Greg
animals language
brewing multimedia
cooking music
fiction opinion
gardening photography
general technology
history
Greg's diary
February 2011
Translate this page
Select day:
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28
Select month in 2011:
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
Today's diary entry
Diary index
About this diary
Previous month
Next month
Greg's home page
Greg's photos
Network link stats
Greg's other links
Copyright information
    
Groogle

Tuesday, 1 February 2011 Dereel Images for 1 February 2011
Top of page
next day
last day

More fun building ports
Topic: technology Link here

Continued with building ports today. I've been through my first sweep of building the ones that build happily. Now I'm on to the ones that fail.

First was samba. Well, a dependency, OpenLDAP:

soelim: not found
*** Error code 127
Stop in /usr/ports/net/openldap24-client.
*** Error code 1

soelim is part of groff. And that's part of the base system. So what went wrong here? This one is my fault, I fear: at some point I had run into trouble with the build, and I turned off groff to work around it. So I had to go back and build it again. In the process, discovered that my automatic source tree updates hadn't run in two months, so ended up having to update the tree, build a new world and then continue.

Emacs also has pains:

(emacs:11706): GLib-WARNING **: In call to g_spawn_sync(), exit status of a child process was requested but SIGCHLD action was set to SIG_IGN and ECHILD was received by waitpid(), so exit status can't be returned. This is a bug in the program calling g_spawn_sync(); either don't request the exit status, or don't set the SIGCHLD action.
GConf Error: Failed to contact configuration server; some possible causes are that you need to enable TCP/IP networking for ORBit, or you have stale NFS locks due to a system crash. See http://projects.gnome.org/gconf/ for information. (Details -  1: Failed to get connection to session: Command line `dbus-launch --autolaunch=7d61a323d6deb69c9ac2aa0300002c7b --binary-syntax --close-stderr' exited with non-zero exit status 2655256: )

(emacs:11706): GLib-WARNING **: In call to g_spawn_sync(), exit status of a child process was requested but SIGCHLD action was set to SIG_IGN and ECHILD was received by waitpid(), so exit status can't be returned. This is a bug in the program calling g_spawn_sync(); either don't request the exit status, or don't set the SIGCHLD action.

No idea what it's trying to do there, but clearly it has something to go with GNOME. It seems to want larger parts of the GNOME environment. Maybe I should build with some other infrastructure. That way I might also get rid of this sacrilege where Emacs calls directories “folders”.

Apart from that, things went relatively smoothly, and the build went on all day.


The heat continues
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Another hot day today, almost 40°, and once again didn't do much.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011 Dereel
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Harassment: what's that?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm involved in the organization of two computer conferences at the moment: BSDCan and linux.conf.au for 2012, though as a result of auDA's “now you see me, now you don't” policy we've had to register another domain for linux.conf.au which will go away some time after the conference.

Both conferences are technical conferences about free software, but there's another connection this year: harassment policies. What's that? I had never heard of harassment at technical conferences before, but it seems that more and more people (presumably mainly female) feel harassed at this kind of conference. That's unfortunate, and clearly something should be done about it. But harassment has two sides: clearly it's unacceptable for anybody to overtly harass anybody else (independent of sex). But then there are cases where individuals feel harassed.

For example, think of somebody walking down a dark, empty street at night and being followed by somebody else. It's possible that they might feel vulnerable or endangered. But it's difficult to show whether the follower has any evil intentions. It happened to me once years ago; I was just returning home by foot, and I became aware of somebody ahead of me going in the same direction. Nobody else. It became clear to me that she was feeling threatened, which I found regrettable. But I had no intentions beyond getting home. How does an anti-harassment policy deal with that?

Then there are people who are offended by scenes of nudity or depicting the sexual act. Is that harassment? It would be if it were directed at them, but it seems that at the linux.conf.au 2011 last week one of the presentations showed images of dubious taste as examples, and people are still up in arms about it. I've seen a couple of the slides, and indeed I find them ugly. But it was relevant to the discussion, it seems. For example, if you present a paper on harassment (maybe something that will happen next year), how do you deal with the issue of examples? But in this case I've seen condemnation from people I respect and who saw the presentation.

But is that only harassment? The Oxford English Dictionary defines 3 current meanings for the verb harass:

  1. To trouble or vex by repeated attacks.

  2. To trouble, worry, distress with annoying labour, care, perplexity, importunity, misfortune, etc.

  3. techn. To scrape or rub.

Clearly our meaning here is (3) or (4). Both of these require attention to the individual, and that's not really what happened last week. Of course, this might just be an argument that the word harass is inappropriate here. But are people maybe getting a little over-sensitive? Decades ago, in Germany, it was common to see billboard advertisements depicting naked women, and I can't recall many complaints. That's gone away, but it seems that the pendulum has swung a surprising distance in the other direction.

Another thing: almost all of this appears to relate to sexual harassment. That's in keeping with the times: you can see films depicting the most gruesome slaughter, people's heads bursting open, blood and guts everywhere: masterworks of the special effects department. But when Janet Jackson accidentally exposed a nipple in public some years ago, half the USA was outraged, and the broadcaster was fined $550,000. Somehow that's unbalanced.

So, my view (and explicitly not the view of the committee of either conference): there are laws against harassment. Conference organizers should help enforce them. The conference web site should make this clear. And somehow we need to find a way to tell the hypersensitive delegates that there will be people there who don't share their sensitivities, and that while we'll do everything to make the conference fun, they should consider whether they can put up with the inevitable borderline bad behaviour. But do we need our own anti-harassment policy? Why? It can only mean that each conference defines “harassment” slightly differently.


Too hot for the garden
Topic: gardening, general Link here

The Bureau of Meteorology has been reporting a cool change for some time, and today they had originally forecast temperatures in the low 20s, but at the last moment they changed it to 31°. And we got 38.5°, too much to do much work in the garden. Confined myself to the verandah, where the vines and climbing roses needed a fair amount of attention.


More ports build fun
Topic: technology Link here

The fun with building ports continues. Another port died with an obscure error message:

===>   linux-f10-flashplugin-10.1r102.65 depends on file: /compat/linux/usr/lib/libcurl.so.4.1.1 - not found
===>    Verifying install for /compat/linux/usr/lib/libcurl.so.4.1.1 in /usr/ports/ftp/linux-f10-curl
===>  linux-f10-curl-7.19.6_1 bsd.linux-rpm.mk test failed: the port should be used with compat.linux.osrelease=2.6.16, which is supported at 8-CURRENT and has a limited support at 7-STABLE.
*** Error code 1

What does that mean? 8-CURRENT and 7-STABLE are old versions of FreeBSD (the current ones are 9-CURRENT and 8-STABLE), so at the very least this message is out of date. But what's compat.linux.osrelease? Looks like a sysctl, but I didn't have any sysctls at all starting with compat:

=== root@defake (/dev/ttypt) ~ 127 -> sysctl compat
=== root@defake (/dev/ttypt) ~ 128 -> echo $?
0

Did that mean that it didn't check whether the oid existed, or that there were none? Tried again and discovered:

=== root@defake (/dev/ttypt) ~ 129 -> sysctl foo
sysctl: unknown oid 'foo'
=== root@defake (/dev/ttypt) ~ 130 -> echo $?
1

So it recognizes the oid compat, but it didn't have any sysctls. On dereel, my old system (7.1-STABLE), things looked different:

=== root@dereel (/dev/ttyp9) ~ 323 -> sysctl compat
compat.linux.oss_version: 198144
compat.linux.osrelease: 2.4.2
compat.linux.osname: Linux

So this was the port's inimitable way of saying “You haven't loaded your Linux emulation kld, and I'm not going to do it for you”. Loaded the kld, and all was well.

Then the usual pain with Sun Oracle with their stupid licensing policy:

 Due to licensing restrictions, certain files must be fetched manually.

 Please open http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp
 in a web browser and follow the "Download" link for
 "JDK US DST Timezone Update Tool - 1_3_34" to obtain the
 time zone update file, tzupdater-1_3_34-2010o.zip.

 Please place the downloaded file(s) in /usr/ports/distfiles
 and restart the build.

These are time zone files, for God's sake! And they're probably derived from Robert Elz's work for BSD. What's so secretive about that?

Things went on and on; this Duron processor must be slower than the Athlon that I had before, and I was far from finished by the evening.


Thursday, 3 February 2011 Dereel Images for 3 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Ports: Done!
Topic: technology Link here

Continued with building ports today, with a few minor surprises. A couple of programs have been renamed. Mercifully, qtpfsgui has now been renamed to “luminance”, though the web site hasn't. And it built and built and built, taking 4 hours building lots of Qt packages—I can't get over the suspicion that some have been built multiple times over the last few days. And then there were the inevitable illegible messages:

 
This should be build-output-detail.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: build output detail
Dimensions: 512 x 284, 10 kB
Dimensions of original: 512 x 284, 10 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Thursday, 3 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

Here the author of the software (not necessarily phonon: it could be one of the build tools) has such a restricted view of the world that he can't imagine that anybody doesn't have light foreground and dark background, so he only sets the foreground.

Finally, though, it was done: I have built all my ports. That was the part that took the time, but now configuring the system will take a fair amount of my effort. Carola Schlanhoff is coming tomorrow, and we'll be busy with social stuff, so decided to postpone things for a while.


What infrastructure should ports build?
Topic: technology Link here

Some discussion on IRC today after discovering further ports that don't load the Linux kernel emulation when they need it to build. My view here is that this is a bug. One of the important features of the FreeBSD Ports Collection is:

Each “port” listed here contains any patches necessary to make the original application source code compile and run on FreeBSD.

This involves installing other software where necessary if the package requires it. For the most part this works well, and it's the reason that the luminance port took 4 hours to build: most of that was dependencies. So if the package requires a kernel module to run, the port should install that too, and also update /etc/rc.conf to load it automatically if it is not already set up that way.

But some people disagree. It seems that the word “kernel” makes all the difference. Install software, yes. But don't mess with the kernel? Why not? Arguably if /etc/rc.conf contains an explicit “don't load this module”, then the ports should fail with an appropriate error message. But does this happen? If I want to install, say, linux-f10-flashplugin, you'd think that I would accept Linux emulation as a prerequisite, and in general /etc/rc.conf only enables modules: they're all implicitly disabled in /etc/defaults/rc.conf, which reads in /etc/rc.conf to override its own settings.


Another view on silly buzzwords
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I've been irritated for some time by the silly terms the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has introduced to categorize bushfire danger: Low-moderate, High, Severe, Very high, Extreme and “Code Red”. What do they mean? Have I even listed them in the correct order? No, I haven't; can you spot the mistake? I had to go to the DSE web site to find them, where I discovered:

  1. The URL http://dse.vic.gov.au/ is invalid. They insist on www. in front. Given that this is a site to use in an emergency, you'd think they'd at least have gone to the trouble to recognize that URL. It only takes a couple of minutes with Apache, and probably not more than a couple of hours with the Lotus Domino that DSE apparently uses (and which I had thought was an MTA).

  2. There was nothing obvious on the home page about the codes, and searching for the term “code red” didn't help much. Finally I found the correct page out of the 643 results, with the ridiculous URL http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/DSE/nrenfoe.nsf/LinkView/79C36E3C5D3A5B05CA25767400019ECD72A58AAE1531F3F6CA257674000FBDFF—not the first such URL I've seen there. Is this a “feature” of Domino maybe?

    There I discovered that they make no distinction between the three lowest levels, and that there is a gap with no classification between “Extreme” and “Code red”, for which I propose the term “Data white”:


      This should be no-worries.gif.  Is it missing?
    Image title: no worries          Dimensions:          894 x 224, 28 kB
    Make a single page with this image Hide this image
    Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
    Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
    All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, small
    Diary entry for Friday, 4 February 2011

       
    This should be half-the-story.gif.  Is it missing?
    Image title: half the story
    Dimensions: 285 x 189, 14 kB
    Dimensions of original: 285 x 189, 14 kB
    Display this image:
    thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
    Display all images on this page as:
    thumbnails    this size
    Show for Friday, 4 February 2011:
    thumbnails    small images    diary entry

    It's also interesting to note the shape of the diagram. What happens on the other half of the circle? And is “Low-Mod” really the lowest level? Why does it have two conflicting terms? And should you really be prepared to leave your house at a moment's notice in such circumstances?

So I have as low an opinion of the DSE as I have ever had. Their web site is messed up, and instead of intelligible numbers, they've selected unrelated words with little bearing on the meaning. So I was interested to read a blog entry by Bruce Schneier on a related topic. It seems that the US Stasi Department of Homeland Security had a similarly stupid “color-coded thread level system”. Now they have scrapped it. In this case they haven't replaced it with anything, but at least they have got rid of colours. Can we hope for some sense in the DSE some time soon?


Friday, 4 February 2011 Dereel Images for 4 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Carola arrives
Topic: general Link here

Carola Schlanhof arrived in Australia this morning. She was last here two years ago, when the Black Saturday bushfires and the heat waves occurred. This time round Queensland has had the most devastating cyclone in history, and we had lots of rain ourselves (over 30 mm today). I'm beginning to wonder if there's a connection.


CFA: Too stupid for their own good
Topic: general, opinion, technology Link here

While looking through the DSE site yesterday, found that they had silently redirected me to the Country Fire Authority (CFA) web site, and some of what I attributed to the DSE yesterday was in fact CFA. That's still a government department, though. Found a link Which Total Fire Band District am I in? on one of the pages, and followed it. The name itself is silly: they do more than impose total fie bans, but it seems that they haven't got round to creating uniform or appropriate terminology here either. As the scrolling message stated, “9 new Total Fire Ban (TFB) districts have been introduced across Victoria this fire season.” What they really mean is that they have redefined the boundaries of the districts (there are still only 9 districts).

And which one do I belong to? Central, I think, but it would nice to be sure. So I followed the link and was offered the information in PDF form, along with a partial list of the localities in 7 of the 9 districts; the others were gratuitously truncated by bad web programming:


  This should be some-districts.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: some districts          Dimensions:          834 x 407, 20 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 4 February 2011

 

It proved that they had put a scroll bar at the very bottom, but Dereel isn't in the list anyway. What's needed is clearly a dialogue page where you can enter your locality or post code. They had a Feedback link standing on its side on the right, where the rest of the list should have been, so followed that and entered my suggestion (politely). Then I got a page:

 
This should be facebook-only.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: facebook only
Dimensions: 675 x 365, 30 kB
Dimensions of original: 675 x 365, 30 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Friday, 4 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

“Who are you?” is a reasonable question. But to prove it, you need to have an account with a social networking site (preferably, it seems, Facebook)! The Government of Victoria wants me to have a Facebook account before I can talk to them. That's completely unbelievable! And how does it prove who I am? Anyway, I clicked on the button and logged into Facebook, and was presented with a message from Facebook:

 
This should be satisfaction-detail.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: satisfaction detail
Dimensions: 529 x 189, 10 kB
Dimensions of original: 529 x 189, 10 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Friday, 4 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

“Get Satisfaction” is requesting permission to ... access .. name, ... networks, list of friends ...”.

That's just plain criminal! I'll lodge a formal complaint. I didn't accept, of course, and went to Google mail instead. Then I got a message:

Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 17:48:14 -0800
From: Get Satisfaction! <noreply@getsatisfaction.com>
To: gurgled@gmail.com
Subject: Welcome! Confirm your email address

We???re excited to have you with us, gurgled!

Can you help us validate your email address? Simply click on the link to confirm. This will also transport you to your Get Satisfaction dashboard.  From there, you can edit your profile and account details.

But this is even worse! They've handed my personal data to a US-based company without my permission and added an account for me with them. What's wrong with these people? And it has nothing to do with knowing who I am: the information doesn't even include my name. I demand satisfaction.

I'm reminded of an item on the (ABC) news this morning that the Australian government is woefully unprepared for cyber attacks. ABC is also woefully unprepared for finding things on their web site, so I can't find the original article. But looking at what they are doing here blows my mind. I need to find a way to formulate my complaint so that woefully unprepared people will understand it.


Another mystery flower
Topic: gardening Link here

There have been some unidentified plants growing to the north of the shade area and screen to the north-east of the house. Yvonne was convinced that they were weeds, but I've seen too many cases where the plants have proven useful, so I left them there. It looks like I was right. Today they started flowering:


  This should be Mystery-plant-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1248 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 4 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 944 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 4 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 4 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

What are they? Yet another mystery.


Configuring the new machine
Topic: technology Link here

More thinking about the new machine today. Started X and—no input! This is this same debilitating bug that has bitten me many times in the past. I first came across it 14 months ago, and solved the configuration problem 8 months ago: the port doesn't add the correct information to /etc/rc.conf. It should contain the entries:

--- rc.conf.local       2010/06/06 07:27:23     1.23
+++ rc.conf.local       2010/06/06 08:11:59
@@ -57,3 +57,8 @@
 ifconfig_re0=$HOSTIP
 ifconfig_fxp0=$HOSTIP
 ifconfig_vr0=$HOSTIP
+
+# Work around terminal breakage in the X installation.  X requires
+# hald and dbus, but it doesn't configure it to start.
+hald_enable=YES
+dbus_enable=YES

Has nothing changed in that time? Yes, there has been a change. After adding the entries, it used to be enough to issue:

/usr/local/etc/rc.d/hald start

That's no longer enough:

[root@defake ~]# /usr/local/etc/rc.d/hald start
Starting hald.
[root@defake ~]# echo $?
0
[root@defake ~]# ps aux | grep hald
root   1660  0.0  0.1  3500  1224   0  S+    2:24PM   0:00.00 grep hald
[root@defake ~]#

hald pretends it has started, but goes away without any report. There's nothing in the system log either. Now you first need to start dbus:

[root@defake ~]# /usr/local/etc/rc.d/dbus start
Starting dbus.
[root@defake ~]# /usr/local/etc/rc.d/hald start
Starting hald.
[root@defake ~]# ps aux | grep hald
haldaemon   1698  0.7  0.5  9568  5104  ??  Ss    2:34PM   0:00.08 /usr/local/sbin/hald
root        1705  0.2  0.3  6208  2784  ??  S     2:34PM   0:00.02 hald-runner
root        1710  0.0  0.2  5920  2124  ??  S     2:34PM   0:00.01 hald-probe-mouse: /dev/psm0 (hald-probe-mouse)
root        1694  0.0  0.3  6692  3476   0  S     2:34PM   0:00.01 /usr/local/sbin/hald
root        1712  0.0  0.2  4568  2392   0  R+    2:34PM   0:00.00 grep hald (bash)
[root@defake ~]#

How can anybody live with this breakage? I'm told that HAL is going away, so it won't be as serious, but this is still completely unacceptable.


Help with Telstra "NextG"
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I publish my phone number on my home page, something that many people think is crazy. But over the years I've had much less than one call a year on that basis. It seems that people who want to annoy you use more anonymous methods.

Today was “once in well over a year” time again. And, as in the past, it wasn't somebody who wanted to annoy me. A woman called Jo, who lives just down the road in Larpent, the other side of Colac. She has had trouble with Telstra too, and found my NextG page on the net. It seems that she has bought a 3G21WB router a day or two ago, and she can't get a decent signal with it, though she has one of these rod antennas. That's all the more surprising because she is quite close to the Colac tower. One more indication that there's something wrong with the sensitivity of these devices. She's not technical, and quite upset, but I recommended to her to get hold of a USB dongle and see if that would work. If it does, and we can find a router which will work with the dongle, it'll be a better solution anyway.


Still water filter problems
Topic: general Link here

Between 18:00 and 18:20 we had 18 mm of rain, and once again the tanks are overflowing. And once again the water filter is clogged! $200 down the drain (almost literally) for having the tank cleaned two months ago. I suppose I could call him back, but the real problem is probably that the water inlet is directly above the outlet. We'll have to get used to using the other tank (which doesn't have a water inlet) under those circumstances.


Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another very brief power failure at 21:32. It took out the projector despite UPS: clearly I need something stronger. And that's about all it did; even some sensitive clocks didn't fail.


Saturday, 5 February 2011 Dereel Images for 5 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Mass laptop death
Topic: technology Link here

After taking my photos, plugged the backup disk into cojones, the old Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop I'm also using for Internet access. The console messages were unexpected:

Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: ugen3.2: <HUAWEI Technology> at usbus3 (disconnected)
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: u3g0: at uhub3, port 3, addr 2 (disconnected)
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones ppp[12200]: tun0: Warning: 0.0.0.0/0: Change route failed: errno: No such process
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones ppp[12200]: tun0: Warning: deflink: Unable to set physical to speed 0
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones ppp[12200]: tun0: Warning: deflink: tcsetattr: Unable to restore device settings
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: umass0: at uhub3, port 3, addr 2 (disconnected)
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: (cd0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): lost device
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: (cd0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): removing device entry
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: umass1: at uhub3, port 3, addr 2 (disconnected)
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: (da0:umass-sim1:1:0:0): lost device
Feb  5 12:58:47 cojones kernel: (da0:umass-sim1:1:0:0): removing device entry
Feb  5 12:59:20 cojones ppp[12200]: tun0: Warning: deflink: /dev/cuaU0.0: Bad file descriptor
Feb  5 12:59:34 cojones kernel: stray irq7

My Internet connection was gone! And no sign of the disk I plugged in. Much swearing and some investigation later I came to the conclusion that the USB bus had died, but fortunately the devices had not. Pulled the disk out of cojones and put it into pain, the Inspiron 5100 laptop I usually use for running Microsoft, and things came up again.

For a while. I've noticed for some time that pain, which usually sleeps waiting for the rare occasion I need Microsoft, had been shutting down. I had assumed that this was some issue with my Microsoft configuration, but it happened again running FreeBSD. Again and again. Managed to borrow an Inspiron 5150 from Chris Yeardley, and got things back up and running. But somehow I'm collecting more and more defective laptops.


Wikinews: worth the trouble?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While writing my diary entry for yesterday, went looking for information about Cyclone Yasi. Wikipedia is good for encyclopaedic content, so it seemed reasonable to go to Wikinews for news. But that was a complete letdown. The current most recent news is dated 27 January 2011, and there appear to have only been 4 news items this year. The best I found was a draft article Severe Cyclone Yasi poses 'serious threat' to Queensland, Australia with the note “This article may not be ready to be published”. Indeed. It's now so completely out of date that it should never be published as a news item. It looks as if the wiki principle doesn't work as well with news. And somehow my own comment got lost some time after I entered it.


Five months of full dams
Topic: general Link here

It's been five months since our dams joined up, and I had to change the viewpoint of my dam photos because the place I took one of them from has been under water since then. Here's a comparison. The photos were taken a year ago, at the end of August 2010 (the last time the gap in the dams was visible), and today, the last one from a little further back:


  This should be dam-nw.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: dam nw          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2064 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 6 February 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 6 February 2010, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 6 February 2010 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be dam-nw.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: dam nw          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1200 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 28 August 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 28 August 2010, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 28 August 2010 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be dam-nw.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: dam nw          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1072 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 5 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
New flowers everywhere
Topic: gardening Link here

Yesterday I had decided that the new yellow flowers might have been something that got lost under other flowers in the north bed. But today I found more of them:


 
This should be Mystery-flower-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery flower 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1360 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 5 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-flower-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery flower 2          Dimensions:          4100 x 3084, 1632 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 5 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That was to the south-east of the verandah, a good 20 metres from the first ones. So it looks like they may be self-sown after all. Does that make them a weed? They're still quite pretty.


Dinner with Carola, Nele and Chris
Topic: general, cooking Link here

Saturday's the day we normally have a “better” dinner, and since Carola is from Austria, we invited Nele Koemle along as well. She's one of the few people who have no trouble with Carola's rather strong Austrian accent. Had Indian food again (Carola is vegetarian), which required rather more work than I was feeling like after the trouble with the laptops. And once again we had far too much food, though I had forgotten a couple of things.


 
This should be Carola-Nele-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Carola Nele 1          Dimensions:          3905 x 3084, 1008 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 5 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 5 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Somehow we were all a little tired, and things finished early.


Sunday, 6 February 2011 Dereel Images for 6 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More RSS frobbing
Topic: technology Link here

Why does ACM Queue only fetch one diary item per day? I've been puzzling about this for some time, and I'm still no closer. One thing's clear: I've been faking the pubDate of the items, and possibly there's something there. Today spent some time playing around with the Emacs macros that I use to generate the HTML code, and now the “publication dates” reflect the time when I started to write the article.

That proved more complicated than I thought. Emacs has a function format-time-string that you'd think would do exactly what I want:

format-time-string is a built-in function in `C source code'.
(format-time-string format-string &optional time universal)
...
For example, to produce full ISO 8601 format, use "%Y-%m-%dT%T%z".

The trouble is, that creates something like 2011-02-07T09:13:40+1100. That looks correct, but according to the RSS validator, it should be 2011-02-07T09:13:40+11:00—the time zone requires a separator between hours and minutes. That's not part of the ISO 8601 specification, but if it causes problems, I should adapt. But how do I do that? format-time-string doesn't offer any other option to represent the time zone. For the time being I've taken the cheap way out and described things in UTC.

And has it improved things? No. I'm completely baffled. Other people have feeds which look formally the same as mine, and they don't have this problem. More head-scratching.


Missing diary entries
Topic: technology Link here

Spent some more time tidying up old diary entries today. Over the course of time I've changed the format multiple times, but with 160 files to play around with, I can't do it all at once. Today managed all of 2000 and 2001, in the process discovering that I don't have diary entries for 11 June 2001 and 12 June 2001. No idea where they went. I didn't start keeping the entries in RCS until March 2002, and the original control file was already missing them. The oldest entry in http://www.archive.org/ is earlier, dating from 25 December 2001, but that is also missing the entries.

What happened to them? I suppose I'll never find out now, but I suppose I must have accidentally deleted them, or not copied them from my daily diary. I'm pretty sure I would have written them. Unless I come across some backup in that period (unlikely), I fear they're gone for ever.


Garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

A bit of work in the garden, mainly weeding. Also finally planted the Salvia I bought on Australia Day, and potted some Begonias that we started propagating in December, and which has now developed roots from some of the cuttings.


ABC image quality: deliberately pessimized?
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

I've noted in the past that ABC's picture quality has become particularly poor since their stupid decision to stop high-definition general TV channels. Recently I borrowed some DVDs from the Geelong Regional Libraries. Like ABC, they have a 576i resolution, but the quality is far superior. Today I watched a documentary on the life of Mohandas Gandhi, broadcast by ABC, which showed even more clearly that they appear to be reducing the quality:


  This should be gandhi-1.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: gandhi 1          Dimensions:          1034 x 602, 256 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 6 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 6 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 6 February 2011

 
  This should be gandhi-1-detail-2.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: gandhi 1 detail 2          Dimensions:          953 x 598, 48 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 6 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 6 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 6 February 2011

 

The detail is in the bottom right-hand corner, showing the ABC logo and the diagonal rails in the picture. The ABC logo is displayed as well as 576i can manage, but the rails are dithered in pairs of lines, effectively lowering the resolution to 288i! How can they get away with that?


Piccola vanished
Topic: animals Link here

For no apparent reason, Piccola didn't come in for dinner in the evening. We heard her meowing outside, but we couldn't find her. She's done this before, but this time she didn't show up by the time we went to bed. I hope nothing has happened to her.


Monday, 7 February 2011 Dereel Images for 7 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure at 0:33. I need an alarm clock that doesn't fail with the power.


Return of Piccola
Topic: animals Link here

Up this morning to look for Piccola. No sign of her, but her food had been eaten. It's unlikely that Lilac would have eaten that much, so she must have returned and gone out again. But it's nice to be sure, so out to look for her. No sign. With a heavy heart, went into the garage and saw her on the lawnmower:


  This should be Piccola-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Piccola 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1264 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 7 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 7 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 7 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

No idea why, but she had simply ignored our calls. We brought her into the house, but she didn't want to stay, so we let her out again, and she went back to the lawnmower and slept there most of the day. It must have been an interesting night. But why didn't she reply? We're concerned that she's getting upset by Nemo's friendly but rather rough attention. We'll have to keep an eye on that.


More pruning
Topic: gardening Link here

A fair amount of pruning work in the garden, including trimming back the Buddleja globosa.

The Buddlejas later proved to be Buddleja weyeriana, not globosa.

There are also other things I need to keep my eyes on:


  This should be Weather-station-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Weather station 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1264 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 7 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 7 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 7 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Weather-station-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Weather station 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1168 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 7 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 7 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 7 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The way hops grow, that would have encircled the weather vane in days.


Battery considerations
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Another camera battery required recharging today. It looks as if I have now solved my battery problems. This one was number 8, the first of the ones that I got recently that worked (there were three before that didn't). It has now charged successfully twice.

Based on the records I've been keeping since October last year, a good battery should give at least 1000 photos. This one doesn't quite make that (953 and 990 shots), but numbers 9 and 10 (the fake Olympus batteries) have given me 1287 and 1137 photos respectively). So just getting through all 5 good batteries that I now have requires me to take over 5000 photos. That's the equivalent of 130 36 exposure 35 mm films, about half as much as I have ever taken on film.

It's also worth considering how many time I charged battery 4. Between the time I purchased it and when it died, I took about 6800 photos. Sharing that across three batteries suggests that I only ever used it two or three times before it died. I suppose that could happen again, but for the while things look acceptable.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011 Dereel
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More problems with system upgrade
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Continued today with my new system. All the software is installed; now I just need to copy various files from the old system.

I have planned for this for some time. All the files are kept under RCS, and I have scripts to check them out. But they're a bit crufty, and today I discovered a number of bent symlinks and also at least one file that had been modified although it had been locked. It seems that the nightly cron jobs that automatically check in the RCS files don't handle this correctly, so the control file was out of date. So my next step isn't checking out the files: it's fixing the scripts. And that's another thing I dread.

Another consideration is where to put executables. Convention has it that the system executables are spread between /bin and /usr/bin for normal executables, /sbin and /usr/sbin for administrative executables, and /usr/local/bin and /usr/local/sbin for executables installed by ports. It's becoming increasingly clear (to me; the NetBSD project recognized the problem decades ago) that /usr/local is a problem: on the one hand, ports install there, and on the other hand it's also used for installing just about anything else that isn't part of the system. What do I do now? I don't need to copy the (vast majority of the) files that are installed there, but I do need the occasional program or script that I've been depositing there for years.

My solution in the past has been to just copy across the things that I need. That has proven to be erratic: some of the things that I haven't used for a long time have got lost, and other stuff that I don't use at all, and which just looks obsolete, has remained. Looking at /usr/local/bin, the oldest files are:

  -r-xr-xr-x   1 root  wheel         338 Sep 10  2005 kio_system_documenthelper
  -r-xr-xr-x   1 root  wheel         399 Sep 10  2005 kdeinstallktheme
  -r-xr-xr-x   1 root  wheel          27 Sep 10  2005 krdb
  -rwxr-xr-x   1 root  wheel        8218 Mar 12  2005 observe
  -rwxr-xr-t   1 root  wheel     4714600 Mar  9  2005 emacs-21

The only thing of mine there is observe. I have no idea why there's still an old version of Emacs, and the rest look like files from an obsolete version of KDE, which I don't use.

So: it looks like I need another hierarchy, and the obvious name is /home/local. I can put all my own stuff in there and keep it separate from both base system and ports. Some other day.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Dereel Images for 9 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Off to Flagstaff Hill
Topic: general, photography Link here

As part of the sightseeing we planned for Carola, off to Warrnambool today to visit Flagstaff Hill, which I visited with Ollivier and Élodie Robert seven years ago.

I was rather impressed by Flagstaff Hill last time, even to the point of saying that it was too tidy. That's not really the case any more: it seems to be suffering from neglect, and though a few exhibits were in good condition, many of them, such as the blacksmith's workshop, just looked like a pile of old junk. Even the Rowitta, the ferry in the harbour which had impressed me so much last time, looked pretty tatty. Also, since I was last there, we have also been to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. By comparison, Flagstaff Hill is small and badly maintained.

Still, it was interesting. Since my last visit in a theme park I've also started making a lot of panoramic photos, and this was an ideal subject:


  This should be Flagstaff-Hill-6.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Flagstaff Hill 6          Dimensions:          10135 x 1819, 3552 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

  This should be Flagstaff-Hill-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Flagstaff Hill 3          Dimensions:          6977 x 1900, 2208 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The difference is very obvious compared to last time:


  This should be Flagstaff-Hill-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Flagstaff Hill 1          Dimensions:          2048 x 1536, 400 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 29 August 2004, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 29 August 2004, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 29 August 2004 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Flagstaff-Hill-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Flagstaff Hill 2          Dimensions:          2048 x 1536, 432 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 29 August 2004, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 29 August 2004, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 29 August 2004 Complete exposure details

 

  This should be Flagstaff-Hill-5.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Flagstaff Hill 5          Dimensions:          4273 x 1826, 1504 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

After that, and after Carola had got rid of an amazing amount of money at the gift shop, off into town via a hard-to-find beach for lunch (noodles), and then to Cannon Hill lookout, which I had expected to be on some kind of hill with a panoramic lookout, but which was just a slight mound not far from the beach:


  This should be Cannon-Hill.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Cannon Hill          Dimensions:          13117 x 1896, 4624 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Then off to look at the Botanic Gardens [sic], which had been greatly praised by the guidebooks, but which in typical fashion didn't say where they were. Finally found it in the GPS navigator, filed under “Leisure/Park and Recreation Area”, and off to take a look. It's pretty, relatively large, but more a park than Botanic(al) gardens. Still, it had some nice things in it, including a couple of flowering trees: a Jacaranda mimosifolia and a Castanospermum australe:


  This should be Jacaranda-mimosifolia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Jacaranda mimosifolia 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2576 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Castanospermum-australe-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Castanospermum australe 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2432 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Both of these come from warmer climates, and I'm surprised to see them here. I wonder if we could get either to grow in Dereel. But Yvonne made her own discovery: the Araucaria heterophylla or Norfolk Island Pine. I suspect we'll be getting one of them.

By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we gave up our original intention to continue on to Halls Gap and headed for Skipton instead to look for a reputed eel smoker there. On the way found a signpost pointing to Hopkins Falls, yet another sight described in the books with no indication of how to get there. And our GPS didn't know it either, not even Hopkins Falls Road—well, it couldn't find it, though it displayed the road name correctly when we got there. It wasn't far off our track, and probably worth seeing:


  This should be Hopkins-Falls-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hopkins Falls 3          Dimensions:          3084 x 4100, 2256 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Hopkins-Falls-1a.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hopkins Falls 1a          Dimensions:          5419 x 1950, 1952 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 9 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The panorama also shows that it's never a good idea to leave photographic equipment behind. I had not expected to take any panoramas with a foreground, so I hadn't bothered to bring the focusing rail, and so of course I got a big jaggy in the foreground. Next time I'll take (just about) everything.

Then on to Skipton, where we found more bugs in the GPS navigator maps: “Take the second left”, where there was no first, and when we took it (correct street) it told us to turn back. When we continued, it told us (correctly) that we had reached our destination. Presumably it was confused about the location of the street.

There was nobody at the smokery. It seems to have closed down, apparently as a result of the recent floods, which hit Skipton hard. It's not clear whether they'll open again. To be followed up on.


Thursday, 10 February 2011 Dereel
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Hunting down the WH-1080 USB problems
Topic: technology Link here

One of the problems that I haven't been able to solve with my WH-1080 weather station has been that from time to time the program received an EBADF on reading the device. There's no obvious reason, and I had to stop the process and restart it; closing and re-opening the device wasn't sufficient. As a result, I had decided that this was a bug in the FreeBSD USB stack, and one of the things I'll need to do when I finally get my new system installed is to see if it still works.

Today, though, things were different:

10 February 2011  17:38:01: PID 15108: can't write to device: error setting timeout: Bad file descriptor (9)
10 February 2011  17:38:03: PID 20595: can't write to device: error setting timeout: Bad file descriptor (9)
...
10 February 2011  17:44:11: PID 21224: can't write to device: error setting timeout: Bad file descriptor (9)
10 February 2011  17:44:13: PID 21226: can't write to device: error setting timeout: Bad file descriptor (9)

I've never had to retry for 6 minutes before. Tried disconnecting the USB cable, to no avail, and finally power cycled the internal unit. That “fixed” it. So whatever the problem is, it's at least partially related to the device state.


Little shavers
Topic: general Link here

Five years ago I participated in a fund-raiser for the John Lions chair of computer science at UNSW. We raised $10,000, and I had my beard shaved off:


  This should be Groggy-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Groggy 4          Dimensions:          4368 x 2912, 944 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 28 January 2006, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 28 January 2006, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 28 January 2006 Complete exposure details

 

Probably more my accident than design, my daughter Yana has decided to do something similar: to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia she has elected to shave her head if she can raise $500. Currently she has commitments for $197. Yvonne doesn't like the idea of Yana with a shaven head at all and would prefer that she didn't make the goal.


Friday, 11 February 2011 Dereel Images for 11 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Sightseeing in Ballarat
Topic: general, animals Link here

We had planned to take Carola to various things to see in Ballarat today, but the weather forecast today predicted heavy rain. We got a fair amount of rain, too, but the rainfall map showed that it was drifting off to the north of Ballarat, so with a delay of an hour or so we set off.

First stop was Ballarat Bird World, the third time in 9 months. It seems that you have to know of the possibility to be allowed into the bird cages; Yvonne went looking and came back with the proprietor, who had shown us the birds the last two times. The photos all look pretty much the same:


  This should be Black-cockatoo-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Black cockatoo 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1472 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 9 May 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 9 May 2010, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 9 May 2010 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be rms-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: rms 2          Dimensions:          2112 x 2816, 864 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 16 September 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 16 September 2010, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 16 September 2010 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Bird-world-12.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bird world 12          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1072 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Then on to the Ballarat Wildlife Park, a much more commercial operation. They didn't give me a concession ticket because I had left my card behind (really). That's OK, but Bird World and Flagstaff Hill hadn't insisted. And somehow it was much more touristy than the other places. Still, Carola got her kangaroos:


  This should be Carola-kangaroos-13.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Carola kangaroos 13          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1568 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

They also let people in to the Koala pen, but when we wanted to join, we were told to come back in an hour. It's not clear why, but again we were left with the feeling that people weren't very accommodating.

One interesting exhibit was in the reptile house. They had dragons and frogs in the same exhibit:


  This should be Frogs-and-dragons-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Frogs and dragons 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1728 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Frogs-and-dragons-5.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Frogs and dragons 5          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1648 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I had thought that the frogs were in danger, but it was more like the dragons. I wasn't able to get a photo, but the frogs were biting the dragons, which seemed to be somewhat placid. Also saw a freshly moulted Burmese python, with a rather atypical colour:


  This should be Burmese-python.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Burmese python          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1328 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

By the time we left, it was past 2 pm, and we were all quite hungry. Where to eat? Carola is vegetarian, and Yvonne and I don't eat much for lunch. We occasionally eat pies or pasties, but we had done so yesterday, and nobody was interested. Spent an inordinate amount of time looking for something suitable and getting even hungrier before we ended up at a place with the somewhat incongruous name Tokyo Grill House Asian Cuisine Shop (incidentally the second URL today which looks more global than Ballarat), where Yvonne and Carola ate Sashimi and Makizushi, and I got some fried chicken, after a wait: the waitress had forgotten my order, and it was 15:15 before I finally got something into my growling stomach. But the food was good, and we may go back.

On leaving the restaurant, we had planned to go to the Botanical Gardens, but it had started to rain again, and we weren't sure. We drove past anyway, and Carola wanted to get out, so took a short look around while the rain dissipated. Didn't do much there except buy a plant and some seeds and take a look at the famous Sequoiadendra gigantea, which are in fact only about 40 m high. But then, they've only been there a little over 100 years.


  This should be Sequoiadendron-giganteum-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Sequoiadendron giganteum 3          Dimensions:          3648 x 2736, 1632 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
More mystery plants
Topic: gardening Link here

On the way into town we bought some plants in Napoleons: a Pelargonium with pretty leaves, a kind of Fuchsia, and a similar looking yellow-budded plant:


  This should be Pelargonium-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pelargonium 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1008 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-16.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 16          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1136 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-9.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 9          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1200 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

These weren't Fuchsias at all, of course. They're Mirabilis jalapa.

It became clear pretty soon that the last two plants weren't fuchsias: the leaves are wrong, and the buds only bore a superficial resemblance:


  This should be Mystery-plant-15.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 15          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 816 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-10.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 10          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 992 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

As if to make the point, the buds opened with surprising speed. Here's the same pair of buds shown above, taken two hours later:


  This should be Mystery-plant-18.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 18          Dimensions:          4100 x 3084, 2032 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I suppose we can be forgiven for not knowing the names of those plants, though it's a problem: where do we plant them? Fuchsias want to be in the shade. Just because these flowers bear a superficial resemblance doesn't mean that they have similar habits. But we have no excuse for the hanging plant we bought at the Botanical Gardens:


  This should be Mystery-plant-8.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 8          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1696 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-7.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 7          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1984 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Atypically, it didn't have a label, but we could have asked. I suppose we should find the phone number and call them up.


Commercial "workflow"
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Between the two of us, Yvonne and I took 175 photos in town today, 173 of which are on today's page. In the past Yvonne and I have kept separate pages for the photos, but in this case they were directly related, so for the first time I've put them all on my page.

How long does it take to process (some silly commercial programs say “develop”) the images? I had a number of steps to perform:

  1. Read the images into the computer. This started at 17:36 and appears to have taken about 13 minutes.

  2. Look at the photos and give them descriptive names. This must have taken me about 10 minutes.

  3. Process the photos, creating a directory hierarchy with the images in three different sizes (original size, “small” (270,000 pixels) and “tiny” (67,500 pixels)), the EXIF data and a couple of others, 694 files in total. The web page for displaying them already exists, and just needs to be given the date to display the page. This process, completely automated, took about 15 minutes. Total time since starting to read in the images from the cameras: 69 minutes, or one base image every 24 seconds.

  4. Make a couple of modifications, 3 minutes. This doesn't strictly fit into the work flow, but it's typical enough. You need the flexibility to do this sort of thing.

  5. Sync the data (242 MB of it) to the remote web server. Another 35 minutes with no manual intervention. Total time until on the web: 108 minutes, or 37 seconds per photo.

How would I have done with commercial software? There's so much mouse pushing there. Reading in the images from the camera is, I hope, not a big issue, though things like Kodak's emetic EASYSHARE want to do it their way (including storing the images in out-of-order American date based directory names). I find that so painful that I go out of my way to avoid them.

It's possible to give names to images, but commercial software appears to have made this step so difficult that most people don't do it; at least that's the impression I get when I look at other web sites, notably Flickr. Given the usefulness of a real name, that suggests to me that the process falls into the “too difficult” category. I don't think there's anything on the market that would create images the way I want for my web pages. And I suppose that syncing the stuff to external web sites is not a big issue, modulo security concerns (ftp with clear text passwords?).

So what can commercial software offer? Potentially better image processing. It's clear that dcraw and friends are not the best in every respect. UFRaw requires an offset of 1.3 EV to produce normal output. I'd dearly love to compare things like DxO Optics Pro, but so far I haven't been able to get them to work even on a Microsoft platform. What a pain these things are.


Saturday, 12 February 2011 Dereel Images for 12 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More panorama insights
Topic: photography Link here

House photo day today, and I still can't get rid of all the jaggies in my verandah photos:


 
This should be verandah-panorama-alt.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah panorama alt          Dimensions:          6643 x 5650, 5136 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be verandah-panorama-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah panorama detail          Dimensions:          1131 x 769, 88 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I think I'm going to have to put up with that for some time to come, until I get a new insight. I still think it's an issue with the position of the lens, but I don't know how to correct it.

During processing, however, I found something of interest: the default Hugin settings are not the best. In the past I've been using the “Assistant” to do the stitching for me, but it seems that if I go to the optimization tab and select “Optimize everything”, I get deviations round half what the automated process produces. And then I discovered that the “Stitcher” tab has a crop function which makes the manual cropping unnecessary—most of the time. One image was badly cropped, but the rest were OK. That enabled me to modify my panorama scripts so that I don't need to do that step if I don't want to.

Another issue is the location of the shots. I've found another one that looked OK in the winter, but now which looks seriously unbalanced due to the vegetation:


  This should be garden-n.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: garden n          Dimensions:          9600 x 2553, 5616 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 28 August 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 28 August 2010, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 28 August 2010 Complete exposure details

 

  This should be garden-n.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: garden n          Dimensions:          9134 x 2196, 4608 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

More relocation needed, but where?


Identifying the new flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Both of the flowers we bought yesterday are now in bloom. This one almost looks like a Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (first photo), though it's only about a quarter of the diameter.


  This should be Hibiscus-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hibiscus 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1008 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 4 April 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 4 April 2010, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 4 April 2010 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-flower.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery flower          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 784 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Spent some time trying to identify them. The structure looks like that of a Salvia, even down to the square cross-section of the stems, but the flowers are completely different. A Google search didn't help much. I've seldom seen such superficial “help”. For an example of the quality of the links, this guide has the clever suggestions:

Step 1

Look for thorns on the flower's stem. Thorns are indicators of roses.

This page seems to think that there are only about 10 kinds of flower, and for what it's worth, most of my roses don't have thorns on the flower stem.

Then there's this sage advice

Visit a garden center and walk among the flowers, taking care to read the signs above the flowers that tells you what you are looking at. Take your time and study them. A public garden is another good place to visit, or even the garden of a friend. Gardeners love to talk about their flowers and plants.

Now that really helps identify a plant you've never seen before. I have a single tip that is better than both of these pages:

Find somebody knowledgeable and ask them what it is.


Your computer is infected!
Topic: technology Link here

While looking for various plant identification links, got a message telling me that my computer was at risk, and that the page would perform a security scan. I closed the window without accepting, but it continued anyway:


 
This should be windows-infection.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: windows infection          Dimensions:          1215 x 699, 122 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011

 

Discovered that it had installed no less than four copies of a file with a name that looked as if it was the opposite of the description:

-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis     324608 Feb 12 18:14 AntiSpyWareSetup.exe
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis     324608 Feb 12 18:14 AntiSpyWareSetup(2).exe
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis     324608 Feb 12 18:14 AntiSpyWareSetup(3).exe
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis     324608 Feb 12 18:14 AntiSpyWareSetup(4).exe

I wonder what it does. I was almost tempted to try it out.


HD video out of compact cameras
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

In the afternoon, Yvonne and Carola went over to Chris' place, and the three of them came back on horseback and wanted some photos taken:


  This should be Riders-7.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Riders 7          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2544 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Then Yvonne gave me her camera and asked me to take some video. Set it up with a reasonable telephoto distance, and couldn't get anything even remotely in focus. Finally I gave it up as a bad job.

What's the problem? Something wrong with the camera? Possibly. But most of the time it works well when Yvonne uses it—mainly set to full wide angle. And a relatively well known limitation of video in still cameras is that there are restrictions in autofocus, exposure and changes of focal length. In addition, using the monitor on the back of a compact camera is not the way to go when taking video outside of people on horseback, where the image is barely recognizable.

It would be nice to say “OK, buy a better camera”. But I've been watching the reviews of high-quality cameras such as the Olympus E-5, and even they have some of these limitations. And they talk about ”1080p” at a frame rate of 30 fps, which is really not fast enough for progressive scan. In-camera video still has quite a way to go. Maybe we should buy another video camera after all.


Sunday, 13 February 2011 Dereel Images for 13 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Flowers that open in the night
Topic: gardening Link here

Found an explanation for why both of the mystery flowers bloomed almost as soon as we got home: it was evening. It seems that they open in the evening and close again in the morning. I wonder if that will help me identify them more easily.


Off to Mount Wallace
Topic: general, animals Link here

Over to Mount Wallace to visit Len and Sue Giddins today. They're breeders of pure Paso Peruano horses, and most of the visit was looking at horses and taking photos of them:


  This should be Mariquita-and-filly-6.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mariquita and filly 6          Dimensions:          2593 x 1175, 416 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 13 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 13 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 13 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Reina-and-filly-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Reina and filly 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1872 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 13 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 13 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 13 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 


The dangers of wind farms
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The powers that be (Powercor?) is planning to build a wind farm less than 2 km away from the Giddins. They're up in arms about the matter, and it's interesting to consider the environmental impact. I had also thought that that was a bit close, in the understanding that they produce significant levels of subsonic noise, but the Wikipedia pages suggest that the noise is negligible. The issue reminds me of the fear of mobile phones that we've been through in Dereel, though in this case I think there could be more valid arguments.


Limiting panorama components
Topic: photography Link here

More playing around with yesterday's panoramas. The one of the verandah is special: I produce it in two different crops, one 360°, and the other roughly 180°:


 
This should be full-verandah.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: full verandah          Dimensions:          13014 x 5650, 10048 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be verandah-panorama-alt.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah panorama alt          Dimensions:          6643 x 5650, 5136 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That's the photo that showed the jaggies yesterday. It's put together out of 72 individual images: I start with groups of 3 images exposed 1 EV apart, fused to a single tone-mapped image, then make a two row panorama of 12 images each. To get the 180° view, I simply crop the 360° panorama.

But that means that the software has to optimize for the whole 360°. What happens if I make another panorama with only the images I need? Played around today and found that I could build a better panorama from only 14 (instead of 24) of the tone-mapped base images. It's still not perfect, but there are fewer jaggies, as the second detail shows:


  This should be verandah-panorama.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah panorama          Dimensions:          6639 x 5551, 5024 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be verandah-panorama-detail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah panorama detail          Dimensions:          1131 x 769, 88 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be verandah-panorama-detail-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: verandah panorama detail 2          Dimensions:          1130 x 778, 90 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
Monday, 14 February 2011 Dereel Images for 14 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure today, a short one at 5:18. Maybe I should get a UPS for the bedside alarm clock.


System upgrade: slowly and unsurely
Topic: technology Link here

More investigation of the checkins of configuration files today, and didn't get very far. Somehow this whole mess with RCS is too fragile, and I probably should have never gone down that route. CVS is potentially a better choice, but it required too much overhead.

The problems:

That proves to be more complicated than I thought: somehow I've managed to change some of the files without locking them, and under these circumstances I don't even get a special error message, just:

RCS/fstab,v  <--  fstab
ci: RCS/fstab,v: no lock set by root

And that's the message I also get when there's been no change to the files.

Wrote a little script to do rcsdiff against the files, and discovered a surprising number that didn't correspond to their control files. They're too many to just be accidents; I suspect I had symlink problems, and the updates have gone to some other control file. Still, not a serious problem. Just check them in again.

Or so I thought. The problem there is timestamps. ci has an option (-u) to check out again, but it doesn't have one to set the timestamp to when it was last modified. You need an explicit co -M for that. And that still doesn't set the timestamp for the control file. So I ended up with a whole lot of bloat. The checkin command used to be:

  (cd $i; ci -u -m"Automatic update" RCS/*)

Now it's:

  (cd $i
   for i in RCS/*; do
     FILE=`basename $i ,v`
     rcs -l $FILE
     ci -d -m"Automatic update" $FILE
     co -M $FILE
     touch -r $FILE RCS/$FILE,v
  done

Even then, things didn't go smoothly, and I ended up with some strange discrepancies in the checkins. Later, when doing my photo backups, I discovered that the entire scripts directory got backed up, though there's no obvious change. It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that the $Id$ strings had changed. But this stuff is fragile, and I need to be careful not to do any damage.


Compact camera video: not worth the trouble
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Carola left today, but not before Yvonne took some video of her riding. After the problems we have had with her camera, she borrowed Chris' Nikon Coolpix S3000 and used that.

The results were no better. They were in focus, I suppose, because they were taken at full wide-angle. But the resolution was much lower (640×480 at 30 fps, compared to 1080×720), and the files were enormous: 4.8 GB/hour. That's more than the data rate of our 720p50 TV feeds, which use about 4.2 GB/hour. A 3¼ minute video took up 270 MB. Why are they so big? And because she couldn't zoom, she ended up with both an invisible horse and one that overflowed the frame:

 
This should be tiny.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: tiny
Dimensions: 650 x 506, 224 kB
Dimensions of original: 650 x 506, 224 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 14 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry
 
This should be huge.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: huge
Dimensions: 650 x 506, 142 kB
Dimensions of original: 650 x 506, 142 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 14 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

It's really time for something better.


Tidying up the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Poor Carola. She came here to escape the Austrian winter, and was expecting weather like two years ago. Instead, it was quite cool, and we had to have the heaters on for much of the time. Now she has left, and the weather got warm again. Just what I needed to spray the weeds that have really taken over this year.

The Watsonias are gradually coming to the end of their flowering season, and I've been removing many of them: they tend to take over, and they're too high for many of the places where we planted them. Pulled out a bucket full of corms, and many got left in the ground. We'll pull them out next year.

Also found something else in there with an enormous corm, shown here next to a watsonia:


  This should be Corms.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Corms          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1040 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 14 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 14 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 14 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I suppose we've seen it bloom, but I can't associate it with anything in particular.

Cleaning away the watsonias also showed a couple of suckers on the Ginkgo:


  This should be Ginkgo-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ginkgo 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1712 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 14 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 14 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 14 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Tried to dig them out with a view to planting them as separate trees, but they seem to come from just under the soil level, and they don't have any roots:


  This should be Ginkgo-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Ginkgo 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1232 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 14 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 14 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 14 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I wonder if they would form some if I were to build up the soil a bit.


Mutilate your address!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Finally got round to contributing to Yana's charity drive. It's all online, of course, and of course it's silly. They take the money immediately, rather than waiting until the sum has been raised. This is more for Yana than it is for the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia, but in view of the many deserving charities out there, why should I choose one that doesn't play by the (unwritten) rules?

And, of course, more stupidity. They didn't like the name “Kleins Road”, and wanted me to mutilate it to “Kleins Rd”:

 
This should be wrong-address.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: wrong address
Dimensions: 493 x 572, 48 kB
Dimensions of original: 493 x 572, 48 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 14 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

That's just plain wrong, like writing the post code on the same line as the country is wrong. From the Australia Post Fact Sheet town, state and post code should be on the same line:

 
This should be right-address.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: right address
Dimensions: 659 x 245, 12 kB
Dimensions of original: 659 x 245, 12 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 14 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

And of course I couldn't change the layout. Don't web programmers ever read the standards?


Tuesday, 15 February 2011 Dereel
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Olympus can't count
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I have now passed 20,000 photos with my Olympus E-30. The file names stored on the flash card indicate the number: the structure is something like (my last photo) DCIM/375OLYMP/P2140020.JPG. The encoding is:

The problem is, this doesn't quite work. The file numbers (last part) go from 0001 to 9999, only 9,999 photos where there should be 10,000. Why did they need to do that?


Don't buy cheap equipment
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Another message in the German Olympus forum today: somebody was looking for a macro focusing rail like mine, and found three items, priced at € 119.90, Sfr 134,90 and USD 76.00. Reduce to Euros, that's € 119.90, € 103.04 and € 56.27 Somebody else replied and pointed at one on eBay for only € 59.50. Presumably he hadn't gone to the trouble of converting the USD price.

The interesting thing is that all these items are identical, and also identical with mine, which is still available from the same vendor for USD 39.85 (corresponding to € 29.50) or an auction in Euro for € 39.90. That's a range of 4:1 for exactly the same item. And if the second person bought his on eBay, why did he pay 50% over the Euro rate or 100% over the USD rate? Presumably because it was sent from Germany, not China. That's a lot of money to pay on top, and it seems to play into the opinions of many people that “you get what you pay for”. But those days seem to be over.


More upgrade pain
Topic: technology Link here

Yvonne in this morning to tell me that her photo pages were no longer displaying anything. She was wrong: it was full of PHP error messages.

Notice: Undefined index: enddate in /home/yvonne/public_html/photos/photos.php on line 9
Notice: Undefined index: startdate in /home/yvonne/public_html/photos/photos.php on line 12
Notice: Undefined variable: monthname in /home/yvonne/public_html/photos/photos.php on line 24
Notice: Undefined variable: monthname in /home/yvonne/public_html/photos/photos.php on line 31

Investigation showed that somehow the current revision of the page (revision 1.5 of 2010/09/06 02:12:04) had been reverted to revision 1.4 of 2008/05/17 08:50:00. How did that happen? It's fairly clear that it must have had something to do with my update stuff yesterday, and it's also an indication that despite all caution, I managed to mess things up.

Getting that sorted out was relatively easy, but then I discovered other breakage, presumably unrelated to my mistakes: her main photo index was missing a large number of entries.

The entries get built by the main web Makefile, so the most reliable way to rebuild it was to remove it and go through the source photos directory and do a make web:

for i in 2??????; do echo "(cd $i && make -f /dereel/home/grog/Photos/Makefile web)"; done | sh

I like this method of generating the commands and then piping them in to a shell. That way you can see what you're going to by entering:

for i in 2??????; do echo "(cd $i && make -f /dereel/home/grog/Photos/Makefile web)"; done

When you're happy, just add the | sh, and they'll be executed. The alternative would be to remove the echo, of course, but they're equivalent.

Are they? No, as I only discovered today. The build process looks for a file description in each directory. This file contains the title for the photos, and if it doesn't exist, it prompts for the contents. If I pipe the commands to a shell, it reads the next line as the description, not what I had intended. If I remove the echo, it will do the right thing.

All this took half the day, including tripping over a surprising number of empty directories. There's still a lot of tidy-up work to do there, but they're Yvonne's photos, so she can do that.

That wasn't the only problem I had. I discovered other files belonging to me that were checked in and given to root, something that shouldn't have happened.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011 Dereel Images for 16 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Another mystery solved
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne received a comment from Ruth Viebrock in Sittensen today: our mystery flower 26 is a Nachtkerze, botanical name Oenothera glazioviana or “Evening Primrose”. It compares remarkably well with the photos in Wikimedia (second photo):


  This should be Oenothera-glazioviana-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Oenothera glazioviana 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1024 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 16 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 16 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 16 February 2011 Complete exposure details

  Oenothera glazioviana

Despite appearances, there are no indications that it's a weed, though Ruth says that it self-seeds copiously. It seems that this flower blooms mainly in the evening, though they're always open in the daytime when I look. The flowers open extremely quickly, sometimes in less than a minute. I wonder if I can catch that some time.


Helping climbing plants: not in all cases
Topic: gardening Link here

Last month I had the idea of helping some of the climbing plants in the garden to reach the places they were to climb. I tied a wire from the mesh to the stem of the plant:


  This should be Hardenbergia-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hardenbergia 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1104 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 3 January 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 3 January 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 3 January 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That worked fine for hops and things, which don't need any encouragement, let alone help, but it didn't work as well for the Hardenbergia violacea. It seems that the shoot got damaged by the (loose) tie, and it's now the only one that hasn't made it:


  This should be Hardenbergia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hardenbergia 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2192 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 16 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 16 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 16 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Hardenbergia-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hardenbergia 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1008 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 16 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 16 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 16 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
Thursday, 17 February 2011 Dereel
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Fixing the electric fences
Topic: general, animals Link here

CJ along today to look at the electric fences, which have failed completely. The “wires” are white plastic braid with thin wires interspersed. This isn't bad for the horses: the braid is clearly visible, and it's soft enough that they can't hurt themselves if they run into it. But the wires tend to tear and lose contact, so we had decided to replace it with real wire.

While trying that out, discovered at least one cause of the problem: the earth wire for the fence actuator had broken off, leaving the whole thing open circuit. Fixed that and discovered that the actuator only delivers 3.4 kV with no load, which is far too little. After connecting it up, found we had only 400 V, far below what we need. Part of that seems to be related to the baroque wiring we have in many places, but we weren't able to get it all sorted out today.


Disk problems: past and present
Topic: technology, history Link here

Netherby on IRC had disk problems today, and went looking for recovery software. I've been there in the past. Most recently I wrote a program to recover partitions if the BIOS partition table is overwritten. That's not what Netherby wanted, but it reminded me of a much older program that I last updated on 30 August 1986 to recover a catastrophic company internal crash on \PALACE, Tandem's London office at the time.

These recovery efforts were exhausting, but our department had a good success rate with them, and this program was a key part of it. While browsing through the code (written in TAL), I found this sequence:

      if partonly or thispart = partparms [0] then
         begin
         say (" ");
         say ("This program could have saved your life.");
         say ("A nice way to show your appreciation would be to send a bottle of");
         say ("the best single malt scotch whisky or perfect French Cognac to");
         say ("Greg Lehey at ESSG in Frankfurt.");
         say (" ");
         say ("Thank you and good luck!");
         call stop
         end

We collected a lot of alcohol that way. As my boss wrote the following year:

   SENT: 87-12-21  15:54
   FROM: WHONE_PEEGEE
     TO: DL.ESSGFFM @ESSG,FIDELAK_MANFRED @DUES
SUBJECT: Un-alcoholics anonymous??

Looking at the ESSG drinks cabinet only 4 days before Christmas, I
find to my horror that we don't drink enough!!

Current inventory

      Parts of
      a bottle
       2/3     The Balvenie Single malt scotch
       .9      Glenfiddich
       1/3     Ballantines
       .05     Chivas
       1       Prince of Wales (best cooking scotch)
       3/4     Aberlour-Glenlivet (decanter's already been claimed!)
       .2      Grand Bas Armagnac
       .4      Hennessy Fine Champagne
       .8      O.P.Anderson Aquavit
       .9      Absolute Vodka         (Soja, queue here)
       1       Scharlachberg Weinbrand
       1       Chateauneuf-du-Pape   1982
       1       Moulin-a-vent   1981

Any suggestions what we do with it all??
Peegee

Ah, the Good Old Times.

Back in the present, things weren't so good. Somehow my hardware went out in sympathy with Netherby. I heard a strange clunking noise from the window, and on investigation discovered that the disk for my Internet gateway laptop had failed. 30 minutes of cursing and I had the modem connected to Yet Another Box, and I was back on the net. And that after nearly 2 weeks of uninterrupted connectivity. This stuff is still far too flaky. I'm off to town tomorrow; I'll try to find another router. They can't all be as bad as the ASUS RC-N13U.


Friday, 18 February 2011 Dereel Images for 18 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Networking: has everybody gone mad?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Into town today to take Yvonne's car in for service, and did some other shopping while I was at it. In particular, to Officeworks to look for a new router for my wireless Internet connection. There's not much choice there, but the Netgear MBR624GU seemed to be the best. They were selling it for $84—less than I paid for the ill-fated ASUS RC-N13U—and I found one that had been returned by somebody who hadn't got it to work, which they sold me for only $70, still with full rights to return if I didn't get it to work.

Took a look inside to make sure it was complete. It wasn't: the CD-ROM was missing. Checked in a new box. Missing there too. The slip of paper that served as instructions didn't mention it, so I decided that this was just part of the modern way of documenting digital devices.

Back home and looked at the slip of paper. There were a couple, including this one:


  This should be passwords.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: passwords          Dimensions:          1721 x 2167, 640 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 18 February 2011

 

That's a cavalier approach to security if I have ever seen one, though there's nothing to indicate who it was or how to break into his network. But another slip of paper told me to point a web browser at http://192.168.0.1 or—confusingly—http://www.routerlogin.com/—and follow the instructions; there was even a picture of what I could expect.

How is this all supposed to work? http://www.routerlogin.com/ resolves to:

www.routerlogin.com is an alias for kbserver.netgear.com.
kbserver.netgear.com has address 207.211.82.148

And my machine doesn't have an address in the range 192.168.0.0/24. I added one, of course, but what do normal people do? My best guess is, again, DHCP. But that's not what I got:

 
This should be Setup-not-found.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Setup not found
Dimensions: 712 x 293, 30 kB
Dimensions of original: 712 x 293, 30 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Friday, 18 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

Following the link to the “Support Home Page” ended me up somewhere on the network at a page which is too stupid to even know the model number:


  This should be Lets-annoy-you.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lets annoy you          Dimensions:          849 x 524, 88 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 18 February 2011

 

Tried a few more things, including resetting to factory defaults, but didn't make any progress. This thing makes the ASUS router look good. Gave up, searched for and finally found the phone numbers page, and called 1300 361 254. Got a voice menu asking me to select (from memory) from general network equipment, commercial equipment, or routers and access points. The MBR624GU is both a router and access point, so I selected the last. Got connected to Eric, who told me I had been misrouted: I should have taken the first choice, “because it's a modem” (which it isn't).

Gave up and called again—they can't transfer me—and was connected to Tina. The conversation went something like this:

Me:       I get an error page when I try to access 192.168.0.1
Tina:       What is the model number of your modem?
Me:       I don't have the modem connected. I'm trying to access the router by itself.
Tina:       What is the model number of your modem?
Me:       I don't have the modem connected. I'm trying to access the router by itself.
Tina:       What is the model number of your modem?
Me:       OK, this makes no sense, but it's a Huawei E1762.
Tina:       And who is your ISP?
Me:       Internode.
Tina:       How do you spell that? (after spelling and a brief pause) You're from Australia, right? Sorry, that modem is not compatible.
Me:       It's on your list of compatible modems.
Tina:       Sorry, I can't help you. The modem isn't supported.
Me:       I'm not talking about the modem anyway. I can't talk to the router.
Tina:       Sorry, I can't help you. The modem isn't supported.
Me:       Please connect me to your supervisor.
      (reasonably long delay)
Tina:       My team leader has informed me that Internode uses Optus and the modem is supported. Can you give me the serial number of the device?
Me:       23G1987T00894
Tina:       Are you running Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7?
Me:       No.
Tina:       Are you using a Mac?
Me:       No.
Tina:       What is your operating system?
Me:       FreeBSD.
Tina:       Can you spell that, please?

Round about here it got boring, so I offered to connect it to boskoop, my Apple Macintosh G4. Got the same result, of course.

Tina:       Can I have your name please?
Me:       Greg Lehey
Tina:       And your email?
Me:       Sorry, I don't want you to contact me by email.
Tina:       Never mind, I have it already.
Me;       I never gave you my email address.
Tina:       You gave it to us on registration.
Me:       That was the previous owner.
Tina:       Do you have the Mac connected to the router?
Me:       Yes, of course, otherwise I wouldn't have a response.
Tina:       Are you connected via a switch?
Me:       Yes.
Tina:       What is the make of the switch?
Me:       D-Link.
Tina:       Can you please connect it directly?
Me:       No. This is a network device, I expect it to work in a network, and there's no reason it'll behave any differently without the switch.
Me:       Please connect me to your supervisor.

This time I got connected to John, who quickly decided that the device was defective, and gave me the reference number 14710412 and told me to take it back for replacement.

That's some sort of progress, I suppose, but it leaves me with a whole slew of questions:

It's a concern, somehow, that if you go to the Netgear site and search for MBR624GU, you get a product page that includes the text:

If, after installing your MBRN3000 router and 3G+ USB modem, you get the message "3G USB modem is not supported", but you see your USB Modem an ISP listed on this page, then

Please follow the steps below to UPGRADE your ROUTER software.

And yes, they refer to the part number MBRN3000 on the page for the MBR624UG. Even for the manufacturers, this appears to be a book with seven seals. These things used to Just Work. Why are they making it so difficult for everybody?


The cost of identifying plants
Topic: gardening Link here

While in town, also dropped in at the Botanical Gardens to identify the hanging plant we bought last week. It proved to be a Dichondra, species unknown:


  This should be Mystery-plant-8.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 8          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1696 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 11 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 11 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

But then we looked around and came away $30 poorer (nearly half the price of the router!) with four plants: Lilium formosanum, a Santolina chamaecyparissus, a Zantedeschia of unknown species (but also described as “hybrid calla lily”), and another hanging basket with a particularly showy Begonia:


  This should be Lilium-formosanum-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lilium formosanum 2          Dimensions:          3084 x 4100, 976 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 18 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Santolina-chamaecyparissus.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Santolina chamaecyparissus          Dimensions:          2971 x 2807, 816 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 18 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Zantedeschia-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Zantedeschia 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 928 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 18 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Begonia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Begonia 1          Dimensions:          4100 x 3084, 1168 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Friday, 18 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Friday, 18 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

New domestic technology
Topic: general Link here

Our toaster oven died some time ago, and at the time we tried replacing it with a special from ALDI. That proved to be less than satisfactory: it was really too small, and it seemed to suffer from thermal problems, so we returned it. But it's become apparent how much we used the thing, and we've been looking for a replacement for over 2 months. Looked again today: once upon a time these things were really cheap, but those days seem to be long gone, and the cheapest one we could find cost $50 and was also too small.

After much looking around, we finally decided on the most expensive one, not our usual style. It was offered at $199 at Good Guys, but we got it for $170, including a discount for being a demo model. It looks well made, has a digital display and a thermostat, and comes with a thick manual (including 60 pages of instructions, and also a recipe section) describing all the functions it's claimed to do. I'll have to read that through, but it makes you wonder when an oven has that much instructions, and a router/access point/modem interface comes with a single sheet of paper smaller than A4 size. About the only puzzling thing is the additional slip of paper recommending not to wash the trays in a dish washer. They're of good quality, enamel and chrome. We always put things like that in the dish washer, and we've never had any trouble.

Yvonne also bought new bathroom scales. They, too, have amazing functionality: they claim to measure not only weight, but also body fat, water, muscle percentage and bone weight. It also makes recommendations on daily calorie intake. This sounds like guesswork to me, and I wonder why people bother. On a more practical side, it displays 2 kg more than our old scales. Which are correct? It's not a foregone conclusion that it's the new ones.


Internode: the only non-crazy company?
Topic: technology Link here

Call from Jordan at Internode in the evening to let me know that they're still in contact with Optus on the subject of my network connection. They have admitted that they have some congestion there, and they're working on it. He also disproved a hypothesis that I had been thinking about. The downward spikes on my 3G network statistics page indicate that ping time increases from about 150 ms to about 1.5 s at regular intervals, about every 15 or 30 minutes, and it occurred to me that it might be due to the modem slipping back into GPRS mode: I poll the external mail server every 15 minutes, so that pattern would make sense. But Jordan says that even with GPRS I shouldn't get ping times that long.

Still, things are currently bearable in that part of the network connection, and it's nice to know they're on the ball. If I could only find a router that worked, I'd be happy.


Saturday, 19 February 2011 Dereel Images for 19 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

More Netgear pain
Topic: technology Link here

I wasn't convinced yesterday that the problems I had with the Netgear MBR624GU were due to a defective device, so did some more testing today. First, tried to connect the way the designers had presumably constrained it: Microsoft box with DHCP. Success! Not only did it work, it automatically provided the page without me having to enter any URL. I still don't understand how they did that, and I certainly can't imagine why they would want to do it.

Once I had it set up, I was able to change the IP address and talk to it from my FreeBSD box—but only if I addressed it by IP address; it seems that the internal web server defaults to the page I've already seen, for reasons which escape me, so if I use any name, it doesn't work.

There are a number of other strangenesses: it seems to have its own internal DNS (or maybe just an /etc/hosts file), and seems to want to be http://www.routerlogin.com/, which makes no sense at all. One of the first things it wanted to do was to check for newer firmware, which under the circumstances sounds like a very good idea. But there's no way to tell it where the Internet is: you can set up routes, but not a default route. You can telnet into the box, but whatever is at the other end isn't a normal shell and doesn't say anything. And it, too, has a syslog facility, but the only thing it seems to log is login events—at LOG_EMERG again, vomiting over every screen on my displays:

 
This should be vomit.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: vomit
Dimensions: 300 x 225, 8 kB
Dimensions of original: 300 x 225, 8 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Saturday, 19 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

Somebody must be distributing a software packet ClosedWRT, akin to OpenWRT, and the people who adapt it don't have enough understanding to cut off the sharp edges. From an IRC discussion:

19-02-2011 17:44:12 > * gr0Ogle tries to outwit this broken software to set a default route.
19-02-2011 17:44:34 > gr0Ogle: It seems that it point blank refuses to believe that it might not be the only gateway to the Internet.
19-02-2011 17:44:40 < nox right
19-02-2011 17:45:03 < nox its a home user toy, not proper notworking gear
19-02-2011 17:45:27 > gr0Ogle: Exactly.
19-02-2011 17:45:31 > gr0Ogle: But why?
19-02-2011 17:45:40 > gr0Ogle: What advantage do they have by castrating it?
19-02-2011 17:46:01 < nox gr0Ogle, i suppose they want to reduce support issues or something
19-02-2011 17:46:17 < jashank gr0Ogle: I think you're getting the wrong gear.
19-02-2011 17:46:37 < nox or maybe whoever desinged it just wasnt thinking of `unusual' setups
19-02-2011 17:46:49 < jashank You need the *high* capability gear, not the piddly toy stuff
19-02-2011 17:47:27 < nox yeah, or at least something that runs openwrt (or pfsense :)
19-02-2011 17:48:08 < jashank Or FreeBSD.
19-02-2011 17:48:24 < nox or plain freebsd yeah
19-02-2011 17:48:32 < nox (that what i use also)
19-02-2011 17:48:38 < jashank Here too.
19-02-2011 17:48:46 < jashank And it *works*.
19-02-2011 17:48:48 < nox :)
19-02-2011 17:53:37 > gr0Ogle: nox: I can see this kind of stupidity reducing support issues.
19-02-2011 17:53:49 > gr0Ogle: I think whoever designed it wasn't thinking at all, and had no idea of notworking.
19-02-2011 17:54:07 < nox that can happen too yeah
19-02-2011 17:54:09 > gr0Ogle: The thing is, it takes an effort to make such a mess.
19-02-2011 17:59:46 > * gr0Ogle marvels.
19-02-2011 18:00:01 > gr0Ogle: It seems that all these routers log with LOG_EMERG.

Another indication is in one of the display screens:

 
This should be smartness-detail.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: smartness detail
Dimensions: 692 x 203, 8 kB
Dimensions of original: 692 x 203, 8 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Saturday, 19 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

These “devices” are of course computers (or more accurately network interfaces). I wonder where it got the name dereel from, and why it upshifted it. The other addresses, with the exception of 192.109.109.66, are other systems on the net, and they all have PTR records too. It's not clear what 192.109.109.66 is, but it's in the DHCP allocation range, so presumably it's something in the mind of the router.

It completely baffles me that people can make such a mess of a simple piece of equipment. Netgear has a good reputation, and I have been satisfied with their equipment in the past. But this device, like the ASUS RC-N13U and the Netcomm 3G21WB, seem to be deliberately broken. Given that people don't do this just to make life difficult, there must be some other intention, but I'm damned if I can see it. If anybody can explain it to me, I'd be grateful.

Clearly the next step is to upgrade the firmware. Mañana.


Too windy for HDR
Topic: photography Link here

The weather was very windy today, which makes it almost impossible to get tone-mapped HDR images. I need two exposure bracketed photos that look the same, but in wind plants move between the two photos, and the result looks terrible in high winds. On the other hand I had to take my house photos, so decided to do it without HDR. That's still not without its problems: Hugin needs to be able to stitch the individual components of the panoramas, and the wind is a problem there too. Today most of them worked (I even did a couple with HDR in sheltered areas); one required help sticking together two halves, and the other was so bad that I had to give up on the right-hand half. Here last week (wide) and this week (narrow):


  This should be house-ne.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: house ne          Dimensions:          7144 x 2619, 3664 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 12 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 12 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be house-ne.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: house ne          Dimensions:          4770 x 2509, 2512 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 19 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 19 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 19 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The problem is the Buddleja × weyeriana in the middle of the photo: there's almost nothing non-moving to put control points on. And maybe I should give up on the right half anyway. It doesn't really add very much.


Preparing for autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

Gradually even this overly mild summer seems to be coming to an end. Did some pruning and moved some plants around. The Strobilanthes anisophyllus “goldfussia” that we bought last winter, and which never fulfilled its promise to bloom, is looking happier again:


  This should be Strobilanthes-anisophyllus.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Strobilanthes anisophyllus          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1264 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The Crassula falcata that we bought a year ago is due to bloom soon, though all we can see at the moment is that it looks a lot bigger and happier than it did last year. Repotted it and put it on the verandah along with the Strobilanthes:


  This should be Crassula-falcata.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Crassula falcata          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
Using the new oven
Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

The “toaster oven” that we bought yesterday really calls itself a “Compact Smart Oven”, and after a search the orphaned “BOV650” at the bottom of the cover of the instructions proves to be the model number. It has a thermostat and relatively flexible heating methods (but no air recirculation). Today we ate Kassler, a cured joint of pork, so decided to do it in the oven.

The joint weighed just over 500 g, and according to my cooking times page I'd expect about 50 minutes per kg for pork, so decided to give this one 30 minutes. It took nearly an hour, and I had to tell Chris Yeardley (who nearly always comes late, though today she didn't) that I'd beat her to putting in a diary entry about the fact.

But why did it take so long? I measured the temperature in the oven when set to 200°, and it was within 1° of the setting, much better than other ovens that I have measured. We'll have to try again with the normal “big” oven.


Sunday, 20 February 2011 Dereel Images for 20 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Netgear router: success?
Topic: technology Link here

As planned, set to upgrading the firmware on the Netgear MBR624GU today. That wasn't helped by difficulties finding the correct page, coupled with terminal web site breakage. The Router Upgrade tab on the web server expected me to have already got the firmwareUpgrade file on my “Hard Disk” and offered no help finding it. Going to http://kb.netgear.com/app/home required a product number, after which I was able to “Ask a Question” (I think; the heading overlaid the previous line). After entering “firmware upgrade” I got the first 9 hits for the entire site, none of them matching my device, and with no opportunity to display more:

 
This should be wrong-firmware.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: wrong firmware
Dimensions: 635 x 1025, 34 kB
Dimensions of original: 635 x 1025, 34 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 20 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

Finally found the correct page via Google, and discovered yes, indeed, newer firmware was available. Clicking on the appropriate link gave me a page with the interesting advice:

 
This should be no-wireless.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: no wireless
Dimensions: 548 x 231, 8 kB
Dimensions of original: 548 x 231, 8 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 20 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

Now isn't that clever advice to somebody who is using bought this device for his only connection to the Internet? It took Callum Gibson to point out to me that this only relates to loading the firmware file from local disk. Continued. It wanted my serial number, and refused what I typed in:

 
This should be checksum-fail.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: checksum fail
Dimensions: 229 x 76, 4 kB
Dimensions of original: 229 x 76, 4 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 20 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

That proved to be correct; the 6 should have been an 8, but it was printed in such small, bold characters that it was difficult to distinguish. But it seems that they have some kind of checksum built into their serial numbers.

I still wasn't prepared for what happened next:


  This should be no-files.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: no files          Dimensions:          1152 x 220, 12 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011

 

The directory appeared to be empty. It's an FTP site, so I went to take a look via the ftp client, and found that yes, indeed, the directory is empty:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttype) ~/Desktop 680 -> ftp ftp://downloads.netgear.com/files/
Connected to netgear.usgftp.cdnetworks.net.
220 For CDN FTP Service.
Remote system type is UNIX.
Using binary mode to transfer files.
200 TYPE ignored (always I)
250 CWD successful.
ftp> ls
500 Sorry, no such command.
227 Entering passive mode (119,31,252,11,174,240)
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for directory listing.
226 Transfer complete.
ftp> cd ..
250 CWD successful.
ftp> ls
227 Entering passive mode (119,31,252,11,175,8)
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for directory listing.
226 Transfer complete.

Given the Microsoft-centricity of this company, decided to try it on pain, my Microsoft box. Things were different there:

 
This should be untrustworthy.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: untrustworthy
Dimensions: 664 x 431, 12 kB
Dimensions of original: 664 x 431, 12 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 20 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry
 
This should be certificate.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: certificate
Dimensions: 620 x 455, 10 kB
Dimensions of original: 620 x 455, 10 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 20 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

But after that I was able to load the firmware file. Somehow, it seems, they have deliberately broken the site so that it doesn't work with anything except Microsoft. Tried it with Apple and got yet another (repeatable) strangeness:

 
This should be unknown-error.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: unknown error
Dimensions: 387 x 124, 12 kB
Dimensions of original: 387 x 124, 12 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Sunday, 20 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

I'm really left with the impression that Netgear are doing everything it can to limit the attractiveness of their products.

Finally performed the upgrade, which reset the device to factory defaults, and inserted the modem. All looked well, except that I had to select an ISP, and Internode was really not there (other Optus resellers were), so selected Optus and entered parameters. You need to do them all at once; if anything fails, everything gets reset to default values. All finally looked well, it went into “connecting” state, and then nothing happened. Finally gave up and plugged the modem back into the FreeBSD box, which immediately recognized it and reconnected without further action on my part. I'll contact Internode tomorrow and see if they have any ideas.

I have been reluctant to use FreeBSD as the router, and the failure of the disk on my remaining functional laptop is a good indication why, but I am really, really amazed at the breakage in consumer network products. Core consumer computers (CPU, motherboard, memory, disk, power supply) work fine. Why are network devices so completely broken?

Freudian slip? I originally wrote “network problems” above instead of “network products”.


Preparing for autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather was even cooler today; it didn't even hit 20°, and there's a feeling of autumn in the air. More thinking about what to do in the central part of the garden, to the immediate south-east of the verandah:


 
This should be Garden.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Garden          Dimensions:          4914 x 2181, 2560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 21 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

It's currently horribly overgrown, and the best choice is probably to spray the whole area with Glyphosate and start again, but it contains a number of plants that we want to keep. Our current thinking is to plant them temporarily somewhere else, spray the glyphosate, lay weed mat and mulch, and then replace the ones that go back.

We've also identified some other plants that need moving: a Canna in the succulent garden to the north of the verandah, which Yvonne transplanted to near the garden shed in the north-east of the garden (extreme left edge of the photo above), and a couple of Begonias that have popped up nearby:


  This should be Begonia-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Begonia 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 928 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 21 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Begonia-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Begonia 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1200 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 21 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Here's an overview of the plants and what we plan to do with them (at least those we have decided upon):

Plant       Destination
Volunteer Acacia       Alongside road south of house
Cyclamen       Return to bed
Dianthus       Return white-flowering ones to bed
Volunteer Eucalypt       Alongside road south of house
Evening primrose       Return to bed
Hellebores       Return to bed
Deep blue iris       Remove
Iris graminea       Find and return to bed
Libertia grandiflora       Return to bed
Mondo grass       Return to bed
Pandorea jasminoides       On south fence
Red rose
Rose “M Tillier”
Strelitzia reginae       Return to bed
Violets       Return to bed
Westringia       Remove
Dwarf willow       First find it
Plant opposite M. Tillier       Remove
Unknown ground cover       Return to bed

The Watsonias have still not finished flowering, but most of them look pretty tatty, so pulled out most of them and saved the bulbs:


  This should be Watsonias-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Watsonias 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2704 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Watsonias-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Watsonias 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2256 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Watsonias-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Watsonias 3          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1824 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

To my surprise, some of the spring bulbs are already showing shoots:


  This should be Spring-coming-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Spring coming 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2096 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Spring-coming-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Spring coming 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1856 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I hope that removing the protection of the watsonias doesn't endanger them.


More dead computers
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

Problems recording on ceeveear again. This happens periodically, and I don't know why. My solution has been to shut down, jiggle the connections and start up again. I also suspect the USB tuner, which the system insists on making tuner 0 (and thus the first choice, meaning 90% of all recordings), so removed it. System came back up with only one of the two PCI tuners.

Shutdown again, more jiggling (one of the tuners was supplied with only a short mounting panel, so I had to remove it, and it's now not fastened). Reboot. No tuners.

Much cursing and investigation later showed that the entire PCI bus appeared to be dead: lspci showed nothing, even when I put other PCI cards. So it looks like I need another motherboard. What a lot of hardware has been dying lately! And here's a photo that spells “trouble”. ceeveear is behind the right-hand cupboard door, and I put the chair there when I'm working on it.


 
This should be Trouble.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Trouble          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 20 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 20 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 


Monday, 21 February 2011 Dereel Images for 21 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Netgear: not for everybody
Topic: technology Link here

More playing around with the Netgear MBR624GU today. Despite everything, couldn't get a connection. Called up Internode support and spoke to Soubik (I think; he pronounces his name very differently), who told me to set the APN parameter differently from what I got on my configuration details sheet. He also wasn't able to tell me what the PDP was (from my own configuration it's clearly IP), nor what kind of authentication they were using. Got him to connect me to his supervisor (“team leader”), Greg, who told me that they don't really use authentication; they go by the SIM card number. Under those circumstances it's not clear why they have a user name and password.

In any case, they weren't able to help. He did try to access the Netgear site, but it was down. They don't know the device, and there's nothing they can do. The real issue, it seems, is that the device isn't configurable enough: in the name (presumably) of making it “user friendly” they've made it user and support unfriendly. They have a drop-down list of ISPs, and it seems that if the ISP isn't on that list, you can't connect:

 
This should be isp-choice.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: isp choice
Dimensions: 242 x 390, 12 kB
Dimensions of original: 242 x 390, 12 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 21 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

According to the help (and yes, this is the original help, typos and all) there are ways around that:

Initialize Script - It is a script to dial to Internet, It depends on Modem and its firmware.

But there's nothing of that nature on the page:

 
This should be config-screen.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: config screen
Dimensions: 699 x 558, 18 kB
Dimensions of original: 699 x 558, 18 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Monday, 21 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

So, basically, they have modified the firmware to exclude certain configurations and thus locked customers in to the ISPs they know about (which aren't very many; Internode is one of the biggest). Not for any financial advantage, like ISPs and telcos lock modems or phones, but apparently out of pure stupidity in the name of “user friendliness”. This means that, even if you now have a Netgear device which works for you, you're probably limited in the ISPs you can connect to. And, of course, who reads the help? So it's not really necessary for it to match the firmware, or even give better explanations than this:

PPP Authentication Protocol - Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol and Password Authentication Protocol


Replacement router
Topic: technology Link here

It's becoming clear that many of my assumptions weren't valid about just plugging a modem into a router, entering a couple of configuration details, and connecting to the Internet. That's what people have been telling me for a long time, but the other side isn't that good either. But clearly I need something better. I have two choices: look for Yet Another Broken Toy Router, or set up a more efficient FreeBSD box to do it.

My latest status with FreeBSD is that I'm using a desktop borrowed from Chris Yeardley. All of the many laptops I have here have some issue or another: one has a broken USB bus, one keeps powering down, one (also borrowed from Chris) tends to overheat, and the fourth relatively modern is the leftovers from the Inspiron 5100 I bought last August. And in any case, I don't have a spare disk for any of them any more.

But there's still the option of a USB stick. Tried that in the 1100, but it didn't recognize it—then I recalled that the USB bus is dead. But it has net booting, so it seemed worthwhile to set up a diskless system. Spent the afternoon building a new system in preparation; then I'll try to get the old leftover Inspiron to work with it. I'll probably discover that it, too, has a dead USB bus.


Trouble explained and ceeveear "repaired"
Topic: technology, general Link here

My photo of the chair in the hallway yesterday confused a number of people. Here's the explanation:


 
This should be More-trouble.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: More trouble          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1088 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 21 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I sit on the chair while working on ceeveear, which is on the bottom shelf.

But yesterday I discovered that the PCI bus was dead. Took the box into my office and discovered that this was quite a new motherboard, even with a dual processor CPU (is that the word?). It appears to be one of the motherboards I bought last year. In that case, it should still be under warranty. Played around a bit more, and found that things were working again. Why didn't they work yesterday? Put the two PCI tuners back in and fired up the machine. Both tuners were detected and worked, though the signal quality still left something to be desired.

My best bet now is that the signal quality may be due to poor connections to the “mast head” antenna amplifier under the roof, which is powered from the other end of the antenna cable. The antenna connectors aren't really designed for that much current and may develop high resistance. So I twisted them in their sockets, after which recordings were better. That's not sufficient proof, of course, but at least it's a start.


Preparing the centre garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Writing up the list of plants yesterday had one positive outcome: I discovered that I had planted a dwarf Salix in the area somewhere. Went looking for it and finally found it after removing many weeds:


  This should be Lost-willow.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lost willow          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 3120 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 21 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 21 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

There's still no sign of the Iris graminea, though.


Tuesday, 22 February 2011 Dereel Images for 22 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Bringing Darah home
Topic: animals Link here

Darah has greasy heel again! It's been three years since the last time, and that took forever (and a lot of money) to cure. I don't know if it's a consolation that this year has been a particularly bad year for greasy heel. A large number of horses, including others in Chris' and Yvonne's herd, have it. Clearly it's related to the weather.

In any case, she has been at Chris' place for the past couple of months, and we decided that we could treat her better if we brought her home, and Yvonne thought it was probably time for me to ride her again—indeed, as the result first of her injury and then of mine, it's been nearly nine months since I last rode her. Over there and saddled her up, and with Chris (riding Smokey) back to our place. Yvonne took many photos, most of them out of focus. Here's some proof that I have been riding again:


  This should be lets-go.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: lets go          Dimensions:          2960 x 1868, 704 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, small

 
Feeding cats milk
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Discussion on IRC today; should you feed cats milk? The clear answer is “no”, but a number of people still do it. One argument put forward was that it is good for periodontal health.

That's nonsense, of course. Milk contains calcium, which is good for teeth, but not for gums. The reason so many cats have gum problems is the same as the reason so many humans have gum problems: incorrect nutrition. Look at any cranium from prehistoric diggings: the teeth are all in good condition. It was only with the introduction of agriculture and large quantities of grain and similar soft foods that humans started having periodontal problems.

It's unlikely that we can get the general population to return to a diet of nuts, berries and raw meat—I certainly wouldn't do it—but we can work around the problem by cleaning our teeth regularly—not by drinking milk. That's not as practical with cats, but a good mixture of dry food seems to do the trick.

To make the point, tried to take a photo of Lilac's jaw. She's 14 years old and still has all her teeth and good gums. Of course, taking that kind of photo is a challenge, and we weren't really up to it:


  This should be Lilac.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Lilac          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 752 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 22 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

And why not give cats milk anyway? They don't really like it, and it doesn't do them much good. A Google Search returns millions of links, most advising against it.


Investment management software
Topic: technology, opinion, general Link here

Since retiring, I've been living on my investments. Every 3 months or so I go and speak to my adviser, Peter O'Connell, who presents me with documents showing the activity in the intervening time.

I've never been able to understand the documents. They show individual information, but it's very difficult to get an overview, and recently I found some indications that didn't ring true. Yes, the world finances have been in turmoil for most of the time of my retirement, but the sums didn't add up. I wrote a message to Peter and asked him for a complete overview of the portfolio.

That should be as simple as running a database query. It seems, though, that it involved a lot of manual effort on his part, using a spreadsheet, it seems. Spreadsheets are horribly prone to error, and it seems that he has made at least one in the document he produced, which still gives me no overview.

This isn't a criticism of Peter or his company: I think that the entire accounting world hasn't really come to grips with computers. The current situation seem to be that accounting companies buy software packages which they bend to their needs, as close as they can come. The result is much better than what they were able to do manually.

But you can say the same about Microsoft's computer environments. Microsoft “Word” is orders of magnitude better than a typewriter. But it's just mediocre in comparison with other text processing tools, themselves not exactly an example of cutting-edge technology. I don't get the overview that I want, and that should be fixable. But clearly the product that Peter's company has chosen isn't flexible enough. He still needs to go back to manual technology to get information that it doesn't provide.

So: to find out what's really going on, I need to reinvent the wheel. New database, queries that answer the questions I have, and the flexibility to do whatever else might reasonably be required. How do I do that? I don't know. I'm not a database designer, and I'm not an accountant. I could read some accounting books, but I suspect they'd only mislead me in the direction from which I'm trying to escape. More thought needed.


More autumn preparations
Topic: gardening Link here

When do we transplant the Pandorea jasminoides? How do we transplant it? The stems are wrapped around the Eiffel Tower:


  This should be Eiffel-tower.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Eiffel tower          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2560 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Pandorea-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pandorea 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2448 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Any attempt to remove them will damage either the tower or the stems of the Pandorea. I think the best option is to remove the two which are wrapped around the wire, and then try to carefully unwrap the centre stem, which is on one of the main wires of the tower.

Things aren't over then, of course. I still need to get it to grow up the fence. I think the best thing is just to tie them to the mesh and let new stems wrap through it, then later remove the old stems. Spent some time cleaning a spot to plant it, near a hop rhizome, and found some really big roots from the hops:


  This should be Hop-root.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Hop root          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2896 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That's the one I have hung up into the mesh; the horizontal thing on the ground is a dripper line. But it's not the only thing I've found: the whole area is riddled with couch grass, which forms an underground network of roots which are almost impossible to remove. Ideally I should completely remove all plants in the area and destroy the, but that's not going to happen. One way or another, though, it looks like we're in for more weeding in the area.


Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Dereel Images for 23 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Making photo albums
Topic: photography, animals, technology Link here

I now have a number of photo albums, effectively collections of photos on a particular theme, and of course drawn from my main collection of photos. In particular, the albums for our animals Lilac, Nemo and Piccola require fairly frequent and time-consuming manual updates, and it's been a while since I did them. And then it occurred to me that I didn't really have an album for Darah. But I have a title search option on my photo search page, and it's only a short step from there to output a dummy “Album” page, at least here at home, which I can then use to update the real album pages. That saves an amazing amount of work.


Saving a Bougainvillea
Topic: gardening Link here

Years ago, Fifi Yeardley bought a couple of Bougainvillea plants. They're not exactly suited to the climate, and since Fifi never because a permanent Australian resident, they stayed in pots. They're now looking quite unhappy, and I asked Chris to lend me one. The pot proved to be root-bound, and so I repotted it, turning it by 45° in the process: I suspect it was left under the verandah and grew to the light, at quite an angle. Also cut off about half the branches, most of which were dead. It certainly doesn't look happy yet, but hopefully it will with time:


  This should be Bougainvillea-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bougainvillea 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1744 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 


Dead washing machine
Topic: general Link here

While working in the garden, heard some amazing thumping from the laundry, and came in to find the washing machine walking around the room. Rearrangement of the load didn't help: it looks as if the machine has broken its main bearing or the anchorage for the drum. It's well over 10 years old, and I don't think it would make much sense to repair it. I'll have to go into town tomorrow and get a new one.


Thursday, 24 February 2011 Dereel Images for 24 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Network connections: worse than ever
Topic: technology Link here

Into the office this morning to discover that I had had another network interruption. One? Dozens!

Start time End time Duration Badness
1298459749 1298464398   4649  0.028 # 23 February 2011 22:15:49 23 February 2011 23:33:18
1298465423 1298470847   5424  3.512 # 23 February 2011 23:50:23 24 February 2011 01:20:47
1298471177 1298475478   4301 10.909 # 24 February 2011 01:26:17 24 February 2011 02:37:58
1298475872 1298477336   1464  9.137 # 24 February 2011 02:44:32 24 February 2011 03:08:56
1298479551 1298480573   1022  1.625 # 24 February 2011 03:45:51 24 February 2011 04:02:53
1298480841 1298484199   3358 13.433 # 24 February 2011 04:07:21 24 February 2011 05:03:19
1298485523 1298488110   2587  2.719 # 24 February 2011 05:25:23 24 February 2011 06:08:30
1298489580 1298490763   1183  2.449 # 24 February 2011 06:33:00 24 February 2011 06:52:43
1298491534 1298494288   2754  4.669 # 24 February 2011 07:05:34 24 February 2011 07:51:28

These weren't just frequent outages: they were long ones, too. The shortest was about 16 minutes, the longest a little over 1½ hours. In the time frame above, about 9.6 hours, I had been off the network for 26,723 seconds, or 7.4 hours, an availability of less than 23%.

Called up Internode support and spoke to Michelle, who looked at the ticket and said something about congestion. That's clearly not congestion: there's something seriously wrong there, and it's very different from the problems I've had before. With a bit of encouragement she escalated the issue, but the problem didn't go away immediately.

It's all well and good blaming Optus, and in all probability the blame is justified, but what if I have had some local issue? The modems are known for hangs, and I'm not 100% convinced of the quality of the FreeBSD drivers. Tried rebooting the machine with the modem in it, and got no result:

Feb 24 11:00:16 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Send: ATZ^M
Feb 24 11:00:16 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Expect(5): OK
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Received: ATZ^M^M
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Received: OK^M
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Send: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","internode"^M
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Expect(5): OK
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Received: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","internode"^M^M
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Received: OK^M
Feb 24 11:00:17 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Send: ATD*99#^M
Feb 24 11:00:18 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Expect(40): CONNECT
Feb 24 11:00:18 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Received: ATD*99#^M^M
Feb 24 11:00:18 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Chat: Received: NO CARRIER^M
Feb 24 11:00:18 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Warning: Chat script failed
Feb 24 11:00:18 cojones ppp[1618]: tun0: Phase: deflink: dial -> hangup

Tried putting the modem into pain, my Microsoft box, and got even less information: “Connection Failed, OK?” No status, no indication where the connection failed. Gave up and went into town, on the way stopping in at Chris Yeardley's place to borrow her wireless equipment to find a suitable antenna cable for her modem, which is currently suspended in space:


  This should be Wireless-notwork.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Wireless notwork          Dimensions:          2112 x 2816, 496 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

The problem is that the Telstra rod antenna doesn't match the modem. It was designed for the larger devices, which have a male antenna connector (left), and what I want is a plug to fit into the end of the modem (right):


  This should be Telstra-modem-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Telstra modem 4          Dimensions:          3874 x 1117, 1024 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Telstra-modem-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Telstra modem 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1680 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

While I was there, confirmed that she, too, had had outages overnight. That's important, because she's on another carrier. She also confirmed that the signal strength was higher than normal, something that I had also noted. I'm beginning to see a case that this is some massive RF interference.

Another thing that's strange is that, like power failures, it seems to happen mainly in the night. When I got back, the link was up and stayed up all day. It's time to do some comparison with other people.


A new washing machine
Topic: general Link here

Into town with Chris' Land Cruiser to buy a replacement for our old washing machine today. We've been using washing machines now for over 30 years. They're things you take for granted, and the last time we bought one (second hand) was over 11 years ago. What factors are important in choosing a new one? As far as I can tell, all of them wash adequately. But they take a differing amount of time to do so, they use different amounts of water and power, and they leave the clothes with a different amount of residual moisture.

My understanding was that the old Australian-style top loading machines were on their way out, and that the European-style front-loaders were better. I wasn't really prepared for what I found. By chance CJ came by and told me about Zelco, at 89 Humffray St. North, which had lots of second-hand machines for sale, all top loaders. When I asked the proprietor (Enio Zelencich) why, he told me “personal preference”, and that they're easier to repair. When I asked him about the water consumption, he said “You need water to wash. You can't wash with sand. If you don't have enough, go to the river and wash there”. Clearly not a person to discuss pros and cons with. He did, however, say that a repair to our current machine would probably cost about $350, and that it would be worth it for his favourite brands, but not for our Hoover.

He had second-hand machines with guarantee starting at about $375, and the kind I'd be interested in would set me back more like $450. So off into town to see what new ones cost. It seems that Big W doesn't have them at all, so over to Warehouse Sales, where I got some good advice about the pros and cons: top loaders use more water, yes, but they're a lot better than they used to be. Older machines, like his old machine and probably what we had, used to use 200 l per load, and modern ones were well under 100 l. And most front loaders don't have a hot water inlet. That means that they have to heat the water themselves, greatly increasing the energy consumption. Some Asian models do have hot water inlets, but the only model they had was LG, not my favourite manufacturer. The front loaders also take much longer to wash a load, and they're more expensive. In general, I wouldn't find anything much under $700, and I could easily spend $950 for what I was looking for (or up to double that if money was no objective).

On to the Good Guys for the second time in a week, and spoke to Troy, who told me that front loaders were the only way to go: less water, less energy, kinder on the clothes. He didn't have any in my price range with hot water inlet. He tried to tell me that I could connect hot water to the front loaders (instead of cold water), but it would use more energy that way, as shown on the energy consumption labels. Gave up on trying to explain the obvious nonsense of that claim and looked at the top loaders: two from Sλmsung, both at $699 ($20 more than the Fisher and Paykel front loader that we had been looking at). One took a 7.5 kg load and had a spin speed of 720 rpm (much lower than the front loaders, which now typically do 1000 rpm), and the other took an 8 kg load but didn't specify the spin speed. From the instructions, discovered it was 680 rpm.

Spin speed is important when you dry your clothes in a dryer, but not so important for the line. What about the load? No idea. It was quite a decision, but first I asked for the “real” price: Good Guys have this stupid habit of posting an undiscounted price and then giving you the discount when you buy. I have no idea why they should do that: it must mean that lots of people walk in, compare prices, and walk out again because they appear too high. I've done that before. But now I know, so I asked how much the machines would cost. The 8 kg one cost $619 (11.5% discount), and the 7.5 kg one cost $595 (14.9% discount), so I took the 7.5 kg one.

Back home and installed the thing without much difficulty. Now to read the manual; I think it's the first time Yvonne has ever read a washing machine manual.


Dick Smith Electronics: Talk to the Techxperts
Topic: technology Link here

While in town, also looked for the antenna for Chris at Dick Smith's. I don't know why I go there: no service, and it proved that the antenna lead was wrong anyway. Also looked for a second modem in case the first fails. There are a number of relatively cheap prepaid modems starting at $49, but no indication what they are. Also wanted to look at their GPS navigators on display (“try me out!”), but they weren't working. What a waste of time.


Crotons and another bougainvillea
Topic: gardening Link here

With Yvonne to take the Land Cruiser back, and while we were there she got hold of a Croton leaf from Chris in the hope of propagating it. Chris also suggested I took the other Bougainvillea as well and bring it back to life. At least this time I remembered to take “before” and “after” photos:


  This should be Bougainvillea-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bougainvillea 3          Dimensions:          2862 x 3040, 2432 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Bougainvillea-4.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Bougainvillea 4          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1904 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

We'll see how that gets on. Things don't look as good with the Croton, which should be propagated by cuttings, but since we have the leaf and a pot, we'll see what happens. Here's what it looks like now:


  This should be Croton.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Croton          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1648 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

And while taking photos, took another look at the Murraya koenigii (curry tree) plant that suddenly came to life last month. It's certainly on the way to recovery. Here last month and (rotated by 180°) today:


  This should be Resurrection-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Resurrection 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1104 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 January 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 January 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 January 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Curry-tree.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Curry tree          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1696 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Thursday, 24 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Thursday, 24 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Last month the only big branch was the old one from last year. Now that branch is hardly visible any more.


Let us support your Windows computer
Topic: technology Link here

Another unsolicited call today. It sounded like the same kind of attempted breakin as I had a month ago, and again I started stringing them along. This one may have been different, though I'm wondering about the other people too now. Maybe they're just trying to sell support for Microsoft boxen.

They're ill-equipped to do that, though. I told them several times that I was running FreeBSD, but they didn't seem to listen. And again they wanted me to look for the Start button at bottom left, and refused to believe them when I told them that bottom left on my screen looks like this:

 
This should be start-button.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: start button
Dimensions: 300 x 225, 2 kB
Dimensions of original: 300 x 225, 2 kB
Display this image:
thumbnail    hidden   alone on page
Display all images on this page as:
thumbnails    this size
Show for Thursday, 24 February 2011:
thumbnails    small images    diary entry

And on they went, trying to say how much they could help me if I just signed up. And they had no idea whatsoever. When they finally got me to “open” a web browser (well, a new window), I once again had to download something from http://www.secureallpc.com/, which logged me in to https://secure.logmeinrescue.com/Customer/Code.aspx, which asked for a 6 digit code. He claimed that every “Windows” user gets one, which sounds implausible: there are only 1 million unique 6 digit codes, and many times that many “Windows” users. I didn't have one, of course, so he gave me one (606688, “please don't tell anyone; this one is just for you”). Then I was able to download a program Support-LogMeInRescue.exe, which he expected to create a popup asking if I should run it. I tried running it for the fun of it:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttype) ~/Desktop 689 -> ./Support-LogMeInRescue.exe
bash: ./Support-LogMeInRescue.exe: Permission denied

Told him that, but he didn't want to believe it didn't start and kept asking whether it displayed any options. Finally he gave up and took me to http://www.secureallpc.com/unlimited365-2.php, where he wanted me to sign up for support. That was enough: I told him I was no longer interested and hung up. And 10 minutes later he called again! What has happened to the no-call list?


Friday, 25 February 2011 Dereel Images for 25 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Network dropouts without end
Topic: technology Link here

Into the office today, and once again there had been network dropouts, another 8 since 23:18. When am I going to get a reliable network service? And again, during the day everything was OK. Did some comparison with the quality of the TV recordings I made in the same time, but although there was some corruption round 1:04, at a time when I had no network coverage, there's nothing obvious to suggest that the problems are related. I need to correlate with other people.


Still more support scams
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yet another call from http://www.secureallpc.com/, this time calling herself Judy, and stressing the fact that the company is located in North Sydney. I asked her why all the people at her company spoke with Indian accents, which she ignored twice. The third time she just hung up.

Discussing the matter on IRC, Daniel O'Connor gave me the link to complaints about abuse of the “do not call” register, so filled that out and got a rather surprising confirmation of my complaint, consisting really only of a complaint number. But anybody can access it! I don't suppose there's much cause for concern, but somehow it seems poor practice.

Noted also that Rodney Gedda has written an article on the subject some time ago, suggesting that it's phishing. I don't know; possibly it is. At any rate they're making a royal nuisance of themselves.


We're allowed to annoy you
Topic: general, opinion Link here

As if that wasn't enough, got a call from a Ray from some helicopter service, apparently a public service company. He wanted donations to “keep up their good work”. This was just after I had put in my complaint about the “don't call” register, so I asked him if he was aware that I was on the register. “Yes, but we're allowed to call you”. Doubtless that's true. But by calling me, they've ensured that they won't get any donations from me.


New washing machine in practice
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne did the first loads of washing in the new washing machine today, and in the process we discovered that the controls are completely different from what we're used to. No temperature control. Washing programmes for wool and bedsheets, and then things with silly names like “Fuzzy”, “Easy” and “Quick”. It seems that “Easy” is the appropriate one, but we're still not sure. In any case, Yvonne is very please with the results, and as I expected, the clothes come out much drier.


Time to plant bulbs
Topic: gardening Link here

A little work in the garden. The bud on the Lilium formosanum is getting much larger, and I assume that it's going to flower soon, so planted it to the south of the verandah, where it's visible from the bathroom. We also have five other bulbs which I should be planting, but I can't recall what they are. The were in a pot where I thought I had planted tulips, but they look far too large for tulips.


Saturday, 26 February 2011 Dereel Images for 26 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

And now for something completely different: network failure
Topic: technology Link here

Today was the first day of the linux.conf.au “Ghosts” session, where the organizers of the previous conference, along with some other people from Linux Australia, do a couple of days of information transfer. Up early to go there, but into the office this morning and found myself off the network. And once again the RSSI was showing a very high value, this time ridiculously high: 193 dBm, or a reading of 153.

Investigation showed that the dropout had started in the evening, and I had been off the net for over 10 hours:

Start time End time  Duration   Badness        from                    to
                     (seconds)
1298631470 1298668542  37072  0.065 # 25 February 2011 21:57:50 26 February 2011 08:15:42

Called up Internode Support and got a call back from Mike, who asked what operating system I use. He's yet another Internode person who has never heard of FreeBSD. He said he couldn't do much until the second level support got in, usually round 9:00, but he would get them to do something about it. I decided to take my laptop and the USB stick with me to see if I could get connectivity in Ballarat.

While checking things, discovered pawprints on pain, my Microsoft laptop, and that the antenna connector had been disconnected. One of the cats, probably Piccola, had obviously been there and disconnected it. What a pain! After reconnecting it, I got a connection. False alarm, and I called Internode back to let them know.

Got a call from Blake, who still seemed to think it would be a good idea to take my laptop with me. It took me some time to convince him that it wouldn't make any sense. He's going to send a second modem to confirm that it's not the modem. I suppose that if you can't address the obvious cause, it's a good idea to eliminate the other potential causes first. But wouldn't it be a good idea for Optus to get their act together? He also made the claim that 3G wireless is not intended as a permanent connection to the Internet, just something for use when surfing (at Macdonalds, as he had earlier suggested, I suppose).

And the antenna connection? The whole business with USB sticks and toy antenna cables gets on my nerves, and the location doesn't help. The antenna cable comes out far too easily, but I think I've fixed it now:


  This should be Internet-connection-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Internet connection 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1072 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Internet-connection-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Internet connection 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 976 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Internet-connection-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Internet connection 3          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 768 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

And what about the signal strength? It can only go to 31, or -51 dBm. The reading I have was 244 dB higher than that, enough to have vapourized the house and the surrounding area. Clearly some kind of problem with the firmware, but it also puts other anomalous readings into doubt.


Ghosts: fled
Topic: technology Link here

Finally made my way into Ballarat, arriving only about 20 minutes late, but they're doing some building work at the university, and it was another 10 minutes before I finally found my way into the correct building. And the door was locked:


 
This should be Room-T121.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Room T121          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1552 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

What happened there? No way to tell. I had already established that I don't have Josh's mobile phone number, so there was nothing I could do.


Identifying mystery plants
Topic: gardening Link here

On into town to browse around, on the way stopping off at a plant nursery on Main Road that I hadn't seen before. Didn't buy anything, but found a couple of plants I had been trying to identify. The first photo is the plant I saw today, the others parts of the plant Yvonne had found:


 
This should be Melianthus-major-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Melianthus major 1          Dimensions:          2816 x 2112, 880 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1072 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 20 October 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 20 October 2010, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 20 October 2010 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Mystery-plant-8.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 8          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 880 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Wednesday, 20 October 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Wednesday, 20 October 2010, small
Diary entry for Wednesday, 20 October 2010 Complete exposure details

 

As Bev Hardenberg suggested, this is a Melianthus major, as the label stated:


  This should be Melianthus-major-illegible.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Melianthus major illegible          Dimensions:          2816 x 2112, 288 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Don't you love compact cameras? They're getting more and more on my nerves. And I had my Olympus with me in the car; I could have taken the photo with that.

Also found the solution to another mystery:


  This should be Mystery-plant-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Mystery plant 3          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1040 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 16 January 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 16 January 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 16 January 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Took a photo of it, which didn't come out at all: there seems to have been some file system corruption on the memory card, and I couldn't copy the file. The message I got was amazing:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp4) ~ 8 -> cp -p NIKON/DSCN0255.JPG Photos/20110226/orig
cp: NIKON/DSCN0255.JPG: Argument list too long

All attempts to recover it failed, but I didn't try it with a Microsoft system. Kept a copy just in case; it's not an important photo, but I want to be able to recover the data.

On the way home, stopped off at the plant sales in Napoleons and bought a plant I've been meaning to buy for some time:


  This should be Kniphofia-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Kniphofia 2          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1664 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 27 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I don't know what it is either, but they're very common, and I'm sure I'll find out soon. Unfortunately it suffered in transport; I don't know how long the flower is going to keep.

This is Kniphofia uvaria.

While I was there, also found more of mystery plant 27 for sale. One of them was in a put with another plant and an ice-cream stick with the text “Chilean pink” on it.


  This should be Pink-Chilean.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Pink Chilean          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 2480 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

To which plant did that refer? Back home did some searching, but drew a blank, though I did find an interesting web site about Chilean plants. They're quite inclusive; it seems to be “every plant that grows in Chile” rather than “plants that only occur in Chile”, and I found Alstroemerias (really from Peru) and a plant named after a city in Argentina.

Also found the kind of identification web site that I've been looking for in vain. This one only applies to Viburnums, but that's what I had to identify. It starts out looking at the leaf shape. Mine are clearly 1A2 (ovate), after which I needed to look at the “teeth” with the help of a dime, whatever that may be. They're very fine:


  This should be Viburnum-leaf-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Viburnum leaf 1          Dimensions:          4100 x 3084, 1344 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Next I had to investigate the underside of the leaves. Pubescence or not?


  This should be Viburnum-leaf-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Viburnum leaf 3          Dimensions:          4100 x 3084, 1520 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I'd say “not”. Next, examine the petioles:


  This should be Viburnum-petiole-7.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Viburnum petiole 7          Dimensions:          4100 x 3084, 2016 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Saturday, 26 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Saturday, 26 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

That doesn't have wavy margins, so this must be a Viburnum prunifolium. But is it? Some of the decisions are difficult to make. What if the leaf form is not ovate but elliptic? What if the teeth aren't extremely fine but missing? I'd end up elsewhere—maybe. Time to test those possibilities.

Yet another mystery plant grows in the paddocks:


  This should be Plant-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Plant 1          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1120 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 18 April 2010, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 18 April 2010, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 18 April 2010 Complete exposure details

 

CJ has recognized this one as a weed, Horehound. That name refers to two different plants, Ballota and Marrubium. It looks like ours is Ballota.


Reception problems: further investigation
Topic: multimedia Link here

One of the things that I did this morning while I had no Internet connectivity was to once again try recording a TV programme, from SBS, which seems to be particularly sensitive. And, sure enough, I got pretty mediocre reception. Played around with the antenna/antenna amplifier connection, and it came good. That's still no proof, but it's another pointer in the same direction, that the connector is the issue.


Sunday, 27 February 2011 Dereel Images for 27 February 2011
Top of page
previous day
next day
last day

Network: signal quality issues
Topic: technology Link here

The network problems continue unabated. The interesting thing is that they don't disrupt the PPP session: the session I started yesterday morning did not drop out at all until I rebooted (FreeBSD 8.2-RELEASE is out), though in the intervening time I had no less than 20 very short outages, most less than a minute. Most of them also didn't affect TCP connections.

But now there's a different issue in play: I think it's signal strength. Possibly that's because of the miserable weather we've been having, but I've seen the signal drop to RSSI 0 (which still, in fact, means a bare minimum signal) and then to the 153 (193 dBm) that I had noticed yesterday. It seems that this value (-103) is the real “no signal” indicator, and not 99 as claimed. In these circumstances I frequently see (and feel) the connection going into GPRS mode.

So these dropouts appear to be due to my circumstances. Should I buy a better antenna? That was one of the issues that I considered when I bought this one, and I could easily add 10 dB to the signal strength. Maybe I should do that, but in the meantime I'm wondering if it's worth keeping the service at all. If only Telstra had customer service!


Garden flowers at the end of summer
Topic: gardening Link here

Today was the last Sunday in the month, time for the monthly garden flowers. Plenty of things to choose from, though things like Gazanias didn't want to open in this cool, wet weather. And comparing with a month ago, it's surprising how many things are not in flower. It's not just the ones that have finished flowering; most of the roses have no flowers at the moment, though normally they'll continue to bloom for another 3 or 4 months. It must be the weather.


Cookbooks: O tempura! O Mores!
Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

Cooked Japanese food this evening, something of which I have little experience. Yvonne bought some takeaway sushi and sashimi, and I tried my hand at Tempura. We have a nice looking cookbook, “Japanese cooking” by Emi Kazuko and Yasuko Fukuoka, published by Hermes House. It's particularly precise about the details (“Bring the oil to 175°C/347°F)”, though it does mention silly units like cups. The details for the batter are typical:

      ice-cold water
1       large (US extra large) egg
200g/7oz/2 cups       plain flour, sifted
2-3       ice cubes

Add enough ice-cold water to the egg to make 150ml/¼pint/⅔cup, then pour into a large bowl. Add the flour and mix roughly with chopsticks. Do not beat: leave the batter lumpy. Add some ice cubes later to keep the temperature cool.

That all looks very specific and reasonable; in particular adapting to the size of the egg by adding water to 150 ml looks good. But the proportions! That's a thicker dough than I use for making bread! And that's how it looked:


  This should be Tempura-batter.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Tempura batter          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1440 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 27 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

Added another 165 ml of water before it finally got somewhere like the consistency I expect from tempura batter. But am I right? That's what I buy cookbooks for.

Another issue was the dipping sauce. I can't complain about the ingredients, because I don't know what they should be, but the quantity! For 4 people they wanted 800 ml sauce. That's a small beer glass full for each person. I made half the quantity (300 ml for 3 people), and at the end we had over 150 ml left over. So a more reasonable quantity of dipping sauce would be 60 to 70 ml per person. They wanted 3 times that much.

One thing I discovered while looking for recipes is that tempura is an import from the Portuguese, and the name refers to the Latin quattuor tempora (Ember days, literally “four times”). Few Japanese adaptations of Western words are so unchanged, but it's also relevant to the title of this diary entry.


Reevaluating the Viburnum
Topic: gardening Link here

So, are the leaves of my Viburnum ovate or elliptic? If they're the latter, and there's a good argument for it, yesterday's identification was wrong. Then I get three choices for leaf teeth, including “none or indistinct”, which could fit my plant. Then I need to measure the leaves: are they more or less than 3" (7.5 cm)? Yes, both. The small ones are shorter, the big ones are longer. I suppose that means “bigger”. Next I need to look at whether the leaves are spotted or wrinkled. They're not, so it seems this is a Viburnum rhytidophylloides.

Do I believe that? No, I don't think so. The leaves of this variety are up to 8" (20 cm) long, much longer than on my plant. Also I vaguely remember that the label on the plant I saw yesterday had a species starting with P. I recalled this before doing the identification, so there's no chance that it could have influenced my recollection. I suppose we'll have more certainty when (if?) the thing finally flowers.


Cleaning the verandah gutters
Topic: general Link here

The gutter at the west (house) end of the verandah has overflowed a number of times when it rains, and it was getting clogged up with Jasmine and Lonicera, so up to take a look. It proved that the polycarbonate roofing (right) was so close to the roofing of the house that I couldn't get any tools in to clean it out, so tore a strip off the roofing to get the stuff out. There must have been a couple of kilograms there in a very short length. Hopefully we'll have no more flooding now.


  This should be Gutter-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Gutter 1          Dimensions:          3024 x 4032, 1456 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 27 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 
  This should be Gutter-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Gutter 2          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 1392 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 27 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

While up there, took a panoramic view of the surroundings:


  This should be roof-panorama-1.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: roof panorama 1          Dimensions:          7174 x 1405, 1696 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Sunday, 27 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Sunday, 27 February 2011 Complete exposure details

 

I think that's a good candidate for cropping, or maybe an improvement in the position. Clearly it's not a good subject for a 360° panorama.


Monday, 28 February 2011 Dereel Images for 28 February 2011
Top of page
previous day

Network issues: improvement?
Topic: technology Link here

The network dropouts continued today. From Saturday morning until midday today there were a total of 34 dropouts, few of them longer than a minute. And watching the signal strength showed big fluctuations in signal strength and much dropping back to GPRS.

What can be causing that? My antenna hasn't changed, and there's no obvious change in the signal strength most of the time. Have they brought another tower on line? Is there trouble with the tower in Linton? Who knows? But whoever it is, they're not telling.

After a bit of discussion, decided to try pointing the antenna at the Meredith tower again. When I first set up the antenna, that proved to have the strongest signal, but only GPRS. Tried again today. No stronger signal, but I got an UMTS/HSPA signal, and it stayed that way. For a few hours I thought the problem was solved, but then in the evening I got another 3 dropouts, along with congestion that I haven't seen for a long time:

--- www.lemis.com ping statistics ---
68 packets transmitted, 58 packets received, 14.7% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 661.854/3131.738/7075.013/2046.373 ms
34 packets transmitted, 31 packets received, 8.8% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 879.221/2884.587/5571.684/1411.618 ms
=== grog@teevee (/dev/ttyp0) /spool/Docco 14 -> date
Mon Feb 28 20:41:11 EST 2011
59 packets transmitted, 50 packets received, 15.3% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 622.099/14645.285/23218.133/6979.584 ms
=== grog@teevee (/dev/ttyp0) /spool/Docco 21 -> date
Mon Feb 28 21:45:53 EST 2011
214 packets transmitted, 178 packets received, 16.8% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 491.876/10185.401/33682.254/8896.248 ms
=== grog@teevee (/dev/ttyp0) /spool/Docco 131 -> date
Mon Feb 28 21:50:51 EST 2011
20 packets transmitted, 20 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 1279.977/2575.517/3892.358/793.594 ms
Mon Feb 28 21:55:15 EST 2011
20 packets transmitted, 20 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 3090.786/5110.961/6079.993/779.114 ms
Mon Feb 28 21:55:46 EST 2011

I'm fed up to the back teeth with these problems. For over 3½ years I've had nothing but flaky connections and dropouts. I live 100 km from Melbourne, in a country that allegedly has a highly sophisticated communications infrastructure. Why can these things happen? When will I finally get a usable Internet connection?


American Express: true to form
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Mail from American Express today. Two years ago I signed up with them for a free credit card. After months of incompetent and insulting behaviour, I gave up and stopped using the card. Today they told me of changes in the conditions. There's a new card type with lots of exciting advantages:


  This should be amexco.gif.  Is it missing?
Image title: amexco          Dimensions:          2131 x 1223, 1120 kB
Make a single page with this image Hide this image
Make this image a thumbnail Make thumbnails of all images on this page
Make this image small again Display small version of all images on this page
All images taken on Monday, 28 February 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Monday, 28 February 2011, small
Diary entry for Monday, 28 February 2011

 

It doesn't really make much difference, does it, if you're not using the card? Well, it does. The big difference, mentioned only if you read the entire letter, is that they will now start charging $80 a year for the card. So why is that in the small print? Probably because that's the kind of company they are. Called up the Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 51 81 81 and spoke to Evelyn, who told me that I should talk to the Financial Ombudsman on 1300 78 08 08, but she thought that they were probably allowed to do it by virtue (is that the word?) of their terms and conditions. She's probably right. But why do business with people like that?


Top of page Previous month Greg's home page Today's diary entry Next month Greg's photos Copyright information

Valid XHTML 1.0!

$Id: diary-feb2011.php,v 1.71 2013/03/01 04:46:09 grog Exp $