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Tuesday, 1 July 2008 Dereel Images for 1 July 2008
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Woken at 5:30 this morning by a storm—with its inevitable accompanying short power failure—making a lot of banging noises. Finally out to take a look, and found the roller blind outside my office window had been torn open and was banging against the window:


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Fortunately it didn't do any harm, and I didn't use it anyway, so it was relatively simple to remove it later in the day. Why did they put blinds on the south side of the house anyway?

We're now into the second month of winter, which hasn't stopped things from flowering. There's an unhappy Acacia baileyana in the shade of the conifers in the driveway. Despite its unfortunate situation, it's chosen now to bloom, though few other acacias are in bloom:


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The storm also removed some of the packing cartons that we had laid on the ground to prevent weed growth, to the right of the photo:


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It seems that it was successful. There was no growth under the cardboard, though it had been there since 23 April 2008, and we had sprayed and dug up the garden to the right since then. The best choice appears to be to put down cardboard or newspaper and then cover with lots of mulch.

Back into the office, pondering where we could get some mulch, when Yvonne came in and said that there were some people trimming and mulching trees down Rokewood Junction Road. Down there to talk to Mick, who promised me a couple of truckloads (about 20 m²) for $80 in the next couple of days. Just what we need.

Also did some pruning, notably salvias. After all the trouble I had to identify the Salvia microphylla that we have in several places in the garden, it's amusing to find that RHS Pruning & Training, by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce, describes exactly two salvias: Salvia officinalis (normal sage) and Salvia microphylla. Of the latter, they make statements that don't at all match my experience; in particular, that they don't live long, and that they're a bush with a single trunk, and they flower on the previous season's growth. What I see with mine, at any rate, is that there are dozens of individual stems:


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“Pruning & Training” recommend pruning, if at all, in spring. But then, it also states that they only start flowering in late summer. In fact, they seem to flower almost all the time, at least here in Australia, and the earliest photos that I have taken of the garden, on 30 September 2007, show the bush already blooming. Nine months later, they're still blooming. So the best time to prune seems to be before they start flowering again, like now. Even then, they're still doing their best, as this stem shows:


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It comes from way inside the clump of bushes, where it was protected from wind and cold. The things above and to the right of the flower are new buds which presumably would have bloomed if I hadn't cut them off.

Decided that now would be about the only time to do it, so set to, removing a climbing rose in the process. These bushes offer wonderful protection to clumps of grass, and though I ripped out a lot, it's clear that it will come back, and I can't find any way to address the issue except by continual weeding. The alternatives would require removing the salvias.

Horrible Toy Markup Language

Peter Jeremy and Callum Gibson both found it strange that I use artificial line breaks in my source code quotes, like the one a couple of days ago. The problem is in HTML itself: there's no way to maintain indentation and line wrap at the same time. The solution I use is taken from the way I write books in groff: I break long lines artificially at a certain column. In books, that's straightforward enough, because I know the with of the page. With HTML there is no way to know the width of the page, and also no way to specify that pre-formatted lines should wrap. If I take away the pre tag, I lose the indent. If I change the spaces to  , I lose the ability to wrap. So I have to leave it the way it is if I want to maintain the indent.

On the other hand, it did make it clear that there are a couple of alternatives if you don't need to maintain the indent; the log file example above is another example. Here I was able to write a couple of functions that not only do the right thing, but also automatically change the special characters that HTML reserves for itself. That makes life marginally easy, but also points out various shortcomings of PHP:

Still, for most purposes it works well enough.

Pain with pizza dough

One thing that I've never been able to do well is a good pizza base. We got part of the way there when we were in South Australia, where we could buy good fresh pizza dough at Millie's Bakery in Mount Barker. But there's nothing like that here, and anyway it's only part of the problem.

As I see it, there are three (or maybe four) issues with pizzas:

  1. What kind of dough do you want? Once the Italian style was the only one that people would use, but increasingly people are making American style bread, which I don't really consider to be pizza. So for me, this is no longer an issue.
  2. How do you make the dough? I've been using standard bread mix. Nowadays you make bread by mixing all the ingredients (including dried yeast) and kneading them. The yeast works anyway. But the ingredients I have seen haven't included olive oil, which I suspect might prove a problem, so today I mixed the yeast with the water and then added it to the other ingredients. The bread hardly rose at all.

    What went wrong? My suspicion is that the dried yeast includes its own small amount of sugar, which under expected circumstances gets moist and allows the yeast to rise. By mixing it with the water, I've flushed it away, and nothing happens.

  3. How do you roll out the dough? I'm not one of those whiz-bang pizza swingers, so I roll it out with a rolling pin. This tends to leave the edges much thicker than the middle.

  4. How do you bake it? This is the real problem in making pizzas: in almost every case, they get cooked only from above, so the topping is cooked, and the base is still half raw. They really need heating from below as well. A real pizza oven has a stone base which performs this function. In a home oven, there are three options:
    • Heat from below. The problem here is the limited functionality of the typical oven. You also want air flow above. Our oven does one or the other, but not both. This method also restricts you to cooking one pizza at a time.

    • Pre-cook the base before putting on the topping. We've tried this with limited success.

    • Use a “pizza stone”, a ceramic slab that you heat up and put the pizza on. The trouble we have here is that the slab needs to be heated up in advance, and you put the soft, floppy pizza on it in one movement. If you miss and get it off-centre, there's little you can do. This applies particularly to the ones we made today, which were particularly soft.

Retirement, one year on

A year ago, I retired. At the time it looked like a bit of a gamble—after all, I was reducing my income by about 80%, and the only offset was no taxes and no debts to pay off. In retrospect, and despite the downturn in the global economy, it was the right move. It almost seems as if my working life was a 35 year break from being myself. In many ways, I've picked up where I left off before I had my first real job. It's not that I didn't enjoy my working life, but inevitably you end up doing things that are determined by other people, and that's not always fun. Now I can do what I want.

The strangest thing, though, is the lack of stress. I was under so much stress in the last 10 to 15 years that I barely noticed it, though it's now clear how much it influenced my decisions and my actions. Even after 12 months, I haven't completely recovered. But I'm on my way, and I'm enjoying life much more than I used to.


Wednesday, 2 July 2008 Dereel
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I've had this satellite connection for over 6 months now, and it's getting no more reliable. Today I had two long outages in quick succession; between 10:00 and 11:30 I had a total of 60 minutes of outage in two groups. There must be a better way.

More work on the web site, setting up name servers. For once, got really annoyed with my favourite program, Emacs. Over the years people have added syntactic highlighting, and release 22 has significantly extended it. But the colours are so terrible! At least in an xterm they are, and that's all that's really usable remotely (yes, I know there's X forwarding, and I've tried it and gone to sleep waiting for responses).

Spent some time trying to work out how to globally disable this feature (which has the obfuscatory name font-lock-mode). There are two functions, which double as variables, font-lock-mode and global-font-lock-mode, but after putting all invocations I can think of into my .emacs, I still get stupid colours and have to disable them every time. Has Emacs become too complicated for its own good?

Mick and his mate came along during the day with 10 m³ of strong-smelling acacia mulch, so now we have no excuses not to spread it. The mate (name unknown) tells me that he got a headache just handling it; I wonder if this is a health hazard.

More Ausweb support

Got a reply to my last ticket with Ausweb. The text (not included in the reply, to help you lose track) was:

We're trying to add name servers to narrawin.com to have access to the zone files, which you have confirmed you cannot make available for update. When trying to add ns1.lemis.com, we got the following error message:

          com.primus.tld.nameserver.NSChangeException: completed: NO {
          com.primus.tld.registry.RTYException: completed: NO: 2201 Authorization
          error }
        

This doesn't make any sense to me. Please tell me how to resolve this problem.

The response was:

The system only accepts proper name servers, please make sure the name servers you are adding are correct and alive and have a reverse DNS!

And he closed the ticket again. I wonder what he means by “proper name servers” this time—ones with a name starting with ns, like he claimed last time? I've done some changes since the last attempt, so I need to confirm with Chris that this problem really still exists. Maybe Peter means that the reverse DNS must show the name sever name, which isn't typical.


Thursday, 3 July 2008 Dereel
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Mick around with another 10m³ of mulch today. Now we have no excuse to delay spreading it in the garden, so got started.

Into town this afternoon to talk with Peter O'Connell, my investment adviser. Times aren't good—today was the worst day on the stock market in over 2 years—but the real issue is that I don't know how my portfolio is doing. I don't understand why the financial industry is so poor at presenting overviews, though I suspect that the (Microsoft-oriented) software industry is at least partially to blame. At one point I said to Peter “You have 15 seconds. Tell me how much I have earnt in dividends in the last year”. He set to with his calculator, which—for obvious reasons—he wields well, and had the answer in a minute, modulo franking credits, which haven't been mentioned anywhere. But why is something that basic not on a 5-page report?

A year ago we borrowed a radio from Chris to use in the kitchen. It's not as if we don't have enough of our own stuff, but the only other portable radio has been functioning as a CD player in my office. It's not as if we don't have other, better CD players lying around either, so today started moving things around. It looks as if we still need to locate a loudspeaker.

Small choice in rotten Apples

Moving the CD stuff around required moving the monitor connected to boskoop, my Apple machine. It's turned off most of the time, but it's a Hitachi 813, capable of 2048x1536 and much better than the one connected to eureka:0.2, so decided to swap them. That required dropping the resolution first, of course, so put it down to 1024x768 and then played at increasing resolution and refresh frequency until the display failed.

And then? Microsoft reverts to the previous resolution if you don't confirm the new one withing 30 seconds or so, which makes sense given that you may not be able to do anything any more. The Apple just hung, and in the end, I rebooted it, not without problems:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp3) ~ 1 -> shutdown -r now
shutdown: NOT super-user
      

Why? Under FreeBSD shutdown doesn't check the user credentials; that's what the file permissions are for, and clearly I was able to execute it. And there's nothing in the man page either: the Apple man page is almost identical to an older version of the FreeBSD man page (though so old that it predates even brewer, running 5.0-CURRENT of 12 December 2000). I don't understand these gratuitous changes of behaviour.

Finally got the machine rebooted and went to the “Displays” page looking for help. What I got was generic help for System Preferences, and I needed to follow 3 successive hyperlinks to get to the Display help, which was really only a FAQ. I never cease to be amazed how difficult it is to get tutorial information on this machine.

Anyway, there was a FAQ that looked like it was designed for me:

Question: I changed my display's resolution and now there's no picture

Answer: You may have selected an unsuported screen resolution. To resolve the problem, you need to restart your computer and then choose another resolution.

That's completely unbelievable. How can you tune your monitor like that? Score 1 for both X and Microsoft, and 0 (or -1?) for Apple.


Friday, 4 July 2008 Dereel Images for 4 July 2008
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Mail from Thomas Maynard today regarding my comments on pizza:

There's a very helpful website devoted to helping folks walk the delicate line between “artisanal” and “easy”—with minimal compromise in flavor. That site is http://www.breadtopia.com.

Besides bread—and I've baked their recipes with excellent results—they also cover pizza. The specific pizza page is here: http://www.breadtopia.com/pizza-dough-recipe. Also note the grilled pizza on the same page.

While your notion of what is “proper” may differ, I can guarantee that if you follow their direction you will achieve a satisfactory result (but perhaps not “ideal” . depending on your preconceptions). At any rate, they will put you at an excellent jumping-off place for your own experimentation and optimization.

The site's definitely interesting, and I've done a bit of looking around. But somehow it left me dissatisfied. The link to pizza baking says “Use a quality baking stone and give it time to reach full heat saturation. By ‘a quality baking stone’, I mean a thick stone with good heat retention and heat transfer qualities”. And that's all it says; it doesn't say what “quality” means, nor how thick a “thick stone” is. Does my stone fit the bill? No way to guess.

It then goes on to mention the use of a “pizza peel”, a term I had never heard before. It's apparently a generic term for a baker's shovel, and it states that you need one if you're using a pizza stone. That's possible, but I can still see myself making quite a mess trying to slide pizzas off the peel onto the stone, as I mentioned in part 4 of my discussion.

Finally the dough recipe uses “instant yeast”, whatever that is.

It proves to be the kind of yeast I use, as I found out a couple of days later.

It doesn't go into the details of how to mix it; possibly that's in the accompanying video, but I think that it should be in the written documentation as well, here as in any other kind of instructions.

More work spreading mulch today. One thing that I hadn't expected was that the mulch would start to decompose; it got quite warm, and if we're not careful we'll end up with compost instead of mulch:


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Spread some more mulch around. Gradually things are looking tidier.

Chris along for dinner in the evening—cassoulet, and despite all precautions, it still didn't have enough beans.


Saturday, 5 July 2008 Dereel Images for 5 July 2008
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In view of the biological activity in our pile of mulch, set to today spreading mulch in the garden, not overly helped by the wind. Got about 20% done before giving up for the while. It's amazing how much difference even a little mulch makes, as a comparison of the area in the middle right of last week's and today's exterior photos shows:


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In the afternoon over to Chris to do the final touches to the web site migration. It looks as if we're finished now. Hopefully the new site will prove to be stable enough.


New spray unit
Topic: gardening Link here

Back home, and Yvonne wanted to continue mulching, while I tried out the new backpack spray unit that I bought last week. The instructions were typical: a single piece of paper, normally enough for this kind of unit. But the means of attachment of the back straps was completely non-intuitive, and the instructions barely mentioned them (“place container on back securely using belt system”). It probably wouldn't have helped anyway: the low-resolution drawing that accompanied it appears to show a different kind of hook. The photographer who took the photo on the box must have been confused too, because he left them off altogether. Clipped them together as best I could, put the thing on my back—not the easiest thing at the best of times—and made it about 10 metres before both straps came apart, dumping the thing on the ground:


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Fortunately no damage was done, but I still couldn't work out how to attach the things, so I ended up tying the ends together, which worked.

On the other hand, the unit works well, and it came with a whole lot of undocumented accessories, including a number of O rings (always good), three alternative spray heads (one of them double) and some other accessories of dubious purpose:


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I wonder what the parts at the bottom of the first photo are for.


Sunday, 6 July 2008 Dereel Images for 6 July 2008
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I've been avoiding various kinds of administrative activity for far too long, but now we need to do tax returns, and lots of things can't be found. Spent much of the day tidying up the mess of papers on Yvonne's side desk. It wasn't really that bad, but it's a real pain to have to sort the things. In the process, found a surprising number of cooking recipes that I haven't got round to putting into the computer.

More mail from Tom Maynard about yeast. It seems I should have done my homework more thoroughly. “Instant yeast” is apparently the kind of yeast I use form my bread, as Wikipedia describes. It's still not clear why “proofing” it in water made it less active, but my guess is still that the “growth medium” mentioned in the Wikipedia article (I still think this is probably sugar) got washed off.

Matti K was talking a while ago about a “do it yourself” brewery a while back; you go there and use their equipment to brew your own stuff. He finally went there over the weekend and reported in less detail than I would have liked, but it seems that a lot of it is rather mechanical, and ultimately based on malt extract. Apparently they also use both glucose and dextrose, which doesn't impress me greatly about their knowledge; but this is just what I've heard from Matti. Certainly prices in the range $2.30 to $3.60 per litre are an order of magnitude higher than I would want to pay, and in the same range as commercial beers (ALDI does 12 litres of “Thüringer” beer for $40, or $3.33 per litre).


Monday, 7 July 2008 Dereel
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Strange letter in the mail today: an unsolicited cheque for $2600 from my health insurers, mbf, for reasons that weren't really explained. It seems they have merged with some other company, but why that should entitle me to money isn't really clear. Still, it's certainly nothing to complain about.

Spent most of the day chasing up my taxation records. How I hate this stuff!

Also some more mulch spreading in the garden. We're putting newspaper underneath in the hope that it'll have the same weed-suppressing action as the cardboard I put down earlier. It's surprising how much paper it uses.


Tuesday, 8 July 2008 Dereel –> Melbourne –> Dereel Images for 8 July 2008
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Off to Melbourne today in the latest episode of the never-ending saga of my HERMS. The weather was terrible, with rain and a little sleet, and listening to a commentary on Schubert's Die Winterreise did nothing to improve the gloom. Things picked up by the time I got to Bannockburn, though, and made good time to Melbourne.

Once again spent far too much money at Grain and Grape; hopefully things are now nearing completion. Then to the Queen Victoria Market, where for once I didn't buy very much, and then on to IKEA, where I had hoped to buy a HiFi cabinet.

What a pain Victoria Street is! Google maps claims it takes 13 minutes for the 4.6 km to IKEA—itself a speed of only 20 km/h—, but after 5 minutes I had only got to Drummond St, so decided that anything would be better than staying on it for any longer. I was right; I wasn't able to take the way I had intended, and ended up going via Elgin St and Johnston St. According to Google Maps it's slower, but the truth is quite the opposite. And once I thought that Johnston St was one of the worst!

At IKEA, was disappointed to find that their idea of HiFi cabinets had nothing to do with mine. Left with only a catalogue; we'll be back in Melbourne on Sunday, and maybe we can pick up something there.

Then off to Mediterranean Wholesalers in Sydney Road to buy some stuff for Yvonne, again along the back streets—I think that's the only way to get through Melbourne. While I was there, saw some amusing misprints on olive paste jars:


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What puzzled me was that not all the labels were wrong; but later it occurred to me that they had probably fixed the problem. Only much later did I notice that the accent on “Paté” had slipped to the T on the jar on the extreme left.

More Ausweb pain

Got a reply to my latest ticket with Ausweb:

Please see below regarding your DNS issues, which realy has nothing to do with us! Please contact your host regarding your DNS

http://www.intodns.com/narrawin.com

I have difficulty understanding the terminology these people use. How do I contact my host? There are tools to get DNS services from my host, but clearly that's not what they mean.

On the other hand, indirectly this was the most useful reply yet, pointing to the DNS report service at intoDNS, which is very useful. It showed the problem I have been reporting, of course—only one name server, and not the ones I had been trying to add—but also a couple of other minor problems that I'll attend to when I get the main problem fixed.

So what was Peter on about? I can't make up my mind whether they're just trying to annoy me, or whether they don't know what they're doing. I suspect both, with a tendency to the latter.


Wednesday, 9 July 2008 Dereel
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We had 11 mm of rain yesterday, enough to cause minor flooding round the horse trough. Yvonne and I spent some time digging drainage trenches. We need to think of something better.

More admin stuff today—Ausweb caused a lot of pain. Also some baking, confirming that it's better to add the yeast to the flour in dry form and only then add the water.

Ausweb yet again

Ausweb are amazing. My latest ticket was closed with the comment (punctuation is original):

It does not look like that you even tried to register the IPs for your name servers!

Log into your domain admin , go to child name servers and add the IPs for the name servers (ns1 + ns2.ns1.narrawin.com) .

And then , only then can you actually start using those name servers!

Never mind that you register IP addresses with an A record, that A records for the name servers have been there all the time, nor that I can add any other name server, even if it's not authoritative. But what does “log into your domain admin” mean? Did a bit of investigation and discovered:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 81 -> host ns1.narrawin.com
ns1.narrawin.com has address 203.10.76.45
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 82 -> host ns2.narrawin.com
ns2.narrawin.com has address 208.86.224.149
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 84 -> host ns1.narrawin.com ozlabs.org
Using domain server:
Name: ozlabs.org
Address: 203.10.76.45#53
Aliases:

ns1.narrawin.com has address 203.10.76.45
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 85 -> host ns1.narrawin.com ns1.ausweb.net.au
Using domain server:
Name: ns1.ausweb.net.au
Address: 122.252.5.25#53
Aliases:

Host ns1.narrawin.com not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 88 -> nslookup -q=soa narrawin.com ns1.ausweb.net.au
Server:         ns1.ausweb.net.au
Address:        122.252.5.25#53

narrawin.com
        origin = ns1.ausweb.net.au
        mail addr = system.ausweb.net.au
        serial = 2008012302
        refresh = 14400
        retry = 7200
        expire = 3600000
        minimum = 86400
      

In other words, the Ausweb name servers are still pretending to be authoritative with an out-of-date zone file, which doesn't include A records for ns1 and ns2. This is probably the reason that the web interface can't find them. Replied accordingly and got another reply, completely ignoring the issue, and stating:

Again, as mentioned previously, log into your domain administration area and register the ip addresses for your nameservers in the "Domain Child NameServer Details" section.

http://domains.ausweb.com.au

So that's what he meant by “log into your domain admin”: “access the web interface to our DNS admin”. The only problem is that we haven't been able to find any such link; it's clearly not at the URL he gave us. That would work, I suppose, if we could find it.

named strangenesses

Spent some time updating the DNS info to use names that they would let us, and the zone files to match. we now have ns.ozlabs.org and ns1.lemis.com. While updating the zone file on ns1.lemis.com, got a message:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp1) /etc/namedb 32 -> rndc reload
rndc: connection to remote host closed
This may indicate that
* the remote server is using an older version of the command protocol,
* this host is not authorized to connect,
* the clocks are not syncronized, or
* the key is invalid.
      

Why that? About the only thing I can think of is the history: shortly before (see the sequence numbers in the prompt) I had written:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp1) /etc/namedb 27 -> rndc rel
rndc: 'rel' failed: unknown command
=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp1) /etc/namedb 28 -> rndc reload
server reload successful
      

In the log file I found:

Jul  9 04:42:19 w3 named[548]: unknown control channel command 'rel'
Jul  9 04:42:25 w3 named[548]: none:0: open: /etc/namedb/rndc.key: permission denied
Jul  9 04:42:25 w3 named[548]: none:0: open: /etc/namedb/rndc.key: permission denied
Jul  9 04:47:22 w3 named[548]: invalid command from 127.0.0.1#60838: bad auth
Jul  9 04:47:37 w3 named[548]: invalid command from 127.0.0.1#53378: bad auth
      

It seems that this invalid command somehow confused named. I needed to stop it and restart it to continue.


Thursday, 10 July 2008 Dereel
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We've been here a year! I put down 9 July 2007 as the date of the move, but in fact that's really the day we took possession; Yvonne didn't arrive until the following day, and that's the first time we spent a night here.

Things were pretty miserable here a year ago; we couldn't keep the place warm, and we spent most of the time huddled in front of the fireplace in the kitchen. And now? We're still freezing! My assumptions about design problems with our air conditioners may still apply, but it's gradually becoming clear that one of the two systems is malfunctioning and not delivering nearly enough heat—and Murphy's law dictates that that's the one on which we rely the most. Phil Pilmore is planning to come as soon as he can, but I certainly hope it will be sooner.

Ausweb pain (continued)

Ausweb must really be some of the most incompetent, arrogant and annoying people I have ever had the misfortune to come into contact with. They closed the latest problem report (“Please drop zone narrawin.com from your name servers”) without any action, along with a second one, where I was still trying to find the “Domain Child NameServer Details” section on their web site. Reason specified? None. Just the text:

As you seem to think you know everything and always would like to blame us for your short comings , it will be a much better idea to move your domain to another registrar!

At no point did they even acknowledge that they had understood the report; on the contrary, they thought it was the same as the other one. It's certainly a good idea to change registrar, but how well will that work?

Reopened the report with an explanation that even the most stupid should understand, but they just shut it again. Repeated a couple of times, and then they blocked access to their site—including name servers—from my IP. I'm sure that they're not allowed to do that.

Called up the TIO, where I was told that auDA handles complaints about domain registrars. Was amused that the person had difficulty finding the phone number. It sounds like a typical case of the dichotomy between the Web and the Real World, but in this case the number was relatively easy to find. Reading it was another matter:

 
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Amusingly, that's just around the corner from where I used to live 50 years ago. But why are web sites so often such a mess? Strangely, Ausweb's are relatively well laid-out, but that's a notable exception.

Ausweb are a reseller for Planetdomain, so called them up and was told that there would be no problem to update the details from their web site—with the appropriate user name and password, which I didn't have. Over to Chris to discover that their web site just redirected us to Ausweb, so got them to do it for me.

They also spoke about this term “Child Name Server”, and that they needed the IP addresses. OK, it's clear that you need a glue record for ns1.narrawin.com when looking up the domain narrawin.com, but the addresses are available from the existing name servers, which are known to the web application. They went back and entered the addresses manually, presumably in the “Domain Child NameServer Details” section that was mentioned (along with incorrect URL) in a partial answer to one of the problem reports. But where was it? They didn't answer my question about that.

Chris put in another entry to the “Please drop zone narrawin.com from your name servers” ticket, and I went home to put in a complaint with auDA.

Contacting auDA was fun in itself. At 16:30, their phone line was not occupied, so I had to go to the web form. Clearly auDA doesn't want to hear details: the complaint form has a “details” field with a total of 72 characters long, in three lines:

 
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Filled that in anyway. I wonder if anything will come of it. I find my belief confirmed that domain registrars are latter-day cowboys.

Child name servers

So what's a child name server, anyway? I had never heard of that before this confrontation (thus doubtless proving Peter's claim “Unfortunately your tech person does not seem to understand the basics of DNS .”, at least to him). There's no mention of such a concept in any of the relevant RFCs.

A bit of googling shows few results and a surprising amount of confusion, none of it coming from authoritative sources. There is a PDF document from ARIN, but it's a false positive: it's using the term in a different context.

It seems that the term is used to refer to a name server whose name is in the zone which it represents, thus requiring a glue record. That makes sense under the circumstances, and I suppose indirectly it suggests that dropping the zone from the Ausweb name servers might not have solved the problem: maybe the software that Ausweb uses is not capable of looking up the A records. But why not? It's exactly the same lookup as for other name servers, and I can't imagine that the software deliberately makes things more difficult by refusing to look up A records for addresses within the zone. I think that it's more likely that the web jockeys don't understand the issue, that they've found that this one works, and that the real problem is that they're still maintaining the old zone on their name servers.


Friday, 11 July 2008 Dereel Images for 11 July 2008
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This damn Ausweb thing should be over and done with now, but we still have issues: it occurs to me that, by maintaining an incorrect zone which claims to be authoritative for narrawin.com, Ausweb are guilty of something akin to forgery. Anybody using their name servers will be taken to the wrong address for www.narrawin.com:

=== grog@www (/dev/ttyp0) ~ 2 -> hostname
www.auug.org.au
=== grog@www (/dev/ttyp0) ~ 3 -> host www.narrawin.com
www.narrawin.com has address 208.86.224.149
=== grog@www (/dev/ttyp0) ~ 4 -> host www.narrawin.com ns1.ausweb.net.au
Using domain server:
Name: ns1.ausweb.net.au
Addresses: 122.252.5.25

www.narrawin.com is a nickname for narrawin.com
narrawin.com has address 122.252.5.20
      

I deliberately did this example from a system which has no connection with the issue, since I think Peter is of the mistaken impression that his name servers are only serving this zone because of mistakes in our name server configuration. That's not the case, as IntoDNS shows. On the contrary, they're still claiming to be authoritative:

=== grog@www (/dev/ttyp0) ~ 5 -> dig @ns1.ausweb.net.au narrawin.com

; <<>> DiG 8.3 <<>> @ns1.ausweb.net.au narrawin.com
; (1 server found)
;; res options: init recurs defnam dnsrch
;; got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 4
;; flags: qr aa rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 2
;; QUERY SECTION:
;;      narrawin.com, type = A, class = IN

;; ANSWER SECTION:
narrawin.com.           4H IN A         122.252.5.20

;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
narrawin.com.           1D IN NS        ns2.ausweb.net.au.
narrawin.com.           1D IN NS        ns1.ausweb.net.au.

;; ADDITIONAL SECTION:
ns1.ausweb.net.au.      4H IN A         122.252.5.25
ns2.ausweb.net.au.      4H IN A         122.252.5.26

;; Total query time: 30 msec
;; FROM: www.auug.org.au to SERVER: ns1.ausweb.net.au  122.252.5.25
;; WHEN: Sat Jul 12 11:58:51 2008
;; MSG SIZE  sent: 30  rcvd: 127
      

The Authority Section makes it clear: this name server thinks that it is authoritative. By contrast, www.auug.org.au returns:

;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
narrawin.com.           6h15m59s IN NS  ns1.narrawin.com.
narrawin.com.           6h15m59s IN NS  ns2.narrawin.com.
      

So should every other name server in the Internet.

I'm not a lawyer (I don't even use the acronym), but this looks to me like it should be a criminal act. They're certainly in breach of contract towards Chris, since they're denying access to her information on two levels, this one and the fact that I can't access the site at all from my address. Hopefully auDA will do something about the complaint soon.

Did a bit of pruning in the afternoon, untangling the Buddleja. It looks much more like a tree now. Yvonne also spread some mulch, but we're running out of paper to put underneath it.

Also investigated setting up qpopper for Chris, with spectacular lack of progress. Why is this encryption stuff so complicated?

Chris around in the evening. Talking about photography—why are digital sensors still so insensitive to light? Forty years ago I took photos in ambient light in dingy discos with Kodak Tri-X pumped up to 6400 ASA, with an f/1.4 lens, and got acceptable results in light conditions where I could hardly see anything. Today, with my Olympus E-510 at maximum sensitivity, and with better light conditions, the best I could do was (with a normal flash photo for comparison):


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Saturday, 12 July 2008 Dereel Images for 12 July 2008
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Phil Pilmore finally made it here this morning and took a look at the air conditioners. To my surprise—and, I think, to his—there was nothing wrong with the units beyond some ants nesting in the outside unit.


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Phil tells me that they can really mess up circuit boards, as I can easily imagine. It's surprising that the manufacturers don't take care to keep them out, and even more so that vermin damage is excluded from warranty claims.

So it looks like it's something to do with the temperature regulation after all. Took off the cover of one of the units to look for the temperature sensor. It's the shiny black blob in the middle of the photo (this is the same photo with different cropping):


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That copper pipe directly below it is the coil temperature sensor, and when heating it normally reaches temperatures of round 50°. As the first photo shows, it's not directly in the air flow, so warm air convecting from the pipe sensor can, at least in theory, strongly influence its readings—exactly the situation that I have been postulating. It is also unlikely to be an issue when cooling, which also fits my observations.

As they say, for every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant—and wrong. It's too early to say that this is the cause of the problems, but it's certainly a bad design decision. It's bad enough to put the temperature sensor in the return air at all. But here it's not in the main flow of the return air, and it's in direct proximity of a component that is in the order of 30° hotter than the return air. More experimentation needed, and time to start documenting this issue.

After Phil left, did some more thinking, and a bit of experimentation. Looking at the unit with the cover on was puzzling: there seems to be no way to get air flow across the sensor:


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The sensor is behind the small grille to the right, but there's no way I can see to pull the air past. Is this even an ambient temperature sensor? If so, they've done what they can to make it ineffective. Pulled off the cover and measured the temperatures; the pipe was 50°, as expected, and the area above it about 28°, close to turning the thing off. Put an old punched card between them:


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That seemed to bring some improvement; at least the unit kept running, whereas before it would cut out all the time. But that's just the beginning of the experimentation.

Apart from that, spent more time trying to set up qpopper. Got it set up as described in a HOWTO that I found on the web, but the encrypted connection didn't work:

Jul 12 16:54:34 dereel qpopper[11952]: (null) at pain.lemis.com (192.109.197.171): -ERR Unknown command: "M-^@l^A^C^A".
Jul 12 16:54:34 dereel qpopper[11952]: (null) at pain.lemis.com (192.109.197.171): -ERR POP EOF or I/O Error
Jul 12 16:54:34 dereel qpopper[11952]: I/O error flushing output to client  at pain.lemis.com [192.109.197.171]: Operation not permitted (1)

And yes, that's what went over the wire. It's the same whether I connect locally using s_client or (as in this example) remotely from pain. It smells like the encryption isn't matched, but I can't see anything I've done wrong. What a pain this stuff is!


Sunday, 13 July 2008 Dereel –> Melbourne –> Dereel Images for 13 July 2008
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My sister Bev, who normally lives near Cambridge in England, is currently on a short visit to Australia, so my uncle Max invited us all to a barbecue at his place today. Took an inordinate number of photos, including some to even the height gap between Bev on one side and Yana and me on the other. In the first photo we're all standing up:


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Somehow it's funny being back near Melbourne.


Monday, 14 July 2008 Dereel
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More work on taxation today; hopefully it's close to the last time.

The weather's looking up again. We've had a fair amount of rain so far this month, not conducive to work in the garden, but today I had to: Max had given me some strawberries, some Hippeastrums, some Hibiscus cuttings and and some mint to plant. The Hibiscus clippings needed to go into the toy greenhouse, which, as I feared , is already starting to disintegrate:


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What do we do? We can return it, of course—it's within the two months “no questions asked” period—but what do we replace it with? It wasn't expensive; maybe we should find a way to improve the entrance.

Also more mulch spreading; this is being seriously hampered by lack of newspaper to put underneath it. I wish we were making more progress: it may still be the middle of winter, but things are growing like fury. What will happen in the spring?


Tuesday, 15 July 2008 Dereel Images for 15 July 2008
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My class C network is back on the net!

=== grog@freefall (/dev/ttyq1) ~ 17 -> ping freebie.lemis.com
PING freebie.lemis.com (192.109.197.82): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 192.109.197.82: icmp_seq=0 ttl=53 time=74.245 ms
64 bytes from 192.109.197.82: icmp_seq=1 ttl=53 time=78.186 ms
      

All that's actually there are the alias addresses freebie and allegro for the reverse name servers; the rest needs me to set up a tunnel to my system here, and that will probably require resetting the NAT on my satellite modem, with its potential for complete breakage—the only way to talk to the modem is with Microsoft “Internet Explorer”, which doesn't work too well either. Spent some time setting up the DNS to match, and then moved on.

The photos I took on Sunday look unevenly exposed, despite all attempts of compensation. Clearly I need better tools. I've been meaning to try to use the GIMP for some time, and today I finally got round to it. I was expecting it to be too input-intensive, but I was still disappointed.

It started with the documentation; there's no way to save things like font size, and like so many GUI programs, it expects you to be using a 1024x768 display. There's a way to change that, with multiple mouse clicks per font size increment, but of course the images didn't scale, and many of them were so small that I had to switch resolutions to read them at all. To make things worse, when you close the help window and reopen it, you end up with the same tiny fonts. Fortunately, there's an unidentifiable icon at top right which fires up a web browser pointed at the web-based documentation, thus bypassing most of the font issues. It also tells me that GIMP 2.4, the one I'm using, is a work in progress. That's good to hear. It could do with progress.

Actually using the tool was just as painful. For some reason, the first image it loaded was incorrectly marked as “portrait mode”, so it displayed it on the side. Fine, you can turn that around. But how? xv has a button on the main window. With the GIMP, it seems there are two ways: via three layers of menu with Image -> Transform -> Rotate 90°, or with the Rotate tool. The former works, sort of, but doesn't resize the window:

 
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With the Rotate tool, you have to specify the angle and click on a button. In this case, not only does it not resize the window, but when you do, it has truncated the photo:


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In any case, the image was far too small; with the frame, the window was 1254x1018 pixels, on a screen 2048x1536 in size. It didn't take too long to find the “full screen” selection: either by the menu or pressing the F11 key. Either way, the result is the same: no change except to toggle the tick next to the menu item. This one looks like a bug. Only much later did I discover that you can resize the image to the window by pressing Shift-Control-E. But xv does that automatically.

Next, I wanted to crop the image. The instructions I found were relatively intelligible, but I can't find them again: there's no way to search the documentation. It told me to press C to start the tool, select the crop window with the mouse, and then click on Crop to perform the crop. Where's Crop? In the tool window. Does nothing. Finally I saw the message at the bottom of the screen: “Click or press Enter to crop”. That worked.

Round about here it's clear that the online documentation, which years ago I though to be exemplary, is really quite a problem. The web documentation gets it right.

My real intention, though, was to improve the image parameters. Juha Kupiainen had suggested the “Normalize” function (Colors -> Auto -> Normalize), but this did absolutely nothing. Other attempts looked like a lot of work.

During this time, GIMP produced a continuous stream of messages like:

Unhandled property: 93 text-transform
Unhandled property: 51 letter-spacing
Unhandled property: 93 text-transform
      

No idea whether that's a problem or not. But the whole thing seems just too difficult to use. You can give xv a list of files to process, and it'll do them, one at a time. The GIMP tries to load them all at once, using spectacular amounts of memory in the process. Here's the ps output for each program with only one image loaded:

USER    PID %CPU %MEM   VSZ   RSS      TT  STAT STARTED      TIME COMMAND
grog    84337 28.5 15.3 171432 158448  p2  S    11:44AM   0:05.52 gimp P7133581.JPG (gimp-2.4)
grog    84339  7.2  0.7 13972  6744    p2  S    11:44AM   0:01.65 /usr/local/libexec/gimp/2.2/plug-ins/script-fu -gimp 11
grog    84301  0.0  5.2 55596 53976    p2  I    11:43AM   0:01.96 xv P7133581.JPG

That's 190 MB of memory for only one image. If I specify a list of photos—I have 83 left from Sunday—it tries to open every one of them. It makes about 6 images before it runs out of swap. More swap would just delay (considerably) the inevitable: at that rate, it would run out of 32 bit address space after about 25 images. You have to load every image separately, involving multiple mouse clicks, and like so many recent programs, it suffers from both bad language and gratuitous truncation of text:

 
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In short, all my prejudices seemed justified. One of the nameless people on IRC (why are there so many of them?) suggested that maybe I was using the wrong tool, and pointed me to ufraw, which in turn pointed me to dcraw, both programs for handling raw images from cameras. Both seem to have interesting options that don't require lots of mouse-pushing. They won't help with my JPEG photos, but then maybe nothing will; but it's certainly worth trying them with raw images.

Chris along for dinner again tonight. She has been given a couple of geese, and our latest idea is confit d'oie.


Wednesday, 16 July 2008 Dereel Images for 16 July 2008
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Spent some time today taking some test photos in raw mode and playing with the software that I installed, and in the end used ufraw, which seems to come in multiple flavours: as a command line program, a standalone GUI application, and as a plugin for the GIMP. It does recognize the Olympus ORF format, and to my surprise, the GUI works relatively well, modulo a few strangenesses. At least it does the things I want when I ask for them.

About the only thing that doesn't work well is the “automatic” exposure compensation, which can actually make things worse. Here a normally exposed image before and after the “automatic” compensation:


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That's a pity, because it means that I can't just put all the photos through an automatic compensation pass. But the quality of the manual adjustment is much better than with xv, and surprisingly the raw files aren't much larger than the high-quality JPEGs:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp2) ~/Photos/20080716 830 -> l full-size/
total 88
-rw-rw-r--  1 grog  502   7699834 Jul 16 12:31 P7163674.JPG
-rw-rw-r--  1 grog  502  11486466 Jul 16 12:31 P7163674.ORF
      

Despite claims on the web, these raw files must be compressed; otherwise they would be over 20 MB in size. That should save me having to buy a larger flash card for the camera.

Wrote up a complete page on the subject.

More work in the garden. The weeds are really winning, and we're pretty much out of newspaper. Spread more mulch; I wonder how much good 10 cm will do against them. Planted some strawberries and a sad-looking Hippeastrum that was hidden underneath one of them.


Thursday, 17 July 2008 Dereel
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Spammers find Groggy

Into the office this morning to find eureka merrily bouncing mail messages to ozlabs.org and back. After quite a bit of trouble, discovered that somebody had sent a spam message to norton@lemis.com, an invalid address, and somehow it arrived this system:

Received: from adsl196-131-106-206-196.adsl196-4.iam.net.ma (adsl196-131-106-206-196.adsl196-4.iam.net.ma[196.206.106.131])
        by ext-gw.lemis.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id E40BD134729
        for <danorton@lemis.com>; Sun,  8 Jul 2007 09:28:24 +0930 (CST)

But how could that happen? I'm behind a NAT system (I haven't set up my tunnel yet), and anyway, ext-gw points to my old address at Internode:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp1) /etc/namedb 6 -> host ext-gw.lemis.com
ext-gw.lemis.com has address 150.101.14.10
      

And it's not possible to connect to eureka from outside. The only valid address is 121.200.1.204, and of course there's nothing listening on it:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp1) /etc/namedb 11 -> telnet 121.200.1.204 smtp
Trying 121.200.1.204...
telnet: connect to address 121.200.1.204: Connection refused
telnet: Unable to connect to remote host
      

In any case, it seems that my mail configuration wasn't expecting this, and sent all messages on to the primary MX, ozlabs.org, who didn't know the postmaster user and sent it straight back again. By the time I found out, there were 20,000 messages going up into space and back again.

Spam from terra.com

Spam is on the increase, and I've been looking at domains to block. One that looks like a good choice is terra.com, who have never sent me anything but spam. Looking at the headers was surprising, though:

Received: from musoni.terra.com (unknown [66.119.66.17])
by echunga.terra.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 265502420036
for <grog@freebsd.org>; Wed, 16 Jul 2008 14:52:46 -0400 (EDT)
      

echunga? That's where I used to live, and also the old name of one of my computers. Where did they get it from? Have I gone down in spam lore not just as a faked sender, but also with my system names? It is a genuine name:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 210 -> host echunga.terra.com
echunga.terra.com has address 66.119.66.230
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypt) ~ 211 -> host 66.119.66.230
230.66.119.66.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer echunga.terra.com.
      

Ausweb continues its ignorance

One thing that Ausweb was right about—after the event—was that I was not the technical contact for narrawin.com, so they should not have dealt with me in the first place without first getting authorization from Chris. We've changed that now, but they're still blocking me. Chris entered a ticket and got the reply:

Department: AUSWEB Domain Names
Created On: 17 Jul 2008 10:57 AM
Last Update: 17 Jul 2008 10:57 AM

Tracking
URL: (long but valid link)
Tech Contact for narrawin.com - pls reinstate access
        
Hi Christiane

We have thousands of clients who have no issues with the instructions we give in relation to setting nameservers in our domain management area. However your tech seemed unable to understand these same instructions and took a very arrogant stance with our attempts to clarify them. This arrogance and refusal to listen to what we were trying to instruct him to do concluded in him being banned.

As you are the account holder you must submit all support tickets as our standard policy is one contact per account. We were very lenient with these rules when first contacted by your tech, however they must now stand.

Also, the DNS report below shows that your website is not actually hosted on our servers any longer.

http://www.intodns.com/narrawin.com

If you would like to cancel your hosting with us please let us know and we will show you the steps.

Probably everybody except me can follow the link, along with the original ticket (copy here); it shows that they have at no time given any relevant advice.

Other issues are:

It would, of course, be an option to change the registrar, and we'll certainly do this when the time expires. But it annoys me greatly to see people getting away with this kind of treatment. I'm sure they really to manage to confuse most of their customers to a point where their own ignorance doesn't show. Unfortunately, auDA is not responsible for this issue, since it's a com domain, and icann.org only handles registrar stuff (i.e. whois). What we have here is really a hosting issue. Their hostmaster is Karim Bauer, so I sent him a message asking him to take down the zone. I'll wait a day before taking further steps.

Fujitsu air conditioner design, continued

More playing around with the air conditioners today, and did what I should have done a long time ago: checked how much air flows past the temperature sensor. As I had suspected, there is none. This means that the temperature sensor is subject to two influences: air convection through the double grille separating it from the air under the ceiling—normally the warmest—and any heat generated in the immediate vicinity, in this case the pipe sensor immediately below it, which will tend to warm the sensor. Under those circumstances, it's not surprising that the temperature control is so lousy.

The only question is, why? I can't imagine that the Fujitsu designers are really that stupid. I can see a number of explanations:

  1. I'm wrong (and so is Phil): the device I'm looking at is not the temperature sensor, which is mounted elsewhere. But there aren't many places where you could put it, and we didn't find it elsewhere.
  2. This is a marketing decision, not an engineering decision. The units were originally designed for cooling only (cooling-only variants are in fact available). The sensor location might work relatively well for a cooling-only unit, but the marketing people decided to market a unit that can also heat without paying attention to the sensor location.

The other issue I have is: how can they get away with it? Am I the only person who notices these things?

Life in Dereel

Despite all that fun, did some normal living. The weather's cold and wet, but still did a little work in the garden, and made a token attempt to tidy up the shed, which is becoming the critical point in getting other things done.


Friday, 18 July 2008 Dereel Images for 18 July 2008
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Back to work on qpopper today, and finally got it working. There were a number of problems. The one I had last week was the result of a misconfiguration: the HOWTO I started from gave two configurations, one for the pop3 port and one for the pop3s (secure) port. The configuration files were listed in the opposite sequence from the entries in /etc/inetd.conf, and I had taken the wrong one.

That wasn't all, though: Microsoft configuration had its own fun, but I finally got things working.

More work in the garden. We're finally getting the mulch spread out. About 50% of the area remains, but that's going to be relatively easy.

Ausweb

No reply from Karim Bauer of Ausweb, of course. I'm really beginning to think that they're all as stupid as each other, though possibly they're just blocking mail from me.

Fujitsu continued

Peter Jeremy commented on IRC about the location of the temperature sensor in Fujitsu air conditioners. He has one too, and he sent me a photo:


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The black device at the top right of the coil is the temperature sensor, about the best place you can put it if you insist on putting it inside the unit. So why do mine have the sensors hidden in such an idiotic place?


Olympus software
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

It occurred to me that my tests of raw and JPEG image tools the other day left out the obvious contender: the “Master 2” software provided by Olympus specifically for the camera. Somehow I have prejudices about that sort of thing, but today I decided to try it out anyway, on boskoop, my old G4 Apple. It did nothing to dispel my prejudices.

Admittedly, boskoop is not exactly state-of-the-art, but even so, taking 20 seconds of CPU time to start up is a bit extreme. Then it continued with an animated help screen, showing nothing more interesting than an adapter card being pushed into the side of a laptop, along with a text in a too-small window with a scroll bar, using about 90% CPU time—even when iconified! And that on a desktop machine to which I connect the camera with a USB cable:

 
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This help brings with it an obligatory way of looking at the world that is completely different from mine. “How to Enjoy Slide show?”, for example. But where are my files? “How to Browse Images/Movies?” looks like the right one to choose, but it just tells you (in four screens with one or two sentences each) how to work your way around the “Browse” window. The only way I could find to actually get new images is from the camera. It seems that these people just don't understand file systems. Spent some time looking for a way to look at existing images; it doesn't seem to cater for that.

Took a look at the “Browse” screen, which offered a function “transfer”, which does exactly that, even when not necessary: it seems that to process photos, it first needs to copy them to an “Album”, and that it did—all 650 MB of the photos I took on Sunday—once I found a way to type in the name: it wanted me to select from a graphical representation of “folders” with duplicate names:


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The directory I'm looking for was NFS mounted as /dereel/home/grog/Photos/20080713, so it would be reasonable to assume that dereel in that second image would be the place to look. But no, that's a different file system. This is one of the two entries marked home. Which one? No idea.

Fortunately, if you close that window you get the opportunity to enter the directory name manually, without any help like file name completion, and without the option of globbing for specific files only (at least, I couldn't find one). After only 15 minutes and the best part of a gigabyte of data, I was in the position that I am by default with real software.

Well, almost. After a bit of searching (WHY do you always have to search for these things? WHY can't they just tell you the path?), discovered:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Pictures 8 -> l -rt
total 193
...
drwxr-xr-x   3 grog  1000       102 Jul 18 18:40 OLYMPUS Master 2
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp1) ~/Pictures 9 -> cd OLYMPUS\ Master\ 2/
bash: cd: OLYMPUS: No such file or directory
      

These horrible path names with spaces in them, which continually mess up scripts. In my case, I define cd as a bash function, and it trips over spaces even if, as in this case, they're quoted.

And of course the files were transferred in alphabetical order without maintaining the modification time stamps (even though they all had EXIF data), so I ended up with them all out of sequence.

Apart from that, the software seems to offer much the same functionality as ufraw. It has some things, like compensation for chromatic aberration, that I don't think ufraw has. But who can bear to use that sort of thing?


Saturday, 19 July 2008 Dereel Images for 19 July 2008
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No mail this morning—ozlabs.org stopped responding to TCP at about 9:00, though it still responded to ping. As stated on the IRC channel:

<paulus> anyone know what's up with ozlabs.org?
<bje>  paulus: ICMP and that's about all :-)

It finally came back round 13:00; it seems that there were swap read errors, which bodes ill for the reliability in the immediate future. But it's amazing how uneasy I get when some component of my daily computer life is down.

Spent much of the day writing up my qpopper HOWTO and other documents, notably yesterday's diary entry. The weather's been pretty cool, and I barely went out of the house all day.

Today was the first day I processed real live photos with raw images and ufraw, which worked well enough once I got the hang of it. One annoying detail seems to be that it saves the adjustment values for next time, and the last thing I did was my test photos, the last of which I modified with -2.0 EV; so every photo it converted was automatically underexposed by 2 EV. It's easy enough to fix with conventional tools: the configuration file is ~/.ufrawrc, as you might expect. It's an XML file, and in it I found the entry

<Exposure>-2.00000</Exposure>

No idea why it needs that many decimal places; arguably more than one is overkill. But removing it solved the problem, and I later discovered that adding a +0.5 EV did a better job.

The other strange thing is that the image dimensions changed. The JPEGs generated by the camera have the dimensions 3648x2736, which evaluates to 9,980,928 pixels—I had already commented that this is just shy of the 10.0 MP that are written on the camera—but the images generated from the raw data are 3720x2800, or 10,416,000 pixels. More to the point, though, they're no longer strictly 4x3 aspect ratio. I can't imagine that the software made that change; I'm sure that it maps 1:1. So this seems to be an undocumented feature of the sensor.

While writing up the problems with the Olympus software, I took some screen shots of the Apple screen. I used to know the incantation, but I had forgotten, so consulted “Mac Help” with the search topic “screen capture”, which tells you to start an “Application” called Grab and push mice around a lot. But I've done this before and I know that there's a key combination. No mention of it in that help; for that, you have to search for “screen shot”, not “screen capture”. Alternatively you can go to System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts and scroll the too-small, non-resizaeble window to find them.

That kind of problem is understandable when you think of the issues of implementing search engines; but it wouldn't be a problem if they had also provided a manual. It's really a pain using a system that thinks so completely differently from me.

More pain with HTML syntax: I've spent some time fiddling around trying to display screen output cleanly, and I thought I had it more or less working, but then the W3 validator complained that I can't put a <div> inside a paragraph. But that was the only way I knew to turn off right justification of text, which looked terrible. Finally went looking for the correct CSS to do; I've decided that CSS in PHP functions should be inline in the tags, but how to do that? I've lent my HTML reference to Chris, and she's in Melbourne for the weekend. Finally found it, and this transformation seems to do the trick;

Source:

      <?php literaltext (<<< EOS
Jul 12 16:54:34 dereel qpopper[11952]: (null) at pain.lemis.com (192.109.197.171): -ERR Unknown command: "M-^@l^A^C^A".
EOS
); ?>

Generates:

          <tt style="text-align:left">
Jul 12 16:54:34 dereel qpopper[11952]: (null) at pain.lemis.com (192.109.197.171): -ERR Unknown command: "M-^@l^A^C^A".
<br/></tt>

Sunday, 20 July 2008 Dereel Images for 20 July 2008
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More mulch spreading in the garden. I think we have the worst over and done with, where we spread mulch between existing plants. The rest is mainly unplanted surface, and should be much easier to mulch.

Finally I'm getting my brewery into shape; for some reason I've been dreading actually doing any work on it. Now at least I have the pots in place, and all I need to do is pipe them together. Can it be so hard?


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Chris along for dinner in the evening—fondue de fromage. Somehow we were all tired and faded early.

DNS vulnerabilities

Edwin Groothuis posted a link today about a recent CERT advisory on DNS. Tried out the test on w3.lemis.com and got the disappointing results:

=== grog@w3 (/dev/ttyp6) ~ 1 -> dig +short porttest.dns-oarc.net TXT
z.y.x.w.v.u.t.s.r.q.p.o.n.m.l.k.j.i.h.g.f.e.d.c.b.a.pt.dns-oarc.net.
"208.86.224.149 is POOR: 26 queries in 1.8 seconds from 1 ports with std dev 0.00"

So high time to update named. That's easy enough on my own systems, but this one doesn't have the infrastructure for software development. Ended up checking out the entire FreeBSD source repository and building the software from scratch. Not a big deal, considering that I didn't have to watch it, but it's interesting to see how much space this stuff takes up:

=== root@w3 (/dev/ttyp5) / 16 -> du -s /home/* /usr/*
3107    /home/ncvs
523     /usr/obj
958     /usr/ports
558     /usr/src

Those are values in MB, so we're talking a total of 5146 MB for building the system and ports—and that on a system with a total of 10 GB disk space.

In any case, the effort was worthwhile:

z.y.x.w.v.u.t.s.r.q.p.o.n.m.l.k.j.i.h.g.f.e.d.c.b.a.pt.dns-oarc.net.
"208.86.224.149 is GOOD: 26 queries in 1.9 seconds from 26 ports with std dev 22203.93"

In passing, it's sad to note that CERT has a web site with breakage equal to some of the worst commercial companies:


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Not only does the text run all over the place, I couldn't enter anything into the Search box. Decided that maybe I had to “customize”, so pressed that button—and got an “advanced search” box. At least it enabled me to find the advisory, which seems to be hosted on a less broken site.

Olympus software, continued

Yesterday's discovery of the discrepancy in size between the raw and JPEG images from my camera got me thinking, and I went back to take another look at the Olympus software. I'm no happier after the second attempt. First, the software decided it wanted to update itself:

 
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It seemed fair to give it a chance, so I selected OK. Then, after establishing that an update was available, it decided to warn me that I needed an Internet connection:

 
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A little over half an hour later it had finally finished the installation, after I had decided that maybe it hadn't hung. One of the windows told me that the images are now sorted in date order, but it doesn't seem to be overly reliable:


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This image clearly shows three copies of the same image: the raw version (bottom left, highlighted in yellow) and what appear to be 2 JPEGS on the line before, separated by two screen shots. Still, it might be better. It would be better if I still had the release notes. The installer offered to save them, and I said “yes”, but it didn't say where it had put them.

Played around a bit, and discovered that the processing speed was glacial. That might be due to the processor; even on my relatively fast FreeBSD boxes, ufraw takes its time, and boskoop is really not fast.

I still don't understand what this program is trying to do with the file structures, but with the notable exception of these horrible directory names with spaces in them, which break so many of my tools, it uses a naming convention very close to my own:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp4) ~/Pictures 35 -> command cd OLYMPUS\ Master\ 2/
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp4) ~/Pictures/OLYMPUS Master 2 36 -> l
total 0
drwxr-xr-x   77 grog  1000  2618 Jul 20 12:14 20080719
drwxr-xr-x    3 grog  1000   102 Jul 20 12:24 20080720122307

My convention is simply the date; the Olympus software adds the time as well—of the processing, not the date and time of the photo. And, of course, the modification time stamp hasn't been reset:

=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp4) ~/Pictures/OLYMPUS Master 2 37 -> l 20080720122307
total 5
-rw-r--r--   1 grog  1000  4836728 Jul 20 12:24 P7193680.jpg
=== grog@boskoop (/dev/ttyp4) ~/Pictures/OLYMPUS Master 2 38 -> mv 20080720122307/P7193680.jpg /dereel/home/grog/Photos/20080719/
=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp2) ~/Photos/20080719 965 -> l P7193680*
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  home   8827386 Jul 19 10:19 P7193680.JPEG
-rw-rw-r--  1 grog  502   10799527 Jul 19 10:19 P7193680.ORF
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  home   4836728 Jul 20 12:24 P7193680.jpg

Probably the worst problem, though, is the resolution. I chose the highest that the program offered, but as ImageMagick's identify program shows, it's only half the size of the image from ufraw:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttyp2) ~/Photos/20080719 966 -> identify  P7193680*
P7193680.JPEG JPEG 3720x2800 3720x2800+0+0 DirectClass 8-bit 8.41845mb 1.453u 0:02
P7193680.ORF=>/var/tmp/magick-wiRJsXsS.pnm[1] ORF 3720x2800 3720x2800+0+0 DirectClass 16-bit 59.6008mb 1.656u 0:02
P7193680.jpg[2] JPEG 3648x2736 3648x2736+0+0 DirectClass 8-bit 4.61266mb 1.203u 0:03

Another issue is the image name. I like to give images descriptive names; the Olympus software seems to want to ignore them altogether. Possibly it has some other naming convention, but that doesn't help if you find a directory full of images and don't know what they are.

The images from the camera are larger too: in other words, there's no way to get the same JPEG image quality from a raw image that is available from the camera.

The other thing worth looking at here are the resolutions. ufraw really does return more picture than the Olympus software, 3720x2800 instead of 3648x2736. And this really is part of the image. Here are crops from each side of each image, going to the edge of the image. The first is the image that Olympus wants you to see, and the second is what ufraw returns:

Bottom:

 
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Left:

 
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These photos are also not as sharp as I would have liked, notably on the left side; I'll have to investigate why that is. The EXIF data show an exposure of 1/200s at f/8, which should preclude both camera shake and lens problems. Maybe I need to pay more attention to the part of the image on which I focus, even in this kind of photo where you'd think it isn't critical. On the other hand, maybe it was just the wind.


Monday, 21 July 2008 Dereel Images for 21 July 2008
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More work in the garden. When we moved in, there was a strange device in the middle of one of the garden beds:


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Cliff later told me that it was an old petrol pump, and that there was a petrol tank below. He hadn't removed it because of the potential danger of explosion, and had instead tried to train roses around it. That had obviously failed, and we've since removed the rose, so there are only Salvia microphylla around it, currently pruned and waiting for spring. Today I finally went at the remaining open pipes with an angle grinder, but despite the fact that the tank hasn't been used in over 10 years, I was concerned about just removing the last pipe that way. Tried taking off the top part by grinding off the heads of the bolts, but that just gave me access to the inside of the pump:


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The pump still seemed to be sealing, and there was a vague smell of petrol about it, so there's a real danger that there's a considerable amount of petrol below. With visions of a tank of several thousand litres exploding and blowing myself and the house high into the air, set to with a hacksaw instead. Didn't get far before the brand new blade broke. There must be an easier way.

Even worse language

Today was kimchi making day, incidentally the first one where I soaked the cabbage in salted water instead of salting them with dry salt. We have difficulty getting giant radishes here, so I tend to make it with spring onions. Got two different packets out of the fridge and marvelled:


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ALDI, on the right, does it right: they're marked “spring onions”. Woolworths still insist on calling the things shallots—or do they? In brackets there's also “Eschallots”. That's the first time I've seen that word, though it seems that it's more popular than Eschalotte; the SBS have a glossary entry about it. They're shallots (the brown bulb in the middle). In other words, far from achieving their aim of telling the world to use their own new names for well-known vegetables, they've ended up confusing themselves. We now have two different names for shallots and three for spring onions, two of them overlapping with shallots. And even the ABC have jumped on the Flying Dutchman of a bandwagon and stated in the Gardening Australia programme:

Now, thanks to national standards each individual vegetable is known by the one name and you'll have no trouble finding the vegetables we've looked at today.

Marvellous! They don't say which standards, but it sounds as if it's the same bad language as above—only they got confused too and introduced two further variations. They were talking about “bok choy” and “pak choy”, which, as far as I can tell, are different names for the same thing, the ones that the supermarkets call “buk choy” and “pok choy”—four different transliterations of the same Chinese word! Admittedly, they're applying it to two slightly different cultivars, but I don't see any mention of such distinctions in my Chinese cook books. Probably it's yet another abuse of nomenclature.

But what good are national standards in an international world? And which of my cookbooks refers to “buk choy”? That quote should have read “Thanks to NSW standards we have one more level of confusion”.


Tuesday, 22 July 2008 Dereel Images for 22 July 2008
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A message from one Razza Carter this morning:

Date: Mon, 21 Jul 2008 16:21:35 +1000
From: "Razza Carter" <razza.carter@gmail.com>
To: grog@lemis.com
Subject:

This is just an email in regards to your above blog. If you'd like some
advice, it would simply be that your simply another whining pain in the ass
who has nothing better to do then move to country Victoria and whinge like a
child. If you are so friggin smart, STOP RINGING TECH SUPPORT and you
wouldnt encounter these headaches you fucking moron.

What a fascinating message! If it weren't for the obscenities, I'd guess that he's a Telstra “support” person on duty. Maybe he's a Telstra “support” person off duty. Certainly the lack of attempt to resolve any problem matches, as does the apparent fact that he didn't understand that the issue has been closed without resolution of the technical issues.

Who is Razza Carter? Google doesn't know—yet. It soon will have one hit.

More investigation of the underground tank today, and took a hacksaw to it higher up, where I was less likely to snap the blade off. Got a small slit in the pipe, a centimetre or so across, and took a sniff—a distinct smell of petrol! It was strong enough to suggest that an arbitrary quantity of petrol could be down there. What do I do now? There could be 1000 litres there, and clearly I can't just take off the top. I certainly can't take an angle grinder to it. Looks like I'll have to investigate with the Powers That Be.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008 Dereel Images for 23 July 2008
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Finally more work on my brewing setup (HERMS). Went through again with another list of things to buy, and spent quite some time at Enzed piecing things together. They're really helpful people. Things are looking a lot better now, and there's even a chance that, had it not been the thin silicone tubing I bought last time and which I can't give back, I would come out cheaper with the new method.

Once upon a time we used to check our car tyre pressures religiously at least once a week. During the Asia trip I checked them at least once a day. But I can't recall when I last checked the tyre pressures on my present car. My best guess is that they were last checked during the last service, which must be about 16 months ago. Finally got round to doing it today and confirmed that the pressure had dropped to about half what it should have been. It's a marvel there was any air in at all, let alone that I barely noticed the difference.

It's really high time to build the terrace and pergola that I've been thinking about for months. I don't have much in the way of instructions for this sort of thing, so to bookshops to look for something. Drew—once again—a complete blank; didn't even find the same level of documentation that I already have.

Back home, and of course discovered things that I still need for the HERMS, but the end is in sight.

Still more mulching—we've got through more than 50% of the mulch now.


Thursday, 24 July 2008 Dereel Images for 24 July 2008
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Another day with overnight frost—hopefully my chile pasilla will survive. I grew it from the seeds in a dried chile a couple of years ago, and so far it hasn't flowered, though it's looking relatively happy. But all chiles are frost-tender, so I've been covering it with a sack at night:


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More work on the HERMS system today, and drilled a hole in the HLT for the heating element. It should have been 40 mm, but somehow, with a 40 mm hole saw, it came out as 42 mm! And, of course, it leaked. Grr!

Into town to pick up more stuff—spent another $120. Bought a pipe bender for $11 at BOC. She wanted to sell me one for $317—it's amazing how different the prices can be. Hopefully I'm done now, unless I find I can't fix the leaks in the HLT and need to buy another one. I'm not very happy with Ballarat Bolts & Fasteners, who refused to take back the hole saw, even though it clearly was too wide—the broadest measurement at the blades was 40.3 mm, and clearly it will grind away more than that.


Friday, 25 July 2008 Dereel Images for 25 July 2008
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More work on the HERMS today, somewhat discouraged by the problems I had with the HLT. Put together the tap for the kettle and that leaked too! Then I realized that, despite the silicone seal, it still needs PTFE tape on the threads. Somehow sealing, even at atmospheric pressure, is more complicated than it should be.

Spent some time during the day trying to understand the functions available in digital image postprocessing. I've already used xv for this purpose, and ufraw has the great advantage of an exposure value correction. But that's where things get confusing: on one level, you can define an image by the parameters brightness (average brightness of all points) and contrast (the relationship between the brightest and darkest points). On the other, you have things like gammas and transfer curves. Spent quite a bit of time looking on the web for a book which explains these things from a theoretical perspective, but what I found was mainly “do this with PhotoShop”. I wonder if there's a good book on the subject.

I've had a number of messages from somebody who wants to buy my Control Data Cyber 910 for its keyboard. The fact that the keyboard is on its last legs doesn't seem to worry him. Found the thing in the shipping container and established that it's probably the wrong keyboard anyway. What he needs is one with a 25 pin connector. I wonder why anybody cares, but I suppose I should do a bit of investigation. I'm sure the info is on the web somewhere.

Maigret de canard for dinner in the evening. Normally we do it on the barbecue, but today I followed a suggestion in “Connaître la cuisine du sud-ouest” by Francine Claustres, in which she suggests baking for 10 minutes and then grilling for another 5 to brown the skin. It wasn't optimal; the meat was cooked through (and thus overcooked). Five minutes baking should be enough.


Saturday, 26 July 2008 Dereel Images for 26 July 2008
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Yvonne and Chris are running a “clinic” this weekend, so it was up to me to prepare the clinic dinner. On previous occasions we've done Dereel Chile and beef goulash. This time we decided on another variation on the theme “big pot with meat and sauce” and did a couple of my old favourites, mild chicken curry and Lamb Madras. That and baking some bread kept me going most of the day.

Also did some more experimentation with ufraw, and managed to get some kind of method, though I'm still not 100% sure what I'm doing. I desperately need some background documentation on this stuff.

Laurel Gordon from Tasmania is one of the participants in the clinic, and she's staying with us. She brought some hellebores with her, which we planted in the garden. Gradually we're running out of space.

In the evening to the clinic dinner. Once again people were tired—two had already left—and we didn't stay long either. Borrowed some books on digital photography from Chris—as to be expected, mainly oriented towards what you can do with PhotoShop. Back home and skimmed through a couple of the books, which didn't impress me much. McGraw-Hill used to be a good publisher, but the standard of “How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera” (markup as on the cover) doesn't convince me:

JPG Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group (pronounced “jay peg”), this file format is considered lossy.

The format isn't “considered” lossy, it's an explicit design decision. And if “JPG” is short for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, and it's pronounced that way, where's the E? The author is confusing workarounds for obsolete restrictions in a particular operating system with the name of the format.

The author continues in this obfuscation with the statements (trimmed without changing the meaning):

Filenames [sic] also use a three-letter extension that tells the computer what kind of data is within the file. Here a few common file extensions: ... .doc ... .htm

If you open a folder on your computer ... you can immediately tell what format they are in by looking at their extension.

Even if you use Microsoft—not mentioned in the title—this is wrong. Web pages are commonly identified by the extension .html, and have been since before Microsoft could run web software, and the name is a convention, not an indication to the computer.

The real issue, though, is the one I've been talking about all along: this isn't the kind of information I need. Where can I find something that talks about the backgrounds, not the buttons to push?


Sunday, 27 July 2008 Dereel
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After yesterday's busy day, didn't do much today. Spent some time writing things up, including my mystery plants, and played around some more with my HERMS system. I now have the kettle and mash tun “complete”, though handling copper pipe is more difficult than I thought. The HLT remains a problem: I haven't found any way to insert the heating element and seal the join. Maybe I should give up and put some kind of plug in the hole.

More reading on digital photography: “Digital Photography Hacks” by O'Reilly. On the whole, I like the “Hacks” series, but this has the same issues that I mentioned about the previous book. All “press this” and “click on that”. The section on Photoshop was particularly interesting. It started with an anecdote that I just didn't understand (page 179 for the complete text):

“How do I change the resolution of my pictures without changing their dimensions?”

For me, that question showed a lack of understanding of digital photography. But no, it seems that Photoshop has a notion of resolution, and this question might better be rephrased “How do I work around Photoshop's preconceived notions?”. But the explanation was Just Plain Wrong, and the style and accuracy make me cringe:

Your digital camera is basically a miniature computer that contains a built-in scanner. It scans its images at 72 ppi. That happens to be the same resolution at which most computers display their images.

Ugh! It's not a miniature computer, it doesn't contain a scanner, and it doesn't have a concept of ppi. And making assumptions about monitor resolutions is one of the reasons that the web is in the mess it is today. My photo monitor has a resolution of about 130 dpi.

A number of the hacks, here and elsewhere, relate to how Photoshop sees the image. There's also a section on using camera phones, something that I think will age very quickly as camera phones either get better or disappear.

One thing to think about, though: a lot of the tips contain text like this (page 195):

Open both images and select the entire first image ... by using Select -> All. Copy the selection, click on the dark image to activate that window, and use the Paste command.

I've already ranted about this abuse of open—but what can I replace it with? Somehow a need exists for a word meaning “prepare for processing”. But it's not open. I fear we're stuck with this one, though.

Cooking temperatures

I've been using meat thermometers for cooking for years, particularly baking (“roasting”). Most came with a chart of temperatures, but a couple of years ago I got an otherwise quite good electronic unit from IKEA, and it doesn't have one. I've been relying on memory for some time, but tonight, when cooking a chicken, I decided to check up.

What a disaster! What temperature? Where do you measure it? The canonical answer, and the one that I found in the only two cookbooks I have that mention such things, is in the thighs, where the chicken cooks the slowest. Bonniers Kokbok recommends a temperature of 70°. The other one (I forget which, but it was English or Australian as opposed to US American) specifies 75-80°. The problem is that I've tried this before (in fact, going to 88°, which is what I recall from the charts on my old analogue thermometers), and I continually got underdone thighs.

I've decided that the real issue is the exact placing of the probe, and possibly the fact that it's not specific enough, and the thermometer is too influenced by the temperatures of the looser space around the bone, which gets cooked first. Today I decided to measure in the breast. There are a couple of reasons: first, it's larger, so the danger of incorrect readings is less, and secondly, it's the most likely to be overdone. I took it out at 82°, and the results were much better, but still not quite enough. I'll try 88° in the breast next time.


Monday, 28 July 2008 Dereel Images for 28 July 2008
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More satellite woe

Into the office this morning to find yet another pile of dead Emacs windows on eureka:0.2, showing the attempts of the IRC client to reconnect for hours on end. My satellite link statistics showed a sorry sight:

satellite link statisticssatellite link statistics

Looking at it another way, at 11:29 we had nearly 50% packet loss:

--- ozlabs.org ping statistics ---
1000 packets transmitted, 584 packets received, 41% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 824.953/1839.462/3462.664/443.220 m

Things came back after that, but this happens too often. The blame is obviously on IPStar, since it happened to Chris and Lisa too, who are with two other ISPs. But this is all that many Australians can get; there should be some minimum service requirement, even if the operator is in Thailand.

Message from Tom Maynard about digital photography documentation:

I've found this individual's website (and e-mails) to be quite helpful:

http://www.normankoren.com/

He uses a Microsoft Windows-based image editing program (not Photoshop), but I've found that most of it translates to The Gimp (or other) with minor head scratching. His tutorials page is the place to begin:

http://www.normankoren.com/#Tutorials

On a different thread altogether, this page http://www.trenholm.org/hmmerk/download.html will take you to a PDF file that I have always found fascinating . and I've read it a dozen times at least - all about focusing.

Took a look at the first site. I think Tom's right, though this one had too much information for me to process today. Still, it looks good, and I'll be back.

Bier her, oder ich fall' um

I desperately need to brew! I'm rapidly running out of beer, but I still don't have an HLT. Spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a way to get it watertight, but one obvious issue is that I'm trying to seal a flat surface against the side of a cylinder. I think I'll have to postpone my efforts and do a brew with some other source of hot water. Spent some time putting the kettle and the mash tun together, and confirming that they, at any rate, were watertight. Tomorrow's the big day.

In the evening through the garden with Laurel, who is an experienced gardener, and managed to identify most of the remaining mystery plants. She has a few ideas on the rest, and has promised to send me info when she gets back home.

A frost was forecast for tonight, and it came, so I covered up my chile plant again—only Laurel tells me it's not a chile at all: it's an Agonis flexuosa, native to Western Australia. No wonder it hasn't borne any chiles. But it's frost tender too, at least when small, so I covered it over anyway. Later we'll have to move it—it can get to be 10 m tall.

Earlier I spoke to Laurel about the way Google trawls through these pages regularly, giving people like Razza Carter their first appearance. She went looking for herself, but it seems the name is quite common, and she couldn't find herself there at all until I added “Tasmania” to the search criteria. Then we got 6 hits, including an amusing false positive:

Tasmanian Wilderness - Photos - World Heritage - Tasmania
Photo: Steve Johnson · Nothofagus cunninghamii and native laurel, Gordon River. ... Heritage in Tasmania · Heritage in Northern Territory ...
www.environment.gov.au/heritage/
places/world/tasmanian-wilderness/gallery.html - 28k -

Tuesday, 29 July 2008 Dereel Images for 29 July 2008
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Finally a frost worthy of the name today:


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Our Agonis flexuosa seems to have survived alright, and there's no evidence yet of anything that hasn't, though the leaves of some of the Cannas look less than happy.

The frost gave way to a sunny day, just what I needed for my first brew in the new brewery. I still don't have my HERMS together, I don't have an HLT, and I don't yet have running water to the brewery, all of which made things more complicated than they will be.


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But things went well, much less frustrating than they had been with the old setup. The old gas burner from Schellnhausen proved to heat very well, and the false bottom of the mash tun not only worked perfectly, it also brought some of the clearest initial wort I have ever seen, much better than the results on my brew day page (second photo):


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Unfortunately, this didn't carry over into the kettle. At the end, when I only had to decant the wort into the fermenter, nothing happened:


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It's probably too early to say what the cause was. I had blended the bittering hops, as shown on the brew day page, and possibly that clogged the false bottom to an extent, and the air lock did the rest. When I filled up the tube with wort, I was able to siphon it off well enough. Next time I won't blend the hops.

Other interesting things were:

As if to make the point, my second-last batch of beer ran out just after I had finished. Only 36 litres to go; this batch will be in kegs earlier than absolutely necessary.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008 Dereel Images for 30 July 2008
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What a load off my back! I can brew again! The current batch is already happily bubbling away, just causing enough froth to make me wonder if I shouldn't put less than 58 l in the fermenter:


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The main question I have now: what form should my HLT take, and where can I find one?

Spent most of the day catching up with things I had let lie. Also did some mulching; we now have the main area in the garden complete. Time to plant some trees.



Thursday, 31 July 2008 Dereel Images for 31 July 2008
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My concerns about the fermenter were justified:


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There's not much I can do about it now, so I'll have to wait. But why did it happen? I don't normally get that much froth, and it's the same yeast (Wyeast 1728 “Scottish Ale” ) that I've been using for the last 10 or so brews. Maybe it's the quantity left behind from the last time. I suppose I'll have to try at a lower temperature next time.

Into town to do a number of things, not all of which I finished. At least managed to get a haircut, along with a beard trim that looked more like a shave, and bought Yet Another book on gardening.

Spent some time looking for alternative hot water systems. It seems that there are two ways to get hot water: in a kettle or urn, with a maximum volume of about 20 litres (and you have to look for urns with more than 10 litres), and then house hot water systems designed to run off off-peak electricity, starting at a surprisingly small 20 litres and going to a little over 400 litres. Clearly the latter seem better suited, but they're completely sealed, and the prices blew me away: an 80 litre system sells at discount for $598. In passing, it's interesting to notice how difficult it is to find important information about these devices. I took away a brochure from Rheem with technical data—which mentions how many people the designers expect to use the unit (in almost every case a non-integral number), but doesn't mention the power consumption!

Also a number of tools at ALDI—I have an old circular saw from my father which is perfectly functional except for the blade. A new blade costs $23; a new circular saw from ALDI costs $40. So bought one; who knows how much longer the old saw will live. Found a 9 litre hot water urn which, of course, also didn't state its power, and took that with me. ALDI's no questions return guarantee is useful in such decisions.

Then to Lal Lal demolitions, where I found a sink for the brewery at a price I'm prepared to pay. Pity they didn't have any hot water systems.

Back home and took a look at the urn: only 950W! Even an electric kettle is rated at 2100 W. That'll go straight back. Also took a look at the electric knife I had bought there. It comes with two pairs of knives, one for meat and bread and stuff, and the other for deep frozen food. The “instruction manual” mentions the latter only with the revealing statement “The frozen food blade will cut through frozen foods”. Called up customer support , who had a slightly better version of the manual which at least illustrated both blades, but not well enough for her to identify which is which. She's sending me a copy; maybe I'll be able to decide.

A little work in the garden, and transplanted a big wallflower bush that had surprisingly few roots. Hopefully it'll survive.


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