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January 2007
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Monday, 1 January 2007 Echunga Images for 1 January 2007
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Brew day again, the first time in over 2 months that I've done a real brew. I'm getting increasingly frustrated with my primitive equipment, but can't make the next step because I don't really believe that there's anything out there which I can afford and which does it right.

A bit more work on multimedia today, mainly trying to get firefox to display the videos at SBS Food Safari. Attempts to display on wantadilla come up with the message Unknown Plugin (application/x-mplayer2), and the Manual Install takes me to Microsoft's Download Center. Why do they think that they can help? Interestingly, I have exactly the same problems with MacOS X Safari. I'm intrigued by the name mplayer2. It's probably an abbreviation for some Microsoft product name.

Finally “solved the problem” (a multimedia expression for “found the stepping stones to work around the crocodiles”) and re-installed firefox on teevee.lemis.com for the umpteenth time, this time version 2.0 with these horrible, not-turn-offable tabs and keymap that steals several keys, but with the ports www/linux-flashplugin7 and www/linux-mplayer-plugin, and it worked as well as SBS intended, which includes being forced to watch commercials with violent content and being unable to skip over them. Grr.


Tuesday, 2 January 2007 Echunga
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Back to work today, slowly. It seems that the Peters in Hahndorf are still occupied elsewhere, and for some reason our ssh tunnel keeps going down (how can I detect that and recover from it?), so spent today looking at keyboard multiplexers.

The keyboard multiplexer, /dev/kbdmux0, is part of the FreeBSD keyboard driver. It attaches multiple keyboards and gives them equal status. In our case we want to use only the USB keyboard for “real” keyboard input and use the AT port keyboard (/dev/atkbd0) for other purposes. That's provided for by the keyboard multiplexer, but for some reason detaching doesn't work, or maybe it reattaches immediately.

So, a job for kernel debugging, something I haven't done for months. Dragged out my tutorial on the topic, but still had heavy going. I need to put more information on kernel builds in one place, to make it more difficult to build a kernel that doesn't support debugging properly.


Wednesday, 3 January 2007 Echunga
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A Dutch moment this morning: a CD shipment from J.A.I.M. Schuurs, and while I was opening that, got a phone call from Edwin Groothuis, better known as Mavvie, who had just got out of hospital less than 24 hours after having his gall bladder removed. Clearly he's doing well.

More work on the keyboard today, climbing my way through the kernel to find out why I can't detach keyboards. The VFS doesn't make it easy. There seem to be two different issues:

Gave up and sent a message out to a FreeBSD mailing list asking for suggestions.

Into Mount Barker to see Boris about my foot. Nothing serious, but somehow even a small interruption like that makes a mess of the day.


Thursday, 4 January 2007 Echunga
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Message from an eBay contact this monring this morning with an interesting observation: searching Google for her name brings up a reference to her eBay page. But there's nothing there to identify her, and these things are supposed to be anonymous. Is there something funny going on here?

To Hahndorf in the morning to investigate why the ssh tunnel kept going down. Initially I had suspected network problems (of course), but the Peters had assured me that there had not been any, so my next (bad) guess was that long-standing connections were against the ISP's AUP, and that they had been chopping them down. Basic debugging procedure, though (Chapter 23 of The Complete FreeBSD), showed that there were indeed network problems of an intermittent nature. It's interesting to note how difficult it is to identify them. Traced the issue to the ADSL router, after which all went well.

More investigation of the keyboard multiplexer. That proved to be due to incorrect documentation: it seems that the ioctl needs to be issued to /dev/ttyv0. Obviously that's something that the program can do itself.


Friday, 5 January 2007 Echunga
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We have rain! The Western Australian observations are impressive: according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Esperance had 186 mm of rain over the past two days. We didn't get nearly as much, but at least it's better than nothing.

My foot is still hurting. Didn't feel much like working, and instead spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find out how to use the S/VHS video input on my DVICO tuner card, without success.


Saturday, 6 January 2007 Echunga
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Multimedia's straightforward, right? It's all a matter of moving data from one place to another; about the only complication is that it might need to be reformatted in the process. So why is it so difficult to find out how to move data around? Got a couple of replies to yesterday's message on S/VHS inputs to DVB cards. Neither was a real answer, just “you could try that”. Played around with the suggestions, in the process becoming more than ever aware of the deep divide made by Linux between analogue and digital tuners. No success.

Yesterday I had found a pretty picture of the dependencies between the plethora of devices presented by the V4L interface, but today I couldn't even find it again. Somehow the structure of the Wiki is deficient, probably a general problem with wikis.

Gave up on that and played around with MythTV, which I had installed as KnoppMyth on ceeveear a few months ago and run into problems. Today discovered that one of those problems was that the MySQL my.cnf file included the line

skip-networking

That's particularly clever when the server is addressed via an IP address. Fixed that (commented out the line) and then ran into further trouble. After starting mythfrontend and selecting “Watch TV”, the screen went blank, nothing happened for 20 seconds, and then the same menu returned. The only information of any utility was in the log file:

2007-01-07 10:37:17.194 New DB connection, total: 2
2007-01-07 10:37:17.196 Connected to database 'mythconverg' at host: localhost
2007-01-07 10:37:17.289 Connecting to backend server: 192.109.197.140:6543 (try 1 of 5)
2007-01-07 10:37:37.295 ReadStringList timeout (quick).
2007-01-07 10:37:37.295 Unexpected response to MYTH_PROTO_VERSION:
2007-01-07 10:37:37.297 TV: Attempting to change from None to None

What does that mean? My guess that the “unexpected response” was none at all (thus the 20 second delay). But why no response? The backend seems to be running quite happily.

Foolishly, decided to try reinstallation on a new disk, and ended up back in the maze of twisty little tuner setup scripts, all different. The thing that really takes the cake is when mythtv-setup starts a script underneath its own window, and there's no obvious way of moving it away. And all that for a script that I don't need anyway (it's for setting up analogue tuners). Decided to give up and try again from scratch with the latest version of Ubuntu. Downloading the DVD for that takes about 6½ hours at full ADSL speed:

=== grog@echunga (/dev/ttyp6) /src/ISOs 19 -> ftp http://mirror.internode.on.net/pub/ubuntu/releases-DVD/
edgy/release/ubuntu-6.10-dvd-i386.iso
Requesting http://mirror.internode.on.net/pub/ubuntu/releases-DVD/edgy/release/ubuntu-6.10-dvd-i386.iso
100% |*********************************************************|  3552 MB  156.85 KB/s    00:00 ETA
3725318144 bytes retrieved in  6:26:32 (156.85 KB/s)

So that's a job for another day.


Sunday, 7 January 2007 Echunga Images for 7 January 2007
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Had planned to install the latest version of Ubuntu this morning, but two things stopped me: first, I need a way to know what packages to install on the new machine, and secondly I needed the machine for recording a TV programme. The first proved as difficult in Ubuntu as in FreeBSD: the information about installed packages does not include information about whether the port was installed explicitly, or whether it was installed implicitly as a dependency. Given that there are nearly 1000 packages installed, that's an issue, though of course it would be possible to just install them all sequentially.

Spent some time looking for ways of skipping commercials automatically when recording TV programmes; I could have sworn that I had seen some reference that transcode could do it, but couldn't find any further reference. Instead, spent some time making my mplayer wrapper scripts cleverer. I can now save JPEG images (“snapshots”), but only when running without XvMC, which also only works with MPEG-2 streams; the script now recognizes that, too, and only sets XvMC for MPEG-2s.

Also more work on getting the supplementary information for the sale of the house; the page now looks much better.


Monday, 8 January 2007 Echunga
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Spent most of today playing around with keyboards. By default, you don't access the keyboard devices directly in UNIX; instead you access a (virtual) terminal, which interprets the keystrokes. In FreeBSD this is done by the console driver, via keymaps loaded by kbdcontrol. When accessing the device directly, all I get is key codes.

That in itself isn't so bad: in particular, there's a key press event and a key release event, the latter with the 0x80 bit set, and every key repeats, so recognizing repeats is a lot easier than I expected. The down side is that I can't get anything useful out of the keyboard when it's opened no-wait, and I can't afford to hang while checking for a key press. So I need a separate thread to handle the keyboard. Spent the rest of the day working on that.


Tuesday, 9 January 2007 Echunga
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More work on the keyboard driver today, interrupted by work in other parts of the tree. One of the most amazing exchanges was when I got this mail message:

When compiling lib I get the warning:

Misc.c: In function 'map_segment':
Misc.c:309: warning: int format, different type arg (arg 5)

Of course we don't capitalize the names of our files; this file was misc.c, and this was a warning from gcc. I asked about it and got the reply:

It is just Outlook - when it starts a new line it capitalises.

I've been complaining about Microsoft breakage for years, but this one really takes the cake. How can people use this junk?

I later heard from Achim Patzner that this is an option that first needs to be turned on, so this criticism is not overly justified. The fact that “expert” users don't know this is indicative of some problem, howerver.

Got my keyboard stuff working and committed it; only then did I discover that I had forgotten to remove the O_NONBLOCK flag from the keyboard open—and it worked anyway. So my assumptions were wrong. Still, thinking about it, having a separate keyboard thread is a lot simpler.

Spent some time in the afternoon trying to devise a new chicken dish in the Moghul style (which I interpret to mean with saffron and nuts in this case). There are plenty of dishes out there, but they all seem to have something wrong with them, so came up with my own. It wasn't bad, but not as impressive as I had hoped. I'd say that it needs more saffron, but I already had 0.5 g in there, and that's starting to get expensive.


Wednesday, 10 January 2007 Echunga Images for 10 January 2007
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Our project has slowed down again, so I had time to do other work with my “black box” machine—in fact, the work for which I had bought it, to turn it into a low-cost media PC. Finally found time to install the Ubuntu DVD that I downloaded on Saturday.

The results were impressive: it failed completely. The installer couldn't start X properly. I thought that this might be because of the strange on-board display chip on this motherboard, but a comparable installation of FreeBSD worked without a hitch, and Ubuntu failed even when I inserted an nVidia 4000 series board.. I thought I had also installed the previous version of Ubuntu on this box. Not a good result for Ubuntu. The character mode installation didn't work much better: most of the characters were corrupted. Left that for later and wondered what I should do next.

In the evening, watching TV, heard sirens outside. Went out and smelt smoke, which appeared to be coming from the south-west:


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Went down to Razorback Road, where I saw a couple of police cars blocking the road. One of the police gave me information about the fire: it appeared to be a couple of kilometres down Razorback Road and to be heading towards Echunga. Back home and got our fire protection drill done pretty quickly, not helped by the fact that the power failed.

Before long, it was clear that the fire wasn't going to come any closer to us, and back in to see what damage had been done. That was extensive, but apparently unrelated to the fire: wantadilla had crashed and wouldn't recognize the main disk when I tried to reboot it. Spent a lot of time with the black box machine trying to recover the disk, ultimately with success, but getting it back into the old wantadilla machine proved more of a problem, so decided to leave it for another day.

Getting information wasn't easy, either. The computers were down, so I couldn't contact the CFS web site. The brochures distributed at the beginning of the fire season tell us to listen to the radio in such a situation—but which station? They're quiet about that. Yvonne did some searching and got a snippet of information about a fire, but there's no reason to believe that it had anything to do with ours.

Left her trying alternative ideas, mainly telephone, and set to getting echunga and eucla up well enough that I could start a web browser. Finally got to the CFS web site and read:

The SA Country Fire Service advises that the fire in the vicinity of Razor Back Road and Battunga Road continues to pose a threat to public safety. Although the immediate risk has reduced, residents in the area of Dashwood Gully, Saddlebags, Hillyfields, Old Coach, Harper, Claren, Razor Back Roads and Boot Hill should continue with their Bushfire Action Plans. The fire continues to burn in a north easterly direction. There is a significant amount of smoke in the area which is posing a hazard and you should not enter or return to the area as access is restricted and the roads may not be safe.

Stay tuned to this radio station on a battery powered radio for more information, or call the CFS Bushfire Information Hotline on 1300 362 361.

For information about how to protect yourself from bushfire go to the CFS website: www.cfs.org.au

And that's all! Note particularly the “stay tuned to this radio station”. Presumably this message was meant to be read over the radio, but that doesn't help me find a radio station. Nothing else did, either; suggestions were 5AA (but no link to how to find it; for further reference, it's 1395 kHz AM in the Adelaide area) and ABC (which brought the entire ABC programme selection). That greatly needs improvement. The good news, of course, is that our immediate vicinity wasn't on the list.

Came back into the lounge to find Yvonne talking to the emergency line (000), who just told us to call the number quoted above. The bloke didn't hang up immediately, though—given that we're in the area, he was clearly interested in a report from our viewpoint. At least the important issue of fire fighting seems to be well under control.

Shortly before midnight, just as Yvonne was listening to a content-free recorded message from ETSA, the power came back. Put the UPS back in circuit and—it blew up! Noise and smell of sparks, and it not only blew both circuit breakers, but even after I reset them, we had no power in the computer rooms, so I had to lay cables from other rooms.

What a day!


Thursday, 11 January 2007 Echunga Images for 11 January 2007
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After getting to bed so late last night, I had intended to sleep in, but somehow I didn't manage it. Outside to find a strong smell of smoke, and decidedly hazy skies (at least for our circumstances):


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Went out to the fuse box and discovered that there are two sets of circuit breakers for the UPS, and both had tripped; I had only reset one set. After resetting the other, the power was restored.

Spent most of the day recovering my computer infrastructure. Put the new disk with the data that I had recovered last night into wantadilla, and it wasn't recognized either, so it looked like some issue with the motherboard. Grabbed teevee, which has a similar configuration, and used that instead, not without further problems. I suspect that there's some issue with the multiple display cards, though I haven't done enough testing to be sure. Finally got wantadilla up and went on to redeploy some of the UPSs to protect the main machines.

This was all punctuated by examining what was going on with the bushfire. The smoke increased in the course of the day, partially due to back-burning, and though the sun was shining, the smoke made it shine with an eerie orange glow which was somewhat frightening. Discovered at 10:45 that there had been a meeting to inform about the status at Echunga town hall at 10:00, and another at Kangarilla at midday, so Yvonne went off to that. She came back with a map showing the extent of the blaze, and the information that it still hadn't been contained, so she decided to evacuate the horses. I wasn't convinced of the necessity, but Diane Saunders was doing so as well, and she had been though this sort of thing before, both as a private person and as a police officer, so I decided that it was the safe thing to do, and I most certainly didn't want to be proven wrong.

It's nice to see how many people are prepared to help in these times. Several people had called to offer to look after the horses, including Catherine, one of Yvonne's pupils, and I heard from Di that Jenny Fenwick was also able to look after them, but Yvonne had met a Sophie Jennison from McLaren Flat in Kangarilla, who had offered to put them up.

Took our two riding horses first, Darah and Carlos, and then Yvonne returned with Sophie to take La Tigre and Luna. By that time it was looking pretty much as if the fire was about to be contained, though the CFS hadn't issued a bulletin in some hours, but Sophie told me that she had just heard that Tamsin and Shane Adcock's house had been burnt down, which certainly changed the matter somewhat. Started packing up my musical instruments Called up the CFS and finally got on to Grant, from Manitoba, just as I saw on IRC:

<cperciva> groOgle: I hear that you've been borrowing some Canadian firefighters.  [15:48]

Grant told me that there had been no update since 11:40 because the situation was unchanged, but that the fire had not yet crossed Pocock road, still a long way from the Adcock's house.

Loading Luna proved to be more difficult than we expected; she was absolutely terrified and squealed in a way that I've never heard before. I was concerned about whether the dangers of evacuation might not exceed those of being burnt, so called Chris Yeardley—she's buying both horses—and told her the situation. She agreed that it was probably best to leave them out in a well-grazed paddock, giving the added information that such paddocks burn relatively slowly, so horses normally don't panic too much.

So Yvonne and Sophie left with the other two horses instead, Samba and Pebbles. While she was away, Diane Saunders came by with the information that she had spoken to Alan, who lives at the top of the hill shown in so many photos, including the one above (the bare hill at the right). He has a perfect vantage point to watch the fire, and apparently said that the fire was still approaching. Went over to take a look for myself, and neither Alan nor I could confirm that statement: in fact, it all looked pretty boring:


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Got the opportunity to take a photo of our own property from up there; it looks quite nice and green in comparison with the brown which surrounds it:


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CFS web site: an alibi?

The CFS does wonderful work in putting out fires, and I've been very impressed by the professional approach of almost every aspect. This year we've been literally bombarded with information about how to prepare for and survive fires. Full marks to the CFS in these areas.

Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the CFS web site. The level of information and the manner in which it is provided is completely inadequate. I mentioned yesterday that I couldn't find the radio stations, but there's much more:


Friday, 12 January 2007 Echunga Images for 12 January 2007
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Woke up feeling exhausted. Most people seem to have been worried mainly about the fire, but my exhaustion came mainly from yesterday's computer recoveries. They weren't over, either: I had made the mistake of using rsync to copy the data from disk to disk. I was concerned about blackouts, and rsync would allow me to continue after a reboot. Unfortunately, rsync doesn't really take links seriously, and the -a (archive) option doesn't preserve them. In particular in my mail directories I have a number of folders that are linked to many different names:

=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 15 -> find ~/Mail -inum 9044458 | xargs ls -li
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/FreeBSD/brewing-supplies
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/FreeBSD/hbd
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/FreeBSD/hbf
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/brewingequipment
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/craftbrewing
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/craftbrewing-craftbrewer.org
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/digest
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/hbd
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/hbf
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/homebrew
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/uk-homebrew
9044458 -rw-r--r--  12 grog  lemis  46798220 Jan 12 16:29 /home/grog/Mail/uk-homebrew-owner

This one folder alone was split into 12, wasting over 500 MB of space. In total it was more like 5 GB. In the end, since I still had the old disk, and it still seemed functional, decided it would be easier to copy the data again using rsync's -H (“preserve hard links”) option; but with 50 GB, that took a while.

More feedback from David Fitch on the CFS web site. He knows his way around because he's a member (the CFS is a volunteer service), but he wasn't able to point to a link for the radio stations either. He tells me that they're redesigning the web site. The details don't sound promising: it looks as if they'll still require flash and frames. That's not as bad, apparently, as the Bureau of Meteorology emergency web site (access restricted to emergency service people), which only works with Microsoft “Internet Explorer”. When will people learn?


Saturday, 13 January 2007 Echunga
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Still feeling exhausted from the events of the last couple of days, and had intended to take it easy. Somehow that didn't happen. Did a bit of reading, but then started looking at multimedia stuff again. Took another look at the MythTV User Manual, which looks a lot better than I recall it being. Recalled that I still have a half-finished port in the FreeBSD Ports Collection, so set to working on that. In the meantime, tried to follow up on the Australian TV Guide information at tuhs.org, but ran into trouble accessing some pages. After a lot of searching, discovered that the culprit was the Internode web proxy server: other people round the world could access the site, and I could access it by ssh (I used to have an account). This is the first time I've run into problems of this nature, but it's certainly a show-stopper.

I'm also getting rather fed up with repetitive spam messages to unknown users:

Jan 13 00:11:47 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[26369]: 0A7D61A9CB6: reject: RCPT from unknown[61
.80.47.1]: 550 5.1.1 <shiraijnhg@lemis.com>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in l
ocal recipient table; from=<bowlensoflo@eiganimanabu.com> to=<shiraijnhg@lemis.com> proto=
SMTP helo=<eiganimanabu.com>
Jan 13 00:11:48 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[26369]: 0A7D61A9CB6: reject: RCPT from unknown[61
.80.47.1]: 550 5.1.1 <julian7@lemis.com>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in loca
l recipient table; from=<bowlensoflo@eiganimanabu.com> to=<julian7@lemis.com> proto=SMTP h
elo=<eiganimanabu.com>
Jan 13 00:11:52 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[26369]: 0A7D61A9CB6: reject: RCPT from unknown[61
.80.47.1]: 550 5.1.1 <danorton@lemis.com>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in loc
al recipient table; from=<bowlensoflo@eiganimanabu.com> to=<danorton@lemis.com> proto=SMTP
 helo=<eiganimanabu.com>
Jan 13 00:11:53 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[26369]: 0A7D61A9CB6: reject: RCPT from unknown[61
.80.47.1]: 550 5.1.1 <petek@lemis.com>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in local
recipient table; from=<bowlensoflo@eiganimanabu.com> to=<petek@lemis.com> proto=SMTP helo=
<eiganimanabu.com>

I don't know the point of these messages, but I'd like to get rid of them, preferably by firewalling, but was given the suggestion to try BLD, the blacklist daemon. Got it installed and configured without too much trouble, but it doesn't seem to work as advertised. I've set bld up to reject after 2 submissions in 30 seconds, then bombarded it with 11 messages from the same address to an invalid address on my system. bld saw this and registered it, but didn't write anything to the black list:

Jan 13 12:07:29 wantadilla bld[83682]: 69.147.83.53 submitted by 127.0.0.1
Jan 13 12:07:57 wantadilla last message repeated 12 times
Jan 13 12:08:50 wantadilla bld[83682]: IP list dumped to /var/run/bld/bld_iplist.dump
Jan 13 12:08:50 wantadilla bld[83682]: black list dumped to /var/run/bld/bld_blacklist.dump

At this point, the black list was still empty. I would have expected to see 69.147.83.53 in there. For each message maillog showed:

Jan 13 12:07:29 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[83838]: connect from mx2.freebsd.org[69.147.83.53]
Jan 13 12:07:29 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[83838]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from mx2.freebsd.org
[69.147.83.53]: 550 5.1.1<fluhah@lemis.com>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in
 local recipient table; from=<grog@FreeBSD.org> to=<fluhah@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP hel
 o=<mx2.freebsd.org>
Jan 13 12:07:29 wantadilla postfix/smtpd[83838]: disconnect from mx2.freebsd.org[69.147.83.53]

Sent a message to the author; it'll be interesting to see whether this is my misconfiguration or a bug.


Sunday, 14 January 2007 Echunga
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Quiet day today. Did some more work on the MythTV port, and got it to the point where it would install the database correctly if it wasn't already there. Running mythtv-setup was another matter, though: it came up in incorrect colours, as if it were running in PseudoColor; certainly the colours changed with focus, but they were always wrong. That could be due to the fact that I had selected a remote display, though it works fine from Linux to the same displays, so decided to try it by installing on eucla first. That took several hours, after which the build failed with a dependency issue. Mañana.

Still more dam(n) water pipe blockage. Flushed another 12,000 litres up to the dam. I wonder how long it will last this time.


Monday, 15 January 2007 Echunga Images for 15 January 2007
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Somehow didn't get much done today. Got MythTV installed on eucla, and this time the colours were correct, but without a tuner card there doesn't seem to be much that you can do with it.

In the evening, while racking some beer, discovered an enormous spider on my shoulder; no idea how it got here. I think it's a huntsman:


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Tuesday, 16 January 2007 Echunga
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Over to Hahndorf for a project meeting this morning; the Peters have other work to do for the moment, so I brought the prototype home for testing.

Then over to Grumpys, where I discovered that Thomas Hamann was no longer employed—since yesterday evening. No explanation of why he left.

In the afternoon, got the prototype up and running. The current testing relates to the IFO files, so set out looking for some tools to analyse the content. There's one for Microsoft, called ifoedit, but it took a while to find PgcEdit, which is written in tcl. No installation instructions, but there is a Linux executable which seemed to work—except that the “open” window (which conveniently starts in the root file system rather than the current directory) didn't work. Took quite some time to discover that it insists on having the file names in capital letters, so a name like vts_01_0.ifo wasn't recognized, and there was also no error message. Changing the names to VTS_01_0.IFO worked. Now how do I fix that in the tcl code?


Wednesday, 17 January 2007 Echunga
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Spent most of the day working on the DVD generation, and made reasonable progress: at least I was able to generate a DVD, though the format still leaves something to be desired.

Into Echunga in the afternoon to have my hair cut. Last week's bushfire is still the talk of the town.

Disabling tabs in Firefox 2.0

I've ranted enough about my dislike of the direction that firefox firefox has been takking lately, in particular that I couldn't get release 2.0 to run without “tabs”, a poor man's substitute for a window manager. Finally today I got a reply on the FreeBSD-STABLE mailing list that told me how to do it:

Now wouldn't it be nice if this (and all the other knobs) were documented somewhere? I haven't been able to find this kind of documentation so far.


Thursday, 18 January 2007 Echunga
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I had barely posted yesterday's diary when Oliver Herold sent me a message pointing to a Wiki page about the firefox about:config pages. It looks very useful, but it's an external link, and it is currently out of date; this should be part of the official documentation.

More work on DVD generation today, but wasn't feeling too well, and didn't make much progress.


Friday, 19 January 2007 Echunga
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The monsoons have come! For the last 6 months or so we've been in the grip of the worst drought in memory; yesterday it started to rain, and it was still continuing when we went to bed tonight. If you believe the Bureau of Meteorology—something that's becoming increasingly difficult—it will continue for another couple of days.

This is unusual for a number of reasons:

We didn't get that much rain here, only 5 mm in Echunga (and 0 mm in Meadows, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. I certainly don't believe that). Still, it's a welcome change.

More work on the DVD data today. I am now writing .ifo files, but how do I check if they're correct? Spent more time looking at PgcEdit, and discovered it needs a mounted /proc file system to work—otherwise it does the typical multimedia thing and just stops, returning a 0 status. But it's far too complicated for what I want, and it outputs to the screen, so I can't put the output through scripts. Instead, took a look at a small proprietary program that Peter Denton had given me. It was written for Microsoft, but in C++, so it's portable, right? Wrong.

I suppose I shouldn't be amazed at the quality of this software; it's closed source, and thus not subject to the same scrutiny that open source software is. In addition, it's multimedia software, and written for Microsoft. Still, this is what I had to change:

At the end, I had the program compiling with no warnings, but it still didn't run. Presumably I didn't convert the structure definitions exactly.

More information on unofficial firefox documentation, this time from Marco Perez, who points me at kb.mozillazine.org and preferential.mozdev.org. I haven't looked at them in detail, but they seem to provide some useful information.


Saturday, 20 January 2007 Echunga
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Quiet day. Out in the morning to look at the damage done by last week's bushfire; it was in fact surprisingly little. I had expected to see vast areas burnt to the ground, but in many places the trees were only scorched and still had their leaves on. Still, a sobering sight.

Spent more time looking at TV programme software. Internode has now bypassed their “transparent” proxy, and I can now get the xmltv listings from the OzTivo TV guide. But what software should I use to look at it? The obvious thing would be a web browser. Strangely, I didn't find anything useful. OzTivo has web pages giving an overview, but they're not easy to use. I'd prefer something more like the SBS programme, which seems to be the only useful guide left in Australia, now that ABC have deliberately mutilated theirs.

Went out looking for alternatives, and finally came up with XSLTv, which purports to do that, but after following the instructions, nothing happened. It's not clear whether it was a missing dependency or incorrect instructions, but my desire to continue was somewhat curbed by the warning that it's very slow, and of course at there's no guarantee that it will do what I want.

Surely there must be something out there to do the most obvious presentation of the programme data.

Did some large recordings today, including a programme on Channel 9 (what's their real name? ninemsn, written in lower case? Nomen est omen, I suppose), which in high definition came to a total of 22 GB for a single programme. But it wasn't broadcast in high definition; when I finally got to look at it, all I saw were aerial landscapes of Australian cities. Why do they do that? Did they only broadcast it in normal definition? Or did they drop it altogether? Tried calling up to ask them, and was flabbergasted:


Sunday, 21 January 2007 Echunga
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Spent more time looking at programs to convert programme guide data today, and finally came to the conclusion that none of them did what I want. Instead, set to writing an Emacs macro to do the conversion instead. It's pretty ugly, but it works. The disappointing thing was that, once I had done the conversion, I discovered that the original data is not as detailed at least as the SBS programme.

Apart from that, spent most of the day reading. I should do more of this.


Monday, 22 January 2007 Echunga
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More work on the DVD structure analysis program today; made progress, but I'm always left wondering if I shouldn't be attending to the task at hand rather than the infrastructure.

Daniel Demuth showed up today for his annual visit.


Tuesday, 23 January 2007 Echunga
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Our machine is back from Brisbane again, so over to Hahndorf to take a look at it. We still seem to have transport problems. I'm amazed how badly people treat delicate electronic equipment.

Most of the day testing the IFO generation code. Well, it's more like “reading and understanding”. At least it's now becoming clearer what the structures are. I wonder if better documentation would have helped; for once, we seem to have enough.

In the evening into Adelaide to talk to LinuxSA about Emacs, and wrote this text as part of the demonstration. Also presented David Hilley's Emacs presentation, and followed up with a number of demonstrations. There was quite a good turnout, and a number of other Emacs users told me of things that I didn't know myself. Looks like there's a whole lot of stuff to try out out there.


Wednesday, 24 January 2007 Echunga
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After taking a plethora of photos, Daniel left today, possibly for the last time. His parents have been half-resident in Noarlunga for 7 years, but the Immigration Department is making it both more and more difficult and also more and more expensive to get a visa, and they no longer think it's worth the trouble. Yet another detail that gives me the feeling that an era is coming to an end.

Continued work on the DVD stuff today. I can now generate a VTS_01_0.IFO file that looks almost correct, but there are some issues in the location of the first VTS_01_1.VOB file. I wish the documentation were clearer.


Thursday, 25 January 2007 Echunga
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Continued work on the DVDs today, and I think I now have the VTSI files (VTS_01_0.IFO and friends) correct. It's amazing how difficult it is to get the correct information, not in the slightest helped by the fact that just about all the software I see doesn't understand the concept of structures. For one example (there are many), here's code from dvdifo.c, part of dvdauthor, for creating a vtsi_mat structure, the beginning of the VTSI file:

    // sect 0: VTS toplevel
    memset(buf,0,2048);
    memcpy(buf,"DVDVIDEO-VTS",12);
    buf[33]=0x11;
    write4(buf+128,0x7ff);
    i=1;

    buf[0xCB]=i; // VTS_PTT_SRPT
    i+=Create_PTT_SRPT(0,ws->titles);

    buf[0xCF]=i; // VTS_PGCI
    i+=CreatePGC(0,ws,0);

    if( jumppad || forcemenus ) {
        buf[0xD3]=i; // VTSM_PGCI
        i+=CreatePGC(0,ws,1);
    }

What does that 0x11 mean? It's the contents of the specification version field, and it means that the file complies to version 1.1 of the DVD specification. The following line (write4) sets the value of vtsi_last_byte, the end address of the VTSI, which in fact must always be 2047. But what ugly code! And it's no exception: all multimedia code seems to look like this.


Friday, 26 January 2007 Echunga Images for 26 January 2007
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Australia Day

Brew day today; I'm getting thoroughly fed up with the amount of time this takes. If it weren't for the fact that I no longer enjoy commercial beer, I'd go back to drinking that instead. Time to find ways to simplify the process.

ETSA is driving me mad! Two weeks ago a power surge destroyed my new UPS; today we had no less than three small power outages, made worse by the fact that I didn't have my “real” UPS, and two of the ones I had put in as stop-gap measures also proved to be defective (worked fine until they were called upon to deliver, and then failed). There must be something that can be done. The idea of wind power sounds good: they charge batteries which drive an inverter to provide the power, effectively incorporating a UPS in the normal mode of operation.


Saturday, 27 January 2007 Echunga Images for 27 January 2007
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Quiet day today, spent reading and playing around with Internet radio. Why is it so difficult to get clear URLs for radio feeds? Discovered Realplayer's typically broken list of radio stations. Selecting them is a different matter; somehow I ended up with an mplayer plugin for the browser, which didn't work. It's not in the list of “download actions”, so I can't remove it. Moved it away instead, which at least gave me the option of browsing my home directory for likely programs to play the stream. Selected realplayer, but even then it couldn't handle all the URLs. There seem to be at least three different ways to pass the URL to realplayer:

The phones are down again! Lately it seems as if everything is failing. In this case, though, only two of the three lines were down, and it wasn't the normal situation after heavy rains. Both lines are on a pair gain system, so I'd suspect that. The good news is that the ADSL line is not affected, so we still have VoIP (and so we also don't know how long the lines have been down; we haven't had an incoming call for days). Had the usual pain getting through to the faults people. Both lines are with Call Australia, and they have to get Telstra to fix the lines. They say they'll “look at the problem” by Tuesday evening, by which time it should be fixed.

Sophie Jennison and her mother along for dinner in the evening. They brought a couple of bottles of their wine (Hawker's Gate) with them; it's amusing that neither Sophie nor her partner drink alcohol.


Sunday, 28 January 2007 Echunga
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Finally out riding again today, down the Razorback Road part of Kuitpo forest, where the bushfire was earlier this month. As last week, not much to be seen. Bumped into an acquaintance as we left and heard more details from her; one person had her stallion killed because she locked it in the stable out of fear that it might fight with others. It certainly won't do that any more. It looks like the bushfire will be the topic of conversation for months to come.


Monday, 29 January 2007 Echunga
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More work on DVDs today, and finally got something that would play in my Digitrex recorder—sort of. Still a number of things need to be done. On Peter Denton's recommendation, finally gave up on Open Source analysis programs and downloaded IFOEdit, which runs only on Microsoft. It's free, but for some reason the author doesn't want to release the source. In any case, it's a lot better than anything that I could find in the Open Source space. I fear I'm going to have to continue to use Microsoft for this purpose.


Tuesday, 30 January 2007 Echunga
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More work on the code today, without making much progress in the debugging. Discovered that one of the programs, rtdvd, no longer worked:

rtdvd -d /dev/cd1 -v 1 -t 1 -s 0 -i /scratch/DVD/temp -f -n
Inappropriate ioctl for device
Checking with gdb brought me to this code:
  /* Open the device file and ensure it exists */
  if ((device->fd = open (device->name, O_RDONLY)) < 0)
  ...
    if (ioctl (device->fd, CAMGETPASSTHRU, &ccb) < 0)
    {
      /*
       * We can assume the device will be ready with valid media so if it failed
       * it really is a problem.
       */
      syslog (LOG_ERR,
              "unable to CAMGETPASSTHRU for %s: ", device->name);
      perror (NULL);
      exit (FATAL_START (errno));
    }

Nothing much looked wrong with that, except maybe the missing parameters to perror, and the log entry confirmed that the device was /dev/cd1. Running the old version of the program on the same file worked.

Scratched my head and ran ktrace, which showed nothing unusual:

 89424 rtdvd    CALL  open(0x805a760,0,0)
 89424 rtdvd    NAMI  "/dev/cd1"
 89424 rtdvd    RET   open 7
 89424 rtdvd    CALL  fstat(0x7,0xbfbfe150)
 89424 rtdvd    RET   fstat 0
 89424 rtdvd    CALL  ioctl(0x7,0xc25e1503 ,0xbfbfdef0)
 89424 rtdvd    RET   ioctl -1 errno 25 Inappropriate ioctl for device

Ran it again with the old program and got:

 89510 rtdvd    NAMI  "/dev/cd1"
 89510 rtdvd    RET   open 7
 89510 rtdvd    CALL  fstat(0x7,0xbfbfe240)
 89510 rtdvd    RET   fstat 0
 89510 rtdvd    CALL  ioctl(0x7,CAMGETPASSTHRU,0xbfbfdfe0)
 89510 rtdvd    RET   ioctl 0

The only obvious difference there was the name of the ioctl: in the previous ktrace it was in hex. Running kdump with the -n option showed the hex value for CAMGETPASSTHRU:

 89510 rtdvd    CALL  ioctl(0x7,0xc2601503,0xbfbfdfe0)

So the correct value for the ioctl is 0xc2601503, but my version was using 0xc25e1503. That looked like I was using the wrong header files. Ran the preprocessor to see what was going on, using the trick described in chapter 6 of Porting UNIX Software (page 85 of this particular version). In that chapter I used -E; since then, I've taken to adding the compiler flags -C -dD -E, which give more information. But in this case, they didn't: I was using the correct system header files:

# 1 "/usr/include/cam/cam_ccb.h" 1 3 4
/*-
 * Data structures and definitions for CAM Control Blocks (CCBs).
...
# 34 "/usr/include/cam/scsi/scsi_pass.h" 2 3 4

/*
 * Convert to using a pointer to a ccb in the next major version.
 * This should allow us to avoid an extra copy of the CCB data.
 */
#define CAMIOCOMMAND _IOWR(CAM_VERSION, 2, union ccb)
#define CAMGETPASSTHRU _IOWR(CAM_VERSION, 3, union ccb)

The value for ioctl calls is quite structured; I described that, too, in Chapter 15 of “Porting UNIX Software” (page 252). There are four parts:

So somehow the size of my union had changed! That made more sense than it sounds: in an effort to ensure correct struct definitions for DVDs, I had decided to pack all structures. If it hadn't been for structures returned from the kernel, that would have worked. So clearly the -fpacked compiler option is a bad choice. Fixed things by defining the individual structures to be packed.


Wednesday, 31 January 2007 Echunga
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There are some days where everything happens at once. We already had a good start with Diane, the cleaning lady who comes on Wednesdays, Marcus, the gardener, and George, the farrier; then Catherine Smith, one of Yvonne's students, came in with a float, a horse and a bruise from falling off the horse. She couldn't drive any more, so Wendy, a friend, came along to pick her up.

Instead of getting back to work, I ended up talking on the phone with a couple of people from MySQL, during which the headset for my office phone finally died on me. The phone itself was damaged in December 2005, and the headset clip broke some time ago, but now the microphone gave up.

I've been meaning to buy a DECT cordless phone for some time, but today was clearly the day to do it. The idea is to use the cordless phone with a headset to give me more flexibility. Off to Dawesley to take Catherine's float back to her, followed by Yvonne, then to Mount Barker to look at phones. The phones aren't expensive; or maybe they are. I saw phones for prices between $50 and $299; the latter had three handsets instead of one, also a headset, but I can't make much sense of the prices. About the only difference between the systems was the lack of a speaker on the cheaper models, and greater range for the more expensive ones.

It's also strange how many different models they have; I must have seen ten models from Uniden alone. It was also very difficult to find a headset: for some reason, most computer headsets have two 3.5 mm jacks (one for microphone, one for headphones), while phones have a single 2.5 mm jack (mono only, of course). The phone shops don't sell either, and at KMart and the local computer shop I only found the former. That's an obvious candidate for an adaptor, particularly considering that headsets are often used for Internet telephony, but it seems that no such thing exists.

Finally, at the local Jaycar stockist of all places, found a phone for $50 and a headset for $30, both from Uniden. Got home and discovered that the headset was as good as identical with the Panasonic one that failed today, and also that the Uniden multi-handset systems will only allow one handset to connect at any one time. To my way of thinking, that makes them pretty useless, so the $50 handsets are not just cheaper, they're also better.


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