Today my rat trap paid off, also confirming that yes, indeed, the noise from the roof was
made by rats and not some other animal. But once
again the rat was horribly mutilated, and again I've put the photos on a different page. It looks like another rat had eaten large
parts of the dead one.
Yesterday's panorama photo of the verandah wasn't quite as good as usual; I suspect that
hugin chose some inappropriate
control points. It's surprising how different the automatic control points are from the
ones I would have chosen. Normally I would have refined it, but I had other experiments in
In particular, lens distortion must be an issue in the matter, and I can compensate for that
with DxO Optics
"Pro". In addition, there are possibilities to do
the HDR processing
directly with hugin, and I could do all the processing in 16 bit mode.
DxO `grep verandah-centre makejpeg | sed 's: .*::; s:JPG:ORF:'`
makejpeg is the file that I create with a mapping between camera image name
(first the camera name, then my own). DxO is a script that then links them
to a new, empty directory and allows me to start the DxO application against it.
That wasn't enough, though: DxO insists on remembering the previous things I have done.
They're done, dammit! But after I processed the JPEGs, I was confronted with
Now I would have had to choose every second image, 72 times. What a pain! Moving the JPEG
images out of the directory didn't help; DxO knows better.
Still, I was able to change to a different directory (click) and back again
(click), and the images were no longer there. But
I still wasn't out of the woods. DxO claimed that the images had already been processed,
and refused to do it again:
Finally I deleted all “projects”, in the process also deleting any other
settings. It seems that there's an easier way: select “New Project”, not from
the “Project” tab (that would be too easy) but from the “File” tab.
But that probably means that it will accumulate lots of useless cruft in some unexpected
Then moved on to hugin. The panorama consists of two rows of 12 views each
(spaced at 30°), and each view consists of 3 images bracketed
1 EV apart, a total of 72 images.
My current technique is to merge the images for each view
using align_image_stack and enfuse,
but hugin has its own HDR functionality, so tried it directly, rather
stupidly with the TIFFs (total size a little
over 5 GB). That sort of worked, though the preview image looked funny:
enblend: an exception occured
Mask is entirely black, but white image was not identified as redundant.
gmake: *** [00-71.tif] Error 1
Looking at that output, it was at image 17 of 72. I've seen this kind of message before,
and I suspect that it relates to the dynamic range in some strange manner. But for the
moment, this approach seems to be a dead end.
Yvonne out in the paddocks with Nemo today, when he saw a mob of about 20 kangaroos. Despite all
our calls, he went off after them into the lagoon. Not for the first time. The problem is that it's very dangerous. If he catches a
kangaroo, it will probably kill him. Spent some time considering what to do, but so far we
don't have much of an idea. I suppose it might help to make it more difficult for him to
get through the fences.
Somewhere in the background I had heard that there would be a wedding in the British Royal
Family, and gradually I heard more details. The one that annoyed me most was that the
planned ABC programme “The Chaser's Royal
Wedding Commentary” had been canned, apparently by Prince
Charles, who proves to be the father of the groom. Prince Charles spent some time at
school in Australia, but as the commentator in The
Age said, “unfortunately, Charles missed the classes on the Australian sense of
So I wasn't really very interested in the proceedings, unlike Yvonne, who (noblesse oblige?) was quite interested and recorded a number of
programmes, but surprisingly not the wedding ceremony itself. This evening, by chance, we
found that a recording ostensibly of something completely different on Channel 9, notorious quick change artists, was in fact the
end of the wedding ceremony, starting shortly before the exchange of vows, and we decided to
Things have come a long way since I last watched something like this (coincidentally the
wedding of Prince Charles 30 years ago). This was in impeccable 1080i, which was completely
adequate in view of the relatively slow movements. I was educated
at King's College,
Taunton, a High Church school,
and as a music scholar (strictly “exhibitioner”), I was involved in the chapel
choir. Though I'm not Christian, I enjoy the ceremonies, in much the same way as people can
enjoy fairy tales without believing in them. And this was a very impressive High Church
But the actors! It was bad enough when Prince Charles messed up his lines at his own
barely got his lips apart to say “I will”.
And when reading out the vows, they had to be prompted phrase for phrase for the “With
this ring I thee wed, With my body I thee
worship honour, With all my worldly goods I thee endow All my worldly
goods I with thee share”. Those are words that most people know by heart. At least
Prince William, as a public personality, should have better presentation skills than that.
Woken up this morning by a sudden bang on the roof, followed by a lot of less violent
banging. Clearly a rat had got caught in the trap. Gradually the banging died down as the
Later up on the roof. Yes, the trap had been sprung, but there was no rat: it must have
been able to escape. Somehow these traps don't seem to be strong enough to kill a rat
In the evening, Piccola was showing great interest
in the under-floor vents for the gas-fired heating, which we don't use. There must be mice
down there, so set up some traps, and managed to fire one on my finger. Not a nice feeling,
but not much more than that, certainly no wound or bruise. A mousetrap is a small version
of a rat trap, and I get the feeling that they're all too weak.
My previous attempts at
making HDR panoramas
were less than successful, but they didn't really have anything to do with DxO Optics "Pro". Today
tried the old method, up to a point: my way of creating HDR images wasn't very portable, so
first updated the HDR script to optionally group the images
into a specific number of images of the same view, allowing me to create multiple HDR mapped
images from a list of arbitrary names.
Did that, and got worthwhile results. Here the verandah panorama from the weekend, and then
the one done today. They look pretty much the same until you look at the details. The new
one is still not perfect, but the discontinuities are considerably less. The dynamics are
also better in the second (DxO) image, as the mouseover comparison of the first image shows:
The weather's better again, and both of us out into the garden. One good thing about lots
of weeds is that when you take pull them out, you have something to show for it. I started
the middle bay of the compost heap only a couple of days ago:
Watched the rest of the Royal Wedding today, or as much as we could stand. It was from
Channel 9, not our choice, and once they
started leaving the cathedral we got a commentary so nauseatingly superficial that we turned
off the sound. Callum Gibson had suggested
William's mumbled “I will” might have
been due to the poor recording equipment, and that's possible, but it certainly wasn't
delivered in the fashion you'd expect of a person of that stature. And the couple chose a
prayer to say at the end of the ceremony—and let one of the celebrants, I think the
Bishop of London, read it out!
The whole thing looked badly prepared and disinterested from start to finish. About the
only person who behaved in the manner I would have expected
was Philip of Greece, who
despite his 90 years was the kind of presence I would have expected of everybody, not people
yawning, going to sleep or scratching their noses:
The procession to the Palace was also not what I would have expected. The front right horse
pulling the carriage was continually turned to the left, somewhere a horse escaped (lost its
rider? We didn't see him). It's visible in the middle of the rear guard behind the
carriage in the first image, and on the bottom left in the second. Coming to the end of The
Mall three riders were supposed to be trotting (I think), but only the front two were, while
the one at the rear was in a canter. Judging by the way he rode, he was just having
difficulties with his horse:
I'm surprised: I had personally thought that he had been dead for years. But the Americans
are over the moon, as if the death of one person in the background would make that much
difference. They've promised to display his corpse, which under the circumstances sounds
like a very good idea.
The weather is cool and moist again, and for some reason I didn't feel very well. Had
planned to go into town today, but cancelled that and stayed at home watching TV instead.
The moisture was enough that I didn't do more than a little token pottering in the garden.
They've promised to display his corpse, which under the circumstances sounds like a very
And then I read an ABC news item where the US claim that they had buried him at sea “in accordance
with Islamic tradition” (which forbids burial at sea).
What kind of nonsense is that? Until yesterday, I had assumed that Osama was dead. Then
Obama comes and claims that he has just been killed, an enormous coup for him (Obama) at the
beginning of his reelection campaign. His announcement was fitting: bringing the terrorist
attacks of 10 years ago into the foreground, emphasizing
the tear-jerks. And now, conveniently, they've disposed of his body. You don't have to be
very cynical to have your doubts there. Doubtless Obama is a better man than his
predecessor, and he has a better understanding of the world outside the USA, but he's still
in charge of a military might with people and views whom I (and not only I) distrust. You
can't argue the burial away with the argument that he couldn't be buried anywhere on
land: after the identification they could still bury him at sea, or blast him out
into space. That would be more in keeping with the American military. As it is, they have
a serious credibility issue.
Moving the cursor over the image switches from the JPEG-based panorama (cursor off) to
TIFF-based one (cursor on). I can't see any difference apart from a slight difference in
framing. hugin reports two
values for control point alignment, the mean error and the maximum, both in pixels. They
That's surprising, to be investigated yet further. I'm assuming that the maximum error with
the out-of-camera images was due to distortion, but why should the results with TIFF be
worse than the results with JPEG? I'd assume that the image geometry is the same. Maybe it
has something to do with the strange way hugin chooses control points.
With the exception of the bedrooms, everything is open, and many rooms are long and thin.
We set up the lounge room at the other end of the house, in a room that was rather narrower
than we would have liked (bottom left on the plan, marked “RUMPUS”). Here's
what it looked like without furniture, when we moved in:
But it had the advantage that it was more easily darkened for the projector, while there are
all sorts of windows round the other lounge room (marked “LIV”), which we've
been using as a “music room” almost since moving in (the second photo was taken
on 9 October 2007):
As usual, the plan isn't completely accurate. The door to the bedroom in the middle of the
eastern side is opposite the door of the room marked “STUDY”, and the
possibility we're thinking of at the moment is to use the lounge room and project on that
part of the wall visible from the lounge room. The main issue is blocking off the light
from the skylight above the hallway, which also shows the section of wall:
That's telling me that, in addition to 3 GB of main memory (the maximum my i386 machine can
address), I'm using another 3 GB of swap and running out, and I'm also paging heavily. I
clearly need more memory, but the only way I can use it is to migrate to amd64. That's as
simple as installing a 64 bit version of FreeBSD, so I'll probably do it.
Did some investigation and discovered, to my surprise, that my current machine is 2½ years
old, and since then people have moved
to DDR3 memory, which of course is cheaper.
Considered the alternative of replacing the machine, but it's more money than I want to
spend right now, so it looks like I'll buy another 2 2 GB DIMMs and replace one of the 1 GB
DIMMs, giving me a total of 6 GB—still not as much as I would like.
But what memory speed? When I bought the
hardware, I went through a lot of trouble investigating, but unfortunately I didn't
write everything down. So went to the AMD web
site to see what they recommended—and found nothing! The only references were very
superficial specifications. There used to be much more, and it's probably still there, but
there are no links, and nothing I can find on Google helped. Finally Daniel O'Connor found a document on Gigabyte's Russian mirror, but that just
gave a list of memory chips that had been tested with my motherboard. About the only
indication is that the motherboard only handles one DDR2 1067 DIMM per channel, and mine are
all the same. In the end gave up and relied on memory: I think it's DDR2 800. Why are
these things so difficult to find?
While working on some old photos, found the collection for my 60th birthday party (coincidentally about the
same time I built the “new” machine). They didn't look too good, and on
investigation it seems that I had taken them only in raw format and converted
to JPEG with ufraw. At the time I had had some problems
with those conversions, and so it seemed a perfect example to use DxO Optics "Pro" on.
Ran through that, taking over an hour again, and somehow ending up
with TIFF output—one of the settings I
gave stuck, and I forget how to reset it. I wish these packages would only save settings
when you ask them to. Spent some time running cursors over illegible icons, only to
discover that the description popped up under the cursor arrow (something that I can't
capture from the screen). Finally got the images, and... I couldn't see much difference
between the images.
On the other hand, I've already seen how difficult it is to compare different renditions of
the same image, even when they're side by side. That's why I developed the mouseover
compare technique, where you can swap the images in place. Cursor over the following image
shows the old one (ufraw), cursor off shows the new one (DxO):
It's cool again, and I didn't feel like doing much, but Yvonne wanted to get rid of the dead hops, so out to lend her moral support. When we installed
the original wooden beds in the eastern garden about 3 years ago, we planted some
think—in one of them. After removing all the weeds, I found them still there, and
having multiplied nicely:
Yvonne off shopping today, and I asked her to bring back some
rat traps and peanut butter. I suppose it's indicative of how far our lifestyle deviates
from the mainstream that she didn't know what peanut butter was. She didn't much like the
smell when I showed it to her. Still, it's for the rats, not for her.
Up on the roof, we finally had some success, a rat as long as the trap:
The hook on the latch is intended to hook on the bait, but on the new traps it's at the
wrong end of the latch, closer to the pivot. Still, I don't need the catch for peanut
butter, so it shouldn't make any difference.
While up on the roof, attached some cardboard to the outside of the skylights in the
hallway, with the result that the illumination on the new screen dropped from 20 Lux to
about 0.1 Lux. That's more than enough.
Prepared to move the equipment until I realised that I had forgotten the audio equipment.
That's not much work, but enough to think about. Maybe tomorrow.
Had a long discussion about the rat traps with Edwin Groothuis, whose native language isn't
English, and had some difficulty describing them to him. Somehow it's not clear what
terminology I should use.
A good start is of course Wikipedia, but
the page on rat traps doesn't go into very much detail. There's more information on
the mouse trap page. It takes a bit of
reading to come to some conclusion. I'll refer to these photos of the trap at rest and
The trap has a wooden base, on which the other components are mounted. On the right a metal
strip is mounted on a pivot. The bait is placed on this strip, which I call
“trigger”, and which Wikipedia calls “trigger” or
“trip”. It usually contains a notch for attaching solid food. In the middle is
a spring-loaded rotating bar, which is held in place by the pin on the left until the rat
pushes the trigger down.
Somehow this whole description sounds messy. How can I express it better?
When I bought my panorama head last week, the seller offered a better quality of USPS
shipping, “Priority Mail International”. At the time I decided that it couldn't
harm to get it even faster, so paid the extra. He got it to the post office in record time,
and the tracking seemed to work. Until last Friday, when it left Chicago and disappeared
That was 6 days ago, and despite the more expensive rating, it has already taken
considerably longer than the last USPS package. Has something gone wrong? Did they entrust
it to idiots like UPS to deliver it this end? Did some investigating and found
a number for USPS: 1-800-222-1811, which I can't call from here. Asked a friend in the US
to call them for me, and in the process looked at the tracking page again. It arrived in
Out of Foreign Customs, May 05, 2011, 4:16 pm,
Into Foreign Customs, May 05, 2011, 4:10 pm,
Arrived Abroad, May 05, 2011, 4:10 pm, AUSTRALIA
International Dispatch, April 29, 2011, 4:41 pm, ISC
CHICAGO IL (USPS)
Processed through Sort Facility, April 28, 2011, 2:09
am, MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55401
Electronic Shipping Info Received, April 27,
Acceptance, April 27, 2011, 11:47 am, MINNETONKA, MN
I suppose you have to put up with the upside-down chronology, but at least it's there. They don't say where in AUSTRALIA it landed, but I
presume it was Melbourne or Sydney, both UTC+10. Chicago is currently UTC-5. So it arrived
5 days, 8½ hours after leaving Chicago. Where has it been? At least it got through Customs
quickly, 6 minutes after arrival. So it should be here on Monday. That's nearly 2 weeks,
much worse than my last experience.
Continued with the rearrangement of the lounge room, which didn't take too long, though
getting used to the new arrangement will take longer. About the only surprise was the
location of the projector, still provisional. It'll get mounted on a shelf above the
window, but I first tried to put it on the same strange stand (from a bedside table
arrangement) that I had it on before. That was never very satisfactory, but now it's on
carpet, not boards, and it was very wobbly. Went looking and found an old wooden sideboard
that Yvonne had bought 20 years ago, somewhat against my
wishes. It had had tarnished metal wheels, which I removed relatively soon after purchase,
and since then it's just been a side table. But it's the ideal size for the Hi-Fi
components, something that I've been looking for for years. It'll stay for that after the
projector is relocated:
After that I can move the Hi-Fi components to the wall, and we'll have another metre of
width. That will also allow us to increase the size of the display, which is currently
limited by the edge of the cupboard. That's a good thing, too: one unexpected issue is that
I can no longer read the text on xterms on the screen. Previously the screen was 3.5
m away, and now it's 5 m. In the meantime I'll have to choose larger fonts.
Photo day again today. The first Saturday of the month is special, since I take a few more
photos than normal, and managed to just about completely fill up an 8 GB memory card.
Decided to process the raw images with DxO Optics "Pro", and
after fighting my way through the windows, was presented with the information that the
conversion (415 images) would take 6 hours, 20 minutes.
Let that run and tried stitching them together from
the JPEGs, intending to catch up with the
real images later. That proved to be more work than I wanted, since many of them required
masking. I need to look at the bleeding edge version of hugin to see whether they've fixed the mask
handling. Currently it's painful. Wouldn't it be nice to have a mask that you could invert
and apply to another image, so that you could put an image together exactly out of two
partial images taken from the same position. As it is, I found it a little easier to take a
screen shot of the mask on the first image of a pair
with xv, and use that to set
the second mask. Still not what you'd call computer-assisted.
That got to be enough work that I gave it up and waited for the DxO run to finish. I think
I'm going to have to do this in batches, one photo at a time, so DxO can do its thing in the
background while I process the ones it has finished. Started doing that and found that the
treatment of EXIF data is very irritating:
it doesn't keep them, and when I
use exiftool it doesn't seem to
copy the Maker Notes,
so I don't get the crop factor in the data, and I have to enter it manually. I think I'll
fake something when copying the data.
That wasn't the only problem: I ran out of swap, and X crashed Yet Again. In the end had to
give up with only a couple of panoramas completed. Next week should be less of a stress.
It had cleaned all the peanut butter off the trigger without setting the trap off. What a
pain! The weather was pretty cool, so didn't bother going up onto the roof. I really need
to find another way to catch them.
When we left Wantadilla, we also lost our dining room.
Chris Yeardley got the table, because it was too big for anywhere in this house. But with
our rearrangement, we had a room available where we could put one of our old conference
tables from the KfW. Did that today. It's
still looking pretty bare, but things will change when we move the cupboard in.
Now we need to find a place to put all the junk. We've already commandeered the guest room
for my photo stuff. The bed is now up against the wall, and when we have guests we'll have
to remove the photo stuff and erect it again.
Continued with my panorama processing today, and it took me until midday to complete—a
day later than normal. This mask processing adds a lot to the time, as of course does
DxO Optics "Pro".
Clearly time to investigate the development version of hugin. That's in a Mercurial repository, and it was relatively
straightforward to get a clone. Building was another matter. It uses cmake, a program with which I haven't been able to
make friends, and according to the somewhat confusingly named instruction
file INSTALL_cmake, building is as simple as
cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/usr/local .
That didn't even get started: it couldn't find wxWidgets:
CMake Error at /usr/local/share/cmake/Modules/FindPackageHandleStandardArgs.cmake:91 (MESSAGE):
Could NOT find wxWidgets (missing: wxWidgets_FOUND)
Call Stack (most recent call first):
Neither could I. You'd think that you'd have a port called wxWidgets or some such,
but the closest I came was /usr/ports/x11-toolkits/p5-Alien-wxWidgets. But
then I found, in /usr/ports/graphics/hugin/Makefile (the real hugin port):
It's been nearly two weeks since I had more than sporadic problems with TV reception, but
today it hit back badly. Two recordings were had corruption bad enough to kill the recoder:
Recoding 2008_20110507192700.mpg (Shrek-the-Third-2011-05-07-1927)
Mux rate: 15.64 Mbit/s
2011-05-08 14:43:21.649 20.2% complete
2011-05-08 14:43:23.683 Frame 7 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 1266652820
2011-05-08 14:43:23.699 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 1266734600
2011-05-08 14:43:23.733 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 1267122068
2011-05-08 14:43:23.765 Frame 11 > 5. Corruption likely at pos: 1267771420
2011-05-08 14:43:23.852 Frame 22 > 21. Corruption likely at pos: 1267844364
2011-05-08 14:43:23.983 Increasing ringbuffer size by 1328120 to avoid deadlock
2011-05-08 14:43:23.995 Increasing ringbuffer size by 207720 to avoid deadlock
2011-05-08 14:43:23.997 Increasing ringbuffer size by 483440 to avoid deadlock
2011-05-08 14:43:24.037 Frame 12 > 11. Corruption likely at pos: 1268438632
2011-05-08 14:43:24.052 Increasing ringbuffer size by 1339210 to avoid deadlock
2011-05-08 14:43:24.055 Increasing ringbuffer size by 1339210 to avoid deadlock
2011-05-08 14:43:24.079 Increasing ringbuffer size by 387880 to avoid deadlock
2011-05-08 14:43:26.740 22.0% complete
2011-05-08 14:43:36.807 25.5% complete
2011-05-08 14:43:41.405 Deadlock detected. One buffer is full when
the other is empty! Aborting
This was recorded from WIN on tuner 1 (the
default). Once again the errors seemed to be concentrated over a small part of the film,
though the subsequent abort made it difficult to be sure. But looking at the image suggests
that that was the only problem. This film started and finished:
2011-05-07 19:27:02.282 Started recording: Shrek the Third: channel 2008 on cardid 1, sourceid 2
2011-05-07 22:00:00.561 Finished recording Shrek the Third: channel 2008
That means that the errors would have corresponded to the time frame 19:57 to 20:01. Then
there was another that went completely mad:
Recoding 2006_20110508115700.mpg (Trail-of-the-Pink-Panther-2011-05-08-1157)
Mux rate: 5.34 Mbit/s
2011-05-08 15:51:06.097 12.5% complete
2011-05-08 15:51:07.029 Frame 6 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 812827400
2011-05-08 15:51:07.063 Frame 18 > 16. Corruption likely at pos: 812892072
2011-05-08 15:51:07.222 Frame 7 > 6. Corruption likely at pos: 813372600
2011-05-08 15:51:10.902 Need to insert 432 frames > max allowed: 20. Assuming bad PTS
This was from PRIME, again on
tuner 1. This time it just spewed out lots of the last line until it died, so it's not
clear how long the damage lasted. But looking at the recording, it seems that once again it
was only a very short period. This recording started and finished:
2011-05-08 11:57:02.545 Started recording: Trail of the Pink Panther: channel 2006 on cardid 1, sourceid 2
2011-05-08 14:30:00.789 Finished recording Trail of the Pink Panther: channel 2006
So in this case the damage would have started round 12:15. Again, nothing obvious. This
seems to be a completely different issue from the cable problems: the majority of the
recordings were correct with no corruption, and even these two appear to have had only
localized problems. The best guess I have here is some kind of external interference, made
worse by the low signal levels.
Mail from Michael Hughes today, asking how I back up photos. That's certainly an
interesting topic. Digital technology has made many things easier than before, but it's
also easier to completely lose images. Paradoxically, it's also easier to keep multiple
backups, and that's what both Michael and I do.
I've been backing up my computer for ever, of course. In the days
and MS-DOS I used floppies. They were
slow, expensive and unreliable. Later I used tape,
both QIC and some strange format that I now
forget. It was slow, expensive and unreliable. About 18 years ago I moved
to DDS storage, which proved
to be a little faster, have a little more capacity, but it was still expensive and
unreliable. I also briefly used
a DLT tape drive, but it was
an older model, and tapes were so expensive that I never tested the reliability.
In the end, I gave up on tape altogether, and for nearly 9 years now I have been backing up
to disk. The difference is surprising: from the
outset I noticed an increase in speed, and it was clear that they were cheaper: at the
time an 80 GB disk drive cost about as much as a 40 GB tape cartridge. They've also proven
to be much more reliable—I can't recall a single loss of backup disk, though
clearly that's possible.
In that time, though, disk capacity has increased markedly. My total disk capacity at the
time was about 80 GB. Now I have:
Those values are in MB, so I have a total of 2.5 TB of disk space, of which about 1.4 TB are
in use. But looking more carefully, 230 GB are on /dump, clearly a backup
disk (for other systems on the network), and 735 GB are on /Photos, not
surprisingly my photo disk. /destdir is a second root file system, which I
only use when I'm upgrading, so it doesn't need backup either. I'm left with a much more
Filesystem 1048576-blocks Used Avail Capacity Mounted on
/dev/ad4s1d 9916 7796 1326 85% /
/dev/ad4s1e 439117 129710 274277 32% /home
/dev/ad8s1d 923856 313848 536099 37% /src
total 1372889 451355 811703 36%
I used to back these file systems up to other systems on the net, but lately I've been using
a USB drive directly connected to the system. I'm not sure I'm completely happy with that,
but for the time being it seems to work. I dump the the root file system and
make tar backups of
individual file systems on /home and /src. The reason for
the difference is due to the size of the file systems: a complete dump
of /src would be about 200 GB in size after compression, and restoring files
from an archive of that size takes forever.
On the first day of each month I do a complete backup, on Saturdays I do a level 1 dump and
tar backups since the beginning of the month, and on other days I do level 2 dumps and
backups since the previous level 1 or level 0 dump. I keep two level 0 dumps (beginning of
this month and beginning of last month) That works well, and I get by with about a total of
Photos are a different matter. They're as good as not compressible (though some of the
smaller accompanying files are), so there's no point wasting time with a compressed dump.
But that leaves me with (currently) nearly 1 TB of backup. That's different enough to take
a different approach. Since compression doesn't have much effect, I keep duplicate file
systems and use rsync to keep
them synchronized with the online file system. I have two disks, one of which is always at
Chris Yeardley's place. On Sundays or Mondays I swap the disks, so that the one at Chris'
place is up to a week out of date, but since I take most of my photos at the weekend, that's
not a big issue. That way I have a total of four copies of most photos: the one on my disk,
the one on the external web site, and the two backup copies. Once I have at least one
backup copy of the images, I erase the flash cards in my cameras.
Michael does a number of things differently. He backs up DLT, and he keeps no less than 5
backup copies. That would become very expensive with my amount of data. I haven't looked
at tapes for nearly 10 years now, but it seems that the highest capacity DLT tape is DLT-S4,
with 800 GB. They call it “800 GB/1.6 TB”, but the latter value is an estimate
after compression, and that won't work for compressed images
like JPEG and raw images. These tape
cartridges are available on eBay for $140
each. By comparison, you can get 2 TB external disk drives from about $110.
He also keeps CRC signatures for each file on disk and regularly checks them for any
corruption. That's certainly worth thinking about, though it's a lot of work for any
reasonable data volume.
Yvonne has been having trouble with her camera, a Kodak M1093 IS, for
some time. I've been reluctant to blame just the camera, since “it works for
me”, but today I tried it again, and it's definitely defective. It often gives up
trying to focus properly, and even when it thinks it's in focus, it's completely off. I
took 8 photos of the garden today, every single one of them completely out of focus. So
it's timely that ALDI have a new camera on
offer this week, a Traveler Z14 (something that they manage to keep out of the announcement, though
Google finds more details). The price looked right, the resolution is higher than anything I've
ever had, and we can give it back within two months if we don't like it.
Today I tried it out. It has a surprising number of options, but what are the photos like?
Went out on the verandah and took a photo of the bird bath, in bright sunshine. The flash
went off. Tried again at full focal length. More flash. A couple more attempts gave me
camera shake, despite the shutter speed, and a completely different white balance:
Tried again with the flash turned off, and got an exposure of 1/30s at full
aperture—in bright sunshine! Another photo had an exposure of 1/12s at f/6.5 (full
aperture at the longest focal length), or EV 9.0. By comparison, my E-30 took the same scene at
1/250s at f/6.3, or EV 13.3. That's only a tenth of the exposure! It's not due to the
sensitivity: both cameras claim a sensitivity of 200/24° ISO. In general, all the photos I
took with it were exposed about 10 times as long as my Olympus did. There's clearly
something very wrong here.
On top of that, the images are terrible. Here a comparison with my Olympus. No prizes for
guessing which image is which:
It's possible that tweaking some of the settings might improve things, but that's enough.
It's supposed to have image stabilization, but I haven't seen any evidence of it. The focus
is glacially slow; even when taking sequential images of the same subject, focus takes about
1 second in bright sunlight.
In summary: the best thing about the camera is that I can return it for a full refund.
That's what I'll do. I still need to investigate what camera to buy for Yvonne, who is
particularly keen on the smallest possible camera. That will require some investigation.
Into town to talk to Peter O'Connell about my investments. He's not very optimistic about
the market, and it seems that the best thing to do is cash investments; at least we get good
interest in Australia. To be observed.
My panorama head has finally arrived after only 12 days. It's just what I asked for, but I
fear not what I want. Played around with it to see how to get it to do what I want, so far
with very limited success. To be investigated more fully.
On the way home, stopped off
in Napoleons to take a look at an arch
for training roses that Yvonne had seen at the roadside plant
sales yesterday. We've been thinking about that for some time, and the price ($30) was
right, so I took it.
But how? It was too wide to fit in the boot of the car, and I couldn't dismantle it. It
originally came in 3 pieces which were screwed together, but of course the screws had seized
up. In the end, stuck it sideways in the back window and drove home, very slowly:
The lowest temperature measured by the weather station was 0.7°, and the highest was 13.6°,
but it lies. We had a frost, and even inside the greenhouse, the temperature at the top
dropped to -0.1°. That caught me by surprise: I had wanted to put
the Mandevilla in the greenhouse
before any frost, but fortunately it seems the frost wasn't heavy enough to affect most of
the garden, just some of
the Tropaeolums. I had thought that
that would have been the earliest in the year we've ever had a frost, but I see that two
years ago we had not one but two in April, and
the lowest temperature I ever recorded with the weather station was on 22 May 2010.
So why didn't the weather station report a lower temperature? Presumably because it's an
inversion, and the temperature sensor was mounted too high. I need to move it further down.
The cables are long enough, and it would make changing batteries a lot easier. The only
problem is that the unit is designed to be mounted on the rod with the others, but there
should be a way round that.
In addition, it requires that the camera lens axis be horizontal. That's an extreme
restriction, and it makes me wonder what they were thinking of when they designed it. It's
not cheap—the new price at B & H is $400, without the levelling base shown in these images. Even a normal pan head can
tilt, and the Manfrotto 804RC2 costs only $68.
What's needed, of course, is pretty much the same as what I have already put together, a
second pivot with a horizontal axis. That's as simple as an L bracket between the two
The problem is that the camera now has to point 90° from the way it was intended. And that
doesn't work, because the mounting plate is hexagonal, so you can only mount it at 30°
either side of the correct direction. And then the axis of rotation doesn't go through the
nodal point, as the third image shows.
I still need to work out what to do here. The plate is mounted with screws (see the second
photo above with the L bracket), so I could drill new holes and mount it at 30° from where
it was intended. But in view of the resale value (and resale is very much on the cards), I
suspect it would be better to buy another el cheapo focusing rail on eBay.
Apart from that, the supplied L (“elbow”) bracket, apparently part number 340, is more than puzzling. It must be one of the most baroque pieces of
equipment I have seen. I've already commented on the hexagonal mounting plates, but it's
amazingly complicated. What it should have is some kind of adjustment, so that the
lens axis doesn't change when you switch from horizontal to vertical. That's not provided
for. Instead, it has a second screw (⅜") for large cameras, an alternative mounting
point for a Nikon MD4, a “safety peg” for heavy telephoto lenses and another peg
whose function is neither described nor clear, but which can be seen in the middle of the
first image below:
And for all that, I can't easily mount my Asahi Pentax SV vertically on it.
If I mount it as shown in the instructions, the lens axis is always too far to the left, not
above the axis of rotation of the head. I can mount the camera the other way round on the
bracket, and then I can adjust it correctly, but that only works with vertical orientation.
When I try to mount it horizontally, a funny and apparently useless projection from the MD4
mount fouls the mounting plate:
Instead, I need to turn the camera around on the bracket to point in the opposite
(originally intended) direction. And when I do that, I also have to adjust the horizontal
position by about 1 cm. That's not the intention.
Of course, who takes panoramas with an SV any more? I certainly don't. I chose it for
these photos because I needed my Olympus E-30 to take the
photos, and the SV is a nice looking camera. I considered the possibility that the problem
only exists because the SV is so small (it is, after all, a full frame camera), but the same
problem occurs with my E-30 as well.
Apart from that, the build quality is excellent. The levelling plate works, though I'm sure
the range is nothing like what I need; I'll find myself playing with the tripod legs again,
I'm afraid. But I'm puzzled that a company like Manfrotto could build such a badly
conceived system. Was it a design study done by students?
Coincidentally to my investigation of DxO Optics "Pro", I found
an article about raw converters in the c't special Digitale Fotografie 02/2011. This is a different article from the one I mentioned last month, and it pays more attention to the kind of operations you'd
expect from a raw converter, notably correction for lens aberrations. It seems that there
aren't many converters that do this kind of correction, but the article mentions that the
Olympus converter (not tested) is one of them. I've used it before and have been
impressed—negatively—but it's becoming clear that all photo processing software
has significant issues. Went looking and after considerable searching on the Olympus web site found a reference to Olympus Master 2 as an “accessory” for the E series cameras. Was that
the free one or the one they wanted money for? The other one was called
“Studio”, and the names are so meaningless that I can't recall which is which.
All I could find was that it was no longer available for download, and that I should
Viewer 2 instead. There's a name that means something, and it's clear that it's not
what I want: I want to convert, not view.
But that's what it does! It seems to be a replacement for both “Master” and
“Studio”, and it's free (as it should be), though I had to enter the serial
number of my camera to download it. That's easy: it's in
the EXIF data of every photo. But why? Who
would download the software if they didn't have Olympus images to convert?
On the positive side, they seem to have improved things a lot. Last time it drove me mad. Now it just irritates me. They've made
it look more like all other commercially available software, white on anthracite text and
all, with a directory tree on the left to make you search instead of allowing you to just
enter the directory name:
This one had an additional trick up its sleeve, though: I couldn't slide the tiny scroll bar
down to the directory I wanted. I tried 3 times, and in each case, shortly before I got to
the bottom, the display popped up to the top again. I don't know whether I accidentally got
off the scroll bar, or whether the software didn't expect that many directories—I
suspect the later. Got round that problem by creating a
directory 00-is-what-Oly-Viewer-is-worth (highlighted), into which I was
able to link the images I wanted, in much the same way as I have worked around the
“features” of hugin and DxO.
I had an immediate test case. In one of the photos I took of the panorama bracket, the
left-hand flash unit didn't fire. That's a known problem: it's a slave unit, and the
modelling light interferes with the receptor. Normally I turn the modelling light out, but
this time I forgot. So clearly a case for raw conversion.
Tried first with DxO, which was glacially slow. Finally got a result that looked relatively
good, but it was also brighter than the others I had taken. Here the uncorrected image, the
corrected image, and the one it's supposed to resemble:
It was so painful adjusting with DxO that I gave up at this point. Started playing around
with “Viewer 2”, but there are lots of things I needed to understand better. At
least it's fast enough to be usable, and yes, it applies lens-specific corrections,
presumably only for Olympus lenses, but with the exception of the old Macro-Takumar, that's
all I use. More experimentation needed, but I suspect that when the free trial runs out, I
won't buy DxO.
It's been really cold since we moved the lounge room—today's highest outside
temperature was 9.5°—and we've had difficulty keeping warm. That's not because of the
new location; by rights it should be warmer, but the outside weather has been cold. But
that's maybe not the only contributing factor. Today I finally got round to cleaning out
the air filters in the air conditioning units. Yes, they were very much in need of it, but
would it make that much difference?
The answer is a definite “yes”. We had had difficulty getting the temperature
in the lounge room from 17° to 21.5° over a period of several hours. Within 30 minutes it
had climbed to 23°, and we had to turn the units down. Clearly I should clean the filters
much more often, probably on the first day of each season, when I also clean the water
Also, at about 12:15, relocated the external temperature and humidity sensor for the weather
station to about 1.5 m above ground level. The result was immediate, a drop of 2° in the
reported outside temperature:
It's not clear that that was the only reason, but it's noticeable.
We discussed the poor performance of the ALDITraveler Z14 on
IRC, and people suggested that I should have set it to defaults rather than to the
“P” setting, which allows more tweaking of the settings. It's still here (will
go back on Friday), so went and took some more photos, this time in AUTO mode and using my 5
year old Nikon
“Coolpix” L1, itself not a particularly good camera, for comparison. Yes,
the exposure times now look more in line (in fact, they're pretty much what they were last
time, but then it was bright sun and today was pretty overcast), though they still seem to
be about 1 EV lower than what the Nikon got (somewhat skewed by different choice of ISO
sensitivity). But the picture quality is still terrible, and the digital image
stabilization, whatever that is, is useless. Here two shots taken at 1/60s and 1/30s
respectively, which I can normally hold well enough without shaking. The following photos
are in pairs, the full frame and a 600×450 pixel selection. The Traveler has 14 MP (2 MP
more than my Olympus
E-30!), while the Nikon has only 6 MP, so clearly the size of the crop is different,
but that way the “small” images render directly.
I took the remaining photos with the Traveler mounted on a tripod, so any unsharpness here
is not due to camera shake. The first pair is taken with the Traveler, the second with the
Nikon. The details show that it's still not at all sharp, and there is clear serration (or
pixellation?) on the leaves. The colour is also very washed-out. The Nikon is better in
One issue is probably the JPEG image size.
The 12 MP JPEGs from my E-30 are typically about 7 MB in size, and the 6 MP JPEGs of the
Nikon are about 2.5 MB. The original JPEGs for the Traveler photos above ranged from 3.5 to
7.7 MB. Clearly there's been some pretty aggressive compression there.
So: in summary, no, it's still a terrible camera. About the only thing that I'm no longer
so sure about is the discrepancy in the exposure that I saw last time, but that could have
been due to the way the exposure measurements are performed.
Yvonne's camera is clearly no longer usable, and next week
she's off to Albury for a
dog training seminar, and clearly she'd like to take a camera with her. Spent a lot of time
looking for something for her, hampered by a number of things:
Yvonne wants the smallest, thinnest camera she can find. She found the Traveler too thick
She needs image stabilization, which adds to the thickness.
This kind of camera isn't as sexy as DSLRs, and there are very few tests of them. In
particular, there are a number of cameras for which I have found no tests at all.
The manufacturers seem to enjoy giving multiple different names to the same camera, just
to confuse the issue.
The vendors seem to enjoy spelling the names differently.
The cameras on eBay don't seem to match the
The manufacturers don't document older cameras. One potential camera was the Olympus T
100. But Google only found one page which
barely mentions it, though it does link to a better
description. In the case of others, though, I drew a complete blank.
Magazines seem to test cameras from the biggest manufacturers, and I have my doubts about
The were available from Hong Kong for $148, including postage, but I found one in Australia
for $156.85, so in view of the urgency, I bought that one. Then I discovered that I had
misread the model number. And I had Bought It Now! The vendor offered returns, so I
contacted them and asked if I could do an immediate return. No, the return was just an
exchange if the thing was DOA. So I had to bite the bullet and pay a $15 restocking fee,
and then buy the one from Hong Kong (thus lowering the loss to $6.15). They say that the
postage will be fast; we'll see. But what a pain this all is! It took me half the day.
As a result of the camera purchases, I was involved in eBay's horrible messaging system much more than I would
have liked. I got mail messages (in eBay's barely legible format) from two of the vendors
and sent them replies. eBay refused one of them:
Oops. We weren't able to send your message to some-vendor, because the email address you used to send this message, email@example.com, isn't linked to your eBay account.
To keep eBay safe, we need you to send messages from a registered eBay email address. This will prevent your messages from being blocked in the future. This is easy enough to fix, just do one of the following:
Set up firstname.lastname@example.org as an additional email address for sending messages. To do this:
In My eBay, click the "Account" tab and then click "Communication Preferences" in the drop-down menu.
In the section titled "Delivery Options", click the "Show" link next to "Notification Delivery Format".
Enter the same email address to send member-to-member messages.
OK, the intention is good, but which message? No Message-Id:, no content. I had
to go back and check, and discovered that the address in question had
been email@example.com (not the name above), while the other one had been to a
gmail address. So off to follow the
instructions. They were wrong. You can't add additional email addresses, only change
them. To be sure, I followed some kind of help link on the left and was redirected to an
error page. Unfortunately, I don't know which; later the link was no longer there. I
sometimes get the feeling that eBay tests their software on their customers. You'd think
that they would have their act together by now.
I still haven't got my head (or my stomach) around Olympus
Viewer 2, but I do need to do some more comparisons before my test license for
DxO Optics "Pro" runs out. In particular, I haven't done any comparison of lens distortion yet. I know
from past experience that my Zuiko Digital ED
12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD, otherwise an excellent lens, has severe barrel distortion at
full wide-angle and close up. Here's an example, taken about 20 cm from an A4-sized test
Running the cursor over the image shows what DxO makes of it: much better. It's also
better at longer focal lengths (also meaning further away, of course). Here it is at 60 mm
focal length (left), still not as good as the Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0
Macro (right). It's clear that I'm right to use the macro lens for any close-up work.
But the images themselves, taken with on-camera flash, are terrible. I need to take better
images and then compare them with Olympus.
In the process, had to load a number of DxO “modules”. It proves to be very
simplistic about that; it can't download the modules directly when it finds they're needed.
At the very least you need to abort the processing, and then there was some way to get it to
load the ones it wants, but it didn't show today. So I tried loading all 8 combinations: 4
lenses for two cameras. I already had 3 of them, but that didn't stop it loading all 8
anyway. They're quite big—I think I loaded about 120 MB in total.
So I've come up with a plan to work around the serious defects of the Manfrotto 303PLUS
panorama head. In the process I found that I can reposition the mounting for the L
bracket slightly, which would solve the adjustment problem I mentioned a couple of days ago. Or I should be able to:
The problem is that one of the screws was done up so tight that the Allen key killed the
socket, and I can't get it out. Spent quite some time trying to drill it out, but
paradoxically it seems that the rest of the screw is so solid that I can't drill through it,
and I want to avoid damaging the rail itself. Somehow these screws are another indication
of brain damage in the design of the rail. For some reason there are two different screws
with different shapes, though the thread is the same:
Why do they do that? It doesn't make any sense, and it seems that the dished recess for the
right-hand screw makes it easy to overtighten it. It's clearly stuck to the rail and not
the mount, which I can move slightly, but not enough to unscrew it. I'll have to consider
alternative ways of removing it. What a pain!
As planned, did some playing around with Olympus
Viewer 2 today. It's amazing how much reading I need to do for any of this stuff.
Somehow the whole approach is different.
I won't complain about the file name selection any more; all commercial software has that
problem. But according to the help (which only showed up when I downloaded a 12 month old
update—why didn't I get that version from the web site?), I need to process every
image individually. Maybe that's what they mean by this silly word
“develop”—they're still thinking in terms of darkrooms and chemicals.
It's possible that I'll find a way to apply the corrections to a set of images, but it's not
the way they present it, and I haven't found one yet.
The conversions themselves? I didn't do many, and I haven't got round to doing the
presentation yet. But it certainly does a good job with automatic correction of lens
distortion, notably the close-up with the Zuiko Digital ED
12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD at full wide-angle. Strangely, though, it didn't do an automatic
correction of the chromatic aberration. If I really have to do that manually every time, I
don't think I'll bother.
But I'm not done yet. This takes an amazing amount of time to investigate.
Over the last couple of days I've noticed a surprising number of segmentation violations on
my system. Most are from my weather station software, which continues to die in nasty ways inside the USB stack, but there are a surprising
number of browser-related crashes:
May 10 12:00:03 dereel kernel: pid 29151 (npviewer.bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 10 15:16:41 dereel kernel: pid 28882 (firefox-bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 10 18:46:07 dereel kernel: pid 16828 (firefox-bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 11 11:10:35 dereel kernel: pid 81847 (firefox-bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 11 14:08:08 dereel kernel: pid 1799 (hald-probe-volume), uid 0: exited on signal 6 (core dumped)
May 11 14:08:08 dereel kernel: pid 1800 (hald-probe-volume), uid 0: exited on signal 6 (core dumped)
May 11 17:15:03 dereel kernel: pid 22489 (squid), uid 100: exited on signal 6 (core dumped)
May 12 10:31:26 dereel kernel: pid 34298 (firefox-bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 12 13:29:29 dereel kernel: pid 11486 (npviewer.bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 12 13:45:03 dereel kernel: pid 11957 (operapluginwrapper.), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
May 13 13:04:18 dereel kernel: pid 9458 (firefox-bin), uid 1001: exited on signal 11 (core dumped)
The weather isn't as chilly as it has been, but there are warnings of more frosts. Finally
got round to moving the Mandevilla
into the greenhouse for winter. I'll consider that a sign that winter is here.
House photo day again today. I had intended to take the photos with the new panorama
hardware, but it wasn't really ready. About the only thing I used was the Manfrotto 3416 leveling base, which even Manfrotto
doesn't want to know about. They have replaced it with the model 338, which looks pretty much identical to me. So I mounted that on the tripod, replacing the
ball head I had previously been using, and put the pan and tilt head on top of that:
What did I get out of that? It wasn't all positive. On the one hand, I got much better
leveling—the spirit level is much more sensitive than on the old ball head—and
the base was much more stable than the ball head, which tended to move when I adjusted the
pan and tilt head. But on the other hand, as I suspected, adjustments are less than
perfect. Firstly the 120° orientation of the adjusting screws makes it difficult to adjust
correctly, and then there's a very limited adjustment range further hampered by the lack of
any “reset to mid-point” functionality. So I had to resort to changing the
length of the tripod legs, which is exactly what this base is supposed to eliminate. Once
again, it seems, an expensive tool that doesn't really do what it is intended for.
Last week I took photos into the sun with additional images where I blocked out the sun with
my hand. That was a great improvement, but I'm not there yet. I blocked out too much, and
as a result the images look burnt out in areas where it's not necessary:
We've been given some free trailer ramps via Freecycle, but when Yvonne went into town to pick them
up yesterday, she discovered they wouldn't fit into the car. Today I borrowed Chris
Yeardley's LandBruiser and went in to pick them up.
While I was there, dropped into Ballarat Bolts and Fasteners in the rather vain hope to find a replacement for the
damaged screw in the panorama head. To my surprise, they had an almost exact
replacement, just about 1 mm longer—something that is no problem at all. I had been
fearing that I'd have to order one from Italy and pay real money for it, but the thing cost
35¢. so I bought three of them to be on the safe side.
Then on to Gays to
look for various bits and pieces, some of which I found. Found a better-looking extractor
for the damaged screw, but no hardware for mounting the projector or closing the skylight.
I suppose I'll have to go to Bunnings, but
not today: Chris needed her car back.
A few weeks ago we bought a new raclette oven from ALDI, and today was the inauguration. We tried this once before, but the grill was too uneven, so it went back.
The good news today: it's more even. The bad news: the element is too far away from the
plates, so it barely heated them. Dragged out our old, tatty one and used that instead.
One of the best things about ALDI is that you can take things back if you don't like them.
But it's a pity; with only a slight difference in design the thing would have been just what
we were looking for.
Continued working on my panoramas today, in the process running into more annoyances with
DxO Optics "Pro". There was a bug in one of the scripts I wrote to work around DxO's deficiencies (no
EXIF data, wrong directory), and I accidentally truncated a number of files to 0. No
problem, just run the conversion again.
But how? DxO knows that the files have been converted, and that's once and for all. To
quote John 19:22, “What I have
written, I have written”. There seems to be no way to do it again. What if you want
to try two different conversions for different purposes? No idea. Deleting the output
files doesn't seem to help. In the end I created a new “Project”, something
that I really don't want at all, and processed the files again. Why do people make things
so difficult? All I want is a program that takes input and creates output. Run it again,
it does it again.
Processing the panoramas took me until lunch time. The trick with the spoon improved
things, but as I suspected, it's not really sufficient. I'll put up with the current
situation for the time being.
After that to the garage with my new tools to drill out the defective screw from the
panorama bracket. Total failure. Despite the fact that I was able to strip the socket for
the Allen key—though I may just
have completed what somebody else started—I was unable to drill a hole into it. The
instructions with the screw extractor stated that I should drill a 4 mm pilot hole for it.
I had bought a new set of drill bits just in case, but it wasn't up to the strength of the
screw. Despite cooling the bit several times, it burnt out before I got more than 1 mm into
As if that wasn't bad enough, the extractor had a strange socket that I've never seen
before, about 5 mm square. I have no idea what kind of handle would take it, but I don't
have one. Put it in the drill—probably not a good idea—but it didn't engage in
the screw, either because it was too hard, the pilot hole wasn't deep enough, or both. So I
tried drilling out the screw with a 6.5 mm bit, also brand new, in the hope of removing the
head. That bit, too, burnt out before I got more than about 1 mm into the screw:
Clearly this is a particularly hard screw—I haven't had anything like these
difficulties before. So how do I get it out? For the moment I'm stumped. I'm also
amazed that the Allen key socket of so hard a screw could be damaged by a normal Allen key.
And in view of this problem, WHY did Manfrotto use this kind of screw? I've established with the new screws that they sit
extremely firmly, and even a slight overtightening makes it very difficult to undo them. I
can imagine that I'm not the only person to run into this problem.
I've been following the progress of Yvonne's camera over the
weekend. Although I paid for it on Wednesday, it didn't
get sent until Friday evening, by DHL. It got to
Australia pretty quickly, and I was expecting to see it here today. But what did the
tracking page say?
Awaiting pick up by recipient as requested as of: May 16, 2011 09:55
Called up DHL on 13 14 06—I had to find the phone number in the phone book, since it's
not modern to make that kind of information available on the web—and spoke to Jodie,
who told me that the courier passed by our house at 9:55 and found nobody home, so he took
it to Sebastopol Post Office. It seems that they had entrusted the parcel to a third party
called Eparcel, so they can't do anything about it.
That's nonsense, of course. I was here the whole time, and if DHL wants to get somebody
else to deliver, fine, but they're still responsible. Asked to be connected to her
superior—why do I always end up having to do that?—and while I waited listened
to the blurb they have instead of music: “Rely on DHL”, “Fast delivery
without excuses”. At least I had some ammunition by the time Angela replied.
That was informative in both directions. It seems that eParcel is a service of of Australia
Post, who don't deliver here—something that Angela didn't know. I asked why they
entrusted the delivery to a lesser class of service, which she also couldn't answer. I
asked for compensation, and she wanted to send me a claim form by email, which, based on my
experience with this kind of company, I really didn't want to do. But she said it would be
OK, and she would wait on the phone until it arrived.
Indeed, the message did arrive, and so we left it at that. Only later did I read it:
[-- application/x-zip-compressed is unsupported (use 'v' to view this part) --]
Sigh why do people do this? Saved the archive, and looked at it:
Archive: /var/tmp/AU Claim Evaluation Form.ZIP
Length Date Time Name
--------- ---------- ----- ----
464896 07-21-2009 09:23 AU Claim Evaluation Form.doc
464896 1 file
I might have known. Just dealing with this kind of environment drives me mad. Decided to
get away from it all, pick up the camera and visit a couple of new plant nurseries on the
somewhere near Meredith, if my
calculations were correct.
Picked up the new camera, and then the navigator wanted to take us through Ballarat, though
Meredith is in the other direction. Set off anyway and then checked. It seems that my
calculations were wrong. Both places are on the other side
of Ballarat. Gave that a miss and
decided to take a look at the Buninyong Botanic Gardens instead, which I believe is celebrating its 150th
anniversary this year—not that you'd find that out from the web page, which appears
not to have been updated in 3 years.
The gardens are tiny. If I can extrapolate from the description, it's 10 acres (4 ha), only
about 3 times the size of our current garden. But it's quite pretty:
Back home and took a look at the camera. It came without any instructions, just a CD-R with
a copy of the manual, which I had already downloaded last week. The manual states all the names it
knows for the camera: “PowerShot SD1300 IS”, “IXUS 105” and
“Digital Elph”. It also contains the advice “Make sure you read this
guide before using the camera”.
Checking the following page, it seems that this document is only supplied in PDF form.
There should have been a “Getting started” document, a warranty card and a
“Canon Customer Support” leaflet. Of all these, there was just a single sheet
of paper written in Japanese except for the text, in the middle of one page, “This
warranty is valid only in Japan”.
But then, it isn't a “PowerShot SD1300 IS”. It also isn't a “IXUS
105”, nor is it a “Digital Elph”. It's an IXY 200F, as both the box and
the camera itself say:
The image on the manual doesn't have anything written where the IXY is on this case, but it
seems that the other models have their model number instead.
It's a little early to say much about the camera. It makes a solid impression
(“heavy”, as Yvonne would put it), and it's not
noticeably smaller than the Kodak M1093 IS. The
USB connection seems to be particularly useless: you can't charge the camera with it (you
need to put it in the charger), and it doesn't want to provide a mass storage interface. I
suppose it's modern to require special software to access special devices, something that
people recognized as a serious problem 40 years ago, and for
which Unix in particular found good
solutions. Yvonne took some photos with it and despite the image stabilization managed to
get camera shake at 1/60 s. But then, that happened with the Kodak too.
Not a problem, since I noticed it and took a correctly exposed version. But it's
interesting to see what my software can do. Tried DxO Optics "Pro" and
Ashampoo photo optimizer, both individually
and in combination. The results, though not as good as correct exposure, and surprisingly
good given the extreme underexposure. Here Ashampoo, DxO and both:
Nemo is still taking a long time to make friends with
the cats: he's far too enthusiastic, and though they want good relations, it turns them
off. Today we saw some indication that things might be getting better:
Another damaged recording today, again with tuner 1:
Recoding 2032_20110515214700.mpg (Could-This-Be-Love?-2011-05-15-2147)
2011-05-16 16:29:00.449 71.8% complete
2011-05-16 16:29:02.689 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2856525956
2011-05-16 16:29:03.232 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2861586352
2011-05-16 16:29:03.662 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2866086508
2011-05-16 16:29:05.466 74.0% complete
2011-05-16 16:29:07.138 Frame 4 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2916465996
2011-05-16 16:29:07.212 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2917868852
2011-05-16 16:29:07.235 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2918127916
2011-05-16 16:29:07.802 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2924954760
2011-05-16 16:29:07.818 Frame 3 > 2. Corruption likely at pos: 2925158740
2011-05-16 16:29:08.909 Deadlock detected. One buffer is full when
the other is empty! Aborting
The first 70% of this image were fine, and so were the others I recorded. I'm beginning to
think that this kind of problem relates to external interference. I think that's one of two
or maybe three different problems.
Five years ago I returned from a particularly gruelling
journey to BSDCan in Ottawa. I had travelled over 200,000
km by plane in the previous year, and was thoroughly fed up with travel, air travel in
particular. I wasn't to know it again, but that was the last time I was in a plane. I've
been flying most of my life—the last period when I didn't fly for 5 years started in
1951, when I was 3 years old—but air travel has changed. It used to be fun, people
used to care about the passengers and make them comfortable. Now it's mindless thugs
finding gainful employment annoying passengers as “security consultants” and
flight conditions more reminiscent of cattle transports. I don't miss it.
Received a 5 m USB extension cable in the post today. That's just what I need to connect my
3G modem to dereel, my main machine: the antenna cable is too short, and an extension
would weaken the signal still further, so it made sense to use a digital connection.
Things worked out of the box: disconnect the modem on the cojones, the other machine,
connect to dereel via extension cable, and start PPP again. It worked so well that
my TCP connections didn't even drop!
Well, for a while. Then I discovered:
May 17 13:03:10 dereel kernel: ugen5.2: <HUAWEI Technology> at usbus5 (disconnected)
May 17 13:03:10 dereel kernel: u3g0: at uhub5, port 4, addr 2 (disconnected)
May 17 13:03:10 dereel ppp: tun0: Warning: deflink: Unable to set physical to speed 0
May 17 13:03:10 dereel ppp: tun0: Warning: deflink: tcsetattr: Unable to restore device settings
May 17 13:03:20 dereel root: Unknown USB device: vendor 0x12d1 product 0x140c bus uhub5
May 17 13:03:20 dereel kernel: ugen5.2: <HUAWEI Technology> at usbus5
May 17 13:03:20 dereel kernel: u3g0: <HUAWEI Technology HUAWEI Mobile, class 0/0, rev 2.00/0.00, addr 2> on usbus5
There were many more. The device had gone away and come back. The PPP connection survived,
at least this time. But it happened again and again in the course of the afternoon, and my
network link statistics page shows 4 dropouts, one of
which lasted nearly an hour: on that occasion the device didn't come back, and I had to
manually remove and replace the device.
What's causing it? I've had USB issues on dereel before, and when I connected my USB
backup disk, some strange things happened:
May 17 15:09:14 dereel kernel: ugen5.3: <Sunplus Technology Co.,Ltd.> at usbus5
May 17 15:09:14 dereel kernel: umass2: <Bulk Only Interface> on usbus5
May 17 15:09:14 dereel kernel: umass2: SCSI over Bulk-Only; quirks = 0x4000
May 17 15:09:15 dereel kernel: umass2:7:2:-1: Attached to scbus7
May 17 15:09:40 dereel kernel: da1 at umass-sim2 bus 2 scbus7 target 0 lun 0
May 17 15:09:40 dereel kernel: da1: <ST350041 8AS > Fixed Direct Access SCSI-2 device
May 17 15:09:40 dereel kernel: da1: 40.000MB/s transfers
May 17 15:09:40 dereel kernel: da1: 476940MB (976773168 512 byte sectors: 255H 63S/T 60801C)
The messages are normal enough. But it took the system 25 seconds to recognize the device,
which isn't normal. Then it had write errors, and the modem disconnected again:
May 17 15:17:02 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim2:2:0:0): AutoSense failed
May 17 15:17:02 dereel kernel: g_vfs_done():da1s1d[WRITE(offset=369902485504, length=131072)]error = 5
May 17 15:17:02 dereel kernel: g_vfs_done():da1s1d[WRITE(offset=369902354432, length=131072)]error = 5
May 17 15:18:07 dereel kernel: ugen5.2: <HUAWEI Technology> at usbus5 (disconnected)
Finally gave up and connected the modem back to cojones, still with the extension
cable. And again I had the same problems. Removed the extension cable and all was stable
So I have identified the “cause”. Or at least, I've identified a workaround.
I've seen sporadic disconnects like this before, even without a cable, and there's no
reason—yet—to believe that there's anything wrong with the cable. But clearly
I'm going to have to rethink my connection strategies.
Finally found some cheap RAM for dereel, 4 GB for $40. Now I can increase memory
from 3 GB to 6 GB, which means upgrading to 64 bits. Downloaded a boot-only amd64
ISO version of FreeBSD (in the record time of
5 minutes, 56 seconds), and planned to boot it on cojones. The boot failed with the
message “kernel doesn't support long mode”. Further investigation showed that
this was a masterpiece of obfuscation: it means “Hardware doesn't have a 64 bit
mode”. Why kernel? Looks like a bug to me.
Tried another machine, which I also thought did 64 bits, but no luck. It's funny: when I
only wanted 32 bits, all my hardware supported 64 bits. Now it's (almost) the other way
round: I do have 4 machines that support 64 bits, but they're all in use. I'll wait until
Yvonne leaves for a long dog weekend and install it on her
I was rather surprised that Yvonne managed to get camera
shake at 1/60 s in her photos yesterday, but it matches what I saw with the Traveler Z14. Tried a
couple of forgettable photos of Yvonne in her office, one with the Canon IXY 200F and one with the E-30. The Canon chose a
shutter speed of 1/10s, so I set the Olympus to the same.
The results show some camera shake with the Canon (first two photos), less with the Olympus:
The fuzziness in the Canon shot is much more pronounced laterally than vertically, so it's
camera shake, not focus. Presumably it would have been OK at 1/60s, but it's also clear
that the Canon produces a considerably worse image than the Olympus, and that the image
stabilization isn't nearly as good. But I suppose that's to be expected. On the other
hand, the white balance looks better.
Yesterday I established beyond reasonable doubt that my Huawei E1762 USB modem doesn't work
reliably with the new 5 m USB cable. But who is to blame? According to the standard, the combination
should work. We've established that it's not the motherboard, since it happens with two
different ones, including the one where it has been running relatively reliably for months.
The new component is the cable. So, let's connect some other device with it. First I tried
a disk drive. Complete failure:
May 18 13:22:44 dereel kernel: usb_alloc_device: set address 2 failed (USB_ERR_STALLED, ignored)
May 18 13:22:46 dereel kernel: usbd_req_re_enumerate: addr=2, set address failed! (USB_ERR_STALLED, ignored)
May 18 13:22:48 dereel kernel: usbd_req_re_enumerate: addr=2, set address failed! (USB_ERR_STALLED, ignored)
May 18 13:22:49 dereel kernel: ugen5.2: <Unknown> at usbus5 (disconnected)
May 18 13:22:49 dereel kernel: uhub_reattach_port: could not allocate new device
But, bad as that seems, it's a feature, not a bug. This is a 5 m extension cable,
which means I also needed a short pigtail cable, bringing the total length to over 5 m. So
the only things I can use with this cable are direct plug devices like USB modems, USB
memory sticks and card readers.
Tried an SD with the card reader. As Daniel O'Connor pointed out, you shouldn't really need
to perform any I/O if the device just goes away. But it didn't: it connected just fine and
stayed that way for well over an hour, longer than the Huawei modem ever managed. So I
tried copying data from the card with dd. And there I ran into problems:
=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/10) /src/ISOs 74 -> while :; do dd if=/dev/da1 of=/dev/null bs=128k ; done & dd: /dev/da1: Input/output error
761+0 records in
761+0 records out
99745792 bytes transferred in 107.906362 secs (924374 bytes/sec)
May 18 14:54:52 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 0 2 f9 0 0 0 80 0
May 18 14:54:53 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): CAM status: SCSI Status Error
May 18 14:54:53 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI status: Check Condition
May 18 14:54:53 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI sense: ILLEGAL REQUEST asc:26,0 (Invalid field in parameter list)
That looks like the kind of thing you'd expect, and it occurred several times in various
May 18 15:15:33 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 0 0 4b 0 0 0 80 0
May 18 15:15:33 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): CAM status: SCSI Status Error
May 18 15:15:33 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI status: Check Condition
May 18 15:15:33 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI sense: ILLEGAL REQUEST asc:26,0 (Invalid field in parameter list)
May 18 15:21:49 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 0 2 d4 80 0 0 80 0
May 18 15:21:49 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): CAM status: SCSI Status Error
May 18 15:21:49 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI status: Check Condition
May 18 15:21:49 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI sense: ILLEGAL REQUEST asc:26,0 (Invalid field in parameter list)
May 18 15:35:56 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): READ(10). CDB: 28 0 0 0 ab 0 0 0 80 0
May 18 15:35:56 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): CAM status: SCSI Status Error
May 18 15:35:56 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI status: Check Condition
May 18 15:35:56 dereel kernel: (da1:umass-sim1:1:0:0): SCSI sense: ILLEGAL REQUEST asc:26,0 (Invalid field in parameter list)
But is that the cable or the SD card? The SD card is over 6
years old, and potentially it's flaky. In addition, it's a different kind of problem.
The device doesn't go away. Tried again without the cable, and again ran into trouble,
though possibly a little less. So it seems that USB is just flaky, at least in my
experience. How I'd like to see something more reliable.
It's also interesting to note the transfer speeds. They're not spectacular, but that can be
due to the old card. But with the cable the successful transfers had speeds between 922956
and 934461 b/s, while without the cable they were in the range 880813 to 884423 b/s. That's
a significant difference; what causes it? Can it have a bearing on the problem?
The weather hasn't been conducive to garden work lately, but there's plenty to be done.
Removed another hop rhizome, taking about an hour to do so. It's tiring work, and there are
still another two to be done.
Put them off to some other time and attended to the overgrown bed that I last worked on
two weeks ago. Spent yet more time trying to
remove the stump of the River Red Gum that we tried to remove 18 months ago. Got through the lateral roots, but it's still firm as a
rock. Looks like I'll have to cut down under it. Also found yet more bulbs:
I had difficulty finding space for the ones I found two weeks ago, and I still don't know
what to do with these ones. It's amusing to think that at the time I bought them, I was
concerned how few there were.
Yvonne is off to the High Country on Friday for a weekend
playing with dogs, and in that time I hope to be able to upgrade at least her machine to
AMD64. Last time I did an upgrade I ended up downloading lots of tarballs, and by chance my
monthly traffic quota runs out tomorrow, so it made sense to upgrade defake, my
background installation VM, to the latest and greatest kernel and ports. That worked fine,
but I was still amazed to note that I managed to download 1 GB of tarballs, including
another version of this amazingly large Qt Everywhere, for which the canonical site is
apparently still under construction:
-rw-r--r-- 1 root lemis 211768512 Nov 9 2010 /src/FreeBSD/ports/distfiles/KDE/qt-everywhere-opensource-src-4.7.1.tar.gz
-rw-r--r-- 1 root wheel 213659173 May 4 18:10 /src/FreeBSD/ports/distfiles/KDE/qt-everywhere-opensource-src-4.7.3.tar.gz
Next I need a disk. I think I'll put the new system on an external USB disk so that I can
easily test it on different machines.
I can't actually start installing my amd64 version of FreeBSD until tomorrow, because I need Yvonne's
computer to do the bootstrap, and she's not leaving until tomorrow. But I still had some
time to prepare the disk I was going to use.
I have a surprising number of external USB disks: three 1 TB and one 500 GB. I use two of
the big ones for photo backups and currently the little one for other backups, but both that
disk and the third 1 TB disk contain older copies of my /src file system and various
other junk. My intention was to move the backups to the third 1 TB disk and use the 500 GB
disk as a bootstrap disk for amd64.
That's simple: copy the backups across, wipe the file system, and we're done. But what if
there's other stuff on there that I had forgotten about? Years ago I wrote a program,
mklinks, that does various comparisons and
editing of similar source trees. In this case, it made sense to remove all files from the
USB disks that existed in the same form on /src, so started doing that. It's not a
fast job at the best of times, and I further slowed things down by monitoring the progress.
Then I saw a message fly past on the log window, something about fatal swap_pager errors.
The top window showed that I had plenty of free swap space, but the system froze
solid—not the first time I've seen that. Swap management seems to be a weak point in
FreeBSD. Theoretically it could be I/O problems, but I've seen too many occurrences of this
syndrome (and very little elsewhere) to believe that. Unfortunately the way the machine
crashed means that the log messages got lost. I half expected that, and should have taken a
Continued with the mklinks, and after a couple of hours the second disk was finished.
But the one that started first was only half way through. Checked and found that the second
was running soft updates,
so umounted the first, set soft updates, and started again.
Went out to help Yvonne, who has been rebuilding the car to ensure that Nemo doesn't wander round to the front seat. When I got back,
the machine had frozen. No error messages, just dead. I've seen this before, but I had thought it was fixed. And once
again an overflowing lost+found directory. In the end, decided it wasn't worth the
trouble. Confirmed that, apart from the /src copy, there was nothing of interest on
the disk, so ran newfs on it. But what a day! Two unrelated crashes! It helps
confirm my prejudices against USB. Maybe I should
check eSATA—one of the
disks has a connector.
Yvonne went shopping today, looking for various foods that I
need for the cassoulet that I am planning
for Saturday, and also masa harina.
There's a new gluten-free shop
in Sebastopol, Victoria, so
I suggested she go there and ask about the masa harina. As I had guessed, they had
never heard of it, neither under that name, nor maize flour, nor anything else. They didn't
have it, of course.
Even more surprising: it took her 7 different shops before she found dried white beans,
which I had thought were a staple. No smoked food, of course; fortunately we have some
deep-frozen. I'm continually amazed.
Somehow I'm not making much progress in the garden. It's been windy lately, and I've had to
tie down the Alyogyne huegelii,
which has nearly been uprooted. Did a bit of weeding—I really should be planting
Yvonne off with Nemo this morning to visit Jenny Judson
near Myrtleford, leaving her
computer behind for me to play around with. The plan was to boot with my new 8.2-RELEASE
bootonly disk and then build a STABLE kernel from sources. It didn't quite work
out that way.
It seems that this “bootonly” disk contains, well, only /boot: the kernel
and a couple of helper files for the bootstrap. And it's 50 MB in size. Well, what's on
the CD is. It's a lot more once it's properly installed. The bloat of ages looks like
# du -sk /boot /src/UNIX/Sixth-Edition/rkunix 326962 /boot
A modern kernel with helpers is over 10,000 times the size of the kernel of the Sixth
Edition of Unix! From my point, however,
the problem was different: I didn't have enough to get the machine up and running. What's
the purpose of this disk? It has all the scripts to install a complete system, but the
userland isn't there. Checked on the download sites: the next smallest CD image is about
750 MB, and I only had 550 MB quota left for the rest of the “month” (midnight
today). That's a hard limit: when I hit it, I lose connectivity. So I would have had to
wait until tomorrow, and even then use over 8% of my month's traffic quota to download it.
Went looking and found a collection of 7.0-RELEASE AMD64 CDs, probably sent from
Peter Jeremy some time ago. The obvious thing to do would be to install from them and then
build from source as before. Problem: the bootstrap died on me. It seems that there has
been some change in hardware in the intervening 3 years, and the boot doesn't know how to
handle it. Tried a number of different approaches (it's nice to have a functional system on
the other disk):
Run the install script on the 7.0-RELEASE CD (it's effectively unchanged since
the days of floppies and the first release of “The Complete FreeBSD”). That worked, but the boot loader still
Replace the /boot hierarchy on disk with the 8.2 version. Still no go; it seems
that the part of the boot was in the boot blocks.
From the 8.2 CD, rewrite the boot blocks with the newer ones. That worked.
FreeBSD isn't really designed so that userland and kernel from different releases should
work together. But it did, and I was able to build a new system without any further
problems. Started building ports, again with relatively few problems, though one looked
===> Cleaning for cvsup-16.1h_4
===> cvsup-16.1h_4 does not support GUI on amd64, please disable X11 option or use net/cvsup-without-gui instead.
I don't need cvsup's GUI, of course, but it's been concerns with incompatibilities
between i386 and amd64 that have kept me from upgrading for so long.
Didn't even try to configure the machine—yet. I had other things to do.
The weather's nicer again, and so more work in the garden. Finally got all the bulbs
planted, both the ones I dug out the other day and the ones we bought at Lambley Nurserynearly a
month ago. Most of them are in the garden area east of the verandah. Also more
attention to the weeds in the north bed; there's some satisfaction in removing large
quantities of weeds, though there's no point unless I get out all the roots too.
Carried on running the ports build of the amd64 system in the background all day
long, in the process modifying my method somewhat. Many years ago I changed the layout of my
file systems. Traditionally the systems are /, /usr, /var and
maybe /home. I have incorporated /usr with / and split /var
between / (system-related directories such as /var/db and /var/run)
and /home (user-related directories such as /var/mail, /var/spool
and /var/tmp). Over the years I've increased the size of the root partition. In the
last edition of “The Complete FreeBSD” I recommended 4 to 6 GB. My current machine has 10 GB, and for the new machine I chose
Nevertheless the file system filled up during the build: the Ports Collection is in /usr/ports, and in
the course of building it accumulated about 12 GB of files before overflowing the file
system. Clearly I need to move the ports to /home as well, though it doesn't really
fit that well.
Other things irritate, of course, particularly this emetic Java stuff, where you must
download the tarball via a web browser (tough luck if you haven't built one), and accept a
positively stupid license agreement:
A licensee of FreeBSD? What's that? Since
this particular tarball is only of use for FreeBSD, this is almost completely meaningless.
And yet it's on the FreeBSD foundation web site. Clearly this is some requirement
by SunOracle's ivory tower lawyers.
It wasn't helped by firefox,
which now gives no indication that it has actually started a download. After clicking on
“Submit” a few times, went to look if anything was coming in. Yes:
-rw------- 1 grog lemis 28508160 May 21 15:15 diablo-caffe-freebsd7-amd64-1.6.0_07-b02(1).tar.bz2.part
-rw------- 1 grog lemis 26836992 May 21 15:15 diablo-caffe-freebsd7-amd64-1.6.0_07-b02(2).tar.bz2.part
-rw------- 1 grog lemis 27557888 May 21 15:15 diablo-caffe-freebsd7-amd64-1.6.0_07-b02(3).tar.bz2.part
-rw------- 1 grog lemis 43778048 May 21 15:15 diablo-caffe-freebsd7-amd64-1.6.0_07-b02.tar.bz2.part
Not only had it started a download, it had started four of them. And the key
binding c-y no longer brings up the download window, so I couldn't stop it. Finally
I found that they have changed the binding to c-s-y. Somehow this browser is getting
more and more irritating
Configuration is proving to be more of a problem than I expected. I've already complained that the FreeBSD port of GIMP doesn't install the documentation. Now there's a
configuration option to install it (but it still defaults to off). Checked that and
discovered that by default (there's another configuration screen that you don't get
presented) it installs the documentation in 13 different languages! And each documentation
pack is about 30 MB. Stopped the damned thing after it had loaded 150 MB of largely
irrelevant data. Why should anybody want more than one of these things?
A while back we bought some “egg poachers” from ALDI. They're supposed to poach eggs in the microwave
oven. The instructions were dubious, and we kept putting off trying them out:
Simply [sic] bread egg into poacher ... and add one teaspoon of water over each
Pierce the yolk of the egg two or three times with a knife point. Place the poacher at
the edge of the carousel, cook on MEDIUM for approximately 60 seconds
What does that mean? What's MEDIUM? How strong a microwave oven? And what happens if you
want more or less than two eggs? Today I finally got round to trying it. Never mind that
I hate pierced yolks; I thought I could try without. Put 5 ml water in the egg and
didn't pierce the yolks. How do you centre them, anyway? They have a mind of their own.
Decided that MEDIUM must mean about half strength, in my case 550 W. Tried it out and
observed. Yes, the yolk exploded, but only after some time; by that time half the white had
also exploded and gone rubber-hard, while the other half was completely uncooked. Here
before and after:
Today should have been garden photo day, like every Saturday, but it was too windy. I
should have done them yesterday: the weather forecast was correct, and they're forecasting
more wind tomorrow and rain on Monday.
Still, did some photo processing, notably the egg photos. And for some reason the
Ashampoo photo optimizer didn't want to run.
It just hung there, and when I aborted with ^C, I got the message:
err:module:attach_process_dlls "winspool.drv" failed to initialize, aborting
What caused that? I really have no idea. Tried a new version of wine, but got the same problem I noted on
18 March 2011:
ELF interpreter /libexec/ld-elf.so.1 not found
Abort trap: 6
This appears to be related to the value of kern.maxdsiz, which I have set to
2048000000 bytes. Jürgen Lock tells me that that's no longer needed, but it's not something
I feel like testing right now. We'll see what problems I run into with the new system.
Reinstalled the old version of wine and discovered that it wasn't a complete hang: it
took several minutes to start up, and then it ran. No idea why. I'll see if I run into the
same problems with the new system.
Yvonne is away, so I can eat the foods she doesn't like, such
as cassoulet. Spent most of the day
cooking, throwing in a lamb Madras on the side
for tomorrow or Monday. Chris Yeardley came to help me eat it, and we're agreed that, if
anything, there weren't enough beans, even though I had taken nearly twice as much as most
recipes ask for. On the other hand, was left over with a lot of broth. I need to modify
===> wget-1.12_3 GNUTLS and OPENSSL are mutually exclusive, enable at most one of them.
All well and good, but why didn't the configuration dialogue notice that?
gimp tried to install twice. That's
because it's too leet to install a binary called gimp; instead it installs one
called gimp-2.6 (and not the more correct gimp-22.214.171.124). How I hate
silly programs that carry their revision history in their name.
===> wine-1.3.20,1 is only for i386, while you are running amd64.
Apart from the grammar of the message, it's one of the things I had been afraid of.
Fortunately it's one of only two that have reported this problem. I suppose I'll
have to run it in a VM if I need it at all.
The ss port seems to have died, but there is still an empty directory there, so
when I went to it I got:
cd /usr/ports/math/ss && make -i clean; make install
make: don't know how to make clean. Stop
We've had our eye on removing
the Aloysia citrodora (Lemon
Verbena) for some time, but it's really more like moving: we don't want to get rid of the
plant altogether. Last month I took some
cuttings, and finally a couple are showing signs of taking, so today was the big day:
20 years ago we bought a Míele G 7760 commercial
dishwasher for the riding school we were opening. We were really proud of it. It used 3
phase power (optionally single phase), had hot water intake and could run a complete
programme, including drying, in as little as 22 minutes. Over the course of the years we've
invested significant effort in infrastructure (3 phase power at Wantadilla, hot water intake and 15 A power point here).
Until today, it ran almost without problems. Then I thought: “It's a pity the upper
tray is so close to the top. It's difficult to get glasses in there”. It must have
been offended: this evening I found it stopped in the middle of a cycle, and further
investigation showed that it wasn't pumping water out. Spent some time investigating the
problem, suspecting a blockage, and found that confirmed when I couldn't pump water back in
through the drain hose. It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that there is almost
certainly a non-return valve there. And since there was no obvious blockage to be seen,
it's likely that the pump (which is still running, but rather quietly) is dead.
I suspect that's the end of the machine. Just taking it in for repair and having it looked
at would cost about $60, and I expect a pump would cost $200. And then we still have a 20
year old dish washer. I can buy a new one for only a little more than that, and it'll use
less power and water. So I'll go off to town tomorrow with Chris Yeardley's LandBruiser and
probably come back with something new. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Last week I just used the leveling head. This week I had the main part of the panorama head
as well, including the rotator. How did it go? I've found more problems, of a more basic
Firstly, yes, the leveling base is becoming a nuisance. It has only two advantages over the
much cheaper ball head I was using before:
It's more stable.
It has a better spirit level, allowing more accurate adjustments.
But that's all. It's bulky and difficult to adjust, and in particular it doesn't have the
range, so I'm still continually changing the length of the tripod legs. But if I do that, I
don't need the leveling head except for the spirit level. And there must be a cheaper way
to get that, possibly electronic.
And the panorama bracket? Well, the layout is almost unchanged, so there wasn't much
difference except for the rotator with the click stops. That is “nice to have”,
but it didn't stop me taking one shot too few on one occasion:
I only took 11 instead of 12 shots, and there's a little bit missing at the bottom towards
the right. I've left it that way because it's part of a series. Apart from that, there are
disadvantages too: if I want to take less than a 360° panorama, the start and end points are
important. The following 180° photo is made from 6 shots taken at 30° increments:
Clearly the start and end points are important, and I used to do this by manually selecting
directions 30° apart. But now I'm locked in to particular directions, and I can't select
the starting point. The only way to move the head so that the start point is somewhere in
between is to rotate the tripod. So I set it to 15° and took every second detent. Not
quite the comfort I was looking for.
As if that wasn't enough, there are protrusions on the bracket that limit the angle that the
camera can be turned towards the ground:
In particular, the brass screw at the top right appears in the picture if the camera is
tilted too far down. Of course, this bracket isn't designed for that sort of thing, but
it's completely unnecessary and somehow an indication of the limited thought that has gone
into designing the bracket.
In summary, I don't really have much more than I had before. The big part is still to come:
rotating the lens about the nodal point when mounted horizontally.
Dish washers: not in the same league as washing machines
Three months ago I bought a new
washing machine, and spent a lot of time looking at the pros and cons of various models.
Now I'm in the same situation with a new dish washer. But things aren't quite the same:
last time I found various places in the Yellow Pages, and there was a used washing machine
sales place that I went to. Dish washers seem to be much less popular. There's no entry
for them in the Yellow Pages, and the people who sell used washing machines don't seem to be
interested in dish washers. Got on to one repairer who handles Míele, and he confirmed my concerns: the last time he
replaced a drain pump, it cost about $300. And that was presumably a domestic model that
had been marketed in Australia. He suggested that the pump might be blocked, though.
Finally into town with Chris' LandBruiser to see what was available. The very cheapest
started at about $550, and they went up to well over $2000. Again, it seemed that the
cheapest units were available at the Good
Guys, where the bloke also knew something about them. In contrast to the
considerations with washing machines, there doesn't seem to be much difference in dish
washers: the biggest one seems to be the ability to start the cycle in the middle of the
night to take advantage of cheap electricity. Others are power and water consumption (both
way less than our old machine) and the reconfigurability of the baskets. And that seems to
have little to do with the price.
Didn't get as far as making up my mind today. I had already received a “VIP”
invitation (“we have your address on record, so you must be a VIP”) to a special
sale at Good Guys tomorrow evening, and the sales person told me that, although they didn't
have details, there could be discounts of “up to 50%” and in any case probably
well over 10%, so I'll have to go back then.
Back home to look at the dish washer. It seems that the pump is accessible from the bottom,
so turned it over and took a look:
The first photo shows the bottom plate, which seems to have been used by mice at some time.
The equipment itself looks OK, but there's no obvious place where it could be blocked.
Turned it back upright and tried again. This time no noise from the pump, and since that's
the first thing that it does in any cycle, the thing was completely non-reactive. I suppose
it's something like brushes, but who repairs motors nowadays?
While in town, dropped in at Ballarat Automotive and asked Paul Sperber to extract the screw
from my panorama bracket. I had to wait in the reception, and I heard a surprising amount
of banging from the workshop. After about 10 minutes he returned, confirming that the thing
had been a real problem, and that he almost thought he wouldn't get it out. He had finally
removed it by hammering in a Torx driver and
twisting it out like that:
Looking at the separated components confirms my low opinion of this device. The holder for
the camera plate has a groove in it which in no way resembles the profile of the rail it
fits on, and part of the screw thread is missing as a result. The third image shows the
holder on top of the rail with the gap in between:
So I've identified that the functionality of dish washers doesn't differ much, but there
must be some differences. In principle I had decided to buy the cheapest I could find, a
Dishlex, which the Good Guys were offering for $545. First looked at
Choice, who have recently done a review of dish washers on the market, though their search for dishwashers compare and review hides it way behind more relevant topics like a three
year old “Graters review and compare”. Fortunately, Google can find it, and that's how I found it. Members only. I would have happily
paid a few dollars—Choice reviews aren't worth much more—for the privilege, but
the only way I could do it was to join Choice, something I had tried before and found
wanting. Went to the signup page anyway, but the whole web site left me with a sense of
distrust, starting with their use of what appear to be Microsoft-specific fonts that fall
back to Courier on my machine. Clearly there's less Choice on the web site.
So moved on and read reviews at http://www.productreview.com.au/.
These are all user reviews, and it's clear that many of them vent their frustration by
giving the appliances low ratings. But it's clear that Dishlex have significantly
lower ratings than others, though the DX203WK did better than some. In particular,
many people complained about dead electronics and leaking. Took a look at the overall ratings and
found that 7 of the top 10 were Bosch units.
Good Guys had had a very cheap one for sale yesterday, a SGU55E15AU for $656, while most of
them retail for $1000 to $1500.
Checked the review and found that the specs were pretty much identical, but nobody had
reviewed it yet. The Bosch web
site was useless: it didn't even list it. Still, on consideration, decided that I'd be a
whole lot happier with a well-known brand with a good reputation. I've had a Bosch dish
washer before, in fact, in the 1980s, and it did a reasonable job.
But why the difference in price? It's the only “built-under” model I've seen on
sale. To quote the Bosch web site:
A new concept that allows you to change your dishwasher to suit an existing kitchen,
rather than the other way around.
A new concept? My last Bosch machine was built-under, and that's what I wanted today. So
what they mean is “new to Australia”, I suppose. And presumably they're not
selling as well as they had hoped. All the better.
The sale started at 18:00, but decided to arrive early and take a look. Arrived in plenty
of time—about 17:15—and discovered that I could already get the discounted
prices. Confirmed that there wasn't much else to choose from at that price, so got the
Bosch machine for $600—only 12.5% less, pretty much the going rate for Good Guys, who
always discount—and also a Vax vacuum cleaner for Yvonne, who's been asking for one for weeks. That was closer to their claims: list price $149,
sale price $74, or 50.33% off.
Back home and arrived at about 18:10 to discover that Yvonne had already returned from
Albury. Unloaded the machine, marvelling at the poor documentation, in particular on a
packet that appears to contain some kind of explosive device, a “Powerball”:
The funny rectangles at the left are the content viewed through a transparent window. What
are they? Why doesn't it say? I think it's because this stupid company is too leet to
describe their products. I've seen this before: they
seem to delight in obfuscation. About the only new information I got was that the problem
seems to be world-wide: both the machine and the pellets seem to be made in Germany. The
only instructions on the back appear to be for illiterates, and the text, written in four
point text in 27 languages, just tells me that the stuff is dangerous—but not what it
Put the machine together quickly enough, discovering that there's some enormous valve
(presumably to guard against flooding) on the water feed, preventing me from installing it
in the correct place. Put much of the backed up dirty dishes in and started the
“Normal 45°” wash programme. The washer has a “time remaining”
display: 141 minutes! The old Míele did the normal 55° cycle in about 30 minutes, including
9 minutes drying. Did a bit of RTFM and discovered there's also a “Fast 45°”
programme that runs in 25 minutes, but doesn't dry. You'd think they'd have something in
between. Started the fast programme, within 2 hours of buying the device, and it seems to
have done well enough. It's certainly much quieter than the Míele.
Two weeks ago I accidentally bought the wrong camera for Yvonne on eBay. Discussed with the seller, who
wanted a $15 restocking charge, which I paid, so I though that the matter was over.
Not so. On Friday I received a mail message from eBay in typical obfuscated form. Hidden
in the mess was:
eBay opened an unpaid item case for Canon PSA3100IS Digital Compact Camera
A3100 IS SILVER , because jrandomseller either hasn't recorded your payment
or didn't receive it yet.
Clearly a misunderstanding, and I sent a message to the seller, who didn't respond. Why
not? One indication was another message that I sent to him a
week ago. The courtesy copy arrived only today, 6 days later and completely broken.
The text part was (probably broken) HTML:
To : jrandomseller
>From : groggyhimself
Subject: Other: groggyhimself sent a message about Canon PSA3100IS Digital
Compact Camera A3100 IS SILVER #260705464584
I like the ID HeaderTextDilimiter1. But somehow eBay's site is completely broken,
and new breakage continually occurs. Normally these messages are formatted well enough
modulo the mess around them. And it seems impossible to send messages via their
“email” system, so tried to find the phone number of the seller. Found
page which linked to http://help.ebay.com.au/Help/Getting_Started/eBay_community/Contacting_members#contact and promised to give the information. But it's 404. After much more frustrating
searching, finally found another page, since lost again, which did finally get me the phone
number. Called up, spoke to the vendor, and he promised to do something about it today; and
he did. But it cost me 1½ hours of messing around, and I still don't know what to do next
time. What a pain!
We got the dish washer running yesterday, but we still needed to install it in the correct
place. That was hampered by the size of the Aqua-stop device on the inlet hose and the
incorrect fitting for the drain hose. The former required cutting a larger hole in the wall
to the sink cabinet, and the latter required fitting an adapter which was supplied with the
The real problem was the instructions. They're terrible! In particular, there are
two mounting brackets to hold the top front of the machine to the work surface above. There
are two different instructions on how to mount them, and neither work because another
instruction specifies to fit a rubber seal in the same place:
So which do I choose? The first one doesn't make sense—there's no way to attach the
machine to the work surface—and the second one requires removing the seal. In the end
I stuck with the seal, which meant no brackets. The old Míele dish washer was stable enough
like that, but despite all adjustments this machine is a little wobbly. So I'll do some
more thinking, but it looks as if the rubber seal has to go and the second alternative be
used to hold the machine in place.
That wasn't the only documentation blunder. The instructions refer to a stronger drying
cycle, twice. One states that you should press a button labeled B, the other (worded
differently) talks of a button with the Chinese symbol for river, 川. But the machine
doesn't have either of these buttons. Clearly the instructions, ambiguous as they are,
apply to one or more other machines. In addition, the manual appears to be printed for the
Australian and New Zealand markets, since it gives details of power and water consumption
according to Australian and New Zealand national standards. But the phone numbers on the
back page are only for the United Kingdom and Eire. I'm left with the distinct impression
that nobody cares about the document. Hopefully the machine itself is better.
In April 1997, while we were in the process of moving from Germany to Australia, Hartmut
Brandt gave me his PDP-11 (really an LSI-11/73). Despite the best of intentions, I never
got round to powering it on, and well over a year I offered it to Alastair Boyanich. That
was the background to the Hackers' barbecue that we held last year. But
Alastair didn't show: he had trouble with the old car he was restoring. He finally made it
here today with his father George to stay the night and take the computer tomorrow. Much
fun was had by all:
That required significant dismantling, and it took its time. From
the Wikipedia page, this CPU appears to be
the JAWS-11. This is the first time I've seen it. If we identified and counted the memory
chips correctly, the machine has 4 MB main memory.
It proved that the storage conditions had been less than idea, and Alastair had to evict one
rat from its home, much to the interest of Piccola.
Clearly the others got out earlier. Here some of the remains, along with the Tandem LXN and
a MicroVAX II which were also there, and
which proved to be more difficult for rats to build their nests:
Even after loading everything, we weren't done. Alastair had been rather generous with the
size of the tarpaulin that he wanted to tie over the trailer. The first photo shows it
folded fourfold. It took quite a while to shrink it to the size of the trailer and tie it
Backing up photos today was less than reassuring. Lots of messages like:
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/20090321/housephoto-notes": Device not configured (6)
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/20090321/makejpeg": Device not configured (6)
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/20090321/n-to-house-w-to-house.pto": Device not configured (6)
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/20090321/n-to-house-w-to-house.pto.mk": Device not configured (6)
rsync: recv_generator: failed to stat "/photobackup/Photos/grog/20090321/verandah-e-verandah-se.pto": Device not configured (6)
It wasn't repeatable: after aborting the backup, disconnecting and reconnecting the USB
cable, all was well. There were also no console messages, but I wonder if I shouldn't
migrate to some more reliable method of backup,
maybe eSATA. Time to check all
the files, anyway.
The dish washer is still too wobbly, and it's not clear what the seal at the top is for (it
doesn't seal the door), so removed it and put the angle brackets in at the front position,
screwing them to the underside of the work surface. Now it's stable, but it still doesn't
It looks as if I'll need a new skirting board at the bottom.
So, that's done. And I have a number of things left over which are not mentioned in the
installation instructions: 8 nails and a flat piece of metal, the width of the machine and
about the depth of the plate which goes behind the skirting board. It's marked
“Top” in English, French and German, and with an arrow pointing to
“Front”, apparently good enough for all three languages:
The “Top” text suggests that it might be intended to be mounted vertically, and
it fits pretty well to the skirting plate at the bottom, though it's not clear why it should
be needed. But arrow pointing to Front suggests that it's intended to be mounted
horizontally. I really have no idea what its purpose is.
One problem with the baskets is that the plate holders are non-removable. In the old
machine everything came out, leaving a flat basket which I could use for things like
barbecue grills. Tried to fit it into the new machine, but to my surprise the new machine,
with identical external dimensions, is smaller inside, and it doesn't fit. I wonder why
it's smaller inside than a 20 year old machine.
Took my monthly garden flower photos today. It's clear that summer is over—in fact, autumn is nearly over—and
there aren't nearly as many flowers as last month. Of those that are still looking happy,
the Alstroemerias and
the Begonias are particularly obvious:
In the greenhouse, this season's tomatoes are gradually dying back, though we still have
flowers, and some of the new ones are also flowering. So is the lemon, and the creeper
cuttings that Yvonne brought back
from Albury seem not to
have noticed that they have been cut and replanted. And
the Mandevilla is still flowering
I started my next batch of sourdough bread yesterday, and by chance somebody on Freecycle asked for a starter today. Even more unusually, the person was
in Dereel. Sent a reply offering to show
them how I made the bread, but they didn't call back until I had started: it seems that
Freecycle has significant delays in sending messages.
The person in question turned out to be Peter Dilley, with whom I had spoken about brewing
last month. He came by with his wife Victoria
and picked up the starter, lending me a couple of books while he was at it. He also left
with one of the Pride of Ringwood hop rhizomes and a number of garden cuttings. Had an
interesting discussion. We're planning to do some cooperative brewing sessions.
The books that Peter lent me were “exceptional breads” by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington and “Bread” by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno. My only interest is in
sourdough, and neither book handles it
well. I found no mention
of Lactobacillus in either book,
just “wild yeasts”, though they use terms
and levain (the latter the French word for
sourdough), with undocumented explanations of the big difference between the two. I'm left
with the impression that the books implicitly disagree on the meaning of the two. The
suggestions about how to create and maintain a starter that remind me of my attempts two years ago: discard up to 600 g
of starter every day. I bake once every two weeks and use 1.3 kg of flour. In that time I
would have got rid of over 4 kg of wasted flour according to this method.
“Bread” does offer an alternative: the radical “old dough” method,
effectively what I (and just about everybody outside the English-speaking world) do: save
some of the dough for next time, though they appear to take the final dough before baking.
But the recipes call for “starters” that are really just yeast and water. And
both seem to think that a starter is a thing you can make in a day or two. No mention of
the fact that rye needs sourdough, nor why rye is so popular in northern Europe (it
grows in places that are too cold for wheat).
That doesn't mean that they're generally bad. But how much information do you need about
baking in general? The parts that interest me are the fine detail, and that's missing.
Yvonne off to dog training this morning, so continued with
the upgrade to 64 bits that had got interrupted last week. Things didn't work too much
better today: got as far as checking out some configuration files when I got interrupted by
Real Life. This is taking for ever, even though I'm nearly finished. I dread getting
X up and stumbling.
Somehow these USB disks aren't really reliable enough. I don't seem to lose any data, but
there are continual strange messages that suggest things aren't all going well. Today the
message was very clear: once again I
froze the entire system. That's enough. From now on I revert to doing my backups over the
LAN to some other machine that doesn't need to be up all the time.
While the system was down, put in the 4 GB of memory that I recently received. Now I have 6
GB, of which I can only use 3 until I finally get the machine running in 64 bit mode. But
the extra memory had an unpleasant side effect: although it's all DDR-2 800 memory, and all
from the same manufacturer (Kingston), the machine came back up running at 667 MT/s. Why?
I didn't have time to play around, but clearly I need to check the BIOS settings.
Four years ago todayYvonne and I were looking for a new house in
the Dereel area, and we first saw the
house we're living in. I took a number of photos at the time, and every year since then
I've tried to reproduce the views. It's becoming more and more difficult, but here's what I
took today. The first is from the north-east of the house. The big difference here is the
shade area at the left, of course, but it's also interesting to note the growth of
the Callistemon bushes in the middle.
I've already cut them back hard on one
And the interesting thing in the south (apart from the fact that I was able to stitch a
second-rate panorama from the photos of 4 years ago) is how much the bushes have grown.
The Eucalyptus at the left now
completely obscures the driveway and the water tank, while
the Melaleuca at the south-west side of
the house obscures the west side of the house. Even
the birch tree to the east of the house is
noticeably bigger. I wonder when they planted all these plants.
Yvonne asked me to take some photos of her riding Carlotta,
so out onto the road. Carlotta is gaited, so it made sense to take some high-speed
sequences. In all photos I used manual focus, because I can't count on the autofocus to do
the right thing so quickly. I have a “focus once” function button on the
camera, which performs an autofocus when in manual mode. Pressed that and took some photos.
First took a single photo, then switched to high speed sequence. Here the first (normal
mode) and the first of the sequence: