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Wednesday, 1 July 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 1 July 2015
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Liver scan
Topic: health Link here

Off to the Ballarat Base hospital this morning for an what I thought was to be an ultrasound liver scan. It took a surprising amount of time, about 30 minutes, in which he looked not only at my liver but also pancreas and kidneys: it turned out that the referral specified only “abdominal ultrasound”. He didn't find anything of interest, so it'll be up to Dr. Turner to investigate next month.


More mulch
Topic: gardening Link here

As promised, the tree trimmer people showed up again today and dumped another 10 m³ of mulch:


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Now we should have more than enough.


Piccola shorn again
Topic: animals Link here

Yesterday morning I woke up when there was a loud bang from the laundry, where the cats sleep. I came in to find a somewhat distressed Piccola—and no Lilac. Further investigation showed that she had somehow fallen down behind the clothes dryer, and couldn't get out. I moved the drier, Lilac came out, unhurt. End of story, modulo considering how to avoid it happening again.

But then we found this on Piccola:


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How did that happen? This was some time later, so it didn't have to be related. And we couldn't find the missing fur in the laundry. Somehow Piccola is continually losing fur, while no other cat does. Why? It's not a serious injury, but she could do without it.


Thursday, 2 July 2015 Dereel Images for 2 July 2015
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Still more mulch
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

So two days ago we got 10 m³ of mulch for the garden, with promise of more yesterday. That arrived too. But I wasn't quite prepared for this sight this morning:


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They brought another 4 m³ along: they're finished, and they needed to get rid of it so that they could put their bobcat in the truck. At least that's the lot:


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More upgrade woes
Topic: technology Link here

I've been dragging my heels—again—with updating Yvonne's computer, but it has to be done. I now have a disk I can put in there, containing a not quite up to date version of her /home file system, but it needs a system on it. Problem: the partition with the system I want to copy is on stable, which only has connections for one disk. I've been building the other disk images on swamp, but I can't easily copy partition contents from one system to another.

OK, I have a SATA to USB adapter—in fact, the one that came with the disk. Put that on the disk, find a power supply, and I'm in business. Well, I thought so:

Jul  2 11:37:13 stable kernel: da0: <Samsung G3 Station > Fixed Direct Access SCSI-2 device
Jul  2 11:37:13 stable kernel: da0: Serial Number 00000011E09310C00190
Jul  2 11:37:13 stable kernel: da0: 40.000MB/s transfers
Jul  2 11:37:13 stable kernel: da0: 953869MB (1953524992 512 byte sectors: 255H 63S/T 121601C)
Jul  2 11:37:13 stable kernel: da0: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
Jul  2 11:37:14 stable kernel: GEOM: da0: corrupt or invalid GPT detected.
Jul  2 11:37:14 stable kernel: GEOM: da0: GPT rejected -- may not be recoverable.
Jul  2 11:37:14 stable kernel: GEOM: diskid/DISK-00000011E09310C00190: corrupt or invalid GPT detected.
Jul  2 11:37:14 stable kernel: GEOM: diskid/DISK-00000011E09310C00190: GPT rejected -- may not be recoverable.
J

What happened there? Put the disk back in swamp, which is running FreeBSD 11-CURRENT, and it worked fine. So somehow we have an incompatibility between -CURRENT and -STABLE. How can that happen? GPT is a standard that FreeBSD shouldn't change. In any case, there are several possibilities to work around the issue, including attempting a repair (despite GEOM's pessimism), or blow the GPT structure away altogether and rebuild it. Either way, it meant Yet Another Backup, so no more work on that front for today.


Stigmata!
Topic: general, health, opinion Link here

One of the stranger phenomena associated with Christianity is stigmata, the appearance of wounds matching the location of the wounds of Jesus Christ, particularly those inflicted in nailing him to the cross. I've never really thought much of it—until it happened to me:


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Now it clearly has nothing to do with electronics, so the tape deck that fell on my foot would have nothing to do with it.


Friday, 3 July 2015 Dereel Images for 3 July 2015
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System upgrade: success
Topic: technology Link here

I've been meaning to upgrade our main systems for a year and a half. In that time I've maintained a development system, stable, that has been getting closer to its name as time went on. Today I finally finished preparing the new disk for lagoon, Yvonne's system. The steps were:

How did it work? The opportunities for error are everywhere. But it worked almost completely without problem. The only issue I had was that I had forgotten to merge new system user IDs into /etc/master.passwd, so I got error messages like this one:

newsyslog: error in config file; unknown user:
/usr/local/squid/logs/store.log         squid:squid     640     2       1000 *  CDJN

Since the system isn't even running squid, that's benign. Updating /etc/passwd and /etc/group fixed it.

The only other issue is with Facebook: she can't play videos. That sounds like a flash issue, but it works with Youtube. Found a potential reference on FreeBSD forums, but for some reason I kept getting ECONNRESET when I tried to access it. Mañana.


Default UFS parameters
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Every time I create a new UFS file system, I go through lots of RTFM. What are the optimal parameters? UFS is now over 30 years old. When it was written, a big disk was 300 MB in size. Now a small disk is about 1 TB. But the default inode count bases on the assumption that the average file is 4 fragments—in this case, 16 kB. And there are these two parameters which seem to duplicate each other: -g avgfilesize specifies the average file size. The man page doesn't specify the default. -i bytes gives the number of bytes per inode, by default 4 fragments, or half a block. But there's exactly one inode per file, so why do we need both? Looking through newfs code makes your eyes go funny:

        if (sblock.fs_avgfilesize <= 0)
                printf("illegal expected average file size %d\n",
                    sblock.fs_avgfilesize), exit(14);

That's even stranger because this code can't be reached: there's a similar check when the parameter is processed. avgfilesize is the value set by the -g option. It doesn't get used at all in newfs. It goes into the guts of the file system, and even there it's only used in one place, in /usr/src/sys/ufs/ffs/ffs_alloc.c, where it is used to set directory sizes. It defaults to AVFILESIZ, which is defined in /usr/src/sys/ufs/ffs/fs.h. The comment there reads:

 * Grigoriy Orlov <gluk@ptci.ru> has done some extensive work to fine
 * tune the layout preferences for directories within a filesystem.
 * His algorithm can be tuned by adjusting the following parameters
 * which tell the system the average file size and the average number
 * of files per directory. These defaults are well selected for typical
 * filesystems, but may need to be tuned for odd cases like filesystems
 * being used for squid caches or news spools.

svn blame shows that this was revision 75377 (doesn't that look like it's octal?):

r75377 | mckusick | 2001-04-10 18:38:59 +1000 (Tue, 10 Apr 2001) | 150 lines

Directory layout preference improvements from Grigoriy Orlov <gluk@ptci.ru>.
His description of the problem and solution follow. My own tests show
speedups on typical filesystem intensive workloads of 5% to 12% which
is very impressive considering the small amount of code change involved.

I wonder if that still applies. In any case, it seems that it would have been better to use the inode density variable for this purpose. The only other place it's mentioned is in /usr/src/sys/ufs/ffs/ffs_vfsops.c, where there's yet another check that it's > 0.

        /* Compatibility for old filesystems */
        if (fs->fs_avgfilesize <= 0)
                fs->fs_avgfilesize = AVFILESIZ;
        if (fs->fs_avgfpdir <= 0)
                fs->fs_avgfpdir = AFPDIR;

On the other hand, newfs does use the bytes per inode (variable name density) to calculate the number of inodes.

Looking at eureka's /home file system, I find:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~ 377 -> dumpfs -m /home
# newfs command for /home (/dev/ada2p1)
newfs -O 2 -a 4 -b 32768 -d 32768 -e 4096 -f 4096 -g 16384 -h 64 -i 8192 -k 6408 -m 8 -o time -s 3907029096 /dev/ada2p1

Why is the inode density set to 8192? And why is the average file size not the same? But this file system is nearly 2 TB in size. You don't fill a disk like that with 250 million files. Current usage is:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~/Photos/20150704 378 -> df -ik /home
Filesystem    1024-blocks          Used       Avail Capacity    iused       ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/ada2p1 1,892,164,260 1,617,825,760 122,965,360    93% 10,038,460 234,581,826    4%   /home

So the disk is almost full, but I'm only using 4% of the inodes. In fact, the average file size is 1,617,825,760 ÷ 10,038,461, or about 161 kB. So I chose these parameters for lagoon's /home:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /home 18 -> dumpfs -m /dev/ada1p2
# newfs command for /dev/ada1p2 (/dev/ada1p2)
newfs -O 2 -U -a 4 -b 32768 -d 32768 -e 4096 -f 4096 -g 131072 -h 64 -i 131072 -k 9008 -m 8 -o time -s 5787132776 /dev/ada1p2

I don't see any necessity for the average file size to be a power of 2, but it can't do any harm.


JG King reacts
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

A call from Wayne Jones of JG King today, regarding the letter I sent on Monday. He says that he didn't get the letter until yesterday—3 days for a local letter. Part of that, I'm sure, is the inefficiency in JG King's office. But he didn't even try to address tomorrow's deadlines. Instead, he made an appointment for a site inspection with Evan, his superior—on 15 July! He also said that they would not fix this problem:


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That, he claims, is industry practice. OK, he hasn't seen them yet, but it doesn't bode well for the meeting.

So what do I do about my threat of a complaint to Consumer Affairs Victoria. I suppose I'll have to wait, since they've shown some signs of (slow) attention to the matter.


Piccola: more fur loss
Topic: animals Link here

Two days ago Piccola lost a significant amount of fur, and we're still trying to understand how. But it hasn't stopped: today even more was gone from the same place. Here on Wednesday and today:


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It seems that more fur has been removed round the original, which is already showing a scab. How does this happen? She has only recently been allowed outside again. Is she scraping through some narrow passageway and removing it? It's difficult to understand what mechanical influence could cause it.


Still more camera issues
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking the photos of Piccola wasn't easy. My camera went off without flash. I've had continual problems with flash since getting Olympus cameras, but this time nothing I could do would get the flash to fire. Tried it with two different flash units and two different cameras, and confirmed that the problem was with my OM-D E-M1. Dirty flash contacts? Got a cotton wool swab and rubbed over them. Yes, a surprising amount of dirt there, but afterwards it still wouldn't work. Flash turned off? Yes, it seems from the menu, but I couldn't turn it back on again.

After about 20 minutes of cursing and swearing, I found it: the camera was set to “HDR”. I suppose it makes sense under those circumstances, but wouldn't an explanation help?


Saturday, 4 July 2015 Dereel Images for 4 July 2015
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Piccola: fur loss continues
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Whatever is happening to Piccola doesn't seem to be going away soon. We're coming to the conclusion that she's pulling out her fur herself, possibly because of itching. Here the difference between yesterday and today:


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We put some Savlon on it, which might help, but she'll be off to Pene on Monday, I think.


Osso buco revisited
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

A year ago we last made Osso buco. Today we tried again, and in our disorganization didn't find the recipe (I had forgotten to include it in the recipe index). Today we did it relatively similarly, but the quantities were all wrong. Still, we've decided that it tastes better braised than sous-vide, so I've updated the recipe (and put it in the index).


Sunday, 5 July 2015 Dereel
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Piccola: mange?
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Clearly what's going on with Piccola is not normal. It can't be an accident, since the wound continues to increase in size. She must be biting it out herself. But why?

Could it be mange? It's not quite typical of mange: it tends to attack dogs, not cats, and it's contagious. But our other animals have no signs of it (yet). In addition, it doesn't look typical for mange. But then I found this page, showing something very similar:

Admittedly they called it “unusual”, but it looks surprisingly similar. To Pene's tomorrow for confirmation.


Monday, 6 July 2015 Dereel Images for 6 July 2015
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Copying sparse files
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I made the probably incorrect decision to copy my /home file system across the net, using a combination of tar to move large quantities of data and rsync to fill in the gaps. Speed was not a significant issue with tar—I got up to 50 MB/s—but it was an issue with rsync, where speeds were closer to 3 MB/s. But it seems that rsync filled in the gaps too well: this morning I came in and found that the copied file system was 20% larger than the original.

How could that happen? I have a number of files that are being loaded at a trickle by the BitTorrent protocol, which copies blocks at random. The file size is set to the final size, but the files are full of holes—sparse files. tar copies them correctly, only the blocks that exist, but that's not the typical way of doing things. It seems that rsync just reads the file from start to finish, and the system obligingly returns zeroes where there's a hole.

So: what to do? rsync has an -S option, which, in the words of the man page, handles sparse files efficiently. What does that mean? I tried it, but it didn't skip the holes either. It's not even clear that rsync won't change a correctly copied file when it examines it. At the moment it looks as if I will need to find all my sparse files and find something that will recreate them correctly. Another tool that doesn't do the right thing is cp, at least under FreeBSD, though it seems that GNU cp has support for sparse files. To be investigated.


Piccola and Zhivago's godpuppies
Topic: animals Link here

Over to Pene Kirk's today with Piccola, whose fur loss continues. Pene didn't think much of my idea that it's mange, and gave her something to lessen the itching. It could take a day or two. Hopefully she's right.

We also took the other animals for vaccination. Zhivago was particularly welcome: last time he was there, he had helped bring Gypsy into heat, so we decided he was something like a godfather. Here his is with his godpuppies:


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Tuesday, 7 July 2015 Dereel Images for 7 July 2015
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Cleaning out Kleins Road
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Kleins Road today for the final cleanout of the house. That's done, but the garage still needs work. A far-too-small skip arrived today. I had ordered the same size (4 m³) that we had ordered last time, but this one was much smaller. My best guess is that last time they didn't have the size we ordered, so they gave us a bigger one at the same price. I wonder if we'll get all our junk in. Back home, offered a whole lot of it on Freecycle. Judging by the response, it looks as if we'll get rid of a fair amount.


Feeding dogs
Topic: animals, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Since moving to Stones Road, we've been feeding our dogs in completely different places pending the construction of feeding pens: Zhivago got his meat outside the front door and the rest inside, Leonid got fed in the dog run at the back of the house, and Nikolai got fed outside the laundry, near the shed.

Finally we have feeding pens, two of them. Two? Why not three? Ask Yvonne. Here they are with the right gate open:


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That's exactly where we had been feeding Leonid previously—in fact, we didn't even move the right-hand stand. And how did they take to it? Zhivago, the old dog who learns no tricks, got fed outside, and took to it with no issues. Nikolai took a bit of a look and then ate his food. And Leonid was terrified! He didn't touch his food, and spent all the time the wrong way round in the pen waiting to be let out. Even after that, when we gave him the food outside, he hardly touched it. What's his problem? Is he scared that, like the electric fences, it might bite him?

That wasn't the only issue. After Nikolai finished his food, he just climbed out of the pen and came to the laundry door. We're still wondering what to do about that.


Wednesday, 8 July 2015 Dereel Images for 8 July 2015
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Tidying out the garage
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Kleins Road this morning to tidy out the remaining mess in the garage. Craig Mayor came along to do the lifting, but it quickly became apparent that I couldn't keep up with him. Got through about a third of the boxes before my back started complaining; it looks like I'll have to do a couple of hours at a time over the next few days. I was right not just to throw everything out. I found a number of interesting things, including old letters and a large number of issues of AUUGN. And somehow throwing out all these old things still hurts.


eBay: your postage charges or ours?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

My camera is sold again, for the third time, this time to a legitimate buyer in Australia. But he didn't pay immediately, so I decided to send him an invoice. And that offered only some express option for about $27. I had offered standard shipping, which eBay calculated at $16.20. Yes, I could change the shipping option, but it didn't get applied.

Went through the maze of twisty little menus and found another page, “print postage label”, which also offered a comparison of postage charges. But they didn't match the Australia Post prices. Some were higher, some were lower. And then I found an indication that the buyer had specified express shipping. Did he really? While pondering this, discovered I could no longer access the “send invoice” option: he had paid. Trying to print a label asked for a charge of $22.80—apparently in addition to the postage he had already paid.

It took me a long while to discover that eBay has its own postage rates, apparently sanctioned by AusPost. The whole thing is thoroughly confusing, typified for example the statement: “Buy 200 pack - $340.00 ($1.70 each) Please note: There are 20 boxes per pack.” And of course there's no option to pay $22.80 on that page. Interestingly, Australia Post themselves sell express post satchels for $14.80.


CFA: Comparatives and superlatives
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A number of new signs have popped up around Dereel recently:


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Not “safe place” nor “safest place”, just “safer place”. So if that's the safer place, where's the safest place? Nowhere, it seems. This is your last resort:

 
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Went down to take a look at the place. It's locked! And it has video surveillance!


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I'm a little ambivalent about that. What happens if there's a fire and nobody can get there to unlock it? What use is the place then? On the other hand, is there a real danger that people might vandalize it? Why would they?

And who decided where to put the signs? They've put one at the end of Kleins Road, not a bad choice for people coming from Berringa. But there's one at the end of Tantaus Road. Anybody coming from that direction knows about the place already. Clearly the most important place for a sign is on the turnoff from the main Ballarat-Colac road. And there's none there. I'm baffled.


More garden plants
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne has noted with pleasure the Hebes along the east side of the Kleins Road garage, and decided she wanted them somewhere in Stones Road. Where? After some decision, we came to the conclusion that they would fit nicely along the south side of the driveway:


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There are eight of them there. I wonder how many will survive.


When to use HDR?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Took some last photos in Kleins Road this morning, in particular of an Acacia baileyana which I thought was blooming particularly early (it wasn't). But the sun was shining brightly. Could the camera handle it? To be on the safe side, tried a hand-held HDR series. I don't think it was worth it. Which one is it?


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It's the second, but there's barely any difference between the two. If anything, I think the first one looks better.


Thursday, 9 July 2015 Dereel Images for 9 July 2015
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Finishing up with Kleins Road
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's been nearly 7 months since we put the Kleins Road property on the market, and almost as long since anybody was interested enough to come and look at it. Time for alternatives. Did a little work in the garage, clearing yet more junk, but mainly it was preparation for the sale. We're putting an advertisement in Horse Deals, though I'm concerned that there's too much emphasis on horses. There are others as well, so we've prepared another web page to describe it. I wonder if it will be more successful than the page for Wantadilla.

Photos of the house? By the thousand, literally. But it's amazing how few are appropriate for selling the house.


Friday, 10 July 2015 Dereel
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Eight years of Dereel
Topic: general Link here

Eight years ago today we moved into Kleins Road. How time flies!


Preparing for irrigation
Topic: Stones Road house, gardening Link here

Craig Mayor along again today to help clean out the garage, which didn't take him long. After that he set to installing the solenoids for the sprinkler system:


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Some parts are missing, including the sprinkler controller, but we're making headway.


Avoid BigPond mail!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've had several mail messages bounce recently, with messages like:

<sufferinguser@bigpond.com>: host extmail.bigpond.com[61.9.168.122] said:
    552 5.2.0 qWBp1q02u1sUVRc01WBr8n Suspected spam message rejected. IB704 (in
    reply to end of DATA command)

Why suspected spam? I've seen this before: their mail filters are so stupid that they don't recognize digital signatures when they see them. Their customers are typical non-technical, so they don't even give them the chance to choose for themselves. What advantage is the service? They would be much better off using gmail. More rants here.


Saturday, 11 July 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 July 2015
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Understanding DxO bugs
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

House photo day today, and lots of photos to process. One of them had an error while reading it in from the camera (why does this happen so often?): only 2 MB of 18 MB got read. Not surprisingly, DxO Optics “Pro” complained. But I couldn't get it to forget, even after reading the correct image again. Finally something persuaded it—maybe it was just a timeout. And when I started processing, I got the message:

 
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Huh? Nothing obvious in the directory. Let it run, and at the end found:

 
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But there were only 69 images! Somehow it had counted 10 of them twice, and then complained that they were double. I'll never cease to be amazed by this software.


To the doctor again
Topic: health Link here

Decades ago—in fact, in 1958—I discovered a lump in my chest under the left arm. My mother carted me off to the Royal Children's Hospital, where they diagnosed a harmless cyst.

It's never gone away, but in the last couple of days it swelled up and got inflamed. What's causing that? Whatever it is, it was time for a doctor to take a look, so into town to see him. Yes, it's an inflamed cyst—I think he said dermoid cyst, though the description doesn't seem appropriate. Antibiotics for a week, and if that doesn't fix it, he'll remove it. No concern about cancer.


The death of a starter
Topic: food and drink Link here

Last month I had problems with bread rising slowly. Today I had the problem again. On examining my notebooks, I discovered that the starter for today's bread was taken from last month's loaf. Is there something wrong with the starter itself? It didn't help that once again I started late, this time to ensure it wouldn't have finished rising before I got back from the doctor. It rose normally in the first stage, but despite keeping it in a warm oven, it hadn't risen even as well as last time by evening, after about 9 hours. I took it out and left it to rise overnight. But it looks like this starter strain has, for some reason, lost its viability.


More thoughts on CFA safer place
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo and Margaret Swan along for dinner tonight, and we discussed the CFA Safer Place that I mentioned a couple of days ago. Chris had more observations:

  1. The solar panels are there for lighting. And they're on all night, every night, even now in the middle of winter. What good does that do, especially when you can't get on to the property? It's more a nuisance for the neighbours.
  2. There's no water on site. There used to be a dam, but they filled it in. Imagine 500 people in there on a hot, windy day. Aren't they going to be thirsty?
  3. What is the point of the paved areas? The ground was hard enough before, and this is to be used in the middle of summer, where everything is dry.
  4. There were adequate fences around the property before, but they tore them down and erected new ones.

All in all, it's good that they've finally created this place, but they could have done much better (and saved what looks like a lot of money) by doing almost nothing. Only the signs (still inadequate) were really needed.


Sunday, 12 July 2015 Dereel Images for 12 July 2015
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Failed bread
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

This morning, after 18 hours, yesterday's bread had still not risen any more. It was only about ⅔ the height it should have been, and only about 30% higher than before it started rising. In principle I should have thrown it away, but I was rather curious to see what it would look like inside. So I baked it anyway. I wasn't prepared for what happened:


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The top had originally been flat; now it had risen in the middle and stayed at the original height at the ends. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm wondering if part of the problem might not have been the way I forced it to rise. According to Pöt's instructions, it should be allowed to rise in the oven at 50°. I usually do it much cooler, but this time I did keep it at 50°. And that's what I did last time I had problems too. Could it be that the surface of the bread cooked sufficiently to stop it from rising? I was going to throw away this starter strain, but I think I'll try again, giving it much more time to rise normally.


Comparing installations
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

I still don't have satisfaction from JG King about the kitchen appliances. It's good to have comparisons, and since Chris Bahlo says that she had no difficulties with her appliances, it seemed worth doing some comparisons, so over to her house today to take a look. There were three points:

  1. Screw covers in cabinets: Wayne Jones claims that this is industry standard:

    Yes, Chris' cabinets have covers too, but they're plugs, not stick-on pieces of plastic. Still, this problem has now been solved, so it's academic.

  2. Range hood: I couldn't find any A4 paper, so I used a single sheet of toilet paper to see how well the extractor held it in place. It worked in all positions as long as the fan was at least on 2; otherwise it just fell off. That's pretty much what ours does too, at least in the middle. Even at full blast, it can't hold the toilet paper on the edge.

  3. Stove: The low setting works correctly. Here is our “large” burner on the left, Chris' on the right, first on maximum, then on minimum:


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    But it seems that Chris' “wok burner” doesn't provide enough heat on maximum (minimum is OK):


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Chris tells me that I've been unlucky with JG King, and that she was much luckier with Simonds. But on reflection, I think it's the other way round: JG King have been unlucky with me, and Simonds have been lucky with Chris. She still doesn't have her garage door opener (same model as ours) working correctly: the remote control wasn't programmed. I would have seen to it that that was fixed; Chris put it on the tuit queue.


Miserable weather
Topic: general Link here

It's been a pretty dry winter so far—my new rain gauge measured about 25 mm for June, and there was no rain between 18 June 2015 and 2 July 2015. The true values are probably somewhat higher, since the gauge seems to measure too little. But this weekend has made up for it: over the past two days we had 14 mm (new gauge) or 17.3 mm (old gauge). To my surprise, the water tanks are full to overflowing again. It also shows in one of the holes for the irrigation solenoids:


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That's on the east side of the house, where a considerable amount of water collects. We'll have to consider extra drainage there.

The wind has also been strong:


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I don't think that arch belongs there anyway.


Web browsing with FreeBSD
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Since upgrading her system, Yvonne has been complaining that Facebook videos don't work. Finally they've ventured to say that the flash plugin needed upgrading. It was wrong, of course: none was installed. OK, we've been through that before. But now we have PKGng to do it all for us. Simply:

=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) ~ 2 -> pkg search flash
dummyflash-1.0_5
ems-flasher-0.03_3
flash-0.9.5
flasher-1.3
flashrom-0.9.7_2
get_flash_videos-1.24.20120610
kipi-plugin-flashexport-4.2.0
py27-WebFlash-0.1a9_1
vrflash-0.20
xpi-flashblock-1.5.18
xpi-flashgot-1.3.7

Which of those is the flash plugin? None of them! For some reason, pkg doesn't supply it, and you have to install it the old way, from the Ports Collection. OK, which one is it?

=== root@lagoon (/dev/pts/2) ~ 3 -> ls -d /usr/ports/www/*flash*
/usr/ports/www/dummyflash               /usr/ports/www/linux-f10-flashplugin11
/usr/ports/www/get_flash_videos         /usr/ports/www/xpi-flashblock
/usr/ports/www/linux-c6-flashplugin11   /usr/ports/www/xpi-flashgot

There are still two. What's the difference? How do you find out? The wiki is your friend—if it's up to date. It says linux-c6-flashplugin11. OK, try to install that:

===>  linux-c6-openssl-1.0.1e_6 has known vulnerabilities:
linux-c6-openssl-1.0.1e_6 is vulnerable:
openssl -- multiple vulnerabilities
CVE: CVE-2015-1792
CVE: CVE-2015-1791
CVE: CVE-2015-1790
CVE: CVE-2015-1789
CVE: CVE-2015-1788
CVE: CVE-2014-8176
WWW: https://vuxml.FreeBSD.org/freebsd/8305e215-1080-11e5-8ba2-000c2980a9f3.html

1 problem(s) in the installed packages found.
=> Please update your ports tree and try again.
=> Note: Vulnerable ports are marked as such even if there is no update available.
=> If you wish to ignore this vulnerability rebuild with 'make DISABLE_VULNERABILITIES=yes'

Doesn't that fill you with confidence? I tried the DISABLE_VULNERABILITIES=yes', and sure enough, it installed. At the end I got the message:

===>   Registering installation for linux-c6-flashplugin-11.2r202.481
Installing linux-c6-flashplugin-11.2r202.481...
If this is your first time installing flash each user must run:

        nspluginwrapper -v -a -i

If you are updating flash each user must run:

        nspluginwrapper -v -a -u

OK, tried that. No effect for me. Tried it for Yvonne. Yes, it worked, and she can play her Facebook videos again. Case solved.

Well, not quite. For some time, I have been trying to use the new features of Google Maps. It keeps telling me that my system isn't leet enough to run the full version:

To use the full Google Maps with 3D imagery and Earth view, your computer needs:

The latest version of one of the following browsers:
  Google Chrome
  Firefox
  Internet Explorer
  Safari

One of these operating systems:
  Mac OS 10.8.3+
  Windows 7, 8, or 8.1
  Chrome OS with an Intel CPU
  Linux (not using Firefox)

Up-to-date video card hardware and drivers. See below for more info.

I have all that, though I'm emulating Linux. But it still refuses. It's interesting to try to understand why the combination Linux and firefox isn't supported, but more to the point, this kind of restriction is making it less and less attractive to run web browsers on FreeBSD. And that's really sad.


Pizza oven: gone
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

We've sold our pizza oven via Facebook. We just weren't using it enough. And it took up quite a bit of space in the shed, which is fuller than intended until the pergola or winter garden or whatever is built. At least the purchasers were happy with it.


Monday, 13 July 2015 Dereel Images for 13 July 2015
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Tidying the garage
Topic: Stones Road house, technology, opinion Link here

Continued working on the garage in Kleins Road today, and got close to finishing it. At least we have the skip full, so the immediate pressure is off.

It's still immensely painful throwing all this stuff out. I salvaged the Tandem LXN some time back, but I still have a Microvax II, a MIPS-2000 and a Control Data Cyber 910 (really a rebadged SGI IRIS). Here are the first two:


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As computers, any smart phone would run rings round them. But the history!


Tuesday, 14 July 2015 Dereel Images for 14 July 2015
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Getting rid of things
Topic: general, photography Link here

The garage in Kleins Road isn't completely empty, but we're trying to get rid of as much as we can by giving it away or selling it. The pizza oven went on Sunday, and I've sold my Olympus Zuiko Digital 18-180mm F3.5-6.3 lens, and today a Colin came along to collect the last of the data projectors, so (very) gradually we're reducing our belongings.

The more I look at sending parcels by post, the more attractive AusPost's satchels look. Since I'm sending the lens anyway, also prepared my Olympus OM-D E-M1 for sending in for repair. I'll have to make do with Yvonne's E-PM2 for a couple of weeks. Hopefully it'll be the last time I have to send the camera in.


Wednesday, 15 July 2015 Dereel Images for 15 July 2015
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Garden in mid-winter
Topic: gardening Link here

My garden photos have taken considerably less time since moving to Stones Road, as the comparison between last year and this year shows. Last year I had 68 photos; this year it's only 17. Still, it's surprising that there's anything there at all. But in fact some things are looking happier than they did in Kleins Road, like this Azalea and this Cyclamen:


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And we even have a timid Gazania showing up, and the Hellebores look set to bloom soon:


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And once again a solitary rosebud remains:


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I wonder if it will bloom.


JG King visit
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Wayne Jones and Evan Dower of JG King along today to take a look at things. It was clear that I wasn't going to get everything, but the critical issues of range hood and stove (“cooktop”) were more difficult than I thought. Evan seems to have the same problem with his stove, that the minimum flame wasn't adjusted correctly—in fact, the way it was before they tried to adjust mine. Clearly he doesn't cook, though he was grateful for the information that the things are adjustable.

And with the extractor it seems that Barclays have changed their mind. When Wayne from Barclays came, he confirmed that it didn't work well. But Wayne Jones today produced an email from a John claiming that it did, indeed, work well after Wayne had “fixed” it. At the best, that's downright incorrect. At worst, it's an outright lie.

The real problem, though, is that JG King don't feel responsible: as Evan put it, they build houses, not electrical appliances. I made it clear that they had implicitly recommended the appliances by offering them to us, both at a premium. But I can see that we'll have an uphill battle on both of them. It's difficult to convince people who aren't in the business and don't use the things themselves.

I managed to get some concessions out of them, though: they'll pad under the doors to the bathroom and the laundry, which may be enough to improve the appearance, and they'll do something about this silly junction between the skirting boards in the main bedroom:


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And the tapware? They're thinking about it. Once again, they don't have any difficulties with it themselves. I've agreed to wait with the laundry and bathroom doors until we see what it looks like with the built-up transitions under the door.


Emptying the verandah trough
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

The trough (“pond”) around the verandah-to-be is supposed to be waterproof, and Brett Children painted it last month, just before it rained. The result is that half of it washed off again, and after the rain, the trough was full of bluish water. Today finally dragged out a pump and started pumping it out. It wasn't easy: I've mislaid the instructions for the pump, and it needs priming before use. Finally got it pumping, and the fittings leak like a sieve:


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Still, it only ran back into the trough, so I left it like that. Time to discard a lot of old, brittle hoses and fittings.


Olympus Air A01: Why?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The Olympus Air A01 has nothing to do with Olympic Airways, nor does it have anything to do with austerity. It's a camera (or maybe just half a camera) made by Olympus for their Micro Four Thirds range. It's basically just a sensor, an (electronic) shutter and an 802.11 link. All the complicated things are done by a smart phone that you need in order to use it at all. So what's the advantage? It's trendy, of course, but is that an advantage? Here's the camera with a lens the same size as the one that Yvonne has on her E-PM2. The result is bigger:

These photos aren't directly comparable, because the lenses are different. The lens on the A01 appears to be a M.Zuiko Digital 25 mm f/1.8, while the lens on the PM-2 is the cheaper 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 II R.

In the images above, the A01 lens is (barely) shorter than the A01 itself. The lens on the E-PM2 is collapsed, and it's still deeper than the camera. The A01 is only as wide as the lens mount requires, but it's clearly a lot deeper than an ordinary μFT camera.

As if that weren't enough, the small size requires a number of tradeoffs: it has an electronic shutter, which could potentially be a problem. In addition, there's no image stabilization. That's the only Olympus μFT camera without it, so the lenses don't have image stabilization either. If it takes off I can see at least one of two undesirable developments: buyers will buy their lenses from Panasonic, who uses lens stabilization, or Olympus will introduce stabilized lenses, adding to the price for most users.

So why didn't Olympus simply continue the E-PM range? The E-PM2 is the newest, introduced in September 2012, nearly 3 years ago. Where's the successor? Since then Olympus has introduced 6 new cameras: the E-P5 in the normal Pen range, the E-PL6 and the E-PL7 in the “lite” range, and no less than three OM-Ds. It's clear which ranges are selling well, and the price I paid for Yvonne's camera (Australian $299 with standard lens) reflects this.

But why does the E-PM2 sell so badly? I'm actually pleasantly surprised by what it can do. But I have to agree with this article, from which the photo above comes, when it writes “Olympus E-PM2 Is Small, Speedy, And Sleek, But Its UI is Not”. A camera of that size can't fit all the knobs that make the E-M1 so much easier to use.

But how does this compare to the smart phone solution? The smart phone doesn't have any buttons or knobs, though potentially it could have multiple touch areas for people who like that sort of thing. I can't see how the user interface could be even close to as good as the “bad” E-PM2. Certainly you're not saving space or gaining ease of use with the thing.

About the only thing of interest is that Olympus is publishing the interface to the camera. As this article suggests, that could potentially allow people to hack it in ways that the manufacturer didn't think of, rather like the Canon Hack Development Kit. But I'm not holding my breath.

I revisited this article in December 2017 because one of the images had gone away. So, it seems, has the “camera”. Olympus no longer even mentions it on their web site.

Thursday, 16 July 2015 Dereel Images for 16 July 2015
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More rain gauge inaccuracies
Topic: general Link here

I've been measuring rainfall with two different rain gauges for a month now. One consistently reads significantly more than the other. Here are the raw readings:

Date       Gauge 1 (mm)       Gauge 2 (mm)       discrepancy
16 June 2015       4.0       5.0       1.0
17 June 2015       0.1       0.5       0.4
18 June 2015       9.0       10.8       1.8
2 July 2015       2.8       3.5       0.7
4 July 2015       0.2       1.3       1.1
11 July 2015       0.4       1.8       1.4
12 July 2015       6.5       7.6       1.1
13 July 2015       7.5       9.6       1.9
14 July 2015       1.7       3.2       1.5
15 July 2015       4.0       5.5       1.5
16 July 2015       0.1       1.0       0.9

I've already established that the openings and the scales roughly coincide, and that the new gauge collects water droplets along the side, where they don't get counted:


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It's also interesting to note that the discrepancy is always in the order of 1 to 2 mm, independent of the actual rainfall. That would tend to confirm the hypothesis. Today I took the new gauge out and weighed it after emptying: 172.3 g. Then I left it to dry out, which it didn't do by the end of the day. The opening of the new gauge is 38.4 cm², so 1 mm of water corresponds to 3.84 cm³. It's difficult to believe that the sides collect that much water, but we'll see.


Piccola: more missing fur
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Piccola's side is gradually healing:


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But that's not the end of it. Now the inside of her right front leg is bare:


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What's causing that? Pene Kirk thinks it might be stress. That would certainly explain why she lost fur when Crystal was outside. We thought it was some kind of fight, but the wounds looked exactly the same 9 months ago:


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In the evening I saw another cat outside, one I hadn't seen before. So did Piccola. Is that part of the background? Maybe we should let her outside more, so that she can establish a territory.


Fixing your taps
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from Alexis of Reece Plumbing today, wanting to speak to Wayne Jones. It took some convincing her that he was at JG King and not here.

A couple of hours later I got another call back from her, almost unintelligible. She wanted to know what was wrong with the tapware, and didn't seem to understand when I told her. On the one hand we're getting a much faster response with Reece, but I still don't have the warm, fuzzy feeling that they understand.


FreeBSD code of conduct
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Recently the current FreeBSD core team announced a (new?) code of conduct. On the one hand, it's good to make it clear that people are expected to behave, and the wording is mildly amusing:

We do not believe anyone should be treated any differently based on who they are, where they are from, where their ancestors were from, what they look like, what gender they identify as, who they choose to sleep with, how old they are, their physical capabilities or what sort of religious beliefs they may hold.

But why do we need a code of conduct? Any why shouldn't we treat people differently based on some of these characteristics? I most certainly modify my behaviour depending on the company I am in, and I'm convinced that this is the right thing to do.

The real issue is that codes of conduct are like software licenses: the $NICE thing about them is that there are so many of them. Didn't everybody learn manners when they were young? Respect your elders (that's prohibited by “how old they are” above). Help disabled people when they need it (also prohibited by “their physical capabilities”). Behave gallantly towards the fairer sex (now dying out, but also prohibited above by “what gender they identify as”). Try to treat people the way you think they expect to be treated. About the only thing that many people may not understand is that different cultures have different sensitivities:

remember that cultural standards differ, and that what may seem to you to be a very mild statement can be deeply shocking to another.

That's directly related to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Clearly I disapprove of the shooting, but I also disapprove of Charlie Hebdo's deliberate lack of sensitivity. And the new code of conduct is ambiguous about this kind of issue: the two quote above say “don't distinguish on the base of religious beliefs” and “cultural standards differ” (and implicitly “behave accordingly”).

I suppose there are enough impolite and insensitive people out there that it does make sense to draw people's attention to what is good behaviour. But does every grouping need to do it all over again? Isn't there a universal code of conduct? The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land has one, almost: Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites Pilot. And Google finds others bemoaning the lack of a really universal code of conduct.


Friday, 17 July 2015 Dereel Images for 17 July 2015
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Rearranging the furniture
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

When we moved in, now nearly 3 months ago, our main priority was to put things somewhere where they weren't in the way. The result has been that two rooms, the “music room” and the guest room, are mainly full of unopened cartons. And the TV room (sorry, “home theatre”) had a half-dismantled cupboard for which we had no certain home.

Finally the volume of stuff convinced me: it had to go into the music room. Spent some time completely dismantling it and reassembling it, which went surprisingly easily. Things now look like this:


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We still have a way to go:


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Your range hood works!
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

A call from Craig at Sinnysmurf (or something like that) Whitegoods, asking to come and take a look at the kitchen extractor hood in the afternoon. Fine, though it's not clear what he could find that Wayne didn't find last month. And half an hour later Jo from Barclays rang up, also wanting to send somebody (presumably Wayne again) out. Agreed to call her back when I found out where Craig really came from.

Craig arrived, and I had to ask him three times before I understood that his company name was “City to Surf Whitegoods”, and that he was located in Napoleons. He wasn't as thorough as Wayne. He certainly didn't go through the manhole into the roof: I don't think he would have fitted. He grabbed a handy recipe that I had lying around and stuck it against the middle fat filter, fortunately only slightly smudging it (not much fat finds its way up there), and said that if it would stay in place on setting 2 and 3, but fall on setting 1, it was OK. That's the way all range hoods work.

What kind of criterion is that? It completely ignores the difference in claimed throughput. It worked on the middle third, but not on the sides, above the hot burners. I told him that I didn't accept that the thing was working according to the specifications. He said he couldn't do anything else, and left.

Later I got a call from Lorraine of Alantin Services, the one who called me six weeks ago and claimed that I had only just purchased the item. Today she had the results: it works as advertised, since it holds A4 against the filter.

Do these people take me for a fool? Or are they fools themselves? Apart from the fact that I didn't buy the range hood to hold paper to the filter surface, it does not hold paper to the important filter surfaces. I bought a 90 cm extractor, not a 30 cm extractor. Made my displeasure clear, and she said that she would get a manager to call me on Monday, and then changed her mind and said she would contact GJ [sic] King.

So why did Craig make this claim? Clearly it's in his interests to keep in with the big suppliers. I'm not paying him, so why should he make trouble? But the fact that John (also Alantin?) claimed that Wayne had found nothing wrong with the unit suggests that they're not being completely honest.


Auspost: Your shipment has been delivered!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Australia Post offers email notification of tracking information. For normal items it's pretty basic: lodged, in transit and delivered. Today I got this:

 
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It was addressed to me, so the information should be redundant. But I don't have it. Where was it delivered? It seems that they think that having it waiting for me at the post office is enough.

I'm reminded of the German Lufthansa: about 25 years ago I went to Frankfurt airport to pick up somebody coming in from the USA. Arrival time came, and the status display changed to “arrived”. And then nothing. Finally I went to the information stand and asked what had happened. “Sorry, the ground conditions were too bad, and the plane was diverted to Köln”. “Why does the status say “Arrived”?”. “The plane was in Frankfurt air space at the correct time. What more do you want?”.


Poule au pot
Topic: history, food and drink, opinion Link here

When I worked for Tandem Computers, I frequently travelled to Paris. The hotels there are expensive, and the rooms are small to the point that you can barely move around the bed. But I discovered that things were very different as soon as you got out of the city. In particular, I found two old but historic hotels, the Trianon Palace in Versailles, and the Pavillon Henri IV in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Both were once part of royal palace complexes, and both are steeped in history. At the time, they were also very run-down, and the prices were actually lower than the cramped, nasty hotels in the city, so I preferred to stay there.

The Trianon Palace is part of the Grand Trianon, where the Treaty of Trianon was signed in 1920. But that's nothing compared to the Pavillon Henri IV. It's part of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, on the side of a cliff, and has a wonderful view of Paris.

According to what I have been told, it was the birthplace of Louix XIV of France, though there's little to find on the web, only on the hotel web site. Certainly they have a small chapel to honour the exact birthplace (the story goes that his mother was walking in the garden when she was overtaken by labour pains, and couldn't make it back to the château).

But that wasn't everything. Clearly it became a hotel. In the early nineteenth century, Alexandre Dumas stayed there for some time, writing two books book: The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

And if that wasn't enough, there's the reference to Henri IV himself, the king who came from Béarn in the South-West (born in Pau, it seems). In his honour, a cook at the hotel created a sauce and named it after him: Sauce béarnaise. Strangely, this is not on the hotel's web site.

But Henri IV was better known for other things. He was probably the last king of France who genuinely cared for his people, and was called « le bon roi Henri » ("Good King Henry"). The story goes that he once said « Si Dieu me donne encore de la vie je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon Royaume qui n’ait moyen d’avoir une poule dans son pot. » (“If God continues to give me life, I will ensure that there will be no labourer in my kingdom who doesn't have the means to have a chicken in his pot”). The Wikipedia article renders this as “If God keeps me, I will make sure that no peasant in my realm will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot on Sunday!”. It seems that this change (or interpretation) was due to Louis XVIII.

In any case, the resultant dish was, of course, poule au pot, chicken in a pot, and that's the recipe that Craig smudged. It wasn't easy to find a recipe, and in the end I chose three that didn't look too complicated. And of course, they're French, and for some reason French web pages render terribly when you try to print them. So I've copied them and made them halfway legible.

The big differentiation between the recipes is whether the chicken is stuffed or not. For the sake of simplicity, we chose the first of the three. As described, after 2½ hours, the chicken was falling from the bone:


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The result somewhat reminds me of Hainan chicken rice:


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Still more flash problems!
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Why can't I get good results with flash on my Olympus cameras? Today I took a photo of the poule au pot after it came out of the pot:


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That looked a little overexposed to me. But then, I had +1EV flash correction. Turn it off. What do I get?


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Turned flash compensation down to -3EV. No change. Select -3 EV on the flash as well. Result:


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That was with TTL flash metering. Tried it with manual. Even at 1/256 level, I got:


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I still can't see any detail in the skin. Why doesn't this thing react to the settings?


Saturday, 18 July 2015 Dereel Images for 18 July 2015
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Rain gauge accuracy
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It has taken 2 days, but finally my new rain gauge is dry. It now weighs 170.8 g, 1.5 g less than when it was wet. That corresponds to roughly 0.4 mm of rain, far less than the discrepancy I have been noting. In addition, the fact that it takes so long to dry out, even indoors, suggests that the real discrepancy due to the water on the walls would have been even less. So what is it?


Feeding dogs
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Cats are fussy eaters, and dogs aren't, right? Not if the dogs are borzois. Over the last week or two, both Nikolai and Leonid have started refusing various foods. Niko doesn't like the raw chicken frames any more, and Leo doesn't like pellets.

What do we do? Feed them only those components first, and when they've finished them, given them the rest. Leo begrudgingly accepts that, but Niko is stubborn. Today he left at least half of his chicken frame, and I suspect he just buried the rest: no food at all. And yesterday he hardly had anything. Do we continue or change his diet? Chris Bahlo thinks that he no longer needs the extreme quantities of calcium that he did when he was growing, so maybe we'll just give him beef bones instead.

And the cats? Since being more confined to the house, Piccola has put on a lot of weight. No fussiness on her part; we're putting her on a diet.


Another tagine
Topic: food and drink, history, opinion Link here

While writing up yesterday's poule au pot, I discovered the interesting detail that the Pavillon Henri IV was donated to Mohamed V, king of Morocco, in 1955. Clearly time for Moroccan food tonight.

In fact, as chance would have it, we had planned another iteration of my fake tagine anyway. This time, following instructions from Mohamed Ifadir, I didn't fry the meat. Not following his instructions, I kept the vegetables until later. This time round I've decided there wasn't enough in the way of chick peas and courgettes, and the courgettes should have been cooked longer. Once again, though, it tasted good, better than the poule au pot. Next time, though, I might consider the alternative of really putting everything in at the start, but keeping the vegetables dry.


Sunday, 19 July 2015 Dereel Images for 19 July 2015
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Severe Frost!
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

It was a cold night last night. My outside thermometer registered -2.4°, what the Bureau of Meteorology classifies as “severe frost”:


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Indeed, the temperature was 0.9° lower than anything I have measured over the 6 years with my weather station:

mysql> SELECT MIN(outside_temp) FROM observations;
+-------------------+
| min(outside_temp) |
+-------------------+
|              -1.5 |
+-------------------+

Comparing various sources, it seems that the real temperature was closer to -6°, the historical low temperature for Ballarat.

That wasn't all, though. While pottering outside in the afternoon, I noticed that the water pump was running continuously. No taps on or leaks inside the house, so I went to check the garden hoses. And then I heard a noise from the roof:


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It seems that the frost burst the left-hand solar hot water panel. No hot water! And that on a Sunday. Sent a mail message to Duncan Jackson and also left a message on his mobile phone. To my surprise, he called back in the evening and told me that they'd have somebody on site tomorrow. That's certainly a change from the other dragging issues with the house.


Fully tested toner
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

My cheap (“premium“) toner cartridge for my laser printer has arrived:


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Good that it's 100% tested, but does that mean that it's now empty? I'm reminded of a Monty Python (I think) sketch from about 1972, taking off the fuel economy TV advertisements of the time (“how far can I drive with 1 gallon of petrol?”). In this case, the car carried on for 110,000 miles. Great enthusiasm on the part of the petrol company, but the driver said “But look at my car! It's buggered!”.


Shades of bygone times
Topic: history, opinion Link here

We're gradually reducing all our old cruft, and as part of an agreement, a lot of the office stuff that used to be in Yvonne's office has now migrated to mine. I've discovered a set of rubber stamps:


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When did we last use them? The date stamp, limited to the 1990s, tells us:


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That's laterally inverted, of course, to make it easier to read. Over 21 years ago! I wonder why it's in English.


Monday, 20 July 2015 Dereel Images for 20 July 2015
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Air conditioners in sub-zero environments
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

We normally turn the air conditioner (heating) off at night. But yesterday morning it took several hours for the house to get warm. Last night we left it running overnight, and that was just as well. The temperature dropped to a measured -2.3°, only 0.1° warmer than the previous night, and the air conditioner had difficulty keeping the temperature.

One clear reason is that it took forever to de-ice. De-icing is essential for air conditioners heating: ice collects on the coil and needs to be removed again by reversing the coolant flow and passing hot coolant through the coil. In my experience, it takes a few seconds to melt the ice, and a little while to blow the resulting water off the coil. But for some reason real world air conditioners take much longer. This morning I measured 18 minutes, and 40 minutes later it happened again—if there was no intervening cycle. But at best that's only a 70% duty cycle. Why does it take so long?


Range hoods and hot water
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Call from Duncan Jackson this morning to tell me that the plumbers were on their way, would be there before midday, and that it was probably a safety valve that had failed.

Over to Chris Bahlo's for a shower. While there took applied the the A4 sheet test to her range hood. Sure enough, it held the sheet when set to 2 or 3, and not when set to 1. That says nothing about the relative strength of 2 and 3, of course, but it does suggest that a hood with throughput less than 217 l/s can do it too. Took a look at the label, completely illegible in its position, but cameras are your friend:


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760 m³/h are 211 l/s, pretty much the same as mine. But this one holds the sheet of paper in all three panels, while mine only holds it in the middle section.

215 odd litres are a significant volume. Our hood has dimensions 90 × 48 cm, and it's located 64 cm above the surface—a volume of 276 litres. So the hood should be capable of removing 78% of that volume every second. It doesn't come close.

Back home, and Russell from the plumbers was there. No safety valve: the panel had burst, as I thought. He disconnected the circuit:


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I asked him why there were no valves there, and he simply replied “That's the way we do it”. Still, it didn't take him long to disconnect the thing, and if he leaves the caps here, I can do it myself in the unfortunately not so unlikely event that it happens again.

Duncan called back later: the new panel should be there by the end of the week. In the meantime we're on (expensive) electrical boost.


Kangaroo invasion!
Topic: animals Link here

I don't know whether it has something to do with the weather, but the place has been full of kangaroos lately:


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Normally that's where the dogs run free. I wonder how things will progress when we've been here longer.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 21 July 2015
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Excising the cyst
Topic: health, general Link here

The antibiotics that Majid gave me last week relieved the pain in my cyst, but it didn't get any smaller:


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Into town today to have it cut out.

It's not much of an operation—just a small cut with local anaesthetic—but it's probably the most significant operation I've had where I was conscious, and it was rather interesting to try to guess what he was doing. The anaesthetic didn't last, and I needed a top-up. And it seems that they didn't have the right size tools: some discussion with the nurse about the fact that other clinics in the Ballarat had taken all the little ones (whatever they were. Scissors? Something for scooping out cysts?): it seems that the Sebastopol clinic does sterilization for the entire area.

Out it came, not in one piece, and it's off to the lab for a biopsy. I was expecting to have the wound stitched up, but instead he put a length of gauze inside to soak up the bleeding. Back to have it looked at on Friday.


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While in town, had a haircut. It's been nearly 4 months.


High winds
Topic: gardening, general Link here

It's no longer as cold as it has been (Sunday's low in Ballarat was -5.6°, only marginally higher than the all-time minimum temperature of -6.0° on 21 July 1982), but now it's windy:


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After taking the photo, I put the pot back upright again. It blew over again within 30 seconds.


Wildflowers in Enfield State Forest
Topic: gardening Link here

On the way home, noticed that a number of flowers are blooming in Enfield State Forest. Epacris impressa and Acacia are obvious:


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But there are others too: a lone Correa and the ever-present gorse:


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There's also a plant that I couldn't identify:


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After a bit of searching on the web, it appears to be the rare Grevillea bedggoodiana, which grows only in this area. It'll be easier to be sure when it flowers, in a couple of months' time.


Neighbourhood computer help
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Shaun O'Connor, whom I don't know, sent out a request on Facebook today, looking for a PC repairman. Not quite my line of business, but in the interests of neighbourly help, I offered to take a look. He had had error messages relating to the first disk, which he couldn't interpret, and somebody online had suggested that he reset the BIOS to default values. That made a big difference: he could no longer boot at all: “Can't load operating system”; doesn't that help pinpoint things?

The machine wasn't your run-of-the-mill system: big tower, 4 nVidia video cards (more than I have!), and 2 disks. Which one was he trying to boot from?


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I'm so used to seeing different devices in that menu that it took me a while to note that it did state which channel it was on. But it didn't make any difference: the same nondescript message in each case.

OK, boot FreeBSD. Found an old disk, and it booted, sort of—there was an interrupt flood from irq 19, which was some bridge or another. I could see the disk—it had two partitions, 100 MB and 1.9 TB (not bad for a disk which Shaun said was 1 TB). They're both NTFS partitions, but it was the first that was bootable. I haven't seen that before on Microsoft. I couldn't mount either partition, though.

Shaun was quite prepared to reinstall the system, but of course he didn't have any backups. I suggested that he first try to recover what he could from the disk, and gave him an old disk to do a temporary install of Microsoft. I wonder if that will work. And it shows once again how really difficult it is to diagnose these things if you don't get good error reports.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015 Dereel Images for 22 July 2015
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Understanding the boot problems
Topic: technology Link here

While looking at the information I had about Shaun O'Connor's computer, I checked about the disks he had. WD1002FAEX. And they're 1 TB disks. So why did the fdisk output show 2 TB? Did Shaun accidentally overwrite the partition table? Juha Kupiainen came up with the most likely answer: the two disks are combined as RAID-0. That explains a lot of things, in particular why he couldn't boot after resetting the BIOS to default values (and yes, it does offer some kind of RAID). Of course, for every complex problem there's a solution which is simple, elegant and wrong. I didn't have time today, and I won't have time tomorrow, but hopefully we'll see a result on Friday. Of course, that only explains the follow-on problem, not the original one. We'll see.


Understanding bad language
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's nothing new that Microsoft has obfuscated understanding file systems by referring to directories as folders, but today, while trying to find out how to work around Microsoft blockages and move a file from one directory to another, I got the message:

 
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Leave the file in the destination directory? Surely they mean the source directory. Have they reversed normal meaning, or is it typical of the quality of their messages?


Thursday, 23 July 2015 Dereel → Melbourne → Warrandyte → Dereel Images for 23 July 2015
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Domestic temperature distributions
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another cool night last night, though not as bad as on Sunday. The outside thermometer showed a minimum of +4.3°. But there were clear signs of a frost, so out (barefoot) to do some measurements with my infrared thermometer. To my surprise the lowest temperature was -3.6°, fully 7.9° lower! If that difference also occurred on Sunday, the lowest temperature would have been -10.3°.

Isn't it difficult to measure a definitive temperature?


Another vicious hunting dog!
Topic: animals, general Link here

Chris Bahlo has finally bought a Borzoi, once again from Ron Frolley, and we came along for the fun. His house name is “Digit”, so before we promptly called him “Finger”—not that inappropriately, as it turned out, since his real kennel name is “Goldfinger”. Our dogs are all roughly black and white, but Goldfinger is—wait for it—golden:


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We had taken Zhivago with us. He used to be Ron's favourite dog, and it's clear that, despite earlier fears, he hasn't forgotten him:


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When we got home, we let them out with Nikolai and Leonid. We were in for a surprise, though: Ron and Sally both said that he had a submissive character, but that's not at all the way he behaved. He wanted to play:


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I never cease to be amazed how gentle Borzois are, and how easily they get on with each other, even if they have never seen each other before. Why do some of our neighbours classify them as “vicious”?


BigPond: Go away!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Got a message from Warren Ure today, reporting discrepancies in traffic measurement between his mother and her (unspecified) ISP. Not surprisingly, the ISP claimed more traffic. I thought it might be something like my experience last year, where the router was compromised and used to relay traffic. But no, it seems not: she's on satellite, and the traffic is measured even when the “modem” is turned off. That doesn't make sense. Neither does the response of the ISP, claiming that there can still be traffic.

Sent him a reply.

<sufferinguser@bigpond.com>: host extmail.bigpond.com[61.9.189.122] said: 552
    5.2.0 vj8v1q02L1sUVRc01j8wYc Suspected spam message rejected. IB704 (in
    reply to end of DATA command)

We've seen this before—in fact, I've written a rant on the subject. I had associated it with digital signatures, but now it's happening without it. Called up BigPond “support” (“what is your problem today... silence”). It seems that their voice non-recognition system doesn't even tell you what it wants to hear any more, but it doesn't understand me, not even when I used the term “consultant”, which used to break out of the system.

Finally I got through with “technical support”, after about a minute. Other old-fashioned systems offer you a choice of numbers, and if you know them, you can bypass this stupidity in a second or two. But then they wanted to know what kind of connection I had. This time it was a number press. None of their business, of course, quite literally, since I'm not a customer. But I didn't get the choice of my connection. All they offered was: “1: ADSL 2: wireless 3: cable 4: dialup 5: satellite”. Where's fibre? Where's NBN?

Pressed 1 (what difference does it make?) and was connected to somebody who told me his name was Nix, which seems appropriate for BigPond. He is apparently one of the cleverer ones: on the third iteration he understood that it was a question of email, and that it was being rejected as spam. He then asked me the phone number linked to my account (there isn't one, and it looks like he was back in his script book again), and then if I had a domain email. What's that? Or “personalized”? Where was my email registered? Ah, I should talk to the techies at LEMIS. I made it clear that I am LEMIS, and he finally decided to escalate. As encounters with BigPond go, this was one of the better ones.

Finally the transfer came through. BigPond wholesale sales. What a waste of time.

There are a couple of inferences from this exchange, though:


Friday, 24 July 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 24 July 2015
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Nasi lemak for Yvonne
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne has never liked my nasi lemak. But I pointed out to her the two traditions: either with something curry-like (my preference) or with fish and fried egg. When she found out about the latter, she bought some fish at the Victoria Market, and we both had nasi lemak for breakfast. Here my typical plate, the Singapore style, and what Yvonne ate:


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50 years of SLRs, almost
Topic: photography, history, opinion Link here

Fifty years ago today I bought my first SLR, an Asahi Pentax SV:


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So why “almost”? I don't use SLRs any more. The last one I used was my Olympus E-30, which I sold a couple of weeks ago. And the last one I bought (but have never used) is, coincidentally, a Pentax SV, bought on 1 August 2010. But since December 2013 I don't use SLRs any more: they have finally become obsolete.


Cyst: the results
Topic: health Link here

Into town today to have the dressing removed from my cyst remains, and also to hear the results of the biopsy. The latter was fine: benign. The former seems not to be as perfect as it might have been: they pulled out the gauze, and put more back in, without anaesthetic. Back again on Monday, hopefully for the last time.


More unidentified flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Round Enfield there are lots of flowers in bloom:


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What are they?


Recovering the Microsoft box
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As Juha Kupiainen had suggested, took a look at Shaun O'Connor's computer today to see if it understood RAID. Yes! But as I had feared, that was just the first half of the problem:


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How do I bring the “member” back online? The menu offers “Recovery Volume Options”, but that just gives the option to create a backup. Once it's down, there seems to be nothing in the BIOS that can recover it. Looking at the disk with a FreeBSD box showed that yes, indeed, at offset 144 GB or so there are unrecoverable errors. I didn't search further: clearly we can't bring up the volume completely.

I would have searched further for ways of faking a good drive, but Shaun is suffering withdrawal symptoms, and coincidentally he found backups on his backup drive that were far newer than he was expecting (only 4 weeks old), so he opted for reinstalling Microsoft on the good drive.

But how? After going through lots of rigmaroles about keyboard layouts and accepting licenses, the installation program came back and said “no disks”. OK, what does FreeBSD say? Yes, it found /dev/ad1, but gpart found nothing useful on it:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 4 -> gpart destroy ada1
gpart: arg0 'ada1': Invalid argument
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 6 -> gpart create -s GPT ada1
gpart: geom 'ada1': Operation not permitted

fdisk did find something, not quite what I was expecting:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 10 -> fdisk -i ada1
...
sysid 222 (0xde),(DELL Utilities - FAT filesystem)
    start 1, size 4294967295 (2097151 Meg), flag 0
        beg: cyl 0/ head 0/ sector 2;
        end: cyl 1023/ head 254/ sector 63
Do you want to change it? [n] y
...
Information from DOS bootblock is:
1: <UNUSED>
2: <UNUSED>
3: <UNUSED>
4: sysid 165 (0xa5),(FreeBSD/NetBSD/386BSD)
    start 0, size 4294967295 (2097151 Meg), flag 80 (active)
        beg: cyl 0/ head 0/ sector 1;
        end: cyl 16/ head 4/ sector 3
Should we write new partition table? [n] y
fdisk: Failed to write MBR. Try to use gpart(8).

Clearly fdisk is an old, worn-out magic word. It's interesting, though, how it can find an MBR partition table where gpart finds nothing at all. There must be something on the disk that tells gpart and other modern programs that it's part of a RAID set. Certainly the FreeBSD kernel knew that it was part of a RAID. But how do you overwrite that information? In principle you overwrite the beginning of the disk with zeroes:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 11 -> dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/ada1
dd: /dev/ada1: Operation not permitted

OK, this is this protection for the disk label. There was a way to fix that, but how? disklabel—how old is that? 12 years ago I wrote “disklabel -W appears to have been broken for some time”. Since then, though, the -W option has been removed altogether. I seemed to recall some sysctl, but which? Went through all the likely looking sysctls without finding anything obvious. Finally Peter Jeremy came to my aid:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 12 -> sysctl kern.geom.debugflags=16
kern.geom.debugflags: 0 -> 16
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 13 -> dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/ada1
^C19050+0 records in
19049+0 records out
9753088 bytes transferred in 0.974437 secs (10008947 bytes/sec)
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) ~ 14 -> gpart create -s GPT ada1
ada1 created

Of course! kern.geom.debugflags, bit 4. It's so obvious! Why did I forget that? One reason is that searching my diary is keyword-based, and here I didn't have the keyword. Once I did, it's clear that I encountered it 6 years ago.

By that time it was dinnertime, so enough for the day. Anyway, the disk is now usable. More fun tomorrow.


Saturday, 25 July 2015 Dereel Images for 25 July 2015
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Installing Microsoft again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

After yesterday's fun came the immense fun of installing Microsoft again. It started off badly: when it got to choosing the disk, once again it claimed that there were no disks. But I discovered that it works better if you plug it in, and after that it went off and did its installation. And of course I had to enter this license key thing. As instructed on the OEM box, the sticker was to be removed and attached to the computer somewhere, in this case on top of the case.

How do you read that? It was in the shade, on its side, and in a small enough font (about 6 pt) that not only old fogeys like myself can't read it, especially when the font makes it difficult to distinguish between B and 8:

 
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Next step: updates. Sorry, you don't have a network connection. Further investigation showed that it didn't have a driver for the Ethernet NIC. Asked it to search, but it didn't find anything. It suggested that I check on the Internet. It didn't even divulge what kind of NIC it was, not even the PCI IDs.

Then it occurred to me that there's a DVD for the motherboard. Put that in and searched. Sort of success:


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After a bit of reflection, I seem to have seen this before. Microsoft driver installation software doesn't always understand what it finds. Is there an install program on the DVD? Sure, plenty, at least 5 for NICs. Fortunately I now knew that it was Realtek, for which there were only 2 drivers, for the 8139 and the 8111. Trial and error, and yes, I chose the wrong one first: the correct one was the 8111. But finally I had a network connection.

Next two things in parallel: installing other drivers. There were 5 devices without drivers: multimedia, 2 USB controllers, and random stuff that I've forgotten. That was even more difficult from the DVD, which had many different drivers, none of which worked. But it was found relatively easily on the web, though it took an eternity to install. On the other hand, I couldn't find drivers for the USB controllers. Since USB seemed to be working, I left that.

Then the eternal update installation, 203 of them. And of course at the end I had:


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Why are all these errors unknown? Didn't Microsoft define them? Followed one of the “Get help” links to confirm that there's still no help, so restarted the update installation for the 15 failed updates:


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Only three? Can't these people count? Restarted the installation, and sure enough, it succeeded. Went to the update screen again: no updates to install. “Check for updates”. Oh, sorry, another 28 to install. Yes, they really can't count.

Finally all was installed, and Shaun could pick up his computer. I may not know much about Microsoft, but it's getting (marginally) less painful now that I understand its bugs.


Henri IV again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's been only a week since we last visited Henri IV, at least in spirit. Today was the 33rd anniversary of the day I met Yvonne, so we decided on something interesting to eat, Tournedos Henri IV. Once again it's related to the Pavillon Henri IV: it's pretty much the showpiece for sauce béarnaise.

Sous-vide or not sous-vide? Of the last three times we ate filet, two were sous-vide, and the third I didn't comment on. So sous-vide it was.

OK, I think we've had enough filet sous vide. The first time it was excellent, but the second time we weren't so convinced. Today was more like the second time. Next time we'll at least brown it a little.


Goodbye Goldfinger, hello Fyodor
Topic: animals Link here

Chris Bahlo has found a new name for Goldfinger: Fedor, a misinterpretation of Fyodor (Фёдор). She brought him with her to dinner today, where he distinguished himself by crapping on the floor, something that surprised all of us. Clearly even house-trained new dogs need a bit of time to adapt to the rhythm; Zhivago did the same thing when we got him, though I don't seem to have recorded the fact.

More fun photos after dinner:


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Fyodor's going to have to get used to not being allowed on couches, though I have a concern that Yvonne is planning to let the dogs onto them after all. We'll see who wins.

And the other dogs? No problems, at least at the start of the evening:


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Sunday, 26 July 2015 Dereel Images for 26 July 2015
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Getting information from Microsoft
Topic: technology Link here

People discussed yesterday's Microsoft adventures on IRC. Jamie Fraser came up with some information that I'll keep for next time:

<fwaggle> grog needs pci ids under windows? i solved this problem ages ago. C+P from my
 notes: right-click My Computer and choose properties. Then, go to the Hardware
 tab, and pick Device Manager.  Navigate to your unknown device, double-click it
 and then pick the Details tab. Find the Hardware Ids entry, and look for the
 most detailed entry. My shitty SiS network adaptor’s is “PCI\VEN_1039&DEV_0900“.

Bread, right and wrong
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We've finally finished the bread that I baked two weeks ago. The new one is normal. Here a comparison of the end crust of each loaf:


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The funny thing is that the “failed” loaf didn't taste at all bad, and it's not immediately obvious from the structure that it only raised a little bit.


Monday, 27 July 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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More wound dressing
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to have my cyst wound dressed again. And not for the last time! Still more gauze in it, and another appointment for Thursday. Hopefully that'll be the last time


Caraway in Ballarat!
Topic: food and drink Link here

One of the ingredients for my bread is caraway seed. Sure, you can get it in any supermarket, for about $0.80 for 15 g. The trouble is, I need 20 g per loaf, or about 500 g per year. And in larger quantities it's much cheaper. I normally get it at the Vietnamese grocery in Geelong, but for some reason I forgot last time I went there. Last week we were in Melbourne, and I tried in Minh Phat, the Vietnamese grocery opposite the Victoria Market, but they didn't have any. I did find some inside the market, for $5 for 55 g; clearly I could resist that.

But then Yvonne found some in the confusingly named Wendouree Wholesalers in Delacombe. 1 kg for $11.50. Finally a local supplier. If they had a web site, I'd check what else they have.


Retail sales in the Internet age
Topic: general, technology, opinion, gardening Link here

To Masters today to pick up an eBay purchase. Huh? Masters is a normal “Home Improvement” shop, part of the Woolworths conglomerate. What do they have to do with eBay? They have a shop on eBay where they sell things that aren't in their normal catalogue, and they'll either send it to you normally, at a normal price, or you can opt to save money and pick them up at a shop of your choice. That's what I did today: I had bought a sprinkler controller for $55, while the closest comparable one in their catalogue cost $108. I suspect that mine is “last year”'s model, but that's OK; that applies to a number of things on eBay. A clever idea of Masters, something I predicted in last year's paper future of the Internet. Talking of 2034, I wrote:

Most purchases will occur on-line, and the few remaining shops will mainly exist to order and supply goods available on the Internet. The exceptions will be fresh goods such as food and some services where a view of the items in advance is desired, such as some clothes. This will also have a profound effect on the economy: many companies, notably shops and mall owners, will go bankrupt. The future will favour those who can adapt.

While at Masters, also picked up some plants, which showed the other side of the coin. I wanted a rosemary bush, and there was a sign there offering them for $4. When I paid, it was $12.99! I checked another kind, and it was $6.99. No worries, they gave it to me for $4, but I suspect the real issue was that the $4 applied to something else, and the person maintaining the display had been too lazy to put prices for everything. That's very much to their disadvantage. When I got home I found that the plant in question, a “Gallipoli” rosemary (apparently cloned from a plant in Gallipoli) was more expensive because it had a donation to the Avenues of Honour project, thus presumably the price difference, which presumably still goes to the project. So probably Masters is out of pocket as a result.

Paradoxically, while writing this article, I looked at the Masters web site. Now the item I purchased is featured on the front page. The direction may be correct, but the road is still bumpy.


Finally! A TV!
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

It's been years since we had a direct TV display. 10 years ago I migrated to a projector, which implied displaying only pre-recorded programmes, and when we got a real TV again a couple of years ago, we didn't have an antenna cable handy.

All that changed when we moved to Stones Road, but there was still an obstacle: most TV inputs, it seems, have a male antenna connector, but this one has a female connector, and I had no suitable cables. Today I finally bought an adapter, and was able to connect it up. That's particularly important at the moment, since our TV reception is again terrible. And how about that, things weren't perfect with the TV, but a programme recorded at the same time was almost useless. So it seems that my 10-year-old DViCO tuners may not be up to it (any more).


First narcissus of winter
Topic: gardening, Stones Road house Link here

One advantage that the Kleins Road property still has over the Stones Road property is the garden and the flowers in it. We've moved a number of plants, but there are still plenty left. For over a month now we have been picking flowers, mainly narcissus, but gradually the season is over. But to make up for it, our first new plants here are flowering:


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Tuesday, 28 July 2015 Dereel Images for 28 July 2015
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Change of address, bureaucratic style
Topic: technology, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Since moving house, there are hundreds of people I need to inform about our change of address. It's not overly urgent: mail will be forwarded until the end of May 2016, but gradually we should do something about it.

Today we received no less than 4 letters from Centrelink, probably a good candidate to start with. Based on my prior experience with their web site, I asked Google instead. And that took me to this page, explaining that I should go to https://my.gov.au/ instead and update addresses with multiple agencies with one fell swoop. It went into extreme detail about what could go wrong and what to do if it did. What it didn't tell me was how to get started. OK, maybe this wasn't the base page, and it was far too cautious to tell me how to find it. So I went to my.gov and looked there.

First I had to create an account, which was easy enough, modulo normal stupidity: I was not allowed to have spaces in my password, the date was required to have leading zeroes, and they have these stupid “Secret questions”, one of which I have to answer Every Time I log in. And what are they? “What is the name of the first street I lived on?” Heather Grove, Nunawading, of course. “What was the model of a car I learnt to drive in?”. The first was a Citroën ID19. Anybody who reads this diary can find that out. Should I really give those answers? No, of course not. Something that nobody can guess, At least I was able to determine what one of the questions was: “What is the use of these silly secret questions?”. It accepted it and also the answer, suggesting that its bad language detector wasn't working.

OK, log in. And sure enough, it asked me “What is the use of these silly secret questions?”. I answered:

 
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What did I do wrong? I omitted the final full stop in the answer. This means that you not only have to answer these questions, you really need to copy and paste them to ensure that no character is out of place. I should try it with two spaces between the words to see if that makes any difference.

But that's not enough. They want me to use a mobile phone, here in Dereel where there's no coverage. And every time I sign in, I get this page:

 
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OK, finally set up my account. How do I update my address? That's back to the redirected Centrelink page, or something very much like it, now called https://my.gov.au/mygov/content/html/updateyourdetails.html. How you get there I don't know, except by typing in the excessively long URL. And again it doesn't provide a link to the page; you have to scroll down 3 screens, reading all the irrelevant detail, including FAQ links, to read that you have to go back to the home page (link? Of course not) and select a specific icon (which leads to https://my.gov.au/CredentialManager/accountManagement.jsp, to save further pain). But this doesn't work! It shows user name, last password change date, and offers to let me change the secret questions.

From here on my recollection gets hazy. There's no way to repeat the Odyssey, but it proved that I first had to link at least one “service” (in my case Medicare or Centrelink) to the account. OK, I have an online Centrelink account. Try to log in: wrong password. Repeat: wrong password. OK, I give up. Create a new account.

Finally link my Centrelink account to the my.gov site. Since the address change applies only to the linked services, it sounded like a good idea to enter the details for Medicare as well. I had to enter my Medicare number, of course. Medicare numbers have the format 1234 56789 0, but that was too complicated for the form, which wanted me to remove the spaces for it, instead of considering whether I had put them in the right place. But it didn't work anyway: “Due to technical difficulties this service is not available”. It worked an hour later.

FINALLY I was able to enter my new address details. But it didn't like them:


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It seems that “Road” is no longer a valid term, so they changed it to the more modern “RD”, in the process removing any punctuation or line breaks. But then it worked, sort of:


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Where's the Medicare update? No idea. But for once they have used a (truncated) canonical date form.

Is it worth it? There are so many things wrong with the site, but the idea of having one place to update all your government-related details is not one of them. But why do they make it so difficult?

While writing this rant, I tried logging in to Centrelink again. It worked. Clearly the login problems were some glitch in their software. And again I had a silly “secret question” to answer.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015 Dereel Images for 29 July 2015
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More TV reception problems
Topic: multimedia Link here

My TV reception has been flaky again lately, but a couple of days ago I saw differences that pointed to the tuner cards: the TV received a relatively useful signal, but at the same time the tuners recorded nothing useful. Now that I have a 4 output amplifier in front of the devices, I removed the daisy chain to the second tuner and connected both direct to the amplifier.

Today, checked while it was recording Al Jazeera News on SBS. No recording! Into the lounge room to watch it on TV. No signal, just a poorly worded error message.

Has SBS changed its frequencies? Ran a tune operation. It forgot everything it ever knew about SBS; the other frequencies were fine. SBS has always been the issue, but the difference has never been this bad before. Was it the amplifier? Connected the TV directly to the wall. Success!

So it's the amplifier? Checked all the connections, connected back again, and it worked. So did the tuners. So there are cable issues. Either the cables are damaged, or they weren't connected properly. One of the biggest problems with these reception issues seems to be that there is not a single problem, and it's difficult to trace it down 100% to one place.


Fixing the floors
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from Greg of Delta Floors today. He wanted to come out round 17:00 and fix the relatively minor issue of adhesive seeping through the cracks in the floor. But he called me later and said that it would be at least 18:00, which didn't suit me. So we agreed to put it off until tomorrow, when he would call me to make a date.


Thursday, 30 July 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Still more wound dressing
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat again today for yet another round of wound dressing. And it's not the last! No gauze in it any more, but I have to come back on Monday for (hopefully) a final inspection.


Piccola losing fur again
Topic: animals, health Link here

It's been a while since Piccola started tearing out her hair, and gradually we were hoping it was over. But no:


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The dark area is where her fur is coming back from the previous occasion, but she has started another one just above. Yvonne took her to Peen's, who gave her some Prednisolone, but she suspects that the real issue is stress adapting to the new neighbourhood and new cats in the area.


Friday, 31 July 2015 Dereel Images for 31 July 2015
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E-M1 repaired, again
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

My Olympus OM-D E-M1 is back from the repairs. There were a few surprises: the camera strap had clearly been removed and replaced twisted:


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The delivery docket had a couple of surprises too:


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What do they mean, the warranty had expired? It's a two year warranty! And of course, they had confirmed that it was repaired under warranty. But what's this claim that I had left my camera “on open sun”? They're clearly right about the damage, but I most definitely didn't leave it out in the sun, let alone twice: I first noticed this in November last year, but it got worse a month later. Were I to believe Olympus, I would have left it “on open sun” twice. No way.

Sent a message off to the German Olympus Forum, and got a reply pointing to a number of reports, this one in English. One of the affected users did an experiment: he held his camera so that the sun could shine into the viewfinder—for less than a second! And that was enough to burn the viewfinder. On the left, my damage, on the right an image from the forum:


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It seems that the problem is related to the “diopter adjustment dial” (focus adjustment for the viewfinder). With normal settings there's no issue, but when set to +2 dioptres (the maximum), it seems to be possible to burn the viewfinder without trying.

OK, various postings in these threads show that Olympus know about the problem. So why did they put a comment in there that blames me for the problem? And why don't they warn me about how dangerous it is? I'm not very impressed.


Connecting the fire-fighting tank
Topic: Stones Road house, technology Link here

Craig Mayor along today and connected up the fire-fighting tank. Now the high-pressure side of the irrigation system is complete, so we started filling it up. The bore produces quite a bit of water, 0.5 l/s, or 1800 l/h. But the tank holds 10,000 l, so it took over 5 hours to fill up.

One of the questions I had was: was there a float valve inside? It's sealed, so the only way to find out was to fill it up and see what happened.

There is either no float valve, or it's incorrectly adjusted:


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OK, I was expecting that. What I wasn't expecting was that the water would flow into the shed, threatening the UPS. I tried moving the UPS to some nearby cardboard, and... pulled the plug! Pulling the input is harmless, of course, so Murphy decreed that it had to be the output. All machines down!


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Fortunately, bringing them up proved to be relatively trivial. I took the opportunity to put eureka, my main machine, on a separate UPS, the one that I had used in Kleins Road. It has the additional advantage that it has a much longer run time, since it only has the one machine connected. But somehow my uptime here is no better than it was in Kleins Road.


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