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Thursday, 1 June 2017 Dereel Images for 1 June 2017
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Ports upgrade pain, yet again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm preparing to upgrade eureka by way of eureso. Part of the process is to keep eureso up to date with the latest version of FreeBSD, currently 11.1-PRERELEASE, and upgrading ports. Keeping the base system up to date is straightforward, but we're still not there with ports. The last upgrade was two weeks ago, and I saw:

The following 87 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

New packages to be INSTALLED:
...
Installed packages to be UPGRADED:
...
The process will require 27 MiB more space.
838 MiB to be downloaded.
...
[31/87] Fetching llvm40-4.0.1.r1_5.txz: ... done
pkg: http://pkg.FreeBSD.org/FreeBSD:11:amd64/latest/All/llvm40-4.0.1.r1_5.txz: Operation timed out

Never mind that the second-last line is wrong. Why a timeout? Because the file is so big! It makes up 300 MB of the total 838 MB.

This is a compiler! Why so big, especially after compression? I fetched it manually and discovered that that wasn't enough: pkg adds a code to the archive name. Here's what I saw when it went off trying to download it again anyway:

-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  304,991,684  9 May 14:53 llvm40-4.0.1.r1_4-ddc1055cad.txz
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel           32 14 May 15:34 llvm40-4.0.1.r1_4.txz -> llvm40-4.0.1.r1_4-ddc1055cad.txz
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    3,874,816  1 Jun 08:33 llvm40-4.0.1.r1_5-864d023c58.txz
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  305,045,784 25 May 17:21 llvm40-4.0.1.r1_5.txz

How do I guess the code? Let it start, I suppose. Maybe there's something in the Makefile or distinfo files, but I can't find it. Still, it's straightforward enough to remove the partially downloaded file and link it to the complete downloaded one.

Continuing,

[1/87] Fetching llvm39-3.9.1_6.txz:

Another one! But it's smaller:

-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  256,155,568 25 May 18:06 llvm39-3.9.1_6-b9341664e6.txz
lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel           29  1 Jun 08:59 llvm39-3.9.1_6.txz -> llvm39-3.9.1_6-b9341664e6.txz

So a port upgrade from last month required a total of 550 odd MB of archives! That's 28 times the total disk capacity of my computer 30 years ago, and if I had downloaded it with my first network connection 25 years ago it would have cost me about $20,000,000. What is there in a compiler to justify that, especially as it seems to be so context-sensitive that I require two different versions? In fact, it seems that I need three: there's yet another one in the base system.


Spice mix woes
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

In Melton yesterday I bought a number of spice pastes from a company called Passage Foods. But looking at them showed a surprise:


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Expired two years ago! How can that happen in a big supermarket? One plausible guess is that they had been marked wrong. Where's the phone number?

 
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+61 1800 FLAVOUR? That's not a valid phone number, and it requires me to decode their silly encoding, which only works with specific phones. Instead I went to the web site, which gave me +61 3 9580 3344. Called that number. After 30 seconds of ringing I was put on hold. Finally I spoke to Eelise, who at least took the matter seriously. Yes, the first one really is over a year out of date. The second one (which she pronounced “meagering”) is just badly printed. Many apologies, and of course they'll take it back. But do I care? I'm just baffled that this kind of problem can occur.


Tidying up Microsoft disks
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis round this afternoon for the first time in ten months. He had more problems with his computer, but this time he had taken my advice and left the computer at home after starting TeamViewer. And of course the computer had gone to sleep.

CJ back home, gave his computer the boot, and I took a look. Disk full to the gunwhales. OK, there's some program somewhere, isn't there? Found it in multiple places in a now-you-see-me, now-you-don't manner. The most reliable seems to be Control PanelAdministrative ToolsFree up disk space. It went off searching, came back and told me that it could recover a whopping 70 MB, asked for an admin password, and then started off all over again. At one point it seemed to have done something, but what's 70 MB out of 180 GB? After cleaning out the Downloads directory I had 400 MB free for a while, but that diminished to 179 MB after a while.

After several attempts, I gave up and went looking for alternatives. This page suggested using CCleaner, so off to install it, not helped by lack of disk space. Finally I had it installed and discovered:


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Which of those should I delete? Some look dangerous, and this page agrees. But the two biggest were temporary files and “Windows” log files. Together they made up ⅔ of the total disk space! So I left the others and removed them.

And how about that, it worked. But why are the “Windows” utilities so useless?

While I was at it, noted that the computer had not been updated for a year or so. Especially in view of Wanna Cry, an update seemed in order, so I started that.

Five hours later it was still searching. Why does it take so long? I left it until tomorrow.


Bread rising rethought
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've been having trouble with my bread rising for some months now. I've tried different methods to fix this, most recently at the end of April. The idea was to make more starter so that it would rise more quickly. It failed.

But then it occurred to me: maybe the starter needs more food. So this time round I tried a different approach: more food for the starter. Only 300 g of rye for the first round (final starter) and 510 g rye and 360 g wheat for the second, and no more water. The quantities are the same as ever, just more of them in the second step. And how about that, it worked. Not overly fast—I still needed about 4 hours for it to rise—but it rose to a normal level.


Fantasy food
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another spice paste:


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Malaysian Panang? Them's fighting words. How do they come up with ideas like that? I note that neither the Malaysian nor the Indonesian Wikipedia have a page for Panang.

The good news is that it tasted acceptable, if a little mild—just what Yvonne needs.


Sunset?
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

Nice sunset today, with the trees in the distance illuminated by the setting sun:


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But somehow it doesn't look as good as the original. What have I done wrong?


Trump trumped by smart phone
Topic: technology, politics, opinion Link here

Nobody can say that I have admiration or sympathy for Donald Trump. Until today. There's still no admiration, but I can sympathize. Unlike me, he uses smart phones to send his innumerable Tweets. But like me, it seems, he has difficulty with the appalling user interface. I'm still wondering how his keyboard managed to produce covfefe, but clearly it was an enemy act.


Friday, 2 June 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Eureka again
Topic: general, animals Link here

Off again to Ballarat today, this time with Leonid, while Yvonne took Nikolai. Why? For a change, and because Leo seems to have been losing interest. Yvonne was concerned that he wouldn't behave at all, but in fact he did very well. Niko also behaved himself well with Yvonne, so much so that she wants to take him again next week, when she'll be by herself.


Trump: Make China great again!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

A year ago it would have been unthinkable that the USA would pull out of an important and essentially unanimous international treaty. But that was before Donald Trump. Today he announced that the USA would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, signed by the USA only last year.

What does this mean? At the very least, that the USA is not a reliable partner for international treaties. The president has too much power: while the reaction outside the USA was practically unanimous, with respected politicians expressing unusually blunt opinions, the reaction inside the USA was, to the most part, also negative. Trump stated “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”, but Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh and thus their real representative, disagrees:

Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh.. Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow Paris agreement.

As the mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement for our people, our economy and future.

So how much difference will this make? Trump could have had easier ways to achieve the same outcome, but instead he chose a blunt, inaccurate and inconsistent approach. People had been worried before that he (and thus the USA) couldn't be relied upon. China, on the other hand, is very committed to the accord, and despite Trump's lies has cancelled plans to build more coal-fired power plants. They're not subject to democratic whims: they'll remain reliable partners.

Apart from that, what's the impact on the USA? They're disengaging from progress. If they're lucky, they won't have Trump for much longer, but who knows if that isn't a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire.


Free spices
Topic: food and drink Link here

Call from Jordan of Passage Foods today, confirming that my lemongrass stir-fry sauce was out of date. It seems that they have changed their packaging and choice of sauces, and this is no longer made. At least that conclusively disproves my hypothesis that it could have been an incorrect stamp.

Almost more interesting: the use-by dates are apparently 24 months after manufacture, so this one was made in March 2015. What's the shelf life of this kind of thing? I would have thought that it would be a couple of months, but it seems that the other ones I bought were also nearly a year old. That's probably primarily an insight into foodstuff distribution.

The good news: he wanted my address so that they can send us a sample package. That's nice of them: given that it's clearly really that old, the next likely suspect is Woolworths, not Passage Foods. Still, it could be interesting.


Saturday, 3 June 2017 Dereel Images for 3 June 2017
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Make China great again, part 2
Topic: politics Link here

I'm not the only person who thinks that Donald Trump is downgrading his country to the benefit of others, notably China. After writing yesterday's article, I found this one on the Deutsche Welle site (Google transmangling here):

Say no one, Donald Trump is not successful. He has made China bigger in a short time than perhaps it was, said Peter Sturm of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Orphan photos
Topic: photography Link here

Went looking on my web site for some photos of Singapore taken in May 1974, but didn't find them. I'm sure they were there once. Where did they go? I've discovered a number of directories which hadn't made it to the web site, so out looking, comparing the directory dates in the source hierarchy and on the web. The difference was amazing: I found a total of 153 source directories with no corresponding web page. Some of them were clearly deletion candidates, like 20090627.play and 20100418.old, both of which are duplicates of existing pages, but there were others, like 20150906, which prove to be an empty directory. And then there's 20160520, which really contained unprocessed images. I need to do more sanity checking.


Pepper sauce failure
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Beef filet with pepper sauce for dinner this evening. Problem: it requires beef stock powder, but we no longer have any. The “replacement” proved to be a fake:


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I have plenty of chicken stock cubes, and I'm pretty sure that the difference in taste is negligible, but the difference in colour isn't. So it occurred to me to use gravy powder. which would have the added advantage of thickening the sauce. But it didn't turn out the way I expected. The gravy normally has quite a good, balanced flavour, but in the sauce it imparted an unpleasant bitterness. So back to looking for beef stock cubes.


Pointy-eared Borzoi
Topic: animals Link here

Nikolai this evening:


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Sunday, 4 June 2017 Dereel Images for 4 June 2017
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eureka upgrade
Topic: technology Link here

I've been running a virtual machine eureso.lemis.com for some time now, with the intention of making it the next eureka. Now I have received a new 8 TB disk for my photos, so I need to shut down the machine to install it. Time to upgrade?

What do I need to do? At the very least update the /etc hierarchy and move everything to the alternative boot partition.

Boot partition? With MBR partitioning I had two partitions, typically /dev/ad0s1a and /dev/ad0s1e, and I set the boot loader to choose one or the other. But how does that work with GPT partitioning? I can't find anything in the man pages, so this looks like a case for experimentation.

And are all the ports that I need really installed? No! Comparing the list on eureka and eureso, the latter is missing something like 150 ports. Some are important, like the nVidia drivers. Others are less important, but it would be nice to minimize downtime.

So what could cause issues? A preliminary list:

But other things kept me from doing any more today.


Debugging, Microsoft style
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Unexpected error message on dischord today:

 
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OK, I now know about eventvwr, so off to look for the logs. I couldn't find them. Wouldn't it be nice if they had included a path name? Off to ask Google instead, and came up with this page. It's fascinating for a number of reasons: it's from Microsoft, it only shows part of the exchange, requiring another click to complete the view. The whole thing is out of sequence (neither chronological nor even reverse chronological, but in no recognizable sequence), and it doesn't even address the question of the log files. Instead it wants all sorts of remarkably complex actions. Of this stuff is superstition made.

One thing that the message says, of course, is that it's a space issue. It just doesn't say where. OK, eureka:/home, where the backups get written (as \\eureka\src\dischord\backups) only has about 250 GB free, so I went and freed up more space. I was able to run a backup on euroa, but dischord still didn't want to know.

Yes, there were other web pages, some of which mentioned partitions that I don't seem to have, which might be full. One plausible explanation is that, unlike most Microsoft users, I run a backup every night. Could it be that it saves information about the backups somewhere and runs out of space?

Another page, link lost, suggests that I run sfc /scannow to scan for problems in system files. That can't harm (apart from taking a couple of hours to run), but it also found no problems.

In any case, sorry, Microsoft, your error reporting and support are both more pain than they're worth. The error message, for once, is pointing to a specific issue, and there should be a very simple way to check it.


Alternatives to Microsoft backup
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Microsoft isn't the only company to supply backup software. Ashampoo, a manufacturer of ad-ware, keeps reminding me that they, too, have a backup, most recently this morning. OK, we can give it a try. The usual Microsoft installation, and then... nothing. No evidence that it had been installed at all.

Tried again. This time it installed, at a snail's pace. And when I tried to run, it kept me waiting for minutes between displaying a window and accepting input. After about 5 minutes I gave up and removed it. I can't imagine that this is typical, but it certainly makes it less interesting, especially since they want money for it. Goodbye, Ashampoo.

OK, where can I find free “Windows” backup tools? This page came up with 34 of them, first and foremost COMODO backup. But where do I get it? cnet.com offers a download that wants me to do all sorts of other things first. Sorry, cnet, you're now on my blacklist.

Then there's this page from techradar. The download leads back to the same page. Broken.

Elsewhere I found something linking to http://free.downloadinboxnow.com/index.jhtml. Like cnet, it wanted to do all sorts of things unrelated to downloading. Another blacklist entry.

But then there's COMODO themselves. They too want unrelated actions! In this case I need to apply for 10 GB cloud storage (so that they can sift through my data?). I don't have any sensitive data, but I still dislike the idea of the cloud. Still, I can register:

 
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That was repeatable. OK, four strikes and you're out. Goodby COMODO.

Next on the list was EaseUS (Todo?). Somewhere I found a functional, non-intrusive download link, and installed it. By comparison with the others, it seemed straightforward. Admittedly, it has strangenesses, like a default backup destination of c:\My backup. And after I started it, it came up with this interesting information:

 
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In retrospect, it seems that the size it shows was the capacity of the disk, but it looked like it was the estimate of the backup size.

Let the backup run, and it backed up about 120 GB, which seems reasonable. Maybe I should just stay with it, but the real issue is how well the restore works.


Monday, 5 June 2017 Dereel Images for 5 June 2017
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JG King: Enough!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's been over two years since we moved in to Stones Road, and we still have issues with the house. Last month I wrote (but didn't note) a letter offering a compromise. Strangely, I didn't get a reply. In all probability that's a bureaucratic issue, but what do I care? Time to get Consumer Affairs Victoria involved. Started at Resolving building disputes, which led me to this page. It contained a list of what I needed to do first:

Done all that. Oops, I didn't mention DBDRV by name. Rang them up on 1300 55 75 59 and spoke to Andrew (I think), who read out his script, basically confirming what I thought. There's an implied warranty under section 8 of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995, and that all materials to be supplied by the builder for use in the work will be good and suitable for the purpose for which they are used (presumably they intended “intended”, not “used”).

He did, however, suggest that I send them a final Letter of Demand. OK, I can do that.


Ashampoo backup: really broken?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Revisiting Ashampoo backup while writing yesterday's diary, it seemed strange that it should really have been that excruciatingly slow. So I tried again from the downloaded image.

It uses the Microsoft install framework, and sure enough, it popped up immediately. But after selecting “Install”, it took 2½ minutes before anything happened. Installation took a normal enough time (about 30 seconds). Then I pressed “Finish” and got this window:


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As the appearances suggest, it wasn't ready for interaction yet. Kept an eye on it for a while. The Task Manager showed a process backupClient-abpb.exe running the whole time, using about 15% CPU. After a while, the window changed, probably because it had been hidden briefly:


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After 20 minutes (!) I gave up. I still suspect that the program has tripped over something unexpected, but it wasn't saying, and I don't have any interest in pursuing the matter.


eBay: 20 years, and still not there
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

I've had plenty of reason to complain about eBay recently, but they're delivering even more. Wikipedia tells me that they were founded on 21 September 1995, but apart from my personal gripes, I continually find indications that they don't have their act together.

One thing they do do well in my experience: if you have an issue with an item you purchased, they usually solve it pretty quickly. Yesterday I finally gave up negotiating with the seller of the toy copy stand that I received last month (he wanted to give a discount, but not a refund), and asked eBay to step in. They did that and refunded the money.

All well and good? Yes, but the information I received is a little contradictory:

 
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Which is it? Complete or awaiting response?

And then I left feedback (negative, of course). Item not as described. What options do I have?

 
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How can “item not as described” be “not received”? Other descriptions are also marginal.

As if that wasn't enough, I've been receiving (and commenting on) emails of saved searches for some time. I've seen them unable to count correctly, inconsistent lists, items that have already been reported, and recently (only some) searches stopped altogether, noticeably for lenses. Today they started again, including all items for the last 10 days or so, presumably including many that had since completed. Maybe they have finally fixed it now, but I wouldn't bet on it.


Propagating Hibiscus
Topic: gardening Link here

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis bush that I repotted two months ago has really reacted well. It's barely recognizable. Here then (first image) and now:


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The branches are far too long, and the weight of the new leaves is bending them. I had wanted to trim them back in the spring and propagate them. But that's still 3 months away. Today I decided to trim one branch and plant the cuttings:


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The apparent wilting of the leaves in the lower pot is because they're upside down. I'll keep an eye on progress.


Tuesday, 6 June 2017 Dereel Images for 6 June 2017
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Contract clauses
Topic: Stones Road house, language, opinion Link here

Our house came with double-glazed windows. Well, almost. The sliding doors and adjacent windows in the lounge room, main bedroom and laundry are only single-glazed. It's a bloody nuisance: the first two are at the exposed west side of the house, and they steam up with heavy rain. Not what we expected from a comfortable house. And why? It's in the contract, they said.

Tomorrow JG King will get a final demand letter from me, so now's the time to look at the contract more carefully. What do I see?

6 - 1   Free double glazed windows. Includes Low E glazing to sliding doors.

What does that mean? Double glazing is a well understood term. And “Low E”? I had to go looking for that, and found this page, explaining that it's a reflective coating on the surface of the glass, and it can be applied both to single and double glazed glass (or triple glazed, for that matter).

OK, so we're left with the original statement in the contract. Clearly it refers to double glazing, and the reference to “Low E” suggests that this is an addition, not a replacement. So I read it to say that the doors should be double glazed too. To stipulate that the doors and side panels should be single glazed, the clause should have read something like:

6 - 1   Free double glazed windows. Sliding doors and side panels single glazed low E glass.

And then there are the side panels, larger in area than the doors themselves. They're also single glazed, but they're clearly not doors. Are they windows? Yes, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

An opening in the wall or roof of a building, for admitting light or air and allowing people to see out; esp. such an opening fitted with a frame containing a pane or panes of glass (or a similar transparent substance); the glazed frame intended to fit such an opening, sometimes with hinges, a sliding mechanism, etc., so that it may be opened or closed.

In passing, it's interesting to note that OED apparently does not consider a preposition a terrible thing to end a sentence with. But we're in Australia. What does the vastly inferior Macquarie Dictionary say?

an opening in the wall or roof of a building, the cabin of a boat, etc., for the admission of air or light, or both, commonly fitted with a frame in which are set movable sashes containing panes of glass.

Not nearly as clear, but it certainly doesn't require that the window be openable. So here, too, the side panels count as windows. They certainly don't count as doors. So it looks as if we have a contract that stipulates double glazing everywhere.


Pad Thai for breakfast
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another spice paste as a basis for breakfast. Last week we had “Malaysian Style” Panang. This week it's Pad Thai, made in Malaysia:


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It seems that in Australia, at least, people don't make any significant difference between Thailand and Malaysia. Tell that to the separatists in Patani!

Started off interpreting the quantities specified on the menu. 70 g of noodles seemed far too little, so I increased it to 120 g. After preparation, it still looked far too little (in the colander):


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So I added another 85 g, which gave a better balance:


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Here's the recipe, as cooked:

quantity       ingredient       step
200 g       thick rice noodles
70 g       dofu, sliced      
130 g       hoki (fish) filets, sliced      
150 g       bean sprouts      
1 pack       ALDI Pad Thai sauce      
1       egg      
      sliced fresh chili      
      spring onions      

I used spring onions because I couldn't find any chives.

But of course, although it tasted alright, the sauce flavour wasn't enough. That's not surprising: after all, I had used 3 times the amount of noodles. The serving size was right, but according to their recipe it's 3 helpings. And for that, the sauce is too expensive.


No Optus
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Callum Gibson is considering connecting to the Australian National Broadband Network. His current supplier of all things telecommunications is Optus, so he went looking for their offerings. What he found was not very informative:


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The fastest connection mentioned there was 25 Mb/s. What about the upstream speed? What about the NBN 50 Mb/s and 100 Mb/s speeds? They must be on a different page.

If they are, they've done a good job hiding them. This really seems to be the only information they provide you.

To be fair, after waiting an inordinate time for http://www.telstra.com/ to load, I discovered something similar:

 
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Potentially they have more information somewhere, but I couldn't be bothered to look. Like Optus, they seem to think that their clientele are stupid and not interested in the details of what they're spending a lot of money on. Maybe they're right: what well-informed person would choose Optus or Telstra? By contrast, take Internode:

 
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Why can't I find anything similar on the Optus site?

For the fun of it, I tried their chat service. It turned out pretty much as expected:

Thank you for choosing Optus. Optus has a privacy policy, please let your consultant know if you would like additional information.
Hi, you are now chatting with Ben K.
Ben K • 12:19 PM
Hi, this is Ben K, your Optus Sales Consultant, how can I help?
You • 12:20 PM
G'day. I've been trying for five minutes, but I can't find any technical details. Do you have a list of data rates and traffic allowances?
Ben K • 12:21 PM
What product are you referring to?
You • 12:21 PM
The one that linked here.
You • 12:21 PM
NBN connectivity.
Ben K • 12:22 PM
You have your cookies blocked so I can't see that
You • 12:22 PM
No, I don't block cookies.
Ben K • 12:22 PM
Our NBN plans are all unlimited
Ben K • 12:22 PM
Here are the details:

$60 Bundle includes:
·         Unlimited data
·         Wi-Fi Modem
·         Line rental
·         $0 connection fee on 24mth contract

OR
$80 Bundle includes:
·                     Unlimited data
·                     Wi-Fi AC Dual Band Modem
·                     Line rental
·                     Fetch TV Mighty set top box
·                     One channel pack included
·                     Optus Sport including EPL
·                     $0 connection fee on 24 mth contract
You • 12:23 PM
No, I said data rates and traffic allowances.
Ben K • 12:23 PM
I don't know what you mean , sorry
You • 12:23 PM
OK, don't worry. I thought you were an ISP.
Ben K • 12:24 PM
We are. I'm in sales so not very technical
You • 12:25 PM
OK, but if you don't know the data, I don't suppose anybody does. Thanks for your time. I'll go elsewhere.

I particularly like the fact that their chat people don't even understand terms like “data rate” and “traffic allowance”. Presumably they're not in their scripts.


Dog meets horse
Topic: animals Link here

We've had dogs, mainly Borzois, and horses for 35 years now, and they've all got on well together. Until we moved in to Stones Road. Since then, Yvonne has kept them well apart, which is a nuisance: we have to make sure they don't come near each other.

Finally I have persuaded her to get the animals used to each other. One of each animal at a time, today Carlotta and Leonid:


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It'll take time, but it seems to be working.


Big kangaroo
Topic: animals Link here

While walking the dogs today:


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He must have been 1.60 tall at least.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017 Dereel
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More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along today to do yet more work. It seems to take forever, but then that's why I've given up doing it myself. We now have the drain pump working, and he has cut down most of the Cannas:


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It's surprising how many new shoots and new buds are coming up:


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And the Gladiolus I noted last week are now starting to flower:


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Mick tells me that he's noticed this elsewhere as well, almost as if it were still summer. And that despite two frosts in the last 10 days or so.


Preparing the next eureka
Topic: technology Link here

Another day half-heartedly configuring the next eureka. Originally I had intended to switch over today, but there's no pressure, and I would really like to be able to get it right so that future upgrades go smoothly. But then I've been saying that for over 15 years.


Thursday, 8 June 2017 Dereel Images for 8 June 2017
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Devsummit, 16 years later
Topic: technology, opinion, general Link here

BSDCan is currently running in Ottawa, for the 14th time. Ollivier Robert and others posted photos of the developer session (“Devsummit”).

It's been 11 years since I participated in any conference, coincidentally BSDCan. The very first devsummit wasn't at a BSD conference at all, but at the USENIX Annual Technical Conference in June 2001. I took similar photos of individuals then, with the images conveniently named after the nicks of the

Times have changed, of course, and the image quality has improved enormously. But what gets me is that, after 16 years, I can recognize a majority of the players in the 2001 Dev Summit (as I spelt it at the time). I can't definitively recognize anybody for sure in this year's photos. Part of that, of course, is that I've probably never met most of them, and those who are there have changed enough for me to no longer be sure.

Apart from that, however, it's interesting to note how similar the atmosphere was.


Uses of fisheye lenses
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Fisheye lenses used to be a curiosity: the projection looks just plain silly. In fact, of course, the whole question of projections is complicated, and beyond about 90° our concept of rectilinear projection breaks down.

For yesterday's photo of the house after pruning the cannas, I first used the Zuiko Digital ED 9-18 mm f/4.0-5.6 at 9 mm, here cropped to shape:


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The same view from the same viewpoint looks like this when taken with the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye:


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At that distance it doesn't even look overly “distorted”. But DxO Optics “Pro” has a remapping function for fisheyes, which they call “distortion correction”:

 
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Empirically, I discovered that 79 (%?) “Intensity” straightened the image pretty well, converting it (presumably) to rectilinear projection. It's interesting to compare it with the original:


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What's the equivalent rectilinear focal length? That's proportional to the relative size of the house wall. On my (full) screen it was 26.6 cm for the fisheye and 52.4 cm for the 9 mm lens, coincidentally almost exactly 2:1, so the equivalent rectilinear focal length is 4.5 mm. And the distortion in the corners is extreme. That's one of the main issues with wide angle rectilinear projections, and one of the reasons that there's a limit on the angle of such lenses.

More to the point, though, the aberrations are unacceptable:

 
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Part of this is because DxO doesn't have correction profiles (“modules”) for the Zuiko Digital fisheye, and the manual corrections don't seem to make any difference. It does, however, have a profile for the newer M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO. Is it worth getting one? It would be interesting to have some corresponding images to play around with.


Camera suppliers revisited
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I've been quite impressed with the pricing efficiency of eGlobal, but they're not the only game in town. Another one that I hadn't investigated is DWI. Went looking today: they offer the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO for $920, while eGlobal wants $899. It wasn't until I mentioned this on the M43 Australia group that somebody pointed out that eGlobal always charge $19 (at least) shipping per item, while DWI includes it in the price. That still makes them $2 more expensive, but it doesn't have to stay that way. And it's good to have a choice.


DxO: We don't care about EXIF
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

It's been a month since I entered a relatively straightforward bug report against DxO Optics “Pro”: the program ignores Makernotes information in the EXIF data and identifies my Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 mm f/2.8-4 as Zuiko Digital ED 12-60 mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD, apparently because the focal length and aperture ranges are the same.

The “progress” of this ticket has shown DxO from their very worst side: incompetent support personnel, incorrect “diagnosis”, lack of escalation procedures, and finally a “response” from development that completely ignores the issue:

Our development team stated that since your equipment is not supported, there is nothing we can do for you at the moment.

With attitudes like that, it's not surprising that the product has so many bugs.


Friday, 9 June 2017 Dereel Images for 9 June 2017
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New eureka, at a snail's pace
Topic: technology Link here

I'm still dragging my heels about upgrading eureka, but the clock is ticking:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/32) ~ 11 -> df /Photos
Filesystem  1048576-blocks      Used  Avail Capacity  Mounted on
/dev/ada2p1      3,814,382 3,761,397 14,841   100%    /Photos

How about just sucking it and see? No, bad idea. Let's get the individual subsystems working properly on eureso first. Today I did the web server, which proved to be more of an issue than I expected. For reasons that don't make very much sense, FreeBSD's Apache port puts the root of the web tree in /usr/local/www, which is on the root file system in my scheme of things. But clearly the content is related to the installation, not the system software. So it makes more sense to put it in /home/www, or, as I chose, /home/var/www: /home/var contains those subdirectories of /var that relate to the installation rather than the system. That now works well, but it reminds me how much work it is just to think things through.

Tomorrow (or $tomorrow) it'll be Samba.


Australian “Asian” food
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

More playing around with my “Asian” spice pastes today. This one, from ALDI, looked appetizing, but there was a caveat (second image):


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Yvonne is very sensitive to hot food. Two chilies (out of three?) suggests medium heat, but who knows? To be on the safe side, I also made this “Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken”:


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Both had one thing in common: enormous quantities of meat. The Pepper Sauce wanted 500 g of beef for 4 servings. That's a small steak for each. And the Lemongrass Chicken wanted 600 g of chicken!

So I reduced the quantities: 400 g each of chicken and beef. Here are the quantities:

“Vietnamese” Lemongrass Chicken

quantity       ingredient       step
400 g       chicken, in cubes
100 g       onion, thin slices      
85 g       green capsicum, sliced      
40 g       red capsicum, sliced      

“Singapore pepper” beef

quantity       ingredient       step
400 g       beef rump, thin slices
120 g       onion, thin slices      
110 g       red capsicum      
12 g       garlic      

And the results? Barely similar in appearance to the photos on the packages:


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Of course there's more sauce in my versions, but the most obvious difference is the size of the pieces, both of meat and onions. There are just as many onions in my beef as in the recipe on the package, but they're cut smaller and cooked. And I cut the chicken thicker than intended, but it's still much finer than the recipe suggestion. And then there's the colour of the “Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken”. That's (British?) curry powder! By contrast, I couldn't detect any lemon grass. To be fair to the manufacturer, they've discontinued this stuff, and a good thing too.

And could Yvonne eat it? Yes, more or less. Not because it was too hot—the “Singapore pepper” didn't even make it to mild—but because it tasted so strange. It's not bad enough to throw away, but like my British curry recently, it brings home that I shouldn't be buying spice mixes targeted at the Australian or other “Western” markets. And it is also barely less work than starting from scratch: the two dishes took me about 40 minutes to prepare.


Saturday, 10 June 2017 Dereel Images for 10 June 2017
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Bloody eBay again!
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

After my extreme annoyance with eBay last month, I made a decision never to sell anything on eBay again, so there was no reason to add payment arrangements after changing the account to to AUD.

Maybe not for me. But eBay found a way. In my mail this morning:

Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2017 17:16:22 +0200
From: eBay Global Collections <collections.au@ebay.com>
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: FRIENDLY REMINDER: PAYMENT AND UPDATED INFO NEEDED

DON???T LOSE YOUR ABILITY TO BUY, SELL AND EARN $ ON EBAY
Please pay your eBay Seller fees

Your eBay Seller Fees of AUD 7.40 on your auctions account are due by your invoice due date. To keep your account in good standing, you must take steps to ensure The fastest and easiest way to pay your eBay fees is to set up an automatic payment method to have funds automatically deducted from your PayPal account, bank account or credit card each month.

And yes, that's the text, with some words apparently missing: “you must take steps to ensure The fastest and easiest way to pay your eBay fees is to...”. This seems to be one of their typical inaccuracy problems. The corresponding HTML reads, with original spacing and spurious markup:

 steps to ensure  the Current Balance due is paid by that date. </strong><br /><br />The fastest and easiest way to pay your eBay fees is to

Maybe the double space confused their text converter.

But what is that nonsense? Since starting this account, I have had no transactions. Yes, there was an invoice, which I hadn't looked at, because I was expecting it. But to my surprise, it was for this account, and for the sum of $7.40. For what? This time I went looking in all the unexpected places, but no, I couldn't find any explanation. And of course there's no way to get anything out of them in writing: “Email not available for this category”. I HATE EBAY!

Finally calmed down enough to get them to call me. This time I timed the silence at the begin of the callback: 23 seconds with just heavy noise in the background.

Spoke to Nichol (female), who wanted to do through the whole rigmarole all over again. I refused and asked her to send me, by email, a legally binding address for eBay in Australia, and if she could, an explanation for the fees.

I got the email, but no explanation for the fees:

Any notices to eBay's registered agent must be given by registered ordinary post (or if posted to or from a place outside Australia, by registered airmail) or by facsimile transmission to eBay International A.G., c/- Corrs Chambers Westgarth, 8 Chifley, 8-12 Chifley Square, Sydney NSW 2000, Fax: (02) 9210 6611.

Fax! And no email. Yes, eBay was founded in the last millennium, but this seems positively archaic. What do I do now? If I don't pay, I can't buy on eBay either. That's duress. Finally time to put in a formal complaint.


More pump pain
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

On Wednesday, Mick reinstalled the drain pump in front of the house, and then carefully covered it over and put wire mesh around the soil. Not a good idea: I don't trust it well enough, and keeping an eye on the water level and the position of the float switch is a good idea.

Today it wouldn't run. Why? No water? Something else? Tried to get at the thing and sunk 20 cm into wet soil. Grrr. It proves that he had installed it at a slight angle so that the float got caught in a conveniently positioned cable. Somehow our pain isn't done yet.


New Hugin
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Hugin 2017.0.0 rc1 is available. Time to build it.

In the past I've had issues with a dependency on autopano_sift_c, apparently a question of the naming: for reasons I don't understand, the port was given the name autopano-sift-C, and it appeared to conflict with autopano-sift-c elsewhere. Still, there's a simple solution: it's obsolete, so just remove the dependency altogether.

All went well until installation. And then I ran into the issue that the pkg-plist didn't match reality. How do I build a new pkg-plist? In the past I did it manually, but surely there must be a way to do it. Presumably it's documented, but the handbook is enormous and not structured the way I think. There's a simpler approach, UTSL:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/32) ~ 14 -> find /usr/ports/Mk/ | xargs grep -i plist:
...
/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.port.mk:generate-plist: ${WRKDIR}
/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.port.mk:      @${MKDIR} ${TMPPLIST:H}
/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.port.mk:makeplist: stage
/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.port.mk:check-plist: stage

OK, that's straightforward enough, and how about that: makeplist almost worked. My new pkg-plist started:

/you/have/to/check/what/makeplist/gives/you
bin/PTBatcherGUI
bin/align_image_stack

What good is that first line? In any case, after removing it, all worked. Ship it!


eureso: next day
Topic: technology Link here

Today I should have been setting up Samba on eureso, but I couldn't bear the thought of yet more Microsoft, so I tried out X instead. Surprise, surprise: it Just Worked. About the only issue was that Virtualbox wants to capture the mouse cursor, something that scared me in the past: once captured, you can't leave the Vbox window until you release it again with R-ctrl, something not marked on my keyboard (it's a ♦ symbol instead). But once I crossed that hurdle, all was plain sailing.


Copying files in the modern age
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the most primitive operations in computing is copying files. It's understandable that there should be more general protocols for networks, and in fact one of the first services on the ARPANET was the file transfer protocol, FTP, first defined on 16 April 1971 in RFC 114. With that you can copy anything anywhere, assuming that you have permission.

But that's too simple. Or maybe too clunky: in a local network, the people at Berkeley decided they wanted something with semantics more like the Unix cp command. and 4.2BSD introduced rcp.

But that should have been enough for anybody, right? Wrong. To misquote Andy Tanenbaum, the nice thing about copy programs is that there are so many of them. And nobody uses ftp or rcp any more. After all, browsers must be good for more than using up all available resources.

Today I was offered a free book “Climate Refugees: How Global Change Is Displacing Millions” from the New York Times, along with instructions on how to download it. That seemed to make sense, because the download link didn't do anything. Edwin Groothuis later discovered that you first needed to click on TBOOKS, which brings you to a selection page. Select the book title, and you come back to the previous page, but presumably now armed with a cookie which lets you download the book. Isn't that simple?

The help page doesn't describe this particular trick, but it does come up with about 12 different ways to downloading it, explicitly excluding the use of older browsers, and implicitly excluding the use of FTP or other sane protocols. What a declaration of bankruptcy!


Trump helps combat climate change
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump seems to have done very few positive actions in his time in office, but taking the USA out of the Paris Climate Accord certainly was one of the most negative.

Or was it? The world is up in arms, of course, even inside the USA. The state of California has established bilateral ties with two countries to combat climate change. And the New York Times has published a free book “Climate Refugees: How Global Change Is Displacing Millions” on the subject (see above). It's quite interesting, and a typographer's nightmare: 86 pages, of which about 30 contain page break widows. But the content is interesting, and it's possible that Trump has inadvertently increased awareness of the problem. Now we can only hope that Mar-a-Lago be significantly damaged by freak weather attributable to climate change.


Sunday, 11 June 2017 Dereel Images for 11 June 2017
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eureso: Unexpected problems
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Today I was supposed to be testing Samba on eureso, but things turned out differently. Yesterday I built the latest version of Hugin, so I had to test it. Not on eureka, of course: I need a functional version there. So I tried it on eureso. The results weren't quite what I expected. As usual, got lots of junk on the screen. Most is the stuff that goes into a modern equivalent of /dev/null when programs are started from a window manager. In my experience, GNOME-based is particularly noisy in this respect.

(hugin:41729): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed
(hugin:41729): Gtk-CRITICAL **: IA__gtk_widget_set_size_request: assertion 'height >= -1' failed

Xlib:  extension "GLX" missing on display ":0".
./src/unix/glx11.cpp(442): assert "ok" failed in GetGLXVersion(): GLX version not found

The first message appears many times every time I start Hugin, and appears to be unimportant. But the last one was serious, and caused a popup as well:

 
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It also stopped Hugin from working.

What caused that? Missing dependencies? Did a fair amount of unwilling bug searching, but didn't find the solution. About the only thing I did establish was that it happens with the current release version as well, so there may be nothing wrong with my new build.


Honouring Tony Abbott
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Last month I revisited the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. It features a “Prime Ministers Avenue”, a selection of busts of all prime minsters of Australia. Here the current image from the web site:

All prime minsters? To quote the site:

The 27 Prime Ministers of Australia are displayed as bronze portraits mounted on polished granite pedestals.

Problem: there have been 29 prime minsters of Australia. I've been checking from time to time for the last two (Tony Abbott and the incumbent Malcolm Turnbull), but they weren't there last month.

But now, it seems, they have added at least Tony Abbott (and forgotten to update the web site). Here an anonymous (aren't they all?) image from imgur.com:

Time to take another look myself.


Another anniversary
Topic: history Link here

Seen in my calendar today:

Jun 11  Greg and Norm finish Asia trip in Yelverton, 1967

It seems only last week that I noted the 50th anniversary of the start. We should really have taken longer on the trip, but it wasn't helped by not knowing what to visit.


Monday, 12 June 2017 Dereel
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Hugin 2017 again
Topic: technology, photography Link here

What caused my Hugin to crash yesterday? The missing GLX version suggests a library problem. And I have a machine that runs correctly. so the obvious thing to do is to compare what happens.

First with ktrace. Surprise, surprise! No mention of GLX anywhere. OK, has nobody else had this problem? Yes, many, and it seems to be an X issue. That shouldn't be surprising: I missed a line in the vomit that is the output of any Hugin run:

Xlib:  extension "GLX" missing on display ":0".

That wasn't surprising once I checked what GLX is. Doubtless it's related to the fact that eureso is a virtual machine, or maybe that I didn't finish configuring X. OK, I have a real machine, stable.lemis.com, that is mainly powered down. Fired it up:

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) ~ 8 -> uname -a
FreeBSD stable.lemis.com 11.0-STABLE FreeBSD 11.0-STABLE #2 r315435: Fri Mar 17 19:22:06 AEDT 2017     grog@stable.lemis.com:/usr/obj/usr/src/sys/GENERIC  amd64

And with a bit of messing around (still more build problems, including Yet Another llvm package download), got that to work—at a snail's pace. cpfind took 45 minutes on a 6 image panorama:

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) ~ 2 -> ps aux|grep cpfind
Mon 12 Jun 2017 15:08:12 AEST
USER         PID  %CPU %MEM    VSZ    RSS TT  STAT STARTED      TIME COMMAND
grog       38498  87.2 16.6 881284 597656  -  RNs  14:23     3:04.50 cpfind --multirow -o /tmp/ap_resrLVT3R /tmp/ap_inprojUBEeg1
grog       38497   0.0  1.1 387504  38828  -  INs  14:23     0:00.33 /usr/local/bin/icpfind -o /tmp/ha8K4uRc /tmp/ha8K4uRc

Earlier, top had showed:

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME    WCPU COMMAND
38498 grog            1  25    5  6137M   576M swread  1   2:26   0.46% cpfind

The thing was swapping like crazy. How much memory is there in this box? 4 GB! That's no longer big, but it's still not small. Have they increased the memory needs that much in the new version?

Deinstall (that's really what they call it) and install the 2016 version instead. Same thing. Whatever it is, it's not an issue with the new version, which seems to work as advertised. But I don't have the courage to install it on eureka yet, and in view of the pending upgrade, I shouldn't really bother.


eureso: (only) one step forward
Topic: technology Link here

While testing eureso, made one positive discovery: rdesktop now works with Microsoft “Windows” 10. Now if only the rest would be as easy.

So why haven't I got Samba working on eureso yet? Partly it's distaste, mixed with difficulty understanding Microsoft networking. The documentation I'm using is chapter 25 of “The Complete FreeBSD”, because it contains exactly what I need. But that's over 14 years old, and Samba has changed since then.

OK, what about the FreeBSD Handbook? That's more up to date, but some of the content makes assumptions about how Samba is installed, and they don't seem to match. Still, it refers to the Official Samba HOWTO.

And there I get a sense of déjà vu. The How to Install and Test SAMBA was written by Andrew Tridgell, John Terpstra and Dan Shearer, all of whom I know personally, as well as Jelmer Vernooij and Karl Auer, whom I don't. But to the best of my knowledge Dan and John haven't been involved with Samba since long before I finished CFBSD—indeed, Dan seems to have dropped out of software altogether decades ago—and Tridge has also had little to do with the project for a long time. And sure enough, it was based on Samba 3, not Samba 4, which was released nearly 5 years ago.

So where am I? I have a marginally better understanding of how things are supposed to work, but it's still not enough.


Trump and Macron: the difference
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The results of the legislative elections in France surprised me. Here we have Emmanuel Macron, a newcomer to politics, with a brand new party with roughly 50% of the candidates also newcomers. We've seen some of that before with the election of Donald Trump, and the results were at least as bad as I feared. Why should it be better with Macron?

The general opinion, however, is very much more positive. I'm still trying to understand why. Part of it, of course, is that Macron is a sensible person. The things he is trying to change are things that really need change, and he seems to have idea that convince thinking people.

The elections aren't over yet—there's another one on Sunday—but it seems that it's a foregone conclusion that his party will have not just a majority, but a big majority. Still, something like this has happened before, 228 years ago. Hopefully things will progress better this time.


Touching up old photos
Topic: photography, technology, history, opinion Link here

My thoughts about John Terpstra made me consider when we last saw each other. That was 13 years ago, shortly before he emigrated to the USA. But the last photos I had were at the AUUG annual conference in 2 September 2002, nearly 15 years ago:


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That's John at the end of the table. The other people should be recognizable. It's not much of a photo. It was taken with a Canon Ixus v, and to get it that good I had to play around a bit with my photo enhancing software. The original looked like this:


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Run the cursor over the image to compare with the enhanced version, and click to enlarge. The enhanced version isn't good. But what do you expect of a 16 year old digital camera with a whopping 1,920 kP? On the whole, I think that the improvement in gradation makes up for the noise.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017 Dereel Images for 13 June 2017
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More Samba fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why can't I mount network shares with the new version of Samba? Everything seems right. OK, back to take a look. I couldn't mount \\eureso\eurekahome (/home from eureso's point of view) on euroa (Microsoft “Windows” 7). It just hung, Cancel and scratch head. No, first look at the list of shares:

 
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It's there (drive Z:). Why was it hanging? I'll never understand Microsoft.

OK, next “Windows” 10. rdesktop now works. Does Samba? No:

 
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Why? For that I need some sane diagnostics, which precludes Microsoft. Off to read the Samba documentation. There's quite a reasonable page on troubleshooting Samba. It's still puzzling. I got a log file samba/log.192.109.197.174, which contained:

=== root@eureso (/dev/pts/5) /var/log 23 -> cat samba/log.192.109.197.174
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.032889,  3] ../source3/smbd/oplock.c:1301(init_oplocks)
  init_oplocks: initializing messages.
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.033055,  3] ../source3/smbd/process.c:1957(process_smb)
  Transaction 0 of length 72 (0 toread)
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.033069,  2] ../source3/smbd/reply.c:705(reply_special)
  netbios connect: name1=EURESO         0x20 name2=DESPAIR        0x0
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.033084,  2] ../source3/smbd/reply.c:746(reply_special)
  netbios connect: local=eureso remote=despair, name type = 0

That's not very helpful. Where do I go from here? It wasn't until later that this is a case of “So nice, so nice, we do it twice”: there's a second file too, samba/log.despair. That's the same system, this time with a name instead of an IP address. It contains, continuing after the other file,

[2017/06/13 17:13:09.033776,  3] ../source3/smbd/process.c:1957(process_smb)
  Transaction 0 of length 159 (0 toread)
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.033801,  3] ../source3/smbd/process.c:1538(switch_message)
  switch message SMBnegprot (pid 52825) conn 0x0
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.033811,  4] ../source3/smbd/sec_ctx.c:320(set_sec_ctx_internal)
  setting sec ctx (0, 0) - sec_ctx_stack_ndx = 0
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034471,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [PC NETWORK PROGRAM 1.0]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034493,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [LANMAN1.0]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034502,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [Windows for Workgroups 3.1a]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034510,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [LM1.2X002]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034516,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [LANMAN2.1]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034523,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [NT LM 0.12]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034530,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [SMB 2.002]
[2017/06/13 17:13:09.034537,  3] ../source3/smbd/negprot.c:603(reply_negprot)
  Requested protocol [SMB 2.???]

This actually makes sense. It seems to be some kind of protocol negotiation, which fits my hypothesis about the cause of the problem. And reply_negprot looks like a rejection. But why? Is despair really requesting all these ancient protocols? It does suggest that I should be checking my smb4.conf. But wouldn't it help if Samba produced a straightforward message “Protocol negotiation failed: no common protocol”?


Language creep
Topic: language, technology, opinion Link here

Seen on IRC today:

* andyf has a difficulty with groggyhimself describing computer "systems" as machines

Why? The OED doesn't have any difficulty. From machne, n. IV. 6:

c. Used contextually for the particular kind of machine which the speaker or writer intends, as: a sewing machine; a printing machine or mechanical printing press; a shearing-machine (Austral. and N.Z.); a typewriter; a calculating machine or computer; a slot machine; a washing machine; etc. Cf. sense 6a.

This is accompanied by numerous quotations. The most obvious one is Turing machine, but also such compounds as machine-assisted, machine code, machine-independent, machine instruction, machine-readable, machine word and more, a total of 52 mentions of “computer” in the entry for “machine”.

So why is Andy upset? I think he's presaging a change in terminology. A similar one is “hardware”, which was once considered humorous, but is now just part of our language. And people don't program any more: they “code”, something that, when I was a lad, was left to non-thinking coders who simply interpreted flow charts. OED mentions the distinction in a quote, but doesn't clarify it:

1958 Oxf. Mag. 29 May 469/1 The new [computing] machines..require the relatively new skills of ‘programming’ and ‘coding’.


DxO responds
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

I had more or less given up getting any serious support from DxO, but today I got a response:

The crash seems related to a communication issue between dopcor.exe (in charge of image processing) and OpticsPro. It may be that an anti-virus software or a firewall application is blocking or slowing down the communication between those 2 apps, leading to an error. Can you please try disabling any of these (or adding exceptions for OpticsPro.exe and DopCor.exe) ?

If such a software is not a possible track,, we would like to get a HijackThis report to investigate further. ( https://sourceforge.net/projects/hjt/ )

It's hard to understand how a (network) firewall can be to blame for loss of communication between processes on the same machine, but the answer is simple: the machines don't run anti-virus or firewalls. So how about HiJackThis? Installed that, ran it, and came up with a list that seems to show just what's installed on the machine. If it's supposed to highlight problems, it didn't find any. I wonder if it's somehow related to running via rdesktop.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017 Dereel Images for 14 June 2017
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Curry tree autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

Over the last week our curry tree has lost most of its leaves:


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This has happened before, but why? There's no reason to believe that the tree is deciduous. Yes, I've had mite infestations, but I thought I had had them under control. But some of the details suggest that there's still a problem:


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I don't see any danger of it dying—it's 7 years old now, and it has always come back—but I should get into a habit of spraying it regularly to avoid a repeat.


System vs. machine, continued
Topic: language, technology, opinion Link here

For some reason Andy Farkas was not happy with Tuesday's musings over the words “machine” and “systems”. Reading between the lines, he expects a machine to contain lots of moving parts, something that the original word never implied. From OED again, the original definition (first attested in 1545) was:

A structure regarded as functioning as an independent body, without mechanical involvement.

A non-mechenical machine reminds me of an animal without a soul (Latin animum), but who cares?

For some reason Andy didn't like my quotations, and came up with his own, from the 1978 book “digital DISTRIBUTED SYSTEMS HANDBOOK”:

This book was written and edited on DIGITAL Word Processing Systems (WPS)

Fine, but is this system hardware or software? Also, I hadn't excluded the use of the word “system”, and potentially the date of the book made it less interesting as a reference. So I quickly found my own, in the 1971 PDP-11 processor handbook:

The PDP-11 family includes... each machine has some of its own characteristics. New systems will be compatible.

That's interesting because of the juxtaposition of the two words. I'm still tending towards the differentiation that “machine” refers to the CPU of a computer, while “system” refers to the entire, well, system. It's interesting to note that the term “main frame” (now “mainframe”) has gone through a similar transition. From OED again:

Originally: the central processing unit and primary memory of a computer. Now usually: any large or general-purpose computer, esp. one supporting numerous peripherals or subordinate computers.

Still more digging in OED brings me to this definition of “system”:

11. a. A computer, typically considered together with associated hardware and software; a group of networked computers, esp. one dedicated to a single application.

The first of those definitions agrees with my assessment. The second is interesting, and certainly not at odds with my own experience.

And then there's a second definition that we all know:

b. A group of related or interconnected programs; (also) = operating system n.

The trouble is, of course, that while OED is authoritative for the English language as a whole, there could be better sources for computing terms. I just don't know them.


Buying beer online
Topic: food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

One of the more interesting things about the web is that it can help me track special offers from retailers. I've been keeping an eye on Dan Murphy's web site for a while, and the price differences for beer can be over 30%. Currently I'm running low on beer, and Dan Murphy is running high on prices. How about an alternative?

That's not hard to find: BWS. Took a look, and they had Becks Beer on special for $50 a slab, instead of a more usual $65. OK, I can take that. Just sign up and buy it.

After half an hour, I gave up. I frequently complain about other web sites, but I think that BWS beats them all.

I won't even go into the difficulty of navigation; it seems that generations of web programmers have elevated this to a fine art. First there's the requirement to specify date of birth and mobile phone number. Why? In Australia, date of birth is used for authentication, so I don't want to spread it more than necessary. And I emphatically don't want them to use my mobile phone. But no, I must specify it:

 
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At least it accepted my password and (incorrect) date of birth. Or did it?

 
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Another stupid password scheme, also incorrectly stipulated (the password can contain many digits and many letters). You'd think that the length of the (uncomplimentary) password, along with their own assessment of password strength, would be clear enough.

Finally I got round to ordering the beer and trying to pay for it. But:

 
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That's not completely impossible. I've just renewed my credit card (because I dragged my feet too long looking for a cheaper alternative). Called up my bank, getting further annoyed by their stupid voice non-recognition system. Yes, BWS deducted $50 from my card, and then immediately refunded it. No explanation why, but there's nothing wrong with the card, and the bank didn't decline anything. The message was wrong.

Broken payment system? OK, they offer PayPal, so I tried that. Same thing! PayPal sent me mail about the matter:

You authorised a payment of $50.00 AUD to BWS

Your funds will be transferred when the merchant processes your payment. Any money in your PayPal account balance will be used first. If you have a zero balance or insufficient funds in your account, your backup funding source will be charged for the full or remaining payment. Please note that your bank or card provider may charge a dishonour fee if you have insufficient funds to make the payment.

So why didn't they deduct? While searching I noticed two things:

Fixing the first problem was easy: I re-registered with the correct email address. This time no email attempt, and still the same problem. In the end I gave up.

E-commerce is the way of the future. Companies like BWS make it clear that it's not the way of the present.


UV filters after all?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Decades ago, we almost always put some kind of filter in front of lenses: yellow and red for black and white film, and ultraviolet for colour film. Since the advent of digital cameras, that's no longer necessary.

Or is it? Eighteen months ago I discovered a scratch on a lens, though I'm still not convinced that it wasn't there when I bought it. But a filter would have protected it. And recently, I took this photo:


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That was taken with the 25 mm Summilux, one of the few lenses which has a filter in front of it. And afterwards it was spattered with fat droplets.

No worry, I can wash that. And that's a big difference: keeping lens front elements clean is still something that doesn't work well. But remove the filter, wash with detergent and water, and try it out again: that works well.

And then this article appeared, comparing currently available filters in terms of quality and image degradation. It seems that the best compromise is the Hoya HMC Multicoated, which also has the advantage of being relatively cheap. That's good enough for me, and I've ordered them for all my lenses except for the extreme wide angles, where vignetting can be a problem.


Thursday, 15 June 2017 Dereel Images for 15 June 2017
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More breakfast alternatives
Topic: food and drink Link here

One disadvantage has manifested itself since changing our dining habits: I don't eat as much kimchi as I used to. What I need is a Korean breakfast.

Problem: it seems that there is no such thing as a Korean dish specifically for breakfast. So I ended up faking something:

quantity       ingredient       step
5 g       dried mushrooms       1
      hot water       1
25 g       onion, finely chopped       2
4 g       ginger       2
8 g       garlic       2
95 g       chicken breast       3
120 g       dofu       4
40 g       pok choi       4
40 g       spring onions       4
50 g       bean sprouts       5
      soya sauce       5
      sesame oil       5

That's enough for two portions. Here's today's portion served with rice and fried egg:


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The kimchi was served separately.


Worst ever phone camera
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne went shopping yesterday. She had mentioned that there were other sprouts available than bean sprouts, so I suggested she took a photo with her phone camera.

That was the easy part. How do I get the photos out of the phone? The phone in question is an ONIX AMPS-214, as it calls itself internally. It's not exactly a smart phone: in fact, that's why we bought it. The fact that it had a camera was completely irrelevant: it had a keyboard. Today was the first time we used the camera, and it took some difficulty to find out how to get the images off the phone. Even with modern smart phones, it's an operation that reminds me that the original meaning of the word “smart” is “pain”.

It can be connected (by USB) either when running or when powered off. When running I get the choice:


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Tethering? The mind boggles. But when I select “Mass storage”, I get:

Jun 14 11:37:18 eureka kernel: ugen0.17: <AMPS-214 AM> at usbus0
Jun 14 11:37:18 eureka kernel: umodem0: <6229  COMcommif> on usbus0
Jun 14 11:37:18 eureka kernel: umodem0: data interface 0, has CM over data, has break
Jun 14 11:37:18 eureka devd: Executing 'logger Unknown USB device: vendor 0x0e8d product 0x0003 bus uhub2'
Jun 14 11:37:18 eureka root: Unknown USB device: vendor 0x0e8d product 0x0003 bus uhub2
Jun 14 11:37:22 eureka kernel: ugen0.17: <AMPS-214 AM> at usbus0 (disconnected)
Jun 14 11:37:22 eureka kernel: umodem0: at uhub2, port 3, addr 3 (disconnected)
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: ugen0.17: <AMPS-214 AM> at usbus0
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: umass3: <6229--Storage> on usbus0
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: umass3:  SCSI over Bulk-Only; quirks = 0x8000
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: umass3:8:3:-1: Attached to scbus8
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da3 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus8 target 0 lun 0
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da3: <AMPS-214  > Removable Direct Access SCSI device
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da3: Serial Number 53665060201411f
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da3: 40.000MB/s transfers
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da3: Attempt to query device size failed: NOT READY, Medium not present
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da3: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da4 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus8 target 0 lun 1
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da4: <AMPS-214  > Removable Direct Access SCSI device
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da4: Serial Number 53665060201411f
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da4: 40.000MB/s transfers
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da4: 50MB (102400 512 byte sectors: 64H 32S/T 50C)
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: da4: quirks=0x2<NO_6_BYTE>
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: cd1 at umass-sim3 bus 3 scbus8 target 0 lun 2
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: cd1: <AMPS-214  > Removable CD-ROM SCSI device
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: cd1: Serial Number 53665060201411f
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: cd1: 40.000MB/s transfers
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: cd1: cd present [23944 x 512 byte records]
Jun 14 11:37:28 eureka kernel: cd1: quirks=0x10<10_BYTE_ONLY>

The devices don't provide anything like an MBR layout. All I got were the raw devices /dev/da3, /dev/da4 and /dev/cd1. It's not clear what /dev/da3 was good for—possibly a microSD card—but /dev/da4 was a raw FAT file system that I couldn't talk to with mtools, so I mounted it with mount_msdos (because that's shorter than mount_msdosfs):

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 59 -> mount -t msdos /dev/da3 /mnt
mount: Using "-t msdosfs", since "-t msdos" is deprecated.
mount_msdosfs: /dev/da3: Device not configured
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 60 -> mount -t msdos /dev/da4 /mnt
mount: Using "-t msdosfs", since "-t msdos" is deprecated.
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 61 -> l /mnt
total 1
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  2 Jan  2014 @UC000
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 @mms
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 @mmsobject
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 @usedetail
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  2 Jan  2014 Download
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 Photos
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 SMSArch
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 SMSSimCust
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 Settings
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  2 Jan  2014 _UJSR
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  3 Jan  2014 brs
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel      0  1 Jan  2014 ex_phb_video.dat
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel      0  1 Jan  2014 phb_video.dat
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  2,048  1 Jan  2014 sat

Not surprisingly, the photos were in /mnt/Photos:

/mnt/Photos:
total 1
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel   2,048  1 Jan  2014 .
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  16,384  1 Jan  1980 ..
...
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  56,639 14 Jun 23:41 IMG00008.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  48,874 15 Jun 03:55 IMG00009.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  43,623 15 Jun 03:55 IMG00010.jpg
drwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel   2,048  1 Jan  2014 db

/mnt/Photos/db was empty. But look at those sizes! Was there anywhere else? I searched the whole file system (all 540 kB of it), and found nothing. Surely it wasn't on the CD-ROM image? No:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 68 -> mount -o ro -t cd9660 /dev/cd1 /mnt
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 69 -> l /mnt
total 12
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel          43  4 Jun  2004 AUTORUN.INF
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel      94,285 23 Sep  2011 AutoRun.exe
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel      71,020 23 Sep  2011 AutoRun.ilk
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel          23 12 Jan  2012 AutoRun.ini
dr-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel       2,048 24 Feb  2012 MAC
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel      10,134  6 Dec  2011 SETUP.ico
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel  11,506,942 23 May  2012 Setup.exe
-r-xr-xr-x  1 root  wheel     401,484 28 Feb  2012 msvcrtd.dll

That makes it clear that there's some kind of embedded Microsoft running on the phone. Enough said.

Bartosz Fabianowski points out that there's a directory MAC in the listing, which suggests that it isn't pure Microsoft. He thinks that it might just be a collection of drivers. That's possible: if there's space, why remove something that you don't understand, and which may come back and bite you. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that this device is running Apple software.

Looking back at the phone, it seems that this resolution is (almost) all that you are intended to get:


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But they weren't even the little that it promised: they were only 320x240, just barely larger than my standard 300x225 “thumbnail” size. Still, they were there:

 
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What a mess! OK, it doesn't have image stabilization, and it was low light. But I had tried a couple of photos myself while trying to find out how to get the photos off the camera. They were in better light, and I normally don't have a problem with camera shake. Here are the results:

 
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What appalling quality! What shutter speed were they taken at? Who knows? The EXIF data is incomplete and incorrect:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/56) ~/Photos/20170614 191 -> exifx Disaster-9.jpeg
File Disaster-9.jpeg
Camera:         N/A N/A
Exposure:       0 sec, f/2.8, 21/100 ISO
Meter mode:     Unknown Program AE
Size:           240 x 320 pixels

Apart from the camera shake, the gradation is appalling. What does DxO Optics “Pro” make out of it?

This image cannot be processed since it is too small.

More playing around. I have one of these phones too, though I no longer use it. But it showed different stuff:


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2 MP is tiny, but it's a whole lot bigger than the 76.8 kP that I was getting. More investigation pointed to this menu:


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That's its way of telling you that it's set up to record video, which is the way Yvonne's phone was set up. The converse is:


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OK, let's try again with 2 MP. The angle of view appears to correspond to a 50 mm lens on full frame, compared to about 30 mm for smart phones. Here a comparison between my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II at 28 mm (corresponding to 56 mm full-frame), my Samsung I9100 and the AMPS-214:


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That does look better, until you enlarge it just a little, here only Samsung and AMPS:

 
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It looks as if they have simply scaled up the 320x240 image to 1600x1200.

OK, we didn't buy this phone for the camera, so it's not really important. The thing that amazes me, though, is that they bothered to put in a camera of this quality into the phone at all. Just list-ticking? It would have been significantly cheaper without it.


Garden flowers in early winter
Topic: gardening Link here

It's mid-June, time for my monthly garden photos. There are a surprising number of summer flowers still around:


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The Hebes are actually doing better than in the summer:


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A Begonia cutting that we got from Lorraine Carranza only a couple of months ago is actually flowering happily:


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More dog/horse introductions
Topic: animals Link here

We're still working on getting the dogs and the horses seeing eye-to-eye, not helped by differences in stature:


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Today we introduced Leonid and Sasha to La Tigre, first individually and then together. The dogs are still worried. At least they're less likely to chase the horses in the paddocks now.


Friday, 16 June 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 16 June 2017
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Eureka Village, last time?
Topic: general, opinion, animals Link here

Off with Nikolai, Sasha and Yvonne to Eureka Village Hostel and the Geoffrey Cutter Centre, maybe for the last time. We've seen Leonid lose interest a long time ago, and Sasha is losing it too. Niko could carry on for a while, but it's clear it won't be long. Now Vanda Ivanovski has found new volunteers, so by the end of the month our time will be up. It's still not clear whether I'll come again in 2 weeks, but to be on the safe side I said my goodbyes. I have mixed feelings, but it's not fair to the dogs to carry on.


Cambrian Hill in autumn
Topic: general Link here

Cool morning today, with what passes for fog in Australia. Here's a view we saw in Cambrian Hill on the way to Ballarat:


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New bellows... and lens
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Why should I repair my old bellows? You can get better ones relatively cheaply on eBay. So I did: $49 for a genuine Ashai Optical Company bellows. It arrived today, complete with double cable release (really useful with digital cameras), precision measure, case and... Yet Another Lens:


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The lens is a Raynox 35 mm f/2.8, serial number C52650. It's interesting because it's the first lens I have seen that specifies an angle (63°), the diagonal field of view when mounted on the full-frame cameras for which it was intended. It also has the text Ww, which might indicate German „Weitwinkel“ (wide angle). It has a defective focus ring or mechanism, something that is of little concern when mounted on bellows. And the short focal length means that with extension tubes and full bellows, I can get a magnification of 8.5:1, far more than I've ever managed before. Now I just need to find a subject. A dead mite, maybe?

The specs of the bellows are similar to my old bellows, which is why I bought them. But they're better built, and they include a separate slide for the whole assembly, which obviates the need for a rail underneath. Here the new on the left and the old (damaged) on the right:


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The measuring scale seems to be rather pointless, but as it claims, it could be used as a depth gauge:


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More mite damage
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

The mites are not just interested in the curry tree. For some reason they have never had much success on the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis that I got from my uncle Max years ago, though I found a couple on it today. But they're much more interested in the new hibiscus that I bought in April. Here after spraying:


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To my surprise, the cuttings that I made from the old hibiscus 11 days ago have not withered. They may even be growing. I took this photo of them when I planted them:


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The photo wasn't designed to highlight it, but there's something like a new leaf developing at the top of the stem. It's still there today, here seen from above:


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I'll keep my eye on it for a week or two. Maybe I can prune the tree earlier than expected.


More AMPS-214 investigations
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I took some comparison photos with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Samsung I-9100 and the ONIX AMPS-214 yesterday evening, but they weren't very comparable, so I tried again today. I did a first summary in yesterday's article, but there's more. Clearly the dynamic range of the AMPS-214 phone is severely limited. But it does offer exposure compensation. Tried a compensation of 2 EV either way, with results more surprising than useful. Here the same scene taken with + 2EV, no compensation, and -2 EV


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Somehow both are offset very much towards “dark”. Interestingly, this information is included in the EXIF data, while more basic information such as shutter speed isn't.


Dob in a litterer!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

On the way back home from Ballarat, just after the end of the speed limit in Napoleons, we were overtaken by a car with a box trailer, at a point where most people would naturally accelerate. There's not really enough space there to overtake anything doing more than about 30 km/h, and he didn't make it before he hit the continuous line. And then, of course, he stuck in front of us just slow enough for me to want to overtake him, and just fast enough to make it impractical.

In Enfield there's a sign warning against littering, just before Melaleuca road:


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Abut 300 metres further on somebody (probably front seat passenger) threw something out the window of the car, round 12:30. Yvonne was furious. We were just discussing it—she tells me it was a drink can—when he did it again. That was enough for Yvonne. We followed the car until it turned off down Misery Creek Road, where we got the registration: RJH 857.

Back home, Yvonne called the littering hotline, who weren't helpful. The consultant was apparently of some south or east Asian background, and he had difficulty with all the names (“How do you spell Stones Road?”). Yvonne had difficulty understanding him. And he thought that nothing would come of it because we couldn't give the model of the car. Yvonne had told him that it was a “dark car with a blue trailer with cage”. My guess is that it was a mid-sized Australian car (“sedan”) of about 10 years ago, but they all look the same. But what are registration plates for? And how many people drive down Misery Creek Road? Not a very reassuring experience.


E-M1 Mark II: autofocus better?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the great improvements between the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is supposed to be better autofocus, and maybe it is. But it's still not perfect. Yesterday I took this photo:


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Yes, it's out of focus. I tried to improve on it, but I couldn't get the autofocus to focus on the flower rather than the background. And for some reason focus peaking didn't work properly. It worked fine in the background, but when I focused closer, it just stopped.

Today I tried again, with two cameras (E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II) and two lenses (M.Zuiko Digital 45 mm f/1.8 and Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 mm f/2.8-4). The results aren't conclusive, though I did get a sharp image. But I've discovered at least two things:

  1. Focus peaking on the E-M1 seems to work better than on the E-M1 Mark II, though the latter highlights in red instead of white. I need to read the “instructions” to see if I need to tweak something.

  2. The colour rendition is different:


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    The reds have a significantly different hue. The difference appears to be due to the camera, not the lens. Again, there's stuff to research here.


New thermometer
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

My new infrared thermometer arrived today. The specs are identical with the old one, but it's much faster—and it consistently shows 1° higher than the old one for most surfaces. But in the deep freeze, for example, it shows up to 10° lower. Which is right? Maybe both of them? To be investigated.


Cailles aux raisins... secs
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Quails on sale at ALDI today, so we bought some. In the past we have grilled them under bacon, but the prototypical dish for quails is cailles aux raisins, quails with grapes (French raisin). We have always been a bit dubious about the idea, especially as most recipes start with “peel the grapes”, but while researching the topic, came up with this recipe, notable for at least two things: first, it uses dried grapes (“raisins secs”, or raisins), and secondly the spelling and markup are so appalling that we could barely understand it (though, surprisingly, Google translate makes relative sense of it). Still, I managed to interpret it:

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
50 g       dried raisins       1
40 g       cooking brandy       1
1 (4g)       Chicken stock cube       2
      water       2
2       quails (400 g)       3
      oil       3
1 (50 g)       shallot       4
90 g       chopped smoked pork belly (lardons)       4

Preparation

  1. Soak the raisins in brandy for some time (the recipe says 12 hours; others say 15 minutes).

  2. Dissolve the stock cube in a little hot water.

  3. Brown the quails from all sides in oil in a pan.

  4. Chop the shallots finely and the pork a little less finely. Remove the quails and fry the shallots and pork.

  5. Add quails and spoon the mixture over them. Add the raisins, brandy and stock cube. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

  6. Serve with rice.

The original recipe wanted to separate the brandy from the raisins, and ultimately put half of it in the pot with the rest. The other half was to be used to flambé the quails, which seems rather pointless.

The recipe also suggests adding water if the mixture goes dry during simmering. That seems unlikely: the quails give off a good quantity of liquid.

The result was a pleasant surprise. The recipe above is as we ate it; I'll keep the real recipe here.


Saturday, 17 June 2017 Dereel Images for 17 June 2017
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Copying photos in the Modern age
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here
TL;DR: This article describes the convoluted way that I found out that it is possible to copy files from a smart phone to a computer with a USB cable. It just seems that few people do it that way.

Doing my comparisons required getting them off the camera, of course. For the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, that's simple. Or is it? The methods provided by the camera manufacturer and are so complicated that I've had to write my own script to read them in.

Still, even without that it wouldn't be that difficult. Connect the camera to computer, by USB cable because the app is so appalling, specify the path name of the files, and copy them. This is roughly what I had to do with the AMPS-214:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 103 -> mount -t msdos /dev/da4 /mnt
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 105 -> cd /mnt/Photos/
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) /mnt/Photos 107 -> cp -p IMG0000* ~grog/Photos/20170616
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) /mnt/Photos 108 -> cd
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) ~ 109 -> umount /mnt

Total time, including plugging in the USB cable and similar: about 40 s.

For the E-M1 it would have been even easier, because I could use mtools, which don't require mounting the file system.

And the Samsung? Ah, that's a modern Android device. You don't need cables for that.

But what do you need? I genuinely didn't know. I use AirDroid, which requires roughly:

  1. Fire up AirDroid. At least the way my phone is set up, that requires pressing on the “Apps” icon, swiping and peering at a maze of twisty little icons, all alike, and pressing the “AirDroid” icon, which has conveniently changed its shape in the last few years. With a bit of practice I can do this in 20 seconds.

  2. On a browser of my choice on my real computer, enter the URL 192.109.197.248:8888. Let's say 10 seconds, which could be significantly reduced if the URL were stored somewhere, and DHCP didn't keep changing the device address.

  3. Accept the connection on the device. 3 s, say.

  4. On the browser, navigate to the place where the photos are stored. Path name? We don't need no steenking path names. Select the images, press “Download” (and not “Upload”). Let it do its thing. Say 10 seconds and the transfer time, which could be considerable if I took a normal number of photos on the thing.

  5. In a real environment, look for the archive that has been downloaded:

    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/56) ~/Photos/20170617 355 -> cd ~/Photos/20170616/orig
    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/56) ~/Photos/20170616/orig 356 -> l -rt ~/Downloads
    ...
    -rw-r--r--  1 grog    lemis      6,491,708 17 Jun 13:34 Camera(2).zip
    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/56) ~/Photos/20170616/orig 356 -> unzip ~/Downloads/Camera\(2\).zip
    Archive:  /home/grog/Downloads/Camera(2).zip
      inflating: 20170616_084217.jpg
      inflating: 20170615_165351.jpg
    === grog@eureka (/dev/pts/56) ~/Photos/20170616/orig 357 -> rm ~/Downloads/Camera\(2\).zip

    Time? Maybe another 15 seconds.

But that's clearly not the way it's intended to be done. What is? I asked around, and it seems that mobilesmart phones aren't intended for use in a local network. You upload to a cloud service. I tried that with Google + (a name that confuses Google search). It presented me with the terms and conditions no less than three times, although I have an account. To make up for it, I didn't need to log in.

This offers me a URL https://plus.google.com/113609529728177228110/posts/gVcFCSW7o5L. But it's not the image:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/56) ~/Photos/20170616/orig/JPEG 366 -> file gVcFCSW7o5L
gVcFCSW7o5L: HTML document, ASCII text, with very long lines

James Fraser came up with the obvious answer: click on the image itself. Obvious, isn't it?

The real issue, though, is that I've been blaming the wrong technology. It's FreeBSD! If I plug this phone into eureka, all I get is:

Jun 17 14:26:11 eureka kernel: ugen0.12: <SAMSUNG> at usbus0
Jun 17 14:26:11 eureka devd: Executing '/usr/local/etc/rc.d/webcamd start ugen0.12'
Jun 17 14:26:11 eureka devd: Executing 'logger Unknown USB device: vendor 0x04e8 product 0x6860 bus uhub2'
Jun 17 14:26:11 eureka root: Unknown USB device: vendor 0x04e8 product 0x6860 bus uhub2

But connect it to dischord, a Microsoft box, and it finds two file systems, SD card and phone. With the usual searching I was able to find the images. That makes it about as straightforward as using the other devices. The only question is why we need to tell FreeBSD about each device.


Time for the new disk
Topic: photography, technology Link here

While processing my “house photos” today, ran into an unexpected error:

/Photos: write failed, filesystem is full

Yes, the disk is nearly full, but there were still about 5 GB left—250 times the capacity of my first ST-225 disk 30 years ago. It seems that my conversion scripts are putting the temporary files on /Photos instead of /photowork (an SSD). Time to fix that. In the meantime, removed some junk and gained another 10 GB, enough for the while.


Archery: unregulated weapons
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo is getting into archery in a serious way. Here some photos and videos that Yvonne took today:


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But it seems that there's some interesting science behind archery, including the issue with direction (“Archer's paradox”) and flexibility of the arrows. This photo is interesting for the slow-motion images:

Unfortunately, it seems to be a little over the top. Do arrows really flex that much? Something to try out my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II's “Pro Capture” mode (60 images per second, up to ½ second before the shutter is pressed).

The other thing of interest is the regulation of archery. In Victoria there is none. Chris has a completely blunt sword that could, admittedly, be used as a club. But she still needs a license for it. Her arrows look a lot more dangerous to me—more dangerous even than knives. Considering the alternatives that terrorists are currently exploiting, it seems that there's a serious omission here.


Sunday, 18 June 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 18 June 2017
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Shopping in Ballarat
Topic: general, food and drink, politics, animals Link here

Off to Ballarat this morning with the primary intention of buying some more quails at ALDI. They didn't have any left in Sebastopol, but they established that there were a number in Alfredton—at least 15 packs, of which we took 6. The cashier summed it up: she had never seen them before, and she felt sorry for the poor, innocent birds, something that she wouldn't for a chicken. But she's right: Australians barely eat quails. We're left wondering what will happen to the others. Can they give them away to needy people, or do health regulations get in the way?

On to the Botanical Gardens to take Nikolai for a walk and to visit Tony Abbott. He has lost his onions. Here last week and today:


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Malcolm Turnbull is still not there, but that makes sense: the bust shows completed terms of office, and Turnbull hasn't completed one yet.

The other thing that puzzled me was the different size of the busts. Kevin Rudd was positively minuscule by comparison:


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Surprise, surprise: the heads are pretty much the same height. I measured:

      From chin       From base
Bob Hawke       28 cm       60 cm
Johnnie       24 cm       45 cm
Krudd       23 cm       45 cm
Gillard       25 cm       45 cm
Abbott       25 cm       60 cm

Yes, Rudd is the smallest, but not by much. I think the lack of shoulders enhances the impression.


Ballarat Market
Topic: food and drink, gardening Link here

From there on to the Sunday market in the showgrounds, where Yvonne was looking—with limited success—for stock cubes. On the way we also found some late spring bulbs, some already half sprouted, going for correspondingly low prices. In the end we bought 10 tulips, 26 irises, 15 (mixed) daffodils and 10 gladioli for an average price of under $1 each:


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I particularly like the name “Victure Borge”. I wonder where people get these spellings from, though I see that at least 5 people (presumably with dyslexic parents) really have that name.

The condition of the bulbs meant that I really had to plant them immediately, more work than I've done in the garden for some time.


Goodbye, Gabriella
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

A little over a year ago we were given Gabriella, a miniature pony only marginally bigger than our dogs. It was clear that we weren't going to ride her, but it wasn't clear (to me, at any rate) how much money we would put into infrastructure to maintain her—it must have been over $1000. And now Yvonne has given her away again. I'm not so upset about her going, but it's worth thinking about the costs we take on when we accept “free” animals.


¿Qué es una quesadilla?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Bought a couple of kitchen items while at ALDI: a ribbed frying pan, similar to the one I bought last September. As I commented at the time, the old one is a little small for some things, and the new one cost about the same and is at least double the size. More steaks on the horizon.

The other one looks like a waffle iron:


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But it's sold as a “quesadilla Maker” (and not quesadillera or some such). It looked interesting, so we bought it—after all, we can always return it, and it could be fun. I had always thought that quesadillas were similar to burritos and tacos and things, so off to investigate.

At the end I decided that yes, they may be toasted (isn't that a tostada?), but the idea of splitting it into six segments didn't seem to apply. And most recipes we found weren't amenable to that approach. In the end we experimented:


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The left hand side was mine.

The process makes quite a mess:


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They didn't taste bad, but I'm left with the feeling that this device is a solution looking for a problem. I'm good at looking for problems, so it might be worthwhile.


Monday, 19 June 2017 Dereel Images for 19 June 2017
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Updates are available for your computer
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Came into the office today, kicked dischord, and after a bit of customary mouse-clicking read:

 
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68 (or was that 67) important updates? For Microsoft “Windows” 7? In the last 2 weeks? That sounds highly improbable. What about euroa?

 
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That looks more plausible. But what went wrong with dischord to make that claim? The Am I heading towards a re-install? A couple of weeks ago backups stopped working for reasons that Microsoft backup is too stupid to report, and I started using EaseUS, which has the additional advantage that the backup data sets look understandable. They don't look small, though. I found out because my /home disk was nearly full:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/60) /src/dischord/easus/DISCHORD/System Backup 147 -> l
total 339358
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel  133,528,268,800  4 Jun 18:37 System Backup_20170604_Full_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel   12,800,126,976  6 Jun 11:58 System Backup_20170606_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel    1,774,555,136  7 Jun 11:12 System Backup_20170607_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel   14,067,494,912  8 Jun 12:56 System Backup_20170608_Diff_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel   17,260,265,472  9 Jun 11:12 System Backup_20170609_Diff_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel    4,842,594,304 10 Jun 14:05 System Backup_20170610_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel    5,218,349,056 13 Jun 10:37 System Backup_20170613_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel    5,355,520,000 14 Jun 13:22 System Backup_20170614_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel   21,148,930,048 16 Jun 14:51 System Backup_20170616_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel    3,435,831,296 18 Jun 14:26 System Backup_20170618_Inc_v1.pbd
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  wheel  136,322,822,144 19 Jun 12:22 System Backup_20170619_Full_v1.pbd

Quesadilleras discovered
Topic: food and drink Link here

Is a “Quesadilla Maker“ really called a quesadillera? Google says yes, and they sell devices very similar to mine in México, such as this one:

They even have an instruction manual, conveniently in three langages: English, then French, and only then Spanish, with recipes for things like Cheese Quesadillas. So at least ALDI wasn't treading new ground.


Summer flowers in mid-winter
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been a surprisingly long autumn and relatively mild winter. Our second-last Gladiolus is now flowering, along with a number of Cannas. Time to bring some inside:


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Still more flash woes
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took the photos of the garden flowers with flash, and it worked about as well as ever: badly. First problem was finding some background that wasn't too noisy. I had hoped that the flash would render it pretty dark, but no, all I got was a horrible shadow:


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OK, bounce flash. Yes, much less shadow:


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But still no cigar. The background is still too obvious, and it's irritating. Time to change the background:


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Still a shadow. Bounce off the opposite wall? That's the one I chose:


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One thing I didn't try was the studio flash in the dining room, but it can't have been much different from the last image. But when did I ever take a good photo with on-camera flash?


Making fun of Tony Abbott
Topic: politics, general Link here

Tony Abbott hasn't been the Prime Minister of Australia for nearly 2 years. He's gone, but by no means forgotten. We've already established two photos making fun of his bust in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens (the first two below), but there are more:


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Tuesday, 20 June 2017 Dereel Images for 20 June 2017
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How to propagate cuttings
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I've been propagating plants from cuttings for years, with mixed but mainly positive results (mainly because I know when I'm beat). So when Yvonne wanted to plant some Buddleja cuttings that I was propagating last summer, I told her it was the wrong time of the year, and that they would die. Here's one of them:


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By contrast, the cuttings that I had lovingly potted all died.

A couple of months ago Lorraine Carranza gave us cuttings of a different kind of Buddleja (we're still not sure which). So again I planted some in pots, and we also planted some in the ground. The ones in the pots did well for a while in the lounge room, but probably the sun was too much for them, so I moved them to the bathroom. Here they are, along with the ones in the cold ground outside:


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On the other hand, the Hibiscus cuttings that I made two weeks ago seem to have hardly changed. They're the three on the left, seen from above:


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The leaves look strange mainly because they've been turned almost upside-down.

So it occurred to me to make some more hibiscus cuttings. Where? One in the same place (that's the one in the top centre in the photo above), and one in the bathroom:


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I'll keep an eye on them.

Also our Senna aciphylla that we planted in late spring is flowering:


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That's a far cry from what it looked like six months ago:


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Saffron price: new record
Topic: food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

Saffron prices are high lately. In the past I've paid as little as $1.80 per gram, but currently they start at round $5. So I keep an eye on the prices on eBay. Today I saw a record:


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That's $773.10 per gram, or $773,100 per kilogram, 140 times the already expensive going rate! Yes, there are others, like the Australians who sell the same quantity for $11, but this is ridiculous. My recipe for paella valenciana calls for 1 g saffron. At $5 a gram, I can afford that. At $770 I can't.

But then I saw the name of the seller: roxy*books, who also offer lenses for sale at prices roughly 5 times the going rate. I can usually recognize their listings by the price alone.

Do they sell anything at these prices? If they do, I suppose it makes it worthwhile. But it's another blemish to eBay's reputation that they allow people to do this.


British TV Series
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

We've been watching the American series “The Big Bang Theory”, which, to my surprise, Yvonne likes. I think she feels reassured that there are even stranger people out there than me.

But then there's a British series, “The IT Crowd”, which IMDB gives an even higher rating. Took a look today. What a catastrophe! Not because it's about my own area of expertise (it isn't), but because it's just so plain stupid. If this is the inheritance of Monty Python, the members of the Watford Suicide Club must be turning in their graves. And this isn't the only really stupid series I've seen from England: I recently accidentally picked up something relating to an airport, name mercifully forgotten, which was even more stupid.


Walking the dogs
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

When we lived in Kleins Road, we walked the dogs twice a day, about 1 to 2 km each time. Since we've been here we've become lazier, at least in part because there's not as much forest, and the dogs can run around on the property. We now only walk once a day, and lately it's been only to the next road junction and back, only about 600 m. But a walk is good for us too, and I'm trying to increase the distances again.

Today decided to walk around to the east, along Westons Road, Enfield State Forest and Grassy Gully Road, like we did three years ago:


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But that doesn't work any more. On the state road on the eastern side we found two fallen trees. We could walk around the first, but not the second:


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Maybe we should load them into the car and walk them elsewhere where there's more forest.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017 Dereel Images for 21 June 2017
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Buy beer at BWS!
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne off to Ballarat today to do the shopping. After nearly a week of fighting the BWS web site, I had established that the Eastwood Street branch had two slabs of Becks beer available at a good price, so I asked her to pick them up.

She returned with two slabs of Becks beer. But 330 ml bottles, not the 500 ml cans I wanted. They had told her that they were out of stock. Not according to their web site, even hours later.

Who's right? Hard to say. I'd say that the person who is right is the one who avoids BWS.


Tripod accessory arm
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

After the failure of the copy stand I bought last month, I decided to buy something more substantial, a tripod accessory arm, which arrived today:


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It's pretty much as described, and a surprise nonetheless. The first thing was that all the screws are ⅜" diameter, so you can't just screw a camera to it. I'm not sure how much of a disadvantage that is, but I'm bound to find out. And then it has no less than four mounts: one at each end, and two sliding ones along the tube. But it's only 60 cm wide, and the tripod mount is in the middle, so the total difference between the tripod mount and a sliding camera mount is only 40 cm. To the end mounts it's 46 cm.

So the first thing I did was to remove one of the sliding mounts, increasing the distances to 48 cm and 54 cm. Here's the construction:


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That's some kind of tough fabric as a “bearing”, but I suppose that's enough: it's only supposed to hold the clamp when it's not moving.

I had thought of two uses. The more obvious reason was for macros, of course, mounted something like this:


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I'll find out how well that works in the coming days, but certainly it's an enormous difference in stability (and weight!) from the toy stand I bought last month. The other thing is that the equipment at the end extends the total length considerably, and the tripod can only barely handle the moment.

The other potential use is for panoramas. The problem with using a tripod for panoramas is that it gets in the way of the nadir. There are plenty of attempts to get round this, and I've tried many myself, all of which somehow ensure that the tripod isn't directly below the camera. But on the other hand, you need something to keep the camera in place.

My first thought was to simply hang the camera off as far from the tripod mount as possible. The tripod would still be in the way, but off to one side. Move the tripod and rotate the arm so that it's still above the same place (using the magnification function to confirm), and merge the images later, somewhat like I tried last year. The first mounting attempt proved to be incorrect, but instructive:


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The rotator (here on top of the tripod) is in the wrong place: it should be at the other end of the arm. But apart from the position of the tripod, the arm itself gets in the way. I would have to do a whole series of images from each tripod position, possibly with the panorama head stuck off the end of the arm. Certainly it's no quick and easy fix.


National Flightless Ducks Day
Topic: animals Link here

Seen on IRC:

<indium> Thanks. Happy Norweigen National Flightless Ducks Day!

What's that? A joke, I suspect. I can't find any matching hits on Google. But it could have explained what I had seen 25 minutes earlier:


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They're not Norwegian, of course: they're Australian Wood Ducks, and they fly well. But I don't know when I last saw that many together.


Thursday, 22 June 2017 Dereel Images for 22 June 2017
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Cheap saffron
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

Saffron is expensive, though not as expensive as I described a couple of days ago. But recently I saw a price completely out of keeping in the other direction: 10 g saffron for $2.79, including postage from China. That's 0.036% of roxy*books' price, and roughly 2.5% the going rate.

What's wrong with it? Is it even saffron? Looking at the image, it reminds me of similar saffron I saw on sale in the old city of Jerusalem decades ago. Clearly it's not as fine as the more expensive versions, but how much difference does it make?


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At the time I had intended to buy some on my return (from Ḥaram al-Šarīf). But I didn't return by that way, and I never found out how good it was.

OK, I can risk $2.79. But am I allowed to import it? That's for AQIS to say.

Oh. AQIS no longer exists. It was dissolved 5 years ago. Now Biosecurity Australia is responsible for this sort of thing. Off to look through their surprisingly unresponsive web site, and finally arrived at a description of tea and dried herbs, mainly concerned with tea. The relevant text was:

Commercially prepared and packaged loose herbal teas and dried herbs which only contain finely chopped ingredients of plant origin and weigh no more than 1 kilogram are allowed into Australia.

What's “finely chopped”? To be on the safe side, called up Biosecurity Australia on 1800 900 090 and was connected to Carol[iy]n, who wanted to know the biological name. By chance I knew that, Crocus sativus, and she went looking. While that search ran, we discussed the matter, and she suggested that I contact BICON. What's that? Why is there no reference to it? And why should it be so difficult? I later discovered that there was indeed a reference to it, but only for items weighing more than 1 kg.

We timed out on her query, but at least it seems reasonable that I can import the stuff. I'll be interested to see what it's like.


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

My deadline for JG King to address my demands has expired with no reply, which in itself I consider insulting. Probably, though, it is standard procedure when they expect litigation. So I took the next step and entered a complaint with Domestic Buildings Dispute Resolution Victoria. All online, of course, and they asked all sorts of questions except for one: what is my complaint?

They did promise to contact me when they get through their backlog of work. Maybe I should have entered the complaint when I sent the letter of demand. In the meantime I have the reference number DBDRV-2017-6-1436.


Hibernation fail
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the few areas where my Microsoft boxes do better than my FreeBSD boxes is with hibernation (or is that sleeping?): FreeBSD can't, and with some exceptions Microsoft can.

But lately dischord has stopped sleeping after the specified time. I can still hibernate it with shutdown -h, but if I leave it to timeout, it doesn't. What's causing that?

Off on the web to find out. I established that yes, indeed, it's an issue, and there seem to be many different causes. How do you find out? On a sane system you'd look at the logs, increasing their detail if necessary. With Microsoft, it seems, you try one potential solution after another, without even checking if it's appropriate. The one I tried was:

C:\windows\system32>powercfg -h off
C:\windows\system32>powercfg -h on

It didn't make any difference. Maybe it's time for step 3 of the canonical Microsoft “restart, reboot, reinstall” method. But in the meantime I can install the 67 important updates which it suddenly thinks are necessary.


BWS: success!
Topic: food and drink, general, technology, opinion Link here

Why did Yvonne not get the right beer at BWS yesterday? According to their web site, they still have stocks in many places, though the place Yvonne went to now only has one slab instead of two. Paradoxically, this increases my confidence: at least they update their stocks.

OK, maybe they're reserved for on-line purchases. That would be silly, but it's not the first silly thing I've seen from them. So I tried purchasing from them again. And this time it worked! Yes, I had to enter data that they already had stored, and I got no less then 5 requests “do you want to share your location”, something silly at best (they have that, too, on record, and Google is not really attuned towards devices that don't change location, and thus won't accept an exact address). But finally it was done.

OK, buy another slab in one of the other locations. Sebastopol seems to be the obvious choice. But no, they wouldn't let me. I had bought my slab, and the page I had had before (“check stores in nearby locations”) no longer appeared. Fortunately I had it in my history, and I was able to buy a second slab there. Only 11 minutes between the two transactions. And the order numbers were sequential: 80027127 and 80027128.

Those numbers look like they don't have any kind of coding. BWS keeps telling me that they have 1,296 locations, but here I have two different locations, and the numbers are still sequential. More interestingly, they suggest that nobody else in Australia bought anything on-line in the 11 intervening minutes in the early evening. Looking even further, the absolute numbers suggest that they have only had 21 online purchases per location since the programme began. Clearly I'm not the only person to have difficulty with their system.

And then there's this:


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That's actually quite tidy for their web layout. But it contains two different addresses:

 
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Where's McDowall Shopping Village? I don't know that. Went looking and found where it is: in a suburb of Brisbane, 1,750 km away! How on earth did they come up with that, especially since they have my location on record?


Food dicer fail
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

On Sunday we bought a “food dicer” at ALDI. I thought it might be just what I need to chop onions. Not so. After pressing as hard as I dared, the results looked like this:


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Quick snack
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've established that quesadillas are a kind of snack food, and I've found some recipes that might be appropriate, so I tried one of them today, using my burrito filling.

Somehow it's all too much work. Preparations took 45 minutes. Cooking the quesadillas takes about 5 minutes per quesadilla, and much of that time it spent preparing the next one. At the end of the meal, the table looked like a battle zone:


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The food? Not bad. But for the amount of work we did, it could have been much better. I think the device goes back.


Green onions again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

On occasions in the past I've found that onion paste goes green while frying. I had thought that this was due to my habit of putting water in the paste, but today it happened without any additional water:


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The grey area on the right is a grey card to ensure that the colours are right, so it really was that green. What causes it? This time I fried very slowly to avoid burning, and maybe it has something to do with that.


Friday, 23 June 2017 Dereel Images for 23 June 2017
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Free as in Free Beer
Topic: food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne off into Ballarat today, mainly to visit the Geoffrey Cutter Centre with Sasha, possibly for the last time. But while she was there she went to pick up my purchases from BWS. Their web site kept me informed my HTML email:

 
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Ready When you are!

Grab your keys, we've picked and packed your order and it's now ready for you to come and collect in-store. Oh, and please make sure you've got your ID ready. We'll need to take a look and record your details.

Product       Ordered       Supplied       Price       Amount
Becks Cans       1       Out of Stock       50.00       0.00

That's a strange way of being ready. But it wasn't the only message:

 
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We try our best to know what’s on our shelves in-store at all times.

Unfortunately, the following product(s) that you ordered are now out of stock and have been refunded.

And sure enough, PayPal confirmed a refund of $50. The character encoding issue is a combination of two bugs: their document did not specify character encoding (it's UTF-8), and my firefox refuses to use UTF-8 by default.

That was the first pick-up, so I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it didn't. Yvonne returned with all the beer I had ordered.

So why the refund? Yes, indeed, BWS' stockkeeping is flawed, and they didn't have the advertised slab in Sebastopol. So the staff did what any reasonable person would do and scraped together four six-packs and put them in some old wine boxes. Here with the second slab:


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So why the refund? Finger trouble, I suspect. They had to somehow tell the PoS terminal that they were out of slabs, and that presumably triggered the refund.

Should I pay them anyway? No, I don't think so. The pain they have put me through was worth more than $50. On IRC, some claimed that it was required by law to give an item free if they messed up, which in turn triggered a long search, which ultimately proved that, in New South Wales at any rate, there is no such requirement. But this page is interesting, if not directly applicable in Victoria.


Where am I?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Another interesting effect of the BWS saga was the fact that it tried to send me to McDowall Shopping Village, 1,750 km away. Yes, it's stupid because it has my address on record. But the web site asked for my location not once, but (if memory serves me correct) 5 times. Could it be that my undisclosed location was in Queensland?

Off looking for how browsers report location. I've had trouble with this in the past, but it's worth looking at again. Peter Jeremy came up with this page, which offers to show me a map of where I am:

 
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No pin or arrow (at least it doesn't claim to be that accurate), but this is in Ballarat, 30 km away, and apparently in the middle of a sports oval. A different incarnation of Google Maps tells me that it's White Flat Oval.

OK, why does it think I'm there? The page states (after appropriate clicking; it's modern and thus does not divulge all information at any one time):

If you consent, Firefox gathers information about nearby wireless access points and your computer’s IP address. Then Firefox sends this information to the default geolocation service provider, Google Location Services, to get an estimate of your location. That location estimate is then shared with the requesting website.

Yes, I use a “wireless access point” in the broadest sense of the word: that's the radiation tower, and it would be quite easy to relate it to my location. So would my IP address: my connection to the Internet is via fixed wireless, so the location is also fixed. So it depends on my RSP, who clearly hasn't supplied this information, maybe because the NBN doesn't provide it. So it seems that the location services guess, often wildly inaccurately, as the stupid message I got from six months ago shows: it put me in the middle of Melbourne.

OK, I can override this information manually. Oh, no, I can't. There's no provision for that. Why not? That's a whole separate discussion.


Forgetting the lessons of the past
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Why can't I tell Google Location Services where I am? No need: it works for 80% of people, according to Daniel O'Connor. I disagree: it's probably more like 90%. But that's a complete declaration of bankruptcy. Would you put up with 90% power availability (5 weeks per year without power?). The same level of availability of network connectivity? Of anything?

Right, but (he continues), it depends on the OS. What? Why should a location service depend on the operating system? Because some operating systems are location-aware.

Aside: what is an operating system? For me it's the kernel and some intimately coupled userland programs such as ps, but not ls. That matches the contents of books I have on the subject, such as The Design and implementation of the 4.3BSD UNIX operating system (which Google currently attribute to Sam Leffler as the only author), or the much earlier “Operating Systems” by Madnick and Donovan (my edition is dated 1974), which doesn't mention userland programs at all.

Still: operating systems provide services. There are currently about four families of operating systems in current use: Microsoft and the rest. The rest (Apple, BSD and Linux, including Android) all have a very similar structure. System services are accessed by system calls which are very similar in function.

Which of these systems have system calls relating to system location? At the very least you'd need two: one to set the location and one to read it. But why does this need to be in the system? A daemon would do just as well.

I have no idea how browsers really establish their locations, but in a behemoth the size of firefox (I currently have one running with a memory space of 3.3 GB, 2.2 GB of which is memory-resident) you'd expect to be able to add a knob telling where your location is. Maybe there is; good documentation is no longer modern. But what really worries me is that in the discussion, just about everybody disagreed with me that a manual override made sense. And that although only one of them (coincidentally Daniel O'Connor) was correctly located by his browser.

But then there's another possibility: Google Maps also keeps your location, or, in my case, four of them, indicated by the yellow stars, which I can't get rid of; the pin shows the real location of my office, though the property boundaries are incorrect:

 
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So why do we have two different, diverging ways of establishing location, both provided by Google?


Hibernating Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

What's wrong with dischord, apart from the fact that it runs Microsoft “Windows”? It no longer goes to sleep when it should, and it suddenly decided that I was missing 67 (or maybe 68) important updates. If there were any documentation and logging with the system, I might have a hope of finding out. As it is, I took the path of least resistance and reinstalled them.

And how about that, it seems to sleep/hibernate again. Did I somehow manage to do a “reset to base installation” on it? Who knows? Who cares?


Filters: real or fake?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The filters I ordered last week are already here. Started unpacking, and discovered that the filter was dirty, straight out of the box. So was the next one, and the one after that:


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These are Hoya filters, and I already have one, so the obvious thing was to compare it. That was inconclusive, so I'll need to make further investigations. For the time being the bottom line is that keeping glass clean still appears to be an unsolved problem, at least for me.


Phone reverse lookup
Topic: general, technology Link here

Call from +61-3-5458-5487 today. Just noise. The number looks like it could be related to Bendigo, where my mother lives, but I didn't recognize it. Is there a reverse lookup?

Yes. It's not very good—I haven't had a hit on mobile phone numbers yet—but it works in many cases, including this one, claiming that it's in Docklands. That doesn't match the number—maybe they were using Google Location Services—but it's certainly a good site to know.


Saturday, 24 June 2017 Dereel Images for 24 June 2017
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More location strangenesses
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's map of my location seemed straightforward enough, apart from the four yellow stars representing various previous attempts on the part of Google Maps to guess my location (the red pin is the correct location):

 
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But of course I can copy the URL of the location from the URL bar: https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/37%C2%B048'00.6%22S%2b143%C2%B045'04.4%22E/@-37.8001667,143.7490282,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d-37.8001667!4d143.7512222. And sure enough, that gives me the same page, slightly offset:

 
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