an egg slice under the bottom and get it out almost intact. What an effort!


Friday, 14 December 2012 Dereel Images for 14 December 2012
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Power failure recovery times
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Lying in bed this morning while Yvonne was in the shower, and heard the UPSs go off: another power failure. That's bad news for Yvonne, since the house water supply is run by electric pump. And it didn't come back after the normal 2 or 3 seconds for a transient power failure.

Grumbling, into the office to report the problem, which went relatively smoothly. Then outside and saw the pilot light on this terminally stupid Sony mini-radio in the kitchen: it's on when the device is off, and goes off when the device is on. But it was on: we had power again. And then it occurred to me that the UPS in the office was quiet, so probably I reported the problem after power had come back. OK, ring them up again. Press menu item 2 to report a fault, menu item 3 to really report a fault. And I got terms and conditions read out to me.

What did I do wrong there? Tried again. This time I listened to the message: it knew that power was down, estimated time for restoration of service 13:00—over 4 hours in the future! Tried item 3 again—again I got terms and conditions!

Third time lucky. It seems that if you have already lodged a fault, you can't just contact an operator: you have to wait until one answers. So I did that and spoke to Christie and told her how much trouble I had had getting back in contact with them. “OK, if you're having trouble, just press menu item 1 and you'll get connected directly”. I knew that, but it's good to hear it from an operator: now I have an excuse to fake a “life-threatening emergency”. Also asked why the estimated repair time had now increased from 2 hours to over 4. “It's always been 4 hours”. Not in my recollection, but she was clearly not the person to talk to, so asked for a call back from Eddie Barkla, reported the clarification of the fault.

To my surprise, Eddie called back within 2 hours, to tell me that the message was misleading and that Christie's statement was “not entirely correct”—in other words, wrong. OK, I can live with that. But it's good to document it.

And how long was the outage? This time I have exact timings:

Dec 14 08:29:41 lagoon kernel: nfe0: link state changed to DOWN
Dec 14 08:29:58 lagoon kernel: nfe0: link state changed to UP

All that for a 17 second outage!


Focus stacking: how?
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Lots of new flowers in the garden, but the weather's been pretty moist, so I took photos from the protection of the verandah. That means telephoto lenses, and that means focus issues. So I took two photos from the same place with different focus, intending to merge them to show both foreground and background in focus:


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The problem is that the images are of different size , as can be clearly seen by running the mouse over either image. How did that happen? At first I suspected user error, but the EXIF data shows that both images were taken at a focal length of 78 mm. The real problem is that the size of the image changes with focus. And I'm not sure how to get enfuse to handle that.


Emacs indentation progress
Topic: technology Link here

Continued playing around with my Emacs indentation macros today, and finally got not just what I wanted, but more. Now I can finally place the braces where I want them, indented with the block which they delimit:

      if (mytime.tm_year < 0)                   /* not a valid year, */
        {
        basetm = localtime (&base);             /* get base in struct tm format */
        mytime.tm_year = basetm->tm_year;       /* use this year */
        hms = argv [*arg];                      /* and reinterpret this value as hms */
        }
      else
        hms = argv [++*arg];                    /* hms is the next field */
      }

Getting there was confusing. I still find the GNU documentation hard to read. The real issue is that c-mode does its own primitive parsing of the source, the grammar isn't immediately apparent, and the examples don't help. It seems I needed to address different variables for the opening and closing braces above: the opening brace above is controlled by substatement-open, and not by block-open, while the closing brace is controlled (at least) by block-close.

In addition, found a way to highlight various kinds of white space. The biggest problems I've had with FreeBSD sources is that I continually mix up tabs and spaces, and in the past often committed sources that had trailing white space. Now I can highlight both trailing white space and tabs—mainly. Spent some time trying to work out why the macros weren't inserting tabs before indented comments, and discovered that they were, but c-mode wasn't displaying them. Searching for tabs highlights them in a different colour, and it highlights them all (second image):

 
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That's a bug, clearly, one that I don't want to search for. At any rate things are a lot easier to handle now. Here's the source, which probably depends on contents of other files.

A number of web references helped. This page explains highlighting white space, and this page talks about colour themes, which could be handy. In addition, this page shows the actual colours, which really have more to do with X than they do with Emacs.


Saturday, 15 December 2012 Dereel Images for 15 December 2012
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Garage sales in Enfield
Topic: general Link here

Somehow Yvonne discovered that there was a mass garage sale in Enfield today: a total of 14 separate sales, all to the north of the village proper in the areas where we had been looking for property. In fact, one of the sales was in a house that we had looked at a few months back.

Off to take a look. It seems that a number of households had got together to persuade people from Ballarat that it was worthwhile to make the journey, and apparently it was worth the effort: by the time we arrived, in mid-morning, a lot of the stuff was already gone. It's amazing how varied things were. Some people had lots of baby clothes, another motorbike clothing, others assorted junk. At one place bought some vehicle ramps, which Yvonne thought might be useful. They also had a kind of toaster I haven't seen since we lived in Nunawading in the early 1950s, and which I knew as a “griddle grill”. Mainly out of nostalgia, bought it for $1. At another place bought some wicker furniture and a brand-new double-bladed Mezzaluna with its own chopping board. Total expenditure $39.


Still more panorama experiments
Topic: photography, technology Link here

The weather this morning was not good enough for my house photos, and I had planned to put them off until tomorrow, but by mid-afternoon things had picked up, and I managed to get them done. This time I had decided to create TIFF images, after a suggestion from Subhash. Not easy: I needed to modify most of my scripts, and there were all sorts of problems. DxO Optics “Pro” creates TIFF files which are dubious to say the least. Here's what ImageMagick's ambiguously named convert has to say:

20121215: Unknown field with tag 50341 (0xc4a5) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Unknown field with tag 53248 (0xd000) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Wrong data type 3 for "PixelXDimension"; tag ignored. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Wrong data type 3 for "PixelYDimension"; tag ignored. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Incompatible type for "FileSource"; tag ignored. `TIFFFetchNormalTag' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Wrong data type 3 for "GainControl"; tag ignored. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Unknown field with tag 42033 (0xa431) encountered. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Unknown field with tag 42036 (0xa434) encountered. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Unknown field with tag 42037 (0xa435) encountered. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Unknown field with tag 50341 (0xc4a5) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
20121215: Unknown field with tag 53248 (0xd000) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.

And xv doesn't want to know at all. I should have remembered that from last time.

But this time I persevered. convert creates two output files! If I give it a target file name, say, garden-centre-0.tiff, I end up with files garden-centre-0-0.tiff and garden-centre-0-1.tiff. The latter's a thumbnail that I really don't need, but of course DxO doesn't give me the option of suppressing it. There must be a way to extract a specific image, but after reading the documentation I was none the wiser. Finally I took a cue from the output of identify:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos/20121215/orig/TIFF 138 -> identify PC153427.tif
PC153427.tif[0] TIFF 3024x4032 3024x4032+0+0 16-bit DirectClass 73.33MB 0.008u 0:00.007
PC153427.tif[1] TIFF 189x252 189x252+0+0 8-bit DirectClass 73.33MB 0.000u 0:00.007
(and all the warnings all over again)

So I tried:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos/20121215/orig/TIFF 139 -> convert PC153427.tif[0] garden-centre-0.tiff
(all the warnings all over again)
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos/20121215/orig/TIFF 140 -> l garden-centre-0.tiff
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis  73,193,566 16 Dec 11:28 garden-centre-0.tiff

Now isn't that tacky? In addition, it seems that convert doesn't preserve the EXIF data in TIFF files, so I'll have to do that manually too.

Converting things to TIFF took forever, and the first panorama results were less than stellar. Once again I saw control points which seemed completely unrelated. While trying to recreate them, managed to destroy the project file, and I had other things to do, so added conversions to JPEG to the workload and left it overnight to complete.


Multiple failures
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As if the photo processing wasn't frustrating enough, a couple of other things ganged up to annoy me. After this morning's excursion, put the GPS navigator on to charge, and came back a little later to see the charge indicator showing purple—normally it's red (for charging) or blue (for charged). And the thing didn't work. More playing around brought a bright, uneven screen, which then died. Resetting helped enough to get the thing to start booting before crashing. And when I reconnected the charger, it didn't charge. All suggests a dead battery, which isn't user-replaceable. I've only had the thing 18 months—looks like I need a new one.

In addition, I had turned on teevee, my TV display computer, to copy files to it. But it didn't show up on the network. Turned the projector to see what was wrong and saw something like:

Can't find kern...

That kern... should have been kernel, of course. Further investigation showed that the system disk had died. It's 1 TB, and I didn't make backups of it (most of it is recorded TV programmes). Put it in dereel and was able to access it for about 10 minutes, after which it just died again. Another electronics issue. Maybe I'll be able to extract things piecemeal, leaving it to cool down in between.


Philodendron root
Topic: gardening Link here

We have a Philodendron planted in the dining room. Recently I discovered that one of them had stuck an aerial root over the edge of the pot, and it was growing away from the window. Yesterday I put the first thing that I could find (portable telephone) next to the end of the root, and today it had grown this far:


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Sunday, 16 December 2012 Dereel
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Photo processing progress
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Into the office this morning to continue with my photo processing. The remainder of the photo processing with DxO Optics “Pro” had taken 6 hours, 12 minutes, and just copying the TIFFs and reinstating the EXIF data took 20 minutes. Processing with TIFF is really slow. I should do some comparisons to see whether it's worth it. This time I gave up and tried it with JPEG instead. Eventually got all but one panorama processed, the “garden centre” one, which suffered because of the light wind. Interestingly, the control point detection was even worse with JPEG than with TIFF, but at least one of the control points in the TIFF was completely wrong, half an image apart. I still can't get past the suspicion that there's some bug in the control point processing of TIFFs.


Hardware failures: picking up the pieces
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Spent quite some time attending to yesterday's hardware failures. In the case of the GPS navigator, there's an alternative to assuming the battery is dead: what if it didn't get charged? The indoor charger is a generic USB device, but the one I used wasn't the one it came with, and it looked a little anaemic. So I tried the correct one and—it worked! One problem solved, one to go.

Into town to buy a new disk. After some consideration, it made sense to buy a 2 TB external drive with USB 3.0 connection and use it for photo backups. It's becoming clear that eSATA is no longer a viable option. I have two 2 TB drives for photo backups, but the housing of one of them died within warranty. I returned it to “bare bones” MSY for replacement a year ago, but they don't want to know. They claimed it was out of warranty, and I'd have to expend more effort than it's worth to get them to replace it. It's just not worth doing business with people like that.

Apart from that, MSY is in Geelong, and just getting there would add $20 to the cost. Their cheapest costs $119, so I'd be looking at $140 odd. To my surprise, discovered that Officeworks in Ballarat have 2 GB external drives (possibly the same one as MSY offers) for $99. It's amazing how cheap they are by comparison. Staticice suggests that they're pretty much the cheapest apart from specials. Checked JB HiFi as well, but their disks started round the $139 mark. So I bought the disk at Officeworks.

Back home and started on a long rearrangement of disk space. First step is to back up the photos to the new disk: 1.5 TB across USB 2 at about 15 MB/s takes 100,000 seconds, or about 28 hours. Started that off, then looked for a new disk as an interim measure for teevee until the final disk is available. Found a 200 GB disk and installed on that, which went surprisingly smoothly. Apart from the missing documentaries, it's almost as if nothing had happened.

To my surprise, also found another Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1 TB disk, the same model that just failed on me. Can I use the electronics to salvage the data on the disk? Possibly, but the control board on the disk is a different kind, so possibly not. I'll salvage as much as I can by conventional means first.


Monday, 17 December 2012 Dereel
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Emacs highlighting: can of worms
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So now I have this nice white space highlighting running with Emacs, and it's a great improvement. Only one problem: by default trailing white space is highlighted in red, which on the one hand is somewhat irritating, but on the other hand a real problem: a single space at the end of the line looks just like a cursor, and I kept trying to input data there. Time to change the colour.

But how do you do that? GNU Emacs has changed a lot since I first installed revision 18.39 in late 1989, and it looks like there is a whole new infrastructure around the display. Did some reading, but there's so much to read, and so much of the documentation relates to packages that aren't part of base Emacs. In the end, went the hackish way. From some documentation page established that there's a function customize-face, but it wanted a parameter FACE. What name should I specify?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/19) /usr/local/share/emacs/23.4/lisp 9 -> (for i in *.gz; do echo $i; zcat $i | grep trailing-whitespace; done)|less
...
faces.el.gz
(defface trailing-whitespace
  :group 'whitespace-faces      ; like `show-trailing-whitespace'
...

So M-x customize-face trailing-whitespace was all I needed. And now it's green, less obtrusive and much more obviously not a cursor. There should be an easier way to find my way through the documentation. Part of the problem is probably that the face concept is not quite what I expect it to be.


Open calendar project?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Julian Stacey, whom I know from my visits in München nearly 20 years ago. Though he's been living there for ever, and is married to a German, he remains somewhat British, and it seems that he's been maintaining a file /usr/share/calendar/calendar.british, which should be part of the FreeBSD calendar program that I'm currently looking at, but somehow it doesn't exist (/usr/share/calendar/calendar.australia, for example, does exist). The message was in reply to a message from Peter Tynan, who has been doing something similar for Debian Linux. But his file didn't look very Linux-like:

/*
 * United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
 * compiled by Peter R Tynan
 *
 * $FreeBSD$
 */

I queried that, but it seems that Linux doesn't have its own calendar program. Peter tells me that Debian uses the FreeBSD program, and Red Hat uses the OpenBSD version. To confirm, on cvr2.lemis.com, my Linux-based video recorder, tells me:

=== grog@cvr2 (/dev/pts/2) ~ 19 -> calendar -t 19.6 -f /usr/share/calendar/calendar.freebsd
Jun 19  Charlie Root <root@FreeBSD.org> born in Portland, Oregon, United States, 1993
=== grog@cvr2 (/dev/pts/2) ~ 20 -> uname -a
Linux cvr2 2.6.27-9-generic #1 SMP Thu Nov 20 21:57:00 UTC 2008 i686 GNU/Linux

One of the real issues is that much of this calendar information is quite out of date, and maintaining it is even more difficult if there are dozens of different versions of the software. I wonder if a central calendar project could get off the ground.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Yet Another Upgrade Strategy
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been over 10 years since I first tried to find a simplified way of staying up to date with FreeBSD. I still haven't succeeded. It's becoming an issue again: teevee is running relatively well, but the installation is about 18 months old, and it's running firefox 6.0. Not that much of a problem, but for reasons I don't understand it now pops up an additional “Please upgrade” tab every time I open a new tab. I can't upgrade from their site, because they don't have versions for FreeBSD, and I can't upgrade to the latest and greatest because I'd get caught in a dependency nightmare.

In addition, I've been planning to gradually migrate all my systems to amd64. So why not build a base system in a virtual machine and then copy the root file system to the new machines, keeping the system-dependent stuff in /home? Well, there was a reason:

acpi0: <VBOX VBOXXSDT> on motherboard
acpi0: could not allocate interrupt
ACPI Exception: AE_ALREADY_EXISTS, Unable to install System Control Interrupt handler (20110527/evevent-137)
acpi0: Could not enable ACPI: AE_ALREADY_EXISTS
device_attach: acpi0 attach returned 6

Fatal trap 12: page fault while in kernel mode
cpuid = 0; apic id = 00
fault virtual address   = 0x70
fault code              = supervisor write data, page not present
instruction pointer     = 0x20:0xffffffff80b00e39
stack pointer           = 0x28:0xffffffff813d3bc0
frame pointer           = 0x28:0xffffffff813d3c00
code segment            = base 0x0, limit 0xfffff, type 0x1b
                        = DPL 0, pres 1, long 1, def32 0, gran 1
processor eflags        = interrupt enabled, resume, IOPL = 0
current process         = 0 (swapper)
trap number             = 12
panic: page fault

OK, that's clear: something wrong with ACPI. That's OK: we can disable it. And then it gets further:

panic: No usable event timer found!

With a bit of help from the IRC channel, found that I can fix all that with the VirtualBox configuration, specifically this screen:


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It's fairly clear that Enable IO APIC needs to be set. What's less obvious is that setting the chipset to ICH9 will solve the timer issue:


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And then there's the operating system setting in the “General” tab. When you set up a FreeBSD VM, you only get the option of “FreeBSD”. But later you can set “FreeBSD (64 bit)”:


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Diary entry for Wednesday, 19 December 2012

 

It's not clear what difference it makes, since amd64 seems to run in the non-64 bit version.

So, my current strategy is: a base installation that I can update independently of anything else, and then install on the alternative root file system of the target machines. Started that today—it's still a long business.


Christmas shopping
Topic: general Link here

Into town today for various things, mainly a haircut. But the hairdresser was pretty full when I looked in, so decided to do it on the way home. The main other issue was Christmas food: wouldn't a duck or goose be nice? Yes, it would. But all I could find in three different places were some crumbed duck breasts. Why do Australians not like duck and goose? In the end gave in and bought a small ham for Christmas Eve.

David Yeardley, Tuyết and Minh Chau are returning on 28 and 29 December, so the Christmas dinner will be on the Sixth Day, 30 December. Last week I had convinced Chris Yeardley that her frozen 3.8 kg turkey was too small—under 4 kg the bird is so young that the meat hasn't fully developed. In addition, David has expressed in the past the opinion that only a fresh turkey will do, not a frozen one. So I took it back to ALDI, who accepted it back with no issues. But I hadn't got round to ordering a new turkey. And so I went looking for one for pickup on 29 December.

Davis meats, where we usually buy our meat, scared me. Even now they had exactly one turkey left: 3.2 kg, frozen. On to Megameats, who fortunately were able to deliver just what I wanted—fresh, 4.0 to 4.2 kg, for pickup on 29 December. Thank God for that.

Back to the hairdressers. Two people, he on his lunch break. Looks like it'll have to be another day.


GPS navigator strangeness
Topic: technology Link here

While in town, dropped in at Gays, coming from the direction of the Botanical Gardens. My GPS navigator went crazy. The route is pretty much straight down Gillies St, but it wanted me to turn left and head through Victoria Park. That was with the profile “shortest route”, which it clearly wasn't, so waiting at the lights crossing Sturt St I tried “fast”, and it told me to turn right, which is also clearly wrong. Carried on straight ahead and got there, and it still wanted me drive about 3 km in a circle and then come back to where I was.

How can that happen? Tried rearranging the route, stopping and restarting the program, but nothing helped. Of course, when I tried it later, everything worked correctly. I wonder what went wrong there.


Why label poisons?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Started doing some weed spraying today, and ran out of Glyphosate. Never mind, I had a 20 litre canister still half full—that'll keep me going for ever. I thought.

Looking in the garden shed, I found two canisters, both very similar. These things come with detailed instructions in a plastic envelope, which were missing on both of them. And that was the only description of the contents! I now have no idea whatsoever what's in each of the canisters. I'm astounded that our authoritarian State even allows the things to come on the market like that.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012 Dereel Images for 19 December 2012
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New Ethernet card
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

Finally received the Ethernet card that I had bought on eBay nearly a month ago. Why Ethernet card? Thanks to Powercor, one of my motherboards (currently running dereel) lost its USB and Ethernet ports, and I'm running it with an ancient 3com 3C509 PCI card. But it makes sense to use it as a replacement for cvr2, the video recorder box, which has a much more powerful processor which I could use to run DxO Optics “Pro” natively, in the hope that it would then be considerably faster than in a VM. I don't need USB for cvr2, but I do need Ethernet and 2 PCI slots for the tuners. And this motherboard only has 2 PCI slots, so for something like $6 including postage I ordered a PCIe card. The fact that it also does 1000baseTX wasn't really important.

Put the card in dereel and rebooted. It was recognized immediately by the Realtek driver, also by the switch:

Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: re0: <RealTek 8168/8111 B/C/CP/D/DP/E/F PCIe Gigabit Ethernet> port 0xd800-0xd8ff mem 0xfeaff000-0xfeafffff,0xfbff0000-0xfbffffff irq 17 at device 0.0 on pci2
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: re0: Using 1 MSI-X message
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: re0: no ASPM capability
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: re0: Chip rev. 0x3c000000
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: re0: MAC rev. 0x00400000
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: miibus0: <MII bus> on re0
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: rgephy0: <RTL8169S/8110S/8211B media interface> PHY 1 on miibus0
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: rgephy0:  none, 10baseT, 10baseT-FDX, 10baseT-FDX-flow, 100baseTX, 100baseTX-FDX, 100baseTX-FDX-flow, 1000baseT, 1000baseT-master, 1000baseT-FDX, 1000baseT-FDX-master, 1000baseT-FDX-flow, 1000baseT-FDX-flow-master, auto, auto-flow
Dec 19 08:59:16 dereel kernel: re0: Ethernet address: 00:e0:4d:1a:a0:00

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/8) ~ 23 -> ifconfig
re0: flags=8843<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        options=8209b<RXCSUM,TXCSUM,VLAN_MTU,VLAN_HWTAGGING,VLAN_HWCSUM,WOL_MAGIC,LINKSTATE>
        ether 00:e0:4d:1a:a0:00
        inet6 fe80::21f:d0ff:fe20:4e7f%re0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
        inet 192.109.197.137 netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast 192.109.197.255
        inet 192.109.197.151 netmask 0xffffffff broadcast 192.109.197.151
        nd6 options=21<PERFORMNUD,AUTO_LINKLOCAL>
        media: Ethernet autoselect (1000baseT <full-duplex>)
        status: active

That's as good as identical with the probe and Wonderful! Just one problem: I couldn't get any data across it. ARP on both ends didn't see anything on the other side. Why? I've never seen a problem like this before. Discussed what to do on IRC, and in the end decided to try it out in cvr2, which runs Linux. Even before Linux started, though, I got a configuration menu from the card, which wanted to try a netboot. Configured it, saved configuration, booted, and it works.

So far so good. But why didn't I get the configuration menu when it was in dereel? And since that isn't dependent on the operating system, what will happen when I try to run cvr2 with the card in the current dereel motherboard? Now that it's configured, will it Just Work? Would it have Just Worked anyway? When I have time and there's nothing to record, I'll try it out.


Powercor excels itself
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Watching TV in the evening, it started raining heavily. Our first thought: would the power fail? And indeed there were a couple of flickers. So we took a look at the weather radar (we're pretty much exactly at 270° on the outer circle) and watched the front cross where the power lines are. I was just saying “It looks like the danger is past” when the power failed, at 20:56. Grrr!

Called up Powercor and spoke to Fiona, who didn't know of any fault. Had I checked the switchboard? Yes.  Were the neighbours affected? Yes. Had I spoken to them personally? No. What numbers are their houses? I don't know. OK, she would treat it as an individual fault. Nothing I could say would convince her. Asked her to get Eddie Barkla to call me—again—and hung up.

Then called in again to see if, in the meantime, anything was known of the fault. Shane told me that yes, my fault was logged as an individual fault, but 60 other people had also logged faults. And though they would try to get things fixed earlier, the estimated time for repair was 01:30—once again, the 4½ hours that Eddie Barkla told me didn't exist! Asked for a call on that topic too.

Then out on the verandah to cool down. After a few minutes the phone rang. Powercor? Ran inside to the only functional phone at the other end of the house, and of course it stopped ringing a second before I lifted up the phone. Called Powercor yet again, and spoke to Alison, who told me that they almost never call back (though they're very insistent on having a phone number, and indeed she wanted me to give it to her again, though she had it on record and on her caller identification display). Not much more information to be had.

Finally to bed, and woke up round 23:45 to discover that power had been back since 23:17, and I had left a tap on, which was now discharging hundreds of litres of water. What a pain these power failures are!


Thursday, 20 December 2012 Dereel Images for 20 December 2012
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Another power failure!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Woken up shortly after 02:00 by the UPSs screaming. What, another power failure? I gradually woke up and powered down the one in the lounge room, which was still going (no load). Took a long time to get back to sleep, during which the power didn't come back.

At 06:00 got up and rang Powercor again. Problem known, estimated time to fix 10:00, and that although the fault had been reported at 02:30! Apparently related to the feeder BASO 22, and it affects 208 properties.

Tried in vain to get back to sleep, and eventually up some time after 08:00. Still no power. Somehow managed to have an approximation to breakfast (no toast, no coffee), and then decided to go into town to have a haircut, since there wasn't much we could do here, and I was in desperate need. Decided to wait it out this time, even if there were a number of people in front of me.

When I got there, there were a total of 6 people in front of me! I really hadn't expected that, and I gave up my resolution and left again. My guess is that the week before Christmas is a popular time with the barbers. I'll try again next week.

Back home, and the power had come back at 9:54—nearly 13 hours after it failed! The couple of hours of power in the middle of the night didn't count, because they just served to keep me awake. I've had more power failures in Dereel than all the rest in my life, even including the far-too-frequent ones in Wantadilla.

Took the opportunity to rearrange the UPSs so that the big one is in the lounge room. Maybe it will be able to power the projector when the next power failure hits.


Garden flowers, a little late
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

I've recently been trying to take my monthly garden photo series round the middle of the month, but various things, including the weather, have held me up. Finally got round to it today. I thought things were looking good, but a number of things are well behind what things were like this time last year. In particular, there's no sign of the Kniphofia blooms yet. Is this because of cooler weather this year? It's hard to say. Still, this year doesn't look bad either.


Friday, 21 December 2012 Dereel Images for 21 December 2012
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Powercor post-mortem
Topic: general Link here

Call from Eddie Barkla today, in which we discussed much and achieved little. Both power failures were due to a blown fuse, presumably due to lightning. That seems reasonable for the first failure, but I thought the weather had passed by the time of the second one. But, as he said, they didn't know, and they didn't report when they failed. Asked him whether Ray Nottle had talked to him. He asked who he was; it seems that Ray knew Eddie, but not the other way around. In any case, he hadn't, but it wasn't important: today Eddie told me that Automatic Circuit Reclosers do report faults, but this was a fuse, clearly too stupid to report anything while it's melting.

And why so long? Eddie thought that 2½ hours was a good response time, this after he had previously told me that 2 hours was an average time. And he still didn't know anything about the 4½ hour response time they're now quoting. Clearly their expectations are far too low.

And why did Fiona ask for all the details about where our letter box is and whether I had been to see the neighbours? Eddie didn't know, but possibly it was a mistake on her part. Of course the repair crews have GPS navigators (hopefully a kind that knows where Kleins Road is). So: all in all, I don't really get the feeling that talking to Eddie helps much. What else can we do to ensure better power service?


Finally: weed spraying
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally the weather was good for weed spraying. About time, too: earlier in the season weeds were mainly grass, but now lots of other things are popping up.


Shepherd pain
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

While going through TV programmes on cvr2 today, discovered I didn't have any programme data for PRIME7. That must have happened the last time I ran the channel configuration through Shepherd. Irritating, but no big deal.

So I re-ran configuration, and then ran mythfilldatabase to get the data. Not quite what I expected:

2012-12-21 17:09:47.283 XMLTV config file is: /home/mythtv/.mythtv/.xmltv
2012-12-21 17:09:58.249 FAILED: xmltv returned error code 256.
2012-12-21 17:09:58.249 Error in 1:1: unexpected end of file
2012-12-21 17:09:58.249 Updating icons for sourceid: 1
2012-12-21 17:09:58.249 New DB connection, total: 4
2012-12-21 17:09:58.250 Connected to database 'mythconverg' at host: localhost
2012-12-21 17:09:58.250 No programs found in data.

What does that mean? No idea. Took a look in the log file (.shepherd/log/shepherd.log, and found many entries like this one:

SHEPHERD: Executing command: /home/mythtv/.shepherd/grabbers/yahoo7widget/yahoo7widget --region 90 --output /home/mythtv/.shepherd/grabbers/yahoo7widget/output-0.xmltv --days 8 --channels_file /home/mythtv/.shepherd/channels.conf

:::::: Output from yahoo7widget
: Can't locate object method "ssl_opts" via package "LWP::UserAgent" at /home/mythtv/.shepherd/references/Shepherd/Common.pm line 600.
:::::: End output from yahoo7widget

That's clearer, anyway. But what does it mean? And why? It appears to be perl, and I don't do perl. With a bit of help from people on IRC, established that the LWP::UserAgent referred to a file, /usr/share/perl5/LWP/UserAgent.pm. But it was there. What was the line in Common.pm?

    $ua->ssl_opts(verify_hostname => 0);

What does that mean? Callum Gibson told me, but why should it fail now? After all, all I did was to add programme information to the configuration. Was it somehow failing to find the module? The file wasn't referenced when I started the grabber. Rebooted and tried again. The problem was still there, but this time the module did get read by something. Then Callum talked about versioning. He had version 6.04 of the file. Mine is a much older installation:

=== grog@cvr2 (/dev/pts/1) ~ 18 -> l /usr/share/perl5/LWP/UserAgent.pm
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 42673 Apr  7  2008 /usr/share/perl5/LWP/UserAgent.pm
=== grog@cvr2 (/dev/pts/1) ~ 19 -> grep VERSION /usr/share/perl5/LWP/UserAgent.pm
$VERSION = "5.810";

Still, it worked before. How old was the Common.pm file?

=== grog@cvr2 (/dev/pts/1) ~ 20 -> l .shepherd/references/Shepherd/Common.pm
-rw-r--r-- 1 grog lemis 35145 Dec 21 16:17 .shepherd/references/Shepherd/Common.pm

It seems that shepherd installed a newer version when I ran it, so possibly it didn't check the perl module versions first. OK, I had an older version floating around, and how about that, the line was missing. So I tried commenting it out and running again:

WARNING: Component 'Shepherd/Common.pm' (reference) has been modified/tainted
 -  expected checksum: 9a5d4a98d2dbdcc0622d40d8d53607e65309e220
 -  actual checksum:   d331608a5c2520c65331f8ece089058e612e811f

Modifying Shepherd or its components is not recommended.  If you have added
functionality in some way, why not contribute it back?  See the wiki at
http://svn.whuffy.com/wiki for details.

If you wish to revert Shepherd/Common.pm back to the standard module, run Shepherd
with --update manually.

Still, after that it ran. But what a pain! Should I really learn perl?


Saturday, 22 December 2012 Dereel Images for 22 December 2012
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More TIFF processing
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Last week my experiments with TIFF images in the intermediate processing of panoramas weren't overly encouraging, but I had this recollection of surprising sharpness in the details while processing the garden centre panorama. So today I decided to try it again.

I thought that last week I had cleaned up most of the strangenesses in processing TIFFs, but today I found many more. The really frustrating one seems to be that ImageMagick's convert doesn't copy EXIF data for TIFFs. I can copy it myself, but it takes about 30 seconds per image, at least partially because exiftool copies the entire image, all 75 MB of it. And things are slower, of course. DxO Optics “Pro” takes on average about 50 seconds per JPEG image, but for TIFFs it's more than double that, so spent all day processing images, with the biggest three still left over at the end of the day. DxO used nearly a day of CPU time:

  PID USERNAME    THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME   WCPU COMMAND
71538 grog         26  20    0  3751M  3449M uwait   1  21.0H 182.67% VirtualBox

The WCPU field reflects the number of processor cores running the program. 100% is 100% of a single core.


Merry Christmas!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Christmas is coming, something that's becoming less and less interesting for us. We don't give presents, we're not religious. And the amazing travesty of Christmas in the English-speaking world also amazes me: it seems that “Christmas” starts round the first Sunday in Advent, continues until the first or maybe second day of Christmas, and then stops. And the symbol? Santa Claus, a rebadged Saint Nicholas!

About the only things that interest us are the Christmas music and Christmas food, the latter still a bone of contention between Yvonne and myself: I like traditional European Christmas food, while she thinks it's completely inappropriate in this climate.

But, although we're pretty much hermits, we still get Christmas cards from a few determined friends and relative. And we feel bad that we don't respond, but it's really not our style. On the other hand, some people also put in a letter describing what they've done in the last 12 months. We can do that! But of course in our case it's online. This year, being the first, I've gone a little further back and briefly described what we've done since we disappeared from sight in South Australia over 5 years ago.


Sunday, 23 December 2012 Dereel
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More panorama processing
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Continued with my TIFF-based panorama processing today. Some of the numbers are amazing:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~/Photos/20121222 266 -> du -scm . ../Hugin-build-eureka/
41593   .
4216    ../Hugin-build-eureka/
45808   total

  PID USERNAME    THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME   WCPU COMMAND
47437 grog          1 108    5 10971M  4488M CPU1    0   6:21 100.00% enblend
23871 grog          1  28    5  1063M   479M select  2  57:56  1.37% hugin

That du output is in megabytes: the project used over 45 GB of disk, most of it in deletable TIFF files. And I don't think I've ever seen a process use an address space of nearly 12 GB before. And the hour of CPU time that Hugin used is only the tip of the iceberg: there are also panomatic and nona, which also use lots of CPU time. Who said that CPUs are fast enough nowadays?

And the results? Good, but still not perfect. In particular the garden centre panorama was difficult, because it was taken with tone-mapping (3 separate images), and the leaves moved between the individual images, giving rise to artefacts like this:

 
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I had expected that. I take a range of 5 images at 1 EV intervals, offset by 1 EV, so the effective exposure offsets are +3 EV, +2 EV, +1EV, 0EV and -1EV. I then tone-map the +3 EV, +1EV and -1EV images. The +2 EV and 0EV images are just there because I can't avoid them. But the 0EV image is of course much sharper, and I can use it to fill in the blurred parts:

 
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Spent considerable time on that, not helped by the speed: after all, there were a total of 58 images, nearly 5 GB. And the panorama preview isn't really good enough to see the details. After finishing the images, discovered that there were still a number of minor issues which needed addressing. But anyway, they're done, and particularly the animated version looks good. And after removing the TIFFs, things didn't look quite so bad:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~/Photos/20121222 275 -> du -s
41681   .
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~/Photos/20121222 276 -> find . -name "*.tiff" | xargs rm
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~/Photos/20121222 277 -> du -s
4214    .

More weather station pain
Topic: general, technology Link here

It's been very hot lately—today we had a top temperature of 41.3°, unusual for so early in the summer. But that's not what my weather software showed: in fact, it showed nothing. Further investigation showed that the external transmitter wasn't transmitting the humidity, and that one of the few functions I hadn't written myself, dewpoint(), wasn't handling 0 humidity correctly, returning NaN. So for the first time in well over a year I had to modify the software. It's not done: it seems that the station is also reporting random incorrect temperatures, over 10° from what they should be. More error detection and correction needed.


Sending the Christmas Letter
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After writing our Christmas letter, the next thing was to send it, of course. The idea was to post it as status on facebook and also send it as email to a list of people we know. Yvonne sent me a list of her contacts, and then I added my own from my ~/.mail_aliases file. How old that is! There are people in it whom I haven't communicated with for 20 years, and sadly I know of at least 7 who are dead. The death of Dennis Ritchie is well known, of course, and at my age you'd expect people to gradually start dying off. But all but one (Jorge de Moya) were younger: John Birrell, Rob Levin, Dorothy Lustig, Anthony Rumble and Sue Blake. Sad.

Setting up the mailing list wasn't as simple as I thought. I had intended to use a mutt alias, but it just Didn't Work. Mutt didn't complain, but it just sent it out with the To: address christmas@lemis.com. After some experimentation discovered that there's a (possibly undocumented) limit to the line length, and beyond that mutt just seems to ignore it. So I created 5 aliases (christmas1 to christmas5), all with line lengths round 900 characters, and then a separate alias christmas containing those 5. That worked, but I had forgotten that mutt expands the list, so all the addresses appeared on the To: line, not what I wanted.

Still, you can do that with postfix virtual addresses as well, so I added the lot to my postfix configuration. Still didn't work! But then, I don't use that facility on my local postfix server, and I didn't want to start major reconfigurations. Instead I just put it on the external server, where—finally—it worked. But what a pain. I seem to be losing it.


Monday, 24 December 2012 Dereel Images for 24 December 2012
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Powercor: enough is enough!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another bloody power failure this morning, at 4:05. Fortunately it was short, just long enough for me to curse, but it's really frustrating.

Then at 9:22, just before breakfast, we had yet another failure, this time for 17 minutes. That's 21 failures this year, 4 of them in the last 5 days. How can we get them to provide even marginally acceptable service?


Completing the panorama
Topic: photography Link here

I still wasn't happy with my garden centre panorama from yesterday, so I spent most of today refining it. What a lot of work it is! But finally I think I have something that looks acceptably sharp.


Broken oven designs
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne wanted me to bake a baguette for this evening's Christmas dinner, but I didn't dare, so in the end just baked some more rolls, attempting with little success to get them oval. Note to self: when rolls rise, they tend to become circular, so if you want them to be oval, they should start off being exaggeratedly so.

And I had enough for two oven trays. The second one is strange. There are slots in the area that goes under the rails, which also have bends to match. It seems to be designed to jam in them:


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I needed a lever to get it out. It's clear that this is designed to be some kind of catch, but why? Maybe the intention is to allow you to pull the tray out and latch it in that position, but the implementation is terrible.


Another use for the 18-180 mm lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Silly photos in the evening again:


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I had really intended to come closer, but that was at the 60 mm focal length limit of the lens. Just the job for the new Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3 lens. The following was taken at 105 mm, and others were at up to 124 mm:


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The problem: focus. The Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD has good, fast focus. The 18-180 does not, and I took no less than 6 photos of Piccola which were completely out of focus. Somehow you can't win them all.


Tuesday, 25 December 2012 Dereel
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Copyright puzzles
Topic: multimedia, music, technology, opinion, language Link here

I don't use the various file-sharing services on the Internet. I disagree strongly with the copyright holders' heavy-handed protection of their rights, but currently they have the law on their side, and I don't intend to break the law. But more and more it's becoming clear to me that the whole business is lopsided. I can, for example, buy a DVD or a CD with multimedia content. I own the medium, but not the content. Recent developments, of course, get rid of the medium, so I don't own anything. Either way, I am not allowed to give this content to anybody else, and that's what the file-sharing services do. In some case, I'm not even allowed to engage in safe practices like backing up the content to guard against damage to the medium.

But then there are officially sanctioned loopholes, and not the smallest. I can borrow a DVD from companies like Blockbusters (legal, but cost money), or I can borrow one from the local library (legal, and free). The same applies to the Oxford English Dictionary. I bought a copy of the second edition on CD years ago. It was very expensive, but the only way I knew to get hold of it, and even then I had to maintain a Microsoft machine just to access it. Then six months ago I found it online at the State Library of Victoria—up to date, with a less emetic interface, and free!

But wait, there's more. There are many other documents online at SLV. Today I went looking for the history of the stick that conductors wave in front of the orchestra. In English it's called a baton, a French word meaning staff. To quote that page, “a bâton is hardly larger than a person”. That doesn't quite apply to the thing that conductors wave—any more. They did once have things that big in France, until Jean-Baptiste Lully banged one on his foot, severely injured a toe, got gangrene and died of the wound. This page confirms that this object was called a bâton. After that, there's little mention of the baton until the early 19th century, by which time it had shrunk to a mere stick incapable of reaching the feet. The French call it a baguette, a word also used to mean magic wands, chopsticks and even thin loaves of bread.

So: why does the English word (apparently) still refer to the staff? Went looking online and found very little to substantiate my assertion that the term refers to the Lully-killer. But while I was there, found a reference to the Naxos Music Library: “Online music catalogue with over 50 classical, world and jazz labels including, ABC Classics, BIS, Chandos and Naxos”. It appears to be all classical music. The first time I skimmed over that, I was left with the impression that it meant 50 CDs. By no means: there are over 80,000 of them! And they're well sorted, and available online, and free!

That doesn't mean that they're available to anybody, of course. You need to be a member of the SLV—that's free, too. The only criterion is that you should be a resident of Victoria. Even that isn't as restrictive as it looks. The collection isn't part of the SLV, any more than the OED is. They (and many others) are available to library members around the world. You only need to be a resident of Victoria to access the collection via the SLV. Elsewhere there's probably some other library that will grant you the same access.

Looking at this from a conventional, pre-information-age standpoint, all this makes perfect sense. Lending libraries have been around for centuries. With the advent of digital media, it's clear that they got involved with lending more than conventional books. What doesn't make sense is that the copyright holders accept such use on the one hand and come down so heavy-handedly on people who share media on the Internet. When will they learn?


FreeBSD upgrade procedure, next attempt
Topic: technology Link here

After accepting the failure of my previous ways of trying to keep up to date with FreeBSD, continued today with the virtual machine approach. I had a base machine with no ports. How should I install them? There's this thing called PKGNG (“Package New Generation”) which should enable me just to download binary packages, and thus eliminate this eternal configuration that the Ports Collection requires. Problem: As a result of a recent security incident, no official packages are available. So for the time being, at any rate, I have to download binary packages the old way, with pkg_add -r. I already had most of the infrastructure for that in place, but discovered I had never put it to the test. In principle, this should install all the packages mentioned in a file /home/Sysconfig/myports:

make packages

In practice, discovered that my scripts weren't complete. They didn't check whether a package was installed before trying to install it, and the names I chose for the packages didn't always match the names that the FreeBSD project uses. That's not surprising: in fact, it's surprising how few differences I found. So spent some time tidying that up, and made moderate progress. But under these circumstances I need to reconsider the sequence in which I do things. In any case, I'm making progress.


More garden laziness
Topic: gardening Link here

There's so much to do in the garden! Most importantly, I need to look at the irrigation. Started on that and discovered I'm out of drippers, so put it off until Thursday. And by that time my energy had dissipated, so didn't do anything else either.


Wednesday, 26 December 2012 Dereel Images for 26 December 2012
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Control point detector or random number generator?
Topic: photography, technology Link here

After my experience with Subhash's panoramas a couple of weeks ago, I was interested to see this thread in the Hugin mailing lists. Another case where somebody had extreme difficulties assembling a panorama. He made his images available, so I had a try. Once again, It Works For Me:


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But another person responded, also with an image:

 
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He had had more difficulties, but had managed to get past them. But his image is different. Yes, it's not cropped, but if it were, parts would be missing that are present on my image. Then I thought of what Subhash had said: “Does Hugin have a random number generator built in?”. So I tried running cpfind 4 times. The results:

Control points       Average error       Max error
924       2.0       6.1
924       1.9       5.4
919       1.9       5.5
919       1.9       5.4

Looking at the project files showed multiple differences. Why? For the fun of it, tried again with panomatic. The results were the same for each run: 758 control points, 1.9 pixels average error and 7.3 pixels maximum error. But again there were minor differences in the control points.

Terry Duell tried things again, with cpfind, and got significantly more interesting results:

Control points       Average error       Max error
130       5.4       23.3
127       113.7       308.6
130       4.3       15.2
131       4.5       14.6

Everything looks different! Far fewer control points (is that a setting in the preferences?), worse match, and the second attempt was far worse than the others. So he ran with APS-C, which I don't have, and got the same results each time: (only) 98 control points, 5.1 pixel average error, 19.7 pixel maximum error. Then I tried again with Autopano-sift-C and got some really interesting results: 214 control points, average error 153.7 pixels, maximum error 4362 pixels!

 
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This wasn't the effect that Paolo got, but it's clear that there's something very funny here.


Marvels from Jalapa
Topic: gardening Link here

In the winter I planted some seeds of Mirabilis jalapa, most of which germinated, grew and... died. After throwing some away, discovered that they had grown a substantial sized corm, so planted some and left others where they were. I also had some corms left over from last year. One I planted in a pot, others in the garden.

Their progress has been remarkably varied. The one in the pot is now almost flowering, though something (wind?) broke off one of the stems:


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In addition, a couple of pots on the verandah have grown some plants, presumably self-seeded from last year. By contrast, the ones in the garden are not doing at all well. The ones from this year have disappeared from view entirely, and the ones from last year, which should look like the ones in the pots, are very unhappy:


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And some of the ones in the pots have come back to life—but only some of them.


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Why the differences?

The Buddlejas are also coming into flower. The dark-flowered variety of Buddleja davidii that Mike Sorrell gave me this time last year is now 2.5 m high, and promises to have even more flowers than the Buddleja × weyeriana:


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Package installation complete?
Topic: technology Link here

Continued installing packages on my FreeBSD reference virtual machine today. With a couple of minor issues, it went very well, much faster than compiling ports. That's not only because I didn't need to compile: I also didn't need to answer configuration questions, nor address strangenesses in the build. And it used the best part of 2 GB of traffic. About the only hold-up was that postfix wanted me to answer a question about the default mail configuration.

Things aren't over yet. A number of these packages printed out information, some possibly important, that scrolled off the top of the screen. A good thing that I've saved a transcript of the installation. Hopefully PKGNG will handle this better (send a mail message to the installer, for example, like System V.4 did 20 years ago). Tomorrow I should go through the lot and see what else I need to do.


Thursday, 27 December 2012 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 27 December 2012
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Finally a haircut
Topic: general Link here

I've been meaning to have my hair cut for several weeks now, but each time I went into the barbers, there were really long queues. In again today; once again there were lots of people, but it proved all to be a single family, and the only one having his hair cut was half finished. So finally I got round to it, and the barber confirmed that before Christmas is always a bad time (or, I suppose, a good one for him).

Didn't do much else in town. Picked up some parcels from the post office for Yvonne, and bought some drippers and dripper line for the garden.


Don't let idiots loose in the garden
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I've been really happy at how the Clematis are blooming on the south side of the verandah:


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But today things weren't quite what they seemed:


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What happened there? Some idiot got let loose in the garden with secateurs. I had trimmed the roses, and in the process found some old, dead clematis stems and cut them off. Dead indeed! Well, they are now. That's exactly what I did in August with the ornamental vine. When will I learn?


Spohr's clarinet
Topic: music, opinion Link here

Recently I heard a radio programme about Louis Spohr in Graham Abbott's Keys to Music series. He mentioned that his first clarinet concerto (1808) was so demanding that Simon Hermstedt, to whom the work was dedicated, had to “modify” his clarinet to be able to play it. Went looking: now that I have access to the Naxos Music Library, I could listen to it. It also comes with a PDF of the booklet that accompanies the physical CD, which also makes mention of the matter:

Some of the music turned out to be impracticable on the clarinet, but rather than insisting on the composer modifying it, Hermstedt adapted his instrument, expanding the number of keys from five to thirteen.

Well, at the time the clarinet normally had 6 keys, and some time later it had 13. But was all this the work of Hermstedt? Or did the author of the booklet make some assumptions? It's fairly well documented that the 13 key clarinet was developed by Iwan Müller and first presented in 1812, and an important requirement was the invention of the modern pad (also by Müller): the old leather coverings just didn't cover the holes well enough to make it practical to have that many keys.

But a couple of references say that the original score included a description of the modifications. Went looking for the score, and at this Public Domain Music site I was successful. I can only agree with Hermstedt. I can't play it on a modern instrument. Unfortunately, what I got didn't include the notes on the modifications. Looking in Jack Brymer's “Clarinet”, I can find no mention of Spohr or Hermstedt, not helped by the lack of an index. There's also no mention on this clarinet history page.


Friday, 28 December 2012 Dereel
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Another quiet day
Topic: general, gardening Link here

There's so much work to do in the garden! And the weather is right for it. But somehow I didn't get much done—put in a couple of sorely needed drippers, transplanted a couple of Fuchsias, caught a couple of fish from the pond to give to Chris, and that was about it.

Why am I so lethargic? It's not age; reading my diary from 45 years ago (early 1968, part that I will probably never put online), it seems I went through similar periods in those days. I suppose that's some comfort.


Joining MPEG clips
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Yesterday I took a couple of not-very-good video clips of Yvonne and Chris riding horses. Yvonne wanted to join them together, something that I've tried before with only limited success. Finally got round to writing a minimal script to do the joining, in the process determining that yes, indeed, there's some problem with the avidemux2 audio. So mencoder it is:

joinmpeg ()
  {
  RESULT=$1
  TMP=/tmp/clip$$
  shift
  cat $* > $TMP
  mencoder -forceidx -oac copy -ovc copy $TMP -o $RESULT
  rm $TMP
  }

Saturday, 29 December 2012 Dereel Images for 29 December 2012
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The new cvr2
Topic: technology Link here

It's been over a week since I got the new Ethernet card, a prerequisite to swapping the bodies of dereel (test machine) and cvr2 (TV recorder). The latter machine is much faster, just what I need to install Microsoft on and run DxO Optics “Pro” at a bearable speed. The problem is that the Ethernet chip on the dereel motherboard was damaged thanks to a Powercor power surge. Thus the new Ethernet card.

Problem: it didn't work in the motherboard for which it was intended. It worked fine in cvr2, but that has a functional interface on the motherboard. Was it the difference between FreeBSD (dereel) and Linux (cvr2)? Took the disk from cvr2 and put it in dereel. Same symptoms: interface shows up, claims to be running, but passes no traffic. It should also have shown a configuration screen, which happens at POST time, so nothing to do with the operating system. Messed around in the BIOS settings and disabled the (defunct) on-board interface. Bingo! It worked.

So then moved the tuners to the new motherboard. Or at least, I tried to. Either one fitted in one PCI slot, but the other was blocked by a row of capacitors. And both tuners have an S-Video connector in that position:


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Nothing to be done. An hour of work, and all there was to show for it was cleaner heat sinks.


A little garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

My lethargy continues, but I did get some work done today. Finally planted the Myoporum parvifolium (“Creeping boobialla”) that I had bought back in August. They're supposed to be drought tolerant (“hardy”), but putting them in the garden at this time of year without any water would be stretching that term somewhat. So put in some drippers as well.

While looking at that, noticed that the row of Calendulas that I had planted on the east side of that bed were looking decidedly unhappy, despite the drip line that I had given them. Further investigation showed that the drip line was completely clogged up. And of course there's no way to clean it. What a waste of time and money! I suppose it's related to our bore water, which contains some soluble iron compound that precipitates in the lines. Probably the drip line is fine if you have the luxury of pure water, but it's clearly not suitable for bore water. Punctured some holes in it with a nail, which will let some water out. I suppose I need to look at all the drippers now.


Sunday, 30 December 2012 Dereel Images for 30 December 2012
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More panorama experiments
Topic: photography Link here

Did the weekly house photo series today, because the weather was better than yesterday. And for the fun of it tried a higher-resolution panorama of the verandah. It doesn't make much difference for the normal view on the web, but the animated panorama version can zoom in really close, and at normal resolution it becomes fuzzy. So today I took the images at 18 mm focal length instead of 9 mm.

Normally I take 2 rows spaced at 45° and a zenith photo; I still haven't found a satisfactory solution for the nadir. At twice the focal length I should theoretically need 4 rows spaced at 22.5° and a zenith. In practice, my little program tells me:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/9) ~ 135 -> fov 18
Sensor details:
Width:                           17.3 mm
Height:                          13.0 mm
Diagonal:                        21.6 mm
Area:                           224.9 mm²
Width ratio to full frame:        2.081
Height ratio to full frame:       1.846
Diagonal ratio to full frame:     1.999
Area ratio to full frame:         3.842

Focal length:                    18.00 mm
Horizontal FOV:                  51.33°
Diagonal FOV:                    62.02°
Vertical FOV:                    39.71°
Panarama steps (30% overlap):
Horizontal:                      36°
Vertical:                        28°

So for a 30% overlap I should set it to 28° increments. That's closer to 30° than 22.5°, so that's what I chose. And it was enough. I also took 3 rows and found I was pointing almost to the zenith, so I took a single zenith shot, a total of 37 images. That wasn't enough: my zenith was smaller too, of course, and it didn't touch the third row anywhere that I could recognize. So no 180° panorama.

Even more frustrating is that under these circumstances I can't create a correctly dimensioned equirectangular image At All. And without it, SaladoPlayer can't convert the images. So far from a high resolution animated panorama, I got none at all.

Even worse, the panorama didn't fit together well. It's been a long time since I have had this kind of discontinuity:

 
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Why is that? Is the lens not aligned correctly? I really should do my own measurements of parallax, but I can't find an approach that is both easy and accurate enough.


Another excuse to stay out of the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

More garden work, and finally got round to spreading more mulch in the eastern part of the east garden. But now summer's coming, and the flies are coming with it, so didn't stay out very long, though later I found time to do some weeding. I wonder if I'll ever get the upper hand.


Merry Christmas
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

David Yeardley is back, along with wife Tuyết, adopted daughter Min Chau and mother-in-law Ngu, who speaks no English.


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And since it's Christmastide, we had a typical European Christmas dinner:


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I was particularly impressed by the turkey, which was cooked just right—the meat just fell off the leg bones, without the breast meat being too dry. For the eventuality that Yvonne will allow me to cook another turkey some day, the roasting details: turkey 4.2 kg, baked at 130° for 3½ hours, then raised to 180° for another ½ hour to brown a bit. And interestingly we nearly finished it.

Another impressive thing was a cake that Chris had had made. A “welcome to Australia” for Tuyết and Min Chau, who are staying here now:


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I was particularly impressed by the detail of the screws in the second image. It was made by the wife of one of the people Chris beats up at BJJ every week. Locals will notice the Eureka flag alongside the Australian flag.


Monday, 31 December 2012 Dereel Images for 31 December 2012
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Weed or ornamental?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Still more laziness today. Did some work in the garden, but again the flies irritated me. At least I'm now making progress removing the weeds under the birches in the middle of the east garden. Also collected some bulbils from one of my mystery flowers, the one I thought might be a Chasmanthe floribunda, but which on further research is probably a Watsonia meriana var. bulbillifera:


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The individual bulbils are about 3 to 5 mm across.

After reading up on that, especially this one, I wonder if I should be trying to grow them at all. But it's interesting that that (Government) description notes that it's a garden plant. It's amazing how one man's ornamental is another man's weed. 18 months ago I bought some seeds for Anchusa capensis, which didn't come up very well, but it seems that they have self-seeded, and they're coming up again. But how pretty are they?


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Compare with this weed, which I haven't been able to identify:


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They're quite pretty, and I wonder if I shouldn't let them have some space in the garden somewhere.


More network problems
Topic: technology Link here

Another drop-back to GPRS mode on my network connection today:

Dec 31 14:12:35 nerd-gw fstats: +CGREG  1  81E3  8FC8E66
Dec 31 14:12:41 nerd-gw fstats: +CGREG  1  81E3  142

That 3-character code in the last column appears to be an indication that the cell only does GPRS. The result is immediate:

64 bytes from 203.10.76.45: icmp_seq=74 ttl=54 time=88170.030 ms
64 bytes from 203.10.76.45: icmp_seq=75 ttl=54 time=87189.031 ms
64 bytes from 203.10.76.45: icmp_seq=76 ttl=54 time=86198.000 ms

Tried restarting the ppp process, with only limited success: it came back in GPRS mode again, but soon changed to UTMS:

Dec 31 14:17:46 nerd-gw fstats: +CGREG  1  F40  8FC48E8
Dec 31 14:17:52 nerd-gw fstats: +CGREG  2
Dec 31 14:19:14 nerd-gw fstats: +CGREG  1  81E3  8FC48E8

It didn't stay that way, though, and so I tried again, this time removing and replacing the (USB) modem. That seems to have done the job, though the RSSI was very low, typically 3 to 4, which seems marginal enough that it could have caused it to switch to a GPRS cell. To be monitored. But how I wish we could get the Radiation Tower!


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