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June 2009
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Monday, 1 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: general, gardening Link here

Winter's here! You can tell from the birch trees, which have lost nearly all their leaves, but the rest of the garden is still flowering happily. But finally we have a little rain, unfortunately not enough to make any effect on the dam:


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Into town to do some shopping, but mainly to get some inspiration. Yvonne's garden ideas are becoming more concrete, and we went to various places looking for small wooden bridges and statues. They're available, but we didn't find anything we really liked. Also looking for dining tables; they're all the same except for the prices, which range from $800 to $2,400 for the sizes we're looking at (1.8 × 1.05 m, which I suppose is the “metric” equivalent of 6' by 3'6").


Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Daniel O'Connor has built a pizza oven and published photos of it, created by Gallery. The photos don't look bad, but since the one I was looking at was the second of a surprisingly large number of unnamed photos (like I produce with the qad target for my Makefiles), decided to look at the next photo. Surprise, surprise: he was dismantling it. It took a couple more photos for me to realize that this horrible Gallery has arranged the photos in reverse chronological order! How can “next” possibly mean an earlier photo, even if your brain is terminally damaged by this reverse chronological disease?

Ah, that feels better.

On a more serious note, it's possible that Daniel has not changed some of these things from the defaults, but that's bad enough. And I need to ask myself if there is an advantage of showing only a single medium-resolution photo per page. I find that particularly irritating when there are a lot of photos, but maybe there is an advantage in some situations: certainly browsers use a large amount of memory displaying photos like my weekly house photos, especially at the “small” size, roughly 600×450, if you make them larger. Food for thought.


Tuesday, 2 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: general Link here

More rain. We can certainly do with it, but it somewhat limits what we can and want to do in the garden. Spent most of the day indoors as a result.


Topic: photography, technology Link here

Yesterday's thoughts about photo web software gave me some thoughts, and so I started overhauling my web software. Ultimately I didn't get much done beyond a tidy-up of the core photo display function. About the only additional functionality is the ability to hide images on a page—but I can't think of a good way to reinstate them. Maybe I need a button next to each photo, but I don't like the idea much.

Why does PHP always look such a mess? Rasmus says it's all Emacs' fault, and in this particular case he's almost right: the PHP editing mode could certainly do with tidying up.


Topic: photography Link here

I'm still puzzled about the poor exposures I got of some of the photos I took last Saturday. Was is the metering mode? The graded filter? Some other setting that I had inadvertently left on? Did some investigation, but found nothing obvious, but the camera had been set to 400 ISO for the first few shots. That motivated me to update my Olympus E-30 documentation, and in particular how to reset to standard settings. The latter is confusing: there are three reset modes, one to factory defaults, and two to user-defined state. For the latter, you don't enter the settings you want; you set the camera to them and save them by selecting SET. That's somewhat counterintuitive, but it makes sense, assuming that you really have the camera in the state you want it to be in. Some kind of diff would be helpful.

Actually performing the reset is another matter: with two fingers of one hand, you press custom symbol for two seconds, with the second hand you turn the rear adjustment wheel to select the kind of reset you want, and with the third hand you press OK. That could certainly be made easier.


Topic: multimedia Link here

Yesterday SBS restructured its channels, to the general confusion of everybody, including SBS. On paper they have five channels: SBS, SBS 2, SBS 3, SBS 4 and SBS HD. In practice, all except for SBS 2 carried the same programme, and SBS 2 carried a news channel, SBS NEWS. Now they're gradually adding other content to SBS 2, and they've changed the visible name to what it has been called all the time. The online programme guides caught on to the new content a couple of days ago, but today it reverted to the old content, apparently pulled in from some part of the SBS web site that hadn't noticed yet. Spent some time manually adding recordings to MythTV, which really doesn't like doing that.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009 Dereel Images for 3 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

More processing of old web pages, notably diary stuff. Most of the diary pages are now in the new format, but it's a real pain doing it. I'm torn between improving my Emacs macros and accepting the fact that they won't be much use when I'm done.


Topic: animals Link here

More horse problems. Carlotta has somehow managed to injure herself—possibly a pulled hamstring— and Yvonne and Chris spent a lot of time discussing what to do (so far ice packs and “wait and see”).


Topic: photography Link here

More investigation of how the Olympus E-30 works, and found even more strangenesses. This documentation effort is really helping me understand the camera. I wonder if the Olympus E-510 has so many fewer warts, or whether I just didn't investigate as thoroughly.


Topic: general Link here

We're finally getting round to more construction work, a roof in front of the horse shed and a “greenhouse” area between the two sheds. CJ over in the evening in unpleasant weather—I slipped and fell on a slippery part of the garden path—and made plans. Tomorrow we're off to Lal Lal.


Thursday, 4 June 2009 Dereel Images for 4 June 2009
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Topic: general Link here

Off to Lal Lal today with CJ to get some galvanized iron and timber. They've put their galv prices up by 50%, and I'm not sure that it's any cheaper now than new seconds. I'll have to be much more careful.

Getting to Lal Lal is complicated by the lay of the land, and in the past we've taken various routes to get there. Today we tried yet another, via Elaine. After getting home, compared it to the Google Maps recommendation, and discovered that it's 1 km longer, and Google Maps claims that it takes 56 minutes instead of 43. I have my doubts about the latter. Also discovered another alternative which, it seems to me, should be shorter, but Google Maps makes that the longest, and by far the slowest. If I go back there, I'll try it anyway.

On the way came across a couple of places I hadn't known about: there's an “environmental discovery camp” at Narmbool, somehow connected with Sovereign Hill and surprisingly badly signposted. Even the web page reveals little. If CJ hadn't told me about it, I wouldn't have given it a second glance.

The other is the St Sava Orthodox monastery:


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That's another place that seems to have no description on the web.


Topic: general, animals Link here

Yvonne has come to an agreement with Laurel Gordon to buy the horse float unseen (well, since she was last here). One of the things that you need to check is the condition of the floors, which are usually made of wood, and which are prone to rot. Went underneath and took a look. Found that there's a sprinkling of rust on the metal parts, but the wood itself is in perfect condition:


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Friday, 5 June 2009 Dereel Images for 5 June 2009
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Topic: gardening Link here

Had intended to do a lot of work in the garden today, and the weather was nice, but somehow didn't get as far as I wanted. There's always something in the way: today I had hoped to do something in the veggie patch, but first we need to put a fence around to keep out the kangaroos. And we don't have enough star droppers for that. Put that off, tidied up the soil yet again, and moved the excess to the bunker area where we're planting Nasturtiums. The next step will be to move the Osteospermums (“Cape daisies”) to the south of the garden so that we can plant other stuff in the middle where they currently are.


Topic: photography Link here

Did a bit of experimentation with flash photos today, unfortunately with less than stellar results. I've already established that I need +0.7 EV exposure compensation for the built-in flash, both with the E-510 and with the E-30. But that doesn't seem to be the case with the Mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital. Tried an against-the-light shot of some hanging geraniums and got completely burnt-out highlights (exactly what I was trying to photograph).


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Irritatingly, you can't see that kind of detail on the camera monitor, so it wasn't until I processed them that I noticed the problem. I suppose part of the problem is that the TTL metering doesn't really handle the flash that well, and of course this is a very difficult shot to meter correctly.

The next one wasn't, though, but I still wasn't able to get a properly exposed photo of the evening's food (see below) with the Mecablitz. The following two photos are taken with the Mecablitz set at normal exposure, then at -3.0 EV:


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By comparison, the same exposures with the internal flash look like this:


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It really looks as if the Mecablitz isn't adjusting its exposure at all. In addition there's a distinct shadow at the bottom of the photo which isn't there with the internal flash. It's worse in other shots, and I suspect that it's because of parallax between the lens and the flash. I was only able to get rid of it by putting the lens at maximum focal length:


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Interestingly, the exposure here looked almost OK, though I had it at +0.7 EV. There's obviously more to this than meets the eye; hopefully I'm doing something wrong, and will learn to do it right.


Topic: cooking Link here

Yvonne and I can never quite see eye to eye about fish. I find most fish dishes relatively boring, and today I didn't want Yet Another Fish And Chips—especially given the disasters we've had with battered fish. So Yvonne came up with a dish that we bent slightly and called Fish gratin with tomato coulis, though strictly the sauce isn't a coulis; but it seems like it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't very interesting either. I'm keeping the recipe, and one day we might try to improve on it.


Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne went to bed before me, and I watched a documentary on TV. She's complained before that the loudspeakers keep her awake, so dragged out my 37-year-old headphones and stuck them into the headphone jack in the amplifier. No change: no sound in the headphones, still sound in the loudspeakers. Spent 10 minutes looking for the instruction manual, found it, but found no mention of how to switch over. Apart from the description of the front panel, which at least confirmed that the jack was for HEADPHONE, there was no mention of the jack at all. But the same went for the switch to the right of the jack, labeled “SPEAKER button/indicator”. That proved to be a switch between the headphone jack and the speakers. I suppose that's all you can expect in the way of documentation nowadays.


Saturday, 6 June 2009 Dereel Images for 6 June 2009
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Topic: photography Link here

House photos again today; gradually things are getting easier, but it's taken its time. And then Yvonne came and asked me to take some photos of Piccola and Tony together:


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It wasn't until after I processed the shot that I realized I still had the graded neutral density filter on the lens.


Topic: gardening Link here

The good news is that we again have water in the dam:


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That's not necessary for irrigation—we use the bore for that: it's easier to use and the water is clean. But the dam is an in indication that the extreme phase of the drought is over, though we're still not even as good as in January:


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Topic: cooking Link here

Fondue de fromage in the evening, and (a couple of days ago, in preparation) decided to bake my own bread, a sourdough wheat. It worked quite well, though it was quite flat (not a problem for fondue). I should consider a cake ring around the outside.


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Despite the flatness and the 45 minutes I baked it, I have the feeling it could have taken longer. Sourdough breads really seem to retain the moisture. It's also interesting to see the colour of a bread made completely from wheat. I suppose the sourdough must cause the colour; but why is San Francisco Sourdough bread completely white?


Sunday, 7 June 2009 Dereel Images for 7 June 2009
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Topic: gardening Link here

The weather's about as miserable as it gets here, cool (under 10°) and moist, but there's plenty to do in the garden, and today I tried removing the Cape daisies (or maybe Dimorphotheca ecklonis, or maybe Osteospermum ecklonis) that we planted a year ago.

Somebody once told me that the reason for biological names was to have certainty about what you're talking about. But so many names have changed, even during the time I've been using them, that this claim seems hard to maintain. In this case, Wikipedia describes it both as an Osteospermum and also as a Dimorphotheca ecklonis, with the same photo in each case. The common name is “Cape daisy”, and that seems less ambiguous.

We had planted them about a year ago in the hope of getting quick, flowering ground cover. They certainly managed the quick growing and the ground cover, but perhaps because of the terrible summer, they have only recently started to bloom:


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In the meantime, we had built the verandah and decided to plant other plants in that area, so planned to move the Cape daisies south in front of the hedge by the garage. Today tried to do that; the second photo above shows how far I got in an hour or so. Each individual plant had grown multiple stems, and it was almost impossible to remove them. It certainly bodes well for the transplantation, of course. In that connection, it's interesting to read in the Wikipedia article:

A native plant of South Africa this plant is now regarded as a weed in parts of Australia particularly Victoria and West Australia.

That's maybe overstating the case, though: they're still on sale in the plant nurseries.


Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Popular Photography had an article about memory cards in this month's issue. It could have been better: they described some of the issues I've had in the past, including the difficult-to-understand terminology, but it seems that they didn't understand it either:

There are two different speed ratings that matter to still photos and video. When you're shooting stills, pay attention to the maximum transfer speed, expressed in megabytes per second. But for video, what counts is the Speed Class rating, listed as Class 2, 4, or 6.

This is clearly a misunderstanding; as I've commented, many manufacturers appear to go to some trouble to hide the real speed. And as I've discovered elsewhere, SDHC cards (and only those) use Speed Class 2, 4 and 6, which ultimately relate, albeit somewhat inaccurately, to transfer speed. So the distinction between MB/s, buzzwords or speed classes has nothing to do with the use to which you put the card, but with the kind and maybe brand of card.

The article also recommends “formatting” the card in the camera, though admittedly not as rigorously as some others I've read. The author seems to consider it common that people swap cards from one camera to another; I haven't seen that, and my suspicion is that people are more likely to have more than one card for a specific camera.

The problem with “formatting” the card is that it removes the volume label, something that, to the best of my knowledge, can only be written with a computer. To show how important that is, I erased the volume labels from three cards (Nikon “Coolpix” L1, the E-510 and the E-30. The result (first image) is as confusing as not only Apple can make it. With volume labels (second image), things are much more understandable:

 
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This isn't only confusing for humans; while I was doing this plug-and-play, my Apple paniced:


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Shoot the moon

Another article in Popular Photography was about taking photos of the moon; by chance, this evening I saw a good opportunity, of which I didn't make as much as I had hoped:


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Monday, 8 June 2009 Dereel Images for 8 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

There are still a number of messy parts about my PHP scripts for these web pages. One is that I have to enter a correct list of topics in the header for each day. If I don't, the day headers may not appear at all, or they may appear without any text for the day. So I've added a check in the macros, and if I miss something out, I get a mail message.

That works quite well, but today I got a number of messages like this:

Subject: Invalid entries in diary /grog/diary.php?imagesizes=tttttttttts&dirdate=20090209&image=sovereign-hill-84.jpeg

Missing topics for 20090605: ho

The missing topics are clear enough—I just need to add the code ho to the header—but the URL is more interesting: diary.php is this diary, and it only contains information for the last couple of days. But the URL clearly refers to 9 February 2009, and in addition it shows that a recent change in the way I represent the sizes of individual images no longer works. I've changed the image size sequence tsbB to 1234 (and added a 0 for “don't display at all”), and in addition the sequence is directly related to the current page layout, so the sizes wouldn't work even on the archived page.

There's not much I can do with the image sizes, but at least I can add a reference to the correct diary entry. The surprising thing is that there are this many old references.

Recovering DVDs

Some months ago Alfred Chiodera contacted me and asked for help recovering DVDs recorded on his now-defunct Digitrex GKX-9000 DVD recorder. He sent me the disks and I discovered that they simply needed finalizing. The Digitrex could still play them, and so could mine, but nothing else could. That's certainly an issue that people should be aware of, in particularly in view of the extreme unreliability of the Digitrex. So I started finalizing them and copying them, but ran into trouble with the second disk.

My method is to first copy the existing disk to VHS tape, and only then to finalize the disk. That way, if the finalization fails catastrophically, I still have the copy. That worked fine for the first one, and copying the disk worked for the second one, but when I went to finalize the disk, not even the Digitrex recognized it. That confirmed my strategy: I was able to recover that one from tape. But it still had me worried: why did the disk fail between the copy and the fixation? I had left it in the drive overnight, not normally something that you'd consider a mistake, but the best I can imagine is that the DVD was flaky, and the warmth in the drive caused it to fail.

So for the rest of the DVDs, I copied to tape and then immediately fixated. All worked well until the last disk, which started showing problems even while copying to tape. What to do? If it got any worse, I might not be able to fixate it, and I'd be left with the flaky partial copy. If I fixated and it didn't work, I'd still only be left with the flaky partial copy. So I fixated, and my DVD player recognized something, but not enough. Tomorrow there'll be time to look at it with a computer.


Topic: gardening Link here

More garden work today, and finally got the Cape daisies out. And then it started to rain, so we had an excuse to stop. But it's high time we got the irrigation and fencing round the veggie patch sorted out.


Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

Now I have my Mexican ingredients, decided to try a recipe for pollo pibil. The original I had was from the German translation of the Time-Life Latin American cookbook, a copy of which (also in German) is on the web. And, as usual, I had great difficulties with the quantities: 2 kg of chicken and only a total of 1½ teaspoons of 4 different spices (including cumminseed, or, if you can't get that, caraway seed, which tastes completely different).

The first step is to marinate the meat in what also seems like too little orange and lemon juice, so I won't be able to say for a while whether my considerably increased spices are too much or not; possibly I've put in too much cumminseed.


Topic: photography, cooking Link here

Here's what the result looks like; it'll marinate overnight. I've also worked out how to get rid of the shadow at the bottom of the close-ups when using the Mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital., as a comparison with the second photo shows:


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There are a number of knobs to turn:


Topic: photography Link here

One of the things about yesterday's diary was the old photo taken this time last year. The photo, as it stands, has a clear white imbalance. So I decided to try fixing it with GIMP.

How do you do that? GIMP is a maze of twisty little menus, all different, but you'd certainly expect it to be under the Colors menu—but there's nothing there. Plenty of other ways to change colours, but not the one I want. Maybe there is a way (plugin?), but this particular function is so central to photo processing that it's really amazing it's not there by default.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009 Dereel Images for 9 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

Thinking about how to recover the flaky DVD I discovered yesterday. There's no doubt about at least some of the damage: the disk has been treated roughly and has some relatively deep scratches. Did some thinking about writing a program that would read the disk in ever-diminishing block sizes and recover as much as it could; then discovered, to my surprise, that almost exactly such a program is already part of the FreeBSD distribution: recoverdisk. Ran that for some time, recovering about the first 95% of the disk with no problems, but it looks as if the last 5% is not going to yield too much. Stopped after a while and discovered that the disk was quite warm; I wonder if that's part of the problem. I'll leave it for a while and try again.

Strangely, a tar of the files on disk worked without problems; on the other hand, the images on the original were clearly not perfect. I wonder where in the file system these errors are occurring.


Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

We use fat in our friteuse—or do we? According to Woolworths, it's “Solidified Oil”:


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I'd think of that as something like margarine, but when you look closer you discover:


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Animal fat? What kind of animal fat? It's unlikely to be lamb, much more likely pork (unclean to Muslims and Jews) or beef (forbidden to Hindus). How can Woolworths get away with such inaccurate labelling, either with the authorities or with their customers?


Topic: gardening, general Link here

The kangaroos are back, within 20 metres of my office window in broad daylight:


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I suspect that they're not the same type of kangaroo that attack our garden at night, but who knows? In any case, chased them off:


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Topic: photography Link here

This also show some evidence of the value of image stabilization on the Olympus E-series cameras. When I saw the kangaroos, the telephoto lens was on the E-510, and I changed it over to the E-30 later. Only when processing the images did I discover that the recent firmware upgrade on the E-510 turned off image stabilization. The effect is very noticeable:


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Still, that's 1/60 s hand-held with a lens with an equivalent focal length of 600 mm.


Topic: general Link here

David and Fifi are back, so had them (and Chris of course) over for dinner. Now we have even more silly photos:


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Wednesday, 10 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: technology Link here

Recovering this DVD takes a long time, and warming up the disk may be counterproductive. It retries each failed I/O many times, and I can't work out why. Spent half the day with hundreds of lines like this:

4643268608 2048 failed (Input/output error)
   4643270656    2048          8192     2    4643561472        188416  99.99594

Between each I/O the drive spins up and down, which probably doesn't do it much good either, and it seems to want to make its way to the end of the disk before going back and trying smaller sections. The code looks straightforward enough, but I can't see why it does these repeats. Time to put a debugger on it.


Topic: gardening Link here

More work in the garden, and started putting up a fence round the veggie patch, while Yvonne relocated the Cape daisies. Got as far as putting in some fence posts and a gate before it started to rain. Tomorrow I should put in the irrigation.

They're also predicting a “severe frost” for tonight (-2°), so took down the hanging flower pots and covered over a couple of the citrus. We'll have to accept that winter is with us.


Topic: photography Link here

My E-30 still has surprises in store. I spent quite a bit of time last month writing my own documentation about it, including the autofocus settings, and commented there:

To switch between target modes 1 and 2 and your choice of target mode 3 or 4, use the menu symbol . This is the only way to switch from target mode 2 to target mode 3 or 4. The description on page 56 suggests that you can do it with the “direct button” menu symbol or the monitor display menu (“super control panel”) menu symbol . This is not the case: these two methods allow you to select between mode 1 and only one of the others, alternating with selecting a specific target in the other mode.

In fact, the documentation on page 56 describes how to select the autofocus “target” (sensor), not how to switch modes. The mode switch is part of the LOOP or SPIRAL mode described on page 94.

And then, just by chance, while setting focus points I held down a particular combination and found out how to do exactly that: You can move between modes 1 (“all targets”), 2 (“dynamic single target”)and the current choice of mode 3 (“single target”) or 4 (“small single target”) by holding down the “direct button” menu symbol and turning either wheel. I haven't been able to find any reference to this in the manual.


Topic: cooking Link here

Ate the pollo pibil this evening. I suspect I was a little heavy-handed with the cumminseed. We should find a good Mexican restaurant (Where? The only one I know outside Mexico is the Fonda San Miguel in Austin TX) and try an authentic pollo pibil.

Also had lots of fun making tortillas from masa harina. By the end of the attempt I had something that looked roughly correct, but it takes a lot of practice. Ended up moistening the balls of masa before flattening them.


Thursday, 11 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Three times shalt thou sync

In days gone by, when disks and memory were small, and there were no automated reboot programs, part of the reboot was to run sync to write the buffer cache to disk—three times. And the instructions made clear that the sync could take quite a long time. I've never seen that, but nowadays we have much larger memories and disks, so for the fun of it I ran iostat to see what happens when umounting my photo backup disk. Here's the result, showing output at one second intervals:

KB/t       tps       MB/s       us       ni       sy       in       id
sync
15.79       191       2.94       7       0       1       3       89
16.00       172       2.68       8       0       2       0       90
16.00       214       3.34       7       0       0       1       93
16.00       190       2.97       7       0       1       1       91
15.78       126       1.94       6       0       1       1       92
0.00       0       0.00       7       0       0       1       92
sync
5.33       9       0.05       25       0       2       0       72
0.00       0       0.00       11       0       1       0       88
sync
16.00       3       0.05       8       0       1       1       91
16.00       4       0.06       6       0       1       1       92
0.00       0       0.00       6       0       1       1       93
sync
16.00       3       0.05       7       0       2       1       91
0.00       0       0.00       8       0       0       0       92
umount
9.00       4       0.04       8       0       5       4       84
0.84       114       0.09       6       0       1       0       92
0.00       0       0.00       6       0       1       1       93

So: the first sync took 5 seconds, performed 893 I/Os, and transferred 13.87 MB, two-thirds of the total size of my first ST-525 disk drive. The second took only one second and transferred only 50 kB in 9 I/Os, and the third and fourth were similar. The umount performed a surprising number (114) of very small I/Os, presumably most of them only a single sector. So yes, it looks as if things haven't changed much.

“Windows” makes you stupid

I'm not the only person to rant about Microsoft. Matthew Fuller has quite an interesting variant on the same theme.


Topic: opinion Link here

So now a new chemical element has been recognized, atomic number 112 and provisionally named after the Latin for “112”—centoduodecium? No, somebody with better Latin skills than I has decided that “ununbium” is derived from the Latin for “one hundred and twelve”, rather like calling it onontwium and saying it was derived from the English for 112. My best guess is that the name was chosen by somebody whose forte is clearly not classical languages, from “unum” (one) and “bis” (twice), so it's a compressed way to say “one one twice”.

Of course, I suppose it's just part of the general dumbing-down of the general public. As the Yahoo! News article stated:

The zinc and lead nuclei were fused to form the nucleus of the new element, also known as Ununbium, Latin for 112.

...

John Jost, executive director of IUPAC in North Carolina, told Reuters that creating new elements helped researchers to understand how nuclear power plants and atomic bombs function.

If they don't know yet, we're in real trouble!


Topic: gardening Link here

The promised frost didn't come, but there was plenty to do in the garden. Finally got some irrigation in the veggie patch, and managed to prepare the bed for the strawberries and plant them. Also planted some other seedlings—Brussels sprouts and two kinds of lettuce. I've grown far too many seedlings (about 100 Brussels sprouts, for example). I have no idea what I'll do with them all, but clearly the Yeardleys will get a significant quantity.


Friday, 12 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: technology Link here

POP pain

Chris and David Yeardley are still having trouble with getting mail from the server. They use Microsoft and thus POP, of course—it seems that the standard way for most people to get their mail is to manually pull it down with unencrypted passwords. I set up a POP3S server last year, but ran into trouble and a severe level of aversion-fuelled apathy, and so we've been forwarding her mail to her BigPond mail account instead.

David doesn't have that kind of account, so we forwarded to an IPStar account instead. The only problem: it never got through IPStar. I see the messages going in, but when David came to pick them up, there was nothing there. I suppose that's about typical of IPStar.

So, I needed to finish what I started. David tried pulling it down from the server and got error messages because of the certificates (not issued by a trusted authority, name supplied doesn't match the name on the certificate). The former was to be expected, since I made my own certificate, and it's easy enough to just accept the certificate. The latter proved to be a real nuisance, because in the rare occasions when things didn't time out, Thunderbird produces an “error dialog” for Every Single Message.

Spent the afternoon looking for the causes. The first, obvious thing was to get the name on the certificate to match one of the names of the server. By default, it's w3.lemis.com, but it has a number of aliases. Under those circumstances, it's not clear how much security you get by insisting that the name on the certificate matches the one you have chosen. Decided on Yet Another name, mail.lemis.com, and created a new certificate. That didn't work as expected. Installed Thunderbird, and when I ran it, I got the messages:

Jun 12 05:09:26 w3 qpopper[70312]: Error setting private key PEM file /etc/mail/certs/pop3key.pem
Jun 12 05:09:26 w3 qpopper[70312]: ...SSL error: error:02001002:system library:fopen:No such file or directory
Jun 12 05:09:26 w3 qpopper[70312]: ...SSL error: error:20074002:BIO routines:FILE_CTRL:system lib
Jun 12 05:09:26 w3 qpopper[70312]: ...SSL error: error:140B0002:SSL routines:SSL_CTX_use_PrivateKey_file:system lib
Jun 12 05:09:26 w3 qpopper[70312]: Failed initializing TLS/SSL

This is SSL's inimitable way of saying “File /etc/mail/certs/pop3key.pem does not exist”: I had moved it aside in the expectation of recreating it. After fixing that, I kept getting timeouts. Typical log messages said:

Jun 12 05:35:19 w3 qpopper[70451]: (v4.0.9) TLSv1/SSLv3 handshake with client at 122.129.156.158 (122.129.156.158); new session-id; cipher: AES256-SHA (AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1), 256 bits
Jun 12 05:37:27 w3 qpopper[70451]: [drac]: dracauth returned -1: localhost: RPC: Port mapper failure - RPC: Timed out

The timeouts were always after a little over 2 minutes. But what's drac or dracauth? I couldn't find anything in the documentation, and the Google search showed little of use, beyond a surprising number of references to FreeBSD. Places like linuxquestions.org sound like a good idea, but unfortunately the name is too descriptive: every time I've been there, I've found questions without answers.

Decided to try installing fetchmail on my own machine and to pull in mail myself. That caused its own problems: I was able to pull in mail, but I tripped over my own anti-spam measures, which saw any mail that fetchmail tried to inject as being spam. Finally turned that off, and still had problems:

749 messages for grog at mail.lemis.com (24487831 octets).
fetchmail: SMTP error: 451 4.3.5 Server configuration problem
reading message grog@mail.lemis.com:1 of 749 (666 octets) not flushed

Looking at the postfix log didn't tell me very much more:

Jun 12 17:00:40 dereel postfix/spawn[84703]: warning: command /usr/bin/perl exit status 2
Jun 12 17:00:40 dereel postfix/smtpd[84699]: warning: premature end-of-input on private/bld-policy while reading input attribute name
Jun 12 17:00:40 dereel postfix/smtpd[84699]: warning: problem talking to server private/bld-policy: Unknown error: 0
Jun 12 17:00:40 dereel postfix/smtpd[84699]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from localhost[127.0.0.1]: 451 4.3.5 Server configuration problem; from=<root@w3.lemis.com> to=<grog@localhost> proto=ESMTP helo=<dereel.lemis.com>

That's more postfix than I wanted to do. It seemed to be related to localhost, but I couldn't work out why. Interestingly, it did something similar on cvr2 (running Ubuntu Linux and no MTA), so I tried around a bit and finally found an incantation that worked. It sent the messages to dereel instead of localhost:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/ttypu) ~ 110 -> fetchmail -a --ssl mail.lemis.com --smtphost dereel.lemis.com
...
704 messages for grog at mail.lemis.com (22411537 octets).
reading message grog@mail.lemis.com:1 of 704 (3342 octets)...  flushed
reading message grog@mail.lemis.com:2 of 704 (667 octets) flushed

In this connection, it's interesting to read a reference from the Wikipedia page on fetchmail to a mail message from Terry Lambert:

As to fetchmail: it is an abomination before God. If someone in the press ever paid for an audit of the source code, the result would refute the paper “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” to such an extent that it could damage the Open Source movement, which has pinned so much on the paper, in ill-considered haste.

Terry's always been a bit explicit, of course.

The interesting thing was the timing, though; the messages started coming in after the DRAC timeout. So the timeout wasn't fatal; it just proved to be long enough for Thunderbird to time out on qpopper.

More investigation of DRAC, and what little information I could find suggested that it was an option. Checked the build options for qpopper (/var/db/ports/qpopper/options on a FreeBSD box), and found:

WITH_DRAC=true

Checked the default build parameters, and they had:

WITHOUT_DRAC=true

This looks—indirectly—like my fault. When building configurable ports, a thing I hate in themselves, I tend to select all options. But in this case, it seems that DRAC wants additional, undocumented or marginally documented configuration in order to work. Built a new fetchmail without DRAC, and all was well, except for the loss of an afternoon.

This detail also probably explains why there were so many references to FreeBSD in the Google search results: most people would only include DRAC support if they knew what it was and really wanted it, but FreeBSD offers it to you casually.

So what is DRAC? Daniel O'Connor pointed me to the port description, /usr/ports/mail/drac/pkg-descr, which states:

DRAC is a daemon that dynamically updates a relay authorization map for Sendmail, Postfix and other MTAs that support it.

So definitely nothing that I need. I've learnt a lesson: don't include build options that you don't understand.


Topic: gardening Link here

Yesterday's promised frost didn't come, but Yvonne tells me that there was a bit of frost on the mulch heap this morning. One way or another, it was a miserable day, with a biting wind that sent me inside again after only a short time spent building a compost sieve.


Topic: general Link here

Fujitsu air conditioning, broken by design

The wind also reminded us how unbelievably bad the temperature regulation is on our air conditioners. In the kitchen, the temperature dropped to 20°—not because of lack of capacity, but of lack of will. I had to turn the “thermostat” up to a reading of 25° before it would even consider heating. On other days, I have to drop the “thermostat” to 19° to get the same level of heating. How can people put up with such appalling technology?


Topic: photography Link here

Popular Photography has now published its memory card article online. Submitted some comments, subject to approval:

After 24 hours, they hadn't posted it. Too much criticism? Or are they just slow?


Saturday, 13 June 2009 Dereel Images for 13 June 2009
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Topic: photography Link here

I've been taking photos of the exterior of the house every weekend for nearly 2 years now, and every time I've had some issue or another that has made it take up most of the day. Finally I'm getting my act together, though, and today things went relatively smoothly.

That encouraged me to try something new, to adjust the perspective of the individual photos so that they match up from one to the next. I had all the software, and even a description of how to do it with hugin. Spent some time there finding even more annoyances with hugin: WHY does it require you to click on Every Single File Name to select it for loading? And then it wants to know scale factor to 35 mm, though it's in the EXIF data. Finally got a few images of the verandah loaded and tried to align them, which wasn't easy. Under normal conditions the photos look quite similar, but here there's sometimes sun, sometimes shade, and the sun doesn't always come from the same direction.

Finally I was getting somewhere when hugin did one of its strange rotations: it turned one image on its side. I've had that before, and I can't find a way to fix it, so effectively all the work was down the drain. I think I should do a bit of looking at hugin code before I go to this frustration again.


Topic: gardening, cooking Link here

Yesterday's frost has made itself noticeable: the tomato plant is dying. Cut it down and harvested 3.2 kg of green tomatoes. I wonder what I can do with them.


Topic: cooking Link here

Made more kimchi today. In addition, I've been noticing a strange phenomenon: despite making kimchi for years, and paying careful attention to the quantities, my kimchi has become paler and paler, and I've been adding more and more marinade. This time Yvonne had brought back a particularly large Chinese cabbage, 3 kg, and I ended up with much more marinade than I had ever used before—with spectacular results:


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It's amazing how much pressure a liquid in a mixer can generate: I was holding down the lid at the time.


Sunday, 14 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: general Link here

Woke shortly before 6:00 to find we had yet ANOTHER power failure. Staggered out of bed to make a phone call to Powercor, who indeed didn't have any announcement on the phone. That was just an oversight, though: when I was connected to Chantelle (at 5:56), she told me that there was another wide outage (“20 towns”), that it had just been reported, and that the failure was scheduled to be fixed by 8:00 (“When the team gets on site...”). In other words, their standard “two hours from now” quote. Left her with the observation that it could take anywhere from 1 to 14 hours to fix, and a complaint that the power service here is not worthy of a civilized country.

As it happened, I was right in the best possible way: the power came back after about 45 minutes. Much later in the morning, when I finally got my system up again, I confirmed that the total outage was 1 hour, 17 minutes.


Topic: gardening Link here

Finally the weather is less unpleasant, and returned to the veggie patch, which was waiting for compost. Finally finished the compost sieve, and set it up over the bed, propped up by an old pallet. To my surprise, that worked well.

What didn't work as well was the compost. It was clear that I needed to separate the coarser stuff—that's the whole point of the sieve—but it wasn't as clear that there was hardly any good compost in there. I think it'll need another season to be useful.


Topic: general Link here

To the Yeardley's for dinner.


Monday, 15 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: technology Link here

Mail from Mads Martin Jørgensen today, suggesting using dovecot instead of qpopper. That might be a good idea, and I'll look at it if there's a next time, but now I have things running.

Since it's running, considered routing my own mail that way as well. Since moving here in July 2007, I've been working with a provisional mail delivery system via ozlabs, and it's pretty nasty. I could use POP3 from ozlabs, of course, but since everything's here, and it's my own domain, I might as well do that.

Setting up fetchmail was the first obstacle. Maybe the man page describes what I need to do, but it's voluminous and shows few examples. What I finally ended up with in my ~/.fetchmailrc was:

# $Id: diary-jun2009.php,v 1.64 2014/08/31 02:21:20 grog Exp $
poll mail.lemis.com
  ssl
  pass "Not this one, of course"
  smtphost dereel.lemis.com

The smtphost line was to work around the local configuration issues I had seen before.

I had the choice of getting fetchmail to run periodically, or to do it via cron. I chose the latter mainly because I know it.

Next came the DNS changeover, which worked easily, and everything seemed to be working well until I realized that I had forgotten the virtual users. Going back into the past was not very helpful; I can't even remember when I installed postfix, let alone how I configured it, and my current postfix configuration was pretty bare-bones. Finally found the correct invocation:

# Virtual users
virtual_alias_maps = hash:/usr/local/etc/postfix/virtual

That requires a file /usr/local/etc/postfix/virtual, which is the source file and not the file it goes looking for: the hash: at the beginning of the name transforms to the extended name /usr/local/etc/postfix/virtual.db, created from the source with this Makefile fragment:

virtual.db:     virtual
        /usr/local/sbin/postmap virtual

This is the FreeBSD naming, of course; looking elsewhere, I see that Linux often puts these programs in /usr/bin.

SpamAssassin revisited

Next was to install SpamAssassin, made more difficult by the obfuscatory naming of the port, /usr/ports/Mail/p5-Mail-SpamAssassin. Installation pulled in 42 other ports, but at least it worked. Setup? Documentation? I didn't find anything beyond the INSTALL and README files. Finally found my way through to the official documentation site, such as it is: there appears to be no official documentation beyond those README and INSTALL files. There was quite link that sounded good, entitled “Greg Webster's How-To on installing SpamAssassin with Postfix+procmail on a site-wide basis, with individual 'spam' mailboxes. ”, but it was hosted on www.geekly.com, which appears to have been harvested by a domain squatter. Only later did I discover that the heading “POD Documentation” refers to an apparently unstructured HTML pages for specific modules.

Finally found a number of third-party pages, like Postfix: Using spamassassin 'spamd' and Fighting malware and spam with Postfix, from which I got the configuration for master.cf. Tried it out and got messages like:

Jun 15 15:10:43 dereel spamc[5831]: connect to spamd on 127.0.0.1 failed, retrying (#1 of 3): Connection refused

That proved to be that the port didn't start spamd. It seems that the FreeBSD port installs a script to start spamd, but doesn't actually start it until you reboot. That's straightforward enough, though; you can just run it, but it's better to start via the config script, once you find out what it's called. It's /usr/local/etc/rc.d/sa-spamd.sh. I also have a file called /usr/local/etc/rc.d/spamd.sh, which appears to be for the spamd supplied with pf.

Then I got messages like:

Jun 15 15:15:18 dereel spamd[6070]: auto-whitelist: open of auto-whitelist file failed: locker: safe_lock: cannot create tmp lockfile /nonexistent/.spamassassin/auto-whitelist.lock.dereel.lemis.com.6070 for /nonexistent/.spamassassin/auto-whitelist.lock: No such file or directory

That proved to be a configuration issue not mentioned on the pages I had looked at: by default, if started as root, spamd does a setuid as nobody, which on a FreeBSD system has a non-existent home directory /nonexistent. A bit of man page reading (SPAMD(1) and pipe(8)) was enough to give me the information that I could do a setuid to the recipient. The resulting config diffs are:

--- /usr/local/etc/postfix/master.cf    2009/06/15 04:36:52     1.8
+++ /usr/local/etc/postfix/master.cf    2009/06/16 01:12:42
@@ -7,6 +7,7 @@
 #               (yes)   (yes)   (yes)   (never) (100)
 # ==========================================================================
 smtp      inet  n       -       n       -       -       smtpd
+          -o content_filter=spamassassin
 #submission inet n       -       n       -       -       smtpd
 #  -o smtpd_enforce_tls=yes
 #  -o smtpd_sasl_auth_enable=yes
@@ -82,3 +83,7 @@
       user=nobody argv=/usr/bin/perl /usr/local/sbin/bld-pf_policy.pl
 retry     unix  -       -       n       -       -       error
 proxywrite unix -       -       n       -       1       proxymap
+# SpamAssassin
+spamassassin unix -     n       n       -       -       pipe
+       user=nobody argv=/usr/local/bin/spamc -u ${user} -f -e
+       /usr/sbin/sendmail -oi -f ${sender} ${recipient}

After that things worked. Tuning SpamAssassin has always been more good luck than anything else, and it'll keep me busy for a few days to come, along with upgrading my procmail configuration. But at least I'm getting mail automatically, reliably and securely.


Tuesday, 16 June 2009 Dereel Images for 16 June 2009
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Topic: gardening Link here

In our first summer here we put a big table under our “shade trees” in the north-east of the garden. The atmosphere was pleasant, and we affectionately called the area the “cathedral”.


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Last summer took its toll, though, and it looks as if the trees are on their last legs, and we'll have to remove them:


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Topic: animals Link here

None of this worried Piccola, though, who happily ran up 4 metres of tree before wondering how to get down again:


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And barely had she done so that she went back up another tree:


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Wednesday, 17 June 2009 Dereel Images for 17 June 2009
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Topic: gardening Link here

A relatively heavy frost this morning, enough to freeze the surface of the bird bath. By the time I got up, though, it was much milder, and turned out to be quite a nice day.


Topic: general Link here

Into town in the afternoon to visit Peter O'Connell and discuss further investments. It's been almost exactly two years since I first visited him. The good news is that we seem to have hit the bottom of the stock market drops, though it's not clear that things will continue to improve, of course. Time for a change of tactics.


Thursday, 18 June 2009 Dereel Images for 18 June 2009
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Topic: gardening Link here

Another frost last night, milder than yesterday. I can distinguish between mild frosts that don't freeze the bird bath and those that cause some icing; maybe it'll be possible to make further distinctions. This one didn't freeze anything.

We're still hoping that Will will come along and do the earthworks we're planning, and for that I need to move some plants. Transplanted some of the bulbs that I planted only a couple of months ago. We still have some Hellebores to go. Also picked up the Chasmanthe floribunda that had appeared on the side of the road last year; there must be 30 odd individual plants in the clump, and I still don't know where I'm going to plant them all.


Topic: music Link here

ABC Classic FM radio is doing one of their “Top 100” actions at the moment, this time titled Classic 100 symphony. For a change, I thought I'd vote. How do I choose my symphonies? Enter the name in a list:

 
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I suppose that's simplistic search engine design, and maybe the web programmer doesn't know how people refer to symphony names. Instead you have to SHOUT THE NAME THE WRONG WAY ROUND:

 
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Even that doesn't explain why Beethoven 6 is referred to both as ‘PASTORAL’ and ‘PASTORALE’, nor why they capitalize the title of the Symphonie fantastique like this:

 
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The correct original French title is, of course, “Épisode de la vie d'un artiste, symphonie fantastique en cinq parties”, and the English title is “An Episode in the Life of an Artist”. and it's so important that it's not mentioned in the cover notes of any of my three CD recordings of the symphony. Clearly this is just a “modern” attitude to accuracy—but why bother when it's wrong, and it breaks the format? And it's probably typical that you can't find Beethoven 6 by name, but entering “DV” will find Antonín Dvořák.

Finally I chose my symphonies and had to enter an email address. That's simple: I have one specially for ABC, like I do for just about every mailing list I'm involved with—a total of 177 so far, all neatly arranged in my /usr/local/etc/postfix/virtual file. Then I read:

Only one vote per email address is allowed.

Now that, and not the emetic web interface, is really going to stop me from voting multiple times!


Topic: cooking Link here

Weights and measures—a new option for confusion

We're considering various Greek recipes at the moment, and I took a look at one for papoutsakia in “Easy Greek-style cookery”, published by the Australian Women's Weekly. The recipes look OK, but one thing stood out:

425g  can tomatoes
      

Where do you get a 425 g can of tomatoes? The standard sizes are 400 g and 800 g. On a hunch, checked an 800g can and found no mention of the weight of the tomatoes, just the indication that the can contained 52% tomatoes (the rest being liquid, etc). And that's 416 g, close enough to 425 to be very suspicious. I suspect that this recipe really wants an 800 g can. Isn't that clever?

Salsa verde—maybe

Finally got round to looking at what to do with the green tomatoes I picked a few days ago. There seem to be two basic dishes: salsa verde and green tomato chutney. Decades ago, Paul Hallett's mother made green tomato chutney, and very good it was, but I wouldn't know where to get the recipe, so started looking for the former. There are many variations, all with chile—something that I can't always feed to Yvonne—and some with other things, such as avocado. Decided to do a “basic” salsa and freeze it, and then I can consider how to complete it later on.

ALDI: Pizza by our stringent quality standards

One thing that continually concerns me is how to make a good pizza. One of the issues is cooking the base correctly. In a real pizza oven, this is done by the hot base of the oven, but that's not so easy in modern kitchens. So I was quite interested by a new offer from ALDI, an individual cooker for a pizza with heating elements, and we bought two of them (the things you do when you know you can return them if you don't like them) and tried them out today.

The results were spectacular:


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Strangely, the view through the window didn't show any burning, so we left it run. The results were less than stellar. The smoke is not normal—we have obviously been conditioned by ALDI quality—and that the topping had fouled the heating element at the top:


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The pizze didn't taste as bad as they looked: indeed, the base was not too bad, but it had risen much more than normal. Further investigation showed that I had used double the normal quantity of dough, which could be part of the reason for the topping fouling the heating elements. We have 2 months to return them, so we'll probably try again.


Friday, 19 June 2009 Dereel Images for 19 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

Microsoft: We don't need no steenking standards

Microsoft have a new competition: apparently they have stored various clues around the web, and if you can find them all first, you win $10,000. There's a catch, of course: you must use “Internet Explorer” version 8. Here's an image of the web page describing the competition:


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There are a number of interesting things about this page:

For the fun of it, I followed the link to the “Install”, and got more interesting stuff: not surprisingly, it didn't want to install “Internet Explorer” on my FreeBSD machine, but it also didn't want to do so on boskoop, my Apple. I thought there was an “Internet Explorer” for Apple.

I've since been told that Microsoft is no longer maintaining the Apple version. I suppose that says something about their commitment to the product.

And, of course, they could have recognized the operating system in the first page. The other interesting thing is that in Australia at any rate, it's tied in with ninemsn: they offer to install a “ninemsn Optimised version”. That in itself is a reason to run away, screaming.

UTF-8: Finally?

One of the things that I needed to write in yesterday's diary was the name Dvořák. Surprise: there's no representation in ISO 8859-1 for the letter ř, and there also appears to be no HTML entity for it. So to represent it at all meant changing my character encoding, something that I've been trying to avoid for years. Emacs made it relatively easy for me: after I copied in the URL, it asked me what character set to save the file in, suggesting mule-utf8. That worked, and as I later discovered, it converted the entire buffer into UTF-8.

How does it do that? I still need to find out. This diary is now in UTF-8, and Emacs displays it correctly. But I don't see anything that tells me the character set, and if I edit it in another Emacs session that doesn't know the encoding, the characters come out wrong: Dvořák becomes Dvořák. A lot more reading to be done, but at least I'll presumably get rid of these eternal warnings:

Warning (i18n): `standard-display-european' is semi-obsolete; see its doc string for details

Topic: gardening Link here

A little more work in the garden. Pulled apart the clump of Chasmanthe floribunda and planted them in various places. The clump was very dense, and I suspect they'll enjoy the freedom.


Topic: cooking Link here

In the evening, Yvonne made the Papoutsakia (stuffed zucchini and aubergines) that we had been thinking about. It wasn't an unreserved success: somehow we've never had much success with this kind of dish, and the differences in this particular recipe didn't seem to be enough to improve things. As usual, there seemed to be too few herbs and spices. About the only thing of interest is that yes, the “425g can of tomatoes” probably meant the contents of an 800 g can after drainage.


Saturday, 20 June 2009 Dereel Images for 20 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

Microsoft: Ha ha, only joking

It seems that I wasn't the only person to be negatively impressed by Microsoft's publicity stunt, and it was also a good idea to get a screen shot: they've already changed it:


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So now there's no mention of “ditching” your current browser and it only being viewable on “Internet Explorer” 8. So what's the point of mentioning it? Clearly this was a damage control measure. A bit late for me, at any rate.

Emacs and UTF-8: more insights

More work on the conversion to UTF-8 today. Not surprisingly, there are tools, like iconv, part of the /usr/ports/converters/libiconv/ port. Put together a minimal bash function:

# Convert file to UTF-8.
Iconv ()
  {
  for i in $*; do
    co -l $i
    iconv -f ISO-8859-1 -t UTF-8 $i > /tmp/iconv$$
    mv /tmp/iconv$$ $i
    ci -m"Automatic conversion to UTF-8" -u $i
  done
  }

Spent a lot of time reading the Emacs info pages—how I hate info! In particular, it's even worse than a web browser in showing you only one thing at a time, and after nearly 20 years, I still have problems with navigating the pages. Still, there's some useful information in there: Emacs does tell you when you're editing a UTF-8 page, by starting the mode line with -u:--. It also tells you about “Latin-1” by putting -1:-- in the same place. And I can tell Emacs the character set of the page with the variables in the first line. I now have:

<?php  /* for Emacs, this is a -*- mode: html-fill; coding: utf-8 -*- document */

The rather strange construct is necessary because of the dual RSS/XHTML output of this page.

The only thing I still want to do better is to find out how to enter characters. The documentation of the input methods seems a little flimsy and not very encouraging:

   Sometimes it is useful to cut off input method processing so that the
characters you have just entered will not combine with subsequent
characters.  For example, in input method `latin-1-postfix', the
sequence `e '' combines to form an `e' with an accent.  What if you
want to enter them as separate characters?

   One way is to type the accent twice; this is a special feature for
entering the separate letter and accent.  For example, `e ' '' gives
you the two characters `e''.  Another way is to type another letter
after the `e'--something that won't combine with that--and immediately
delete it.  For example, you could type `e e <DEL> '' to get separate
`e' and `''.

Hopefully I'll find something better than that.


Topic: opinion, general Link here

Back to France?

Today Yvonne got a letter from an old friend, Marlène Giraud. Marlène is pushing 80 years old and is thinking of selling her farm. She asked Yvonne when she was finally going to return to France, possibly to take over the farm.

There's quite a simple answer to that: probably never. But that's like what I said about 15 years ago about returning to Australia, round about the time that we were seriously considering returning to France. Why didn't we?

The biggest issue at the time was work for me: I don't speak French particularly well, and there wasn't much work available in the parts of France we were thinking of (Midi-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon or Provence).

Times have changed. Now I'm retired and no longer need to work. Would it make sense to go back? I don't think so, but we should certainly consider the options. Many things would not make any difference—the weather is pretty much the same, for example.

In favour of France, we have:

In favour of Australia, we have:

All in all, nothing of great importance. One thing I've noticed, at least since moving to Dereel, is that I don't go out much any more. So many of the advantages of France no longer apply.


Topic: technology Link here

Input methods, revisited

Finding Péré on Google Maps wasn't easy: how do you enter an é on the browser? Currently, I don't. In principle I should be able to enter “Pere”, but when I did, I got Père.

Clearly I shouldn't be relying on Emacs for keyboard input translations. Time to learn what X has done in this area over the last 10 years or so.


Topic: gardening Link here

More work in the garden, late in the day and not very much. Finally the compost heaps are taking shape.


Sunday, 21 June 2009 Dereel Images for 21 June 2009
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Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Entering the information age, slowly and unsurely

A couple of computer-related news items on ABC radio today. It seems that the opposition claims to have received a leaked mail message showing some indiscretion or another on the part of the Prime Minister. Most of the details live up to the particularly infantile behaviour of our elected representatives, but one thing that stands out is the proof of authenticity of the mail message in question:

He says the email on which Mr Turnbull's entire case rests is a fake and the clock is ticking. He says Mr Turnbull has to prove his case today or quit.

That should be simple, right? All email issued by government departments is digitally signed and thus also tamper-proof, right? So there's no issue with proving the authenticity of the message, even if it has been transferred by non-SMTP channels.

Wrong, of course. We're still living in the Microsoft age, and that sort of thing is just not on the agenda. Email is just a toy anyway. How long is it going to take people to realise that the tools to avoid this kind of nonsense exist and are freely available, and that people just need to use them? The government could show the way by mandating digital signatures on all email messages. I'm not holding my breath.

The “Internet”: accurate and timely information

Over half a century ago, when my father was working in Malaya, he had a dispute with an Englishman: the Englishman claimed that spring began on 21 March, while my father insisted that autumn began on 1 March. They had a bet and went to check the official details.

The bet had an amusing outcome: they were both right, and they both paid the bet. To the best of my knowledge, most countries in the northern hemisphere start seasons on the equinoxes and solstices, while all countries I know about in the southern hemisphere start them at the beginning of the corresponding month.

Common knowledge? Joined IRC today to discover people claiming that today was the first day of winter, and even pointed me to Wikipedia and Google Australia's home page:

 
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How can people get this so wrong? Somehow these sites are so US-Centric, and people have difficulty understanding that things can be different in other parts of the world. I've already experienced this with time zones; people in the USA seem to have extreme difficulty in understanding that some time zones aren't an integral number of hours offset from UTC (or, indeed, that UTC and GMT are not the same thing). Few understand that a substantial proportion of the world's population (over 15%) live in a time zone offset by 5½ hours.

The Wikipedia page was a case in point:

In both hemispheres, winter begins on the day of the year which has fewest hours of daylight, "winter solstice", and ends on the following equinox. ... In the Southern Hemisphere, depending on the year, it begins between June 20 and 23 and ends on September 22 or 23.

Spent some time researching the details. Where are official government pronouncements on this sort of thing? In the end found one from the Bureau of Meteorology which was fairly clear about Australia. I know from other off-web information that these dates also apply to New Zealand and South Africa. But what about other countries, notably South America, where other traditions could apply? How do you find out? I did a bit of searching, and what I found suggested that these dates also apply to Argentina. But the page (a travel web site) didn't seem overly authoritative.

The Internet: nobody knows you're a dog until you say something

I don't know why I worried, though: this particular page seems to have attracted all the Internet low-life, and many people vandalized it in the course of the day. Within 24 hours, there were no fewer than 28 revisions to the page, many reverting changes like this and this.

Wikipedia is a valuable resource, and the reference to Encyclopædia Britannica show that even that document can be pretty inaccurate (just barely getting out of being wrong with the vague claim “it bis commonly regarded”). But it's interesting to note that all the vandalism came from non-members (identified only by an IP address). Is Wikipedia's idea to let anybody really so good? Somehow the Internet encourages this anonymity. I don't think it's a good thing.


Topic: technology Link here

More diary pain

Managed to convert all my diary pages to UTF-8, and finally got round to writing a script to check pages with the W3 validator and send the results to me as email, greatly reducing the waiting time:

for i in $*; do
  cat <<EOF > /tmp/w3check.html
From: Greg Lehey <nospam@lemis.com>
To: Greg Lehey <nospam@lemis.com>
Subject: W3 validation for $i
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

EOF
  fetch -o /tmp/w3check "http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lemis.com%2Fgrog%2F$i&charset=(detect+automatically)&doctype=Inline&group=0"
  cat /tmp/w3check >> /tmp/w3check.html
  /usr/sbin/sendmail -i </tmp/w3check.html nospam
done

Disappointingly, they showed that a majority have problems introduced with some of my PHP changes. None of them directly affect the displayability of the pages, but I need to do something about it. With currently about 140 pages, that's no simple matter.


Topic: gardening Link here

Finally got the mess round the compost heaps sorted out. We now have a clear divide between future greenhouse and the compost heaps. Also managed to move most of the half-finished compost to where it belongs, and to put a makeshift cover over one of the open gates in the garden shed, which used to be a greyhound kennel and thus had mesh instead of some doors. That's about all I got round to doing.


Monday, 22 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: technology Link here

Converting to UTF-8 has brought back to me how much work still needed to be done to get my diary pages XHTML compliant again. Spent an inordinate amount of time—much of the day—converting the remaining pages from 2000 to 2002 to PHP and ironing out various buglets. There's something wrong with a syntax that is so rigid.


Topic: general Link here

Also spent some time doing my taxes. I'm long overdue for the last tax return, but there's still a tax break incentive to get it done by the end of the month. How I hate this stuff!


Topic: gardening Link here

More work in the garden. Not much, but I finally have the irrigation in the veggie patch complete.


Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne has been concerned that the cats would get at the goldfish in the water feature. I didn't think it very likely, but today Piccola proved me wrong: I came out and found her playing with one of the fish on the ground beside the pot. Put it back in and observed: initially it lay lifeless on its side just below the surface of the water, but soon it started moving its gills, and after a while started moving around. It took some further time before it was swimming normally. I suspect the time was taken to flush air out of its body and regain a normal balance. Hopefully it will survive, and we'll have to think of ways to keep Piccola away from the pot.


Tuesday, 23 June 2009 Dereel Images for 23 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

I should have known that the change to UTF-8 was a bad idea. Spent a lot of today tidying up more diary pages, all of the 20th century, in the process discovering lots of other problems too. At least I have a certain amount of automation in the thing, and in a few days I should have all the pages converted.

But that's not all: I need to convert the rest of the PHP pages too, at least those that use the automatically generated headers. That'll keep me going for a while.


Topic: gardening Link here

Now that we have the compost bins in place, I can get round to pruning plants. To my surprise, the second bin is now almost full. I hope that it will settle a bit; otherwise we'll have all three bins full and nothing composted enough to be usable.


Topic: cooking Link here

Yeardleys over for dinner, cous-cous. The recipe I started from spent more than half the text describing how to steam the raw cous-cous with a makeshift steamer, though it's almost impossible to get that kind of cous-cous nowadays. To make up for that, it didn't specify cooking times.


Wednesday, 24 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: general Link here

Somehow I have an ambivalent attitude to curtains: I've never really liked them, but in a house as badly insulated as ours, they're necessary. I have a particular hate of the horrible vertical blinds in the kitchen, made no better by the fact that they're gradually suffering various mechanical failures.

Spotlight has a sale on at the moment, with at least $30 off the already heavily discounted prices for curtains, so we set off to take a look, with the intention of buying some replacements. But even a makeshift replacement would cost at least $500, and after thinking about it, decided that if we're going to replace them at that price, we should consider it more carefully.


A new plant nursery
Topic: gardening Link here

On via back roads to a new (to us, anyway) plant nursery near the eastern freeway entrance—somehow we didn't find the name. It's the biggest we've seen so far, but probably also one of the most expensive. Left with some ideas and a pair of boots for Yvonne.


Topic: technology Link here

Still more work updating my diary pages. Why did I ever get started? To add to other problems, discovered that Emacs converts character sets automatically when you set coding: utf-8 at the top of the file—from what it thinks the current character set is, in this case ISO 8859-1. But I had already converted with iconv, so I've ended up with a whole lot of à characters in various files, and I need to find a way to remove only the spurious ones (and not, for example, the one above).


Thursday, 25 June 2009 Dereel Images for 25 June 2009
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Topic: general Link here

Finally got my act together and did the taxes, which took me—only—all morning. How I hate taxes! Hopefully this will be last time, ever.


Topic: technology Link here

Still more updating diary pages. The double “conversion” from ISO 8859-1 to UTF-8 was a real problem, since I had made other updates since then, and I couldn't just back out the revision. And though there are tools to convert automatically once, the second conversion isn't so easy to revert. Ended up spending a lot of time doing it manually.


New toys
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Yvonne came home with some more toys from ALDI: a Kodak M1093IS digital camera and a film scanner of dubious origin.

The film scanner comes with software that is supposed to work under Microsoft, but it doesn't; for some reason, the driver install doesn't work correctly. I'll take another look at that later, but just for the fun of it plugged it into boskoop, my Apple PowerMac G4, which identified the USB IDs. With that I was able to search for it in Google, where I found three answers, all in German. Possibly I can get it to run with sane, assuming I can get anything to run with sane.

The camera was more interesting: this is for Yvonne, a replacement for my Nikon L1, which has not been holding out very well. I suppose it's a sign of the times that the documentation comes in four languages (English, Chinese, Korean and Thai), and the English version has a total of 28 pages, of which 4 are boilerplate warranty and compliance information. The important information appears to be in the “extended” user guide, which is apparently available only on the web, if you believe the text at the bottom of each page, though I suspect it's on the CD as well. And of course, “English” is an approximation: the instructions for setting the date are:

 
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It took me some time to understand that the button in the middle has five functions: push in, or tilt in one of four directions. The idea is possibly not so bad, but it would be nice to understand it.

Also installed the software on boskoop. It left a slightly nauseous impression:

 
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It would be nicer to have software that did the job right, and this doesn't give me that impression. It gives me a choice of directory to store files in, nicely named after the date, the method I prefer—but the directory name appears to be hard-wired to the American “out-of-order” format (06-25-2009). Still, it's not very likely I'll use it.

The installation didn't finish properly: it crashed trying to access the “Internet”. I'm not sure what it was looking for, but it offered me the chance to send in an error report. Did that, and shortly later got a mail message:

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2009 06:41:01 +0000
From: MAILER-DAEMON@w3.lemis.com
To: <nospam@lemis.com>
Subject: Delivery Status

    --- The following addresses had delivery problems ---

Original-Recipient: <sampleimages@kodak.com>
Action: failed
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 5.1.1 <sampleimages@kodak.com>... User unknown
Remote-MTA: 192.232.121.201

[-- Attachment #3 --]
[-- Type: message/rfc822, Encoding: 7bit, Size: 2.0K --]

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2009 16:32:10 +1000
From: Greg Lehey <nospam@lemis.com>
To: Dai-Lwl-ESMacCrashReport@knotes.kodak.com
Subject: EasyShare 6.1 crash log

Apart from that, the first impressions were mixed. Yes, it can take photos and “720p” video (at 30 fps), up to 30 minutes, and the 8 GB SDHC card I put in appears to be big enough for 2,500 “high resolution” JPEGs (10 MP), more than I took with my Ricoh Caplio the whole time I had it. But the camera doesn't seem to be able to function as a mass storage USB device, which is a nuisance. And powering on took 14 seconds! One review claims that it was very fast, only a second or so, so I took out the SDHC card (it has in-camera memory), and it did then power up fast. After “formatting” the memory card, it came up in 3 seconds, but that's still no ball of fire. It seems that the camera must be checking something on the card, and presumably the fact that it's a class 2 card (2 MB/s) doesn't help.

Installing the software required rebooting the computer, of course—after all, this is an easy-to use Apple. And when it came up again, it had changed the display resolution—from the 1400x1050 that I had chosen to easily fit in a VNC window to 1600x1200, not a resolution that you'd expect Apple to use. I wonder where this happens, and why.

Looking for ways to access the camera, it occurred to me that I had had good experience with Ubuntu some months back, so decided to install release 9.04. That worked, but somehow I managed to enter my password wrong the same way twice, so after rebooting I was no longer able to log in. Another thing to look at tomorrow.


Friday, 26 June 2009 Dereel Images for 26 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

More pain with Apple software update

Once again I have network-related problems with Apple software updates:

 
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In the past I've found that I can download the software package with a FreeBSD machine, once I've found it, but it's always been a search, so today I decided to write up a HOWTO section on it.

One problem, one that I've seen before: when I try to download Safari, it only offers me the Microsoft version:

 
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Spent some time looking for a way round that, including looking for ftp servers, but I couldn't find one with the software packages. Finally went to the Apple Australia web site looking for a phone number to call. Found a couple of numbers for sales, but none that offered support, even when I followed the support links (“Shop online, call 1300 321456 or visit an Apple Retail Store). In the end called the shopping number, which proved to have access to support as well.

My question was simple:

Groggy: How do I download the Apple version of Safari with a non-Apple machine? My machine is running FreeBSD, and your web site only offers me the Microsoft version.
Support person: What kind of machine are you using?
Groggy: FreeBSD.
Support person: What operating system are you running?
Groggy: FreeBSD, as I said.
Support person: Sorry, I'm not familiar with that operating system.
Groggy: Start a shell window and run man ps.
Support person: Sorry, I'm not allowed to run a shell, just the basic commands.

In the end, I managed to make it clear to him that the problem was at the web site end, but neither he nor the colleague to whom he connected me was able to tell me how to get the package, though the second colleague did understand that it was an issue, and he promised to report the problem. I'm not holding my breath. He also suggested that I Google for “safari for macs”. Still, a final attempt to load directly from boskoop was successful, so for the moment there's no issue.

So what's the real problem? Why can't I download directly from the Apple? It's almost certainly related to my flaky satellite connection, compounded by the simplistic error recovery of the Apple downloader. Something like rsync is much more resilient, but Apple almost certainly don't offer that (and, no, it didn't seem worth asking the support people how I could access it with rsync).

In the course of the typical half-hour discussion, found one interesting thing that I didn't know, and that you'd never find out without being told, is how to get additional information from “about this mac”: click on the word “Version” and it will give you the build number in its place; click on “Build” and it'll give you the machine serial number:

 
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But why? You can't claim that it's “intuitive”, and why can't they just put all lines on the one display?

Still more pain with the web pages. Dvořák has a lot to answer for.


Topic: gardening Link here

Finally planted the seeds and seedlings that I had meant to do this month, onions, peas and Chinese cabbages, including the regular expression [bp][aou]k cho[iy]. Onion seedlings are a real mess; I think I'll plant seeds next time.


Saturday, 27 June 2009 Dereel Images for 27 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

After changing our mail setup, I'm gradually getting spam under control. That involves reading lots of headers, and I've seen a surprising number of headers like this:

X-Spam-Status: No, score=-0.1 required=5.0 tests=AWL,BAYES_40
        autolearn=unavailable version=3.2.5
From: Olshefski Cadena <tangere@lemar.rybnik.pl>
Received: from xzkrxmq.tiscali.it (unknown [94.37.0.25])
Subject: How to Make Her Climax Faster - 3 Really Sweet Wpays to Give Her an Amazingly Ultra Fine Ograsm

AWL stands for “auto-whitelist. But clearly this sender has never sent me any non-spam mail, and Tiscali is one of the biggest sources of spam. This one doesn't have reverse mapping, but a traceroute gets as far as static-213-205-21-178.clienti.tiscali.it (213.205.21.178) before petering out. So how did this one get into the auto-whitelist?

Went looking for documentation, which is hard to find, incomplete and incorrect. The wiki page on the subject, in itself not easy to find, doesn't even say where it is, and locate drew a blank on the texts awl and whitelist in conjunction with studly SpamAssassin. But that should be OK. It tells me:

The database can be examined and pruned using the program 'tools/sa-awlUtil'.

And I can't find that program either. It doesn't seem to be in current distributions of SpamAssassin. After a couple of hours, I still don't know how to stop this happening.


Mist over the paddocks
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

Slight mist (“fog” is the Australian word) this morning:


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Topic: cooking, opinion Link here

Bread baking today, and in the process of mixing the dough, my new Kenwood Chef failed! This was a replacement for a previous one that failed after only 6 weeks, and which took over a month to replace. It's only 3 months old, I've only used it about 7 times.

How can this happen? Kenwood lives on its reputation of being rock-solid. A single failure is bad enough, but two consecutive units which both fail within a few months is not just unacceptable, it's a death sentence. This time it seems that the electronic speed regulator has failed, so it might be easier to repair than the last one. But one way or the other, that's the end of my involvement with Kenwood. I'll ask for my money back, and if I don't get it, I'll sell the unit once it's been repaired or replaced.

Now the question: where can I get a good mixer? My old Bosch unit works well after over 25 years, but it's gradually getting tired, and it really doesn't have the capacity that I need.


Sunday, 28 June 2009 Dereel Images for 28 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

More searching for the SpamAssassin autowhitelist, and finally found it: at least for me, it's in ~/.spamassassin/auto-whitelist (note that hyphen, which stopped me from finding it with locate). It was in a format that I can't read, along with a second file called auto-whitelist.db, so I just deleted both of them. Sure enough, it recreated the whitelist, and then it let though more spam with the indication AWL for no obvious reason. The combination of incomplete and incorrect documentation and dubious functionality makes the feature worse than useless.


Topic: gardening Link here

Another mild frost today, but a nice, sunny and far too dry day. I've had to run the sprinkler system again, the first time in about a month, and at a time of year when it shouldn't be needed at all.

Gradually I've given up on the Cannas blooming again. It's sad to cut off what appear to be perfectly viable buds, but we need to transplant things. Put some in a vase in the house, though to my recollection they don't do very well there. Took out the two on the south side of the verandah, and Yvonne planted them in front of the “fence” in front of the garage. It's amazing how they've grown in just six months: we divided them into six, and just about covered the 12 metre length of the fence.

Also transplanted some other similar flowers, whose names I don't know—something in the Zingiberaceae family, which has a very sweet-smelling flower. For whatever reason, they barely bloomed this year; it could have been the terrible weather, but I suspect it was the kangaroos, who liked them particularly. They, too, grew considerably, and from the one clump I ended up planting a total of 7 plants round the garden. In principle we could give a lot to the Yeardleys, but they're still in the process of setting up their garden. There are plenty more plants to be transplanted.

Yvonne also repotted our Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), which has been looking very unhappy. It proved to be a total of 10 plants, all with almost no roots; they appear to have rotten away. I wonder if they will survive.


Monday, 29 June 2009 Dereel
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Topic: technology, photography Link here

Yvonne has reminded me to update the Piccola album page so that she can point people to it. Problem: I have about 160 photos, far more than most people want to see, and many are repetitive. On the other hand, I want to keep those photos for comparison purposes. So I need a way to choose between “all” and “selected”. Spent much of the day writing PHP code to do that. It now works, but I'm wondering if it's the best way.

Received a printed catalogue from B&H Photo Video today. A nicely presented, detailed catalogue, even with prices. Why do they need that? They have a web site, and it presumably has all the information that the catalogue has, just more up-to-date, particularly in relationship to the prices.

One difference: I sat down and read the catalogue, and got more information from it than from the web site. Why? There appear to be a number of reasons, none of them specific to B&H:

  1. There's too much mess on a typical web page. Apart from the information I'm looking for on this page, there's lots of headers and navigation information, and also advertising:


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  2. There's not enough information on a typical web page, even accounting for the mess. Of the actual information I'm looking for (Nikon DSLRs), there's a brief summary of a single camera body, and it doesn't quite fit on the screen.

  3. By contrast, a single catalogue page is considerably smaller and contains more information about three different cameras, as well as brief descriptions of suggested accessories:


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  4. Navigating the web pages is still a pain; that's one of the reasons there are so many links. But none are as convenient as sticking your finger in a page and paging backwards and forwards between the two. And it's an order of magnitude slower.

So why can't they display the catalogue in the same format? It sounds like a good idea, but there's one basic problem: the display resolution is an order of magnitude too low. B&H really do have the catalogue on-line, though I can't display it with firefox. On Apple it looks like this:


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That's completely illegible, of course. To display it properly I need to mess around with the magnifying glass symbols at top left. And that takes several seconds for each step. And then I accidentally clicked on an entry and got taken to the web site—in principle, a good idea. But it took tens of seconds, and it took the same amount of time again to go back. It's too slow!

Yes, this is partially due to my network connection, but only partially. The whole thing is so far from the convenience of dead trees.

But there's a PDF version too:


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To my surprise, it's relatively legible, though more of a pain to read than in printed form. But more resolution would be good (this one is only 1920x1200, about the maximum you can get nowadays).

So why don't people use this interface? It contains more information than the web pages, and it requires less paging. But this one is really just text, while the illegible catalogue is (too) interactive. It seems like a “so near and yet so far” situation. My best bet is that the web generation doesn't care enough about old-fashioned things like convenience. How else could you explain SMS?


Topic: gardening Link here

More garden work, much of it weeding. I've decided that the Cannas aren't going to bloom inside, so chopped down many of the remaining ones.

The north-west bed is giving me cause for concern: many of the plants there have died, even a species of Carpobrotus that I would have thought would withstand anything. Here it is in another bed in springtime:


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In the north-west bed, the roots seemed to have rotted away. I wonder if I've been watering too much.


Tuesday, 30 June 2009 Dereel Images for 30 June 2009
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Topic: technology Link here

More spam today, of course, but this one looked more tailored towards me:

Date:Mon, 29 Jun 2009 22:10:19 -0400
From:"Gary Vai"<gary.vai@marketing-website-design.net>
Subject:I have redesigned your website

Content-Type:text/plain;
        charset=ISO-8859-1

<html><head></head><body>I have designed a new web page for you. I have not altered your existing site; I have simply created a prototype for your review because I am confident that I can earn your business.

<br>To view your new design, please use this link: <a
href='http://www.marketing-website-design.net/4step/index.php?discountID=8305502'>http://www.marketing-website-design.net/4step/</a>. You will simply be asked for the name of your organization for confirmation.

I suppose the web has a long way to go if people can stay in business with documentation of that quality. Of course, the last sentence may give the lie: maybe it's just a primitive address harvesting application.


Topic: general, opinion Link here

Into town today in the hope of finding a solution to the Kenwood drama. ALDI had had a similar looking unit on offer a while back, and Yvonne had told me that she had seen one for sale recently, so went to take a look, but all they had left was the useless unit that I had bought and returned last Christmas.

On to John Thomas and was told that they had changed the guarantee conditions for units purchased from Grays—how can they do that? In any case, was lucky enough to find a technician passing by. Normally I have to deal with the girls at the front desk, who appear stateless: one had forgotten that I had spoken to her a day before, and this one read the broken date from my firefox printout of the receipt—01/06/09—and wrote it down as if it were June, though I had just told the story of how I had had to wait over 5 weeks for a repair.

Brian, the technician, took a look at the unit, which obligingly didn't show the symptoms any more, and said there wasn't much he could do until he saw the problem happen. He also voiced the opinion that De'Longhi could easily keep me waiting another 5 weeks this time. So I took the unit with me again; we'll see what happens. On the other hand, depending on interpretations, the guarantee is about to expire, so I need to do something quickly.

To the Good Guys and got a snotty-nosed, pimply kid to advise me about the choice of mixers: “Take a look and see what you like”. He didn't have any idea about relative reliability, of course. Fortunately all the display models had their box underneath, including the documentation, so I took a look at that. How accurate this stuff is!


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The first image is from the Sunbeam instructions; apart from the obvious fact that it's a Fahrenheit table with Celsius conversions, the conversions are obviously wrong: the conversion for 200° F is 110° C for “Electric” and 100° C for “Gas”, and both are wrong (correct value is 93° C). The second one, from Breville, is similar: it's also a Fahrenheit table with Celsius conversion, and the values vary. Does 325° F correspond to 160° C or 170° F? It seems to depend on whether you use gas or electric ovens. Sunbeam is in complete agreement. In fact, it's about 162.78°, so I'd have accepted the value 160°.

A very hot oven is another matter: according to Sunbeam, 450° F is 230° C if you use gas, and 250° C if you use electricity. Breville will have none of this nonsense: 450° F is 230° C. In fact, it's 232.22°, close enough to the “gas” temperature to be acceptable. But why should we use converted Fahrenheit tables in a country that professes to use the metric system? And why the discrepancy between gas and electric ovens?

Breville also draws attention to another issue, mainly outside their control: in Australia, a “Metric tablespoon” is 20 ml. In New Zealand, a “Metric tablespoon” is 15 ml. Yet another reason not to use these stupid measurements. Have they taken the consequences and used real measurements in their recipe section? Of course not.


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Fujitsu: not learning from mistakes?

While at the Good Guys, took a look at their display of air conditioners. There's been a new model since I bought my Fujitsu air conditioners, and I was interested to see whether they had fixed the problem of the inappropriate location of the temperature sensor. Jim, the salesman, was of a different calibre from the kid in the cookery department, and he was both very interested and appalled. The location of the sensor wasn't really clear; there's still an opening in the same place where the temperature sensor is located on my units, and we didn't find any other sensor. To find out for sure we would have had to take the unit apart, clearly something that wasn't possible then, but he said he would be getting some new models in soon, and he would take one apart and take a look for his own interest. I'll look back in in a month or two.


Topic: gardening Link here

Finally a bit more rain, unfortunately accompanied by lots of wind, so didn't get much done. We've more or less decided that the Osteospermum (Cape daisies) aren't worth the trouble: they rapidly develop lots of dead undergrowth and require lots of tidying up. We'll pull them all out and replace them with something else.


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