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Sunday, 1 January 2017 Dereel Images for 1 January 2017
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Relay board: finally!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's been over a month since I got my network-connected relay board, here an image from the vendor:

It arrived without any documentation at all, and all my attempts to find out how the thing works have proved less than sufficient. But back at the beginning of last month, I received a message from Daniel Nebdal, who sent a number of links, most of which I knew. But one (a sales page for a Different Quality 8 Channel Relay) included a feedback tab with texts like this, clearly mechanically translated (in this case from Russian):

It's, device is working, no documentation on it get to me has not yet succeeded. There is a program for Windows to control this card, but it, too, I can not get yet.

But then there was one:

 
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That promises more than it shows, but a click reveals:

 
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That looks almost like a text. A bit of image manipulation and I have:


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Tried that out, and how about that, it pulsedplused (turned on for 1 second, then off) relay 1! Somehow “Shopper” managed to find out parameters for the web page, presumably by tracing network traffic: you couldn't guess this stuff, especially with the typo. Further investigation showed that he didn't get it quite right. This command does exactly the same thing:

curl --user admin:12345678 --data "saida1pluse" http://192.168.1.166/relay_en.cgi

This is for this page (note the repeated typo):

 
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And so, with a bit of experimentation, it proved that saida1on would turn relay 1 on, saida5off would turn relay 5 off, and so on. Not exactly the most elegant way to control the thing—it listens on TCP port 1234, but for what? So far I haven't found enough information about the protocol—but it works, and I was finally able to update the sprinkle program that I wrote 12 years ago to talk to it, calling the new version netsprinkle. Aaaah!

In passing, we had a discussion about the matter on IRC a few days ago. Mohamed Ifadir suggested scrapping the board and using a Raspberry Pi with USB-connected relay board instead. That was certainly an option, but in many ways it just relocates the problem. And it would be more expensive. While discussing the matter, though, we talked about the size of the control program. Somewhere he was talking in terms of web browser extensions (meaning hundreds of megabytes with all the bloated libraries necessary), while I ventured the opinion that could be done in 50 kB. Mohamed didn't believe me. Who is right?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~/src 80 -> size netsprinkle
   text    data     bss     dec     hex filename
   5189     684      40    5913    1719 netsprinkle

Clearly that's well under 50 kB. But what happens when I run it?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/8) ~ 925 -> ps ut29
USER   PID %CPU %MEM   VSZ  RSS TT  STAT STARTED    TIME COMMAND
grog 91179  0.0  0.0 14584 2128 29  S+    1:58pm 0:00.00 netsprinkle -n -F 0.2 1 0 1

Suddenly we're up to 2 MB resident and much more virtual. Where does it all come from?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~/src 86 -> ldd netsprinkle
netsprinkle:
        libm.so.5 => /lib/libm.so.5 (0x800820000)
        libc.so.7 => /lib/libc.so.7 (0x800a49000)
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~/src 91 -> size /lib/libc.so.7 /lib/libm.so.5
   text    data     bss     dec     hex filename
1533126   46340  171648 1751114  1ab84a /lib/libc.so.7
 164216    1776      64  166056   288a8 /lib/libm.so.5

I suppose that about the only consolation is that libc, in particular, is already active on any system, so this program doesn't really add to memory usage.


Finding things on Google Maps
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

We're currently watching an Austrian TV series, „Der Bergdoktor“, inspired by the British series “Doc Martin”, even down to the name of the hero (Gruber Martin). Unlike the British series, the doctors use modern equipment and methods. Like the British series, it has beautiful scenery, centred round Ellmau in Tirol. And of course I wanted to take a closer look.

Problem: like in Germany, Google “Street View” is greatly restricted in Austria, and there are only panoramas in different places. After clicking on a few at random, I was suddenly attacked by an itch in my back. But I clicked on something, which turned out to be a panoramic view (even pointing in the right direction) of the doctor's house in the film. What a coincidence!

But how do I find it again? No idea. I didn't see where I clicked, so I was back to square one. Finally I found it here, but only because it's marked on the map as „Bergdoktorhaus“, about 1.5 km WSE from Ellmau.


Monday, 2 January 2017 Dereel Images for 2 January 2017
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No mail!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Came into the office this morning to discover that I had received no mail since yesterday evening. What's the problem there?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~ 92 -> fetchmail
fetchmail: No mail for groggyhimself@gmail.com at pop.gmail.com

But looking directly at gmail.com showed something like 150 messages. Why weren't they sent? After a while I found part of the cause:

Jan  2 09:54:27 eureka kernel: pid 5038 (cleanup), uid 125 inumber 4494489 on /: filesystem full

That proved to be due to a reconfiguration that had moved the /dump disk and file system from eureka to lagoon. I had updated the configuration on all machines running at the time, but I had forgotten my test machine stable, which is normally powered down. OK, fix that, reclaim the space on the root file system, and try again. Still no mail! Was it somehow marked “read” even when it hadn't been? Tried again:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) ~ 92 -> fetchmail -a
fetchmail: No mail for groggyhimself@gmail.com at pop.gmail.com

The -a flag says “download everything”. But it didn't. Bad gmail!

So what next? Forward the messages? But it seems that gmail doesn't have a (mass) forward function. You can forward individual messages, but that's all, and not what I want to do via a clunky GUI interface one message at a time. Searching the web pointed me at this page: “Multi Forward for Gmail Forwards Emails in Bulk”. It's an addon, and only for Chrome. Why? This is basic functionality. You can select a number of files in gmail, admittedly hindered by the interface, and delete them or file them elsewhere, for example. Why not forward them?

So I fired up a Chrome and installed it. Yes, the clever arrow appeared. I clicked on it. Nothing happened, but it seems that it may have downloaded a Microsoft executable, though a subsequent search didn't find it. OK, give up, try on Microsoft. Yes, it works, sort of. A maximum of 99 forwards at a time! Why? So I forwarded what I thought were the first 99 messages, which took forever, and at the end I got a message:


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12/89 forwards failed. You may have exceeded your daily quote limit set by Gmail.

I may? Doesn't it know? Why not? And why is there a limit? This shows software from its worst side.

Still, I had 77 forwarded messages. And yes, indeed, they were forwarded, not bounced. All the header information had been corrupted. Here the headers of a message that I got normally and also forwarded:

 109 N   01-01-2017 Andrey V. Elsukov           To src-committe          (  76) N   svn commit: r311038 - projects/ipsec/sys/netipsec
 126 N F 01-01-2017 To groggyhimself@lemis.com  To groggyhimself@lemis.c ( 174) N F Fwd: svn commit: r311038 - projects/ipsec/sys/netips

Those two lines refer to identically the same content. But the headers have little similarity. Here's the original:

Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2017 22:49:15 +0000 (UTC)
From: "Andrey V. Elsukov" <ae@FreeBSD.org>
To: src-committers@freebsd.org, svn-src-projects@freebsd.org
Subject: svn commit: r311038 - projects/ipsec/sys/netipsec
Message-Id: <201701012249.v01MnFqJ041810@repo.freebsd.org>

And this is what gmail made out of it:

To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Sender: groggyhimself@gmail.com
From: groggyhimself@gmail.com
In-Reply-To: <201701012249.v01MnFqJ041810@repo.freebsd.org>
References: <201701012249.v01MnFqJ041810@repo.freebsd.org>
Message-Id: <CAMMRsgTB5en0yicW4aLtSqigkYS-ZxCGq68J73OWxOJFD5P0sw@mail.gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2017 18:52:46 -0500

Just about everything was changed: sender, recipient, date, message ID. And no, the original headers weren't preserved in an attachment. Why do people do this? The messages are useless. How do I do a group reply, for example? Everything I had done so far could have been done with a single bounce command from mutt, but I still wasn't done.

But gmail offers the option of downloading messages as files. Barely less painful than forwarding individual messages: first you need to “display original”, and then click again. But beggars can't be choosers. So I downloaded one, greatly confusing firefox:

 
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OK, save it, noting in passing that the name bears no relationship to the message, so I would have to rename it for every single message that I downloaded. But looking at the messages showed that that wasn't the main problem. The From line that identifies the start of a message was missing, so I couldn't just put it in the mail folder.

Round about this point I gave up and investigated another option that Jashank Jeremy had suggested: IMAP. Why didn't I use it anyway? The answer was mainly “rather the devil you know than the devil you don't”. But clearly the devil I knew was getting too diabolical, so off to look for quick potted instructions for IMAP under mutt. Found them here and put the commands in my .muttrc. And how about, it worked out of the box.

Almost. I lost my normal mail folder, and there are file names like +INBOX, a syntax I don't recognize. I was able to access the messages, but not to save them in the normal place. I'll have to go back and RTFM. But yes, it looks more promising.

At the beginning of the saga, Peter Jeremy expressed the opinion:

* peter wonders if grO0gle will flame fetchmail in his diary as vigorously as he flames consumer-grade apps/programs that don't behave the way he wants.

I don't know what makes him think that I am partial. Of course I would. But in this case, all evidence of an error on the part of fetchmail was long gone. The message “no mail” was correct: that's what gmail returned. The real question is why gmail thinks there is no mail. And that could be fetchmail's fault or gmail's fault.

The problem is that this runs via a cron job which discards its output, so we don't have anything to check. A sensible way to handle the transfer would be for fetchmail to download the messages, deliver them to the local mail delivery program, and then mark them as sent. Clearly that didn't happen. My guess is that it was successful in downloading the messages, but not in delivering them, and that gmail assumed that they had arrived at their destination.


Another Australian idiot politician resurfaces
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

After Julie Bishop's offensive statement that I mentioned a couple of days ago, I started a strongly worded email, but then I thought of the atrocities her government is committing in Nauru and Manus Island, and decided that the Israelis weren't in the same league. Not happy, but it's a matter of relativity.

But now somebody whom I had hoped to be gone forever has resurfaced, got up on his hind legs and demanded that Australia relocate the Embassy to Jerusalem. But then:

He also said "there should be a permanent settlement for a Palestinian state where Jews have the same rights as Palestinians have in Israel", labelling the alternative a "kind of apartheid that's at odds with Israel's own values".

OK, Tony, I'm listening. How does your suggestion about relocating the Embassy fit in with that latter (and laudable) goal? At least this time he doesn't have the government behind him. I must say I would have rather mixed feelings if an “Islamist” extremist took a pot shot at him.


More iPhone fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A couple of messages from Eddie Purcell today. It seems that the iPhone can make clicking sounds when you take photos. But it's not in a settings menu: there's a physical switch on the side of the phone which mutes most sounds (but not the phone), and it was set to “mute”. After turning it on, it clicks as expected.

He also recommended TomTom GO Mobile as a GPS app for the iPhone. Tried downloading that, and it certainly does some things well. It costs money, but I get the first 75 km free, a much better idea than the first week: I installed iGO on my Android phone two weeks ago, and though I haven't actually used it, the trial period is over.

Entering addresses is better than some, though I still have to type. But it finds many things from context. One that I couldn't find was the Victoria Market in Melbourne, though I did find a Queen Victoria Square. And that helped with my assessment: it takes me the same suboptimal backroad route through Ballarat that I have ranted about in relation to Google Maps a couple of years ago. Here the Google Map:

 
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Can I choose a different route? Maybe, but I have to know to do so. Basically TomTom seems to have the same issues as all other apps: no advantage over my el-cheapo standalone GPS navigator. But one can hope.


More MythTV pain
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H, my amazingly named MythTV box, has been a continual source of frustration, almost to the point that I don't record anything any more. One exception is the almost daily news programme from Deutsche Welle, who have managed to obfuscate their web site to a degree that not only can I not listen to the programme on line, I can't even decide whether they intend the programme to be available or not.

But in the last two days the recording failed. Why? Again, some kind of digital constipation. Took a look at the log files and found, in /var/log/mythtv/mythbackend.log

Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: N Expire autoexpire.cpp:264 (CalcParams) AutoExpire: CalcParams(): Max required Free Space: 0.0 GB w/freq: 15 min
Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: N Expire autoexpire.cpp:641 (SendDeleteMessages) Expiring 457 MB for 1034 at 2016-10-04T06:30:00Z => "Talking Language"
Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: E CoreContext programinfo.cpp:2594 (GetPlaybackURL) ProgramInfo(1034_20161004230000.ts): GetPlaybackURL: '1034_20161004230000.ts' should be local, but it can not be found.
Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: E CoreContext programinfo.cpp:2594 (GetPlaybackURL) ProgramInfo(1034_20161004063000.ts): GetPlaybackURL: '1034_20161004063000.ts' should be local, but it can not be found.
Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: E CoreContext mainserver.cpp:3029 (DoHandleDeleteRecording) MainServer: ERROR when trying to delete file: GetPlaybackURL/UNABLE/TO/FIND/LOCAL/FILE/ON/greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H/1034_20161004063000.ts. File doesn't exist.  Database metadata will not be removed.
Jan  2 10:21:59 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency
Jan  2 10:27:25 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency
Jan  2 10:32:50 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency
Jan  2 10:35:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: N Expire autoexpire.cpp:264 (CalcParams) AutoExpire: CalcParams(): Max required Free Space: 0.0 GB w/freq: 15 min
Jan  2 10:35:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: N Expire autoexpire.cpp:641 (SendDeleteMessages) Expiring 457 MB for 1034 at 2016-10-04T06:30:00Z => "Talking Language"

Does that mean anything? And if so, what? In any case, I suspected that the Microsoft solution would help: reboot.

And there comes the next problem. My boot configuration is all messed up. At the very least I need to tell the boot loader which partition to load the kernel and which to mount the root file system from (almost invariably the same). How hard can it be? In FreeBSD it would be to set the partition numbers in /boot/loader.conf:

currdev=disk0p2
rootdev=disk0p2
autoboot_delay="1" # Delay in seconds before autobooting,

But this is Linux, and it uses the GRUB boot loader. The loader file isn't just 3 lines long; on this machine it seems that the real config file is /boot/grub.cfg, and it's 550 lines long, mainly scripts. The hierarchy /boot/grub/ is nearly 8 MB in size and contains 276 files:

=== root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H (/dev/pts/1) /mnt/boot 7 -> find grub/ -type f | wc -l
276
=== root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H (/dev/pts/1) /mnt/boot 8 -> du -sk grub
7208    grub
=== root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H (/dev/pts/1) /mnt/boot 9 -> l grub/grub.cfg
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 25957 Oct 31 11:57 grub/grub.cfg
=== root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H (/dev/pts/1) /mnt/boot 10 -> wc -l grub/grub.cfg
550 grub/grub.cfg

But that's not a problem. grub.cfg starts with:

# DO NOT EDIT THIS FILE
#
# It is automatically generated by grub-mkconfig using templates
# from /etc/grub.d and settings from /etc/default/grub
### BEGIN /etc/grub.d/00_header ###
if [ -s $prefix/grubenv ]; then
  set have_grubenv=true
  load_env
fi
if [ "${next_entry}" ] ; then
...

OK, I'll bite.

root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H:/home/grog# man grub.cfg
No manual entry for grub.cfg
root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H:/home/grog# man grub
No manual entry for grub
root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H:/home/grog# grub-tab
grub-bios-setup       grub-kbdcomp          grub-mkimage          grub-mkstandalone     grub-script-check
grub-editenv          grub-macbless         grub-mklayout         grub-mount            grub-set-default
grub-file             grub-menulst2cfg      grub-mknetdir         grub-ntldr-img        grub-syslinux2cfg
grub-fstest           grub-mkconfig         grub-mkpasswd-pbkdf2  grub-probe
grub-glue-efi         grub-mkdevicemap      grub-mkrelpath        grub-reboot
grub-install          grub-mkfont           grub-mkrescue         grub-render-label
root@greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H:/home/grog# grub-set-default
Menu entry not specified.
Usage: grub-set-default [OPTION] MENU_ENTRY
Set the default boot menu entry for GRUB.
This requires setting GRUB_DEFAULT=saved in /etc/default/grub.

  -h, --help              print this message and exit
  -v, --version           print the version information and exit
  --boot-directory=DIR    expect GRUB images under the directory DIR/grub
                          instead of the /boot/grub directory

MENU_ENTRY is a number, a menu item title or a menu item identifier.

Report bugs to <bug-grub@gnu.org>.

Sigh. OK, search the web. This page suggests a method to set the default partition, but once again it's these nebulous MENU-ENTRY stuff. It makes sense to assume that MENU-ENTRY corresponds to the line number in the boot menu. I tried that, but it didn't work.

Why have people built such an incredibly complicated system for performing a simple task? And how do they expect end users to even begin to comprehend the system? I gave up. I can always select the entry manually, once I recall that I need to boot from /dev/sda8.


Recovering Senna
Topic: gardening Link here

The Senna aciphylla that we transplanted five weeks ago seems to be past the worst. The new shoots are becoming leaves:


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Tuesday, 3 January 2017 Dereel
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Understanding MythTV hangs
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Yesterday's hang on my MythTV box was accompanied by a lot of log messages. What do they mean? And what should I have seen at the beginning of a recording? Went looking today, and found:

Jan  3 10:29:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2267 (HandleReschedule) Reschedule requested for PLACE PrepareToRecord
Jan  3 10:29:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2380 (HandleReschedule) Scheduled 22 items in 0.0 = 0.00 match + 0.00 check + 0.02 place
Jan  3 10:29:30 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler mythdbcon.cpp:422 (PurgeIdleConnections) New DB connection, total: 12
Jan  3 10:29:30 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:1610 (HandlePendingRecordings) TVRec[1]: ASK_RECORDING 1 29 0 0
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:1073 (HandleStateChange) TVRec[1]: Changing from None to RecordingOnly
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3563 (TuningCheckForHWChange) TVRec[1]: HW Tuner: 1->1
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: C CoreContext programinfo.cpp:351 (ProgramInfo) ProgramInfo(): Failed to find recorded entry for 0.
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2819 (HandleRecordingStatusChange) Tuning recording: "German News": channel 1030 on cardid 1, sourceid 1
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:1073 (HandleStateChange) TVRec[2]: Changing from None to RecordingOnly
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent mythdbcon.cpp:422 (PurgeIdleConnections) New DB connection, total: 12
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3563 (TuningCheckForHWChange) TVRec[2]: HW Tuner: 2->2
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[2]: TuningFrequency
Jan  3 10:30:00 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: C CoreContext programinfo.cpp:351 (ProgramInfo) ProgramInfo(): Failed to find recorded entry for 0.
Jan  3 10:30:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:4215 (TuningNewRecorder) TVRec[2]: rec->GetPathname(): '/home/recordings/1003_20170102233000.ts'
Jan  3 10:30:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:4247 (TuningNewRecorder) TVRec[2]: TuningNewRecorder - CreateRecorder()
Jan  3 10:30:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:4215 (TuningNewRecorder) TVRec[1]: rec->GetPathname(): '/home/recordings/1030_20170102233000.ts'
Jan  3 10:30:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:4247 (TuningNewRecorder) TVRec[1]: TuningNewRecorder - CreateRecorder()
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: N Update autoexpire.cpp:264 (CalcParams) AutoExpire: CalcParams(): Max required Free Space: 2.0 GB w/freq: 14 min
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2819 (HandleRecordingStatusChange) Tuning recording: "German News": channel 1003 on cardid 2, sourceid 1
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I CoreContext scheduler.cpp:725 (UpdateRecStatus) Updating status for "German News" on cardid 2 (Tuning => Recording)
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I CoreContext scheduler.cpp:725 (UpdateRecStatus) Updating status for "German News" on cardid 1 (Tuning => Recording)
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I ProcessRequest mainserver.cpp:1698 (HandleAnnounce) MainServer: MainServer::ANN Monitor
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I ProcessRequest mainserver.cpp:1703 (HandleAnnounce) MainServer: adding: greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H(1278830) as a client (events: 0)
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I ProcessRequest mainserver.cpp:1698 (HandleAnnounce) MainServer: MainServer::ANN Monitor
Jan  3 10:30:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I ProcessRequest mainserver.cpp:1703 (HandleAnnounce) MainServer: adding: greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H(124bc30) as a client (events: 1)
Jan  3 10:30:09 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I MythSocketThread(66) mainserver.cpp:7629 (connectionClosed) Monitor sock(1278830) 'greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H' disconnected
Jan  3 10:30:09 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I MythSocketThread(109) mainserver.cpp:7629 (connectionClosed) Monitor sock(124bc30) 'greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H' disconnected
Jan  3 10:30:10 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: N Update autoexpire.cpp:264 (CalcParams) AutoExpire: CalcParams(): Max required Free Space: 2.0 GB w/freq: 7 min
Jan  3 10:31:03 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2267 (HandleReschedule) Reschedule requested for MATCH 0 1 1 2017-01-03T00:00:00Z EITScanner
Jan  3 10:31:03 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2380 (HandleReschedule) Scheduled 22 items in 0.0 = 0.01 match + 0.00 check + 0.02 place
Jan  3 10:31:05 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Commflag_594 jobqueue.cpp:2282 (DoFlagCommercialsThread) JobQueue: Commercial Detection Starting for "German News" recorded from channel 1030 at 2017-01-02T23:30:00Z
...
Jan  3 11:00:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent recordinginfo.cpp:1178 (FinishedRecording) Finished recording German News: channel 1030
Jan  3 11:00:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I TVRecEvent recordinginfo.cpp:1178 (FinishedRecording) Finished recording German News: channel 1003
Jan  3 11:00:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I CoreContext scheduler.cpp:725 (UpdateRecStatus) Updating status for "German News" on cardid 1 (Recording => Recorded)
Jan  3 11:00:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2267 (HandleReschedule) Reschedule requested for CHECK -3 2 0 UpdateRecStatus2 | German News |  | News via satellite from DW Berlin, in German, no subtitles. #SBSgerman | ballarat.sbshd.sbs.au/s61532620170103
Jan  3 11:00:01 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I CoreContext scheduler.cpp:725 (UpdateRecStatus) Updating status for "German News" on cardid 2 (Recording => Recorded)
Jan  3 11:00:02 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Scheduler scheduler.cpp:2267 (HandleReschedule) Reschedule requested for CHECK -3 2 0 UpdateRecStatus2 | German News |  | News via satellite from DW Berlin, in German, no subtitles. #SBSgerman | ballarat.sbsone.sbs.au/s61532620170103
Jan  3 11:01:10 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Metadata_595 jobqueue.cpp:2157 (DoMetadataLookupThread) JobQueue: Metadata Lookup Starting for "German News" recorded from channel 1003 at 2017-01-02T23:30:00Z
Jan  3 11:01:15 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[789]: I Commflag_596 jobqueue.cpp:2282 (DoFlagCommercialsThread) JobQueue: Commercial Detection Starting for "German News" recorded from channel 1003 at 2017-01-02T23:30:00Z

There are many duplicates here, mainly because I really recorded two programmes: there seems to be no way any more to tell MythTV to only record a programme at any time on a specific channel. It's either once only, or at any time and on all channels. But there are others, too, which don't seem to be related. I haven't removed them because I'm not sure that they're not related. It's interesting to note that commercial flagging for the recording on channel 1030 started at 10:31:05, about a minute after the recording started, while the flagging for channel 1003 didn't start until 11:01:15, about a minute after the recording finished. Is this indicative of an inconsistent configuration, or of serialization?

For the time being, I can't see much more to analyse here. But it may help as a basis for comparison if it happens again.

Back to yesterday's messages:

Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: E CoreContext programinfo.cpp:2594 (GetPlaybackURL) ProgramInfo(1034_20161004063000.ts): GetPlaybackURL: '1034_20161004063000.ts' should be local, but it can not be found.
Jan  2 10:20:13 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: E CoreContext mainserver.cpp:3029 (DoHandleDeleteRecording) MainServer: ERROR when trying to delete file: GetPlaybackURL/UNABLE/TO/FIND/LOCAL/FILE/ON/greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H/1034_20161004063000.ts. File doesn't exist.  Database metadata will not be removed.

These messages are clearly unrelated to the recording. They also continue, and they're probably indicative of a configuration change I made a long way ago. The file name 1034_20161004063000 clearly indicates a recording made on 4 October 2016 at 6:30. But then we have:

Jan  2 10:21:59 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency
Jan  2 10:27:25 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency
Jan  2 10:32:50 greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H mythbackend: mythbackend[793]: I TVRecEvent tv_rec.cpp:3685 (TuningFrequency) TVRec[1]: TuningFrequency

And that's all. Today I got additional messages showing that the tuner had responded. Had the tuner hung? A possibility, but it doesn't explain why I didn't get any response from the machine via the web interface. For the time being, more head-scratching.


Ethernet connector: 45 minutes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Now that I have my network relay board working, it's time to put it in place in the shed. When we built the house we had network cables laid to every room, and also the shed. But for some reason we didn't have the one in the shed terminated: there was just a roll of Cat 5 cable there.

Not a problem. I've terminated network cables before. All I need is a connector and a crimping tool. Last time I borrowed one from Chris BahloYeardley. But since then she has changed her name and lost the tool. So I bought one and some connectors in late November. Only $14.45 for both.

Next, where's the other end of the cable? We installed 9 cables (since extended to 10), for which Jim Lannen installed 2 patch panels with 4 sockets each, not at the specified 2 m height, but at 1.75 m, where they are obstructed by the fridge in front of them:


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OK, no worries, he added another single patch pane, at 1.65 m height, completely behind the fridge:


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But was that the correct patch panel? The 10th cable, added by Stephen White's apprentice Mitch last June also has a single connector. It didn't take long to confirm that only Jim could have placed the patch panel in such an inaccessible place: the new one is on the extreme right.

Next, what wiring? There are two methods. Which did he use? Or did he do his own thing? 15 minutes of finding a spare cable with one connector missing and measuring resistances showed that he used T568A. OK, put on the connector.

How do you get these damned wires pointing straight into the connector? The problem, of course, is that they're twisted, and they need to be straight. In my case, it was an iterative process, trimming the relative lengths at each iteration. But somehow it worked. Only 45 minutes and $15. Why didn't I get Jim (or Mitch) to put a wall mount socket on it?


Wednesday, 4 January 2017 Dereel Images for 4 January 2017
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New camera
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Received my “new” Olympus E-PM1 today, serial number BBP501084. It's the predecessor of Yvonne's E-PM2, but it's surprisingly different. It arrived with completely crazy settings, including black-and-white display and time not set. That was easy enough to fix with a factory reset. Other things that I then needed to set were as described in my settings page.

I've already looked at a comparison with the E-PM2, but the differences surprised me nevertheless. In particular, it's much thinner from front to back. This image from the review shows it, but it needs to be looked at carefully:

Image

The thickness measurement is misleading: it it up to the front of the lens mount, which has to be in the same position. The body itself is thicker on the E-PM2.

Apart from that, and finding the on/off switch, it's pretty much the same. It makes more noise, and it has less resolution. But what do you expect for $65?

But then there's the battery. I had been told that it took the same battery as the E-PM2, which means that Yvonne's spare battery would fit. But when I looked, it was a PS-BLS1, while the battery for the E-PM2 is a BCS-5, which has one more contact (shades of the Samsung saga). Further investigation showed that it can take either battery, which I confirmed with Yvonne's spare. But when I removed the battery, it forgot the date. A repeat showed that only a few seconds were necessary. Not the end of the world, but not quite what the advertisement said:

 
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Still, if that's the only problem, I suppose I can live with it.


NBN for Chris Bahlo
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Round July 2015, when she moved in to her new house, Chris Bahlo applied for an National Broadband Network connection. Failure: not enough signal. But ten months later I spoke to the installers again, and they can now fit masts up to 3 m high. That might just be enough to make the difference for Chris, about whom the NBN is ambivalent anyway, as this extract from the rollout map shows:


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The correct address is 302 Rokewood Junction Road, the house and buildings in the lower part of the map, but NBN chose 276, the Yeardley house. The violet colour is an overlay meaning “Service Available”. Since I've been looking at these maps, they have simplified them to avoid confusing bureaucrats“residents” (the name they use for individual end customers), and it no longer distinguishes between fibre, fixed wireless and satellite. For that you need to turn a knob which changes the uniform colouring to one kind of cross-hatch for fibre (“fixed line” in newspeak) and a different one for fixed wireless—and no indication at all for satellite.

OK, call up Aussie Broadband again, speak to Brodie, who told me that the site had been classified “satellite only”, and that they could do nothing, even though the map disagrees. So I called NBN and spoke with Amy, who suggested trying a Technology Choice, an interesting idea: get enough people together and pay money and NBN will install fibre FTTP (really!). A nice idea, but clearly out of the question here.

In the end she suggested getting the installers out again: maybe something has changed. The most obvious thing would be the preparedness to install a mast, though she was thinking of signal conditions. Still, with NBN's blessing, we can start again, so I got her to raise a ticket, 01096069, which will hopefully be enough to get people to come out again.


Thursday, 5 January 2017 Dereel → Balarat → Dereel Images for 5 January 2017
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More blood tests
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat this morning before breakfast for a blood test and a Glucose tolerance test. I had already confirmed that the latter didn't require any warning on my part. But the information was wrong: a couple of days' warning, please. So I'll have to head into town again, starving, for the next test in 4 weeks' time.


Solenoid? Or coil?
Topic: gardening Link here

While in town dropped in at UPI to replace the solenoid in my sprinkler valve. Oh, that's not a solenoid: that's a coil, and the solenoid is the whole valve. Sigh.

And the thing costs about 90% of the price of the whole assembly. Why? Maybe I should have bought the entire thing in case one fails on me in the future.

Back home and replaced the thing, at every step expecting to find that I had made a misdiagnosis, and that it was something else. In particular, I have grave doubts about the reliability of the connectors. But no, it really was the solenoid (coil). Why should they fail? Still, now we finally have all sprinklers working properly again.


Camera defective?
Topic: photography Link here

One of the strange things about my “new” Olympus E-PM1 is that it doesn't seem to have an orientation sensor, so portrait oriented photos require manual rotation during postprocessing. Could there be something similar with the date? Called up Olympus on their badly documented normal number 02 9886 3999, and got a recorded message, repeated 1½ times, telling me the office hours, and apparently implying that I was calling outside the stated hours (at 11:45). Tried the expensive 1300 659 678 number and got through. Yet another normal phone number bites the dust.

And of course I was told that no, this is not normal, and that presumably the main board is defective. More likely the battery on it, I suppose, but it's not worth replacing. Sent an appropriate message to the seller, who said, possibly convincingly, that he had thought it was because the camera hadn't been used for a while. Still, I've made my point, and if anything else goes wrong we can continue the discussion.


Strange growth
Topic: gardening Link here

What's this?


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I found it in the “house forest” at the west end of the property.


More mobile phone pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While in town, discovered that somebody had called me on my old mobile phone number no less than 4 times in the last few days, including leaving a message. Deferred that until I got back home, where I discovered that with ALDImobile I can only access messages from the phone, and I was out of range. Still, while I was there, I wanted to check on my data usage. The good news is that it's now measured in granules of 1 kB (or KB, as they prefer to call it). The bad news is that it took me 10 minutes to log in. Another gratuitous change of password? I have already been through WhatAPain! and VeryBroken!, but the new one was only recent. OK, give up, ask for a password hint to be sent to me. And it didn't come. A couple more tries with the same password, and finally it succeeded. I suppose my new password, if I need one, should be “1f at först you don't succ33d”.

And why didn't I get the password hint? Their mail config is broken:

Jan  5 05:23:37 www postfix/smtpd[21879]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[59.86.161.112]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [59.86.161.112]; from=<noreply@aldimobile.com.au> to=<groggyhimself@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<iboss01-bastionhost01-gsy1.srv.symbionetworks.com>

Sometimes I wonder if their low price isn't too high.


Friday, 6 January 2017 Dereel
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Mutt with IMAP
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I still have a few messages on gmail that I can't transfer sanely: they're marked “read” for POP3 purposes, and gmail doesn't honour the “download all” flag, so I can't download them, and any attempt to forward them both mutilates them and is also painful in the extreme. Jashank Jeremy suggested IMAP, but following the recipe didn't give me what I want. So today I had another attack, looking at the manual, which seems somewhat out of date:

Polling for new mail on an IMAP server can cause noticeable delays. So, you'll want to carefully tune the $mail_check and $timeout variables. Reasonable values are:

set mail_check=90
set timeout=15

with relatively good results even over slow modem lines.

Tried just the authentication stuff:

set imap_user = 'yourusername@gmail.com'
set imap_pass = 'yourpassword'
set folder = imaps://imap.gmail.com/

And that worked more or less as I had expected. I had explicitly omitted the folder selection:

set spoolfile = +INBOX

And with that, I got my normal local inbox, but a change folder command to =INBOX (or +INBOX, as the instructions say; the two seem to be equivalent) got me my gmail inbox. Success!

Not so fast. I could no longer save messages locally: it wanted to save them to gmail. First I had to tell it all over again where to save files (in ~/Mail/<local part of email address>, the default). After some searching found how to specify the save folder, with examples that were seriously suboptimal (in particular, didn't include the default, though it claimed to), and I had to look further and still further, then read a long list and interpret it to discover that the default is %O (“original save folder where mutt would formerly have stashed the message: list name or recipient name if not sent to a list”).

That works, but why is it so complicated? And I still haven't found out how to get it to store copies of outgoing messages by the same scheme.

At the end, I'm left wondering what use IMAP is. I still haven't made friends with “the cloud”, and I like to have my data local. Accessing my mail via IMAP still adds a noticeable delay, more due to latency than network speed, and if I'm off the net (which still happens too often), it's not at all. The “advantage” of being able to access it from anywhere has two, maybe three flaws:

For my lifestyle, it's just too much pain. For people who are continually moving around, it's clearly a different story. But why do people still continually need to move around? One of the positive things about computer networks (not just the Internet) is that it can give you access from anywhere. Why do people still travel to do a job that they could just as well do from home? I haven't done that since early 1991.


Saturday, 7 January 2017 Dereel Images for 7 January 2017
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The difference between duck and hen eggs
Topic: food and drink Link here

Since 8 May 1976 I don't fry eggs any more: that's Yvonne's job. But today something looked unusual:


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The eggs in front are duck eggs: more yolk, less white. The one at front right is particularly obvious.


More plants
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been a particularly hot start to the year, but some things are coming out anyway, like this wild Xanthorrhoea:


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In the garden, a lone Gladiolus is struggling up in front of the house, and the first waterlilies are flowering:


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Fish biriani
Topic: food and drink Link here

On Saturday evenings we have “something good” to eat, usually a three-course meal, and almost invariably Chris Bahlo is with us. Tonight Margaret Swan had also been due, but she changed her plans. Yvonne had bought some fish, something I find particularly problematic: I don't have any recipes. Yvonne suggested I tried one of the various pre-prepared spice mixtures in the pantry. And sure enough, I found a Shan “Fish Biriyani©” spice mix of indeterminate age (no indication at all on the package); it could have been over 10 years old. Still, despite what they say, well-sealed spices keep well, so we tried it. The recipe on the back even looked relatively good. Here's a modification of what I made, as I would make it next time:

quantity       ingredient       step
300 g       basmati rice       1
300 g       Hoki (blue grenadier) filet, in cubes       2
25 g (half pack)       Shan “Fish Biriyani©” spice mix       2
25 g       garlic, peeled       2
40 ml       lemon juice       2
150 g       onion       3
30 g       ghee       3
1 (5 g)       green chili       4
10 g       coriander leaf       4
125 g       yoghurt       4
20 g       methi leaves       5
about 350 ml       water or broth, to cover rice       5
10 g       salt       5
50 g       onion       7
10 g       ghee       7
  1. Wash rice and soak in water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix cubed fish, spice mix, lemon juice and garlic and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Slice onion and fry in ghee until translucent.
  4. Slice chili lengthwise, chop coriander if necessary. Add to the onion mix. Add fish mix and fry until firm. Add yoghurt and fry gently, being careful not to damage the fish. Fry gently until liquid has reduced.
  5. Fry methi in ghee until warm. Add rice, broth, salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Layer the meal in a casserole: half the rice, the fish mixture, then the other half of the rice. Heat gently.
  7. Fry the remaining onion in ghee until browned and crisped. Sprinkle over the dish. Serve.

The original recipe called for boiling the rice in much water and then draining. This is the first time I've ever seen an Asian recipe (including all of Asia) that recommends this. I had always considered it a British abuse.

I also had my doubts about the rice. Biriani should have lots of stuff in the rice, but here it was just the methi leaves (dill in the original recipe, which sounded just plain bizarre). But in fact it didn't taste too bad, though of course Yvonne (who had asked for the dish) found it too hot. And that although I had only put one chili in instead of the 10 - 15 (admittedly ridiculously many) in the recipe.


Peaceful Saturday evening
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion, technology, animals Link here

Preparing dinner took correspondingly long, and in the middle of it the microwave oven died. It still heated, but the irritatingly loud fan got so quiet that it almost stopped. It was barely two years old, but it annoyed me running its fan when not necessary, so it was a mixed blessing. But it meant that dinner started late.

After dinner into the office to investigate something I had noticed earlier: the UPS was turning its fan on. Checked the status. Output voltage 211 V. That seemed low. How do I switch the display? Other button? BAD idea. That was the power button, and unlike every desktop UPS I have ever seen, this one has no delay built in to it. I powered down all the computers in the office. fsck. fsck. fsck.

Checked the UPS again; yes, input voltage now only 209 V. Called up Powercor, who sounded surprisingly interested and said that they would send somebody around. And sure enough, 15 minutes later the doorbell rang, and I saw a man in typical work overalls.

But he wasn't from Powercor. “Do the big dogs belong to you? They're down the other end of Grassy Gully Road”. Somehow the dogs had got out in the front part of the garden, and the gate was open because Chris was here. Off into the twilight to look for them, helped by the bloke who reported it. We went a kilometre in each direction along the Colac-Ballarat road, but couldn't find them; by that time they could have been anywhere. Back again to get a torch and scour the paddocks to the south-east of the house, where there are currently a lot of sheep. Chris and Yvonne went off north again, and while I was messing with the gate of the sheep paddock, they retrieved Nikolai and Sasha. A little later, about 400 m down the Colac-Ballarat road, they found Leonid. All safe and sound.

A little later, phone call. Mick from Powercor: he had been sent down to the end of Stones Road, They rolled up at our place—by this time it was past 22:00—and checked out everything. But as I had already noted, the voltage had been gradually rising again. The last time I had checked, it was up to 230 V, and when they checked, it was back to the “normal” 237 V. They also did a load test with a very high-tech device: a 2 kW hair dryer, which lowered the voltage by 1 V, apparently acceptable. At least they had been able to check the smart meters on the neighbouring property and confirm that we were all affected. So they suspect the transformer on the pole at the edge of the property, and they're planning to attach a monitor.


Sunday, 8 January 2017 Dereel Images for 8 January 2017
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Record overnight temperature
Topic: general, opinion Link here

It's been generally hot lately, and yesterday we hit 35° again—nothing overly unusual. But the overnight low was 26.9°, a record, equalling the record for Ballarat on 18 January 1959, which I recall as being particularly hot. Certainly it must have been hotter than at the moment, since the Ballarat overnight low last night was “only” 23.1°. Here in Dereel my previous maximum was 25.4°, on 4 January 2013. And summer has hardly started yet.


The morning after the night before
Topic: animals, general Link here

Come morning, our mains voltage was back to normal and stable. Still no idea what caused last night's issues. But what about the microwave oven? Connected it up again, and how about that, it worked normally. So it seems that it's particularly sensitive to mains voltage; nothing else seemed to worry too much about the low voltage.

But Leonid was not very mobile. Nothing that we could recognize immediately, but over the course of the day it became clear that he had scraped the pads of his hind paws, presumably on the asphalt on the Colac-Ballarat road (how far down did he go? And how fast?). By the evening things weren't better, so Yvonne put socks on him:


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I wonder how long it will take for the paws to heal.


Weed sprayer pain
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Today was warm and sunny—just what I need to go round spraying weeds. But somehow the backpack sprayer I use is getting harder and harder to use. It has a lever-operated pump, and the lever has always fouled clothes, but now it seems that the pump has given out: it requires continual pumping to maintain any pressure, and it's a pain to operate.

The thing wasn't cheap. Why don't they make ones with (battery operated) electric pumps?


Installing Mac OS X “Sierra”
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's clear that Jordan Hubbard is no longer with Apple: the new releases of Mac OS X are no longer named after cats. But they have maintained the practice of referring to releases by name rather than number. It seems that the most recent release is 10.12, better known as “Sierra”, and it seems it's available online for free. Is this legal? It's hosted on Google, so I assume that either it is, or everybody's turned a blind eye.

Spent some time installing it on VirtualBox, according to these instructions, clearly Microsoft-oriented. The first issue was downloading the images, in my case from https://goo.gl/DZTaKi. That's strange: 5 RAR files, each 1 GB in size. To download you select the first, and the remainder are magically concatenated. What a strange approach.

The rest was straightforward until some manual setup stuff. The first was:

 
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OK, that's Microsoft for you. Or maybe. The first invocation was for VBoxManage.exe, and the next for VBoxManage. What's the difference? None. This is Microsoft, after all. So I adapted and tried:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/6) /etc 407 -> VBoxManage modifyvm "newyork" --cpuidset 00000001
VBoxManage: error: Could not find a registered machine named 'newyork'
VBoxManage: error: Details: code VBOX_E_OBJECT_NOT_FOUND (0x80bb0001), component VirtualBoxWrap, interface IVirtualBox, callee nsISupports
VBoxManage: error: Context: "FindMachine(Bstr(a->argv[0]).raw(), machine.asOutParam())" at line 500 of file VBoxManageModifyVM.cpp

Huh? That was definitely the name of the VM. How do I check if it's looking for something else?

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/4) /src/VirtualBox 32 -> man VBoxManage
No manual entry for VBoxManage

sigh Off looking for documentation and found it here. So there's a list subcommand. What does it think my VMs are called?

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/4) /src/VirtualBox 39 -> VBoxManage list vms
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/4) /src/VirtualBox 40 -> echo $?
0

What's the issue there? Is it looking for the base configuration somewhere else? Off looking for people who had run into this before, and found this bug report, closed “7 years ago” (ugh!) as “unable to reproduce”, though additional information was added as recently as “10 months ago”. But then there was this forum thread that came up with an explanation:

Running it as a different user (root in this case) will of course produce no output when there are no VMs running as root.

Wow! What a violation of POLA! So I tried it as grog and got further:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/12) ~ 9 -> VBoxManage modifyvm "newyork" --cpuidset 00000001
Oracle VM VirtualBox Command Line Management Interface Version 5.1.6
(C) 2005-2016 Oracle Corporation
All rights reserved.

Usage:
...
Syntax error: Missing or Invalid argument to '--cpuidset'

What's wrong this time? It proved to be the stupid formatting on the instructions:

 
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I had assumed that the second line was the output from VBoxManage.exe, but in fact it was the remainder of the command line, carefully wrapped to avoid it taking up more than 40% of the width of the page and encroaching into the empty space on either side. So finally I got my commands together:

VBoxManage modifyvm "newyork" --cpuidset 00000001 000106e5 00100800 0098e3fd bfebfbff
VBoxManage setextradata "newyork" "VBoxInternal/Devices/efi/0/Config/DmiSystemProduct" "iMac11,3"
VBoxManage setextradata "newyork" "VBoxInternal/Devices/efi/0/Config/DmiSystemVersion" "1.0"
VBoxManage setextradata "newyork" "VBoxInternal/Devices/efi/0/Config/DmiBoardProduct" "Iloveapple"
VBoxManage setextradata "newyork" "VBoxInternal/Devices/smc/0/Config/DeviceKey" "ourhardworkbythesewordsguardedpleasedontsteal(c)AppleComputerInc"
VBoxManage setextradata "newyork" "VBoxInternal/Devices/smc/0/Config/GetKeyFromRealSMC" 1

And then it worked, as advertised, though producing bootup messages more reminiscent of FreeBSD, including a surprising number of lines flagged as “Error”. Here's part, unfortunately without error messages:


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Then the usual Apple setup. It worked, sort of, though for some reason it didn't want to recognize my Apple ID. And once again I was left wondering why I bother. The interface is so strange that I can't find anything to do with it. I really need to do a more rigorous investigation of who is to blame that I dislike this kind of interface so much.


Trump: Tracking twits
Topic: politics, technology, opinion Link here

One of the more interesting things about Donald Trump is his use of Twitter to express himself. Time to “follow” him? Signed in to Twitter for the first time since 30 March 2011, when I wrote:

Back for the first itme in years. Nothing appears to have improved.

And yes, I couldn't find a way to fix the typo.

“Following” Trump was easy enough. And he shows reverse chronological listing up to perfection. Here an example posted “12 hours ago”, probably round 0:00 UTC on 8 January:

both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD! have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and....
Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only "stupid" people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We.....

Presumably the large font size of the last part (the first part of a 3 tweet chord) relates to the number of times it has been read. And that suggests that a large number of readers can't get beyond the first 140 characters. Sad!


Monday, 9 January 2017 Dereel Images for 9 January 2017
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; DROP TABLE COMPANIES;: for real
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Last month I noted an unusual entry in a British company register:


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I had thought it a bug in their software. But no, Bruce Schneier has established that it's a real company. I wonder how long that will last.


Re-fetching POP mail from gmail
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A few days ago I received mail from Don Melton explaining how to re-fetch mail from gmail with POP3. Go to “settings” and select “Forwarding and POP/IMAP“, then “Enable POP for all mail (even mail that's already been downloaded)”. Save and download. It really seems that gmail doesn't honour whatever is behind fetchmail's -a flag: it works the same either way. And once it has downloaded, it silently resets the flag:

 
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That suggests poor adherence to the standards, but at least it's a workaround. And it's less disruptive than running IMAP. IMAP may be useful if you choose to use gmail as your total mail repository, but that's not my way of doing things.


Mumble gobi
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Deep-fried cauliflower as part of dinner tonight:


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It's based on an Indian original that I can no longer locate, and I can't find any Hindi (or similar) name for it. It tastes surprisingly good, but I'm still left with the impression that a few more spices in the batter would improve things. But which?

Also ate the remainder of the fish biriani, which really doesn't taste that bad. I'll have to try some of the other stuff that Shan offers, and shun the chili.

One interesting detail I learnt from that recipe: soak your Basmati rice for 30 minutes before cooking. It comes up fluffier and moister.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017 Dereel
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New sport: Trump baiting
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

So Meryl Streep received a Lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes the other day. Her acceptance speech was probably not what people were expecting: an expression of her extreme sadness about (sousentendu) Donald Trump:

She says her heart was broken by his behaviour. I can't say the same, but then I'm not a USA citizen. But the speech was good, and I'm glad that she did it.

Donald Trump, strangely, wasn't. He tweeted (padding removed):

"groveling" when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media! Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never "mocked" a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him....... Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a.....

What an inappropriate response for somebody in power! Streep had already commented on the large number of people whom he doesn't consider worth having in his country; now she has joined the ranks. Instead of just shutting his mouth, he has added credence to her accusations.

OK, Meryl Streep is just an overrated actress. But maybe other people could do the same thing? Enough of them and he'll be so busy tweeting stupidities that they'll be able to remove him from office and replace him with somebody marginally less objectionable.


BSD: What could have been
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Unix is coming on 48 years old. It's hard to think that more than half of that time elapsed since the first free Unix derivates (and Linux) came on the scene. The time from about 1990 to 1996 was significant, and in the end Linux won the battle, at least partially because of the fighting between the various Unix camps.

A number of old farts discuss things on The Unix Heritage Society mailing list, and in the past few days a couple of interesting ones have gone by. It seems that Larry McVoy crusaded for “open sourcing” SunOS 4 back in 1993, as this proposal shows. It's an interesting historical document.

Clearly SunOS didn't get released; that didn't happen until OpenSolaris. But what would have happened if it had been? Larry didn't mention it in great detail, but at the time of this paper (8 November 1993), there were already three recognized versions of BSD: BSD/OS, NetBSD and FreeBSD, all relatively mature. Releasing SunOS then would not have had the cataclysmic effect that it would have done two years earlier. But it could have taken the wind out of USL's sails.

Why didn't it happen? Many reasons, of course. Kirk McKusick gave one example. In short, the virtual memory system in SunOS 4 had its roots in a CSRG design, which however they never completed. For 4.3BSD, Kirk wanted to put in a new virtual memory system. The choice was between the SunOS implementation an the Mach implementation. CSRG negotiated with Sun, and everybody, all the way up to Scott McNealy, the CEO, were for it. Then they put it to the lawyers, who killed the idea. So 4.3BSD came out with the Mach VM system.

And the lawyers were presumably the same people who killed the SunOS deal. I wonder what they now think of the situation.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 January 2017
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Abdominal aorta ultrasound
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat before breakfast yet again today to have my abdominal aorta examined. No concern beyond the fact that I'm no longer the youngest, but it seems that a rupture of the aorta is one of those rare but silent killers, and any tendency can be recognized with ultrasound.

The results were negative, but it was an experience. It wasn't all ultrasound: part of the procedure involved listening to the blood flow through the aorta, quite a weird sound.


Weed sprayers and glyphosate pricing
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

While in town, to Bunnings to look for a weed sprayer with electric pump. The most expensive sprayers cost over $250, but even at that price they were mechanically pumped. Somehow they're behind the times.

Also bought some Glyphosate. There was a lot of choice, particularly in the price. All of these are 1 litre containers:


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360 g/l: $27.50 per kg.


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490 g/l: $56.82 per kg.


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540 g/l: $95.93 per kg.


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360 g/l: $120.28 per kg.


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7.4 g/l Glyphosate: $2,635 per kg. Admittedly, this also contains 0.72 g/l Triclopyr, which none of the others did (why?), and it includes a sprayer.

I've noted the differences in price between pre-mixed and concentrated glyphosate before, but the more than fourfold difference in price between the concentrates puzzles me. So does the fact that they offer the stuff in different concentrations. If you're going to dilute it (a lot) anyway, what difference does it make whether the concentrate contains 360 g/l (the usual strength), 490 or 540 g/l?


iPhone camera shake
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

In passing, it's easy to forget how important camera shake is. These photos were taken with my iPhone, whose main advantage was that it was in my pocket. But it has no image stabilization, and despite my precautions, the exposures (all 1/33 s, for some reason) showed significant camera shake.


More eye problems?
Topic: health, opinion Link here

While walking the dogs, had a problem with my vision: a dark spot in the right of my field of vision, round where I had the posterior vitreous detachment last month, which came and went with my pulse. Returned home immediately, sat down, rested, and it went away. Called up the doctor anyway, but he just recommended some unspecified Emergency Department. Since it has gone away, and I have an appointment tomorrow, decided to put it off until then.


Olympus lens registration
Topic: photography Link here

Interesting thread in the M43 Australia group on Facebook: a lens that worked well on one camera (Olympus OM-D E-M10) didn't on a OM-D E-M5: the monitor was blank. In the ensuing discussion, it eventuated that there's a registration pin on the camera body, connected to the lens release button:


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It fits into a slot in the lens, and if that pin doesn't fit into the registration hole, the monitor is blank. Here the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R (coincidentally the lens in question in the Facebook thread), the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f4.0-5.6:


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The el-cheapo 14-42 has a plastic ring, while the others have metal rings. But the 12-40 “Pro” lens shows the most wear! That doesn't reflect the number of times I have changed it; probably the 14-150 has been changed the largest number of times.

The upshot was that yes, indeed, there was some fluff in the lens, enough to stop the pin of the E-M5 to register, but apparently not enough for the E-M10.


Thursday, 12 January 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 12 January 2017
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Leica: poor quality
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The Leica Summilux 25 mm f/1.4 lens that I bought last October had one cosmetic problem, the lens cap:


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Why the Lumix lens cap? Well, this is a “cheap” Summilux, round 10% of the price of the corresponding 50 mm lens for the Leica M series, and it's manufactured by Panasonic, so it sort of makes sense. But it would look so much nicer if the lens cap said “Leica” too.

The problem is, everything about Leica is so ridiculously expensive, as I commented a few months back: somebody offered an empty Leica lens box on eBay for CND 175 (about $175). An empty box!. Admittedly, it still hasn't sold, but there are several other offers there too.

So I went looking for a lens cap on eBay, and finally found one last week for only US $18.80 (about $25). It arrived today, but it didn't quite look the way I expected:


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What went wrong there? It appears that it was stuck together with glue, and the glue didn't do its job. In addition, one of the springs that held the clips apart was badly deformed:


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Clearly not Leica quality from Wetzlar. They can refund the money, and then I'll see if I can glue it back together again.


Next doctor visit
Topic: health Link here

To see Paul Smith today for the results of my last blood tests. Parts of them were excellent. My GGT (gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase) value was 28 (normal is < 50 according to Dorevitch), the lowest I have ever seen since I was first alarmed to the levels some time in late 1981, and the other liver values were also normal again. So it looks like I'll have to stick to the level of alcohol that I consumed in December. Presumably I could go back to that level (currently I'm at the end of the first week of 4 without any alcohol at all), but that would spoil the test.

Other readings were less spectactular. Cholesterol is down, but still not in the normal range, and MCV (mean corpuscular volume) is relatively unchanged at 103 fl (should be between 80 and 96). Paul had hoped that it would go down, but since Dr. Paul Turner, the haematologist, had not expected that, it's not surprising.


DxO: prize-winning documentation
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

At the end of November last year I submitted a ticket against DxO Optics “Pro”: it didn't handle the new version of DxO ViewPoint as I expected, and I couldn't find the manual, just a collection of badly linked web pages that I can't brute-force search. Where's the PDF version?

The ticket was a nightmare, showing the inappropiateness of the system. But I kept getting referred back to http://help-op11.dxo.com/en/home and http://help-vp3.dxo.com/en/home/, the pages with the web-based information:


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But it also came up with some information about one of the features, which showed up a bug in the software. While researching that, over Christmas, the ticket system closed the ticket: “Solved”. If at least it had said “timed out on response”, I could have accepted it, but ”solved” is Just Plain Wrong. I complained accordingly, and got an astounding reply:

You can download the manual .pdf guide from the links I provided. All you need to do is click the three horizontal lines in the upper right hand corner and download them to your computer.

And how about that!

 
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“Save page as PDF” and “Save site as PDF”. What do they do? Well, “Save page” discards most of the page and prints a simplified version of the right-hand side. And “Save site”? I almost didn't dare to create such a large file. But no, it's the extremely well-hidden PDF documentation for the product!

I thought nothing could amaze me any more, but this really does. What is the purpose of writing documentation in the first place if it's hidden so well? As it is, it took 45 days and lots of pain to find it out. Bravo, DxO!


New members for the Dereel Camera Crew
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

The Dereel Camera Crew is a Facebook group. Admittedly, it's not very big—currently only 10 members—but Facebook does what it can to help:

 
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All of these people are members of the FreeBSD project. I don't even know where most of them live. I think Doug lives in the United Kingdom, Jordan lives in California, and Alfred lives in New York City. And I have no idea where the other two live, but probably also in the USA. Facebook knows that better than I do. Why does it suggest these people?


Friday, 13 January 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 January 2017
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Early morning disturbance
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Woke at 5:00 this morning to hear it raining. But the rain sounded funny: apart from the normal sound, there was the sound of a jet of water. Got up and found... a jet of water onto the window. One of the newly attached drippers had blown off the end of its tube. Sometimes I think that this irrigation system will never be completed.


Eureka again
Topic: general Link here

Off again today with Nikolai, Sasha and Yvonne to visit the Eureka Village Hostel and the Geoffrey Cutter Centre. Most people in Eureka seemed to be out, and I was finished relatively quickly, but spent a lot of time with Yvonne in Geoffrey Cutter, and for the first time took some photos. Unfortunately I can't show them here due to privacy concerns.


Camera shake: more insights
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Only 2 days ago I suffered from camera shake at only 1/33 s, while my Olympus OM-D E-M1 can take good photos at as low as 1/8 s. Or can it? Today I stopped on the way home to take some photos of a particularly silly road sign. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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But on processing, I found that all four exposures I had taken had significant camera shake. Here the trailer under the display:

 
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How did that happen? Image stabilization was on, and the exposures were taken at 1/320 s. That doesn't make sense. My only explanation is that they were taken from the car, and the engine was running. Maybe that caused vibrations that the image stabilization can't handle. To be investigated.


Lime harvest
Topic: gardening Link here

My miniature “Tahitian” lime tree suffered badly in the last year or so, but it did manage to produce a single fruit some time in late winter or early spring, while it was in a pot indoors. It had lost nearly all its leaves. In early November we planted the tree outside, still with the fruit on it:


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The tree recovered, though it's still not flowering well, and yesterday I “harvested” the year's crop. Here it is, on the right, with a lemon as companion:


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I've done this before, with a couple of different trees, and the results showed the “Tahitian” lime (top and left) to be dry and thick-skinned:


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So I was interested to see how this one would turn out (and thus the “before” and “after” photos). To my surprise, the fruit was both juicy and had a thinner skin than the lemon:


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And it tastes alright. Hopefully the tree will bear more fruit now that it has been planted properly.


Accessory viewfinder
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

It's been nearly 10 years since I bought my first DSLR, an Olympus E-510. I made my choice based on the fact that, at the time, it was the only camera with both image stabilization and “live view”, a view of the subject on the rear display. Since I wear glasses, I decided that that would be better than the conventional viewfinder.

The image stabilization was worth it. “Live view” wasn't, for at least two reasons: the delay imposed by the SLR implementation, the sensitivity of the display to ambient sunshine, and the fact that somehow it made composition more difficult. The first problem is gone with the mirror on modern mirrorless cameras, and I'm not sure if the third isn't a matter of practice. But ambient sunlight is still an issue, as was brought home to me last week trying (and failing) to take photos of plants in the garden with the E-PM1.

But there's a series of accessory viewfinders available for the Olympus Micro four thirds cameras. They're expensive: the current VF-4 retails for US $267, about AUD 345, for which I could buy a second-hand camera with viewfinder. But by chance I found a VF-2 going second hand relatively cheaply, coincidentally from the same person who sold me the E-PM1. Negotiated and got it for $120, still nearly double what I paid for the camera.

What's the difference between VF-2 and VF-4? They're compatible, and both fit all three of our Olympus cameras. According to the specs, the VF-4 has a viewfinder magnification of 1.48×, but it lies: that's using a 50 mm lens, which is a medium telephoto. An honest answer (added as an afterthought) is 0.74×. Still, that's better than the VF-2, which has only 0.57× (a value they don't bother to mention). And the resolution? 2.36 Md (million dots) for the VF-4 versus 1.44 Md for the VF-2. I can live with that, and it's interesting to note that intermediate the VF-3 (conveniently documented in half-Japanese) has only 920 kd and a magnification of only 0.5×. It's not clear why they made it.

Today it arrived, and it works as expected. It even fits my OM-D E-M1, giving it no less than three viewfinders:


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The black button on the viewfinder switches between the LED display and the viewfinder. On the E-M1 it also disables auto-switch between LED and middle viewfinder. To my surprise, it occurred to me that this could even make sense. In the Good Old Days, when most SLRs had only one, fixed viewfinder, there were right-angle viewfinders for cases where the camera was to be held low, which I “found useful” fifty years ago. With the E-M1 I can tilt the LED screen up under such circumstances, assuming lighting allows it; with the E-PM1 and E-PM2 I can't. Either way, the viewfinder option seems to be an advantage:


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So it seems to be a better acquisition than I expected.


Saturday, 14 January 2017 Dereel Images for 14 January 2017
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iPhone hang?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I tried to make a phone call with my iPhone. The call timed out, repeatedly and on different numbers. No error message, no sound at all (I never spoke a word). Tried calling it from Yvonne's phone. “This number is not reachable”. But it showed a signal, and when I checked later I still had credit. So why didn't it work?

Back home, looked at the device again. It still claimed to have signal, in my office, where there is none. The Samsung GT-I9100T correctly showed no signal. So I rebooted the Apple. Now it, too, showed no signal. But when I tried to make a call, it tried anyway, and then returned to the dial display with no comment whatsoever. At least the Samsung, like all mobile phones I have ever seen, told me in advance that it couldn't make a call because there was no signal.

This is a phone, for $FOO's sake! And it hangs, and doesn't even notice! And it can't even display sensible error messages! What kind of public is it that can put up with this nonsense, let alone camp out overnight to be the first to buy the new version of a broken implementation?


Out-trumped
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Saw this, by Felix Scahaad, in the Swiss Tagesanzeiger, clearly a newspaper I should read more often:

Image

The same article included a poll: how has your opinion of Trump changed since the election? Results were:

Was positive and still am       14.0%
Was positive and am getting more terrified       3.9%
Was negative and still am       70.7%
Was negative and am becoming increasingly relaxed       11.3%

That mirrors what I see elsewhere outside the USA. A week today until the inauguration. I wonder what fireworks we can expect then.


Comparing cameras
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

How does camera A compare to camera B? That's clearly a frequent question, and Google helps up to a point. But the top hit is http://cameradecision.com/compare/, and when I try to compare, say, the Olympus E-PM1 and the E-PM2, it gives up in a strange way:

Invalid camera slug

What does that mean?

In any case, it seems that this page does it right, including comparing more than two cameras.


Cholesterol scare
Topic: health, opinion Link here

In the USA it would seem that the biggest dietary health risk is Cholesterol, something that I have always found a little strange: it wasn't until the 1980s that people discovered the difference between HDL and LDL, and this discovery apparently changed nothing in the dietary recommendations. Also the fact that the human body produces far more cholesterol than is eaten seems to be ignored. So it was interesting to read this article, which confirms that a single egg yolk (119 mg “cholesterol”) accounts for about half the recommended daily cholesterol intake (200 to 300 mg/day, depending on the source).

We eat a lot of eggs, and it's a thing I've vaguely been thinking about. But the study confirms what I have always thought (so it must be right): dietary intake of eggs doesn't seem to make any difference to the total cholesterol levels.

All this is theory, of course. Practice is reflected in my blood tests, which suggest that overall cholesterol has dropped since our change of diet. Why that should be is unclear, but it's good to have an understanding of the background.


Sunday, 15 January 2017 Dereel Images for 15 January 2017
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Chase the cat
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

First thing in the morning I let the cats out the front of the house before their breakfast. Today the dogs followed, and chased Rani, something I need to get them to stop:


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Goodbye Mythbuntu
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

I've been procrastinating with my Mythbuntu installation for months now, gradually wondering when I have the patience to do a network installation. And then Andy Snow showed me this page: it seems that the Mythbuntu team is also frustrated, and has given up. I don't see that that will change my options much, though.


Hand-held super telephoto?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

To take the photos of Nikolai and Rani above, I grabbed the first camera I could find, the Olympus E-PM1. It was OK for the first photo, a medium telephoto at 92 mm focal length with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f4.0-5.6, but clearly I needed to come closer, so I grabbed my Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6. And I couldn't focus effectively. It brings home why I bought the 14-150 in the first place: Yvonne's E-PM2 had difficulty focusing with the Four Thirds system Zuiko Digital 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3 that I had before.

So on with the E-M1: after all, that's the camera I should be using almost all the time. And for once the EC-20 teleconverter came in handy. This photo is a crop with 35 mm equivalent effective focal length of 3,500 mm:


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It was shot hand-held at 1/320 s. And it's not perfectly sharp. But is that because of camera shake, focus or lens aberrations? Annoyingly, DxO Optics “Pro” refuses to apply corrections when the extender is in place. In any case, I think that it's acceptable under the circumstances.


Garden in mid-summer
Topic: gardening Link here

It's the middle the month, also the middle of summer, time for my monthly garden flower photos. Things are looking better than they have done, but there's not much to see, The Cannas have really flourished in their position up against the north wall of the house:


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We'll have to thin them out in the autumn: they're almost completely masking the Strelitzia nicolai and the lime tree.

The roses are also doing relatively well:


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And the Gazanias also deserve an honorable mention:


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Apart from that, there's really very little to show. I've taken a couple of photos of trees in there present state, like the Paulownia kawakamii, which is gradually establishing itself:


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I'm hoping for some explosive growth over the next year.


Sourdough problems again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Baked another loaf of bread today, and again ran into problems with it rising. I partially took the advice of Martin Pöt and let it rise at 40° (he recommends 50°, which seems far too high to me). After 5 hours it still hadn't risen enough, so I gave up and baked it. Bang! Suddenly it rose. I have a suspicion that it was too warm, and the dough stiffened enough to make it difficult for it to rise. I'll try at 30° next time.


Don't trust that site!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Fired up my Mac OS VM today to check something, and along came iTunes to annoy me. But this time it got hoist by its own petard:

 
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How did they manage that?


Monday, 16 January 2017 Dereel Images for 16 January 2017
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How to integrate a camera into a network
Topic: photography, technology, gardening, opinion Link here

We have a Begonia in the lounge room with small white flowers which point downwards:


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How do you get a photo of the flowers? From below, of course:


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And how do you compose and focus? There are two choices: grovel on the ground or use a smart phone with OI.Share:


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After trying both, it's clear that grovelling on the ground is the easier solution. Sometimes I wonder if OI.Share is ever of any use. Certainly there's so much against it that it's a pain to use. Today, once again, I had nothing but trouble. Apart from the problems just getting the two devices to talk to each other (made all the more difficult by the “network” topography that is imposes), I had trouble with the connection dropping, probably due to unspecified timeouts, and an inability to focus, not helped by the silly icons:

 
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They didn't make any sense to me while taking the photos, and it seemed that whatever I tried, it took a photo without focusing. Finding these things is complicated, so I gave up. The web page doesn't help: it makes all sorts of advertising claims, but doesn't offer worthwhile documentation. For example (in GPS tags):

  • You do not need to connect the camera to your smartphone.
  • You must connect the camera in Private Connection mode to synchronize the time before using this function.

I finally found the answer to the symols above in the camera “instruction manual”: the first symbol means “disable touch function”, second means “focus and take photo”, and the third means “focus only”.

I've ranted about this before, and I could rant about it many times in the future. This promised functionality is one of the reasons I bought the OM-D E-M1 in the first place. But instead of ranting, why don't I come up with something better? That would be easy, but there are many grades of “better”, and I need to consider which is best. Clearly this insistence on a single network link with the camera as the “access point” is one of the biggest issues. It would be simple enough to get the camera to get an IP address by DHCP, but how does the phone then locate it? There are some protocols used for finding multimedia sources, but I don't know much about them, so that's presumably the first thing I need to investigate.


Repairing my Siccama flute
Topic: music, opinion Link here

It's coming on 15 years since I gave Terry McGee a couple of flutes for repair, including my Siccama flute. I wasn't in a hurry—clearly a good thing—and I heard from him a little over 2 years ago with some photos (“still some work to be done”), but since then I heard nothing, no reply to my emails. Finally called him up today on 02 4471 3837, and spoke to Jessie, presumably his wife. He wasn't there, but would call back. He didn't. But it seems that I'm not the only customer waiting. Jessie said she made him make a New Year's resolution to work down the backlog of old instruments, so possibly we'll see something soon.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017 Dereel Images for 17 January 2017
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure today. It must have been short: the only evidence was that the clocks on the microwave ovens and the main oven had reset, and the one that automatically restarts the clock (perversely from 1:00) suggests that the power was restored at 0:32..


Laksa again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

When I was young I frequently ate laksa for brunch. That seems to be an obvious choice now that brunch is one of our two meals of the day. But it's not the simplest dish in the world, and though my oldest recipe (now over 25 years old, and thus an antique by Internet standards) is for laksa, I have never made it.

But it's not even as simple as that. I first met laska in Kuala Lumpur, and that was usually asam (sour) laksa, or Penang laksa as we called it, though my very first reference was to curry laksa, which we also called Singapore laksa. Later I ate laksa in Kuching, and though I noted that it was different, I didn't pay much more attention to it; now it's recognized as Sarawak laksa. Last month I was in Geelong and bought some pastes for asam laksa and curry laksa. It has taken me until now to try them out: they require additional ingredients.

Today I tried the asam laska. Here the recipe as I made it, for one portion

quantity       ingredient       step
125 g (½ packet)       Oriental Merchant Asam laksa paste
500 ml       water      
200 g       thick fresh rice noodles      
80 g       chicken      
      mint      
      Thai basil      

The chicken was a substitute: it should have been fish, but we didn't have any.

The results? It's been such a long time since I last ate Penang laksa (over 50 years) that I can't recall exactly what it tasted like. The hawker's stalls in Campbell Road (now Jalan Dang Wangi) always served it with a dollop of tamarind paste, and that was missing. But it didn't taste bad, and it had enough tamarind in it; the biggest issue was with the quantities. Next time I'll use much less water and paste (maybe a third of the packet with 350 ml water?), and probably about the same amount of the other ingredients.


Completing the driveway
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's time for the rest of the sand for the driveway, and Yvonne now wants sand on her riding arena as well. Call with Warrick Pitcher, who tells me that sand for the arena will cost $1300 for a truck and trailer load (better quantified as 20 m³). The sand should be 2" to 3" (5-7.5 cm) deep. How big is the arena? I guessed 30×15 m, Warrick 30×20. But clearly that's something we need to measure, so outside and, to our surprise, it's much smaller and by no means rectangular. The long sides are roughly equal at 23.2 m, and the short sides are 21.1 m (east side) and 11.7 m (west side), giving an area of 380 m². So our 20 m³ of sand would cover about 5.2 cm, which will have to do; we can spread it thinner in the middle and thicker on the edges.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017 Dereel Images for 18 January 2017
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Trumping Trump
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

There's a movement going on in social media to get Barack Obama to step down. He'd have to hurry, of course, since his term ends on Friday (Thursday in the USA). But then Joe Biden would take over as 45th president for a day, after which Donald Trump would become the 46th president.

Why bother? Because, it seems, Trump has gone to great lengths to have items made stating “Donald Trump, 45th president”. So a bit of premature Schadenfreude there.


Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Another new lens today: a “Panasonic LUMIX G Lens, 20mm, F1.7 ASPH.”, serial number 09LG3074803, almost this lens, except it's the predecessor. Panasonic appears to forget about lenses even more quickly than Olympus, and once they're out of production, they're off the web site. But DxO considers the old lens to be better: sharper, less distortion and less vignetting, thus the reason why I bought it.

In passing, it's interesting to note the differences that the camera body makes on the lens results. Compare the old lens on a Lumix DMC G1 and it gets much worse results.

Of course, that's the test result with a known good lens. After my experience with my first Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f4.0-5.6 lens, I've taken photos to confirm that the thing is working correctly. And after the surprising results comparing the Leica Summilux 25 mm f/1.4 with the 50 mm f/1.4 Super Takumar, it seemed reasonable to try something similar. This time I didn't go to too much trouble, but the results were surprising, almost startling. Here the 20 mm Lumix at f/1.7 and the 25 mm Summilux at f/1.4. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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What a difference! While the second one isn't terrible—not as bad as the Super Takumar—it's still a big difference, and I was seriously considering whether to return the lens or not. But on closer examination, those are the results from the Summilux! And even closer examination showed that the photo was taken with the E-PM1. The same view taken with the E-M1 looks much better:

 
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Yes, there's considerable Moiré on the second image, but that's nothing to do with the camera. It's puzzling, however, that the aspect ratio appears to have changed.

So somehow there are significant differences between the E-PM1 and the E-M1. Is that normal, or is there something wrong with the camera? I need to make more careful comparisons, including the E-PM2. In either case, though, it's interesting to consider that they're nothing like as bad as the results of the Super Takumar last October:

 
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Apart from that, it's interesting to compare the corrections applied to the images to get even that far. Both lenses exhibit considerable barrel distortion:


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Somehow today was only marginally conclusive. At least I now know:


Lens terminology
Topic: photography, language, opinion Link here

When I was a lad I learnt about lenses. There were two basic parameters: Focal length (f) and Aperture (f/2.8), for example. And some lenses were marked with things like “f=10,5 cm 1:4,5” and “f=135 mm 1:2.8”:


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And that makes perfect sense: the colon in 1:4,5 is the German division symbol, and it implies division of the focal length by the factor (4,5 or 2.8 in this case), though my personal choice would be 105/4.5 and 135/2.8 (f stated explicitly).

But somehow people soon forgot this wisdom. Even in the 1960s, the Asahi Optical Company (now Pentax) wrote the parameters as 1:1.4/50 on this lens:


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Still, the idea of a relationship is there. But nowadays people seem to have forgotten what f is, and what the number (“F number”) means. Or maybe. The Pentax terminology seems to be most prevalent form written on the lens itself, but marketing terminology and EXIF data use a form that makes no sense, like, for my newest lens: “Panasonic LUMIX G Lens, 20mm, F1.7 ASPH.”.

Why do they do that? F and f are different, and omitting the / makes a nonsense of the term.


Thursday, 19 January 2017 Dereel Images for 19 January 2017
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Registering camera equipment
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

A few days ago a “friend” on the Facebook M43 Australia group had all his photographic equipment stolen, including his computer and all his photos. What a catastrophe! You can replace cameras and lenses. You can't replace your photos. Yet another reason for my policy of keeping an off-site backup at all times.

In the discussion, somebody pointed to http://www.lenstag.com, a service to register camera equipment. It appears to be a private initiative, implying opt-in, which somewhat limits its usefulness. It would be much better to have some official registry. Still, it's better than nothing, and I signed up.

Things appear to be sub-optimal. You can register a component and specify the description (plain text) and serial number, but to have it verified you need to send in a photo. OK, this one was taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 (serial number BHP228512) and the 60mm f/2.8 macro lens (serial number ABQ227050), as the complete exposure details show:


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It stayed in “pending verification” status for over a day, during which I played around a bit, and discovered that I could enter my Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD (serial number 230033616) twice. That's worse than it sounds. Yes, it's not verified, but you'd expect that the first thing the site would do would be to check if it doesn't already have that serial number on file. That's not made any easier by the fact that there's no standardized way to describe the lens, but in this case that, too, was identical.

Finally my photo was examined (presumably manually), and rejected! They didn't want a photo taken with the camera: they wanted a photo of the camera. Wow. Yes, it's easy enough to fake EXIF data, but you don't even have to fake photos that you find on line. I should find one and see if I can register it as mine. In the meantime, though, I'm left with a very poor impression of the usefulness of the service.


Nele visits again
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Nele Kömle along today, along with Nele's son Nelson, and also four Salix babylonica shoots that Magda had started in early December. They had been immersed in water all that time, and so they went back in again:


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When do we plant them? It's really hot and dry at the moment, but we have four of them, so it might be worthwhile planting one of them in the island in the middle of the driveway and seeing how it fares.


More thoughts on the Lumix 20/1.7
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

While thinking about yesterday's lens comparisons, it occurred to me that my references to the DxOMark results are quite dependent on the camera body, and that could have relevance to the different results I got from the bodies I used. So off again to compare the two lenses I tested with the three bodies I had. For some reason they haven't tested the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 with the E-PM2, but I assume that the E-PL5 is close enough, and here's the comparison. Almost as I expected, there's not difference in the results between the E-PL5 and the E-M1, while the E-PM1 has lower “sharpness”, presumably reflecting the lower resolution of the sensor. It's interesting to note that transmission is better for the E-PM1 (2.0 compared to 2.1 for the others). Possibly this is random error. Similar considerations apply to the Summilux 25/1.4, though in this case it's interesting that the transmission for the E-M1 and the E-PM1 are 0.2 better than for the E-PL5 (1.7 compared to 1.9).

The other thing that's interesting is the focus mechanism of the Lumix 20/1.7: it's very slow on the E-PM1, much slower than the standard Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R , though there are no obvious differences on the other bodies. And on the E-M1 it makes some strange noises when focusing.


Friday, 20 January 2017 Dereel Images for 20 January 2017
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One use of Lenstag
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

After reading yesterday's article, Peter Jeremy came up with an excellent use for Lenstag: you can export your (verified) “gear”, providing an excellent source of information for thieves looking for specific equipment. My personal list is empty (though I have registered 35 items, including some that have been stolen, in the hope of tracking them), but Peter's right: no reason to publish the information.


ALDI spice mixes
Topic: food and drink Link here

To help continue my experiments with pre-mixed spice mixtures for South-East Asian food, Yvonne returned from ALDI today with no less than 11 packages: if they're good, they'll be worth it, if not they can go back. Three of them are Curry laksa, which I can compare with my existing sachet. Four of them are of an intriguing kind: “Malaysian [sic] Style PANANG CURRY SAUCE”, “Singapore Style BLACK PEPPER STIR FRY SAUCE”, “Vietnamese Style CREAMY COCONUT CURRY SAUCE” and “Javanese Style SWEET CHILLI SAMBAL STIR FRY SAUCE”.

Huh? Panang is Thai, not Malay (assuming that that's what they mean by “Malaysian”. The Malay Wikipedia doesn't even have an entry for it. And the sweet chili sambal sauce recipe requires asparagus and carrot. Asparagus? I don't think I've ever seen any recipe in the area that uses asparagus.

And the others? The only use of black pepper that I know in Singapore is with crab. And Vietnamese curry? Not a dish that I associate with Việt Nam, though it seems there are some.

Still, that's all marketing, if somewhat bizarre. In particular the strange vegetables for the chili sambal would probably completely ruin what might otherwise be a good dish. My guess is that the packaging and recipes come from Australia: the product is made in Thailand, where they know damn well that Phanaeng (“Panang”) is a Thai dish. And Vietnamese curry? I have two cookbooks brought to me from Việt Nam, and indeed, I can find one curry recipe between the two of them. Not exactly what you would call typical, but OK, until proof of the contrary...


Saturday, 21 January 2017 Dereel Images for 21 January 2017
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Trumped!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Woke up this morning at 7:00 to hear the ABC News. “Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States”.

46th? Did Obama really resign? No, just an error (deliberate?) on the part of the news reader or team.

Watched in a sort of horror as the day's events rolled out. Now we can only hope that he won't be as bad as he has promised to be. I wonder how people were feeling in Germany on 30 January 1933. The two men are very different, but they have in common that they came to power by a minority vote and had extremist agenda. Hopefully the similarity ends there.


Another tree
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the Gardener along today, and spent most of his time planting the straightest of the Salix babylonica saplings in and putting a stone border around the island in the middle of the driveway. I'm concerned about its water needs, especially in the middle of summer and in view of the elevated location. I've put two 8 l/h drippers round the trunk, delivering a little over 5 litres in the 20 minutes that the irrigation runs, and I've also had a shield put around it to minimize drying out from the wind, though most of the leaves are above the top:


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Rethinking roast chicken
Topic: food and drink Link here

Roast chicken tonight. We have this all the time. Or do we? It seems that the last time I did it was 18 months ago. The question is always the cooking time. Today, based on my previous notes, I set the oven to 170° from the start, with recirculation only, and it quickly browned, so after about 20 minutes I put some aluminium foil over the breast. This time I set the breast temperature lower (85° instead of 88°), and the cooking time, for a 2.225 kg chicken, was 110 minutes, to the second.

After 30 minutes rest, the chicken was still hot, and the legs were cooked through. But the breast was still a little fibrous, so I think I'll drop the temperature again next time. 82°?

Yvonne was not to be outdone. Instead of conventional vegetables, she cut them (asparagus, courgette and potato) into strips and baked them:


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She then served them with a yoghurt dip. How did they taste? OK. But I somewhat miss the traditional vegetables. In particular, I don't think this is the way to cook asparagus.


Sunday, 22 January 2017 Dereel Images for 22 January 2017
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The era of lies
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Politicians lie. We know that, and sometimes we even accept the excuses for their behaviour. But there must always be a reason.

But Donald Trump is the greatest. Yesterday he was sworn in as the President of the United States of America. I wasn't the only person who wasn't happy. In fact, millions of people round the world were so unhappy about the fact that they organized multiple demonstrations. The inauguration itself was poorly attended.

The inauguration speech was long on bullshit, short on details and statesmanship, as The Shovel satirized. It was also raining.

But no, that's not true. It was the biggest inauguration audience ever, according to Sean Spicer, the current White House Press Secretary, who held a “press conference” in which no questions were allowed. Any claims to the contrary are press lies. Here a Washington Post photo of crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday (right, a day earlier in the USA, and clearly a fabrication), and 8 years previously:

Here's another image, published The Guardian, and clearly the other way round:

And the crowd sizes? It depends on what you believe. The Washington Post article has one set of numbers (second column), and a comment in the same article, which I haven't substantiated, gives different values (third column). In each case I had to recover (chronological order):

Inauguration       Washington Post       Comment
Obama 2009       1,500,000       1,800,000
Obama 2013       600,000       1,000,000
Trump 2017       250,000       250,000

Either way, that's a big difference, not even in the same football field ball park.

And it didn't rain. Well, at least not on Donald Trump. I've seen plenty of evidence of other people being rained on, including Barack Obama.

What earthly purpose can these lies serve? Thinking people can only see them as further evidence of how dishonest the new US President really is. Can't he save his lies for when he needs them?


Singapore Laksa, ALDI style
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Finally got round to cooking one of my Singapore Laksa pastes for breakfast, using one of the “MARION'S KITCHEN” packets Yvonne bought at ALDI. It's intended for 4 portions, but I have to eat it alone, so I first prepared the entire product up to a point where I could portion it out. The instructions and capitalization are original.

quantity       ingredient       step
200 g       Marion's LAKSA PASTE       1
      oil       1
110 g       hoki filet       2
75 g       chicken meat       2
100 g       prawns       2
150 g       that creamy COCONUT MILK       2
500 ml       water       2
  1. Fry my LAKSA PASTE for about a minute until it starts to smell yum.
  2. Add that creamy COCONUT MILK and water. Bring to a boil, add meat and seafood. Simmer until cooked.
quantity       ingredient       step
50 g       noodles
40 g       fried dofu      
50 g       bean sprouts      

Cook the noodles, chop the dofu in slices, put in bowl, add the soup:


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Now earlier in the week I had made Penang laksa and established that 500 ml was too much for a single portion. That made sense: they wanted 1 l water, and though unspecified, it was definitely more than one portion. At the time I had decided that about 350 ml would be right. But how does that match with the 500 ml that this recipe wants for 4 portions? It doesn't. I used 750 ml, which is about as much as the paste can be diluted. So in the end it looks as if this stuff can only supply a scant 3 portions.

And the taste? Not bad. It claims to be mildly spiced, and comes with a particularly insipid chili sambal to make up for it. In fact, though, despite the dilution, it's pedas enough.


Monday, 23 January 2017 Dereel Images for 23 January 2017
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Thali layout
Topic: food and drink Link here

Found on Quora: the layout of the food on banana leaves and a Thali, written by Aniruddha Banerjee. I have no idea how authentic this is, but it's interesting to note.

On a banana leaf:

On a plate (thali)


Learning Trump Newspeak
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

I commented yesterday on the lies that Donald Trump propagated about the size of his inauguration audience. Never mind that it wasn't an important issue: it's indicative of a mindset. And of course the US media jumped on it. But during an interview, Kellyanne Conway explained; they weren't lies, they were “alternative facts”. George Orwell lives again. This is blackwhite.

You've got to hand it to them for Chutzpah. It almost makes the whole thing seem plausible.

I've been keeping a page on bad language for some years now, but clearly it's time for a new category: Newspeak.


Dangerous Australian animals
Topic: animals Link here

Australia is full of dangerous animals: snakes, spiders, crocodiles. They can kill people. Here's an overview

How plausible is it? Not many people get killed by crocodiles, but the number isn't 0.


The (alternative?) truth about the inauguration audience
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Found somewhere on the Web:


Full Google Maps, finally!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Some months back I found an easy workaround to persuade Google Maps to go into “full map mode” on my machine. But it seems that Google has fixed this “bug”: it no longer works.

Why do they go to such trouble to ensure that people running FreeBSD do not have access to full maps? It would be easy to assume that they're doing it deliberately, which I would see as an abuse of their position of market dominance. I don't know if that's illegal in Australia; it definitely is in Europe, and I wonder how long it will be before the EU authorities get at them for that. But my guess is that this is another application of Hanlon's razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

Still, it's very annoying, and today I went on another investigation. Finally came across an answer

If I install a user agent switcher and use the same user agent as firefox wine:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; rv:41.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/41.0

Then google maps does indeed work in full mode. So this is indeed just a simple case of bad coding on googles part.

OK, what's a user agent switcher? More searching brought me to User-Agent Switcher, a firefox addon. Installed that and found the icon, which hides itself well by changing its appearance to match the user agent it is spoofing. Here the icon, at top right, is firefox, and the icons in the green squares show that it is spoofing firefox on Microsoft “Windows”.

 
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And that works. But why Microsoft when I could choose Linux? Because that doesn't work. Google people, if you're listening, please fix this. It can't be difficult, and the current impression is very much that this is a deliberate restriction.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017 Dereel Images for 24 January 2017
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Internet relocation
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Into the office this morning to discover that I was off the net. Or was I? No, I was on the net. No, I was off the net.

What was going on? We had had a scheduled outage shortly after midnight, and it turned out that ICMP was working, and TCP wasn't. Further investigation showed that they had changed my IP address!

OK, that's normal enough, but Aussie Broadband doesn't (or didn't) do that. In the 3½ years I've been with them, this is the first unannounced change. And interestingly, the new address is in a /10 network space, so probably this was related to an increase in subscribers. But my firewall rules specifically address my interface address, so most things failed. A bit of messing around, not helped by the early hour, and I was back on the net again.

How do commodity operating systems and firewalls handle the issue? More an idle thought than something I intend to follow up on.


Trump se trompe
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

He promised it, he did it: Donald Trump has withdrawn the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In many ways, not a bad idea. Like many people, I thought it gave far too much power to US industry. But what are his intentions? It's difficult to say based on what little information he provides, but my guess is that he is hoping to renegotiate it to be more favourable towards the USA.

This is a businessman. He's reminding me indirectly of his bankruptcies. The TPP excluded China, which is working on an alternative plan. Agree with Chinese politics or not, you can rely on them being relatively predictable. And if their proposal wins, it will further isolate the USA.

He's wrong again. Or, in French, « Trump se trompe ». It's interesting the word games you can make of his name; in German, „Trampel“ (pronounced the same way as “Trump”) can be translated as “clumsy oaf”.


Poor inauguration, maximum press
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The fallout from Trumps liesalternative facts about the inauguration crowds continues, far more than it's worth. There's no doubt about the fact that Donald Trump's inauguration was poorly attended, at least in person. But I suspect it and the surrounding events were one the most watched events ever. The whole world watched... in horror.

The lying press are having a field day, of course. The Washington Post confirmed my opinion of his “newspeak”:

That was reinforced when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told “Meet the Press” Sunday that Spicer had been providing “alternative facts” to what the media had reported, making it clear we’ve gone full Orwell.

The Australian The Shovel came up with this story:

Trump Staff Gather To Decide On This Week’s Facts

America’s GDP growth rate was set at 8%. Two million Americans have gained employment since Trump won office.

And Arjen Lubach came up with an attempt to sell the Netherlands to Trump:

It's partially in Dutch, but there are subtitles. The important parts are in English, and well worth watching.

In passing, it's interesting to note how little information current White House briefings are delivering. After Trump has decried the media as liars (pot calling the kettle black?), it would be amusing if there were a briefing and nobody showed up.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017 Dereel Images for 25 January 2017
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Finishing driveway and riding arena
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

Warrick Pitcher dragged us out of bed shortly after 7:00 this morning to tell us he would be there in an hour to lay sand in the riding arena and finish off the driveway. And so he was:


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Yvonne was delighted, and immediately had to try it out:


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Trump: keeps promises
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Not counting today, it's been 4 days since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the President of the United States of America, in the greatest inauguration ceremony of all times. Only four days, and it already seems like an eternity.

Today the New York Times refused the newspeak and used the old word: lies. And it seems that the parallels with Nineteen Eighty-Four are reaching a wider audience.

You've got to say something for him, though: despite his liesalternative facts, he is keeping his word on his campaign promises. Sadly. But at least today he attacked his own people, not the world.


Baked beans, next attempt
Topic: food and drink Link here

I've been cooking my own baked beans for breakfast for some time, but somehow I'm still not happy. Recipes on the web haven't helped: they're all very much the same. Only the ones from the USA differ by having frequently amazing amounts of sugar. I had tried smoked pork, lots of garlic and other things, all to no avail. Today I made another batch, this time with a magic ingredient, beef stock powder:

quantity       ingredient       step
375 g       dried white beans       1
200 g       onion       2
38 g       oil for frying       2
240 g       tinned tomatoes (400 g can)       3
30 g       tomato purée       3
1.16 g       dried rosemary       3
10 g       beef stock powder       3
300 ml       water (to cover)       3
15 g       salt       3

It'll be a while before I use them, but the first impression is that there's too much salt. That stock powder must include a lot. There also seems to have been too much water, though in proportion, it's much less than last time. The 375 g of beans are simple: that's the rather bizarre portion size of the beans that I buy.


Thursday, 26 January 2017 Dereel Images for 26 January 2017
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Australia Day market
Topic: general Link here
Australia Day

Australia Day today, time for some neighbours to display signs of patriotism:


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Yvonne discovered that they were holding an Farmer's Market in Rokewood this morning. We've been there before, and it wasn't much then. Off to look anyway. It wasn't much today either. It would be misleading to say that every man and his dog was there, though some people did take the opportunity to walk their pets:


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A surprising number of people from Dereel were there, and once again we managed to spend $10 on some random cookery ware and a vase.


Random file system corruption?
Topic: technology Link here

Turned on tiwi, our TV machine today, to watch the news. Somehow my shell didn't read in its configuration. It's a symlink to an NFS mounted file system, and from time to time I've had difficulty mounting them. So I went looking at the net. No problems. What I saw puzzled me:

-rw-r--r--     1 grog    lemis              0 26 Jan 12:27 .bashrc

Huh? How did that happen? This was only a couple of hours prior to the discovery. But an ls -lt showed that it wasn't the only file:

-rwxr-xr-x     1 grog    lemis              0 26 Jan 12:27 xe
-rw-r--r--     1 grog    lemis              0 26 Jan 12:27 .bashrc
-rw-r--r--     1 grog    lemis              0 26 Jan 12:27 .emacs

Later I found more files in other directories which had been hit, seemingly at random. Fortunately all files were under RCS control, so it was easy enough to check them out again. Except that I hadn't checked in a lot of the files, and I had to recover them from a backup. That's possible, but tedious: my home directory backs up to 150 odd GB (compressed), and it takes hours just to access the stuff. Time to be more rigorous with checking files in.

But how did it happen? Somebody breaking in to the system? Random hardware failure? There was nothing in the log files that suggested either. Before going any further, I needed to find out how many more files were affected, and in particular if their inodes were related. But that was for tomorrow.


Suffering willow
Topic: gardening Link here

Our Salix babylonica isn't dead yet, but some of the leaves are looking withered:


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Nothing serious yet, but I'll be keeping an eye on it.


High shutter speeds
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When I was a boy, high-end cameras had shutter speeds as short as 1/1000 s. And that seemed enough. But now our low-end cameras (Olympus E-PM2) have speeds of up to 1/4000 s, and my E-M1 had a top speed of 1/8000 s. Surely that's enough for anything?

But no, with a wide aperture on a sunny day, it's not enough. For the photos of the Salix babylonica above, I wanted an aperture of f/1.4 to blur the background. But that would have required a shutter speed of 1/20,000 s, and the maximum I could get with the E-M1 (with electronic shutter) was 1/16,000 s and f/1.6. And the second one was allocated a shutter speed of (perversely) 1/12,800 s, apparently 10 times 1/1250 s. Somehow camera makers have forgotten how to count.

That's not common, and DxO Optics “Pro” can't handle it:

 
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The “--” after the aperture should show the shutter speed, but it's empty. Yet Another Ticket. Hopefully they won't ask me lots of “how to reproduce” questions.


Friday, 27 January 2017 Dereel
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Trump: First international affront?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

I still don't understand why Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the border with México. I'm clearly not alone in that lack of understanding, but I'm finding out more things that hadn't been mentioned before: apart from the immense cost, it will require access to privately owned land and roads where there were previously none. Access to private land, enforced by the results of court cases if necessary, must be complete or the whole thing fails. Much of the area is remote, so it's an ideal place to build tunnels, and the roads will offer good connections to the rest of the USA. Far from discouraging illegal immigration, it might ultimately make it easier. And of course if the land way were really to be completely blocked, there are other ways, notably by sea. If people can sail thousands of kilometres from Indonesia to Australia, they can make a suitably wide berth round marine patrols.

But the most stupid thing of all was to expect México to pay for it. Yesterday Trump wrote a typically upside down Tweet (markup removed):

of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting. The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers...

He's talking about foreign heads of state on Twitter! What an affront, especially given the content! Enrique Peña Nieto did the obvious thing: he cancelled the meeting and held a talk explaining (reasonably, as far as I can see) his position.

I said this was the first affront, but was it? The Chinese are also not exactly positively impressed, but that affront was done before the (“biggest ever”) inauguration. How long is it going to take before some foreign power takes serious offence? It appears that it won't be the United Kingdom (“America's oldest ally” according to Al Jazeera, apparently an intended affront to the French), though I'll be watching that one closely.


GCC again
Topic: general, animals Link here

Off with Nikolai, Leonid and Yvonne today to the Eureka Village Hostel and the Geoffrey Cutter Centre to visit the old folks. Once again, despite up to three helpers, I was through well before Yvonne, so over to join her. At one bloke's place (Reg), his grandson (great-grandson?) was overjoyed to see Niko, and hugged him the way he hugged Sasha. Niko was less overjoyed, and Yvonne said that he bared a tooth at the boy—not a direct threat, but an indication that he wasn't happy. We'll need to keep an eye on that one.


Cleaning up file system corruption
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

What caused yesterday's overwriting of several files? Took a look at the ls -l that I had left running overnight and found that a total of 48 files had been affected between 12:27:48 and 12:27:49—a maximum of 2 seconds! The inode numbers showed no correlation. What did show a correlation was that there were symlinks to many of the files in my http://www.lemis.com/grog/src/ directory. And potentially there were links to all the others elsewhere in that hierarchy.

And other file systems? Went through my /Photos file system and found (only) a single file that had been affected:

Photos/grog/20040406/orig:
2141214 -rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis        0 26 Jan 12:27:48 2017 beard-on-ebay.gif

That, too, was a symlink from public_html.

In any case, it looks as if I have been able to recover everything. But it has shaken my confidence. A lot of these files are quite old—the oldest date to 1971 or 1972—and I don't look at them often. Maybe I should set them all read-only.


DxO support at its best
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So yesterday I submitted a ticket (113805, visible only to me) about a minor bug in DxO Optics “Pro”, and of course included an image that showed the problem, along with a screen shot.

I got a relatively fast response:

Thank you for writing. We would like to investigate this issue for you further. In order to do that, we first need you to send us ONE ORIGINAL image file shot at 1/16000 s with your Olympus camera for us to review here on our systems.

Sigh. This isn't the first time. I really get the impression that their support tech doesn't read what I'm saying, nor check the attachments.


Goodbye, State Department
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

I don't know if it had anything to do with the México wall, but it seems that pretty much the entire senior staff of the USA State Department has resigned.

Or have they? It seems that there is a tradition of senior officials handing in a resignation after a presidential inauguration to make it easier for the incoming president to replace them if he should want to. In general, a couple may get replaced, but not all of them.

So what happened this time? There are conflicting reports. But if he replaces the entire staff of a well-oiled machine, he's asking for (even more) trouble. And whoever made the decision, it says nothing good about his administration. Can the man do anything right?


What the world thinks of Trump
Topic: politics Link here

I've discovered a new web site, Statista, which provides daily articles on some statistic or another. It's not spectacular in its detail (though I gather it would be more so if I were prepared to pay), but some of the articles are interesting. This one shows the global expectations of Trump's Presidency (well, for 12 countries). With the exception of Russia, India and the USA, all countries mentioned see him as a bad president, from 55% “bad” (China) via 75% “bad” for Australia, then France, Germany and the United Kingdom to the not surprising 81% in México.


More MythTV hangs
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

My pain with MythTV has been going on for over 4 months, but I still can't face fixing it. Today once again I had a silent hang, which meant that things weren't recorded. Somehow things have got much worse since I installed the new version. Should I just give up and buy a commercial recorder? It doesn't seem to be worth the pain.


Saturday, 28 January 2017 Dereel Images for 28 January 2017
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Half a lifetime!
Topic: history, opinion Link here

In my daily cron job this morning:

1/2 life:    Sunday, 28 November 1982
Yvonne moves into Rosbach house, 1982

I've been living with Yvonne for half my life! Time flies when you're having fun.

That's only one of several anniversaries and similar this year. I'll note them as they happen.


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along today to do yet more work. The most obvious difference was the rearrangement of the veggie patch. I've given up on the idea of harvesting dill and parsley seeds, and moved the second box in front of the first:


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More statistics for Trump
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Bring back the jobs to America! That's a familiar rallying cry. Even at the expense of increasing climate change, a Chinese plot to cripple America. Use coal again! Give people back their jobs!

So it was interesting to see this page today, with the statistics:

It's not only in the USA: this page shows a similar picture in the United Kingdom.


Dinner with Margaret
Topic: food and drink Link here

Margaret Swan is in town again, and of course she came to dinner with us. It always requires a bit of planning, since she's near-vegetarian. She does eat fish, however, so today it was fried trout.


Trump: numerically challenged
Topic: politics, photography, opinion Link here

We've been laughing for days about Donald Trump's obsession with the attendance figures at his inauguration. A couple of days ago he tweeted an image of the inauguration:

After dinner we had nothing better to talk about than Trump—after all, he threatens our future—and we took another look at the image. Why is it such a mess? My guess is that it was taken with a mobile phone, and there are reflections. Part of the noise in the left background clearly shows a human form:

 
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The intention appears to be to show the large numbers of people present at the inauguration. But does it? What it certainly does show is that neither Trump nor the people who made it have a good feeling for numbers:

 
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Yes, it happened on 21 January, but that was our time. In the USA, as every child knows, Presidents are inaugurated on 20 January, which was the date there. How could Trump miss something that obvious? And clearly the donor (Abbas H. Shirmohammadi, not the sort of name you would expect of a Trump supporter) would have fixed it immediately if he had asked.

But Chris was puzzled by the perspective. I has assumed that the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial were at the left. What better source of images of the area than Google Maps? I don't know, but I hope there is one. It's clear that this panorama (270° or so, I would guess) was taken from an elevated position, and the Google images aren't. In addition, there are no roads in the exact position that I had assumed the photo to have been taken from. But there are individual panoramas, and this one looked good:

 
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That's clearly in the gardens. But not for Google Maps:


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We tried a few others, some of which were really outside, but it was difficult to find a good match. On more examination, though, we saw the Washington Monument in the mid-left field, coincidentally to the right of the phantom image above. And maybe that lump in the back is the Lincoln Memorial:

 
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How does that compare to the comparisons published in the newspapers?

Clearly it shows only a small part of that view:

 
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Further back, things look different:

 
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Clearly there are many more people there in the first image. But things aren't quite that simple:

 
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Where are there more people in this case?

Reexamining the photos, there are two issues that I haven't seen mentioned:

  1. The ground was brownish (sand?) 8 years ago. Now it's bright white, which makes any gaps much more obvious. That's particularly evident in the second comparison.
  2. There's some kind of walkway in the middle in the second image that wasn't there 8 years ago. This suggests a different arrangement. Presumably the areas further back were cheaper, and maybe cost was a factor.

In any case, it's clear that the Trump inauguration had fewer visitors; there have been multiple indications for that. But after examining these photos, it's clear that first impressions can be misleading. If they are indicative, I can't see a difference of more than 2 to 1, rather then the claims of up to 5 to 1.

Back to the panorama: aren't they fun? And aren't they easy to manipulate? I can't find a high resolution version of the Inauguration panorama, but here's another record crowd from some years back:


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In passing, it's interested to note that Twitter does tell you the exact date of a tweet, sort of. Hover the mouse cursor over the Jan 25 of the tweet, and it will tell you: “3:58 AM - Jan 25 2017”. It doesn't confuse me with terms like time zones, but it appears to be my local time zone, folded into a 12 hour clock.


Sunday, 29 January 2017 Dereel Images for 29 January 2017
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Brief power failure at 4:05 this morning. This time it woke me when the microwave oven in the kitchen beeped when the power came back.


25 years uptime?
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Discovered this page today. A Stratus computer has been up for nearly 25 years. Ignoring the fact that they were our competitors at the time the machine was installed, that's still an achievement. And they're planning to shut it down before they reach the 25 year mark!

Some people have no soul.


New sprayer
Topic: gardening Link here

A couple of weeks ago I started looking for weed sprayers with electric pumps. I found manual sprayers costing up to $250, but no electric ones. So I turned to eBay and found one for $75, but without instructions. In particular, it has both an on-off switch and a regulator (potentiometer?). You'd think that they worked together, but no, it seems that if you turn the potentiometer on, it bypasses the on-off switch. I wonder if that was intended by the designer.

Today was hot (33°), and there were low winds, an ideal day to try it out. And how about that, it works! The jets are a little strange, but I can probably fix that. And it's so much easier to use than the old one. In particular, the pump handle was a real pain to operate: it kept fouling my clothes. And though it was smaller than this one (12 l against 18 l), it was much more difficult to mount.


Weed killer instructions
Topic: gardening, general, opinion Link here

Of course, to spray weeds you need chemicals. A couple of weeks ago I ranted about the price of Glyphosate. Today I had to mix it up. How much? In the order of 1% to 2%, as I recalled. But that's what the instructions are for—I hoped:


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Nothing but safety instructions! But it's clear that there's something underneath (why?). So peeled it off and tried again:


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More safety instructions! Well, less safety instructions. About the only thing of interest is the “Read attached booklet before use”.

What attached booklet? There was none. Finally, on the back of the peeled-off sheet, I found:


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That's well hidden and almost illegible! The text is about 6 pt, and it's overlaid with a half-tone grey that distorts the text. You'd really think that they're trying to make it illegible.

There seems to be a tradition here. The larger (10 and 20 l) containers really do come with a booklet in a plastic envelope, the only markings of any kind on the container. The booklet gets lost, the envelope comes unstuck, and you have a 20 l container of some undocumented poison. That's really not necessary.

I did what I always do: I wrote “1%” on the container with an indelible (but non sunshine-resistant) marker. I suppose if I were working with obsolete Imperial units I could have written “0.8 floz/qt.”, or (for the USA) “0.64 floz/qt”.


Garden progress
Topic: gardening Link here

Now that the sprinklers are working reliably, a number of things are looking much better. The tree fern has been looking quite unhappy, but finally new fronds are appearing. Here the current status, mainly for purposes of comparison:


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And the remaining Buddlejas that Yvonne wanted planted seem to have survived the treatment. Here the line from east to west:


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Mites
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

Our curry tree suffered badly from spider mites last year, and I've been keeping a careful eye on it—I thought. Today I saw the first signs of them, and sprayed the tree with pyrethrum, in the process discovering that they had already covered half the tree.

Today back to take photos of the results. It wasn't a success. Firstly, just getting close to the webs was an issue. Then there's the question of focus. In the Good Old Days you could focus to minimum distance just by turning the focus ring all the way. But that doesn't work with modern focus-by-wire lenses: there is no “all the way”. Instead, the lens comes with an adjuster that can set full extension. But how do I know if it works?

Then there was another, completely unexpected issue: while focusing on a mite, it walked away out of the field of view! These things are supposed to be dead!

In the end took some photos with flash and some without. None were good: after (manual) focusing, I took my hands off the equipment, and it moved slightly. But the depth of field under these circumstances is only 1.4 mm, and the motion must have been more. Here's the best I could do:

 
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Maybe this is an application of focus stacking. The subjects are pretty much on a plane, but with focus stacking maybe one would be in focus. But it's all such a pain. A reasonable remote viewfinder would be good, but what I have is unreasonable.


Monday, 30 January 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 30 January 2017
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New glasses
Topic: health, general Link here

Into Ballarat for an eye examination today. I had thought that my eyes were getting worse, but in fact there has only been a marginal deterioration (about 0.25 dioptre) since my current glasses were made in December 2011. Some of the issues seem to be that the glasses weren't sitting correctly. But I've decided on better quality multifocals: the current mid-range lenses are not spectacular in the mid-distance, and there are hopes that the top-of-the-line ones will be better.

In passing, it's interesting how well my current lenses have lasted. They're my first plastic lenses; I had resisted them after a very poor experience with their durability in Austin in 1996. But in fact, after over 5 years, they don't show any obvious scratches.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 31 January 2017
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Yet Another New Lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Last week I bought another new lens, a Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15 mm f/1.7 ASPH, and, after 8 days, Australia Post has finally got it from Queensland to here, only marginally slower than China Post gets things to me. In the process, discovered that it came from Pavel Lukl, the same bloke who sold me the Olympus E-PM1 and the VF-2 viewfinder. The first two were via an online group, and the lens was from eBay, so I didn't notice until I saw the sender address.

But is it a Summilux? The lens itself looks marginally different. Here the images from the this review on the left, and my lens on the right:


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No “Leica”. No “Summilux”. Why that? Clearly it's the same design. It seems that it's branded as a DJI and that's for some drone. The EXIF data report it as DJI MFT 15mm F1.7 ASPH.

But why do they do that? Clearly Panasonic considered it a status symbol to use the word “Leica”, and DJI has removed exactly that description. Others agree with me. Maybe the decision to omit the attribution came from Leica and not from DJI.

In the process, they have also removed the ugly Leitz font for the numbers, including on the aperture ring, the first I've seen on a lens for four thirds system cameras.

So: how good is it? Since my experience with a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm f/4-5.6, I have always done rough tests with new lenses when I got them. Two weeks ago I ran into trouble because the tests were too rough, so today I took a little more trouble. There were a number of things to test:

That required a number of photos. In the end I tested the following lenses on both cameras: Leica Summilux 15 mm f/1.7, Panasonic Lumix 20 mm f/1.7, Leica Summilux 25 mm f/1.4, M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.8, Zuiko Digital 50 mm f/2 and Super Takumar 50 mm f/1.4

The results? Need a lot of analysis. Most of what I can see immediately relates to the Super Takumar:

  1. Manual focus is a pain. I thought I had it right with the Super-Takumar, but here are the results from the E-M1 and the E-PM1:

     
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    For what it's worth, the first was taken with the E-M1, the second with the E-PM1. The most interesting fact is that they're roughly equally out of focus.

    I repeated on the E-M1 with focus peaking and magnification, neither of which I can get on the E-PM1, and got a reasonable result:

     
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    But this one shows that the area is probably overexposed.

  2. The Super Takumar has serious vignetting.

  3. The Super Takumar still did noticeably worse than the other lenses, though the coma wasn't as bad as before. Why? Possibly different post-processing? I need to compare that before coming to any conclusion.

  4. The concerns I had about the colour rendition of the E-PM1 seem unfounded.

  5. In general the shutter speeds selected were the same for both cameras, but there were exceptions.

    The shutter speeds for full aperture were 1/160s for the 15/1.7 and 1/200 s for the 20/1.7. Clearly they should have been the same.

    The shutter speeds for the 45/1.8 were also 1/160 s, marginally acceptable.

    The shutter speeds for the 25/1.4 were 1/250 for the E-M1 and 1/200 for the E-PM1.

    The shutter speeds for the 50/2 were 1/125 s for the E-M1 and 1/160 s for the E-PM1. Combined with the previous result, this suggests a certain inaccuracy in the E-PM1. 1/125 s agrees with the other lenses.

    The shutter speed for the Super Takumar was 1/160 s for both cameras. That's the same as or slower than the f/1.7 lenses.

    Clearly the granularity of ⅓ EV isn't really enough to come to meaningful conclusions, but it seems that here also the Super Takumar doesn't measure up to the others. This could be due to age and yellowing, or also because the metering systems aren't designed for it.

The four thirds lenses all did well enough; it'll take much more comparison to see the differences. At least for the moment I can confirm that the new Summilux is no worse than the others.


GPS navigation pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I drove to Napoleons specifically to pick up the lens, a journey of 40 km total. On the way back, I thought I might explore the surrounding countryside. Coming out of Napoleons to the south, Murphy's Road turns off to the west. I've never been down there, but I had three GPS navigators with me (el-cheapo dedicated one and two mobile phones). What can go wrong?

Murphy's Road proved to be only about 500 m long, and it ended at a T junction with Log Hut Road. My el cheapo GPS told me to turn right, directly away from where I wanted to go. I turned left and drove on for a while, while the navigator kept telling me to turn left into various almost completely unnavigable roads.

Finally I stopped and turned on the iPhone with Google Maps, which told me to go in the other direction. But where was I? Neither could give me a good overview. One (I forget which) gave me the impression that I was heading north-west, though my instinct told me it was south-west. And the sunlight agreed with my instinct. Annoyingly, neither indicated the direction I was pointing, and I couldn't find a way to get them to do so. In the end, I gave up and headed back.

After getting home, I checked on a screen. This is roughly where I went:


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So I was right: I was going south-west. Where I turned back was almost directly north of home. But navigators wanted me to go back to Napoleons. I could have turned left down the grey road and got back to the main road—if it exists, of course. The real issue, though, was that I didn't know where I was pointing. Probably the iPhone can tell me that with a different app. But why doesn't the navigation app tell you that? That's an issue that seems independent of the current crop of navigation software.


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