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Thursday, 1 December 2016 Dereel Images for 1 December 2016
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scammer.lemis.com
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After my scammer experience on Tuesday, I noted a button to report abuse to logmein123.com, so reported that, along with the code, which might help. And I got a reply:

Thank you for contacting LogMeIn Customer Care, and for sharing the recent experience you had with a third party using our LogMeIn Rescue product. We encourage anyone who believes that someone is using LogMeIn software maliciously to report it, as we investigate each claim filed. We take abuse of our software very seriously and would appreciate collecting more information from you in efforts to identify who was attempting to initiate that Rescue session.

To help us better understand your interaction with someone you believe was misusing our software, can you please provide some details about your interaction? How did you become in contact with these people? How did they gain access to your computer? What did they say or do during your interaction that makes you believe they are scammers?

So I pointed them at the article; hopefully this will help.

The other thing I planned to do was to install a virgin FreeBSD virtual machine, which I call scammer.lemis.com. That went relatively smoothly, except that once again I had trouble

$ firefox
process 3304: D-Bus library appears to be incorrectly set up; failed to read machine uuid: Failed to open "/etc/machine-id": No such file or directory
See the manual page for dbus-uuidgen to correct this issue.
  D-Bus not compiled with backtrace support so unable to print a backtrace
Redirecting call to abort() to mozalloc_abort

sigh. This is an out-of-the-box install of X and firefox. People, you should be able to do better than that.


Recovering dumb phone videos
Topic: technology, multimedia, photography, opinion Link here

So yesterday I managed to sideload Yvonne's video from her dumb phone to my new Android tablet. Uploading it to a real computer was no more pain than usual, though the image quality is appalling:

There are a couple of reasons there. First, it wasn't taken well, but the rolling shutter effect is amazing. But then we never bought the phones for such purposes. If Yvonne had had her camera with her, she could have got reasonable quality images.

But what about the USB interface on the phone? Tried that out and got:

Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: ugen1.12: <AMPS-214 AM> at usbus1
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: umass3: <6229--Storage> on usbus1
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: umass3:  SCSI over Bulk-Only; quirks = 0x8000
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: umass3:8:3:-1: Attached to scbus8
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da3 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus8 target 0 lun 0
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da3: <AMPS-214 \227\272\341A>F?J\326\013\024#\222\036\021 oo\364\341> Removable Direct Access SCSI device
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da3: Serial Number 53665060206192f
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da3: 40.000MB/s transfers
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da3: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da3: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da4 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus8 target 0 lun 1
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da4: <AMPS-214 \227\272\341A>F?J\326\013\024#\222\036\021 oo\364\341> Removable Direct Access SCSI device
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da4: Serial Number 53665060206192f
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da4: 40.000MB/s transfers
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da4: 50MB (102400 512 byte sectors: 64H 32S/T 50C)
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: da4: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: cd1 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus8 target 0 lun 2
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: cd1: <AMPS-214 r\303\304\353+\267c\370\343\230\003\322\004\222 \363p\326\302> Removable CD-ROM SCSI device
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: cd1: Serial Number 53665060206192f
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: cd1: 40.000MB/s transfers
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: cd1: cd present [23944 x 512 byte records]
Dec  1 12:51:36 eureka kernel: cd1: quirks=0x10<10_BYTE_ONLY>

But the system didn't identify any partitions. I wonder what the format is.


Ethernet relay card
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My complaint to the eBay seller of the Ethernet relay card, asking for documentation, didn't bring much in the way of a result:

Please don't worry,I have submit your question to the product department,they will reply us in 1-2 working days.

Could you kindly contact us after 2 working day?We will try our best to solve the problem.

I can see that's going to be a dead end.

So, what do I have?


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Clearly the black boxes at the bottom are the relays. Power is at top right, and the metal box to the left of that is the Ethernet connector. In between there's a jack marked RESET, which looks ominous. But there's more. What's the purpose of the contact block at top left? And then there are contacts, not connected (and here rotated 180° to make it more legible) on the extreme left of the board:

 
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Other things, including taking these photos, kept me busy enough that I didn't get round to connecting it to the network.


Still more wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Down to the house forest again today, where I found still more flowers that I can't identify. I've decided that this one could be a Leptospermum, of which we have many on the property:


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But I couldn't find it today.

The various peas are still difficult to classify, but there are others too that I haven't really looked at. Here a couple of Drosera flowers and what I thought was called onion grass, but that's pink. The yellow flowers still have onion-like bulbs at the bottom, but I need to find out what they're called:


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And then there are these buds, which I don't recognize:


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Presumably they'll become more recognizable when they flower.

Peter Jeremy commented that these look more like seed pods than buds, and I agreed with him. This became clear a couple of days later.

And finally I have this flower:


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The flowers are about 1 cm across. I feel I should know it, but it still doesn't ring a bell.


Friday, 2 December 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 2 December 2016
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Eureka Hostel again
Topic: general Link here

Off with Sasha to Eureka Village Hostel again today, since Nikolai's wound still hasn't healed. Bill, my guide, is better again and was able to take me around for the first time in weeks. I think Yvonne is right: Sasha enjoys it more than the other two dogs. And I don't think anybody noticed that he wasn't Niko.


Finger ultrasound
Topic: health Link here

Barely back home from Eureka Village Hostel, I had to return to Ballarat to have my fingers inspected with Sonography. Quite a detailed process: the X-rays I had last week only took a couple of minutes, mainly setting up the machine, but this took over half an hour, with the sonographer (who introduced himself as Andrew) spending lots of times comparing what he saw with a crib sheet on finger anatomy and also with my other hand. When he was done, he took his images (about 20 of them) to some specialist, and returned saying that nothing further was required. Next step is on Monday, when I see Paul again.


Second guessing Ethernet relay board
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Finally got round to connecting up my Ethernet relay board to the network. It was wise to wait until I had some time.

How would a generic board with no instructions connect to an unknown network? That's what DHCP is for. Of course, there's the question how normal users can then know the IP address of the device, but I wasn't too worried about that at the moment. I just connected it up and checked with arp:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/41) ~ 1 -> arp -a
radiation-tower.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.1) at 10:f3:11:e9:9f:01 on xl0 expires in 884 seconds [ethernet]
aussie-gw.lemis.com (180.150.4.222) at 00:50:da:cf:07:35 on xl0 permanent [ethernet]
dischord.lemis.com (192.109.197.169) at 8c:89:a5:7a:a7:bf on em0 expires in 1183 seconds [ethernet]
eureka.lemis.com (192.109.197.137) at bc:5f:f4:c9:9b:bf on em0 permanent [ethernet]
officephone.lemis.com (192.109.197.226) at 00:25:9b:6e:34:36 on em0 expires in 869 seconds [ethernet]
lagoon.lemis.com (192.109.197.134) at 00:1f:d0:20:4e:7f on em0 expires in 278 seconds [ethernet]
cvr2.lemis.com (192.109.197.241) at 6c:f0:49:09:7a:4d on em0 expires in 1168 seconds [ethernet]

I know all of them. No new address there, and the dhcpd logs showed nothing interesting. OK, second guess: private network address? And if so, which? Set up an alias on eureka's internal interface and ran nmap, which came up with:

Nmap scan report for 192.168.1.166
Host is up (0.00073s latency).
All 1000 scanned ports on 192.168.1.166 are filtered
Nmap scan report for 192.168.2.10
Host is up (0.0098s latency).
All 1000 scanned ports on 192.168.2.10 are filtered
Nmap scan report for 192.168.123.231
Host is up (0.0000010s latency).
All 1000 scanned ports on 192.168.123.231 are filtered
Nmap done: 65536 IP addresses (3 hosts up) scanned in 2627.40 seconds

192.168.123.231 was the address I assigned to emo, so I was left with not one, but two new addresses. Is one of them the relay board? And what is the other? Round about this time Peter Jeremy, who had been following the fun on IRC, came up with this page, which gives some information on what is clearly the same device:


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So the address is 192.168.1.166. And hopefully the web pages aren't all in Chinese. But why doesn't it respond to a ping? tcpdump shows:

15:18:50.047253 IP 192.168.123.231 > 192.168.1.166: ICMP echo request, id 3284, seq 7, length 64
15:18:50.475214 ARP, Request who-has 192.168.1.1 tell 192.168.1.166, length 46
15:18:51.056071 IP 192.168.123.231 > 192.168.1.166: ICMP echo request, id 3284, seq 8, length 64
15:18:52.066012 IP 192.168.123.231 > 192.168.1.166: ICMP echo request, id 3284, seq 9, length 64
15:18:53.085134 IP 192.168.123.231 > 192.168.1.166: ICMP echo request, id 3284, seq 10, length 64
15:18:54.091746 IP 192.168.123.231 > 192.168.1.166: ICMP echo request, id 3284, seq 11, length 64
15:18:54.475010 ARP, Request who-has 192.168.1.1 tell 192.168.1.166, length 46

Does it only want to talk to 192.168.1.1? I can arrange that, but not today. And I also need to find out what 192.168.2.10 is.

What is it that embedded programmers smoke?


Trump upsets international applecart
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Yesterday Donald Trump spoke with Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, a country that the USA does not recognize. This severely irritated China, a country with which the USA does recognize. This was to be expected.

This may seem like a little thing, and maybe the Chinese leadership is able to see it in perspective; after all, they have been trained to do their jobs, and they'll see that, in all likelihood, they just need to wait 4 years and Trump will be gone again. But wars have been started by smaller things.

It's interesting to note that the biggest international issues facing us today come from the Middle East: the rise of the so-called “Islamic State”, the atrocities in Syria, and much more. The USA blames this on the locals. But the locals blame it on the USA, and their heavy-handed approach to the situation—talking about Crusades, for example—have made the matter worse.


Identity theft: the proof
Topic: technology Link here

Found in my spam folder today:

From: Card SafeGuard RFID Bloc.
Re: Your identity can be hacked - Your identity can be hacked Your identity could be stolen To stop all Ads follow Un_sub_scribe extended/ TD /may /mercer /090 /sizes /Lemon /russia /accepts' Barclays /plastic /s /Ha /dogg's /

From: grog@lemis.com
Re:Viagra,Cialis,Levitra - http://bit.ly/2bI7Hpp

Saturday, 3 December 2016 Dereel Images for 3 December 2016
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Talking to the relay board
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I got as far as seeing evidence of my relay board on the LAN: it was trying to talk to 192.168.1.1, and wouldn't talk to anybody else. So I changed the alias on eureka's em0 interface, and sure enough, I could talk to it. First, I needed to log in, but fortunately this page tells me the details: user admin, password 12345678. After that, I got an encouraging screen:

 
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So at least I got a possibility of an English interface, where I was able to set more sane IP addresses. But there are some really puzzling things, like this part of the configuration menu:


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What do those fields mean? For once, Google Translate came to my aid with a translation of the Chinese original:


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But there are still a number of questions to be answered there. What's Touch Input? Input and Output correlation? And where did they get their name server addresses from? traceroute to one of them peters out with:

11  80.157.128.205 (80.157.128.205)  204.692 ms  214.675 ms  215.006 ms
12  ulm-ea5-i.ULM.DE.NET.DTAG.DE (62.154.59.10)  349.967 ms  356.911 ms  353.016 ms
13  * * *

What does that have to do with China? Edwin Groothuis thought it might have something to do with my /24 address block, but this board is far too stupid to know that: these values were stored into it at build time.

Went to the settings pages. What a pain! Yes, it's nice to have a web interface, maybe. But all I really want to do is to set individual relays. I could do that with an 8 bit bit mask, one bit per relay, and that's the way I did it Twelve years ago. Now I have a page like this:

 
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I have to do it manually! No timer, nothing! Unless I can hack this interface, I would have to get up at 4:00 and manually turn the things on and off! Progress, thy name is stupidity.

But there's a possibility: the settings page also mentions a TCP port 1234, configurable. nmap tells me:

PORT     STATE SERVICE
1234/tcp open  hotline

I suspect that the service name is bogus; it was just a convenient number, like the password 12345678. So I tried talking to it, but it didn't reply.

How do you establish what protocol a specific port expects? Juha Kupiainen came up with this page, whose URL looks as if it could change at a moment's notice. It shows a housing which clearly contains one of these boards, as another image shows:

The box in the first image also contains interesting information, like IP address, user name, password, and power supply requirements. It also shows the inputs at bottom right. That may explain some of the configuration details, but it's still obscure.

This page also shows another thing, such as a time display, which I need to analyse, as it's all in Chinese; I don't see anything corresponding in the English version. It suggests that I can, indeed, set up to 8 timers:

The site also includes a number of downloads which I need to investigate. Some promise source code, which might bring light into the darkness of port 1234.

Weren't things simple before the web?


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Down to the house forest again today. Not much change. As Peter Jeremy had assumed, my “buds” were seed pods, and they have now opened. Here two days ago (first image) and today:


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The Drosera have also formed seeds:


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And my assumption that this plant was a Leptospermum seem to have confirmed themselves, though the one flower I found wasn't worth photographing.


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And now we have another plant that may or may not prove to be interesting:


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Clearly it, too, has flowered and seeded.


Bright star
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Letting the dogs out, I saw a particularly bright star (or planet):


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It's in the top left corner, and it was surprisingly bright. Venus? It looks like it's a bit far from the horizon for that. But Magda Delva is coming for lunch tomorrow, and she will know.


E-M1 Live View Boost limitations
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the nice things about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 viewfinder is called “Live View Boost”: the viewfinder shows the subject as clearly as possible, even under conditions where an optical DSLR viewfinder would be almost completely dark.

But there are limitations, and I found them tonight. The view of the night sky was almost completely black, and the attempt to make it visible smeared to such an extent that I couldn't focus. I need to remember how to turn it off when necessary.


Sunday, 4 December 2016 Dereel Images for 4 December 2016
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Visit from Magda, Nele and Nelson
Topic: general Link here

Magda Delva and daughter Nele Kömle along for lunch today, something of a “Christmas” tradition—Magda lives in Graz and only comes once a year, usually round Christmastide.


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Magda has spent her professional life researching Venus, and was thus in a good position to confirm that our bright “star” last night was indeed Venus.


More political instability
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

One of the discussions at the table was today's presidential election: given the catastrophic results of recent elections, we were seriously concerned that Norbert Hofer might become president. It turns out that Magda, as a Belgian citizen, isn't eligible to vote, but we're all agreed that any sane person would vote for Alexander Van der Bellen (and yes, that's Van and not van; after all, he is not Belgian).

The conversation diverged. It seems that Magda grew up in a Walloon enclave somewhere in Oost-Vlaanderen, 50 metres from the language border, and she described in some detail how her family had been unable to get official documents in Flemish. And if they applied for a passport in French (the only language in which the documents were avalable), they were listed as French speaking. And I had thought that my exerience in Brussel/Bruxelles/Brüssel/Brussels was not typical of the country as a whole.


Trump: clumsy oaf
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Early in the day I started a page describing my fears about Donald Trump. In the initial revision I wrote:

It seems that he will nullify the treaties with Iran, probably as soon as assuming office. What will the result be?

But I didn't need to wait long to hear the answer. The congress of the United States of America has voted to renew sanctions against Iran for ten years, in violation of the treaties they signed. The Irani parliament is now debating a bill to resume nuclear development. Bravo, USA! Bravo, Trump!

On a lighter side, people are coming up with all sorts of (usually derogatory) nicknames for Trump. Yvonne has come up with the best one yet: „Trampel“. That's pronounced like “Trump-el”, and in German means “clumsy oaf”. Nomen est omen.


Mobile phones and batteries
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Maybe because of the way I talked about it the other day, my mobile phone has decided to die in the way that most do: the battery won't recharge. After a couple of days on charge, it has enough charge to boot up, present the message “Low battery shutdown”, and do just that.

Should I replace the battery? It's not a mainstream phone, so even if I could find one, it would probably cost more than the phone is worth. So I'll keep the phone in case Yvonne's identical phone gets damaged, in which case we could use the battery from that phone.

In the meantime, Chris Bahlo came up with a solution: her old smart phone died a death, but the one before that is still alive. From what's written in various private places, it's a Samsung GT-I9100T, though she tells me it's a Galaxy S2, and it was mine for the asking. I asked, and today she brought it, along with the suggestion that I first charge it. That was not as easy as it sounded: after some examination, it proved that the battery was dead as a doornail. Unlike the battery of my old phone, it showed not the slightest voltage across the terminals.

So, back to square one? To my surprise, the things still command a relatively good price: the cheapest model (used, of course) that I could find on eBay was $200. And batteries cost $12, including postage, so I ordered one. Hopefully I can make friends with the thing. One thing that is good about it is that the documentation is still available, and it's about as long as the documentation for my camera.


More relay board fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Spent some time looking for documentation and code for my relay board, with insufficient success. There's a download page with various software, partially in source form (C#). Some of it was clearly unsuited—NTP server, for example—some was in Microsoft executable format, and others again required registration. But I couldn't find any registration.

In the end, found three packages that looked like they might make sense, but none of them had much source code. What I did find looked like this, from a file called Form1.cs

        static void RelayRun()
        {
            while (true)
            {
              for(int i=0;i<10;i++)        //轮询 10 个 板子
              {
                  if (1 == StateNetLine[i])   //判断是否有 连接网络
                  {
                      if (ChangFlag[i] == 1)  //有状态改变 需要 写入数据
                      {
                          ChangFlag[i] = 0;
                          for (byte j = 0; j < 8; j++)
                          {
                              if (StateRelay[i * 8 + j] == 0)
                              {
                                  SendBuf[0] = 0x44; SendBuf[1] = (byte)(j + (byte)0x31); //0x44 -- 'D'
                                  stream[i].Write(SendBuf,0,2);
                                  ReadBytes = stream[i].Read(ReadBuf,0,ReadBuf.Length);
                              }
                              else
                              {
                                  SendBuf[0] = 0x4C; SendBuf[1] = (byte)(j + (byte)0x31); //0x4C -- 'L'
                                  stream[i].Write(SendBuf, 0, 2);
                                  ReadBytes = stream[i].Read(ReadBuf, 0, ReadBuf.Length);
                              }

Somewhere in there I might be able to find something about the protocol, but it won't be easy.


Backup disk woes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago /dump, the 2 GB external backup disk that I use for other machines on the local network, somehow went offline. Power cycling it and reconnecting it showed no errors, and GEOM created device nodes /dev/da2 and /dev/da2p1, but the system couldn't make any sense of the latter node. Damaged?

Today I tried it out on lagoon, Yvonne's machine. No difficulty recognizing it. Since lagoon is one of the machines that back up to it, it made sense to leave it there. And since I had missed the level 0 dump at the beginning of the month, decided to repeat it.

Estimated time 8 hours? It should take about 20 minutes! And then I saw:

da0 at umass-sim0 bus 0 scbus7 target 0 lun 0
da0: <ST ST2000DL003-9VT1 3.00> Fixed Direct Access SPC-2 SCSI device
da0: Serial Number 0010101E40000000
da0: 1.000MB/s transfers
da0: 1907729MB (3907029168 512 byte sectors)

1 MB/s transfers! That's archaic. I've seen it before, but not for a long time. What went wrong there? I have plenty of time to think about it; after backing up /, there's /home to do as well. That will take much longer.


Slow cooked British curry
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the things I hated most about my schooldays in England in the 1960s was the terrible food. Some British food tastes quite good, but we didn't get much of it to see. One of my particular horrors was what they called “curry”, typically a stew with lots of flour in the sauce and something curry-like that made the sauce go green. Sometimes it was just a stew with curry powder to sprinkle, garam masala like, on top. The predominant flavour—if there was one—was of fenugreek.

Thanks to immigration from “the Subcontinent”, those days are gone. And so when a few weeks back we bought some quick-and-dirty curry sauces, I didn't think any more of it, especially since they came from Pataks, who on the whole have a good reputation.

Today I tried one of them, a “Slow Cooker Rich & Hearty Beef Curry”, chosen mainly for Yvonne's sake because of the subtitle “Mild”.


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Our sous-vide cooker doubles as a slow cooker, though I've never used it like that. Still, the recipe is clear enough, though the requirement of 200 mL of thickened cream should have been a warning sign. But at least all ingredients are by weight or volume.

Did I say all? No, one onion, diced into 3 cm cubes. How much does an onion weigh? I've been there before: I came to a weight of 160 g. But that's the kind of onion we get here. I've seen others weighing 20 g, and again others weighing 1 kg or more. Which do they mean?

The size of the “cubes” gives a clue. My onions, once peeled, have a diameter of about 6 cm, so 3 cm chunks are eighths. But they're not cubes by any stretch of the imagination. To get something approximating to cubes of that size, you'd need an onion of at least twice the diameter, weighing in the order of 1.3 kg.

So I attributed this to carelessness on the part of the recipe writer, and cut the onion into pieces about 1.5 cm across. As instructed, put all the ingredients in the pot, including 200 ml of yoghurt to replace the cream that I most certainly will not add:


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How is that going to work? I added the 50 mL of water that they required, but that's not a sauce, not even with the yoghurt. Without it it would be almost completely dry. How are the potatoes going to cook? Added another 200 ml water and things looked reasonable:


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Why do people come up with recipes with quantities that are Just Plain Wrong? And the smell of the stuff! Yes, it's not 1960s green curry, but they haven't forgotten their love of fenugreek. The proof of the curry will be in the eating, tomorrow, but I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that the British still know ways to destroy Indian food. I should have taken notice from Mridula Baljekar.


Monday, 5 December 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 5 December 2016
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Flowering Artemisia
Topic: gardening Link here

The two Artemisia_(plant) species growing at the entrance to the house have progressed very differently. One has been flooded all winter, and it's not clear (to me, anyway; Yvonne disagrees) that it's going to survive:


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But the one on the other side of the driveway is 5 times the size and has now started flowering, looking something like a thistle flower:


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More doctor stuff
Topic: health Link here

Into town yet again today to see Dr Paul Smith. The results of Friday's ultrasound were as to be expected: an osteocyte limiting the function of the tendons. What do to? It could break off, but it looks like a visit to an orthopaedic surgeon.

As if that wasn't enough, there seem to be signs that I might be in an early stage of retinal detachment, so I have Yet Another Referral to an opthalmologist on Thursday.

Not to let me off too lightly, he also gave me a pneumococcal vaccination (penumovax, I think) with the warning that it might be painful for a day or two. One of these days I'll get back to a normal medical schedule.


British curry: proof of the pudding
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Ate our British curry today. After cooking it looked like this:


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Notably, there's not enough juice to cover the ingredients. And despite 8 hours of slow cooking, the potatoes were still crunchy. If that's typical of slow cooking, we can forget it. The curry itself was Just Plain Boring. Yes, it's mild, but a slight flavour of chili is still barely evident. And that's all! The last time I buy anything like that from Pataks, and I'll be doubly careful what else I buy from them.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016 Dereel Images for 6 December 2016
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The pain of modern software, part 1
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Somehow I spent most of the day today fighting modern software. I've ranted about this before countless times, but far from going away, the problem gets worse.

The first issue was one of the basic problems of graphics software, at least the way it is currently implemented: all programs get started from the same environment. In X it's the Window manager; other environments seem to be so amorphous that I can't say what part starts them. In either case, the concept of working directory is lost. So programs like firefox note the last used directory and offer it again. I'll use firefox as the example here, but it's by no means unusual in its behaviour.

That's particularly stupid because it ignores basic Unix conventions. It will even start a search for executables in the same saved directory. Doesn't the window manager pass its environment, including PATH?

As if that weren't bad enough, firefox handles the situation badly: it produces a list of the files in its chosen directory, only:

 
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How do you get to where you want to go? You click on a component of the path name. In my case, I was looking for /Photos/grog/20161206/DxO-customize-2.png. To get there, I have to click multiple times, on the way passing monstrosities like this:


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Look at that scroll bar (if you can find it)! Once it was possible to conjure up an input field where you could just type the path name, but no longer, it seems. On IRC, Juha Kupiainen pointed to a key combination Shift-G, but that seems to only allow entry of a file name in the current directory; it gave up both with .. and /Photos.

This seems to be a regression. Why? File name completion has been around for decades, and firefox even uses it for URL completion, a significantly more complicated task. Is there no space in the 700 MB process image for plain old file name completion? I went looking for “add-ons” matching “file name completion”, and came up with 402, conveniently limited to a view of 20 at a time. Of the first 20, not a single one matched “completion”. I got the message and gave up.


The pain of modern software, part 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I was just about calming down when, also on IRC, Andy Snow mentioned that his father (retired software engineer, 70 years old, so pretty much the same demographic as myself) has just got a new smart phone. Curious, I asked what he thought of it. Not much, but Andy is sure that he will get to like it when he sees all the nice things he can do with it, including sending photos.

My own experience with sending photos has been one of intense pain, so I carried on the discussion. Like most people, Andy is doomed to moving around a lot, so having something to play with while he's on the move makes sense—I use my Android tablet for the same purpose, for example in doctor's waiting rooms. As he puts it, “smartphones have moved a bunch of internet-based tasks from something you set aside time for when sitting down at your PC, to something you can do to fill the gaps while you're waiting in a queue at a shop or something”. But my recent experience moving files from Android makes it an emergency measure at best. Andy thinks it's the easiest way. Who's wrong?

The first thing he said is significant: “your way is actually a PITA if you just want to send a quick, low quality snapshot”. This implies—probably correctly—that people are prepared to lower their standards to send things easily. But is it really easier? My work flow matches what I want to do, but I can upload images from my camera to an external web server in (almost) a single command:

Dec  6 11:21:34 eureka kernel: da2 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus7 target 0 lun 0
Dec  6 11:21:34 eureka kernel: da2: <OLYMPUS E-M1 1.00> Removable Direct Access SCSI-2 device
Dec  6 11:21:34 eureka kernel: da2: Serial Number BHP228512
Dec  6 11:21:34 eureka kernel: da2: 40.000MB/s transfers
Dec  6 11:21:34 eureka kernel: da2: 968MB (1984000 512 byte sectors: 64H 32S/T 968C)
Dec  6 11:21:34 eureka kernel: da2: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 266 -> mount /camera/
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 267 ->

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/37) ~/public_html 40 -> scp /camera/dcim/106___09/img_9214.jpg www:www.lemis.com/grog/Day/20161206
img_9214.jpg                                             100% 2730KB 136.5KB/s   00:20
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/37) ~/public_html 41 ->

The mount command is only necessary because I don't normally do things this way. If I wanted, I could automate it with devd. So how do I do it with a tablet? Instagram, says Andy. I know that: it's a system that deliberately limits uploads so that you must use a mobile device, anathema to a Unix approach. Still, it was worth comparing. OK, admittedly, I'm new to this, but the concepts are so bizarre, complicated and badly implemented that it took me from 13:26 to 14:50.

Much of this time was spent trying to log in. I discovered I have an Instagram login, though I was apparently too ashamed to mention it in this diary at the time, and I didn't write down the password. OK, “reset password”, and got the opportunity to reset it. “Create a new password that isn't your current password.”. OK, try just logging in with the old password. “The username you entered doesn't belong to an account. Please check your username and try again.”.

Huh? But it gets worse. I reset my password on my real computer and tried logging in with it from the tablet. It failed. I suspect that the first time round blind typing the password on this emetic glass surface enabled me to mistype the password the same way twice, despite the snail's pace.

After a couple of attempts and another reset, I got a different message: “This email is taken by another account”. Can you only be logged in from one place at a a time? Finally—it seemed more like trial and error than anything—I got logged in. Probably the issues were a combination of inaccuracy due to the touch screen typing and wildly incorrect error messages from Instagram.

Trying to download the app was fun too. It wanted access to my Facebook account and promised to steal my list of friends and to bombard me with advertisements. But of course I had a real login. And once I got there, I couldn't work out how to use it. It didn't match Andy's description in the slightest. About the only thing that I discovered is that some screens refuse to recognize the orientation of the tablet and appeared in portrait orientation, not what seems to be normal for tablets. Bad Instagram! That's substandard even by mobile phone standards.

But it seems I hadn't followed Andy's instructions to the letter: don't use the app, just the native Android “Photos” app. And how about that, I could upload the images I took, after first going through a couple of screens where I was offered some unspecified way to crop them. Finally done!

And what beautiful photos!

 
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The first is from the tablet, a screen shot from Instagram, since I can't find a way to access the original image any more. The second is from my camera.

OK, I'm not expecting wonders from a tablet camera, especially not from a $90 tablet, and the quality of the real camera image isn't spectacular either, but why should I compromise? And how do I get them on my computer? Instagram doesn't offer me an option, or if it does, I don't understand it:

 
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What does “Save page to Pocket” mean? In any case, there's no menu item for saving the image. If I want the photo elsewhere, I can download it directly from my tablet.

Can I? That's what I was ranting about the other day. But that's what Peter Jeremy says. I just need to use the industry standard Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). Why? Because it's a standard (I can hear Andy Tanenbaum laughing in the wings). What's good about it? Not clear. It destroys file system structures, so it must be good. Peter tells me that it's necessary because you can't mount a file system from two different machines at the same time, something that even Microsoft has been doing for decades. It doesn't do anything that a file system view can't do (not surprisingly, since images are universally stored in FAT-32 format), and even the Wikipedia page has a “Drawbacks” section but not an “Advantages” section. But, Peter says, that's the way Android does it.

By this time I was past asking “why?”. I tried it. On Yvonne's old Canon IXUS 130 (5 years old and thus disowned by Canon), I don't get a choice of connection, only PTP. And how about that, with gphoto2 I was able to list all files, stripped of their directories. It's not clear what it would do if it found the same file name in two different directories, but next time I feel like a rant I'll think about it. So how about with the tablet?

ugen1.11: <USB Developer> at usbus1

    === root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 255 -> gphoto2 --list-files
There is no file in folder '/'.
*** Error ***
PTP Invalid Storage ID
*** Error (-1: 'Unspecified error') ***

ugen1.11: <USB Developer> at usbus1 (disconnected)

“USB Developer” reminds me of other incorrectly or incompletely implemented software from ALDI. I'll have to try again with the smart phone once the battery arrives. But at least for this tablet, it doesn't work. Peter thought I might get a popup asking whether to enable it, but I didn't.

What's wrong with this picture?

The issues I'm looking at here are really not complicated. They've just been “solved” in a way that makes you wonder what is going on inside people's heads. To publish a photo, you need at least two of these steps:

  1. Create a photo image. Normally this means taking a photo, but the same applies to a screen shot or a scanned image. This is well understood, and until recently you took photos with cameras.
  2. Potentially process it. Depending on the equipment you use to take the photo and your personal preferences, this may not be necessary (Andy's “quick, low quality snapshot”).
  3. Copy it to its destination. This, too, is a well understood function. It has been one of the core functions of operating systems since 1960 at the latest, and of networks since they came into use in the early 1970s. In each case, we rated the quality of the implementation by the lack of restrictions it imposed.

And what do we have now? Web sites that deliberately impose restrictions on this functionality. With Android I no longer have general access to the network and file system hierarchies. Once I put the photo up on the net, I can't find a way to get it back again. If I take a photo on my tablet and want to process it on my PC, I have to jump through hoops just to move the image. Once I'm done with the processing, I need to move it back to the tablet, because Instagram won't give me access from a computer. And once it's on Instagram, it's cast in concrete. No further access.

Admittedly, I might be wrong about getting my images back from Instagram. But at the very least they have created a new, unneccessary interface that, far from offering new functionality, limits existing functionality. It's comparable with going to a new supermarket in town and discovering that you need to learn a new, synthetic language with components from Esperanto, Swahili and Suomi.

People might say “Yes, but you're a computer (ex) professional. You know what you're doing”. There are two issues here: first, I don't know what I'm doing any more, and beginners can't find out how to do things because they've been blocked. This is a serious retrograde step.

Almost the saddest thing, though, is that the people on IRC all disagree with me. They, of all people, should know better. But the concepts have crept up on them over the years, and they no longer realise what has happened. All these devices run a derivative of Unix (Microsoft is is blameless in this arena). Why have they broken things so badly?


Wednesday, 7 December 2016 Dereel Images for 7 December 2016
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Instagram kills Android tablet
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Overnight I had a problem with my new Android tablet: it wouldn't charge. In the evening it was at 39% charge, and after being powered off and charged overnight, it was up to 44%. It claimed to be charging, but the lightning flash symbol near the battery display was absent.

What caused that? My guess is a combination of poor design and poor quality. The charger connection is on the right-hand side, and I've already had an ALDI tablet die because of poor contact from not one, but two connectors.

But this tablet is 2 weeks old. Why did it happen now? I think it's because I was forced to position it in portrait mode, the only mode that some pages on the Instagram app will use. I didn't disconnect the cable, and the result appears to be damage to the (microUSB) connector.

ALDI tablets may have issues, but their one overwhelming advantage is that you can return the device within 60 days if you don't like it. So that's what I did. Any further ranting about Android will have to be theoretical, at least for the time being.


Android rant, day 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Not surprisingly, people on IRC disagreed with yesterday's second rant.

Firstly, people claimed that PTP does show directory structure. So I tried. It worked yesterday, but today I got:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/5) ~/Photos/20161206 364 -> gphoto2 --list-files
*** Error (-52: 'Could not find the requested device on the USB port') ***

For debugging messages, please use the --debug option.
Debugging messages may help finding a solution to your problem.
If you intend to send any error or debug messages to the gphoto
developer mailing list <gphoto-devel@lists.sourceforge.net>, please run
gphoto2 as follows:

    env LANG=C gphoto2 --debug --debug-logfile=my-logfile.txt --list-files

After a couple of other attempts, tried that and got lots of output, ending in:

0.019349 gp_abilities_list_detect_usb(2): Auto-detecting USB cameras...
0.165850 gp_port_free                (2): Freeing port...
0.165862 gp_port_close               (2): Closing port...
0.166030 gp_camera_set_abilities     (2): Setting abilities ('USB PTP Class Camera')...
0.166038 gp_setting_set              (2): Setting key 'model' to value 'USB PTP Class Camera' (gphoto2)
0.166042 save_settings               (2): Saving 5 setting(s) to file "/home/grog/.gphoto/settings"
0.166106 gp_port_info_list_lookup_path(2): Looking for path 'usb:' (5 entries available)...
0.166111 gp_port_info_list_get_info  (2): Getting info of entry 1 (5 available)...
0.166115 gp_camera_set_port_info     (2): Setting port info for port 'Universal Serial Bus' at 'usb:'...
0.166237 gp_port_set_timeout         (2): Setting port timeout to 5000 milliseconds.
0.166246 gp_port_set_settings        (2): Setting settings...
0.166251 gp_libusb1_update           (2): (old int=0, conf=-1, alt=-1) port usb:, (new int=0, conf=-1, alt=-1) port usb:
0.166253 gp_libusb1_update           (2): lowlevel libusb1 port not yet opened, no need for libusb changes
0.166256 gp_setting_set              (2): Setting key 'port' to value 'usb:' (gphoto2)
0.166259 save_settings               (2): Saving 5 setting(s) to file "/home/grog/.gphoto/settings"
0.166294 gp_camera_init              (2): Initializing camera...
0.166310 gp_port_set_error [gphoto2-port.c:1186](0): The supplied vendor or product id (0x0,0x0) is not valid.

Nothing obvious there. It took me quite a while to guess that this was a permissions issue. The file for the connection was /dev/ugen1.11, and the permissions were:

crw-------  1 root  operator   0xd9  8 Dec 10:05 ugen1.11

That's my fault, of course: I should have set the default permissions. But where are the error messages? This seems to be an issue with the USB implementation, but there should be some way to return an EPERM.

So I ran it as root, and confirmed that they're right: PTP does maintain the directory structure, sort of. Here's a partial listing of the SD card in my camera:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/5) ~/Photos/20161206 362 -> mdir -s a: | less
 Volume in drive A has no label
 Volume Serial Number is 0000-0000
Directory for A:/

DCIM         <DIR>     2015-12-03   9:38
        1 file                    0 bytes

Directory for A:/DCIM

.            <DIR>     2015-12-03   9:38
..           <DIR>     2015-12-03   9:38
101OLYMP     <DIR>     2016-11-27  15:19
        3 files                   0 bytes

Directory for A:/DCIM/101OLYMP

.            <DIR>     2016-11-27  15:19
..           <DIR>     2016-11-27  15:19
PB275054 ORF  15379427 2016-11-27  15:19
PB275055 ORF  15199952 2016-11-27  15:19
...

And here's what gphoto2 makes of it:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) ~ 271 -> gphoto2 --list-files
There is no file in folder '/'.
There is no file in folder '/store_00010001'.
There is no file in folder '/store_00010001/DCIM'.
There are 243 files in folder '/store_00010001/DCIM/101OLYMP'.
#1     PB275054.ORF               rd 15019 KB 4608x3456 application/x-unknown
#2     PB275055.ORF               rd 14844 KB 4608x3456 application/x-unknown
...

There are a number of things to note here:

  1. It has invented a mount point store_00010001'. OK, so mdir has invented A:, but in the Microsoft space that's instantly recognizable.

  2. It doesn't know what a directory is.

  3. Instead of listing file size clearly, it shows the number of kB (misspelt as KB).

  4. It invents a MIME type, something that the underlying file system does not store. For the fun of it, I made a copy of PB275054.ORF as PB275054.JPG. The result:

    #1     PB275054.JPG               rd 15019 KB image/jpeg
    #2     PB275054.ORF               rd 15019 KB 4608x3456 application/x-unknown

    As the size shows, this is the same file. So the MIME type is meaningless and misleading. file(1) is cleverer:

    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/5) ~/Photos/20161127/orig 377 -> file PB275054*
    PB275054.JPG:     Olympus raw image file (.ORF)
    PB275054.ORF:     Olympus raw image file (.ORF)
    PB275054.jpg:     JPEG image data, JFIF standard 1.02, resolution (DPI), density 350x350, segment length 16, Exif Standard: [TIFF image data, little-endian, direntries=12, description=OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         , manufacturer=OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP., model=E-M1, xresolution=218, yresolution=226, resolutionunit=2, software=Version 4.1, datetime=2016:11:27 15:19:31], baseline, precision 8, 4608x3456, frames 3
  5. On the other hand, this view doesn't give me the modification timestamp for the files. This would make any scripting like my syp script, which optimizes downloads, incomparably more complicated.

Potentially all of these problems are the fault of gphoto2, and maybe it even has many long options to make it behave the way it should by default. In addition, it seems that you can mount PTP file systems directly on Linux, but not on FreeBSD. That would make life easier, but it doesn't explain the raison d`être of PTP in the first place.

And my other objections? Peter Jeremy pointed out that it's not as simple as copying from camera to web server, apparently missing my mention of automount. In particular, it's a question of establishing connections. After discussion, we came up with three scenarios:

  1. Find USB cable, plug camera in, copy files and then unplug it.
  2. Remove SD card from camera, insert into computer, copy files, remove SD card from computer and reinsert in camera)
  3. Find smart phone, ensure charged, connect to network, start app, search for files, select files, copy.

The first two are Peter's scenarios, unchanged. The third is mine. And promptly Daniel O'Connor came up with the claim that his phone is always connected to the network, a claim he couldn't substantiate: in exactly those situations where smart phones are useful, in public transport or waiting rooms for example, you can't be sure of having a network at all. Even Daniel discounted using the mobile telephone network for these functions. In many cases you can get network coverage, but then you need to connect to it.

On the other hand, both Peter and Daniel automatically back up to the “cloud”. OK, good idea, if you have the bandwidth. So far this month Yvonne and I have taken just shy of 10 GB of photos. Even if I can afford to upload them to the cloud, what will that do to my network response times? And once they're there, how do I manipulate them? I need to investigate this, but I'm prepared to find that there will be many restrictions as to where I can move the data. It seems that we already have this with the automatic backup: can I back up to my real computer? With Android, no, just to Google. I'm prepared to bet that Apple has some similar restriction.

And looking at Peter's first alternative. All he has in addition to the copying is connecting a cable. You shouldn't even need that: if you can automatically back up to Big Brother, you should be able to automatically back up to your real computer. The functionality is the same. And in the case of all cameras I've seen, alternative 3 does not exist.

Do people really not recognize that they're voluntarily accepting restrictive “solutions” when the problems have been solved for decades? I wouldn't really care, but so many people think that this is state of the art that it excludes more general solutions that we already have.

This article has been much longer than intended. It's time to move the whole thing to its own page, but not today.


Thursday, 8 December 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 December 2016
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Eye examination
Topic: health Link here

Off to Ballarat today to see Trent Roydhouse of the Ballarat Eye Clinic to have my eyes examined. A one hour appointment, 50 minutes of which were spent waiting for eye drops to make my vision go funny. The examination itself took less than 10 minutes, with equipment that looked no better than what the opticians use, but presumably a trained head behind it that saw more. The verdict: no sign of macular degeneration, no retinal detachment, just a vitreous detachment that would heal by itself. I had never heard of that; it seems that, at least in America, it's called a posterior vitreous detachment. It seems that nothing needs to be done, and it will go away by itself, but I should refrain from vigorous exertion (“no bungee jumping”).


Android pain, day 3
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The good thing about my Android pain of the last couple of days is that the Android tablet failed and got returned to ALDI. End of pain.

Well, no. Today the replacement battery arrived for Chris Bahlo's Samsung GT-I9100T mobile phone, also known (but not on the phone itself) as Galaxy S2. It wasn't quite clear what to do with it, since I needed to be authorized to open the package, and I needed to take unspecified static electricity precautions:


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Unlike the claim on the eBay page, it wasn't an aftermarket battery after all, or if so, it was a very good copy of the original:


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But when I put it into the phone, it rattled. Further investigation showed that it was smaller than the original, and that it had one contact less:

Put it in anyway and jammed in with some cardboard:


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Surprisingly, it worked. It's an Android 4.1.x, something that I understand better than Android 6, and it soon came up with an offer to download 60 MB of firmware updates. Chris can't have used the phone in years, so that sounded like a good idea. But there wasn't enough space on the phone (only 16 GB, all full of Chris' stuff that I didn't want to delete quite yet). So I pulled the 8 GB microSD card out of my old, dead tablet and put it on the desk while I searched for the SD card slot (it's above the battery, next to the SIM card slot):

OK, insert the μSD card. Gone! Where did it go? It was on the desk, I hadn't got up from the desk in the intervening two or three minutes, but it was no longer there. Did it fall on the floor, or onto my lap? Possible, but I didn't find it. Potentially it has fallen under something, but it would take a lot of moving things around to search for it. I found another card in a drawer, carefully placed in a plastic bag with other small cards (this isn't the first time I've lost a μSD card) and used that instead. Moral: Never put a naked μSD card anywhere except inside something bigger.

That worked fine, so loaded the update. Reboot. Reboot. Reboot. The thing wouldn't start. How do you debug a boot failure on a mobile phone? The obvious thing was to call technical support, where I spoke to a Sam (sung?), who spent half an hour going through the usual tech support stuff. It seems that they do have me on file (presumably for issues related to washing machine recalls), with the old address. I confirmed that, but she didn't want to update the address, even when I suggested it to her. She took me through a few incantations, none of which worked, and then said they would get the phone picked up and taken for service.

Who pays? It seems clear that it was the firmware update that bricked the device, but that's from Android, not from Samsung. And she confirmed that the warranty expired about 3 years ago. But so far there's no question of payment, so it might make sense to send it in.

First, though, I went looking on line, and found this page, which includes lots of incantations to get the thing into debug mode. What finally worked was the combination Vol+/Menu/Power, which brings up these screens:


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In passing, I rather like the images.

The instructions were to first “wipe” the cache partition and then, if it didn't work, do a factory reset. I tried both, with no success.

Send it in? One thing is clear: these “fix it” pages include help for numerous problems, but failed firmware update isn't one of them. So what could be the cause? I can think of multiple reasons: The one case where firmware update does fail, coincidence, or possibly an indication of what the fourth battery contact does. Would it be possible, for example, that it maintains cache contents or some such when the phone is powered down? Then a reset of cache would result in it becoming non-functional, which could result in the symptoms I have seen.

But to test that hypothesis, I need a real battery. Why was I sent the wrong battery anyway? Looking at the order, it's clear why: it's just what I asked for, but not what I want. The seller had two batteries on offer for the same price. I confirmed that one of them was the correct battery, without checking the other, and then went looking at other sellers. When I came back, it seems that I chose a battery without reconfirming the specs, and got the wrong one. Bad Groggy.

In general, though, after a third day of messing around with this stuff, and the second defective device, I've come to the conclusion: I may hate Android, but clearly the feeling is mutual.


DxO can't read PNG
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I recently upgraded to DxO ViewPoint release 3, which works together with DxO Optics “Pro”, and promises automatic perspective correction and cropping. As a gesture of good will, I got the upgrade for free, along with a free copy of FilmPack, which I find very generous of them. But ViewPoint 3 is not without its problems. Firstly, there's no manual! All I can find is a series of hard-to-navigate web pages that only describe use as a standalone program.

So on Monday last week I raised a ticket asking for the location of the documentation. I'd include the number here, but it seems that DxO doesn't publish their tickets, so only I can see it. Here the content:

I've installed a trial version of ViewPoint 3 on my Optics "Pro" system, running Microsoft 7. I have multiple problems:

  1. I see none of the features described in your advertising.
  2. Despite claims by Optics "Pro", I found that ViewPoint 3 was not in the list of installed programs. So I removed ViewPoint 2, installed ViewPoint 3, restarted Optics "Pro", and tried again.
  3. The only feature I see (by trial and error) was automatic perspective correction when selecting the 8 point symbol. I don't know if that was there before or not.
  4. I can't find a way to automatically crop the resultant image.
  5. I can't find a manual for the product, just a series of web pages with no navigational aids. Even after fighting my way through the pages, I can't find any mention of how to use the features as part of Optics "Pro".

It took them over a week to respond, at “Tuesday at 04:11”. How I hate these silly date representations! By that time I had, by trial and error found the automatic perspective correction function, but nothing else. And the reply didn't address any of my problems, nor indeed did I get the feeling that he had read the report. But he wanted a screen shot of the startup splash screen (showing what I had already stated in the ticket that only version 3 was installed), so I sent it, along with an indication of what DxO displays. I'm omitting the splash screen, because it contains the activation keys for the software, but here's the rest:


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These images show the splash screen, the perspective correction screen before and after correction, and the crop screen showing no auto crop. I think these are the files that I uploaded. It seems that DxO, a leader in image processing, can't display PNG images! Any web browser can do that! So they deleted them from the ticket, and asked me to send them in “another format”, without specifying what they can read. Instead I was given the following URLs to answer my questions about documentation:

Why is it so difficult to get even simple issues resolved. I can't even blame Sam (clearly a popular name for support personnel): this seems to happen everywhere.


Friday, 9 December 2016 Dereel Images for 9 December 2016
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More Trump horrors
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump continues to cause anxiety. A few days ago I started a page about my concerns. He's ensuring that it gets updated.

Who's the new head of the EPA? A climate change sceptic! Now everybody, myself included, is concerned that the USA will reverse what little progress has been made towards addressing the issue. A Google search for “Trump EPA” brings headlines with almost universal criticism. Only Forbes wrote “Trump's EPA Pick Is Just What This Country Needs: A sensible, law-based approach to the energy business will be a welcome change if Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is confirmed to ...” I think that says more about Forbes than about the issue, but I can't follow up because they want me to log in.

That makes it clear, though, that there are a sizeable number of climate change deniers in the USA. But other actions are more likely to make him unpopular in his own country. He campaigned on decreasing unemployment and increasing income. So he appointed Andy Puzder, a CEO of a fast-food chain and “a vocal critic of substantially increasing the minimum wage and an opponent of rules that would make more workers eligible for overtime pay” to the head of the US Labor Department. That must set a sign for the voters who believed his promises.

And then there's the question of the lies about the job savings at Carrier, which has the additional spice of ad hominem attacks on union officials on Twitter. Whatever the background, that's a completely unstatesmanlike action.

Where is this going to lead?


Australia Post: No information overload
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Mail message from AusPost today:


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What does that tell me? Nothing. Yes, there's a tracking number there too, but I don't recognize it. Where does the package come from? Who sent it? Where is it? All too complicated. For that, you need to be intelligent enough to select “Show detailed tracking”, which gives (upside down, and thus in reverse sequence from the first display) marginally more information:


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I still don't know what it is. I'd guess that it's something I bought on eBay, but there's no way of knowing.

Bravo, AusPost.


New crockery and glasses
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Forty-one years ago I got married, and we received our first real set of crockery as a wedding present, in nice 1970s pop:


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That fashion didn't last long, and when my sister got married in September 1983, we bought her a set of the same series, but now in a more neutral colour. We liked that enough that a couple of years later we bought a set for ourselves:


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That was over 30 years ago, but we still have the same crockery, now looking less impressive. The photos above are of soup plates, which we hardly use and which thus look pretty much as they did 30 or 40 years ago. The ones we use look like this side plate:


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Why do we still use them? I tried a few years back and bought alternative crockery, but Yvonne (who wasn't present at the time) didn't like it, so we're still using the same old crockery.

Finally, on Wednesday, Yvonne found something that she liked:


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Not our ideal, but not as fancy or trendy as most of the stuff we have seen. At least we have something not quite so worn-out for everyday use, and we can still look for something better. That's made all the easier because a set of four (small and large plate, soup bowl and mug) cost $10, reduced from $30.

I've already established that we don't use soup bowls much. But the mugs are amazing, a typical Australian bucket:


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It contains 350 ml, a new record for my measures page. And the lack of a saucer is more of a nuisance than I thought. Where do you put your spoon when you're done with it? I suppose that “in the mug” is the canonical answer, but that's not for me. But while shopping in Ballarat today, Yvonne found some better looking cups, along with some wine glasses. Also reduced. Why do they reduce things in the middle of Advent (and thus the Christmas shopping season).

She came back with two different kinds of cups, volumes 200 ml and 230 ml. They cost $3 a piece, and thus more than a set of four from Big W. But at least they have saucers andq look relatively normal (here compared with the 200 ml old cup on the left):


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She brought two new sets of glasses as well, not cheap at $9.95 each. But nasty. Once again uneven thickness, heavy, uninteresting shape. In fact, not so different from the ones that we bought for $0.95 a while back. It's difficult to get a photo that shows the issues, so there is none, but they'll go back.

But that price got me thinking. Yvonne bought the first sets of crockery at Big W, and the cups and glasses at Spotlight. There she saw what appeared to be the same crockery that she bought at Big W. 50% reduced: from $120 (maybe $139.95) to $59.95! That still makes it 6 times the price of Big W. Caveat emptor.


Saturday, 10 December 2016 Dereel Images for 10 December 2016
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Learning about flash
Topic: photography Link here

I've always had problems with flash, particularly on-camera flash, so when Paul Shire chose flash photography as the topic for today's meeting of the Dereel Camera Crew, I was quite enthusiastic, and this time took a lot of equipment with me.

It seems that Paul and I complement each other well. I know the theory, he knows the practice. And the one thing that I brought back was that you can alter the relations of ambient and flash illumination. That's no secret: both flashes and cameras have ways to increase or decrease flash illumination. But somehow it never sank in until today.


Google is watching you
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Mail from Google today:

Your Google Account groggyhimself@gmail.com was just used to sign in from Firefox on Windows.

Windows
Saturday, December 10, 2016 9:06 AM (Australian Eastern Daylight Time)
Ballarat VIC, Australia*
Firefox*Don't recognize this activity?*
Review your recently used devices
<URL>

Why are we sending this? We take security very seriously and we want to keep you in the loop on important actions in your account. We were unable to determine whether you have used this browser or device with your account before. This can happen when you sign in for the first time on a new computer, phone or browser, when you use your browser's incognito or private browsing mode or clear your cookies, or when somebody else is accessing your account.

What's wrong with this picture? Lack of information. A login from “Windows”. What Windows? What's the IP address? How did it determine the location?

In fact, this was me, from dischord, trying to work round some browser issue. Why does it say Ballarat? Because it's not prepared to let me tell its location services where I really am. But the lack of an IP address is unforgivable.


Mobile phones: small choice in rotten apples
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

At the Camera Crew meeting people started talking about mobile phones. It occurred to me that maybe somebody had an old one to get rid of, so I asked. Yes, indeed, Carol Moyse had a iPhone 5S that she no longer needed, and offered it to me for $200. Almost before I could answer, Helen Miller said “I'll take it”. But I had first choice, and it seemed all the better because Helen would take it if I didn't like it.

So up to Carol's place a little later, in the process recognizing the house: I was there three years ago helping her diagnose a failed ADSL2 “modem”. Watched her spend at least 10 minutes clearing the phone of all her personal stuff, requiring three reboots, and then home with my new treasure.

The next hour was at least as painful as anything I've had with Android.

First thing, of course, was configuration. How about that, it lets me enter a static IP address (hopefully per network). It only took me 4 minutes to type in IP, net mask, router and DNS IP, with only 20 typos. That's the fault of this appalling touch screen, made no better by the fact that the display doesn't rotate with the orientation of the screen: it's fixed in portrait mode, with total keyboard width being 4.7 cm, slightly less than double the width of my thumb. But what then? Where's the NEXT button? It seems I had to go BACK, which I suppose any modern person would understand.

Every time I turn the thing on, I need to enter a 6 digit security code. With Android it was only 4, and I could turn it off. So far I haven't found a way to do that here. What a pain!

Next, I thought it would be fun to download OI.Share, the app to communicate with my camera, conveniently (as was forcibly brought home) requiring multiple shift keys to enter. That is done via App Store, a well-hidden URL that redirects anyway. And of course for that I need an “Apple ID”. So I clicked “Sign up” and selected the country suggestion “Australia”. Nothing happened. It was dead in the water: can't go forward, can't go back. Tried in a couple of other places, finally under “Settings”, where I was subjected to the sum of everything I find wrong in modern graphical interfaces: in particular, I needed to enter my birth date! What business is that of Apple's when I was born? And in best “don't show all your cards at once” tradition, it asked me first for the day, suggesting 1, 2, many... (just scroll down). OK, 1 is good enough. Month: January, ... (just scroll down). OK, January it is. Year? By this time I was thoroughly fed up and entered 11 (which would make me 2005 years old). But not according to Apple: “You Cannot Create An Apple ID Because You Do Not Meet The Minimum Age Requirement”. GRRRR! And I had to type everything in again on the abysmal keyboard. This time I entered 55. “You Cannot Create An Apple ID Because You Do Not Meet The Minimum Age Requirement”. So I entered 1948, my real year of birth. “You Cannot Create An Apple ID Because You Do Not Meet The Minimum Age Requirement”.

Andy Snow, one of the many people on IRC eating peanuts and watching the fun, came up with the explanation: get it wrong once, and you have to wait 24 hours before you can try again. Isn't it nice of Big Brotherthem to tell me so?

That was all I had time for today; 45 minutes and almost no progress. Certainly Apple has shown itself from its worst side (at least, I hope so).


Sunday, 11 December 2016 Dereel Images for 11 December 2016
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iPhone pain, day 2 of 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday my attempts to set up my iPhone 5S created a maximum amount of pain in less than an hour. But I learnt from that and followed the explanation, signing up for the App Store via a normal web session.

That was easier, but not much. The signup seemed to be a collection of (from my perspective) worst practice for web forms:

After all that, I still couldn't log in on the phone: the AppStore app was still hanging from yesterday. After a while I found what presumably every user knows: double click on the button at the bottom (which is apparently called Home), which gives a list of apps. Scroll until the one you're looking for is in the middle, partially obscured by others, and swipe upwards.

Finally I could log in. Could I? Well, sort of. First I had to enter this emetic password, which took me about 60 seconds. People comforted me and told me I'd get faster in the course of time. I'm sure they're right: it would probably get much faster, even 4 or 6 times as fast. But that's still 15 or 10 seconds, when I could do it on a real keyboard in 1 or 2. And I had to keep entering it; there is apparently no way to stop this requirement. I suppose that makes sense when you consider that your credit card details are behind it. But that's the wrong solution: Apple shouldn't store the credit card number, and should prompt for that when necessary.

In general I'm left with the feeling that the thing is after my money. Yes, of course they are, but they show it so aggressively. And yes, like with the Toy Shop, there are free apps. But there are continual suggestions about how to spend money. Maybe my view was influenced by having to enter a credit card number.


OI.Share revisited
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

So, finally I had the phone vaguely functional. Download a couple of apps, first OI.Share. Getting it to work was the usual pain, mainly not the fault of Apple. To get it to run you first need to disconnect from the network, and OI.Share doesn't do this automatically. Neither do the instructions help. You need to go to the Settings menu and select the camera as network. After that, OI.Share worked as well as it has ever done—not very.


A keyboard for an iPhone
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

By far the worst thing about this iPhone is the appalling touch-screen keyboard. Yes, Android phones have something similar, but for some reason many (most) Apple apps are stuck in portrait mode, giving me a keyboard rather less than double the width of my thumb. At least on Android, most apps will let you turn the thing on its side, at least doubling the width.

In addition, the keyboard is a typical toy with separate shift keys for numerics and capitals. On Android I used the Hackers Keyboard, which made things marginally less painful. Is it available for Apple? It was, but it seems to no longer be supported. What I did find in the App Store was typical Apple: candy-coloured keyboards and a “Geek Keyboard” where the key caps were modified to represent chemical elements. Aren't we clever?

So I borrowed a Bluetooth keyboard from Chris Bahlo. I didn't get it to work. In fact, I couldn't get the phone to recognize any Bluetooth device except my desk phone. No debugging help, just dead in the water. That's very different from my previous experience with Bluetooth and Android. Potentially there's something wrong with the keyboard, or I'm using it incorrectly, but it didn't recognize my headset either.


TeamViewer for iOS
Topic: technology Link here

And then I thought of another option for less painful keyboard access: TeamViewer is available for the iPhone. I've used it in the past for access to other systems. It seems a little silly to send all the traffic between keyboard and display round the world and back, but hey, we're modern.

So I installed TeamViewer. The good news: it works. The bad news: it's upside-down. It reduces my 2510×1390 dischord window to the 800×480 or whatever of the iPhone, requiring many gestures to scroll the screen. What an amazing idea. The gesture I chose is not for publication.


Do I need an iPhone?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Today's playing around with the iPhone made me step back and think: why do I need an iPhone? Why, do I need an iPhone? Apart from all the pain it causes, the display is so minuscule that it's not worth using for many purposes. Tried reading a Wikipedia page on it, which conveniently folded and hid data to make things not too painful. But I wouldn't use that format except in an emergency. I've already grumbled at length about the “keyboard”. And another size-related issue is that I have to hold it much closer. The monitors on my desk top are between 70 and 80 cm away. To read the phone, I need to hold it 25 to 30 cm from my face. That's a focus difference of about 2.5 dioptres, more than my old eyes can accommodate. So I need to change glasses. Yet another pain.

So, I've decided: the best thing about this phone is that Helen Miller will buy it from me at the price I paid. It's hers.

And what do I do? I started this business because Chris Bahlo had a phone to give away. It cost me $11 odd for a new battery, and if the firmware update hadn't killed it, it would have been worthwhile. But how many of my complaints about the iPhone would apply to Android? Most of them.

Went looking and found this page comparing iPhone and Android. It came out in favour of Android, though I don't really identify with the criteria. I suppose the next thing is to try to reinstate the firmware for the phone via one of the recovery functions.


Next Trump horror
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

So now the USA intelligence agencies have discovered Russian activity prior to the election was designed to get Trump elected. What does Donald Trump do? Denies it and accuses the CIA of incompetence:

These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ 

Well, no, Donald, that was 15 years. People at the CIA have gone and come since then. And maybe the agency has learnt caution since then. But what does that kind of claim do for relationships between the president and the agency? According to this article, they're not amused:

“Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin, this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community,” said Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

It seems that, at least theoretically, the choice of president has not yet been made. That happens when the Electoral College meets on on 19 December, and they have been known to go against the numbers. Wouldn't it be funny if Trump were not elected? Sadly, I don't see that happening.


Strelitzia
Topic: gardening Link here

We've had a Strelitzia reginae for over 8 years, and when we moved to Stones Road we split it into 3. One is still looking unhappy, but the others are flowering better than they ever did in Kleins Road:


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Now we need to wait for the newly planted (from a pot) Strelitzia nicolai to flower. I doubt it'll be this year.


Monday, 12 December 2016 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 12 December 2016
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Duck eggs
Topic: food and drink Link here

Last week Petra brought us some fresh duck eggs. Yvonne wanted to eat them for breakfast, but I had some prejudice from my childhood that duck eggs were dangerous and needed to be cooked thoroughly before eating. But looking on the web showed no such warnings, and maybe this is an old, worn-out magic word. So today we had some of them for breakfast:

And they tasted good, though not as different from hen eggs as I had expected.


Flash experiments
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Saturday's Camera Crew meeting got me thinking about flash lighting. Yesterday, for the first time, we had 6 flowers on the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis bush, so took a few photos with varying flash, starting yesterday.

The results were not spectacular. Yesterday I took a total of 4 sets. Each set consisted of exposures without flash, with flash +0 EV, -1 EV, -2 EV and -3 EV. I managed to get things wrong the first: I had the camera set to automatic ISO and aperture priority metering (f/8), with the interesting effect that it changed the ISO depending on the flash intensity:

Flash       Shutter speed       ISO
0 EV       1/60       30°/800
-1 EV       1/60       29°/640
-2 EV       1/60       25°/250
-3 EV       1/60       24°/200
none       1/60       32°/1250

This doesn't make much sense to me. The less flash I use, the lower the ISO rating? But with no flash at all, it's at its highest. It's also interesting to note that the camera always seems to set the shutter speed at 1/60 s, something I've noted before.

For the next set I set the ISO to 24°/200 and used the camera to set the flash intensity. Finally I did it setting the flash intensity from the flash unit. The camera and flash record individual settings, but don't show the settings from the other device.

The results? I was amazed by the consistent exposure detail, until I realized that that was thanks to DxO Optics “Pro”. Without it (as below), things didn't look nearly as good, and very much in keeping with my previous experience with flash. But in addition, in every case with flash I got significant shadows. Here the last set with no flash, -3 EV and 0 EV compensation:


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It seems that once you use flash, the camera sets itself to 1/60 s and gives up on automatic exposure. It calls the mode “fill-in” (the EXIF data are directly from the camera), but in principle it seems to be relying on the flash to do the exposure rather than to fill in. I've seen this before, and gradually I'm coming to the conclusion that Olympus flash exposure is either terminally broken or so badly documented that it's impossible to get good results.

But independently of that, it's clear that flash didn't work there. But there are more options: how about bounce flash? I already have studio flash units in the room, and I can bounce the camera flash. How does that look?

The room flash exposures were useless, though the (manual) exposure was correct. The light came from behind:


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That's not surprising: the units are aligned to illuminate the area to the left of the plants. I tried again with only one of the flashes, but unsurprisingly it was worse:


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But somehow today things weren't as good as yesterday. A direct flash with +0 EV looked nothing like yesterday (first image):


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Why? I still don't know. The flash intensity was the same, and the ambient light made almost no difference, since it was 2 EV underexposed, as the (better) exposure with no flash at all shows:


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But at the same exposure, the shutter speed was 1/13 s instead of 1/60 s, fully 2 EV more exposure. The difference must really be that the ambient lighting was different today, and the lack of automatic exposure did the rest.

Finally, though, bounce flash seems to have done the job, sort of:


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It could still have done with more exposure. But all this flash exposure stuff, at least with Olympus, seems more trouble than it's worth.


Repairing mobile phones
Topic: technology Link here

In the last few days I've tried various things to repair the Samsung GT-I9100T using the recovery functions I found the other day:


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So far I have tried the wipe functions, without success. But there are two “Apply update” functions there, either from ADB (what's that? Obsolete debugger?) or external storage, whatever that may mean. Went looking on the web and found little reliable information, just pages like this, but it seems that the ADB is an Android Debug Bridge. It seems not to be a piece of hardware, but so far I haven't found any description detailed enough to be able to use it. The same goes for external storage, which seems to be a SD Card. So far everything I have found doesn't give details of where to find the image, nor how to prepare the medium so that the phone can understand it.

Since I was planning to go to Geelong, called up Buzztech, who confirmed that they could install an image on the phone, and if there were no complications it would cost $55. Considered that and decided that I could probably save $55 and gain experience if I tried to do it myself. If not, a repairer in Ballarat would make more sense. Now to look for reliable info on sources of firmware.


Geelong again
Topic: health, food and drink Link here

Off to Geelong in the afternoon for my 6-monthly periodontics checkup. Nothing unusual there; just the confirmation that nothing has changed, and cleaner teeth at the end, and a lot of money to pay.

Then off to Belmont for shopping. Got some masa harina at Indo-Asian groceries, which proved to be expiring in 2 months, and various curry and laksa pastes at Gourmet Asian Grocery.. Hopefully the laksa will be good enough.


Your System has been blocked
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

When I got home, Yvonne called me to a problem on her machine:


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What's that? The browser displayed the URL http://get.infinityitservices.net Called up the number (which was an Australian free call) and was connected to somebody who, as usual, didn't understand what was going on. He was fully locked in to the Microsoft mentality, asked me to press the “Broken windows” key and R (I think) and was surprised when nothing happened. Then he wanted me to download a Microsoft executable and run it, but this screen wouldn't take no (or Cancel) for an answer: it kept opening a new tab with the same URL and the same messages, and my browser was effectively dead. He asked me to try Chrome, which at least functioned normally, but nothing like the way he thought. He did go to the trouble to look up X, and was mightily impressed by the fact that it was a server, so much that he no longer insisted that I reboot the machine.

After about 20 minutes it was clear that we weren't coming any closer, and I gave up. What I really wanted to find out was what the site was for, and why it was blocking some unspecified IP. http://www.infinityitservices.net/ appears to be some marketing system, and probably Yvonne clicked on it by accident. God protect us from such sites!


Tuesday, 13 December 2016 Dereel Images for 13 December 2016
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Nobody wants an iPhone
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Helen Miller along this morning to pick up the iPhone. Looked at it and said “It's an iPhone 5S”. Yes, as advertised. But not what she had expected: she thought it was a iPhone 6S. She already has a 5S, so she doesn't need it.

Damn! I only bought the thing with the safety net of being able to sell it to her if I didn't want it. What do I do now? Take it back to Carol? Sell it on eBay? For the moment I'll give it another try.


Tortillas again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's been over 7 years since I started making tortillas from masa harina. It took me a long while, but finally I got to the stage where I could make them fairly reliably.

But the masa I bought yesterday was a different brand, Minsa, which I've used before, and have notes for. So I made it according to the notes, but things didn't work as well. The pressed tortillas were very fragile, and I wasn't able to keep them together:


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What's causing that? My notes say to use more water (5:3) than for the Casa Iberica masa (3:2). Are they incorrect? To be tried again with 3:2. And probably I should accept that the roti maker may be good for chapatis, but the tortillas come out too dry.


Hot weather for cats
Topic: animals Link here

The temperature hit 32° today, and it seems that Rani felt like a shower:


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Reinstalling Android firmware
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A little more investigation of how to recover the Samsung GT-I9100T today. It seems that they have a maintenance tool, Kies that runs on Microsoft and communicates with the phone via 802.11 or USB. So I installed that and tried it out. Not the most convincing program I've seen: it didn't detect the phone set to recovery mode, and offered a “Troubleshoot connection error” function which required the phone to be disconnected! It ran and found no error (nor, for that matter, anything else). I had at least expected it to want the phone to be reconnected at some point, but no, that won't be necessary, thank you. Neither, from my point of view, is Kies. Choose something else.

The other one is the ADB that I've already mentioned. It turns out to be a program in Android Studio. I suppose I should install that, but first I need to find a source of the firmware.


The daily Trump horror
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

A few days ago Donald Trump committed a diplomatic blunder—we think—by establishing contact with the President of Taiwan, a country that the USA does not recognize, in breach of its One China Policy. China has so far reacted the way I expected, calling Trump “naive”, probably a gentle term. So what do you do when you're in a hole? Dig, says Trump. This commentary confirms my concerns of last week: “Wars have been started by smaller things”.

Now it may not be a bad idea to show China that they can't do anything they like, but it requires the skills of a seasoned diplomat, not a ruthless businessman. Hopefully the USA will get a good Secretary of State, and Trump will let him do his job without too much interference.


Malaysian food pastes
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

In Geelong yesterday I bought a number of pre-prepared food pastes, including one for Ikan kukus (steamed fish), made by Suntraco in Klang. The images look good, but what we got was a reddish paste, and the results (which I forgot to photograph) look nothing like the ones I found on the web.

The results were acceptable but boring. I wonder if any of these pastes will be worth using.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016 Dereel Images for 14 December 2016
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Phone pain: Android
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So it seems that it is possible to download a firmware image to the Samsung GT-I9100T. I just need to find an image. OK, off for a search, which came up with a lot of useless information, but also some promising ones. http://www.sammobile.com/firmwares/ looked promising, and found the apparently correct firmware after an amazing amount of suppressed advertising and a Captcha to end all Captchas:

 
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It requires not one, but two steps, and the first time round I got it wrong. And then I had to put up with one of these silly download screens: free download at 15 kB/s, or fast download for 10 €. More waiting for a badly presented video, and finally error 404. Tried many different combinations, browsers and operating systems and finally gave up.

But there was more than one site. The next was http://www.android.gs/, which led me to the XXSLR firmware, whatever that may be. Also 404.

Clearly there's a pattern here. This page promised me official firmware, but brought me back to sammobile with yet another 404. Somewhere I saw a reference to Cyanogenmod, of which I had heard. They offer alternative firmware along with documentation that seemed just too painful. In addition, as long as I don't know the status of the phone, it doesn't seem to be a good idea to use alternative firmware.

Finally I found this page, which offered me the XXMS7 official firmware, whatever that means. More 15 kB/s downloads—why do they do that? And why doesn't Samsung offer their own download page? Started downloading my 550 MB of files, and that was all I could do for the day.


Phone pain: iOS
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So I'm stuck with the iPhone 5S, at least for the moment. I might as well try it out in more detail. I had already reset everything, so I set it up again, which was not quite as painful as last time. This time I read some of the stuff that I skipped last time, including touch ID. And how about that, with my fingerprint I can bypass all this emetic password entry! It took me a while to realize that I needed to hold the finger over the Home button (the unmarked button at the bottom), and that I really needed a thumbprint and not the print of my index finger). That seems to work, and it saves a lot of pain. How reliable is it? What happens if somebody else presents a photocopy of my thumb?

It also signed me up for all sorts of things I don't (currently) want, including iCloud, whatever that may be. And I got another stupid mail message:

Your Apple ID (appleid@lemis.com) was used to sign in to iCloud on an iPhone 5s.

Date and Time:13 December 2016, 9:37 PM PST
Operating System:iOS 10.1.1

If the information above looks familiar, you can disregard this email.

No, that doesn't look familiar at all. I wasn't aware of having signed in to iCloud, certainly not in an incorrect time zone. But the device is correct, and the time (once converted) seems to make sense, so probably it was I. But once again there is no location or IP address information. Blessed are the the poor in spirit, for they shall prop up Apple's bottom line.


ALDI SIM registration
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I went out and spent big on a new SIM card for the iPhone 5S: $5 for ALDI's best. And once again I had fun trying to access their appalling web site. I have had an account with them for several years (how long? They don't keep track of the years, so it's hard to tell from there, but it seems that I've had fun in the past in June 2014 and a few months back). On the second occasion I had to reset my password, because they had changed the rules and my current password no longer worked, and they would not tell me the rules they required to limit the difficulty of a brute-force attack.

Today the password still worked, but that seemed to confuse the system:


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I didn't need to update the password, but the fact that I had two SIM cards already didn't impress it very much: I had to re-enter all information, including my Medicare number. It still wasn't impressed:


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So I had to do a dummy debit from my credit card and report the sum that they debited. It appeared to succeed, but my bank wasn't impressed: no indication of a debit. Another thing that will have to wait until tomorrow.

How I hate ALDI Mobile!


The daily Trump
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Only yesterday I wrote:

... it requires the skills of a seasoned diplomat, not a ruthless businessman. Hopefully the USA will get a good Secretary of State, and Trump will let him do his job without too much interference.

So whom did he appoint? Rex Tillerson, the CEO of one of the USA's largest corporations, and the first nominee for the position with no diplomatic experience. God help us. Hopefully the US Senate will reject the appointment.


Thursday, 15 December 2016 Dereel Images for 15 December 2016
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Trying out the new driveway
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

Chris Bahlo along this morning to bring a few horses to eat down the grass round the dam, including “Little Al”:


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This was also the first time we had a trailer go round the new driveway. It needs to be taken wide:


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World travelers return
Topic: general Link here

Garry Mariott is back from the second stage of his multiyear trip round Australia. Diane wasn't with him: her mother (94 years old) is dying, and she was visiting her. After that they'll be off again, but they're planning to return home in October next year.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Despite the advent of summer, there are a number of flowers around:


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Moving the goldfish
Topic: gardening, animals Link here

We've had our goldfish in a bathtub in front of the house for over a year, and the crystal clear water then has changed somewhat, particularly in the last few weeks. Here then and now:


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And yes, those goldfish are dead. No wonder with that water.

We had intended to transplant them into the trough round the “verandah” to be once we had finished it, but after over a year we still can't make up our minds what to do with the area. So we decided it was time to put the fish in the trough anyway, and we can move them out temporarily when (if?) the work starts. It was a fair amount of work, mainly dividing the enormous clumps of vegetation:


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We don't have pots for most of them, so they're lying at all angles. But things seem on the way to improvement, and if goldfish have emotions, I'm sure they're happy about the change. Here's before and after. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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Android: next firmware attempt
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The firmware download for my Samsung GT-I9100T finally completed, but I still wasn't really happy. What is it? It's not the official release for Australia. More searching, and I found something that looked more plausible. The link took me to another file on rapidgator.net, along with the silly Captchas and slow download, but at least it looked more convincing. Another day of waiting, made easier by all the other things I had to do.


The daily Trump
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

So it seems that China has decided to install missiles on its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Why? Yes, the islands are not only disputed, they have been declared illegal by the Permanant Court of Arbitration. China has refuted the authority of the court, but until now had done nothing further. Now Donald Trump has annoyed them, and I've mentioned a couple of times that wars can be started inadvertently by stupid actions of people like Trump. I don't see that coming immediately; I think this is just sabre-rattling. But it seems that every day his actions cause new problems.


Friday, 16 December 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Enfield → Dereel
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Visiting Eureka
Topic: general, animals Link here

Off this morning with Nikolai (and Yvonne and Sasha) to Eureka Village Hostel. It's becoming routine now, and there wasn't much to report.


More Anigozanthos
Topic: gardening, general Link here

On the way home, dropped in in Enfield to pick up some Anigozanthos plants from Petra Gietz. By coincidence she lives in Inglewood Drive, exactly across the road from the property we nearly bought in March 2013. I even took a photo of her house at the time:


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The daily Trump disaster
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

One of the few positive things I had hoped for from the Donald Trump disaster was that he appears to be less interested in supporting conflicts outside the USA. In particular, it would be good for the USA to stop propping up Israël's illegal occupation of Palestine. Today he dashed even that hope: he appointed David M. Friedman (a name so well-known that I had to add it to Wikipedia), as ambassador to Israel. In this case, nomen non est omen: to quote the New York Times, he is “a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right”, and he has already signaled confrontation with an intention to move the US Embassy to “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem”.

And of course, if that were not already obvious, he has no diplomatic experience. Even the Israeli newspaper Haaretz stated “He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist.”

Electoral College, are you listening?


iPhone: success!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Two days ago I went through a bizarre method of authentication to register the SIM card for my iPhone: they were to deduct a small sum from my credit card, and I was to use this sum as evidence that I exist (or at least that I am an entity having access to my bank statements). That went ahead, and the system acknowledged that it had debited something from my credit card.

But my bank didn't want to know. Plenty of other transactions, but nothing from ALDI. After two days, finally called them up and spoke to a human, who was able to complete the transaction. About the only issue we had was the phone number: yes, I can transfer the phone number, but then I lose the $5 credit I had on the new SIM. And I can't transfer back again: I would need to buy yet another SIM (and lose another $5). So it made more sense to use up the credit on the new card, and then decide if I wanted to transfer the number (to another new SIM).

As it happened, the number I was assigned actually looks better than the one I had. The old one is 0401 265 606, which I remember as interleaved 250 and 666. But the new one is 0490 494 038, much easier to remember: UNIVAC 490 UNIVAC 494 (coincidentally one of my favourite computers) and the interrupt vector address for the 0xff instruction on the Intel 8080, 0x38.

Can I make a call with it. Yes! After finding my way through the menu system (it offered me “Favorites”, of which I had none), found the number pad. It only took me 6 days.

In the evening, used the thing to display the recipe I was cooking. It wasn't easy typing in the URL; even when I had got as far as lemis.com, it kept suggesting different domain names. And when I had my home page (http://www.lemis.com/grog/), I couldn't find a way to get from there to http://www.lemis.com/grog/recipes/ayam-lemak.php. There's probably a way, but it's not obvious intuitive. And the fact remains: the tiny screen is almost useless. Good in an emergency, but you'd have to be masochistic to want to use it.


Rendang paste: no thanks
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Today cooked another of the paste mixtures I bought on Monday, a rendang, also from Suntraco. Boring. And like the other one, not enough salt. But it's too pedas for Yvonne, so I don't see myself buying anything further.


Saturday, 17 December 2016 Dereel Images for 17 December 2016
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More garden beds
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along today to do more work, including planting plants on the mound in the middle of the new driveway. We're planning to cover the whole mound in Carpobrotus, which grow fast, suppress weeds, and are easily removed when needed. He also planted yesterday's Anigozanthos and a Leucospermum cordifolium that has been waiting for a spot for months.


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Unfortunately, Mick misunderstood the purpose of the Carpobrotus, and now it's interleaved with the Anigozanthos:


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Still, the place looks very different already:


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And if the Carpobrotus take off the way I hope, it'll look different again by the autumn.


Garden flowers in early summer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It's well past the middle of the month, time for the monthly garden flower photos. One disappointment were the roses, which look considerably worse than last month:


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I suspect that they need more water, something that we need to look at soon.

The Cannas are doing well. In particular, they're coming much more strongly than last year:


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The Hebes are also starting to flower:


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And as previously mentioned, the Strelitziae reginae are doing better than ever before:


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Other flowers are doing well, though some have issues with the wind:


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And the lilies I planted in the winter are flowering, some of them nearly finished:


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The Senna aciphylla that we transplanted a month ago looks rather the way I expected. The first photo was taken last month:


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But it is developing new shoots, so it may survive:


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Android? iOS?
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Peter Jeremy has bought one of the ALDI Android tablets that I bought last month. He's actually less happy with it than I was, for completely unrelated reasons: it seems it's really slow, and the battery has a very limited life. Maybe there is an issue with the batteries: after all, I returned mine because it wouldn't charge at all, though at the time I blamed it on Instagram. But speed? Somehow not a thing that I have noticed one way or another with portable devices. And it's not as if he's playing games or similar: just launching an app, it seems, is too slow.

The other thing that Peter didn't like was the image quality. Image quality? Ah, right, these things have a camera in them. What about the iPhone? Found out how to take photos with it. That was straightforward enough. Now how do I get them to my computer? After not trying too hard, found the modern way: send them to myself as an email attachment. To groggyhimself@lemis.com? No, that was too much trouble. But I could send to Gmail. Isn't that the modern way to do things? And of course I was asked if I really wanted to send the images, or just thumbnails. Still, it got through.


Your mail ID has been used!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Using Gmail for sending my photos (why did I need to log in? Why, did I need to log in?) brought another of these silly messages from Google:

 
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What earthly use is that? Last week I ranted about the lack of useful information in a warning about this kind of login. Now, at any rate, they haven't included useless information: they have included no information whatsoever, just a bit of advertising. What use is that? Why do they bother?


iPhone image quality
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Once I got the images, I put them through my normal work flow, using DxO Optics “Pro”, which knew all about the “camera”, and did image correction, showing it to be one of the few lenses I know with pincushion distortion. Here the original and as processed. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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In fact, the images are surprisingly good. The lighting of the scene is quite complicated, and I suspect that Apple is doing quite a bit of processing internally. I should do some more comparisons.


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

Pene Kirk over for dinner tonight, tournedos Rossini Henri IV (we couldn't find a substitute for foie gras). Food was excellent, and we had lots of fun. Pene was in a talkative mood and told us some interesting stories.


Sunday, 18 December 2016 Dereel Images for 18 December 2016
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Copying: a non-word
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Copying files from my iPhone to my computer was suboptimal at best: send them round the world and back again. But Edwin Groothuis and Daniel O'Connor gave me another suggestion: it seems that if you plug the USB cable into a Microsoft or Apple computer, it just shows up as a file system.

OK, but let's try FreeBSD first.

Dec 18 09:53:00 eureka kernel: ugen0.4: <Apple Inc.> at usbus0
Dec 18 09:53:00 eureka root: Unknown USB device: vendor 0x05ac product 0x12a8 bus uhub3

That's not exactly an out-of-box success, though I'm surprised that the system doesn't recognize the device. So try with dischord. Sure enough, it showed up:


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But that's not a file system, and when I clicked on the image, I got an empty screen—not even an error message. Time to Google. This page, from Apple, explains the error of my ways: you don't copy files any more, you import them, and they're not files, they're photos and videos. Ugh.

It led me to this page, also using this stupid terminology. It seems that I have to power on the device and specifically allow access:


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Then I was offered limited access to the file system. This “mobile device” access is something like a second-rate citizen: the file system is there, but it's not anchored into the Microsoft hierarchy, so tools like COMMAND.EXE can't find them, especially since I haven't found a way to select multiple images: clicking on them opens them. Instead you need to drag, which is a real drag if there are lots of them. I must find out what is behind the connection. One of these silly Picture Transfer Protocol things? It seems inappropriate for what appears to be a complete view of the file system, but then maybe it isn't. After all, showing the user what he has is not modern. One of the many things I need to understand.


Updating iPhone firmware, again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I only upgraded the firmware on my iPhone last week, not surprising in view of the fact that I had just got it. And today I was asked again. Is this a coincidence, or do they bring out weekly updates? As before, the update was successful, but I had to enter my password again! Why? No idea. At first I thought it had deleted the fingerprints, but they're still there. And once again I had to go through far too many setup functions again before I could use it. And once again indications of access restrictions:


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So they have deliberately restricted access. What about devices that can't be upgraded? Somehow this is all more pain than it is worth.


Updating Android firmware, yet again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So now I have the firmware for my Samsung GT-I9100T. All I need to do is transfer it to the phone, and I have the instructions for that. But that includes downloading a USB driver and an upgrade program. The instructions refer to an Odin3_v3.07 Flasher tool and a Samsung Galaxy S2 USB driver, both ultimately leading to rapidgator.net, which I am leaning to hate with a passion. Downloading the driver gave me continual advertising popups that obscured what I was trying to do, and at one point it claimed that my Captcha had expired, and I had to wait 60 minutes. Later, with no further activity, it was increased to 120 minutes. Finally I got the bloody thing, and with some misgivings attempted to install it. Already there! Grrr!

On with Odin. That, too, was difficult to install, and finally I gave up and found this page, which didn't do silly things. But the size was wrong! Rapidgator had offered a file of some 7 MB, and this one was only 460 kB. But it was correct. Who knows what malware Rapidgator has put in their version?

So finally I had what I needed: driver, firmware and utility. What's missing? The documentation, of course; this is a modern program. But it looks like it's going to work.

So why didn't I try it? Based on everything that has happened so far, it's not going to be straightforward, so I put it off until I have at least 2 hours of uninterrupted time.


Updating MythTV
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Yet another pain is MythTV, which has been so painful that I haven't done anything about it in months. But one issue is that it currently saves the recordings as MPEG transport streams, which don't have correct elapsed time information. My attempts to run it manually failed with some obscure error hidden deep in some disinterested library.

So today I ran mythtv-setup to try to get it to run automatically after recording. I'm not convinced I was successful, but after that the backend was catatonic. How to stop? There's a program called mythshutdown, so I ran that. It shut down the computer into a catatonic state, and I had to press the Big Red Button. And then, of course, I booted the wrong image. I must find out how to set the default boot partition on the current incarnation of GRUB (hint: currently it's /dev/hda8).


Monday, 19 December 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 December 2016
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Power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning at 10:27, one of those rare failures that is neither instantaneous nor prolonged. I had time to get the generator started and roll out the power cable when the power came back.


GPS on iPhone
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Today I had to go to Ballarat for yet another doctor's appointment. Time to try out GPS apps on the iPhone.

I found one last week before I reset it to factory defaults, but I've forgotten what it was called. How do I find it again? Impossible. In fact, finding anything on this tiny screen is impossible. How can I access the App Store from a real computer? You'd think Apple would have a method, since they sell real computers too. But they seem to have identity issues between the App Store and iTunes, and the best I could find was this page. At least it has categories, like Navigation. But that only presents an unsorted list of apps with no further information. At top right there's a link “View Navigation in iTunes”, which leads you to an install page

And when I did, I got an unexpected message:


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That is about 150 km away. Surely location services can do better than that. Is that maybe where one of the gateway machines is located?

Installing iTunes didn't help. How about that? It only offers music and videos. OK, back to the original link View Navigation in iTunes. Nope, it still offers to install it for me, though it's installed. Dead End.

Then somehow I found this page, which at least shows some details. But how did I get there? No idea. It's really amazingly difficult to find things. So I moved to the iPhone and tried downloading some of them. It wanted my password again! But it seems only once, and because I had upgraded the firmware. Others confirmed that this only happened about every other month, so it's (barely) bearable.

Ended up installing Sygic, Waze and Google Maps (shouldn't that be there automatically?) Waze is completely confusing, and of course none of these apps offer anything like help (they may have it, but they don't offer it). So this display is neither what I expected nor what I understand:


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The two I ended up starting (which? without a window title it's difficult to tell). I think they might have been Sygic and Google Maps. As it happened, I needed to find my way to 4 Vine St in Ballarat, where I had never been before. Both guided me there, one with a female voice, one with a male voice. But neither are easy to use: I really needed to enter the name exactly via the horrible keyboard. When I entered “Vine Rd” instead of “Vine St”, it didn't complain—it just took me to a random place in Doveton St. And one (Sygic?) took something like 30 seconds to locate the address, and if I didn't wait for it, it just reverted to the previous address. Neither of these would have happened with my dedicated navigator: after entering “Vin” it automatically shows all matches (Vincent Ct, Vincent Dr, Vine Pl, Vine St).

Once again I'm left amazed at how bad mobile phone GPS apps are. I've used Sygic before, and I was relatively happy with it then. But the price was astronomical. What's it like now? I ended up with this anonymous claim:


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What does that relate to? It doesn't seem to come from Apple Maps or Google Maps. Waze maybe, whatever that is? I suppose I'll find out. Something kept displaying “7 days to go” at the top of the screen, conveniently on various screens. But my el-cheapo standalone navigator may be clunky, but address entry is vastly simpler: select town, street and number in separate steps, with name completion at all stages. Why are the smart phone apps so hard to use?


Doctor visit
Topic: health Link here

The visit with the doctor (Paul Smith) was routine, to discuss the results of my eye examination. Paul was at least interested in the cause of the problem, but we decided it was probably the result of over-exertion. That's a good excuse next time somebody asks me to do some work that I don't want to do.

Also had another vaccination, this time for Diptheria and Pertussis, and possibly something else. It seems strange to do that at my time of life, but Paul says that it can happen to older people too, and I could end up being a carrier.


Repairing mobile phones
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On Saturday Chris Bahlo brought me another mobile phone, her last Samsung. It failed on her watch: it seems that the charging circuitry failed. It's a considerably better one than the GT-I9100T that I'm trying to re-flash, but clearly replacing parts is beyond my ability. So I looked up repair places, and came up with no less than two of them, iAdrenalin and Ballarat iPhones. Despite the name, both of them also do Samsung, and they're both located at 4 Vine Street, which is a residential address and the reason for my search described above. Along to take a look. As expected, one man (David), two companies, though the card he gave me was for Ballarat iPhones. He thinks a repair will be worthwhile, and will check.

I also asked him about re-flashing the I9100. Yes, Odin3_v3.07 Flasher is the way to go. He's not interested in doing it himself—he can't be sure it will work, and he doesn't want dissatisfied customers. Only partially encouraging.


More Trump
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump has been relatively quiet in the last couple of days, maybe to avoid fanning the flames of people trying to convince the Electoral College to disendorse him. But he did manage to voice his opinion that China should keep the underwater drone that they captured a couple of days ago. Some claim that this will further antagonize them; somehow I don't see that. Still, he'll find something else.

More cartoons, of course. Someone on Quora asked what the Irish think of him. Pretty much what everybody outside the USA thinks of him. I particularly liked this one:


Tuesday, 20 December 2016 Dereel Images for 20 December 2016
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Reviving Galaxy S2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Finally found time to re-flash the Samsung GT-I9100T. I've been planning it for a week, but finally I had all the pieces together and the time for something to go wrong. I followed this page, which could do with some improvement, but basically is correct. Here's the procedure:

  1. Download Odin3 and maybe the Samsung Galaxy S2 USB driver. The latter URL points to rapidgator.net, which I strongly recommend avoiding, but I haven't found (or needed to find) an alternative site.

  2. Download the firmware. Here again, sadly, I was taken to rapdigator, but finally managed the download.

  3. The firmware file will be in zip format, for some reason, since the only useful content is a tar file. Unzip it and you should end up with something like the following files:

    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/32) /src/Firmware 45 -> unzip -l I9100-XSA-LSH-20130226.zip
    Archive:  I9100-XSA-LSH-20130226.zip
      Length      Date    Time    Name
    ---------  ---------- -----   ----
    982784077  02-26-2013 13:42   I9100XWLSH_I9100XSALSA_I9100XXLS9_HOME.tar.md5
       276480  02-26-2013 13:45   SS_DL.dll
    ---------                     -------
    983060557                     2 files
  4. Making sure that the phone is not connected to the computer, start Odin3:


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    Select options “Auto Reboot” and “F. Reset Time” on middle left (the instructions claim they're on the right), and ensure that the rest are not set:

     
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  5. Select PDA on the right and find a way to enter the file name (here moved to dischord):

     
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    Odin3 then checks the firmware file and confirms (hopefully) the consistency:

     
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  6. Select “Start” at bottom centre.

  7. Set the phone to download mode: press keys Volume Down, OK (button at bottom) and Power On. Here the image from the instructions:

    The phone then displays this screen:


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  8. Press Volume Up and connect the USB cable to the computer. The display changes to:


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    The cyan bar at the bottom is a progress indicator; at the beginning it's empty.

After about 10 minutes, including pauses for photos, it was done, and the Telstra emblem was gone: the update had gone without a hitch. The fun started when I tried to set up the phone. It refused my email ID! So I tried online from a real computer:

 
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It didn't want to know that I wasn't in the USA. Found a site relating to Australia, but I still wasn't out of the woods. Another site that wants to tell me what characters to use:

 
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Apart from the abject stupidity and incorrect grammar (of course passwords can contain repeated or consecutive characters; they'll just be rejected), what does this mean?

The only special characters that can be used are those available by default on the keyboard.

In any case, thought out a password that fitted those criteria: “Easy to crack”. Rejected. Are spaces maybe not available by default on the keyboard? No, “Easytocrack” also fails. Finally Samsung1diots was accepted. So it seems that it requires at least one digit in the password, not what the page says.

But I still wasn't there. It rejected my email address! Time to call Samsung on 1300 362 603, where of course they couldn't help beyond (after confirming name and address) that they already had an email address for me, my canonical one. Of course: they sent me an email the other day for returning the phone. So I signed in under that and it worked. She gave me a reference number for the talk, 8210007884. As I said, “That's not a valid password!”. At least I got a laugh out of her.

How long did it take? I didn't keep notes, but my cameras and images did:

Time       Action
08:34:52       Start Odin3
08:36:54       Start flashing
08:45:08       Flash complete, upgrading
08:47:03       Start setup
08:58:21       Give up account creation attempt, try computer
09:08:35       Call Samsung
09:25:15       End call Samsung

In summary, then, the re-flashing took about 10 minutes, and the setup took 40 minutes to the point where I could start loading apps from the toyshop. Aren't modern devices fun?

So: time to tell Samsung I don't need to return the phone for service. How do I do that? The email was from a no-reply email address (why do they do that?), and there was no information in the message about how to contact them by email. Oh well: they'll find out somehow.


DxO ViewPoint 3 understood
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My ticket about DxO ViewPoint release 3 is now over three weeks old. For once, the ball is in my court: it seems that the functionality that I missed (specifically, automatic cropping) is present, but only if you use the default “presets” (collections of configuration parameters). I have my own, and they don't want to know. I can't even find a way of updating them. And clearly annoying myself with DxO support is not going to help much.

But these “presets” are stored in XML format. Time to compare them and see what I need to tweak. How hard can it be?

Well, this is on dischord, a Microsoft box, so most of the tools are missing. I have Cygwin, but it distorts my view of the Microsoft hierarchy to a point where I can't find my way about. Emacs doesn't, but it doesn't make comparison that easy. In particular, the saved “presets” don't have the same indentation as the original. OK, let's make a copy of C:\Users\Grog\AppData\Local\ on eureka.

It took a surprisingly long time. But that's only surprising because I wasn't expecting the hierarchy to contain nearly 50 GB of data, including cache files up to 2½ years old from two older versions of DxO Optics “Pro”. Time to clean up this mess. Is that what Microsoft means by removing old Internet files? It seems unlikely, but what do I understand?

In any case, took another look at the configuration files. They've really gone to great lengths to make it impossible to discern what needs tweaking. This one goes on my impressively large tuit queue.


Merry Christmas to all!
Topic: general Link here

It's Christmas time, and we've created our annual Christmas message. Merry Christmas to all. If you know me and didn't get an email, send me mail and I'll add you to the list next year.


Photos for Christmas letter
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Our annual Christmas message includes a photo of Yvonne and myself at the top, along with as many animals as we can keep still. This year we decided to do it inside, which ultimately worked out acceptably:


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But that was photo 28 of a total of 29 attempts. The photos were taken with the studio flash in the dining room, which isn't really aimed at the area we were sitting in, and despite claims from the light meter, everything was significantly underexposed. Postprocessing helped, but this is what the original looked like:


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That's a pity, because when I went to improve the lighting, Piccola escaped, so we ended up with only the dogs.

And one of the photos looks very much like I got the wrong shutter speed:


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How did that happen? It looks for all the world like a shutter malfunction.


Reviving plants
Topic: gardening Link here

Over the winter a number of our plants suffered. Our miniature lime tree lost most of its leaves, at least partially because of parasites. We planted it outside mainly in a last-ditch attempt to save it. But how about that, it's getting new leaves:


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And the curry tree that I've been coddling for years also suffered badly in the winter, losing nearly all its leaves. I didn't dare show photos of it for fear of condemnation by Peter Jeremy, who gave it to me nearly 7 years ago. But in the last few weeks it has recovered greatly. Here the first timid shoots last month, and what has grown out of them by today:


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And finally there's the Senna aciphylla, which I showed last week. Gradually the shoots are taking the shape of leaves:


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Trumped!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

So the Electoral College have spoken—the bastards. It seems that only two electors voted against what was expected of him. So for better or (probably) worse, we're lumbered with an idiot in one of the most powerful positions in the world. God help us.


Block Pirate Bay
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

The Australian Federal Court has ruled that Australian ISPs must block access to The Pirate Bay.

On the face of it, that makes sense. The Pirate Bay assists copyright infringement. And the Federal Court rules that the copyright owners should come up with the funding for blocking it.

But does it really makes sense? A number of things suggest that it doesn't:

  1. What is copyright? Is it still a valid concept in its 20th century invocation? At the moment I have a choice when watching films for: free-to-air TV or download the video. I'm omitting things like Netflix and pay TV, because they're not free. But in the case of free TV, the same programs are being broadcast. Sure, the TV channels (or their advertisers) are paying royalties, but that doesn't affect me, especially if I have technology to skip over the commercials. This is a similar issue to the one of access to copyrighted books: the Oxford English Dictionary is very expensive even for private users, but in may parts of the world (including Australia) it's available for free from the local public library.

  2. Is The Pirate Bay the correct target? They just publish information on where to get the material. If they go away, the same information will be distributed by other channels. To do it correctly, you need to block the myriads of individual sites that distribute the files themselves.

  3. How do you block them? Replacements can spring up like flowers after rain in the desert. It seems that the Federal Court has left that to the ISPs. From the reference above:

    It could be DNS blocking, blocking IP addresses, URL blocking or any other technical methods which are mutually agreed to by ISPs and rights holders.

    Let's consider the alternatives.

    1. DNS blocking. That requires access to the DNS servers. Yes, most people use the DNS servers allocated by their ISPs. But how quickly will people realize that there are alternatives? The ISPs can block port 53 (DNS), but that would just mean running DNS over a different port. That makes things more difficult, but not difficult.

    2. IP blocking. Simple: change your IP or use a tunnel. Again, the ISPs can block the secondary IPs used as the target of a tunnel, but how much work will that be?

    3. URL blocking is similar. It seems to assume that the ISP has some influence over web access (a proxy server, for example). It would seem bypassing that is as simple as not using the ISP proxy server.

For many, the ruling might be interesting for this statement:

The Federal Court handed down its judgement yesterday afternoon, also ordering that ISPs block similar bittorrent websites Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and streaming service SolarMovie.

I have heard of The Pirate Bay. I hadn't heard of the others. So now they're getting free advertising.

In any case, the first ISPs have reacted. Here's what Telstra has to say:

The message you are receiving around Content Denied where you have tried to access a website is not in relation to any Telstra issue or fault. Access to this website has been disabled by an order of the Federal Court of Australia because it infringes or facilitates the infringement of Copyright.

The first question I ask here is whether this text passes the Turing Test.


More mobile phone GPS apps
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On several occasions I have compared the navigation apps available for mobile phones with the software on my el-cheapo GPS navigator, almost invariably unfavourably. But the same software, iGO, is available for Samsung phones (only). Tried downloading it today. It's really difficult to use it outside a car: in the house there's no GPS coverage, and outside it's too bright. But it seems to work quite similarly to the way it does on the dedicated navigator. It's free, but the maps cost—about $27 for Australia. That might even be worth it, but the question is whether the phone version offers anything that the standalone version doesn't. Display size is definitely in favour of the standalone version.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016 Dereel
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Planning Christmas
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

What's Christmas? According to The Shovel, it's Santa's birthday. According to Tom Lehrer, it's a commercial festival. According to most Christians, it's the birthday of Jesus Christ. And of course for children around the world, even if they know nothing of Christianity, they know that Christmas means presents.

And for me? I'm not Christian, and my interests in presents on a specific day (“Relations sparing no expense'll buy some useless old utensil”) have long waned. But I was brought up in the British Christian tradition, and I enjoyed the ceremony and music, and even the food.

And there's the problem. Somehow going carol singing with outside temperatures in the mid-20s doesn't seem appropriate, as shown by last weekend's gathering in Ballarat. And the idea of midnight mass or carol festivals no longer attracts. Most people in Australia seem to think the same way. Many don't even know when Christmastide is: ABC Classic FM recently sent out mail messages for the 12 days of Christmas, starting on 5 December, the Monday after the second Sunday in Advent. What confusion caused them to do that? Is it an off-by-one confusion of Christmas and Saint Nicholas Day?

So what remains is the music and the food. British Christmas carols can be fun, though there's better music, like Bach's Christmas Oratorio. But I still like a British-style Christmas dinner—after all, it's only once a year. In our family we have always followed the German tradition in one thing: Christmas dinner is in the evening of the 24th, not lunch on the 25th. That way you can just fall into bed and digest.

Yvonne was not brought up in that tradition, and she can't find anything useful in it. We've come to a compromise: no Christmas pudding, maybe a Stollen or Bûche instead. And no ham—the last few times we had ham for Christmas, it was boring. Goose? Very hard to find, and quite difficult to cook correctly. So turkey it is, at least for me. I have to convince Yvonne every year, but in fact in the last ten years we've only cooked turkey twice according to my voluminous records (24 December 2006 and 24 December 2013).

So Yvonne brought back a turkey with her from Ballarat. Just shy of 4 kg, once the magic weight below which the turkeys were too young to taste any good. But she couldn't find anything between 4 kg and 6.5 kg, while there were birds as small as 3.2 kg, barely more than what passes for a chicken nowadays. It's “self basting”, which hopefully doesn't mean too many inappropriate additives. We'll see.


Trump encourages the lawbreakers
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

So now the disaster is complete: Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States of America. And my hopes have been dashed that he would put Israel in its place and convince them to abide by international law. Instead, as the Jerusalem Post reports, Benyamin Netanyahu said:

We will continue to strengthen and develop settlements, and I want to make clear: There is not, nor will there be, a government that gives more support to settling and cares more about settling than this government we in the Likud lead, This will continue.

Netanyahu, this is a breach of international law! And if people complain about the Russians vetoing decisions about Syria in the UN Security Council, they should be equally concerned about the US abuse of its veto power regarding Israel. Then not even a Trump could help them continue in their violations. But under the current circumstances, they're clearly encouraged by him.


Finally! Display smart phone on external monitor
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While trawling through web pages on Android, I came across this one (their bold text):

The Screen Mirroring feature lets you wirelessly beam your photos, videos, presentations, or even your video games to your big screen.

Sounds excellent. Butt then you read on and discover:

You can connect to any HDTV using the AllShare Cast Wireless Hub for TV models earlier than 2013 (F Series), or you can connect directly to a supported Samsung Smart TV (newer models).

SCREAM! Why do they have to invent something different and restrictive instead of using conventional, more flexible technology? I think the answer is clear: sell the AllShare Cast Wireless Hub or Samsung Smart TVs. They don't seem to realize that offering flexible connectivity would sell far more Samsung mobile phones, something they definitely need to do after the Galaxy Note 7 disaster.


Thursday, 22 December 2016 Dereel Images for 22 December 2016
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Colic!
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne in early this morning with the news that Gabriella was looking sick, potentially colic. Indeed she didn't look good, so Yvonne called Pene Kirk, who wasn't available, so we called up the Golden Plains Vet Practice, who sent out Sigrid (apparently from somewhere in The Netherlands) to take a look at her:


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Yes, colic. She gave her some treatment and instructions to contact her again in the afternoon if things weren't looking better. They were, but not good enough, and we called and were given new criteria to call them up. It wasn't until about 20:30 that she started looking uncomfortable again, and she still hadn't passed anything, so we called Chris Bahlo, who came along with her float (trailer). We were just about to load her when we discovered that she had passed some droppings, maybe enough. So we postponed that to tomorrow morning.


Getting to the vet
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The vet hospital is in Lethbridge, not a place I was even able to place accurately (it's between Ballarat and Bannockburn on the Midland Highway). How do we get there? With the aid of a GPS navigator, of course. I've been fighting navigation software for years, but in this case I just set up a route with my trusty el-cheapo navigator. Looking at Google Maps was instructive, though. Many of my friends on IRC think that it's good enough. Even Google puts in a disclaimer that the system is in beta, and well they may.

It seems that the best way there is really via Mount Mercer and Shelford. But there are alternatives, and Google Maps picked them at random. Here's the first attempt on a computer:

 
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What's missing here? The normal route from Dereel, via Rokewood. From where we live, in the north of Dereel, there are arguments for the route via Mount Mercer. But the Rokewood alternative isn't so bad that it should be omitted. It's certainly a better route than those via Ballarat or via Meredith, both of which were on the recommendation: Ballarat is nearly 20 km longer, and the road to Meredith includes a very twisty, poorly surfaced area which a good navigator should eliminate based on preferences.

Never mind, it reconsidered and added that route—sort of. But it clearly didn't like the road (admittedly, it's quite a boring drive), so it took me off the road on two sides of a triangle via Barunah Park, a place that neither I nor Wikipedia have ever heard of:


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This was clearly a momentary indiscretion that it didn't repeat (instead it dropped the route entirely), and I wasn't able to save the entire route, but the complete window shows the start and end locations.

What about the smart phones? It would be boring for them to show the same way, wouldn't it? The Android version showed the same paths as the computer version, but the iOS version showed only the Rokewood route and the Ballarat route, neither of the ones through the middle:


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This is the same program! But you'd have to know it; the appearance is completely different.


Retailing for dummies
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Posted on IRC:


Friday, 23 December 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 23 December 2016
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Gabriella still sick
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne out first thing this morning to find Gabriella still looking unwell, so she arranged to (finally) take her to Lethbridge. Transport in Chris Bahlo's enormous float (trailer) posed its problems:


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To GCC
Topic: general Link here

Taking Gabriella to Lethbridge meant that Yvonne couldn't go to her weekly visit to the Geoffrey Cutter Centre, so I had to stand in. I've been there before, but that was a while back. Compared to the Eureka Village Hostel some of the residents are in much worse condition, and it was difficult to see the pleasure that Sasha apparently caused to some of them; only the nurse confirmed (correctly, I hope) that they were happy to see him. I still can't imagine being in their place.


Navigation and Android repairs
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Going to town gave me another opportunity of testing some navigation apps, made necessary because Chris had taken my navigator to Lethbridge with her. For various reasons, it was not a success:

In passing, it's interesting to note an issue with the Samsung GT-I9100T: the battery life is ridiculously short. When the GPS receiver is enabled, it's less than an hour. And recharging takes forever. That's one area where the iPhone is greatly superior. After coming out of the GCC, the Samsung (which I accidentally left on in the car) was down to 13% battery, and dropped further while I drove round town, despite being on charge. The iPhone (which I deliberately left on in my shirt pocket) was down to 79%, which sounds more normal.

Is this normal? Or the fact that I'm using a cheap aftermarket battery? Or the fact that I'm using the wrong cheap aftermarket battery? I'm not overly worried, but it's a significant difference.


Trump: Build settlements and nukes!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

I've already expressed my concern about Donald Trump's policy towards Israel. But things are getting worse. It seems that there was a draft resolution before the UN Security Council to condemn Israel's building of settlements. But Egypt, who presented the resolution, withdrew it again—according to this report as a result of pressure by Israel and Trump. Others are prepared to carry the torch, but from my perspective the real issue is that Trump is once again aiding international law-breaking.

As if that wasn't enough, the Putin/Trump mutual admiration society (clearly Putin is the senior partner) have both come out in favour of more nuclear weapons. To quote a Trump tweet (as the Germans would say, “Bei ihm piept's”):

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclean capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

This sounds like “The bombings will continue until morale improves”. What is this idiot (the latter of the two) going to do right?


More relay board fun
Topic: technology, gardening, opinion Link here

The weather is getting hotter—today we had a maximum temperature of 34°, and the toy sprinkler controller is not working correctly. It's high time I got my new Ethernet-connected relay board working. I've located a program called RelayNet.exe, but the name is the only thing I recognize. It's in Chinese, and the display is only partially intelligible:


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Clearly the values on the left are IP address and (TCP) port number. But what does the rest mean? Can I decipher it anyway? Where do I find a competent Chinese-speaking programmer?


Saturday, 24 December 2016 Dereel Images for 24 December 2016
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Garden sprinklers
Topic: gardening, technology, opinion Link here

I still don't have my relay board working correctly, but I can't wait: today the temperature hit 35°, and there's more of same forecast. The garden needs watering. So I hacked something together to run the relays manually:


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That showed a number of unexpected problems. Apart from the hoses, which are still blowing apart at the joints, there were a number of badly mounted drippers, like this one:


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And a couple of the drippers themselves had blown apart, with spectacular results:


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