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December 2015
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Tuesday, 1 December 2015 Dereel Images for 1 December 2015
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Samba problems
Topic: technology Link here

Into the office this morning to quickly process yesterday's photos. No do: all of eureka's file systems were no longer accessible (via samba) from despair. Why? How can you tell? The only clue was that really nothing had changed since the last access except for having despair hibernate. Or maybe this entry in the log files:

Dec  1 07:56:39 eureka smbd[99525]: [2015/12/01 07:56:39.274663,  0] ../source3/lib/messages.c:346(messaging_reinit)
Dec  1 07:56:39 eureka smbd[99525]:   messaging_dgm_init failed: Permission denied
Dec  1 07:56:39 eureka smbd[99525]: [2015/12/01 07:56:39.281132,  0] ../source3/lib/util.c:480(reinit_after_fork)
Dec  1 07:56:39 eureka smbd[99525]:   messaging_reinit() failed: NT_STATUS_ACCESS_DENIED
Dec  1 07:57:06 eureka smbd[99539]: [2015/12/01 07:57:06.728100,  0] ../lib/util/pidfile.c:153(pidfile_unlink)
Dec  1 07:57:06 eureka smbd[99539]:   Failed to delete pidfile /var/run/samba4/smbd.pid. Error was No such file or directory

What does that mean? OK, it's clear that setup failed, but why? Nothing has changed. Went through my usual tests with smbclient from eureka, and everything worked. Network issue maybe? Tried with stable and got:

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) ~ 1 -> smbclient -L eureka -U grog
Shared object "libldap-2.4.so.8" not found, required by "smbclient"

Huh? Same thing from lagoon. Which port installed smbclient? In the Good Old Days you could find that out with pkg_info -W smbclient. But those days are long gone. Still, the new world order has pkg info (two words), described not in the man page for pkg, but for pkg-info (hyphen, not underscore). And there's nothing there. Peter Jeremy explained: it's so important that there's a whole subcommand for it, so the correct man page was pkg-which. And now you need to specify an exact pathname, whereas pkg_info -W would follow the PATH environment variable.

And what installed it? No package wanted to be responsible. That's different from eureka:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/4) /home/grog 4 -> pkg which `which smbclient`
/usr/local/bin/smbclient was installed by package samba42-4.2.4_1

It's really puzzling that both lagoon and stable had an orphaned smbclient, but it would do no harm to install the samba package. And then things worked, including access to the file systems. Why not from despair? Went through the horrible menus to try to reconnect, but with no luck. Finally resorted to the standard Microsoft problem resolution and rebooted. Still no access. Click on some icon somewhere and get the offer of “reconnect”. And it reconnected, only one file system. But the second attempt reconnected the other 4.

How can I ever understand Microsoft?

As if that wasn't enough, playing around with usually unmounted backup file systems, I found I couldn't umount /backups:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/16) /usr/ports/x11/xterm 241 -> umount /backups
umount: unmount of /backup failed: Device busy
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/16) /usr/ports/x11/xterm 242 -> lsof /backups
lsof: WARNING: compiled for FreeBSD release 10.1-RELEASE-p18; this is 10.2-STABLE.
lsof: WARNING: access /root/.lsof_eureka: No such file or directory
lsof: WARNING: created device cache file: /root/.lsof_eureka
COMMAND  PID USER   FD   TYPE DEVICE         SIZE/OFF NODE NAME
smbd    2468 root   44r  VDIR  0,208 1198386069897216    2 /backups

What's smbd doing with /backups? It's strictly local, and there's no mention of it in the config file.


Removing xterm icons
Topic: technology Link here

Woke up with the realization that if the xterm icons include the BSD daemon, it must have been added in the port. Off to take a look, and sure enough, the Makefile contained:

DISTFILES= ${DISTNAME}${EXTRACT_SUFX}:src1 \
bsd-xterm-icons-${ICONVERSION}${EXTRACT_SUFX}:src2

There was also a post-extract target that moved the files into place. Fine, remove the post-extract and try again.

The BSD icons was gone, of course. But replaced by a generic X icon. I'm still no closer to being able to read the icon texts.


Moving from Kleins Road
Topic: general Link here

Today was supposed to be the settlement date for Kleins Road, but various delays occurred, which the conveyancer blames on Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and it now looks as if it won't be until tomorrow. Still, Barry wanted the remainder out of the garage, and was gradually getting quite upset about it. The skip we had ordered still hadn't come, and there wasn't much we could do until it arrived. Over with Chris' trailer to see what was left. Barry greeted me with the news that the washbasin in the laundry was blocked. And indeed it was:


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How did that happen? We had the drains in exactly that area cleaned out (just) less than a year ago. We didn't use that basin much, but we did sometimes. That's really hard to understand.

There really wasn't that much in the garage:


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There was more stuff outside:


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But that didn't worry Barry. He wanted our stuff out of the garage. Loaded a trailer full and headed off, conveniently getting a flat tyre on the way. The wheel nuts were rusted on, so over to Chris' place to see if she had any tools. She did: a “Mr Air” air compressor. Back with that and pumped it up; fortunately it stayed that way.

Back later with Yvonne after I had confirmation of the arrival of the skip, and got a fair amount of stuff out. When the trailer was full, back home, and while there got a call back from CJ Ellis, who was able to come and help me remove the remains:


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Sadly, I decided to scrap the MIPS M2000, though I've kept the boards. Here it is on its last journey:


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Somehow I've lost part of my life with this move.


Centrelink repayment
Topic: general Link here

Call from Centrelink (the intuitively name government department that handles age pensions in this particular case) today. It seems that they hadn't known about Yvonne's French pension, and after we suppled them the necessary details, they determined that they had overpaid us by about $600. They want the money back.

OK, given that Yvonne receives a pension without ever having worked in Australia, that's reasonable. But we had the choice: pay back the money right now, or have it taken out of our pensions. What's the minimum payment? $10 each every 2 weeks. What kind of choice is that? Of course we went for the $10, which means that the whole thing will take over a year to pay back—and we don't even have to pay interest.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 2 December 2015
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Settlement: next step
Topic: general Link here

Today was planned for “settling” (completing the contract on) the Kleins Road house. What are we going to do with the money left over? It's only round $25,000, and we're ultimately planning to spend it all on enhancements to the house, but clearly we should invest it in the meantime. Into town today to sign an agreement with Central Victorian Investments.

Ultimately the settlement didn't happen. Tomorrow, they say. But now they at least have a time: 15:00.


Completing the new house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While in town, also went looking for new knobs for the cupboard doors. One of the more irritating (and hard to understand) choices that JG King made was these knobs on the cupboard doors:


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They're 2 cm in diameter, and the only help for gripping them is the indentation underneath. Coupled with surprisingly strong catches on the doors, it's difficult to open the doors with them at the best of times. With slightly moist fingers it's as good as impossible.

Dropped into Bunnings, where we found a large choice, somewhat diminished by the requirement that the base be at least 2 cm in diameter to cover the paint damage done by removing the knob. Ultimately ended up with this:


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Yvonne is over the moon about the difference.

Also looking for TV furniture. There's really nothing worth having. After we parted our ways, Yvonne found Christies Furniture in Latrobe Street, where she at least found a glass cabinet that she liked. The interesting thing is that they can also make furniture to order, for a reasonable extra price. We bought the cabinet (will be delivered next Friday), and I left with some good ideas about what to do with the TV stuff.

Back home, finally connected the electric fence. All it needed was a coupler to connect the energizer:


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We bought the energizer in January after it became clear that the old energizer wasn't doing a good job. And it has taken until now to connect it up. For some reason, energizers are surprisingly expensive, and I had bought a significantly cheaper unit, the JVA M3. I had been concerned that maybe it wouldn't be up to the job.

I needn't have worried. The specs say 9 kV, but the tester showed an output of 9.7 kV. But the horses weren't impressed. Round to take a look at what was going on: the fence had a switch in it after about 100 m, and it was off. Turned it on and the voltage dropped to almost nothing.

Did a bit of searching and found a short-circuit. Fixed that, still nothing. Then Yvonne went round the entire fence and found more. After repairing that, things were excellent, between 7.8 kV and 10.2 kV. That's much more than I've ever seen before. The horses and dogs were impressed too.

One strangeness: the tester shows direction of current flow, but it shows in the wrong direction. Why? Can it be that the energizer outputs a negative voltage?


New SDHC card
Topic: technology, opinion, photography Link here

My new SDHC card for my camera has arrived. After spending quite a bit of time determining whether it was genuine, it seemed a good idea to investigate it more closely.

The package looked just like in the advertisement. Only read speed specified:


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But hidden on the back side was an indication of the write speed:


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Why do they go to such lengths to hide it?

The other issue that has bitten me in the past is the capacity: is this really a 32 GB card? Put it in a reader and copied the entire contents to /dev/null—at less than 7 MB/s!

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/4) /home/grog 16 -> time dd if=/dev/da2 of=/dev/null bs=128k
243492+0 records in
243492+0 records out
31914983424 bytes transferred in 4667.034623 secs (6838386 bytes/sec)
real    77m47.037s

So it's not 32 GB. It's not even 32,000,000,000 bytes. But I suppose that's what passes for 32 GB nowadays.

Why the slow speed? FreeBSD USB stack? No, it did the same in despair. And the write speed was the same as the read speed, so my guess is that it's the reader.


NBN error recovery
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Call from Will at Aussie Broadband this afternoon. The National Broadband Network can't correlate my outage data with their logs, so they think it's a site issue. They want to come and investigate.

OK, why not? I think it's a lack of monitoring on their part, but I could be wrong, and at least they're doing something. We made an appointment for Monday 13:00. I'll be interested to see what happens. In the meantime, the dropouts continue:

Date        Outages   Duration  Availability    Date
                      (seconds)
1449028336 1449028393     57  0.026 #  2 December 2015 14:52:16  2 December 2015 14:53:13
1449035540 1449035597     57  0.504 #  2 December 2015 16:52:20  2 December 2015 16:53:17
1449044086 1449044121     35  0.424 #  2 December 2015 19:14:46  2 December 2015 19:15:21
1449044692 1449044738     46  6.305 #  2 December 2015 19:24:52  2 December 2015 19:25:38
1449061031 1449061033      2  0.221 #  2 December 2015 23:57:11  2 December 2015 23:57:13

Civil disobedience or malware?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A week or two ago I found a site that offered “noise as a service” to help reduce the effectiveness of data retention programmes. The idea is simple: in each page you add this line:

<script src="//squawk.cc/squawk.js"></script>

According to the page,

Deploying this code will cause your web site visitors to make a single request to a random IP address, for every request that you serve with the script tag, in order to add noise to the logs being kept by Australian ISPs.

That sounded like a fun idea, so I put it in. And then today, suddenly, while looking at my contact prints, I found:

 
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Huh? I don't know that domain, and there's no reference to it on the page. The only thing I can think of is that squawk sent me there. It could just be a random address, or it could be indicative of something more sinister. Before I waste too much time considering how much danger this causes, it's simpler just to remove it.


xterm icons: finally!
Topic: technology Link here

These funny xterm icons with truncated texts irritate me more than I expected. More investigation today, with something like a solution. In misc.c there's the code (abridged):

void
xtermLoadIcon(XtermWidget xw)
{
#ifdef HAVE_LIBXPM
    Display *dpy = XtDisplay(xw);
...
#else
    (void) xw;
#endif
}

Was it that HAVE_LIBXPM? Mutilated the name and tried again. Success!

 
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The image above with the truncated text is the old icon, and the text below is the new one. That's produced by the x11/xtset program. If I run the cursor over the graphical icon, it displays the entire text, but that doesn't help much. I've been continually searching 10 or more icons. Now I can just read them directly.

So how do I fix this correctly? Clearly I need to find what's setting HAVE_LIBXPM and make it an option. But the information is very scanty. etags shows that it's defined in xtermcfg.h, but the first line of that file is:

/* xtermcfg.h.  Generated automatically by configure.  */
if test $ac_cv_lib_Xpm_XpmCreatePixmapFromData = yes; then

cat >>confdefs.h <<\EOF
#define HAVE_LIBXPM 1
...

What does that mean? How I hate autoconf! But configure has a help function:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) /usr/ports/x11/xterm/work/xterm-320 5 -> configure --help|grep icon
...
  --enable-builtin-xpms   compile-in icon data

That looks like the option. But where's the disable function? There isn't one!

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) /usr/ports/x11/xterm/work/xterm-320 6 -> configure --help|grep xpm
  --with-xpm=DIR          use Xpm library for colored icon, may specify path
  --enable-builtin-xpms   compile-in icon data
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/6) /usr/ports/x11/xterm/work/xterm-320 7 -> grep ble-builtin-xpms config*
configure:  --enable-builtin-xpms   compile-in icon data
configure:# Check whether --enable-builtin-xpms or --disable-builtin-xpms was given.
configure.in:   [  --enable-builtin-xpms   compile-in icon data],

Yes, there's a mention of --disable-builtin-xpms in a comment—but nowhere else. Clearly the script is flaky. Checking config.log also showed that configure was invoked without --enable-builtin-xpms. So it looks as if I'm going to have to crawl through configure to find the answer.


Thursday, 3 December 2015 Dereel Images for 3 December 2015
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User-friendly error messages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Seen in Chromium today, after I entered an incorrect URL:

This web page is not available
DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN

Isn't that amazing? It's been decades since web browsers did that.


Finally: settlement!
Topic: general Link here

Call from Geoff Sullivan today, telling me that Barry still wants things moved out. Why didn't he tell me earlier? Now CJ isn't available, so we'll have to wait a day or two.

Fortunately that didn't worry the banks. They had planned to settle at 15:00, but that didn't happen: it wasn't until 15:30. After 360 days, that's nothing. We're done!


Save time with frozen chapatis
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Making chapatis is time-consuming, so when I found some frozen ones in Geelong last week, I bought a pack. Tried them out today. Not a complete success. They're individually packed with a sheet of plastic film on either side, and some of them were cracked. After thawing, it was very difficult to remove the film, which stuck to the chapatis. And they're much thinner than the ones I make, making it difficult to put them into the pan. The results were disastrous:


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I later discovered that this was a case of not RTFM: they should be put into the pan without thawing. But that wouldn't make them taste any better: they have much more fat in them than I'm used to, and as Yvonne says, they taste like puff pastry.


The result of bad stove design
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Apart from the disaster with the chapatis, at the end we found, behind the hot plate:


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That's due to the poor design of the stove, with the large hot plate at the back of the stove up against the wall. I've already ranted about that. We got rid of most of the mark, but there's still some left over.


Friday, 4 December 2015 Dereel
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Debugging mutt
Topic: technology Link here

With some messing around I managed to get urlview to work with mutt. But I still can't display HTML attachments correctly: it just shows me the plain HTML text. Couldn't find anything about that in the documentation, so ran some ktraces, which showed that mutt didn't even try to access mime.types or mailcap. Why not? According to the manual:

In order to handle various MIME types that Mutt can not handle internally, Mutt parses a series of external configuration files to find an external handler. The default search string for these files is a colon delimited list set to

${HOME}/.mailcap:/usr/local/share/mutt/mailcap:/etc/mailcap:/etc/mailcap:/usr/etc/mailcap:/usr/local/etc/mailcap

where $HOME is your home directory.

Even if some of these paths don't exist, it needs to try them. And it didn't. What now? Roll up my sleeves, build mutt from ports with debugging enabled. Also changed the screen rendering from ncurses to slang, which got rid of the black marks on the display. It didn't get rid of the extreme space padding of the display lines.

And of course it didn't get rid of the HTML display issue. Found a likely looking function mutt_display_message() (in commands.c) and set a breakpoint there. About the first thing it does is to call mutt_parse_mime_message, in parse.c, which is only interested in messages of type TYPEMESSAGE or TYPEMULTIPART:

void mutt_parse_mime_message (CONTEXT *ctx, HEADER *cur)
{
  MESSAGE *msg;

  do {
    if (cur->content->type != TYPEMESSAGE &&
        cur->content->type != TYPEMULTIPART)
      break; /* nothing to do */

And what was this message? That was determined earlier in mutt_check_mime_type(), a series of nested if statements starting with:

int mutt_check_mime_type (const char *s)
{
  if (ascii_strcasecmp ("text", s) == 0)
    return TYPETEXT;

s is the first half of the attachment type (text/html), so the message was given type TYPETEXT, exactly as it was with text/plain. Am I missing something? Found a function mutt_needs_mailcap() with an interesting start:

/* returns 1 if Mutt can't display this type of data, 0 otherwise */
int mutt_needs_mailcap (BODY *m)
{
  switch (m->type)
  {
    case TYPETEXT:
      /* we can display any text, overridable by auto_view */
      return 0;
      break;

That's just plain wrong! But what's this auto_view? Found it in the manual:

In addition to explicitly telling Mutt to view an attachment with the MIME viewer defined in the mailcap file, Mutt has support for automatically viewing MIME attachments while in the pager.

To work, you must define a viewer in the mailcap file which uses the copiousoutput option to denote that it is non-interactive. Usually, you also use the entry to convert the attachment to a text representation which you can view in the pager.

Is that going to help if it doesn't even look at the mailcap file? Found another page with more explicit details. Tried that, and sure enough, I got my display, sort of. As the author of that page says:

Now ask yourself "Why doesn't mutt do this out of the box?" Why do you have to jump through hoops? This isn't the 1970's.

Indeed. In addition, this used to work. And it still doesn't work properly: the character markup is wrong. How do I fix it? First I need to find the temporary file that mutt displays. And it seems to have removed that. In addition, it seems that both firefox and Chromium have decided not to have a default character encoding any more. Sometimes I think that people are deliberately trying to make software harder to use.


Irrigation: a small step for a man
Topic: gardening Link here

Spring is over, reportedly the hottest on record, and the summer has started off in the same vein. Today we had a top of 33°, and the next few days look like they're going to continue that way. So it wasn't too early when today Mick and Mike came along to lay the piping for the irrigation.

To my surprise, the hose I had was only enough for one of the four circuits. They got it done pretty quickly, but now I have to do my (very small) part and connect up the irrigation controller. Manãna. It's far too hot.


Saturday, 5 December 2015 Dereel Images for 5 December 2015
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Still more mutt pain
Topic: technology Link here

More investigation of my mutt issues today, without gaining much more understanding. In the end “solved” the missing file problem the easy way:

--- handler.c~  2015-12-04 14:39:52.352712000 +1100
+++ handler.c   2015-12-05 13:44:48.648690000 +1100
@@ -1419,8 +1419,8 @@
     if (piped)
       safe_fclose (&fpin);
-    else
-      mutt_unlink (tempfile);
+/*    else
+      mutt_unlink (tempfile); XXX */

But I still have the issue that the OED “word of the day” displays incorrectly. That's mainly their fault: they supply the message only in HTML (don't get me started), and it's invalid: it doesn't specify the character encoding, which in fact is UTF-8. So I get nonsense like this:


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I don't even get that far with Chromium. It just displays the source code, probably because it can't see anything that identifies it as HTML. The very first line is:

<h2>OED Online Word of the Day</h2>

It's a little puzzling that firefox knows what to do. But now that the file doesn't go away, I can fix it under firefox with View/Character Encoding/Unicode. Previously it was easier: set a default in the preferences. But it seems that that's too easy, so they've removed it. Why? Previously I could select this:

 
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And now the best I can get is:


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To confuse the issue, Peter Jeremy tells me that he's using exactly the same version of mutt, and it works for him. But according to the the manual it shouldn't. Somehow this is all far more complicated than it has any right to be.


Waterlily in bloom
Topic: gardening Link here

Six years ago we bought a miniature water lily, which has more survived than flourished. Now it's in a half 44 gallon drum, and finally it has come up with some buds:


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Installing the sprinklers
Topic: gardening Link here

As of this morning we had one sprinkler circuit with no drippers and no controller. Addressed that issue today, once the temperature dropped below 30°.

The controller, an Orbit® Easy Dial, is strange. It's pretty much bare-bones, much less well thought out than the one I installed 8 years ago. The manual says:

Your timer is equipped with the simple "push-in"
terminals for easy connection.

What's that? They look like this:


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Pushing the wires up against the connectors did nothing useful, and once they're in, how do I get them out again? It took quite a bit of experimentation to discover that pushing the plastic cap backwards (towards the labels) loosens the connector, and then you can push the wires in or pull them out.

That wasn't the only issue, though. There are only two sprinkler programmes (compared to the 6 or so in the old controller). I knew that, and it's enough. But setting the start and run times is a disaster! Of course the silly thing only has a 12 hour clock display, but you have to hold down a button while it runs through up to the entire 24 hours to set a start time. And once you've done that for the first sprinkler circuit, you have to start all over again for the second, and so on. It claims to resolve conflicts, but consider what happens if, for example, you set circuit 1 to start at 4:00 and run for 30 minutes, then set circuit 2 to start at 4:30. Then you change circuit 1 to run for 15 minutes. So the thing runs for 15 minutes, turns off for 15 minutes, and then runs again.

In fact, I had misunderstood the instructions. It took me a while to understand how to set it.

Worse, the old sprinkler had a setting for increasing or decreasing the run times globally, so you could reduce them in the winter and increase them in the summer. Here it looks as if I'm going to have to adjust each one individually.

Finally got things running and put about half the sprinklers and sprays in before I got too tired. I'm not sure the sprays are the best choice. They're far too fine, and half the spray got blown away by the wind:


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Moving the goldfish
Topic: animals Link here

The goldfish in the same pot are in full sun, and the water temperature goes up to 30° in the daytime. It doesn't seem to worry the fish, who swim near the surface, where it's at its warmest: at the bottom it's noticeably cooler, maybe under 20°. But it worries Yvonne. She got an old bathtub and put it in front of the house, where it's shaded from the midday sun, much to Piccola's delight:


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Then she set to catching the fish and installing them. She got 9 of them, and I had already put one in the trough round the house, but there's at least one still in there, maybe more. By evening we had:


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Waterlilies taste good
Topic: gardening, animals Link here

While working on the irrigation, let the dogs into the garden. Bad idea. I saw Sasha drinking from the drum with the waterlily, but it wasn't until I came closer that I saw he hadn't been drinking. He had been eating our new waterlily flowers:


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Bad dog! As somebody who will remain nameless would have said, “As punishment you won't get any dinner”.


Crickets?
Topic: animals Link here

Before we filled the bathtub, we found dozens of little black insects on the surface of the tub. I had thought that they were flies, but looking more closely they're something else. Crickets?


Sunday, 6 December 2015 Dereel Images for 6 December 2015
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Selling lenses again
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Christmas is on its way, a potentially good time to sell some of the camera lenses I've collected and then decided against over the past two years: the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R that came with Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2, the Olympus BCL-1580 15 mm f/8 Body Cap Lens and the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm F2.8 Pancake:


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It took nearly 2 hours, first taking the photos, then putting them up on eBay. They've jumped on the stupid “secret question” bandwagon, but they also check the answers to ensure that they're not the same:

 
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Last stuff from Kleins Road
Topic: general Link here

Over to Kleins Road this afternoon with CJ to collect the remainder of the stuff that Barry Ryan wanted removed. Found him in the shed with a couple of his mates barbecuing some sausages. Surprise, surprise, he hadn't been able to wait for us to come along, and had removed all except the last couple of cabinets, which we took with us.

He has also found and repaired the hole in the pond liner. To my surprise the hole was in the back of the pond. I wonder how that happened.


CJ's new computer
Topic: technology Link here

CJ has a new computer. He bought one last year, but it didn't have a printer. Recently he was given an old Dell machine with printer, and he wanted to know how to connect to the Internet, and how to move his files across. I asked him to bring the computers when he came, and I would see what I could do.

So he showed up with only the new computer. It has a Pentium IV processor! And only 1 GB of memory. By contrast, his old computer has 2 GB of memory and a processor “faster than mine”. Mine (stable) is Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 with a CPUmark specification of (currently) 1501. By comparison, the Pentium 4 (3.0 GHz) has only 357, while the current machine has a Core2 Duo E7500 rated at 1895, 5.3 times the speed. So it looks as if the issue will boil down to installing a driver for the printer.


Frozen chapatis, try 2
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

The frozen chapatis that I made on Thursday were an unmitigated disaster, at least because I didn't RTFM. Tried again today following the instructions. And yes, it wasn't nearly as bad:


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But the other issues remain. Somehow they didn't cook through properly, and they left a lot of fat in the pan, though they no longer tasted like puff pastry. We'll finish them, but we won't be buying any more.


Monday, 7 December 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 7 December 2015
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Hello multiculturalism
Topic: general, language, opinion Link here

Checking my bank account today on the web, discovered that not only have they changed their markup (though they still haven't removed this stupid upside-down listing). Now the headings contain an Arabic letter in addition to the normal text:

 
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Is that intentional? Mohamed Ifadir confirms that it doesn't mean anything in Arabic.


More irrigation stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

Into town this morning to buy more components for the sprinkler system, which Mick installed in the afternoon. I had originally thought that I would get by with a single 100 m roll of ¾" low density poly tube, but that had proven wildly optimistic. I would need at least one more, possibly two, so to be on the safe side I bought three with the understanding that I could return it.

A good thing I did. Mick finished two of the three remaining circuits in the afternoon, and used up two rolls doing so. We're relatively confident that the remaining roll will be sufficient for the remaining circuit. But along with the roll that I put out some time last month, that makes the best part of 500 m of irrigation hose. I would never have expected anything near that.


Philips: shame on you!
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in town, dropped in at The Good Guys, who have an espresso machine on special—only $347 instead of $399. And what do you get for that? Effectively nothing that my ancient $70 machine didn't do. I wanted one that converts the beans into coffee at the touch of a button.

Spoke to Alison, who confirmed the impression that I got at Harvey Norman last month: she had no idea what the machines could do, nor why there were price differences. They had three Saeco Intelia machines, made by Philips, that looked almost the same. Prices were $599, $649 and $699. The first was a clearance item, and the other two came with a $50 cash-back, not to mention a fourth name, “Evo”, presumably in honour of the president of Bolivia. So it seemed reasonable to compare them. The labels mentioned different features, but it seemed fairly obvious that the only difference was the colour: the more expensive one had a stainless steel finish. For $50! You can buy coffee machines for that! Why are these things so expensive?

It became clear that the only way to find out what the thing could do was to read the manual. But even there I was mistaken. Like most manuals nowadays, it's in many languages, in this case Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Greek—and not in English!

To be fair to Philips, this was a demonstration unit. It's possible that the box contained two instruction manuals, and the English version “walked”. But that's only one of many problems with the documentation, and Philips are responsible for the remainder.

Clearly today's the day of multiculturalism. The front page is in (only) English, and it claims to offer help:

CHECK ON WWW.PHILIPS.COM/SUPPORT TO DOWNLOAD THE LATEST USER MANUAL

Isn't it nice that they've given a direct link? Their web site is one of the worst I've seen in recent times, and while searching I was asked to fill out a survey (“Did you find what you were looking for?” “No” “Why not?” “This survey interrupted my search”).

Even after that, things weren't easy. First, I had to find the product number (“read what's on the package”). That had half a dozen product numbers, with a red sticker next to HD8752/9x. But there were no hits for that. Checked the receipt. HD8752/94. But it didn't find that either. Finally I selected the “worldwide” option, which found something. Depending on the way I looked at it, I got one of the following screens:

 
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Grabbed the fourth one before it went away, and finally found a download link. And sure enough, it was the same instruction manual that I had had in hardcopy, only this time in languages I understand better, including English.

But what a terrible manual! I frequently complain about the quality of manuals, but this one really takes the cake. The unit looks like this:


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What does the MENU button do? It's not mentioned! And how do you use ground coffee? There's a mention of selecting ground coffee in the initial setup instructions:

 
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But that's the only mention, and it's only used to avoid consuming coffee during the installation. And how do you get rid of the coffee grounds? It's not mentioned at all!

Searching the web site brought me to a list of FAQs (since apparently dead), with names as confusing as “How do I vent my Intelia?” (I know how to vent my frustration). Many of the FAQs are answered in the “manual”, and they want to be read one at a time. There I discovered that I can set water hardness. We use rainwater, so we don't need to descale at all, but that concept is clearly too complicated for the manual writers, so the best I can select is the minimum value. Is that 1 or 4? I forget, and unfortunately they seem to have removed this FAQ from their list between the time I read it and the time I wrote this article. Fortunately a different search comes up with a different list of FAQs (19 instead of 12). It's not the same as the one I originally found, and it pops up in a smaller window to make it harder to read, but it confirms not only that 1 is the smallest (0-7° dH, a unit not used in Australia and for which I haven't found an English description), but also that I'll have to “descale” the bloody thing every 240 litres of water.

All in all, an amazing documentation catastrophe. And this is a world-famous brand! It has significantly shaken my confidence in Philips.

While searching, also found a “leaflet” with the specifications that should have been on display in the shop, including pump pressure (15 bar, another unit that is not in Australian use), and the interesting information:

· Country of origin: Designed in Italy, Made in Europe

This is probably an indication that they don't really want to admit that it's made in Romania.

Still, once I've fought and ranted my way through this far. The real issue is, how good is the coffee? Here's the first cup, “brewed” according to the instructions:


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What went wrong there? The “instructions” were no help, of course. But in some incarnation of the FAQ I discovered that it takes several cups before the thing works properly. After a while I had:


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It still didn't taste as good as what I got out of my el-cheapo ALDI capsule machine. Is that the machine or the coffee I bought (ALDI's best (and only) beans)? I'll experiment further, but so far the results have been far from the excellence I've been expecting.

While I was investigating all this, I heard a noise from the dining room. The machine had produced ¼ l water and drained it into the drip tray:


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It seems that this is “normal”: on powering down, and again on powering up, it does a rinse cycle. You can stop it by pressing the “espresso” button, which doubles as a menu key, but it makes a mockery out of the timed power-off.

Additional instructions

So what did I need to know that's not in the instructions? There's a used coffee drawer to the right of the pouring spout. To use ground coffee, open the strangely designed opening at top front of the bean compartment and try to get it in without spilling:


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Be warned that it will perform a rinse cycle both on powering on and powering off.


NBN site visit
Topic: technology Link here

Mick and Jordan from some National Broadband Network contractor company arrived this afternoon for the planned site inspection. They were as puzzled as I had been, but we agreed that it probably helps to do the simple things first. So they replaced the NTD, the power supply and the ODU (outdoor unit, i.e. antenna). In the process I discover that they also refer to the NTD as IDU (indoor unit).

Replacing the NTD requires registering the new NTD with “Ericsson”, presumably the part that actually manages the wireless network. That didn't go as smoothly as planned: they had apparently connected it to the wrong cell (antenna) on the tower, resulting in an error indication of red ODU lamp alternating with orange in the two leftmost signal strength indicators. Fixing that was further complicated by a difference of opinion about who should reboot the NTD. Mick thought Ericsson (which makes sense), but Ericsson thought Mick. But finally it was done. As Mick told me, they would do some further testing that would cause the link to drop. And so it did:

Start time End time  Duration   Badness        from                    to
                     (seconds)

1449452716 1449456696   3980	  0.009	#  7 December 2015 12:45:16  7 December 2015 13:51:36
1449458245 1449458504    259	  2.324	#  7 December 2015 14:17:25  7 December 2015 14:21:44
1449460731 1449461023    292	  1.617	#  7 December 2015 14:58:51  7 December 2015 15:03:43
      

Are the dropout problems gone? We'll see. I doubt that any of this makes any difference.


Tuesday, 8 December 2015 Dereel
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More mutt and firefox problems
Topic: technology Link here

Somehow my interface between mutt and firefox is still not right. To get it to work at all reliably, I needed to hack the mutt source. And then today, instead of the normal broken HTML display, I got:

XML Parsing Error: not well-formed
Location: file:///home/grog/mutt-eureka-yTle9kDR
Line Number 152, Column 76:                            style="background-color:#eaf2f1; width: 10px;">FFFF</td>
</td>
---------------------------------------------------------------------------^

The FFFF was in fact two 0xff bytes, but I can't put them in a web page without triggering the same error again. Clearly firefox didn't recognize this as HTML. I had already wondered how it ever did—Chromium doesn't. And mutt doesn't want to put a .html at the end of the file name. According to the manual you can do this with:

text/html;      firefox %s; nametemplate=%s.html; copiousoutput

That worked for me, once, but the name of the file generated was simply mutt.html. All further attempts failed: all I got was the base name without .html.

I don't know what's wrong with this thing, but in the end I wrote a little script which also solves the automatic deletion problem:

#!/bin/sh
mv $1 $1.html
/usr/local/bin/firefox /var/tmp/$1.html

That works. But the choice of name (dobrowser) wasn't my first choice. I wanted dobrowse. But for the latest version of Emacs (24.5), that's a magic name, and it creates a read-only buffer labeled C++ Tree in Ebrowse-Tree mode. C++ attacks you from all directions.


Magda returns
Topic: general Link here

Nele Kömle and her mother Magda Delva along today, mainly to look at Gneisti, an Icelandic stallion that they have bought together with Maraget Swan, but they also came along for lunch. We haven't seen Magda since April 2014. For some reason I didn't take any photos. Yvonne took a number of photos, but only of Nele and Nelson:


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Marketing Kleins Road: first anniversary
Topic: general Link here

One year ago today since we put the Kleins Road house on the market. And what a year! Thank God it's over.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015 Dereel Images for 9 December 2015
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Who finds this diary interesting?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The RSS feed of my diary is syndicated on the ACM queue blog roll. Sometimes I think it doesn't fit there; the diary (and specifically not a “blog”) is primarily for my own use, but I share. And the topics are sometimes boring enough that I explicitly exclude from from acmqueue.

But today I heard from Kirk McKusick, who is on the ACM board. It seems that one of my articles is the all-time most popular posting, with 20,000 views per year. Considering it's nearly 3 years old, that surprises me.


imake and modern compilers
Topic: technology Link here

I still haven't got Keith Packard's kgames working on FreeBSD. It was coming on nicely until I upgraded from release 9 to release 10. And then I got error messages like:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/33) /home/ports/x11/kgames/kgames-1.0 88 -> xmkmf
mv -f Makefile Makefile.bak
imake -DUseInstalled -I/usr/local/lib/X11/config
In file included from Imakefile.c:15:
In file included from /usr/local/lib/X11/config/Imake.tmpl:316:
/usr/local/lib/X11/config/Imake.rules:1674:27: warning: empty character constant [-Winvalid-pp-token]
        for flag in ${MAKEFLAGS} ''; do \                               @@\

What went wrong there? Comparing the output Makefile with the previous one, I discovered lots of things like this:

@@ -132,15 +132,15 @@

-          INCROOT = /usr/local/include
-        USRLIBDIR = /usr/local/lib
+          INCROOT = /usr/local /include
+        USRLIBDIR = /usr/local / lib
            VARDIR = /var
         VARLIBDIR = $(VARDIR)/lib
   SYSTEMUSRLIBDIR = /usr/lib
   SYSTEMUSRINCDIR = /usr/include
-         SHLIBDIR = /usr/local/lib
+         SHLIBDIR = /usr/local / lib
        LINTLIBDIR = $(USRLIBDIR)/lint
-          MANPATH = /usr/local/man
+          MANPATH = /usr/local /man

Where did those spaces come from? Looking at Imake.tmpl, I found lots of stuff like:

#ifndef IncRoot
#ifdef ProjectRoot
#define IncRoot Concat(ProjectRoot,/include)
...

So somehow it seems that the Concat function (or whatever) is inserting spaces. It seems that the real culprit here is either the clang preprocessor or imake making invalid assumptions about preprocessor functionality. It works with gcc, but not with clang.

OK, we can make a dependency on gcc. But it doesn't work! ktrace shows that imake ignores the environment variable CC and simply goes through the PATH looking for cc. In my case that was easy enough: put a symlink cc → /usr/local/bin/gcc in the top-level directory. But that's nothing I can put in a port.

Looking on the web, there have been plenty of issues with clang and imake, but most seem to be related to building imake rather than using it, but this one seems to address my issue. A pity it didn't include a patch.


Completing the irrigation
Topic: gardening Link here

Spent much of the day putting in drippers for the irrigation system, which went relatively well. For the trees in front of the house I used drippers, for the flower beds in front of my office microsprays, and I also put a couple of drippers on 4 mm tubes connected to the hose at the output of the solenoid, something like this:


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But when I turned it on to test it, I saw that I had drilled right through the tube, and water was spraying out of the other side. What to do? The holes (drilled with a hand drill) weren't the full 4 mm in diameter, so I couldn't just put in a plug without drilling out further, and there was no way to get a drill in there. So in the end I removed it and replaced it with a tee:


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What a pain, literally! The tube had cooled down due to the water flowing through it, and it was almost impossible to tighten. After 10 minutes of cursing and swearing I finally managed to get it half way connected, not without scraping a lot of skin off the palms of my hand:


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And then I discovered that there was no hole after all! Somehow these barbed connectors are just not very watertight. What a pain!

Apart from that, the sprays for the beds in front of the office weren't the best choice. Like the sprays in the main garden, they produce very fine droplets, and they accumulate on the windows. I'll have to replace them with droppers, but that's for another day.

In the afternoon did circuit 2, mainly to the west of the house. At least that wasn't quite as much pain as the tees. We have four sprays on the roof of the shade area; hopefully that will be enough.


Visit from Lorraine Carranza
Topic: general Link here

We've passed Lorraine Carranza on many occasions while walking the dogs, and we've been promising to get together for some time. A few weeks back I promised “before Christmas”, with the intention that it be before this Christmas. So she came over for dinner this evening. She's a surprisingly interesting person—the only person I know who spent most of her childhood on Manhattan Island. She's been in Dereel for a long time.


Thursday, 10 December 2015 Dereel Images for 10 December 2015
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Finishing the irrigation
Topic: gardening Link here

So yesterday I completed the irrigation, so today there was nothing left to do apart from completing the irrigation work. Yvonne had found some Grevillea rosmarinifolia and planted them in the native vegetation strip outside the house, not for the first time. All the others died, so this time they got a drip.

Then I discovered that the two sprinklers in the shade area didn't have enough throw, so put another four in. And finally we're in a position to plant tropaeolums, so we put in some drippers for them and planted a few seeds. And finally I put in some spinners for the succulent bed.

Testing showed a surprise: the pressure was no longer high enough. It's not the pump, which had about a 30% duty cycle, so it must be the length of the hose. That's a nuisance: we could put in one more solenoid, but that's about that. Maybe we should look for different fittings.

The real issue was a clogged water filter, as I noted a few days later. I made exactly the same mistake in Kleins Road.

Tomorrow the final circuit goes in.


Friday, 11 December 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 December 2015
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The last watering circuit
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick along this morning to lay the hoses for the last watering circuit, on the south side of the house. We're done now, apart from connecting up the solenoid and putting in the drippers. Hopefully that will improve the condition of the plants.


Off to town again
Topic: health, general, gardening, opinion Link here

Into Ballarat this morning for a number of things. I'm due for a blood test, but somehow I managed to lose the pathology request, so I had to see the doctor for one. And of course he had to be behind schedule, and it took me half an hour after the appointed time before I could see him. And then he gave me a request which required me to be fasting, which wasn't really necessary, but by the time I discovered it I had left the surgery. So no blood test today. Damn.

On to Bunnings to replace a number of small defective items, then to OfficeWorks to look for a mouse of the same kind I bought there last time. But that was over 3 months ago, so of course their collection has changed.

Then to Formosa Gardens, who have lost their web presence, to buy some petunias, which will hopefully survive.


Woolworths hygiene
Topic: general, opinion Link here

After that to Woolworths (formerly Safeway), where I came across some of the most disgustingly dirty toilets I have seen in Australia. It seems that the drains are blocked, and the urinal had flushed all over the floor. To the information stand. Yes, they knew about it, and people had been informed. I wasn't happy about that, so she said “If you like, I'll call the manager. Maybe you can get him to do something”.

As it happened, the manager, Kane, was only a few metres away. He explained that it was the fault of the subcontractors, who hadn't done their job. His whole attitude sounded like “couldn't care less”, and it reinforced the impression that the girl at the information desk had given. I explained that, as manager, he was responsible, that he hadn't done his job, and that I would get the head office to explain that to him. At least he then went and did something.

First, though, I asked him where I could find a funnel, which is what I had wanted to buy. He didn't know. That's fine: not his job. But what did he do? Went off looking anyway, instead of delegating. And he didn't find it (“I'm not sure we carry funnels”). I found what I was looking for shortly afterwards by myself. Somehow it seems that managers in this kind of company forget what they're there for.


Why ld?
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Modern programming toolchains have two main components: a translator (assembler or compiler), which produces object modules, and what is generally called a linker, linkage editor or similar. It joins them together to produce an executable program that can then be “loaded” into memory, a page at a time when required, by the kernel.

But in UNIX, the linkage editor is called ld, which stands for load. How come? People have been discussing that on the Unix Heritage Society mailing list for the last few days.

From my understanding, the name comes from historical evolution. In the early days the main tool was the compiler, which ran much faster than modern compilers in terms of processor instructions: it had to in order to complete in an acceptable time. It produced executables directly, and all that was needed was to load the image into core. And since the machines had a real (non-virtual) memory model, the whole program got loaded into core at once.

It didn't take long for that to be too restrictive. How do you handle multiple object files, notably including libraries? How do you handle overlays? That's where the link editor comes in. But it happened slowly and concurrently in different places, and the names chosen varied accordingly. Looking at the systems I've worked with, I've seen these names:

In fact, I can't recall a linkage editor with a corresponding name.

Presumably these functions were initially performed by the program loader, and that's what I said on the list: the name just morphed, rather like the way people still call domestic network routers “modems”, even when they no longer contain a modem. I didn't have much proof to back it up, but Doug McIlroy confirmed:

That's exactly right. ld performs the same task as LOAD did on BESYS, except it builds the result in the file system rather than user space. Over time it became clear that "linker" would be a better term, but that didn't warrant canning the old name. Gresham's law then came into play and saddled us with the ponderous and misleading term, "link editor".


Fighting dust
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I have listed three lenses on eBay. A couple of days ago I received a query about the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens:

Hi, this lens looks filthy, is there any dirt inside it or fungus on it?

Well, the answer is “no”. But why did it look filthy? Looking at the photos, I can see his point:


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Is there really that much dust on it? Yes, of course. But the issue is the way I'm processing the images, which highlights every tiny detail. Reprocesssing with DxO Optics “Pro”'s “standard” profile produced a much better image (first image). Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner.


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This isn't cheating: an out-of-camera JPEG image would look like the first image, not the second. And that's what other people put on eBay. Clearly there are times when emphasis is counterproductive.

Still, there's dust on the lens, so it makes sense to remove it. But how? I've seen a similar issue with my OM-D E-M1. It has automatic sensor cleaning, but from time to time I find that there's dust on the sensor. It's not enough just to clean it off, I need to get rid of it too. Hair dryer?


New furniture
Topic: general Link here

More new furniture arrived today, a display cabinet for ornaments. We had thought of buying another one for musical instruments, but somehow the dimensions don't seem right:


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Fondue bourguignonne: no thanks
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the things that we almost left in Kleins Road was a set for fondue bourguignonne, complete with fat still in the pot. Why? It seemed a strange thing to leave behind, so I brought it over, and we planned a meal with it.

The first problem was a recipe. I've refined our recipe for fondue au fromage over the years, but we've eaten very few fondues bourguignonnes. The ones that I did find were anything but interesting: basically beef with lots of sauces. We tried some experiments with potatoes (cut into slices with the hope of them ballooning), pre-steamed broccoli and mushrooms. Temperature control was an issue, and though the potatoes inflated a little, they didn't get crispy. The broccoli was alright, the mushrooms boring, the meat (filet) good. But everything was so fatty, and we wondered why we bothered.

Looking back in my diary, I find that I have commented on it before, 6 years ago. On that occasion I was also less than delighted, but now I think there's a fondue set up for grabs.


Saturday, 12 December 2015 Dereel Images for 12 December 2015
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Java pain
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

For some years I've been using SaladoPlayer, a Java application, to animate panoramas. Lately I haven't had any to do, and today was the first time since I upgraded eureka. It didn't work.

How I love these silly programs that produce their output in their own tiny window. In this case, it set off, displayed something, and then shut the window before I could read what it had had to say. How do I recover that? It's a log, but it's not a file. Ran ktrace to catch the output, but of course it was several megabytes, and I didn't know what to look for.

The alternative was to slow down the output enough to be able to read it before it disappeared. How about ktrace over NFS? teevee still has a 100 Mb/s interface, so I mounted that and put the trace file there. That certainly slowed things down: it took about 7 minutes to do what had previously taken one or two seconds. And finally I was able to get a screen shot:

 
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“One factory fails for the operation "jpeg"”? What on earth does that mean? But it's a silly enough string that I'm not likely to have many false positives on a Google search. And sure enough, I came up with this page, which described almost exactly what I had seen. It seems that it was a way of saying “not enough memory”, and it's really a link to this page, which I wrote 3½ years ago. In the process I rediscovered that it is possible to display the log after the window has shut, via the File menu item.

But this referred to exactly the installation which was now giving me trouble, after the “fix” had been applied. It was now set up to use 8 GB of address space, more than it uses. I increased it to 16 GB, with the interesting effect that my system (32 GB main memory) started swapping: Java, it seems, allocates all its memory up front, whether it needs it or not.

It didn't work. Looking at the trace, it's marginally different. Last time it started:

Processing image: /Photos/forsalad/verandah-centre.jpeg
Error: One factory fails for the operation "jpeg"
Occurs in: javax.media.jai.ThreadSafeOperationRegistry
java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException
at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke0(Native Method)
at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(NativeMethodAccessorImpl.java:39)
at sun.reflect.DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.java:25)
at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Method.java:597)

Now it starts with:

Processing image: /Photos/forsalad/lounge-room.jpeg
Error: One factory fails for the operation "jpeg"
Occurs in: javax.media.jai.ThreadSafeOperationRegistry
java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException
at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke0(Native Method)
at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(NativeMethodAccessorImpl.java:62)
at sun.reflect.DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.java:43)
at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Method.java:497)

Is this a new set of libraries? Possibly. The names look the same, but the line numbers are different. The last thing I want to do is debug this stuff. In addition, the problem I had there was with an enormous (1 GB) panorama, far bigger than what I was trying today. So I'm still scratching my head.


Browser redux
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Over the last couple of weeks I've run into an amazing number of problems with web browsers. It's all the more amazing when you consider that the web browser has become the central piece of software for most people. Admittedly, I'm much more fussy than the average user, but silly things like text size must get on everybody's nerves.

Chromium in particular seems to have regressed. There seems to be only one setting for text size, and it gives me smaller fixed-width than standard fonts, meaning that I can no longer display pages like this diary with usable font sizes. In addition, by default it displays images larger than their original size. I have a script that creates a “contact print” page for examining photos, something like we did with 35 mm negatives decades ago. Of course there are 6 images per row, so I've calculated that the size should be 400×300 pixels for a total width of 2,400 pixels, which fits nicely on my 2560×1440 screen. But chromium enlarges them to 560×420. Why? The only way I can find to get them back to the original size is to reduce the overall size of the page, which makes the text hard to read again.

People, we've been using browsers for over 20 years! This used to work. Why have you broken it?

firefox has its own problems, about which I have ranted. Depending on the display, it produces wildly different font sizes, but I can tune them. And how do I display page source with Emacs? More searching today, and found this page, describing what I needed to do, almost. For some reason he wrote a wrapper script, but that doesn't seem to be necessary (any more?):

view_source.editor.external true
view_source.editor.path /usr/local/bin/emacsclient

But how do I set it? firefox has changed its configuration menus over the years, but there's still no obvious way to set these variables. More searching revealed this page about the pseudo-URL about:config. I've seen and used that before, but I keep forgetting the exact text. And with that I was able to set firefox to use emacsclient to view source.

And what about the missing UTF-8 defaults? It seems that there's a preference intl.charset.default in my old profile. Added that to my new profile and set its value to UTF-8, but it didn't help.

In passing, I checked if chromium has an about:config page. No: it tells me that the web site might be down. But it does have an about:about with lots of sub-pages of chrome://, which I must examine some time. It seem that one of them, chrome://settings, is the standard settings page, but there are many more.

What a pain these browsers are! Why?


Another garage sale
Topic: general Link here

Our neighbours in Speary's Road are moving out, and today they had a sort of garage sale. Yvonne wanted everything, including an old wheelbarrow and worn-out furniture for which we didn't have a need. I didn't stop her completely. Now we have a lounge-room table that's looking for a place to live:


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Sunday, 13 December 2015 Dereel Images for 13 December 2015
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Fixing Salado problems
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Spent some time today trying to get SaladoPlayer to work on the new eureka, ultimately without success. The obvious first step was to check if there's a new version. No, I didn't find one. In fact, just about every link I tried failed. There's a page on GitHub with a lot of links, all of them broken. The download page is on openpano.org, which returns 404 for all pages. Then there are linkes to panazona.com, which doesn't have any DNS.

Spent some time looking for alternatives, but given the pain I went through getting SaladoPlayer to work the way I wanted, I'd rather fix that than change. But it looks like it could be quite a bit of work.


Sprinklers, yet again
Topic: gardening Link here

On with the sprinkler work today, addressing the circuit (number 1) to the south of the house. That didn't take too long, and finally the system is complete. Ran the whole system to check that everything is covered. Somehow the pressure really isn't good. It took me quite some time to consider checking the water filter. That was the issue: it was almost completely clogged with some pale brown powder (pulverized rock?). I should have known that: I've had the same problem before in Kleins Road. I had even commented on the same uneven sprinkler pattern that I have seen recently:


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After that, we had more than enough pressure. The spinners in the succulent bed are on stalks, like this one:


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But they couldn't stand up to the pressure (that's why this image shows the spinner wired in). When I came to take a look, all I saw was:


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They required quite some wiring down. But at least now we seem to be getting good coverage.


RIP Jürgen Lock
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

One of the more frequent visitors to our IRC channel was Jürgen Lock, a FreeBSD committer whom I have known for nearly 20 years. In July he was diagnosed with advanced seminoma and was operated. He popped up on IRC shortly after that, but since 4 August we haven't heard anything more of him. Peter Jeremy asked on an internal FreeBSD list, but didn't get any reply.

Jürgen was in many ways a very private person. We have a map of the locations of the participants on IRC, but Jürgen didn't want to have his location known. Instead, we put him on a tour of Germany, and currently he's in the Händel-Haus in Halle an der Saale. But after not hearing from him for 4 months, I thought it time to track him down (in Scheeßel, where I had known him in 1996). Found his mother, who told me the sad news that he had not handled the chemotherapy well, and had jumped out of a hospital window on 8 August. They were unable to revive him.

He's not the first person in the FreeBSD project to die, but somehow I'm particularly sad about his passing.


Chicken thighs sous vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last year I tried deboned chicken thighs sous vide, with only marginal success. I had cooked at 63° (the temperature recommended in Jeff Potter's Cooking for Geeks), but they were still not cooked enough. I had made a note in my sous-vide page to try between 70° and 78° next time. So today I tried 75°, and then grilling them:


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The combination, at any rate, is too much. I'm not sure that grilled chicken thighs benefit from sous-vide cooking, but if they do, the correct temperature will be closer to 70°.


Monday, 14 December 2015 Dereel Images for 14 December 2015
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More irrigation fun
Topic: gardening Link here

For the first night, the sprinkler programme ran as planned. Four circuits, starting at 4:00 and ending at 6:00. Was it enough? At least for circuit 4, I think so:


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In the evening went out to take a look at why so much water was coming out in areas where there shouldn't have been any. But I didn't get far. After turning on the circuit, water gushed out of the solenoid pit. Here's what it looked like after turning off:


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It wasn't until then that I checked a photo I had taken in the morning:


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That's the outlet of the solenoid, another victim of the excess pressure. Let it dry out, then put a short length of pipe on it to flush out the dirt. Turned it on, and bang! even with an open hose, the pressure blew it off immediately, soaking the pit again. To add injury to insult, managed to cut open my thumb on one of the wires holding down the joints. I'll have to wait until tomorrow. Not very happy.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015 Dereel Images for 15 December 2015
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More sprinkler fun
Topic: gardening, technology, opinion Link here

One of the things that I hadn't expected was that I would be woken at 4:00 every morning when the sprinklers outside my bedroom window start. Still, that's not a big deal, and I should get used to it. But this morning I was woken again at 5:30 when they started again!

Why? My guess is a software bug. The device has two “programmes”, each of which is launched at a certain time of the day. Or are they? Each sprinkler has an entry in each programme, but I have to specify the start times individually, which seems to be a funny way to do it. To avoid various overloads, only one sprinkler can be active at a time, so, as the documentation claims, the controller queues the other requests. I have set sprinkler 1, programme A to start at 4:00, and the others shortly later.

Last night I had turned sprinkler 4 off because of the problems I had yesterday, but I didn't reset the start time. Could that be the problem? It “started”, but had no time information, so it just wrapped around to the beginning. That's my guess, anyway.

In fact, I had misunderstood the instructions. It took me a while to understand how to set it.


Another net outage!
Topic: technology Link here

Since changing all the hardware for my National Broadband Network service, I haven't had a further outage—until today. But to make up for it, it was nearly 1½ hours:

Start time End time  Duration   Badness        from                    to
                     (seconds)

1450098184 1450103337   5153  0.006 # 15 December 2015 00:03:04 15 December 2015 01:28:57

That's not the symptom of the outages I have been having, which are typically in the order of 60 seconds. I'd guess that this one was unannounced maintenance of some kind. I should correlate the outages by start time.


Garden in early summer
Topic: gardening Link here

Before the irrigation system was installed, I watered the garden frequently with a garden sprinkler. I had thought it would be enough, but this spring and summer have been hot, dry and windy, and the plants haven't taken kindly to it. Now that we have the irrigation working, I'm hoping that the the garden will recover from its dried-up condition. And there are signs that it is doing so. The roses were looking very unhappy just a few days ago, but though there's only a single flower on the four bushes, there's new growth:


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Some of the Hebes are coming good:


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And one of the pelargoniums is flowering, still in a pot:


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Despite Sasha's attention, the waterlily is flowering happily, more than it ever did in Kleins Road:


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A dendrobium that we have had forever felt particularly unhappy in the shade area, but although it looks pretty dead at first sight, there are clear signs of new growth:


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The oak seedling that we potted last month was not an unqualified success:


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But it's deciduous, so losing leaves is not a problem in itself. Hopefully it'll recover next spring.


Preparing for multimedia upgrade
Topic: technology, multimedia, photography, opinion Link here

I've bought Yet Another Microsoft box, also a used Lenovo ThinkCentre. It has an Intel Core i5-2400 CPU, running at 3.1 GHz, and currently rated with a CPU Mark of 5827, more than half the speed of eureka. Now I have:

Machine       Processor       Clock       CPUmark
eureka       Intel Core i7-4771       3.50 GHz       9933
(new machine)       Intel Core i5-2400       3.1 GHz       5827
despair       Intel Core 2 Q9505             3641
lagoon       AMD Phenom™ 9550       2.2 GHz       2559
stable       Intel Core 2 Duo E6550       2.33 GHz       1499
teevee       AMD Sempron 145       2.8 GHz       800

teevee is beginning to show its slowness, so my intention is to retire it and use the current stable instead. despair will then be the new stable, and so the new machine will continue to run Microsoft for my photo processing. What should I call the new machine? Currently I'm playing with disdain or disgust, though dismay might also be a good choice.

And the software for the new teevee? I wanted run run MythTV on it, but it's still not clear from the pkg-descr (much of which I wrote 7 years ago) if FreeBSD tuner drivers support it. Another can of worms to open.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 16 December 2015
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Blood test and shopping
Topic: health, general, food and drink Link here

Into town this morning for a fasting blood test. These Dorevitch people are really fast. Arrived at 9:00, and had about 90 seconds before I was called. Then 6 minutes' paperwork, blood sucking, and I was out before 9:10. A far cry from other places.

The coffee machine I bought last week was a demonstration unit, already unpacked. I can't exclude the possibility that the English instruction manual had disappeared before I got it. The manual I found referred to a tube of lubricant for the “brew group”, but I had none. They didn't know anything about it at Good Guys either, but they checked. Nobody knew for sure, but they're going to send me one anyway. In all probability it's just a(nother) error in the manual.

While at Good Guys, bought a replacement steam cleaner, and then on to Christies furniture to talk with Ray. Looks like we're coming towards a useful entertainment unit.


Video recording in the 2010s
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

On IRC yesterday we were talking about TV tuners. Daniel O'Connor is using an Ethernet-connected tuner, something like this. Dual tuner, Ethernet connection, $235! That's ridiculous. I forget what the ALDI video recorders cost, but it's probably less, and they include a disk as well. Jamie Fraser mentioned DLNA, something I had never heard of before, but he says most consumer devices support it, and if I can work out how it works, it could be a good alternative.

On the way on from the blood test, passed JB HiFi, so in to see what they had, and which of them supported DLNA. Told the salesperson I was looking for a video recorder. He looked me up and down and said, “What, a video cassette recorder?”. “No, of course not, nowadays they record to disk”. “All we have are PVRs”. “Sorry, I want to be able to share”. And he had never heard of DLNA.

But they really didn't have very much, and at prices I was able to resist. They had exactly the same coffee machine I bought last week, for $799. I paid $600, and I can expect a further $50 back from their silly cash-back scheme. That's a much bigger difference than I expected, especially since JB and the Good Guys are only a few hundred metres from each other.


Lenses: mine is bigger than yours
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

On the way home picked up a package with photographic stuff I had won on eBay: an EC-20 2× teleconverter, an MMF-2 adapter and a 14-35 mm zoom lens.

Why the lens? I already have no less than 5 lenses that cover (and exceed) that range:


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Well, I don't really need it, but the price was right, and it's a unique lens: the world's only standard focal length zoom with a constant maximum aperture of f/2. And of course it was top of the range when it was introduced. But even compared to the other high quality lenses I have, it's enormous. That's what I said about the Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD when I got it, but that's the one on the right:


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It has such a large diameter that it lifts the camera off the table. On Yvonne's E-PM2 it's just plain ridiculous:


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In fact, it's barely any shorter than my 70-300 mm telephoto, at least at its shortest:


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The wide aperture shows its advantages, though, as does the high shutter speed of the Olympus OM-D E-M1:


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About the only thing wrong with it is what I knew before I bought it: the limited zoom range. A large number of the photos I have taken with it have been at focal length 35 mm, because I can't go any longer.


Coffee machine, a week later
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's been over a week since I bought the new coffee machine, and there were enough issues with it that I was seriously considering returning it. But things have improved, and today I compared it again with the old capsule machine.

There's not much difference, but I think the new machine is ahead. In any case, it's much cheaper to run. A capsule from ALDI normally costs 37.5¢, while a cup of freshly ground coffee costs under 10¢. At 2½ cups of coffee per day, that's (coincidentally) exactly 1000 days before I save the purchase price. So it stays.


More sprinkler fun
Topic: gardening Link here

My guess about the cause of yesterday's sprinkler problems proved to be incorrect. Today all four programmes ran, and then the first started again. What's causing that? It looks like some firmware bug.

In fact, I had misunderstood the instructions. It took me a while to understand how to set it.

In the afternoon, noted another issue with the controller: it's very hot again, and I wanted to run the sprinklers for 10 minutes in the afternoon. That required running each circuit individually, quite a pain.

So why not return it and use the Raspberry Pi that I have on my desk to control a USB relay board? I did something similar 11 years ago, though in those days I used an old, energy-draining 486 PC. Now it should be much easier, and potentially cheaper than a new controller.

The pump pressure continues to be a problem. One of the drippers got blown off the 4 mm dripper tube (something that normally doesn't require tying down), and at the end of the cycle I found that the line in the shade area had blown apart:


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Now where did I put that receipt from the Ballarat Pump Shop?


Thursday, 17 December 2015 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 17 December 2015
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More sprinkler pain
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

After the news at 7:00, which I hear in bed, I heard a noise: the sprinkler was going outside the bedroom window again. Why? It should have started at 4:00 and gone for 2 hours, so it would have been long finished. Out to turn it off. By the remaining run time it was clear that it had started at 7:00 on the controller's clock. Why?


Focal length range
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Along with the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm F2.0 SWD lens that I received yesterday, I also received an EC-20 2× teleconverter. I now have a complete focal length range from 7.7 mm fisheye up to 600 mm (1200 mm full frame equivalent):


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Somehow the extreme telephoto shots are not as sharp as I had hoped. I mounted the camera on a stable tripod, of course, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Hopefully the teleconverter doesn't have a problem. I've used one some years ago and had relatively good results with it, so maybe I should repeat some of those tests.


Hello damnation
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

To Napoleons to pick up my new computer, a ThinkCentre with an Intel Core i5-2400 CPU and Microsoft “Windows” 10.

This was my first exposure to “Windows” 10, and it wasn't pleasant. I'm left with the feeling that they've gone and moved the paradigms even further from what makes sense, and replaced the familiar user interface with an unfamiliar one, at least skin deep. Underneath, if you know how to find them, things seem to be much the same, though they've gone and rearranged some things so that you can't find them any more.

The paper clip is back: “I'm Cortana. Ask me anything”. So I clicked on it and discovered it wasn't listening, just trying to tell me something that I didn't want to hear. Andy Farkas told me how to get rid of it (right-click on the task bar, then select “Cortana hidden”).

But how do you add users? It only seems to be interested in “Accounts”, and for that you need an email address or something similar. Again Andy came to my aid: lusermgr.msc starts something marginally more clever. I thought this was some kind of joke, but it seems that luser means “local user” in Microsoft-speak. And it's a completely different interface to the one I'm used to. It wasn't until some time later that I discovered that the “Control Panel” still has the old user management menu.

There were a number of other issues, but the big one was getting access to file systems on eureka with samba. Lately I've had difficulties, mainly with passwords, but this time that didn't help. Ran the troubleshooter, which has never helped in the past (“Looking for trouble” seems to sum it up), but this time it did come up with an explanation: “Windows sockets registry entries required for network connectivity is missing”. I suppose the grammar is in keeping with claiming that “Windows” is singular. OK, it gave me the choice to fix it as administrator. But all that did was delay a it and come back with “One or more network protocols are missing on this computer”:

 
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OK, how about running “Windows Update”? How can I? It's gone. After some searching (on the web, not Microsoft's “help”), it seems that it's now in a new “Settings” menu, which apparently they call an “applet”. And it doesn't give the options it used to, in particular to review the updates before downloading them. Finally found a way to do it, but then lost it again.

Googling came up with a number of suggestions, some of them clearly guesswork. This one related to my situation: when using a static address, NetBIOS services are enabled by default. He suggested disabling them. OK, I can do that. Things still failed, only earlier: this also disables name lookup.

This one looked better: first run netsh winsock reset and reboot, and if that doesn't fix the thing, delete and reinstall TCP/IP. Clearly a typical Microsoft “solution”. So I tried the first. No go. Before trying the second, it sounded like a very good idea to have an install medium for “Windows” 10, so out to look for one. That's straightforward enough nowadays, but of course it takes a while.

In the meantime: I have the old disk from dischord, now recycled as Yvonne's lagoon. It contains an installation of “Windows” 7 “Ultimate”. What would happen if I tried to run that in the new machine (which I have provisionally called damnation)? Is it legal? If not, I suppose the system will tell me.

So I put it in the machine and fired it up. Surprise, surprise, it happily went and installed dozens of drivers:


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Wouldn't it be nice to have a log file? Of course, maybe there is one, but how do you find out? Two drivers weren't found: SM Bus Controller and PCI Simple Communications Controller, whatever they are. But the important ones succeeded. And after rebooting, I just had my old problems with CIFS shares. It seems that the system doesn't notice the updated password, though there were clearly issues with samba too. I got this pair of messages repeating every second:

Dec 17 18:28:44 eureka smbd[66313]:   Failed to delete pidfile /var/run/samba4/smbd.pid. Error was No such file or directory
Dec 17 18:28:45 eureka smbd[66315]: [2015/12/17 18:28:45.096749,  0] ../lib/util/pidfile.c:153(pidfile_unlink)

More fun for tomorrow.


Extreme available light
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The weather's hot—today it hit 37.4°, and the next two days are expected to be hotter. Chris Bahlo is still waiting for a bore, and in the meantime she's out of water, so she came over to get some from us:


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While she was there, took a couple more photos:


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What's so interesting about that? Well, the middle one above shows it: Chris' face is illuminated by the laptop. 45° ISO and 1/10 s at f/2 make it look almost bright, but in fact, it was pretty much pitch dark. The results are only partially due to the lens, of course, but using a normal camera with a sensitivity of 24° ISO and an f/3.5 lens, I would have required an exposure of 50 s.


Friday, 18 December 2015 Dereel Images for 18 December 2015
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Yet another power failure!
Topic: general, technology Link here

Woke up at 5:15 this morning and looked at the clock. Nothing. Another bloody power failure! Damn Powercor!

Then I looked at the door. Air conditioner was on, showing this irritating blue LED. No power failure. Into the garage. Yes, the RCD had tripped for no apparent reason. Damn Jim! The circuitry that's supposed to ensure that we don't have any interruptions has interrupted us again.

Recovering wasn't overly difficult. I need to set eureka's BIOS so that it powers on immediately when power is restored; as it was, it waited for me to get up.

Getting eureka up and running after a power failure is always a tricky business. I should have all this tied up in the startup scripts, but eureka goes down so seldom that I don't get much chance to check. What I had today was:

After all that was over, Yvonne's computer was still sitting there with no NFS mounts. Given that it hadn't done anything yet, I rebooted it. It hung. I pressed the reset button. It powered off. And I couldn't get it to come back again.

What had gone wrong? Power connection? Power? Power supply? Off to look for another device to connect the power to (ultimately a studio flash unit). It worked, of course. Plugged the connector back into the computer. It worked, of course. No idea what happened, but I hate bugs that just go away.


Thieving Sasha
Topic: animals Link here

Due to the computer issues I was late for breakfast today. But Sasha tried to help: when I got to the dining room, he was sitting on the floor trying to eat the melon Yvonne had cut for me.

That wasn't the only thing: he seems to be going through a particularly mischievous phase. He also stole serviettes from the dining room table, a kitchen knife, Yvonne's glasses and my toothbrush and two interdental brushes. Strangely he did little harm either to himself nor to the objects he stole, but it's high time to teach him manners. I can't recall our other dogs being that much of a problem. Maybe his mother forgot herself with a retriever.


Daily sprinkler fun
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

As a result of the power failure, the sprinklers didn't run this morning. And I discovered that I had forgotten to pull out the insulating strip for the backup battery in the sprinkler controller, so it had forgotten what little it had even known.

Since station 1 seems to start again after the whole programme is finished, I decided simply to disconnect it and use the output for station 5 instead. But I couldn't set the start time for station 5! After some investigation and checking with the instructions (which, for once, weren't that unclear), discovered that the start times are not for individual stations, but for the programme as a whole. So I don't need to set more than one, and in so doing I had caused the problems I had been seeing.

Then ran the programme, and some of the daily leaks showed up. The rest happened in the afternoon: the temperature hit 37.4° today, and I'm sprinkling multiple times:


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There were more; after the programme had run, went around with cable ties to tie all likely problems down.


Dinner with Lorraine
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Over to Lorraine Carranza's for dinner this evening. The house is deceptive: from the road it looks as if it's set back in the bush, but in fact to the north she has one of the nicest views in Dereel, over a gully (Grassy Gully, she says, which could be correct).

Another pleasant evening. She asked me about my interest in music (originally sparked in 1958 by Olivia Newton-John). She bettered me on that one: she told the story of a little old man whom she served in some restaurant behind the Melbourne town hall, presumably some time in the 1960s. Then somebody recognized him: Olivia's grandfather, Max Born. People can make up stories like that, of course, but it seems unlikely that she would have done so. After all, outside physics, who knows who Max Born was, nor that he was Olivia's grandfather?


Messy dogs
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Back home, the dogs were particularly exuberant. They were also thirsty, having finished off the bucket of water we had left outside for them. But what a mess Borzois make when drinking!


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Saturday, 19 December 2015 Dereel Images for 19 December 2015
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Daily sprinkler pain
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been 2 weeks since I installed the sprinkler controller and the first watering circuit. In that time, I've had problems every day. Today the sprinklers didn't run at all! After some investigation, it seems that the controller doesn't turn on unless station 1 has a non-zero run time. Ran the programme manually, but when I came back an hour later the east side of the house (station 4) didn't seem particularly moist. Probably due to the temperatures (today's high was 40.6°)?

In the afternoon I decided to run the sprinklers one more time. A good thing, too. Multiple disasters. First, I lost yet another spinner, even though it had been wired down:


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So I turned to the next station while repairing it. But it didn't run! Why not? It wasn't the water pressure, so the solenoid must not have been opening. What went wrong? There are five possibilities: the controller, the connection to the control cable, the control cable itself, the connection to the solenoid or the solenoid itself.

Experience suggests that the connectors are the weak point, but how do you test these things? The connectors seem to deliberately make it impossible to connect a multimeter or other test device. Here's the controller:


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With wires connected, you can't reliably access the contacts. So I disconnected and confirmed that yes, indeed, the controller was supplying 28 VAC (unregulated 24 V). Resistance down the control cable? About 10 kΩ. Is that right? It sounds a bit high, so I tried another circuit. 34Ω. OK, down to the other end. The cable is connected to the solenoid with some really strange connectors:


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The individual wires are pushed into the end (3rd image), which contains some gel to stop water getting in. The third connection is for the daisy chain common return. After pushing in the wires, you push down the blue contact to keep things in place. And there seems to be no way of getting things disconnected again, so I had to cut the wires off. Fortunately, the solenoid wasn't the problem (resistance 32Ω this time): it was one of the contacts. Twisted the wires together and confirmed that the thing worked, then put them in some new contacts. Finally it was done, with the production of lots of sweat (over 40° in the shade). If computer connectors were 1,000,000,000 times as reliable as these contacts, computers would never work.

Turned it on and let it run. Just as I was about to confirm success, another dropper blew off its line. Damn! After fixing that, finally inside. But:


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Another disconnected hose, despite being wired down. While repairing that, also replaced the connectors to the spinners. I had been using soft, flexible 4 mm tubing, but instead of a barb the spinners have a screw thread better adapted to stiff tubes, and that's probably part of the problem:


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But now, with any luck, things will work with no further incidents.


Bushfire!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A question on Facebook this morning: a reported fire in Dereel. Took a look at the latest disaster that is the emergency services web site. Indeed, and just around the corner in Spearys Road; in fact, exactly where Lorraine Carranza lives:


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What information? As good as none, not even the time:

 
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While I was watching, the “time” was updated from “43 minutes ago” to “an hour ago”. Why? Probably because the times are only updated ever 15 minutes or so. But that makes it all the more stupid to replace absolute times with relative ones. And now there seems to be no way to get any further information. Went over to take a look, and of course there was no sign of a fire, and we would have seen fire trucks if they had headed down that way.

Wrong address? Mentioned it on Facebook and got the response:

The fire app we have found incorrect a few times last year. It would say there was a fire and my hubby who is in the brigade would be like "well our pagers aren't going off?" And there was no fire. Vice versa there would be a turn out and it wouldn't be on the map. Not always but a few times it was wrong

People, it's been 7 years since Black Saturday. When are you finally going to get your act together?

Later in the afternoon, though, it was real. From here all we could see is smoke:


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Looking at the web site, I got:


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What on earth does all that mean? Overlapping geometrical symbols, a radioactivity symbol, and other stuff I can't understand. But it seems that the double red exclamation mark may represent a fire. Still, Elaine is 30 km away. Could the smoke be from there?

Called 000 (emergency number) to be on the safe side. First question: which state and suburb are you in? Why should an emergency service have to ask that question? 20 years ago in Echunga they had a list of exact locations associated with each telephone number. I gave the information and was transferred; the new person said “Thanks, Telstra”. Why is Telstra (mis)handling emergency services? This is a VoIP line.

The new person wanted my exact address. I pointed out that the fire wasn't nearby, but that seems to be they way they do things. Then he wanted to know where the fire was. I estimated between the Ballarat-Colac Road and Mount Mercer. He couldn't find Mount Mercer on the map until I helped him. He pointed out that there was a fire in Elaine, and I pointed out that that was 30 km away. But he didn't want to send a truck out without exact information, he didn't want to contact the Dereel CFA just in case, and he wasn't able to give me a reference number for the incident. People, it's been 7 years since Black Saturday. When are you finally going to get your act together?

The feeling on Facebook was similar: don't waste the emergency services' time with false alarms. Sorry, people, wrong answer. Rather 100 false alarms than one real alarm that doesn't get reported. Fortunately it turned out that it was really the Elaine fire (or Scotsburn, as they also called it), but somehow it's surprising that so little damage gets done when they're so completely disorganized.


Filling the ornament cabinet
Topic: general Link here

It's been over a week since the furniture cabinet arrived, but we only got round to doing anything with it today. Finally Yvonne put in all her ornaments, and to our surprise completely filled it:


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It looks quite crowded, and there's still more stuff that didn't make it, so it looks as if we're in for another cabinet on the other side.


Wide aperture lenses
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So now I have the widest aperture standard zoom lens ever made, the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD. But that's just the widest zoom. Over 50 years ago my first SLR had a 55 mm fixed focal length (“prime”) f/1.8 standard lens, and the next had f/1.4. Even in those days Canon had a 50 mm f/0.95 lens. They've even adapted one to an Olympus E-PL1, a camera so old that Olympus doesn't want to know about it any more.

But there are others that are more practical. Olympus has its own 25 mm f/1.8 lens, but that's so little wider than the 14-35 that it's not worthwhile. Then there's the Leica Summilux 25 mm f/1.4, closer to what I had with my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic 50 years ago. It's also the widest aperture lens available for my camera that has autofocus.

But there are many wider aperture lenses, just with manual focus. According to this page there are no less than 10 of them. The widest is the Handevision Ibelux, 40 mm f/0.85.

The real issue is: how do you focus a lens like that? If there's a case where focus is critical, it's with extreme wide aperture lens. Played around a bit with my E-M1 and discovered that I can turn “focus peaking” on and off with a button. And I still have the old Spotmatic with a 50 mm f/1.4 lens, along with an adapter. So I put it on my camera and played around a bit. This is at full aperture:


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Yes, that looks less than perfectly sharp. But that's not focus, that's the lens (50 mm f/1.4 Super Takumar). The coma at the corners is particularly evident.

The 50 mm Super Takumar has a very good reputation. What are the other lenses like? Clearly they're only of interest to me at relatively full aperture; otherwise I have more convenient choices. In addition, they should be round the 25 mm mark, which excludes the Ibelux. At the moment, it seems that I have the choice of the Summilux, the Voigtländer 25 mm f/0,95 Nokton or the Zhong Yi Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95. From a price point of view, B&H sell the Mitakon for $399, the Summilux for $528, and the Nokton for $799.

Do I need any of them? Of course not. But it seems that the best choice would be to wait for a cheap used Summilux that I can play around with, and if I don't use it much I can sell it again. The others are too obscure for me to be able to rely on selling them again.


Frozen chapatis, last try
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My experiences with frozen chapatis have not been good. But surely somebody must buy them, so maybe I just haven't got the knack of it. Lower temperatures?


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Grilled in the oven?


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Nothing seems to work. The last one was cooked through, but it was completely crispy. What a waste of money!


Sunday, 20 December 2015 Dereel Images for 20 December 2015
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More heat wave
Topic: general Link here

It's been unseasonably hot lately—yesterday we hit 40.6°, and even the overnight low was a very high 26.7°. Fortunately, we had a cool change round the middle of the day, but that was too late for the bushfires to the east: several properties were destroyed, including an equestrian centre, so now we're in the process of seeing how we can help.


Garden recovery?
Topic: gardening Link here

For the first time, I didn't have any trouble with the sprinklers—or at least, none that I have noticed yet. And gradually some of the roses are recovering:


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And then there's this plant just showing itself. I feel I should know what it is, but we'll have to wait:


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Checking the teleconverter
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Somehow I'm not convinced by the new EC-20 2× teleconverter. The photos taken with it don't give the impression of exceptional sharpness. One reason might be DxO Optics “Pro”: it happily converts photos taken with it and the Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm F4.0-5.6—as long as the total focal length is not greater than 300 mm. Beyond that, it claims not to have any suitable correction modules. That suggests that the software may be ignoring the teleconverter and not converting optimally as a result.

But first I need a way of comparing things. The tele lens isn't that long, but the combination is long enough that I really need a (missing) tripod mount for the lens. Made do with this combination:


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It's not ideal: the barrel of the lens extends below the base of the camera, so it's turned up slightly. But it's much more stable than the experiments I made on Thursday.

Next, a subject. On Thursday I used a tree in the house forest, but that's too difficult to focus on. To the left is the pile of stuff waiting to be burnt off come autumn:


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That's about 200 m away, and this photo has a horizontal field of view of 1.7°, about the minimum I can get. So take a photo with the lens by itself at 300 mm, and the lens with teleconverter also at 300 mm (i.e. lens set to 150 mm):


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Of course it's almost impossible to get them to line up. Never mind, I've been there and even wrote a tutorial on the subject. But it didn't work! Most of the time the images didn't line up, and nothing seemed to be repeatable. The best I could get was this, and even here the second one had distorted colours:


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There's a lot here that I don't understand, but even so, the first image (the one rendered correctly) really doesn't look as sharp as the second.


Activate your “Windows”
Topic: technology Link here

Also on Thursday I was surprised when the disk from dischord (containing Microsoft “Windows” 7 “Ultimate”) cleanly migrated to a new machine. No comments or anything. But today I got a message: “You must register your Windows today”. OK, how do you do that? It seems that any time you have a question about Microsoft, you ask Google. The results contain a surprising amount of superstition and guesswork, but if you can weather that, it's generally easier than Microsoft's help. Of course, it only works if you really need to do it. If I recall correctly, it's Control Panel / Action Centre to find the message, then click on “Activate online” (or some such), and it's done! I wonder if I'll have the police come in and confiscate my computers tomorrow.


Monday, 21 December 2015 Dereel Images for 21 December 2015
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More Android pain
Topic: technology, general, photography, opinion Link here

Time for our yearly Christmas letter, which kept me busy much of the day. Part of it, of course, is getting a photo with as many animals as possible. And that requires remote control.

Once upon a time that was easy: my first two Olympus cameras had an infrared remote control (well, I had to buy the control, but they understood it). That was small and unobtrusive enough that I could use it and it was barely visible, like here in the 2012 letter:


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But then I got the new, modern Olympus OM-D E-M1, and clearly infrared is too old-fashioned for that. After all, what are smart phones for? I was initially keen on the idea, though I bought a tablet, not a phone, and in the following year I had to find a dog to hide it behind:


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I commented at the time about the difficulty of using the software. The following year, it seems, I borrowed a smart phone to control the camera, and again I hid it behind a dog:


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On each occasion I grumbled about the interface. It hasn't got better. Today this abysmal OI.Share app had forgotten its passwords, and I spent something like 5 minutes trying to find out how to enter the “password” (really an 8 digit key). It looks as if you should be able to take a photo of the viewfinder, but if it is, it's not clear how, and of course there's no documentation. Finally I found it (and promptly forgot how), and was then told that my OI.Share was out of date. Indeed it is, even the new version: the whole concept is completely broken. But I couldn't install the new version! According to the messages, I didn't have enough storage (a total of 17.44 GB, of which 12.74 GB are available) to install the 35 MB of app. Off madly deleting things, and finally got it installed. Yes, the division of storage is strange on this machine: it really wants to install most stuff on the smallest partition. But even there there were 164 MB free. Potentially this is an issue with my cheap tablet, but it's not clear how.

And then there's just the pain of taking the photos. Today it wasn't helped by some very frisky dogs, but just taking the photos is a pain: there's no tactile feedback. Even when I hide the tablet, I need to find the “button” to release the shutter. And I have to push a couple more before I can take another photo.

As I commented last year: “Somehow we don't look as happy as last year”:


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And, of course, the tablet is visible. O brave new world, that has such technology in 't!


A remote control
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Clearly the Android approach to controlling the camera is the worst of all choices. What would it take to fit my camera with an infrared remote control? It doesn't have a receiver, but if I had an external one it could connect to the data cable.

Off on eBay to see what I could find, greatly hindered by the vast majority which are transmitter only. But then I found wireless remote controls, some at 432 MHz, others at 2.4 GHz. They have notable advantages over infrared: no line of sight needed, and a longer range. In the end I chose one that took normal batteries; others wanted special Lithium batteries that would be a pain to find. Price including postage: $23. Hopefully it'll fulfil my expectations.


Sasha's next booty
Topic: animals Link here

We've given Sasha a couple of sticks to chew on, but they're clearly not enough:


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That's a porcelain chopstick stand. Not damaged, but why does he steal all these things?


Understanding processors
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Over the past year or so I've noted that teevee, our (still) current TV display computer, and the old lagoon (Yvonne's computer) both had the same processor, a slower-than-molasses AMD Sempron 145 with a CPUmark of 800.

Saw a request on Freecycle yesterday: somebody looking for an ATX power supply, with or without case. OK, I have old, mouldy but functional stuff lying around, so why not give him a complete computer? The person in question was Chris (surname still unknown), who was here earlier in the year. Checked and found that it was the old lagoon. Fired it up mainly to check how much memory was in it (only 1 GB). But the processor wasn't a Sempron at all: it was an Athlon II X2 4450e, rated at 1532 when clocked at 2.3 GHz. For some reason all motherboards wanted to run this processor at 2.8 GHz, so the rating should be closer to 1865.

Was I mistaken in thinking that this was the old lagoon? Looking at the motherboard, it seems that I wasn't:


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This is really puzzling: back in September I had trouble with playing YouTube videos on lagoon, and found the slow processor to be the culprit. I replaced what proved to be the dual core Athlon with a four core AMD Phenom™ 9550 with a CPUmark of 2566, and with some fiddling got it to work. I attributed it to the faster CPU.

But the individual CPUs are not faster on the Phenom: they're slower. It has 4 CPUs (even if you ignore hyperthreading). CPUbenchmark.net has ratings for single thread performance, usually a little more than the result of dividing the total rating by the number of cores (the Core i7-4771 is an exception). To quote:

Single thread rating may be higher than the overall rating, thread performance is just one component of the CPU Mark

The current rated speeds of my current machines are:

Machine       Processor       Clock       CPUmark       Cores       Single thread
eureka       Intel Core i7-4771       3.50 GHz       9886       4       2214
dischord       Intel Core i5-2400       3.1 GHz       5827       4       1732
despair       Intel Core 2 Q9505       2. GHz       3638       4       1171
lagoon       AMD Phenom™ 9550       2.2 GHz       2566       4       752
old lagoon       Athlon X2 II 4450e       2.8 GHz       1865       2       932
cvr2       AMD Athlon II X2 240       2.8 GHz       1640       2       934
stable       Intel Core 2 Duo E6550       2.33 GHz       1500       2       877
teevee       AMD Sempron 145       2.8 GHz       802       1       890

What have I learnt from this? Not very much, but at least I now have a better overview.


Network ping times
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For reasons I didn't really understand, some people on IRC today were comparing ping times to Google's name server google-public-dns-a.google.com., IPv4 address 8.8.8.8. OK, I can do that too:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/14) ~ 28 -> ping -c20 8.8.8.8
...
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 38.503/51.678/62.721/5.839 ms

That's reasonable. But they wanted it with full-size (1400 octet) packets. That looked very different:

round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 40.133/185.440/437.621/117.997 ms
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 35.029/161.284/402.501/127.614 ms

Why is that so slow? And so varied? The link is currently set at 50 Mb/s down, 20 Mb/s up. At 20 Mb/s, 1400 octets take 560 μs to transmit. What's the problem?


Tuesday, 22 December 2015 Dereel Images for 22 December 2015
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Gradual progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Since selling the Kleins Road house, things haven't changed much, but they're gradually happening. CJ is now here putting in some posts for Yvonne's riding arena:


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And there's stuff going on elsewhere too. On the north side of the “shade area” we CJ is erecting a horse shelter. So far he just has a couple of holes in the ground:


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It'll happen, but it's now unlikely to be before Christmas.


A shampoo for Yvonne
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne processes her photos basically the same way that I do. One exception is “optimization” with Ashampoo® Photo Optimizer 6, and it shows. So today I showed her how to use it.

Not a complete success: the subsequent comparison scripts couldn't find any evidence of the old images. That's because they were stored on local disk, where the script couldn't find them. You can fix that. Well, I fixed it for myself in the past. When I tried today, this horrible interface wouldn't accept the location. In the end it crashed. But then, what do you expect from a Microsoft-space product?

But I couldn't start it again! Even after the usual deinstall and reinstall, it didn't work. I can't run it at all. Presumably it's the fault of this partial deinstall, which doesn't remove the settings, for example. And I strongly suspect that the devil is in the settings. Mail to the support department. Based on prior crashes, I don't expect to hear from them.


Protecting the kitchen
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

JG King still haven't replaced the stove. And I needed to cook something on the hot plate, which is up against the wall. We've seen the result in the past:


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So this time I protected it with a little aluminium foil:


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Isn't that a silly thing to have to do in a new house?


Nikolai
Topic: animals Link here


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Wednesday, 23 December 2015 Dereel Images for 23 December 2015
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Ping times revisited
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why did I get such unreliable ping times the other day, even though I'm not experiencing other network problems? Clearly something to investigate further. Tried it with mtr and discovered:

 
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Worst case time 2.855 s! And best was 43 ms to the final destination. It would be nice to blame it on “I'm too lame for reverse DNS216.239.41.77, but even my own National Broadband Network link showed a worst time of 428 ms, and it had a higher average time than any of the intermediate hops. On discussion, we came to the conclusion that large ICMP packets could be treated specially, thus making them pretty much useless for the kind of measurement we're trying to make.


Upgrading mplayer
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

Nearly 9 years ago I hacked mplayer to do a number of things I wanted: better on-screen display, display times for Program Streams better, and save position on exit. And I've been using that version ever since.

mplayer has evolved, of course, and now it's time to apply the changes. I kept the changes under RCS at the time, but I seem to have made a real mess of the matter. In particular, the base release doesn't seem to be related to the version that I patched. In addition, the original main file mplayer.c has spawned a number of header files, including (relevant to me) mp_osd.h and mp_core.h. And at least one variable, osd_show_perccentage, has changed from a flag to a variable with uncertain function. Doubtless there will be many more surprises.


What does cron mean?
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Everybody knows cron, of course, unless they're using Linux, when they might spell it anachron. But what does it mean? I had always assumed that it was related to the Ancient Greek word χρόνος (chronos), but it seems that people have at various times expanded it to be an abbreviation of “Command Run On Notice” or “Commands Run Over Night”, both of which suggest that the authors have no idea of Ancient Greek. Both of these claims have found their way into Wikipedia.

Doug McIlroy agreed, checked with Ken Thompson via Brian Kernighan, and updated the page. But it was private communication, so he didn't have a published reference, and the change was backed out within 11 minutes. Much discussion on the Unix Heritage Society mailing list, much indignation against Wikipedia.

How do we fix that? It seems that somebody else altogether, Kah Seng Tay, did it for us with this page, which is still not enough for the Wikipedia nit-pickers. OK, published references are one thing, but references have different levels of reliability. Kah Seng included a copy of mail from Brian in his article. Do we need an affidavit from Ken?


Dinner with the Dalys
Topic: general, food and drink, animals Link here

Kelly Daly along for dinner with her daughter Alyssa and parents Gary and Chris (prawns and aioli, followed by poulet basquaise). A good time was had by all.


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Alyssa was initially worried by the dogs, but she changed her mind later on:

 
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As Kelly later said on Facebook, “We might need to get a Borzoi”.


Thursday, 24 December 2015 Dereel Images for 24 December 2015
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Arena: finished
Topic: Stones Road house Link here


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Another new cabinet
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Another bauble cabinet was delivered today. Now we really have no space for the table that Yvonne bought last weekend:


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I suppose things will sort themselves out when the winter garden is finished.


Still more flash pain
Topic: photography, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Somehow using on-camera flash is getting no easier. I've been fighting flash exposure for nearly 8 years, and it's still not right. Many of yesterday's photos were underexposed, and from time to time I get completely overexposed photos.

But I had planned for this: the dining room has two power points near the ceiling for connecting studio flash units. The intention is to bounce the flash off the ceiling and (hopefully!) get relatively even illumination. That way I just need to set the camera manually to 1/320 s at f/8 and get well exposed photos every time.

Now we have the cabinet in one corner, and pending correct mountings, I put a unit on top of it:


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But it didn't work. The power point is dead! Yet another bungle by Jim Lannen!


New studio flashes
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My intention was to use the old 110 J flashes in the dining room and buy some new ones, probably 400 J, for my “studio” work. And they should be accurately adjustable, which means digital, of course.

Trawling on eBay, found a number of units by Godox, at wildly variable prices, and not helped by inaccurate descriptions and incomplete manufacturer web site. The first I found was a QS-400 from a company in Sydney, for $300. That's not cheap.

Are these things worth it? There was a time when equipment from China was cheap. Seven years ago I paid $220 for the two 110 J flashes and various studio equipment. Are these worth so much more? Went looking for reviews, the result of which suggests that Godox is sold predominantly in Australia, and found this comparison video:

It's compared with an even more expensive unit! But that unit has the ability to deliver 10 full power flashes a second, which could fit in well with the new functionality of my Olympus OM-D E-M1. But I still don't have the overview I need. Further investigation shows, for example, that Godox also have other models. Here's a partial overview:

Model       Recycle time (s)       Adjustment range       Numeric range       Flash duration (/s)       Price
SK 400       3       8:1       1.0 - 3.0       2000       $150
DE 400       1.2       16:1       5.0 - 7.0       2000       $200
DP 400       1.2       16:1       5.0 - 7.0       2000       $225
GS 400       0.3-1.5       32:1       5.0 - 8.0       800       $255
QS 400       0.3-1.2       32:1       5.0 - 8.0       800       $300
GT 400       0.05-1.2             5.0 - 10.0       800       $380
QT 400       0.05-1.2       128:1       5.0 - 10.0       800       $445

These were collected from a number of sources, and there's no reason to believe that the prices reflect the relative quality of the units. Apart from that, there are a number of surprises:

What am I missing?


No Christmas dinner
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

For over 50 years we've had our main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, and in the last few years it's always been with Chris Bahlo. But this year Chris had been invited to a company meal at lunch time, and she wasn't sure that she could muster the hunger necessary for another meal in the evening. So we put off the main meal until tomorrow evening.

Not a problem, right? Turkey today, ham tomorrow. But that wasn't what Yvonne thought. No Christmas fare, just garfish:


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Somehow Christmas is fading more and more.


Friday, 25 December 2015 Dereel Images for 25 December 2015
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Dining room flash
Topic: photography, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

More thinking about the studio flashes in the dining room. Before I find a good way to mount them, I should find where the best position is. The first question was, of course, whether the power point for the other flash worked or not. Yes, sort of. While I was testing, the flash went off by itself and tripped the RCD—not for the first time. Thanks, Jim.

Yesterday I had assumed that I'd be able to set a camera to f/8 and shoot anywhere in the area. How realistic is that? To start with, it assumes a sensitivity of 24°/200 ISO, which is what both Yvonne's and my cameras have as standard. More to the point, though, how even can I get the lighting with two units so far apart? The units are at one end of the kitchen (extreme right here) and the other side of the dining room (in the middle):


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First experiments showed that I could, indeed, get lighting which gave an aperture of between f/8.1 and f/5.6.3 or so. These are the decimal apertures that studio photographers use: they make it easier to compare exposures, in this case a difference of 0.8 stop. They translate to f/8.28 down to f/6.21. That's probably OK: set f/8 and images in some places will be marginally underexposed, certainly much better than what I've been having with on-camera flash.

What I didn't expect was the unenvenness of the lighting. Here the Christmas ham, on the far end of the kitchen island in the image above:


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It's clearly lit more from the left (kitchen flash) than the right (far corner). That suggests that it's also direct rather than indirect light. It looked worse in the viewfinder than on screen, though, so I suppose I can live with it.


Christmas ham
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Once again I wasn't allowed to roast a turkey for Christmas, but Yvonne allowed a ham, one that looks like nothing I've seen before:


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