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November 2015
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Sunday, 1 November 2015 Dereel Images for 1 November 2015
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More Hugin pain
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

More playing around with Hugin today. I had a number of issues:


Monday, 2 November 2015 Dereel Images for 2 November 2015
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Wild bananas?
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne and Chris visited Debbie on the corner of Kleins Road today, and brought back what looks for all the world like a banana tree:


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But Yvonne tells me that it's a Strelitzia, though not a Strelitzia reginae. Can that be right? Spent some time investigating, and it looks as if it's a Strelitzia nicolai, which is also called “wild banana”. You can understand why, although they're not that closely related to bananas. Here's an image from Dave's Garden which gives an idea:

So what do we do with the thing? It's not really a pot plant, but it's not overly frost tolerant, it has an intrusive root system, and it can grow up to 6 m tall. I think that for the moment at least it will remain in the pot.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

The Xanthorrhoeas in front of the house haven't paid much attention to the earthworks have occurred there. Here the first in flower:


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There are also a few smaller wildflowers in relatively high concentration:


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Hugin: the next hurdle
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

More playing around with Hugin today. First question: how do I get it to reenable the fast panorama preview under Microsoft? Thomas Modes said “hold down the control key and start Hugin”.

But how? There are at least four different ways:

The next issue was this nonsense:


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That appears to be a change in the way Hugin displays the fast panorama window before the images have been aligned. After alignment the images are shown as aligned.

The remaining issue was with fisheye projections. And that's still there. Perfectly normal panoramas get twisted. Here one of last week's views of the house:


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Why is it doing that?


X clipboard
Topic: technology Link here

What's this clipboard nonsense? Some Microsoft invention? No, it seems that X has had it forever, but you need a special program (xclipboard) to access it. Looking at the appearance of the program (Athena widgets), it must be over 25 years old. And it Just Works.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 3 November 2015
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Kleins Road revisited
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It's gradually looking as if we have sold the house in Kleins Road—the confirmation will come in two steps, firstly the contract (hopefully this week) and then settlement, which has to be done before the end of the month. Over to take a look, in the process getting the antenna of my car tangled in a hedge and damaged beyond repair.

Things aren't looking good. The lawn needs mowing, the garden trimming, the bore isn't running, and the pond is nearly empty. Some of the bushes are so overgrown that there's no way down the paths:


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Tried to start refilling the pond, but it didn't start, and I didn't have time to investigate. I'll have to go back later.


Into town again
Topic: general, health, history Link here

Gradually things to do are accumulating: new prescriptions for my medication, haircut, irrigation equipment. Did all that, and while I was there also did a favour for Edwin Groothuis. He's into Geocaching, and he found a suitable object in the Ballarat railway station, an Engineering Heritage Marker celebrating 160 years of the Ballarat-Geelong railway line, built just too late for the main thrust of the Victorian gold rush. I needed to locate the commemorative plaque and supply the coordinates (-37.558764,143.859183).


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Here's what he made of it.

On the way home picked up a hitch-hiker, Dan, who lives at the end of Melaleuca Road in Enfield. It seems that he normally takes the bus into town, but it would not have got him back home until about 15:05, and the Melbourne Cup started at 15:00—clearly a good reason to hitchhike, especially as he had put money on the race (and, I think in hindsight, lost).


Loss of Integrity
Topic: history, technology, animals, general Link here

In 1989 Tandem Computers announced its first real Unix machine, named Integrity S2, a name that had such a resonance that Hewlett Packard still use it for their mission-critical servers. I was involved in the leadup to the announcement, and as a result received a “tombstone”, something of which our “Micro Products Division” in NonStop Drive, Austin TX was particularly fond:


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We (European Unix Technical Support, of which I was the manager) received one of the very first machines in late 1989. There's some mention in my ersatz diary for November 1989. Some of the standard features were somewhat clunky, including a full screen /etc/motd framed in asterisks announcing (at 19,200 bps, so a whole second to display the text) something like “WELCOME TO THE FAULT TOLERANT TANDEM INTEGRITY S2 RUNNING NonStop UX”. Over the first few months we set to corrupting it (replacing spaces with @, adding random line-noise like characters such as ~ and }{).

But that's over a quarter of a century ago. Fast forward to today: since Lilac died Piccola has been spending a whole lot of time on my desk:


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She's normally very careful, so I haven't chased her away. But today I heard a “plop” and looked down behind a desk. Catastrophe! My tombstone was broken neatly in 2:


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Somehow that's another nail in my coffin.


Castrating Sasha
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne over to Pene Kirk with Sasha and Chris Bahlo's Fyodor (or is that Fedor? That's how Chris pronounces it) to have them castrated:


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It seems that it was difficult to anaesthetize Sasha, and he may have some scratches in the trachea. He was feeling decidedly unhappy in the afternoon. He didn't eat or drink all day, and he vomited a couple of times. Hopefully he'll be better tomorrow.


Hugin fisheye problems: understood?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

What's the difference between how Hugin handles fisheye images now (version 2015.0.0) and how it handled them in the past (version 2012.0.0)? It seems that there are two changes:

So I went looking for a way to turn off the vertical control point detection. It's only available in the Preferences for the Assistant. Turned them off, and suddenly it worked! It also works with the “Assistant”, something that didn't work with version 2012.0.0.

Of course, then I had to go back and create comparison images to show the difference. But I could no longer get it to create a broken panorama. This time the vertical control points were only along features of the house, which are really vertical. Somehow Hugin is a moving target.

And then there's Microsoft. Hugin just doesn't work for me at all. It has a number of different failure modes (“Hugin has stopped working”), including:

Why is this so hard?


Wednesday, 4 November 2015 Dereel
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Hugin on Microsoft: give up
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Spent some more time trying to understand my problems running Hugin on Microsoft, without much success. It seems that the problems selecting files related to a setting in the “Folders” tab of the Control Panel: I have it set to select items with a single click. Hugin is the first program I know that has a problem with that.

Most of the other problems remain, though. Hugin has always had two different interfaces, the “Assistant” and the individual steps. Since 2013.0.0 the “Assistant” has been part of the fast panorama preview window, which I suspect has had some kind of race condition for a long time. It includes random hangs under X and random crashes. Today I got reproducible crashes while the “Assistant” was performing the “Align” function, which is a combination of control point detection and optimization.

OK, try the long way. The other window (which is apparently called “Panorama Editor”, though that doesn't appear in the headers of the X version). Detect control points. Optimize. Curly panorama that doesn't close:


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That's probably due in part to the fact that Hugin decides the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye has a focal length of 10.487 mm. Created a panorama and exited. CrashStopped working!

OK, we know better. Set the focal length to 7.7 mm and try again. Still wavy. And there are no vertical control points. It seems that the only way to get the vertical control points is via the fast panorama preview window. And even with pre-aligned images, “Align” crashesstops working.

OK, I've had enough of this. Why does this stuff crash all the time? Yes, it's Microsoft, but that's not enough reason. About the only other thing I can think of is that the files are all accessed via SMB. I've seen problems with other programs in that constellation. Do I care? Marginally, since it would be good to have a reliable comparison to confirm that any problems I have aren't due to my own FreeBSD port. And it seems that the Apple implementation is also flaky, so that doesn't help much. Time to resurrect a Linux box?


Sasha: on the way to recovery
Topic: animals Link here

Sasha was still very low-key this morning, and in the afternoon Yvonne took him to Pene Kirk, who decided that he was just a wuss. She gave him a painkiller, and he perked up soemwhat, and by the evening he ate a little and drank some water.


Preparing for spring
Topic: gardening Link here

Last month was the hottest October on record (orange areas):

I've finally got the components for the irrigation. But I couldn't do much: it was raining! Not a bad thing in itself: we desperately need it. But it meant that I did less garden work than I had intended.

We still have a lot of cuttings and seedlings in the lounge room:


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Small flies breed in them, and they're becoming a bit of a nuisance. Now that the weather is warm enough, it's time to put them outside. Started doing that, in the process planting some cuttings that Yvonne had found:


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Not much, but a lot more than I've been doing lately.


Thursday, 5 November 2015 Dereel Images for 5 November 2015
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More range hood evidence
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Despite the near-nonfunctionality of our range hood, the filters do collect some grease. The way it collects matches the throughput figures I calculated a couple of months ago:


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0       0       0       0       0.4       0.7       0       0       0
0       0       0       0       1.1       1.7       0       0       0
0       0       0       0       0       0       0       0       0

The rows are the other way round from the table in September, to match the orientation of the filters.

Now to finally get these legal proceedings under way.


More garden stuff
Topic: gardening, animals Link here

Time to clean out all the seedlings from the lounge room:


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Hopefully that will get rid of these annoying flies that breed in the soil.

In the afternoon, Yvonne wanted to go to Kleins Road to get some goldfish. High time, too: the water level in the pond was down by about 40 cm, and all the bigger fish had died. There were plenty of smaller ones, though, and we collected about 10 of them, leaving probably more behind.

Also a number of other plants. Strangely, at the end of it, the garden didn't look any emptier. The new owner's going to have fun removing plants.

Back home, put the fish and a waterlily in a cut-off 44 gallon drum:


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The rest of the water plants went into the trough round the verandah. Hopefully there's not enough poisonous stuff in there to kill them.


Rain!
Topic: general, Stones Road house Link here

Over the 34 days between 26 September 2015 and 30 October 2015 we had a total of 1.4 mm of rain, an average of 0.04 mm per day. Since then we've had a little—until yesterday, where we had 15.7 mm over 24 hours. But today beat that: in about an hour between 17:00 and 18:00 we had 13 mm of rain, and it had nowhere to go:


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Annoyingly, that included round the shed:


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To the west (middle photo) the concrete pathway blocked the water—shouldn't Brett have thought of that and put in a drain? Dug a provisional trench in front of the shed to the south. We'll have to look at it again and make something more permanent.


Maigret: boring!
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Maigret de canard for dinner today. We've come to a conclusion: it's boring! Maybe it's good if it's done exactly the right way, but basically it's just grilled meat, and there's very little you can eat with it. So this one is off our list, at least for the while.


Friday, 6 November 2015 Dereel Images for 6 November 2015
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A new Linux machine
Topic: technology, photography Link here

I still don't know how many of the anomalies I have found with the latest version of Hugin are due to my FreeBSD port. The attempts with Microsoft show that it's in much worse shape than my port, at least for me (mutual revulsion?).

So where does it run well? I've continually heard that the Apple port has its issues too. Linux is the way. But which distro?

Asked on IRC, expecting to hear Debian or Red Hat or Ubuntu. But no, all four replies I got said Lubuntu. What's that? I've never heard of it? Seems it's a Lightweight Ubuntu.

OK, I'm not that fussy, and at least I halfway understand the package management system. Off to look for a bootable CD.

How do you burn CDs again? I have to remember every time. It seems that cdrecord is still the way to do it, but now it can find your CD drive, assuming you only have one. OK, CD blank in the drive, and we're off!

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/src 12 -> cdrecord /var/tmp/lubuntu-15.10-desktop-amd64.iso
cdrecord: No write mode specified.
cdrecord: Assuming -sao mode.
cdrecord: If your drive does not accept -sao, try -tao.
cdrecord: Future versions of cdrecord may have different drive dependent defaults.
Cdrecord-ProDVD-ProBD-Clone 3.00 (amd64-unknown-freebsd10.0) Copyright (C) 1995-2010 Jörg Schilling
Using libscg version 'schily-0.9'.
No target specified, trying to find one...
Using dev=3,0,0.
Device type    : Removable CD-ROM
Version        : 0
Response Format: 2
Capabilities   :
Vendor_info    : 'TSSTcorp'
Identifikation : 'CDDVDW TS-H653F '
Revision       : 'LE05'
Device seems to be: Generic mmc2 DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD-RAM.
Using generic SCSI-3/mmc   CD-R/CD-RW driver (mmc_cdr).
Driver flags   : MMC-3 SWABAUDIO BURNFREE
Supported modes: TAO PACKET SAO SAO/R96P SAO/R96R RAW/R16 RAW/R96P RAW/R96R
cdrecord: Warning: Cannot read drive buffer.
cdrecord: Warning: The DMA speed test has been skipped.
cdrecord: WARNING: Data may not fit on current disk.
cdrecord: Notice: Use -overburn option to write more than the official disk capacity.
cdrecord: Notice: Most CD-writers do overburning only on SAO or RAW mode.
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/src 13 ->

What a lot of noise! And what's the real issue here? Cannot read drive buffer? The DMA speed test has been skipped? More likely that there's too much data for the disk, thus the -overburn, something that I hadn't heard of before. Try again.

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/src 16 -> cdrecord -overburn /var/tmp/lubuntu-15.10-desktop-amd64.iso
...
cdrecord: Warning: Cannot read drive buffer.
cdrecord: Warning: The DMA speed test has been skipped.
cdrecord: WARNING: Data may not fit on current disk.
cdrecord: Notice: Overburning active. Trying to write more than the official disk capacity.
Starting to write CD/DVD/BD at speed 32 in real SAO mode for single session.
Last chance to quit, starting real write    0 seconds. Operation starts.
Turning BURN-Free off
cdrecord: WARNING: Drive returns wrong startsec (0) using -150
(long wait while the CD drive light flashes)
cdrecord: Input/output error. write_g1: scsi sendcmd: retryable error
CDB:  2A 00 00 05 BA 80 00 00 20 00
status: 0x2 (CHECK CONDITION)
Sense Bytes: 70 00 05 00 00 00 00 0A 00 00 00 00 30 06 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
Sense Key: 0x5 Illegal Request, Segment 0
Sense Code: 0x30 Qual 0x06 (cannot format medium - incompatible medium) Fru 0x0
Sense flags: Blk 0 (not valid)
resid: 65536
cmd finished after 152.566s timeout 200s
write track data: error after 768868352 bytes
cdrecord: A write error occured.
cdrecord: Please properly read the error message above.
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/src 17 -> mount /cdrom/

So the drive buffer and DMA test messages are normal. And the SCSI status? Nice that we have them, but it's still not clear what exactly the problem was. But looking at this helped:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /usr/src 19 -> l /var/tmp/lubuntu-15.10-desktop-amd64.iso
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  wheel  780,140,544  6 Nov 12:00 /var/tmp/lubuntu-15.10-desktop-amd64.iso

Whichever way you look at it, that's a lot of data to put on a CD that claims to store 700 MB. So I'll need a DVD.

Next problem: swamp, this old, sorry remains of a test machine, only has a CD reader. But there's the old lagoon that I replaced 6 weeks ago, and it has a DVD drive. Resisted the first impulse of taking the drive out and putting it into swamp: all the system needed was some memory, and teevee has more than enough. So took some out and tried to put a disk into the new machine, which I think I'm going to end up calling eucla. Problem: no disk frame:


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Ended up slotting it into the CD cage on top of a CD jewel box. It's a test box, after all...

Installing Lubuntu was interesting in that I didn't get a chance to do anything. It also went out on the net and pulled in all sorts of things, the whole time showing nothing of interest and giving the impression that the installation had hung.

Finally it came back, and I had Yet Another Funny Desktop. Still, it's “intuitive” enough, and it seemed to do what I wanted. Now to mount eureka's file systems:

root@echuca:~# mkdir /eureka
root@echuca:~# mount eureka:/ /eureka
mount: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock on eureka:/,
       missing codepage or helper program, or other error
       (for several filesystems (e.g. nfs, cifs) you might
       need a /sbin/mount.<type> helper program)

I've seen that before, so installed nfs-kernel-server and tried again. Connection refused. Why that?

Spent some time with wireshark confirming that yes, indeed, eureka was refusing the mount. But it also showed that eucla was requesting an NFSv4 mount. I don't think that eureka does that. But why didn't it fall back to NFSv3? Did some checking and found this page, the first that Google gave me. Ah, clear: nfsvers=3. Tried that, and it worked.

Also tried putting xterms from eucla onto eureka. Worked fine, so I could switch my left-hand monitor back to eureka. Did my work, then switched the monitor back to eucla. Screen lock. Please wait... And the screen went blank. No further reaction.

Switched to the first vty (which Linux calls /dev/tty0), and tried to restart X. Interestingly, it had two servers running, though I don't quite understand why. But startx is an old, worn-out magic word, and it didn't help.

Finally rebooted, and tried to log in. Login accepted. Slight delay. New login window. Repeatable.

After a bit of head-scratching, created a new user via a shell window and tried to log in as he. It worked. But mine didn't. I had replaced the .bashrc file with my own. Was that the problem? Looking at the contents, there's nothing obvious. Mañana. Or pasado mañana.


Hugin under Linux
Topic: photography, technology Link here

So finally I had a chance to run Hugin on a well-supported platform. It didn't crash. But the other issues were the same as on FreeBSD: the alignment of my test panorama was still wavy. But this time I tried the “Straighten” button of the “Move” tab. And it worked.

The other is a “now you see me, now you don't” issue. After alignment, the fast preview window comes up with a text bleeding into the top right of the image:

 
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It's really ugly, but others seem to like it. But when I resize the image, or do various other random operations, it may go away or come back. These two images were taken without any change to the window itself; I only moved the capture window over it and then away again:


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I can live with that, of course. My main concern at this point is whether I have done the port correctly.


teevee: grinding to a halt?
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Somehow I still have performance problems with teevee, my TV display machine. Yes, it's not the fastest, but lately when I'm copying data across the net, it seems hardly to react at all.

It only has a 100 Mb/s interface—the last of our real machines not to have a gigabit interface—so big file copies are limited to about 11 MB/s. But today I saw the speed dropping as low as 3 MB/s. cvr2, the source machine, showed that the copy stalled several times.

What's the problem? pings showed that there were big differences in the response time, between about 140 μs and 6 ms. Switch problems? There's one directly between cvr2 and teevee, so it's possible that that switch could cause problems only for those two machines. Swapped the switch. No improvement.

But then the disk on teevee is nearly full, and it's optimized for space. In the past I've had UFS performance issues under these circumstances. Removed 200 GB of old, mouldy videos. No improvement.

Is maybe the disk dying? It seems that smartctl is the program to use. I've installed it in the past, but never used it. Tried it today, and it found no fault with the drive, though it's not clear how much information the drive logs before SMART is enabled. Interestingly, after a while the transfer rate increased again back to 11 MB/s. That really suggests that there's some issue with the disk.


Saturday, 7 November 2015 Dereel Images for 7 November 2015
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Fixing broken avi files
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Recently I received a video in AVI format. I could play it with no problems, but I couldn't position. Broken index? Did some searching and found this page, a wonderful example of how to obfuscate computer code. Why do people enclose computer code in too-small (particularly too-narrow) boxes? It boils down to: pass it through mencoder with the -idx option and it will rebuild the index for you. Here's the function I use:

# Rebuild avi index.
# Usage: rebuild-index filename
# filename will be replaced on success
rebuild-index ()
{
  if mencoder -idx $1 -ovc copy -oac copy -o foo$$; then
    mv foo$$ $1
  fi
}


Rain gauge strangeness
Topic: general, gardening, opinion Link here

I've already noted that my new rain gauge measures between 0.5 and 2 mm less than the old one. I haven't had much opportunity to compare recently: in the 6 weeks to the end of October we only had one day where the new gauge registered more than 2 mm. But things have changed, and if I can believe what people say on Facebook, the southern part of Dereel had round 60 mm of rainfall in the 24 hours to yesterday morning. Not here. We had a total of about 40 mm over 3 days, and I'm left wondering if people are a little inaccurate with their time frames.

The strangest thing, though: yesterday the new gauge showed more rainfall than the old one, 20.1 mm against 19.2 mm. That included one hour where we had 13 mm odd of rainfall. What is that trying to tell me?


More cuttings
Topic: gardening Link here

Potted a whole lot of new cuttings today: Clematis, Cistus and Vinca minor, a total of about 20 plants. What am I going to do with them all if they take?


Sunday, 8 November 2015 Dereel Images for 8 November 2015
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More multimedia pain
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

More fun with multimedia today. After recording programmes from TV, I first recode them to convert them to and MPEG Program Stream, in the process discovering the quality of the recording. But today things ground to a halt round 47% of a specific recording:

2015-11-08 12:41:36.533 46.0% complete
2015-11-08 12:41:41.825 46.6% complete
2015-11-08 12:41:46.827 47.0% complete
2015-11-08 13:03:13.206 47.4% complete
^C^C

What caused that? It was repeatable, and I've been having strange issues with recordings slowing down. I had thought it might be a problem with the disk on teevee, but smartctl had not revealed anything. This was on cvr2, the source of the copy. Was the problem maybe on that side?

Time to install smartctl on cvr2. But apt-get failed with a lot of 404 errors. Indeed, just about all the URLs in /etc/apt/sources.list were no longer accessible. It seems that my installation is just too old, and they've moved the repositories. Why? They're still there, but it just requires manual intervention.

Finally tried that, and found:

=== root@cvr2 (/dev/pts/2) /var/cache 48 -> apt-get install smartmontools
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
  bsd-mailx exim4 exim4-base exim4-config exim4-daemon-light mailx
Suggested packages:
  eximon4 exim4-doc-html exim4-doc-info libmail-spf-query-perl swaks
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  bsd-mailx exim4 exim4-base exim4-config exim4-daemon-light mailx smartmontools
0 upgraded, 7 newly installed, 0 to remove and 13 not upgraded.
Need to get 2225kB of archives.
After this operation, 4887kB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y

Why on earth should I need exim and friends to run a disk utility? At least it shows that illogical dependencies aren't limited to FreeBSD. More information here.

But the installation failed: no space on disk. And that was the real issue. mencoder is too polite to complain if the disk is full.

I've been doing my own thing with video recording for over 10 years. I was irritated then. Surely we have enough technological progress that I don't have to do all this stuff myself any more.


Spraying weeds
Topic: gardening Link here

We really need to mow the lawn before we do much else, and somehow I didn't find time for that today. But the weather was warm, and there was no wind, so got round to spraying the weeds, grass and all.


Indian fish stew
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I cooked another recipe from Mridula Baljekar's “150 curries” today, an Indian fish stew. It wasn't a success, though Yvonne liked it.

What went wrong? Complete spice imbalance. The recipe calls for 4 fillets of cod. How much do they weigh? Who knows? Cod isn't available round here, nor in India for that matter. But I'd guess that they'd weigh about 150 g each, for a total of 600 g. And to balance that there are 5 ml each of coriander and cumminseed, which I discover corresponds to 2 g. I found both far too little and put 5 g in for a 320 g fillet of perch, whatever that might really be. And it was barely noticeable. Yvonne asked if the recipe was French, which must say something about the amount of spice.

So what do we do? Yvonne likes it, so we'll have to do it again, but I'll also have to do some serious thinking about quantities. I've written 15 g in the recipe, corresponding to about 15 times the proportions in the book.


Monday, 9 November 2015 Dereel Images for 9 November 2015
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Power failure?
Topic: general Link here

It seems that we had a power failure at 12:10 today. It's difficult to say: the oven's clock was reset to 0 (and refuses to count), while one microwave oven was showing a time suggestive of 12:10. The other microwave oven (thanks, Jim) is connected to the UPS, so it was still running.


Humanity's victories
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The German Olympus forum has got rid of its old, functioning web site and replaced it with something running Drupal, offering lots of opportunities for overlapping text and bleeding boxes:


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I was reminded of an xkcd cartoon, and spent a whole lot of time looking for it before I finally found this, not on xkcd at all:

Image


Time to keep Piccola off the desk?
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

Phone call today. Reached for the phone. It wasn't there, but I heard it ringing from behind my desk:

Somehow Piccola isn't as careful as she should be. Time to keep her off the desk?


House: sold!
Topic: general Link here

The phone call was from Geoff Sullivan. Finally we have sold the house! Or at least, we have a signed contract. The settlement date (when the money is paid) is 1 December (or, as Geoff kept putting it, 31 November). Three weeks to go! It will have been almost exactly a year. He came along in the afternoon with the contracts for signature.


German history
Topic: history Link here

Somehow 9 November is a significant date in 20th century German history:

How times have changed!


More failed Indian cookery
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another Indian dish today, my own interpretation of a Moghul chicken with nuts. Not an unqualified success, mainly too watery. I'll have to research more before trying something like this again.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015 Dereel Images for 10 November 2015
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More hardware failure
Topic: general, multimedia Link here

I'm getting old. My equipment is getting old, too. Some of my electronic equipment is over 30 years old, like the loudspeakers in the lounge room and the amplifier on my office desk:


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I bought it some time in late 1979, 36 years ago. It failed 12 years later, but I had it repaired, and until today it worked fine. But now it has failed: right channel gone, left channel distorted.

What do I do? I don't really need an amplifier of that quality in the office—a normal pair of computer loudspeakers would do. But it does have the advantage that I can switch various inputs.

Still, I also have the amplifier with which I replaced it:


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I took that out of service a few years back, as I recall because the speaker switch (at bottom left) kept coming loose, and reconnecting it was a real pain. Put it under the monitor, and it worked—for a while, on the left channel. But then it failed completely. It wasn't until later that I found a diary entry saying exactly that. I should read this diary more often.

And what now? A new amplifier? Normal computer speakers?


More ANZ stupidity
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne wanted to pay a bill this morning using ANZ's web (“Internet”) banking, and made the mistake of trying to add a payee who was already on the list. So it asked a “security question”, in this case “What was the first street you lived on?”. The correct answer was “It's all in my diary”, but she didn't know that, and made the mistake of trying to guess (and whose? Hers or mine?). So the account was locked.

Rang up and had to identify myself by a simple password. Account unlocked, but I had to enter three new “security” questions. Why? Clearly Yvonne didn't know the old ones. In the process, discovered that a Customer Registration Number (CRN) is personal. Yvonne shouldn't be using it. So she'll have to get a new one.

It's not as big a deal as it sounds. It seems that the webInternet banking only allows us a transfer of a maximum of $5,000 a day, and we needed to transfer more. So Yvonne will need to go to the bank. There is another way, though: an app for my mobile phone!

Access your ANZ Shield security app wherever you are as no network or internet connectivity required

How does that work? I'm not sure I want to know. But with this ultra-secure method I can transfer up to $50,000 a day. What have these people been smoking?


Cleaning out Kleins Road
Topic: general Link here

The purchasers of the Kleins Road property could move in as early as next week. High time to remove the remaining junk we have there. Over there and pretty much cleaned out the house, and also picked up still more plants. It's amazing how much stuff there is there.


rsync problems again
Topic: technology Link here

A year ago I had issues with rsync to my external web site. For reasons that I still don't understand, the initial handshake (via ssh) would fail. I suspected a network issue, and was still trying to understand it when the system crashed due to hardware issues. And then the problem was gone.

Until today. It's back! It must be something to do with sshd itself. Should I just restart it or try to debug the issue?


Wednesday, 11 November 2015 Dereel Images for 11 November 2015
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Language evolution
Topic: language, technology, opinion, multimedia Link here

Spent some time trawling web sites today for new amplifiers. It seems that the traditional HiFi setup no longer exists: amplifier at the centre, with tuners and media players as inputs, recording devices as inputs and outputs, and loudspeakers as outputs. JB HiFi is a typical Australian retailer, with a typically horrible web site. There I looked for loudspeaker:

Hey, based on 'loudspeaker' we couldn’t find exactly what you were searching for. Check out some suggested results below, or type in another search.

It did find 7 hits: 4 Speakers (in the current political climate one would wonder whether they're selling Bronwyn Bishop cheaply), two PA Speakers, and a Wireless Audio, whatever that may be. And yes, they're vaguely loudspeaker-like. But why so few? Ah, “loudspeaker” is an old, worn-out magic word. Even OED confirms that it's been called “speaker” for nearly 100 years:

1926 Jrnl. Franklin Inst. 202 436 This speaker employs a six-inch cone driven by an electromagnetic power unit.

Search for that and you get 333 hits.

OK, solved that one. Then I searched for amplifier and found 53 hits. But not a single one was for lounge room use. I honestly don't know what term to look for. “Receiver”, maybe? There are plenty of them. But that's only a peripheral and non-essential part of the device. It reminds me of calling home router boxes (NAT, DHCP, Ethernet switch) a “modem”. I suppose I should go and take a look when I'm in town tomorrow.


Olympus firmware upgrade
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Olympus has announced a firmware upgrade for the E-M1 long in advance of release. In the past I've had lots of difficulties with the updates. I suspect that their silly updater has some sensitivity to computer configuration, and it's not helped by just plain incorrect error messages.

There's also a firmware update waiting for Yvonne's E-PM2 and the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens, so I did a trial run with that.

Experienced an issue that doesn't apply to many components: the firmware update extends and retracts the lens. I had the camera lens down, so this was particularly obvious.

The update was successful—for the camera. The lens update failed silently, maybe because of the lens extension issues (and inadequate error reporting). Repeated it with the camera in normal position, and it worked. So whatever the issue was with dischord last year, it doesn't apply to despair (or at least, not every time).


Destructive dogs
Topic: animals, gardening Link here

We have “only” about 3.2 ha (32,000 m²) of land at our disposal, but somehow we've managed to fence ourselves in so that we don't know what to do with the dogs in the mornings. There's an area in front (to the east) of the house (I guess about 2,500 m²), the garden to the north of the house (maybe 1,500 m²), a small dog run of maybe 150 m² to the west of the house, the rest of the area round the other three sides of the house (maybe 4,000 m²), and then the paddocks behind.

Normally we let the dogs out in the 4,000 m² area. But at the moment Yvonne has the horses in there eating down the grass, and the dogs aren't horse savvy enough to be let in there with them. They can't go in the garden either, because they might damage the plants. They don't want to go into the dog run. So from time to time we let them out in front.

That's not ideal either. We have a shoe stand out there, and Leonid loves chewing shoes. Today, though, he took a different direction, plants:


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Fortunately, the stuff in the pot was dead. We must plant the plant somewhere before it dies too.


Thursday, 12 November 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 12 November 2015
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More financials
Topic: general Link here

Into town today to talk with Peter O'Connell about finances, which weren't looking good. Spent the usual 60 minutes, no more, no less—this isn't just Peter, but apparently a law of nature—talking about the details, and things look much better now. Still, it's high time we got the money for Kleins Road. Then we'll be able to breathe normally again.


New audio for the office
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

After establishing that both my old amplifiers are no longer serviceable, what do I do? Finally gave up the idea of buying Yet Another Old Amplifier, and while I was in town dropped into OfficeWorks looking for conventional computer loudspeakers.

What a pain these descriptions are!

What's in the box:

And a power supply? Cable from speakers to computer? They had a demonstration model, but who knows if they hadn't added cables? The prices ranged from $33 to $37 for this model (Logitech z213). I didn't check if they even had the cable, but if they did, it could easily cost $10 to $15, so the difference is important. Called for assistance, but after 5 minutes nobody showed up. So I bought it anyway and unpacked it outside, prepared to return it if the cables were missing. But no, all was there, except the user documentation: two identical leaflets, in English, Traditional Chinese and Korean, with usual bureaucratese. The only “user instructions” were a series of diagrams on the flap of the carton:


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And the URL? Yes, it leads to a longer URL with a link to documentation with the unlikely name maroon-z213.pdf. This time it's in 28 languages, only 3 pages per language, but it's enough. And if they had put this first page on the carton, all would have been a lot clearer:


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That shows “user documentation” in the same format as the bureaucratese. I wonder if, by accident, they replaced it with a second copy of the bureaucratese.

And installation? Difficult. Here's my desktop after installation:


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At extreme left and to the right of the rightmost monitor are the old loudspeakers:

 
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Yes, they're the same shape. Don't panorama projections do interesting things?

But the new loudspeakers include a subwoofer, which needs to go in the middle. Where does Logitech expect it to go? I ended up hiding it behind one of my monitors:

 
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And the cables for the satellite loudspeakers aren't long enough, so I ended up hiding one to the immediate left of the left-hand monitor, and the right-hand one in the middle of the phones:

 
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And of course the controls are behind the monitors, which makes it really easy to answer a phone or change the volume. Now I need to use mixer instead of a volume control. But on the positive side, they don't sound at all bad. I just need to come into the 21st century with all its user-friendliness.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Last month I took some photos of a climbing bush, which had sparse flowers. They're looking better now. Here last month and today:


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Friday, 13 November 2015 Dereel Images for 13 November 2015
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Migrating subversion
Topic: technology Link here

I have a cron job that updates my local FreeBSD repositories every night. Well, almost every night:

====== Fri 13 Nov 2015 03:52:12 EST: Getting svn updates: /src/FreeBSD/svn/head
^[]1;Updating /src/FreeBSD/svn/head^G^[]2;Updating /src/FreeBSD/svn/head^GUpdating '.':
svn: E210002: Unable to connect to a repository at URL 'svn+ssh://svn.freebsd.org/base/head'
svn: E210002: To better debug SSH connection problems, remove the -q option from 'ssh' in the [tunnels] section of your Subversion configuration file.
svn: E210002: Network connection closed unexpectedly

That's not the first time. Asked on IRC if other people were having problems, and got a completely different answer: change the repository. It seems that FreeBSD committers should now be using mumble.freebsd.org, not svn.freebsd.org, which is now read-only.

That's not the issue: I was trying to read the repository, and it didn't respond. It later proved that it was really unintentionally inaccessible. But I needed to change anyway. How do you do it?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 115 -> svn relocate svn+ssh://svn.freebsd.org svn+ssh://mumble.freebsd.org

No output. And then things go as normal—or do they?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 128 -> mailme svn up
Updating '.':
Skipped 'devel/kyua/distinfo' -- Node remains in conflict
Skipped 'devel/kyua/files' -- Node remains in conflict
U    devel/liblangtag/Makefile
...
Updated to revision 401470.
Summary of conflicts:
  Skipped paths: 2

What's kyua? I've never heard of it. And why should it have conflicts? Anyway, get rid of them:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 129 -> svn resolve devel/kyua/
Tree conflict on 'devel/kyua/distinfo'
   > local file unversioned, incoming file add upon update
Select: (r) mark resolved, (p) postpone, (q) quit resolution, (h) help: r
Resolved conflicted state of 'devel/kyua/distinfo'
Tree conflict on 'devel/kyua/files'
   > local dir unversioned, incoming dir add upon update
Select: (r) mark resolved, (p) postpone, (q) quit resolution, (h) help: r
Resolved conflicted state of 'devel/kyua/files'
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 130 -> svn resolve devel/kyua/
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 131 -> mailme svn up
Updating '.':
   C devel/kyua/distinfo
At revision 401470.
Tree conflict on 'devel/kyua/distinfo'
   > local file delete, incoming file edit upon update
Select: (mc) keep affected local moves,
        (r) mark resolved (breaks moves), (p) postpone,
        (q) quit resolution, (h) help: r
Resolved conflicted state of 'devel/kyua/distinfo'
Summary of conflicts:
  Tree conflicts: 0 remaining (and 1 already resolved)
You have new mail in /var/mail/grog
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 132 -> mailme svn up
Updating '.':
At revision 401470.
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /src/FreeBSD/svn/ports 133 ->

This was repeatable: first, I had conflicts in places where I had never looked before. Then resolving conflicts claimed to have worked, and a second resolve run showed no conflicts. And then an update produced the conflicts again, but after resolving them this time, finally they were gone. Is this a bug or a feature?


Chicken and doufu stir-fry
Topic: food and drink Link here

Somehow our cooking is stagnating, and we're having less variety. Is Chinese stir-fried food really always the same? Today went looking for something using chicken and dòufu (still better known by the old Wade-Giles transliteration tofu). Finally came up with this recipe, which shows promise. As usual, quantities are an issue. I used 300 g of chicken and 250 g of dòufu, and the dòufu almost completely masked the chicken.


Saturday, 14 November 2015 Dereel Images for 14 November 2015
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Watering the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

I'm dragging my feet again on setting up the irrigation system. In the meantime we still need to water the garden, and all I have is this silly sprinkler which you stick into the ground:


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It has two connections, intended for daisy-chaining, but I don't have an end cap, so I have had to connect another hose with a watering wand:


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That's enough pain in itself. It should be enough to finally get me to install the sprinkler, but so far my laziness has prevailed. But there's more: the bore pump produces a pressure of up to 620 kPa:


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And that's more than standard garden hoses can stand; they keep parting company with the connectors. After a lot of cursing, finally went to look at the pump. Under the cover there is the pressure switch, with two screws and springs:


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It seems reasonable to assume that they're related to pressure adjustments. But after some deliberation I've come to the conclusion that the large one simply decides whether the switch goes on at all, and I haven't seen any effect from adjusting the small one. About time to contact the Ballarat Pump Shop and remind them to send me the manual—or get them to come out here and adjust it.


Joomla!: How?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo has had the idea of installing Joomla! on our external web server. Talking about it tonight: I had said “use the package, that's what the Ports Collection is for”.

Some discussion. The package installs an amazing number of files, mainly in the /usr/local hierarchy:

=== grog@www (/dev/pts/2) /usr/ports/www/joomla3 4 -> wc -l pkg-plist
    7650 pkg-plist

And according to the official instructions, which are anything but clear (“Move the downloaded Joomla! installation package to the server. Use a FTP Client to transfer the Joomla! 3.x files to your server. There are several available for use, ...”), it seems that they should all be installed in the web hierarchy. Chris tells me that if you have multiple sites, you need multiple copies of Joomla!!

So how does that tie in with the more logical way that the FreeBSD port does it? So far, I'm baffled. Yet Another case of inadequate documentation. But it looks as if I am going to have to find out.


Sunday, 15 November 2015 Dereel Images for 15 November 2015
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Joomla!: the pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Today I had the task of getting MySQL and Joomla! to work on our web site.

The first step was to gain access to the MySQL subsystem. I can't recall configuring it—maybe Chris did. One way or another, we don't have the root password. How do you get that back? Even Paul DuBois' books didn't help (“contact your administrator”). After a search found this page in the official documentation—apparently only for Microsoft! But the instructions are fairly easy to translate:

=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) ~ 98 -> cat > /tmp/temppassword
set password for 'root'@'localhost' = password ('Not the real password');
^D
=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) ~ 99 -> mysqld --init-file=/tmp/tmppassword

In the process came across this page, entitled “Installing MySQL on FreeBSD”. It's completely out of date, and I wonder if it isn't based on something I wrote 10 years ago. Once the current pain is over, I suppose I should update it and send it in.

That was the easy part. I spent most of the day looking at Joomla! and didn't get things to work. There are two problems: inadequate documentation and inadequate port installation. Yes, there is a document entitled “FreeBSD Installation” (“tested and found to work on FreeBSD 9.0 and Joomla! 2.5.8”). Clearly it's completely out of date.

The port installs in /usr/local/www, but there are no instructions about how to get it to talk to your web site. It wasn't until much later that I realized that, for a simple web server installation, /usr/local/www/data is the default data directory.

But that wasn't the issue. I created a symbolic link in the real data directory, and it still didn't help:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function session_id() in /usr/local/www/joomla3/libraries/joomla/session/session.php on line 115

And that's exactly the error message that Chris has been getting all along. A couple of hours' work and no progress.

So what is this session_id()? It's part of the PHP session support, which has been separated out because of multiple dependencies. But the Joomla! package installs it (the standard instructions gloss over how to get it). Configuration issue? Almost certainly. Instructions? None.

Looking on the web, I discover that session support is enabled by default in Apache. But that's not what I saw in /usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf:

#LoadModule session_module libexec/apache24/mod_session.so

OK, no difficulty in uncommenting that. Yet Another graceful restart and... undefined function session_id().

OK, is session_id() even defined in mod_session.so?

=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/etc/apache24 117 -> nm -D /usr/local/libexec/apache24/mod_session.so | grep session_id
=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/etc/apache24 118 -> nm -D /usr/local/libexec/apache24/*.so | grep session_id
                 U SSL_set_session_id_context

No! In fact, it's not defined anywhere. It's beginning to look as if I've been looking in the wrong place. I'll look at PHP tomorrow. The Joomla FreeBSD Installation guide suggests looking at /usr/local/etc/php.ini-development:

open it in your favourite text editor and modify it to your needs

Yes, there are plenty of mentions of session in there, all commented out. How do you configure it? There are lots of comments, but first you need to know what you want. Wouldn't this be so much easier if there was just a little bit of accurate documentation?


Irrigation: one small step
Topic: gardening Link here

I really need to do something about the irrigation. Today I at least got as far as unrolling some irrigation line around the riding arena to be. At this rate I should be finished by Christmas—next year.


Monday, 16 November 2015 Dereel Images for 16 November 2015
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Joomla!: Done
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More discussion of Joomla! on IRC today. As expected, it was a PHP issue. Jamie Fraser suggested adding this line to /usr/local/etc/php/extensions.ini (in this case creating it):

extension=session.so

Sure enough, I no longer got that error message. Instead I got:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function simplexml_load_file() in /usr/local/www/joomla3/installation/application/web.php on line 262

OK, simplexml is another of the modules mentioned in /usr/ports/www/joomla3/Makefile. But what's the module called? No information in /usr/ports/www/simplexml/Makefile. In fact, the directory doesn't exist. Finally found /usr/ports/teextproc/simplexml/Makefile, but that proved to be unrelated. The directory I was looking for was /usr/ports/textproc/php56-simplexml/Makefile, and it contained nothing of interest—not even a pkg-plist! So I had to guess:

extension=simplexml.so

Good guess. But why did I have to guess? Some were less obvious:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function utf8_decode() in /usr/local/www/joomla3/libraries/vendor/joomla/string/src/phputf8/native/core.php on line 31

That proved to be xml.so. In the end, with further guesswork, I ended up with this in extensions.ini:

extension=session.so
extension=simplexml.so
extension=xml.so
extension=json.so
extension=mysqli.so
extension=zlib.so

And how about that, it worked! The rest is up to Chris.

Well, there's the question as to why the package installation doesn't do the configuration for you. Callum Gibson argues that installation and configuration are separate steps. That's certainly worth discussing, but that the very least there should be a a pkg-message file explaining what to do. Why isn't it there already?


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Spent a lot of time watering the garden today. Why don't I just finally install the irrigation? Also planted some of the cuttings that we brought back from Kleins Road nearly a week ago. Strangely, they weren't yet (quite) dead, and one of the Gazanias was in flower:


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And then there's the volunteer oak tree in the driveway. It's clearly too late in the year to transplant it, but we can't leave it there either, so we decided to put it into a pot until autumn. Getting it out wasn't easy: it wasn't so much next to the driveway as in the aggregate that makes it up; presumably the acorn arrived with the aggregate. After finally getting it out, the hole looked like this:


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It has a single root going straight down; I got about 25 cm of it, but the rest broke off. Hopefully that'll be enough for it to survive. And here it is in its pot:


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My oldest tool
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Some time in winter 1952 my parents left me at home alone. We were living in Heather Grove in Nunawading at the time, and the house, which my father had built mainly by himself, was just about finished. I went outside and found my father's pick. I knew what it was used for, and I wandered east along Heather Grove towards Mount Pleasant Road—at the time the city limits of Melbourne—looking at inspection openings for drainage (I think). The pointy end of the pick was ideal for opening them, but what I saw inside wasn't very interesting—just a couple of channels running together.

Put the lid back on? I'm three years old! Let somebody else do that! And sure enough, when my parents found out what I had done, they fixed things up.

But that pick didn't go away. I still have it, though it was a little the worse for wear:


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How old is it? Clearly at least 63 years, but I'm sure it wasn't new then. For old time's sake I bought a new handle for it a few days ago; unfortunately the dimensions have changed in that time:


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Still, it works. I suppose it also shows that I'm not much better at this sort of thing now then when I was 3 years old.


Gmail rejection
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Strange message today:

<cbah4711@gmail.com> (expanded from <root>): host
    gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com[74.125.28.26] said: 550-5.7.1 [208.86.226.86
    12] Our system has detected that this message is 550-5.7.1 likely
    unsolicited mail. To reduce the amount of spam sent to Gmail, 550-5.7.1
    this message has been blocked. Please visit 550 5.7.1
    https://support.google.com/mail/answer/188131 for more information.
    i9si47983327bpq.207 - gsmtp (in reply to end of DATA command)

The link didn't give me any opportunity to do something about the matter: it just told me the errors of my ways.

I've seen this before with BigPond, a company that I've tried to avoid for nearly 20 years. But Gmail? They should be ashamed of themselves, especially as they don't provide a method to solve the problem.

And what was the message?

Date: Mon, 16 Nov 2015 04:55:09 +0000 (UTC)
From: root@www.lemis.com (Charlie Root)
To: root@www.lemis.com
Subject: www.lemis.com daily run output
Message-Id: <20151116045509.814531B72802@www.lemis.com>

Removing stale files from /var/preserve:
Cleaning out old system announcements:
...

Mail to root gets forwarded to Chris and me. My best bet is that it tripped over the mail queue, currently 56 messages, most of them replies to spam messages, like this one maybe:

808461B72815     3415 Sat Nov 14 13:23:39  MAILER-DAEMON
            (connect to alanyaaci.com[104.27.151.234]:25: Operation timed out)
                                         mikeguffey-greg=lemis.com@alanyaaci.com

The Gmail people have done some strange things recently, like rejecting messages that don't come from where they expect them to. I recently had a message from Tridge bounce because he had sent it from his private network with an address spec @samba.org. I do that too (groggyhimself@freebsd.org, for example), and I think it's legitimate. I wish they'd get their act together, and offer people the opportunity to fix things.


Towards the perfect pizza
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Pizza for dinner again today. It's still an experiment, just as it has been for over 45 years, but it's getting better.

The big issue is the base, of course. I've taken to pre-bake it in our old electric pizza ovens, and then baking in the new oven on the “pizza” setting (heat from the fan and below). The instructions for the oven tell you which setting to use, but not what temperature, though the brain-dead controller sets it to 220°. Last time we cooked it like that; Things weren't bad, but I wanted more heat. Today I tried at 250°, with the pizza stones in almost from the beginning of the heat-up cycle. When I put the pizze on them, their temperature was about 220°.

Yes, the results were better (“Perfec”, Yvonne said). But looking at the dough, the top half still hadn't risen properly. More pre-baking?


Repairing AVI files: the limits
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

My AVI file fix seemed to work. But the video ended early. It seems that it only works if the audio and video are OK. Otherwise I get things like:

MEncoder SVN-r35933-snapshot-3.2 (C) 2000-2013 MPlayer Team
success: format: 0  data: 0x0 - 0x6c08a536
libavformat version 54.63.104 (internal)
AVI file format detected.
[aviheader] Video stream found, -vid 0
[aviheader] Audio stream found, -aid 1
AVI: ODML: Building ODML index (2 superindexchunks).
AVI: ODML: Broken (incomplete?) file detected. Will use traditional index.
Generating Index:   1 %
AVI: Generated index table for 5071 chunks!
VIDEO:  [XVID]  720x542  24bpp  29.970 fps  2335.2 kbps (285.1 kbyte/s)
[V] filefmt:3  fourcc:0x44495658  size:720x542  fps:29.970  ftime:=0.0334
videocodec: framecopy (720x542 24bpp fourcc=44495658)
audiocodec: framecopy (format=55 chans=2 rate=48000 bits=0 B/s=40000 sample-1)
Writing header...
ODML: Aspect information not (yet?) available or unspecified, not writing vprp header.
Writing header...
ODML: Aspect information not (yet?) available or unspecified, not writing vprp header.
Pos:  70.0s   2098f ( 1%)  0.00fps Trem:   0min 1717mb  A-V:-0.000 [2339:320]
Incomplete stream? Trying resync.
Pos:  70.8s   2122f (100%)  0.00fps Trem:   0min  22mb  A-V:0.000 [2336:320]]
Writing index...
Writing header...
ODML: Aspect information not (yet?) available or unspecified, not writing vprp header.
Video stream: 2335.169 kbit/s  (291896 B/s)  size: 20667432 bytes  70.804 secs  2122 frames
Audio stream:  320.000 kbit/s  (40000 B/s)  size: 2831040 bytes  70.776 secs

This file was about 2 GB in size, but it stopped after about 20 MB, or 1%. I wonder if there's a way around that with mencoder, or whether I need to find some other tool.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015 Dereel Images for 17 November 2015
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Garden flowers in late spring
Topic: gardening Link here

Spring is coming to an end, but the flowers have finished first. After a particularly cold winter came a particularly hot, dry and windy spring, and it shows. There's hardly anything left in the way of flowers. Today there was supposed to be very little wind, but it was enough to blow things all over the garden. We need more wind protection.

In previous months the roses were doing well, but they're not looking at all happy now, probably because of the wind:


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About the only things that are doing well are the Gazanias. This one flowered while waiting a week to be transplanted:


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And the Alyssum that we brought with us from Kleins Road is also doing well:


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And then there are the wildflowers. This one is Arctotheca calendula, better known as capeweed. As the name suggests, it's not welcome. And it seems that we inadvertently brought it with us from Kleins Road: it's only in the garden area. I wonder if we'll be able to eradicate it.


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To make up for that, we have this wildflower, which grows all over the property:


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So far I haven't been able to establish what it is.


Towards more interesting land boundaries
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Now that we have downsized, our land area is only 2 ha, though with the land we've borrowed from the Marriotts it comes to about 3.5 ha. Rectangular blocks. Boring.

And then Peter Jeremy came up with a much better layout of that much land:

One international boundary (between Sweden on the west and Finland on the east), carefully twisted to ensure equal land areas, and a provincial boundary on the west (Uppsala County at north-west and Stockholm County at south-west)! And all that for even fewer inhabitants than there are on our property. Clearly people have been having too much fun with Märket. But given the current refugee crisis, one should revisit the decision not to have any immigration controls.


Understanding sensor dynamics
Topic: photography, technology Link here

One of the biggest issues I have with digital photography is the limited dynamic range of the sensors. Current sensors have a pixel depth of 12 or 14 bits. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 only has 12 bits. Since they're linear, that corresponds roughly to 12 EV. The many photos I take bracketed 3 EV either way increase this to 18 EV, but it's not ideal. A lot of postprocesssing is required, and there's the danger of ghosting.

So when I read this article about a new sensor with higher dynamic range, I was very interested. It has an increased dynamic range of 88 dB!

Huh? What does that mean? 88 dB is a ratio of 630,957,344 to 1. Is it proportional to the square, maybe? Then it would only be a ratio of 25,119 to 1, about 14.5 bits. But where can I find out?

It proved to be quite difficult. This tutorial (PDF) is somewhat dated, but it goes into quite some detail about sensor dynamics, and it confirms what I had guessed: the dB rating is proportional to the square of the dynamic range:

 
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OK, so that's only 14.5 bits, barely more than the better modern sensors. Nothing to hold your breath about. But at least I understand it now. And it shows that, as long as you ignore the difference between dynamic range and pixel depth, there's a fairly simple conversion:

bit_depth = dB / 20 / log₁₀ 2

which reduces to (near as dammit)

bit_depth = dB / 6

In the process also found this page, which is also quite interesting. In addition it seems that there's a lot of good stuff on that site.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015 Dereel Images for 18 November 2015
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Power failure!
Topic: general Link here

Woken up this morning at 5:28 by an unusual sound from the deep freezer on the other side of the bedroom wall: it stopped.

It does that several times a night, of course, but this time it was more abrupt. Look outside. Yes, pilot LED on the water pump was off. Power failure.

Into the office to call Powercor and was told that 700 households were affected and that the estimated restoration time was 11:00—5½ hours! Now Powercor's estimates are always the same, but until now they've been 2 hours. Why the change? It was a computer generated time, as the consultant kept saying. But that sounds like Powercor has decided that power restoration isn't even as high a priority as it used to be. Asked for a call back from Eddie Barkla, which she tried to resist, but in the end she accepted it.

Out in a dressing gown to connect up the emergency generator, then back to bed. Power finally came back at 9:07, and shortly later Eddie called. For once he was interested: yes, the standard time is still 2 hours. He followed up and discovered that the consultant had, apparently, made up the time. My guess is that it's start of business (9:00) plus 2 hours.

Looking at the web applications was interesting:

 
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That brick-red area is the outage area, at a guess about 500 km². But looking more carefully, it said:

 
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How can an outage between Buninyong and Mount Mercer (pretty much at the south-east of that map) affect people all the way to Lamplough, not marked on the map, but just before Avoca? That's over 80 km, maybe 100 km, on the wrong side of the fault location.

Ah, but look at the post code for Lamplough. 3352, the same as for Dereel. For reasons I will never understand, Australia Post has allocated post codes (which they prefer to call “postcode”) which pay only minor attention to geography. Ballarat is 3350. We're 3352, but we're 100 km from Lamplough. But Buninyong, just outside Ballarat, is 3357. And the people who committed this map go by post code, not network topography. But then, what can you expect from a web site?


“Genius”: dumbing down the public
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

SBS TV is currently running a documentary series called “Genius”:

Genius tells the story of the men and women that changed the way we live.

These are the heroes, legendary icons, luminaries who changed the world through monumental innovations and staggering ingenuity.

(From the UK) (Documentary Series)

That sounded interesting, and in advance I tried to guess who the four genii might be. Isaac Newton? Blaise Pascal? Galileo Galilei? Albert Einstein? There are many others.

But right from the beginning it seemed unlikely that an English-language programme would include so many non-English speakers. Still, it sounded interesting, and I recorded it.

What a load of crap! The first seemed to be a rivalry between a Ouöna won Brån and Sörji Korolev, whose names really proved to be Wernher von Braun and Serhiy Pavlovych Korolyov (Сергій Павлович Корольов). Their most prominent feature appeared to be unshavenness—that at a time when only tramps would neither shave nor have a real beard.

And what was their contribution to humanity? The space race, of course. They were lucky enough to have 1980s technology 30 years before it was invented, which doubtless helped them. But how much does that have to do with humanity?

The next episode was closer to real life: the invention of television. We all know about that, of course: Yogi BearJohn Logie Baird invented it. Ah, but not in this parallel universe. He didn't even get a mention, although he transmitted the world's first long-distance TV images. It was Philo Farnsworth, born on 19 August 1906, who even (before the age of 1, it seems) invented the word “television”. To quote the Oxford English Dictionary:

1907 Sci. Amer. Suppl. 15 June 26292/1 Now that the photo-telegraph invented by Prof. Korn is on the eve of being introduced into general practice, we are informed of some similar inventions in the same field, all of which tend to achieve some step toward the solution of the problem of television.

And what's the real story? His main invention was an image dissector, a kind of pickup (camera) tube, with which he was able to create the first all-electronic TV system. But according to the documentary, he wanted to use this tube to have a TV in every house. Sorry, people, wrong end of the link.

In passing, it's clear that the extant documentation (Wikipedia, for example) is also lacking. Farnsworth really did have a protracted legal battle with RCA, which he ultimately won (or, in the film, lost). But why didn't RCA just buy him out? What can you do with a camera tube without a broadcast network? And how can a young, gifted techie create the infrastructure needed for that? Apart from that, NBC was a late entry to the game. It started in April 1939, but by that time others had been doing experimental broadcasts for over 10 years.

Looking further, I found a description hidden on the SBS web site which should have warned me:

They gave us the aeroplane and the television, the six-gun, the A-bomb and more.

Weapons of mass destruction! See where they got us.

But behind every great genius is a great rival, an unstoppable adversary with incredible vision, determination and ambition.

In this stunning four-part series, we hear the stories of how the ultimate rivals for posterity clashed, lost everything or triumphed.

I still couldn't find it on IMDB, but I saw the credits for the second episode: the (US American) National Geographic Society produced it, and published it only this year under the name American Genius. Under that name it is present on IMDB. It's understandable that SBS changed the title, though their claim that it comes from the UK can only be attributed to SBS's normal level of incompetence. But National Geographic should be ashamed of themselves for creating such a distorted view of history.

The IMDB entry is interesting. Currently it gets a rating of 7.9, surprisingly high, but most of the reviews are in a similar vein to this article.


Thursday, 19 November 2015 Dereel Images for 19 November 2015
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Back to ports again
Topic: technology Link here

Finally got round to committing my updated ports (graphics/libpano13 and graphics/hugin. It seems to have been two years since I last did anything. To be on the safe side, only committed libpano13 today; if nothing blows up, I can commit hugin tomorrow.


Geographic Society: not international
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Despite all my complaining about “American Genius“ yesterday, I'm continuing to watch it. It does have enough content to get me to follow up what really happened (everybody should have a web browser on his TV).

Today was the story of the atomic balmbomb, as seen through the eyes of somebody who has no idea of science. Their equipment seems to be mainly oscilloscopes made 20 or 30 years after the events, such as this Eico 460, vintage 1956, missing a number of knobs, and showing random noise:


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But for a “documentary” created by a geographical society, the images are amazingly bad. I saw this one and recognized it immediately, and stopped the film and tried to recognize places around it, like the Marienplatz that must be just off the top edge of the image, or Dallmayr off to the left.


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But then the title the title “Leipzig, Germany 1941” showed up. How can anybody get that so wrong? It shouts München from the rooftops! Do they think that their audience is so stupid that they won't notice?

Then I carried on looking. Here's another photo purporting to be of Leipzig:


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Clearly it's not: the church towers are all wrong, and there's no river as big as that in the town. At first I thought it might be Freiburg im Breisgau, especially because of the hills in the background (not there in Leipzig). But it's not Freiburg either. I give up on this one.

And then there's an unusual railway station, purportedly in Berlin:


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Only next time we see it, there's the inscription Graz over the left-hand arch:


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It's certainly not the modern Graz railway station, and I suspect that the footage was taken on site in the last year or so, so maybe it's some country railway station near Graz—and thus nearly 1000 km from Berlin, and not even in the same country.

Yes, it's difficult to get convincing buildings where you may want them. But the Frauenkirche! I suppose it goes with the stupidity of the series.


City panoramas
Topic: photography Link here

While looking for the location of the second “Leipzig” photo, came across a couple of sites which contain panoramas of many cities. panorama-cities.net contains many interesting panoramas, including a view over Leipzig. And then there's skyline-panorama.de with, as the name suggests, panoramas of German cities, again including Leipzig. To be investigated more fully.


Friday, 20 November 2015 Dereel Images for 20 November 2015
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Local TV history
Topic: multimedia, history Link here

I've already established that Philo Farnsworth was by no means the only “inventor” of Television. It seems that there were hundreds of them, some barely known. Today Peter Jeremy came up with Henry Sutton, who hailed from round here in Ballarat. He was obviously important enough to be worth this and this programme on the ABC.

So what makes a real inventor? Much of it seems to be being in the right place at the right time. And Philo Farnsworth only barely made that criterion.


House: sold!
Topic: general Link here

After what seems to have been an interminable wait, our sale contract for the Kleins Road house is finally “unconditional”. We signed the contract nearly two weeks ago, but it was conditional on the sale of the purchaser's old house, and that was conditional on the purchaser of his house getting finance. But finally that hurdle is passed, and according to the contract, we'll have settlement in a little over a week.


Garden progress
Topic: gardening Link here

Only a couple of days after my monthly garden photos, another flower. I think it's called a day-lily:


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The oak that we transplanted at the beginning of the week is not very grateful:


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Hopefully it'll improve.

And Yvonne transplanted some Romneya coulteri which also need to recover:


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Saturday, 21 November 2015 Dereel Images for 21 November 2015
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Porting hugin: disaster
Topic: technology Link here

As planned, I committed the latest version of Hugin yesterday evening. Of course I had done all my normal tests, and all worked well.

This morning I had a bug report from Stari Karp and a couple of automated build failures. Looking more carefully, I discovered that I had messed up my patch files: there were three old patches that were no longer needed, and they referenced files that no longer existed. OK, svn remove them and commit again.

Another message from Stari Karp: now he got an error message that I've seen before:

/usr/ports/graphics/hugin/work/hugin-2015.0.0/src/tools/align_image_stack.cpp:196:38: error: reference to 'lock' is ambiguous
            hugin_omp::ScopedLock sl(lock);

But I fixed that last month! Looking at the patch files, I discovered I had lost not just the three that were obsolete, but two that I needed.

The whole issue wasn't testing, but using Subversion. I just haven't done enough of it, and I forgot some incantations. Yet Another Commit, and finally it seems to build. Egg on my face.


Shells and POLA
Topic: technology Link here

Strange problems with shell scripts today. I set a variable, changed directory, and the variable changed! It took a while to find out what was going on:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /etc-eureka/RCS 180 -> j=*
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /etc-eureka/RCS 181 -> echo $j
XF86Config,v aliases,v crontab,v devd.conf,v devfs.conf,v dumpdates,v ethers,v exports,v fstab,v group,v hosts,v inetd.conf,v ...
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /etc-eureka/RCS 182 -> cd ..
=== root@stable (/dev/pts/0) /etc-eureka 183 -> echo $j
#rc.conf# RCS XF86Config aliases aliases.db amd.map apmd.conf auth.conf bluetooth crontab csh.cshrc csh.login csh.logout defaults ...

Clearly the value of j is *, not the expansion of *. But you can't see that. I had always thought that the value was evaluated at assignment time.


USB KVM
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For decades (well, about 16 years), I've used the same old passive KVM. It still works for VGA, but the mouse and keyboard connectors are obsolete:


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So I use it for VGA, and on those occasions where I need direct keyboard or mouse contact, I plug one in to the appropriate computer.

But why? Active KVMs don't cost anything any more. Went out looking on eBay and found a likely looking one for $12.07 including postage. It arrived yesterday, I assume, though I didn't find it in the top (open) part of the letter box until today.

The first issue is: where to put it? It can have up to 12 cables connected to it, and that's a mess. In the end I put it behind my leftmost monitor:


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It's powered by a USB connection, of course, and one obvious disadvantage is that it doesn't have a rotary switch. That means that switching from, say, port 3 to port 2 goes via port 4 and port 1, potentially waking the machines. And there's something disquieting about the instructions:

 
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Connected it up and switched to stable, my FreeBSD test machine. Seemed to work. Switched to despair, my Microsoft machine. Not happy:

 
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OK, try the “troubleshooter”, a program has never yet helped. It didn't today either:

 
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Savour that “we don't know what the device is, but we know the correct driver has been installed”. OK, maybe it's a spurious device showing up. Try disabling it:

 
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Heh. As if that would change anything. Disabled it, and things still didn't work. More importantly, they no longer did on stable either:

Nov 21 12:31:32 stable kernel: usb_alloc_device: set address 2 failed (USB_ERR_IOERROR, ignored)
Nov 21 12:31:32 stable kernel: usbd_setup_device_desc: getting device descriptor at addr 2 failed, USB_ERR_IOERROR
...
Nov 21 12:31:37 stable kernel: ugen5.2: <Unknown> at usbus5 (disconnected)
Nov 21 12:31:37 stable kernel: uhub_reattach_port: could not allocate new device

OK, where does it work? Dragged out boskoop, my ancient Apple PowerMac, which was much more polite. No error messages. It just pretended it wasn't there. It wasn't until I searched through the files in /var/log that I found this in /var/log/syslog:

USBF:   851.802 [0x1992a00] The IOUSBFamily is having trouble enumerating a USB device that has been plugged in.  It will keep retrying.  (Port 1 of hub @ location: 0x9000000)
USBF:   856.621 [0x1992a00] The IOUSBFamily was not able to enumerate a device.

What are those numbers at the beginning of the line? lbolt-related times?

OK, what if the switch has got itself confused? Tried power cycling (which meant disconnecting all USB cables to the computers and then reconnecting them). And it worked! Apple now wanted to find out what kind of keyboard I was using, after which it worked normally, while the others just accepted it. So maybe I have fallen foul of the warning in the “instruction manual”. That's a real pain. It's bad enough to switch sequentially, but if you have to wait 2.5 seconds between button presses, it can take up to 10 seconds to switch from one machine to another. Is that acceptable?


Trimming grass
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

We've received a notice from the council that we need to trim grass round the house. So we called in Gage (whose surname I still don't know) from round the corner in Progress Road. He brought a whippersnipper with him, but it was electrically powered, so we dragged out mine. It's two-stroke, of course. What mixture does it need? You'd think that it would be written on the filler cap, but that would be far too simple. But it had some engine details written on a label:


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The engine family drew a blank on Google, but the engine model at the bottom (Robin ECO31G) had a number of hits, mainly maintenance manuals. Finally I found one that gave the specifications. Yes, “gasoline”, 1:50 two-stroke oil. Why is it so difficult to find what should be on the filler cap?

Mixed up the petrol in one of these silly Australian cans with extensible spout:


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But this one—brand new—didn't seal properly, and we ended up spilling petrol all over the place. I suppose I'm going to have to return it.


Sunday, 22 November 2015 Dereel Images for 22 November 2015
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The daily hugin build breakage
Topic: technology Link here

Still more Hugin build breakage! I'm really surpassing myself lately. Hugin depends on Vigra, but somehow the dependency wasn't in the Makefile. That's a little puzzling, since it's been there since long before my recent work; in fact, for nearly 11 years:

r124104 | edwin | 2004-12-15 23:36:25 +1100 (Wed, 15 Dec 2004) | 14 lines

New port: graphics/vigra - another program to mount panoramic images
- also a dependency of hugin

So why wasn't the dependency there? It doesn't appear to have been my fault, though I should have caught it while testing.

But that wasn't enough. Callum Gibson also had problems with Vigra. It was installed, but he got a linker error, one that I've seen before. At the time it didn't really get fixed, it just went away. And sure enough, Callum's installation was the current version (1.10.0_6), but it was older than my experience. He installed a new copy of the same version, and everything worked. What's the issue with Vigra?

In the process discovered new tests for ports. And Hugin fails one of them. Now the ports collection “stages” installation: first it gets installed in a dummy directory work/stage (more correctly referred to as STAGEDIR), and only if that succeeds does it get installed in the correct place, normally /usr/local. But the Hugin build installs some Python files, and it uses Python itself to find where the installation directory is. The invocation is:

=== grog@stable (/dev/pts/4) /usr/ports/graphics/hugin 4 -> python -c "from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(get_python_lib(1))"
/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages

That's an absolute path, and it needs trimming. But it's all tied up in cmake, and the actual invocation (in /usr/ports/graphics/hugin/work/hugin-2015.0.0/src/hugin_script_interface/CMakeLists.txt) is:

    EXECUTE_PROCESS( COMMAND ${PYTHON_EXECUTABLE} -c "from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(get_python_lib(1))"
                     OUTPUT_VARIABLE pyinstalldir
                     OUTPUT_STRIP_TRAILING_WHITESPACE)

How do I fix that? I've been trying very hard not to learn cmake, but it looks as if I'm going to have to.

Callum also pointed me at this site, which performs continual port builds and documents the results. Time to get Hugin off the “failed” list.

And then there's the Ports Subversion Primer, something that I didn't find, but which I obviously needed.


More stuff from Kleins Road
Topic: general, gardening, technology Link here

It's only a little over a week until we settle the Kleins Road house, and there's still a lot of junk there that we need to get. Over today to pick up the last three computers: the Control Data 910, a microVax II, and an old MIPS R2000. They'll be offered on eBay for a ridiculously low price. But they're heavy. I got the Control Data into the car with no trouble, and the microVax is on wheels, so that wasn't an issue, but we couldn't lift it into the car. And the R2000 is too heavy to even move without additional help. So in the end we didn't get very much—only the fire hoses that we had forgotten for some reason.

Into the house, where I discovered that most of the remote controls for the air conditioner, and also the weather station displays, had discharged batteries. Took them with me, somewhat to Yvonne's displeasure. But what will the new owner do with Nickel-Zinc batteries?

The garden still looks so different from Stones Road:


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Hopefully things will look better next year.


Telling dogs apart
Topic: gardening Link here

As Sasha grows, he's looking more and more like Leonid:


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Soon it'll be difficult to tell them apart.


Monday, 23 November 2015 Dereel Images for 23 November 2015
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Towards a winter garden
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Jim Macintosh from Local Home Improvements Building Services along this morning to take a look at where our winter garden should appear. He was very impressed by the trough around it, something he had apparently not seen before. And he had a number of suggestions about how to do it, and left a number of brochures showing things much closer to what we were looking for than anything we had already found. Now let's just hope we can afford his quote.


Tackling cmake
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So how do I fix the src/hugin_script_interface/CMakeLists.txt so that it doesn't create absolute path names for the Python files? Despite my aversion, went looking for the cmake documentation. What a disaster! It's just a list of man pages.

From the invocation in the file, it's clear that it has some text editing capabilities:

    EXECUTE_PROCESS( COMMAND ${PYTHON_EXECUTABLE} -c "from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(get_python_lib(1))"
                      OUTPUT_VARIABLE pyinstalldir
                      OUTPUT_STRIP_TRAILING_WHITESPACE)

Clearly OUTPUT_STRIP_TRAILING_WHITESPACE is an editing feature. Does it have more? From that page, I couldn't even find it, but a Google search pointed me to this page, which showed me that no, there are no further edit commands, not even a potential OUTPUT_STRIP_LEADING_WHITESPACE.

OK, what other documentation is there? I have a subscription to Safari Books Online. Went looking there. No, not a single book dedicated to cmake, though I found a chapter in “Software Build Systems: Principles and Experience” by Peter Smith. And the level of learning I needed confirmed my aversions.

But then it occurred to me: clearly the first line is an invocation of python. And python has a lot of text edit functions, even though I couldn't find the one I wanted on the string operations page. But that's python version 3. It is described on the corresponding python 2 page, though it's relegated to the very bottom. With that, I was able to modify the invocation to:

    EXECUTE_PROCESS( COMMAND ${PYTHON_EXECUTABLE} -c "import string; from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(string.replace (get_python_lib(1), \"/usr/local/\", \"\"))"
                      OUTPUT_VARIABLE pyinstalldir
                      OUTPUT_STRIP_TRAILING_WHITESPACE)

Finally it passed all the tests! I wonder what will go wrong next time.


Outside too harsh for outside plants
Topic: gardening Link here

A few weeks ago we put the potted citrus trees and the curry tree outside on the verandah, where they'd get more sun. They didn't like it:


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No, for once not lack of watering. My best bet was that they were getting too much wind. So they come back inside, until the winter garden is done.

In passing, it's interesting to note that our Spathiphyllum (“Peace lily”), left inside but in the sun, now has 3 flowers:


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In Kleins Road we put it in about the brightest place in the house, and we only occasionally had a single flower. The claims that they like shade are clearly exaggerated.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 24 November 2015
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Google: Don't be evil!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Remember the browser wars? The late 1990s or so, when Netscape and Internet Exploder deliberately introduced incompatible features to lock their customers in? They're over, right? Not if you believe the Wikipedia page.

In passing, it's interesting to note this web browser timeline:

Today Peter Jeremy posted a URL. Why? Just some Star Wars Google search. But it seems I was using the wrong browser. With Chrome it showed an animation, though in no longer does.

Google, your motto was “don't be evil”. So don't! It's bad enough that I can no longer use many features of Google Maps because my browser isn't leet enough. And now this. Is there more to come?

Yes! Once again I get a message rejected by GMail:

Nov 23 04:55:21 www postfix/smtp[56739]: 6446A1B72800: to=<randomuser@gmail.com>, orig_to=<root>, relay=gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com[173.194.207.26]:25, delay=0.25, delays=0/0/0.07/0.17, dsn=5.7.1, status=bounced (host gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com[173.194.207.26] said: 550-5.7.1 [208.86.226.86      18] Our system has detected an unusual rate of 550-5.7.1 unsolicited mail originating from your IP address. To protect our \
550-5.7.1 users from spam, mail sent from your IP address has been blocked. The 550-5.7.1 reputation of the sending IP is very low. Please visit 550-5.7.1  https://support.google.com/mail/answer/81126 to review our Bulk Email 550 5.7.1 Senders Guidelines. 64si10014051qhe.7 - gsmtp (in reply to end of DATA command))

It's the same daily log output that was rejected last week, but it's become more objectionable in its tone. Lots of unsolicited mail originating from my IP address (that's www.lemis.com)? Reputation very low? IP address has been blocked? At least the last is patently incorrect: all my mail, several hundred messages per day, goes via this route. But how do you contact the people? The URL in the rejection message just contains generalities, certainly not why our reputation is low, not even a way to contact them.

Google, you can do better. Please do.


To Geelong again
Topic: health, food and drink Link here

Off to Geelong this afternoon for my six-monthly periodontics checkup. Somehow the whole visit was irritating. I left in plenty of time, but got held up at various places, including roads closed. And when I finally found my free parking area, I discovered that they've put meters there. It wasn't just the money, but also the delay in finding it and getting a ticket. Grrr. Arrived a minute late, which was still more than early enough.

The results weren't as good as last time; he measured marginally deeper gum depths for the first time. What has changed? I can't see anything, except that he might have been a little more forceful. He didn't have any good ideas either. We'll see how it is in 6 months' time.

Then off to look for Asian foodstuffs, mainly in Belmont. My GPS navigator showed itself from its best side by trying to take me across a large crossing in a direction that wasn't allowed. When I finally got to where it wanted to take me, there was nothing there. So although it was set for “fastest route”, it took me along tiny back lanes to the next places, where I had been this time last year. First to the Gourmet Asian Grocery that I had liked so much last year. Nothing! It occurred to me after I had left that they did have some cinnamon, but it didn't seem to be worth going back for that. Next to the Indo-Asian groceries, where I found some of the things, including tējapattā, which I discover is pronounced with a long ē. But the most important thing wasn't available: chili flakes for Kimchi. So back into town without the aid of a GPS, since it's so difficult to store addresses in the new thing. It took forever to get there in rush hour traffic, something I'm no longer used to, but finally got most of what I needed,


Wednesday, 25 November 2015 Dereel Images for 25 November 2015
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Upgrading eureka, finally
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Much of the installation of eureka, my main computer, dates back to 7 years ago, though I upgraded the kernel when I changed the hardware barely 2 years ago. And since then I've been paving the way to hell with good intentions.

Today I finally ran out of excuses. After all, everything had been tested, I had a new disk, so I could fall back to the old one if something went wrong. About the only issue was the X configuration, which has always been a problem.

Things happened completely differently. I'll split this story up into individual subsystems, rather than make it chronological.


X configuration
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

X was my main concern. But we can always be optimistic. Booted the machine, logged in and entered

=== grog@eureka (/dev/vty0) ~ 4 -> startx

It started! But only on one monitor, leaving 4 competing window managers to fight over it. In Xorg.0.log I found:

VGA arbiter: cannot open kernel arbiter, no multi-card support

What's that? Web searches were inconclusive. But then I was expecting problems. Run X -configure with more than the usual success, but it still only found two displays. While comparing configuration files, it occurred to me: I don't start my X server with startx: I start it with my own script startx0. Tried that, and it Just Worked. Well, almost: display 0 came up in 1024×768 mode. I've seen that before, and I have other fish to fry, so left it like that for the moment. I mainly use display 0 to display log messages, so it's not that much of a problem.

What else? Various irritations. fvwm2 has never worked correctly in 64 bit mode. There are two different ways to move windows, though it's been so long that I forget how to select them. In one case you click on the window with your choice of mouse/keyboard combination (I use S-A-Mouse 3) and drag the window to where you want it. In the other you have to release the keys, move the window and then click again. I prefer the former, and I think my configuration specifies it, but the 64 bit version of fvwm2 always uses the second one; the 32 bit version doesn't. In the past I've used the 32 bit version, but clearly it's time to investigate the problem. For the time being I can live with it; there's worse to come.

Apart from that, X mainly works. For some reason I can't open displays in the Internet domain:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 10 -> xhost +
access control disabled, clients can connect from any host
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/18) ~ 11 -> xterm -display eureka:0.1
xterm: Xt error: Can't open display: eureka:0.1

This was done from the same system. I've seen issues like this before; there is a -nolisten tcp parameter to X. It's not set now; is it the default? To be investigated, later. The man page for X doesn't mention the parameters, but X --help produces (since it doesn't understand --help):

-nolisten string       don't listen on protocol
-listen string         listen on protocol

So there's a start.

And then there are the new icons. In the Good Old Days an icon was something small that enabled you to recognize what it was that was iconified. Now they're enormous:

 
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That little text at the bottom is all I used to have, and I'll have to find out how to restore it. Otherwise I won't have enough space on the screen.


In a bind
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I couldn't access the network! Well, I couldn't find anything on the local network, because named wasn't running: it's no longer part of the base system. On the other hand, dhcpd insisted on creating an /etc/resolv.conf, which I have to prevent by making it read-only. But in this case it was an advantage. I went looking:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/5) /usr/local/etc 78 -> pkg search named
p5-Class-Accessor-Named-0.009_1 Better profiling output for Class::Accessor
p5-Class-NamedParms-1.06_1     Lightweight named parameter handling system
...

Nothing! Try again:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/5) /usr/local/etc 79 -> pkg search bind
bind-tools-9.10.3_1            Command line tools from BIND: delv, dig, host, nslookup...
bind9-devel-9.11.0.a20151116   BIND DNS suite with updated DNSSEC and DNS64
bind910-9.10.3_1               BIND DNS suite with updated DNSSEC and DNS64
bind99-9.9.8_1                 BIND DNS suite with updated DNSSEC and DNS64
...
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/5) /usr/local/etc 80 ->

OK, people, which one should I be using? 9.9, 9.10, 9.11. It's probably not 9.11, since it's tagged -devel, but why can't we have a default?

Chose 9.10 and tried to start things. It was like pulling teeth. Everything has changed, and we now have the configuration in /usr/local/etc/bind, where previously it was in /var/named/etc/named/. And after an hour or so I was still not sure where it was looking. It seems that sometimes it looked in one directory (for /usr/local/etc/bind/named.conf in, at any rate), but it then looked for the zone files in /var/named/etc/named/. Daniel O'Connor pointed me to /etc/rc.conf to look for a chroot path, but there's nothing there; maybe elsewhere.

In the end got the thing to work, sort of, though rndc still doesn't. More for later.

Decades ago I thought I understood bind. But they keep changing it and making it more confusing. I wonder if they now have documentation.


Emacs changes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been using Emacs in various forms for 35 years, and it has become like an extension of my fingers. Every change feels wrong. But when I fired it up, I got an error message:

Warning (initialization): An error occurred while loading `/home/grog/.emacs':

Invalid read syntax: ]

To ensure normal operation, you should investigate and remove the
cause of the error in your initialization file.  Start Emacs with
the `--debug-init' option to view a complete error backtrace.

OK, let's try debug-init:

Debugger entered--Lisp error: (invalid-read-syntax "&#93;")
  eval-buffer(#<buffer  *load*> nil "/home/grog/.emacs" nil t)  ; Reading at buffer position 3128
  load-with-code-conversion("/home/grog/.emacs" "/home/grog/.emacs" t t)

Now isn't that handy to give a buffer position? In any case, it proved that this entry no longer parses:

(global-set-key [C-M-,] (quote space-after-comma))

It seems that I now need this:

(global-set-key [201326636] (quote space-after-comma))

I wonder how portable that is. I use a Sun Type 7 keyboard with special bindings, and I'm not sure it would work with other keybaords.

In addition, some of the colours have changed. Marking text is now very dark, almost to the point of being unreadable:

 
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Web services
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

And of course httpd didn't start:

httpd: Syntax error on line 104 of /usr/local/etc/apache22/httpd.conf: Cannot load /usr/local/libexec/apache22/libphp5.so into server: Cannot open "/usr/local/libexec/apache22/libphp5.so"

Sigh. When will people recognize the difference between syntax and semantics? But why did I have Apache 2.2 in the first place? Installed version 2.4, along with the latest and greatest PHP, with relatively little difficulty; last week's Joomla installation was good practice.

But nothing worked! Of course, it had installed a new configuration file, and I had to manually modify things to get back to where I had been before. Fortunately it wasn't very different, but I'm left wondering what would happen if it had been.

Squid may be a case in point. It produced a number of strange messages that may have represented warnings or errors, but it didn't respond. I see another agonizing configuration file update coming, but for the moment I've just disabled it.

Web browers are an issue too. firefox seems to work, though the text sizes seem to have gone crazy, but Chrome is getting more and more irritating. The text size here, too, seems to be very different, and far too large, requiring me to set the size to 90% (still too large) or 75% (too small). And of course it has removed communication with the window manager again. At least I know how to fix that.

But there are other irritations. The “Bookmarks Bar” now contains an “Apps” entry at the beginning and I can't get rid of the bloody thing. Google continue to get on my nerves.


Mail
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Next was mail. Tried a fetchmail, as a precaution with the -a -k flags (get all, don't remove from upstream server). Yes, they came along, were piped into procmail, and disappeared, never to be seen again. Not even an error message in procmaillog.

OK, no worries, we haven't really lost anything. Discovered that the options for starting postfix have changed. For years (decades?) the entry in /etc/rc.conf was:

sendmail_enable="YES"

Yes, that makes no sense, but that's the way it is. Now it's:

procmail_enable="YES"

And of course I needed all my old kludges; but the configuration files seem to have worked unchanged.

And getting my mail back from the remote servers? From our external (FreeBSD) server, no problem. From GMail, impossible. By default a POP3 download doesn't delete the messages, but it appears to mark them as downloaded and even the -a (all messages) flag is ignored. And you can't bounce messages, and forward requires forwarding Every Single Message Individually. And there seems to be no way to save the messages to anything as primitive as a text file. Google, you annoy me more all the time.

Next was mutt. I had forgotten to move the last state of the mail spools before shutting down the old eureka, and had to mount it on another machine and copy it across. And when I got the data there, I couldn't modify it: the folders were read-only. It seems that the spool directory (/var/mail/) needs to be writeable by group mail. And again the display is funny. I have set it for black on light beige, but it manages to dribble black blocks into it in various places:

 
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I've seen that before, too. I think I need to rebuild with different display options.

What I still can't do is pass HTML documents and URLs to a running firefox instance. More configuration? The URLs require urlview, which may also need configuration.


Samba
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Gradually things had become bearable on eureka. And with a bit of NFS trickery I got the other FreeBSD machines happy with the new environment. despair, my main Microsoft machine, was another matter. Can't connect. Why not? Error 0xdeadbeef or some such.

Looking at the samba configuration, I discovered that the new version has a new configuration file, /usr/local/etc/smb4.conf. How does it differ? I didn't bother to check, just hung the “share” definitions from /usr/local/etc/smb.conf at the bottom. And it seemed to work, but I still couldn't access the file systems. Password? What was the password? In the end chose a new one, but things still didn't work right. By this time it was evening, so put it off until tomorrow.


Minor irritations
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Apart from that, there are less important issues. I still need to get Keith Packard's card games to work, and I suppose it's time to rewrite the version of xearth that I wrote 20 years ago, and for which I have lost the source.

In addition it seems that fortune has gone away. I recall some discussion on the mailing lists over the last few years. Some people felt that the fortunes were offensive to people of various religious convictions, so they were relegated to the ports.

Or were they? I can't find fortune in the ports, though there are various data files for them, including:

fortune-mod-bible-1.0_1        King James V Bible in fortune file format
fortune-mod-epictetus-0.2      Quotes from Epictetus
fortune-mod-psalms-1.0         Psalms from the Douai Bible in fortune file format

What happened to the “offensive” fortunes? No longer there. Admittedly, many were crude and not very funny, but since when should we decide what people want to see? Certainly the quotes from the Bible (and neither Torah nor Qur'an) seem a little strange.


Upgrade: summary
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So at the end of the day things were up and vaguely running. At least Yvonne saw no problems. But there's still a lot to be done:

  1. Complete the X configuration, including checking whether server 1 (single display over 4 screens) still works.
  2. Fix fvwm2 window moving.
  3. Reinstate Internet domain connections to X.
  4. Get rid of these enormous icons.
  5. Fix Emacs markup colours.
  6. Fix the BIND configuration.
  7. Get squid to work.
  8. Get urlview and mutt display of web pages on firefox to work.
  9. Finish the samba configuration.

The experience has shown me something else: are text-based configuration files really that good an idea? I spent much of my time manually moving configuration items from an old config file to a new one. How many mistakes did I make? None that I've seen so far, but I'm sure there's something there. I've been using some of these programs (X for example) for 25 years.

On the other hand, text-based files are one of the Good Things about Unix. The alternative proprietary formats used by so many commercial products really turn me off. But at the very least an upgrade should include a way to upgrade the configuration file too.


Thursday, 26 November 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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System upgrade, day 2
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On with the upgrade of eureka today, partially overtaken by other activities. First to the Samba configuration, which proved to be relatively straightforward: just followed the instructions in the network server chapter The Complete FreeBSD. It's nearly 20 years old, but it contains exactly what I need. In this case, in particular, I think I wrote it that way.

Apart from that, various minor issues. Writing my diary gave me an error message for inserting a paragraph markup: incorrect number of parameters. It seems that somebody had created a function with the same name as the one I used:

insert-section is a compiled Lisp function in `mule-diag.el'.

And I'm still having trouble with Chrome. Now it crashes (“Aw, Snap!”, a text that I can't copy) at random on certain web pages, and there seems to be no way to find out why. There's a “Send Feedback” button, but it doesn't do anything.

The issue with the low display resolution on screen 0 proved to have an unexpected cause (at least):

[ 83279.615] (WW) NVIDIA(0): Unable to get display device CRT-0's EDID; cannot compute DPI
[ 83279.615] (WW) NVIDIA(0):     from CRT-0's EDID.

That's the monitor connected via the new KVM. It seems that it doesn't pass that information through. I could remove it, but in the past I've noted that there's some way to convey the EDID information via the configuration file, and I already have a file with that content. I just need to find how to do it; this entry shows a starting point.

And then there's rsync. It still works, but it comes up with lots of warning messages that I hadn't seen before:

copying unsafe symlink "Day/20100811/RCS" -> "/home/Sysconfig/MasterRCS/home/grog/public_html/Day/20100811/RCS"

What's that? I had told it to exclude RCS. Does that only apply to the top level? Removed the --copy-unsafe-links and let it go, and discovered that it removed a whole lot of stuff I needed. Reinstated it and had to upload about 130 MB of files that had been accidentally deleted. On the other hand, it also showed a whole lot of junk that I had forgotten about. There's a tidy-up to be done here. I'm reminded of this xkcd cartoon:

Wow, ANIMORPHS-NOVEL.RTF? Just gonna, uh, go through and delete that from all my archives real quick.


More Radiation Tower angst
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Peter Jeremy pointed me at another victim of the radiation tower conspiracy today. It's interesting to see how they report this stuff: no mention of relative radiation exposure. I assume that, like Wendy McClelland, they use mobile phones.


House sale, next step
Topic: general Link here

Call from Heather at Curwen-Walkers: the final transfer documents for the Kleins Road house are complete, and would we please sign them? Would we! Off to Ballarat, and while we were there also signed a transfer agreement for one of my investment accounts. Three signatures for the house transfer; about 20 for the accounts.


Furniture and domestic appliances
Topic: general Link here

While in town, also bought a new handbag, and off to look for a TV cabinet. I've decided against hanging the TV on the wall, at least for the moment: it would result in lots of cables hanging down below it. And a proper cabinet would have space for a couple of computers, a receiver and a DVD player. But it seems that there's no such thing. Most of them are only 45 cm deep and about as high, and they have drawers which seem to serve no purpose. I'll have to cast my net more widely.

While looking for furniture at Harvey Norman, saw some espresso machines, some at prices that blew my head away, over $1,500. What features? They don't say, just lots of irrelevant text. That matches the furniture, which doesn't even describe the dimensions. Asked a sales assistant, who told me that customers usually preferred to look up the specs on the web, and that it gave the sales assistants the opportunity to “engage the customer”. I pointed out that people who look at things on the web would find the same thing cheaper elsewhere, but that clearly went over her head. I should have asked about the specifications; I'm sure she wouldn't have known.

Back home checked the web site. Only a single “automatic” (i.e. with grinder) espresso machine, not one of the ones on sale, and even more expensive. I suspect that companies like Harvey Norman are going to have it difficulty when the web revolution finally happens.


Friday, 27 November 2015 Dereel
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Ternary PIDs
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Seen by coincidence today:

=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/2) /spool/Videos 1 -> ps au|grep mpla
grog 3111  0.0  3.0 259648  62064  3  S+    5:41pm  0:32.06 /usr/local/bin/mplayer-old -a
grog 3112  0.0  2.6 236432  52764  3  S+    5:41pm  0:03.97 /usr/local/bin/mplayer-old -a
grog 3211  0.0  1.8 187872  36160  4  S+    6:41pm  0:16.13 mplayer -quiet http://stream.
grog 3212  0.0  1.6 183776  32556  4  S+    6:41pm  0:00.49 mplayer -quiet http://stream.

Understanding python
Topic: technology Link here

I've had some exposure to python, but it still confuses me. It proves that Monday's fix for Hugin only works for python release 2; with release 3 I get:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/30) ~ 12 -> python2 -c "import string; from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(s
tring.replace (get_python_lib(1), \"/usr/local/\", \"\"))"
lib/python2.7/site-packages
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/30) ~ 13 -> python3.2 -c "import string; from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(string.replace (get_python_lib(1), \"/usr/local/\", \"\"))"
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<string>", line 1, in <module>
AttributeError: 'module' object has no attribute 'replace'

It seems that they have replaced the obvious function string.replace() with a different module with sexier syntax, and I now need to write

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/30) ~ 14 -> python3.2 -c "from distutils.sysconfig import get_python_lib; print(get_python_lib(1).replace(\"/usr/local/\", \"\"))"
lib/python3.4/site-packages

At least it works with python2 as well.


Tidying up the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Michael and Mick from M&M's Gardening Services (phone 5318 5199 or 0481 277 342) along to tidy up the garden today. It's looking a whole lot better now. They'll be back next week to (hopefully) install the irrigation.


System upgrade, day 3
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Gradually eureka is settling down, though there's still work to be done, interrupted by the Real World. So far I've been highlighting difficulties, but there are some definite advantages as well. So far I haven't seen any of the USB issues that plagued me with the old version of eureka, though it's possible they're just hiding. And the X hangs on server 1 haven't reoccurred.

And the other issues? Peter Jeremy tells me that you can suppress the enormous xterm icons with the option xterm -ai, or by setting activeIcon to false in the .Xdefaults file. And sure enough, that worked—sort of. Now the enormous mini-version of the window is replaced with a FreeBSD daemon icon and a too-short title. Here two icons: above from eureka, and below from cvr2, which runs Linux:

 
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Apart from the still excessive size of the icon, the important information is missing. Here's what it should be displaying, but it only does so when you run the cursor over it:

 
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Another triumph of appearance over utility.

And opening TCP connections to the X server? I couldn't find anything in the documentation (the only reference to listening in the X man page relates to font servers). But I had already established that the server now has a -listen parameter, so tried that:

startx -- :1 -config xorg-0.conf -listen tcp

And how about that, it worked. But why did I have to guess? Is it really not documented, or simply not easy to find?

And then there are minor annoyances. My phpMyEdit database pages no longer work:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function session_start() in /home/grog/public_html/php/MySQL_table_edit_0.3/freezer.php on line 9

That looks suspiciously like the same issue I had with Joomla a couple of weeks ago. But I don't have time to look at it right now.

In fact, this was MySQL Edit table.


Fixing chrome
Topic: technology Link here

Message from Bartosz Fabianowski, from whom I have already had input about the city centre of München. It seems that the “Apps” bookmark on the Chrome bookmarks bar can be disabled, but it's done via the context menu of the bar. Why did they do that?


Handing over Kleins Road
Topic: general Link here

Call from Barry Ryan, the purchaser of the Kleins Road property, today. He wanted ten minutes of my time to discuss various things round the house, so over to meet him. Spent some time-ultimately 1½ hours—talking about things like gas and water, in the process discovering that one of the taps was off between the two water tanks, so despite all the time that has passed, the tanks aren't completely full. Still, I hope there's enough.

His wife Angie came along after a while. As usual, it was the woman who decided which house to buy, and the reason appears mainly to have been the garden. I suppose that's some recognition. She doesn't want the NTD where it is. Clearly it would be more convenient to have it elsewhere, and in fact there's not much of a reason not to move it. All they need is a longer Ethernet cable; I can't imagine that the antenna has particularly tight cable length requirements.


Changing electricity supplier
Topic: general Link here

Barry called up later in the afternoon to tell me that the electricity would be switched over on Monday. Fine. I just needed to call up Red Energy to tell them. She spent a surprising amount of time typing, and then told me that the power would be cut off on Tuesday, and that it could take up to 12 hours for “the network” to switch over. I explained that “the network” had confirmed a switchover on Monday, but that didn't seem to represent any conflict in her eyes.

I also asked why the power should be disconnected at all. Ah, to send somebody out to read the meter. People, these are smart meters. Nobody is going to go near the place. But we've seen this before. At least last time we had a conventional meter, so they did need somebody to read the meter. And of course we didn't need to disconnect the power, although the telephone consultant had told me to do so. What kind of people do they hire?


Saturday, 28 November 2015 Dereel Images for 28 November 2015
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Olympus E-M1 version 4 firmware
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The long-announced firmware 4.0 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 was released today, so dropped everything and installed it. The first impressions aren't overly favourable: it really does look like a hasty add-on, and the updated manual just contains an appendix describing some of the differences, so if you look for specific features in the main part of the manual, you won't find them. The things that interest me most are the electronic shutter, focus bracketing and focus stacking. I've already commented on my expectations. And the reality?

Electronic shutter

They bill the electronic shutter as “Silent [♥]”. I have no idea what the ♥ is supposed to mean. And yes, it's completely silent. To increase the effect, the normal beep on correct focus is also suppressed.

I was hoping for more from the electronic shutter, but in fact there are a number of limitations: a maximum ISO rating of 36°/3200 and a maximum shutter speed of 1/8 s. On the other hand the minimum is 1/16,000s (and not 1/16,384, though the next slowest speed is “1/12,800”). It doesn't work at all with flash and in some modes. I had hoped to be able to use it in conjunction with HDR bracketing, but that doesn't work: turning on HDR turns back to the normal shutter.

The documentation of this feature is particularly bad. Apart from setting “Silent [♥]”, you can also set a post-exposure delay of up to 30 s, which is not mentioned in the documentation and barely visible in the menu. No idea what the purpose is. In addition, the “sequential shooting” menu accessible via the front right button changes when silent shutter is enabled via the main menu: you can then disable it from that menu. If it's disabled in the main menu, you can't enable it here. Until proven otherwise, it seems better to leave the electronic shutter enabled in the main menu and disable it via the “sequential shooting” menu.

I suspect that there are some good technological reasons for these restrictions, but it's a pity. Hopefully the next model will have less restricted functionality.

Focus stacking

The firmware offers two different functions: “focus bracketing”, where you take a number of photos (default 99; why so many?) for stitching together later on, and “focus stacking”, where the camera takes exactly 8 images and stitches them in-camera, giving you a JPEG image whether you want it or not, along with corresponding JPEG image for each shot. It also produces a raw image for each shot if the camera is set up to store raw images. There's no mention of this in the “manual”.

Both force the electronic shutter. Why? If it works here, you'd think it would work with HDR bracketing. But that forces the mechanical shutter.

I've done some attempts to take focus stacked photos, not helped by other issues: focus stacking currently only works with three lenses, and the only one of the three that I have at the moment is the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro”. This coin was taken at the closest focus of the camera, and it still only half-fills the frame. I tried with extension tubes, but that disables focus stacking.

The results are interesting. On the one hand, there's a world of difference between these two images:


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The first image is the first component of the image. The second was made with the in-camera focus stacking, and the difference in colour is because of the inability of DxO Optics “Pro” to handle white balance easily with JPEG images. But looking more carefully, it's not really clean: there's a halo around the top. I haven't found a way to process focus-bracketed images yet, though clearly it will involve enblend, but the first and seventh (the last one of importance) images in the series looks like this:


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There's something like a halo round the first image, but not round the last. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner.

And the focus increment? To get the width of the coin (3 cm) I selected focus increment setting 10, which was marginally too much. But the aperture was f/2.8 at 40 mm, and it looks sharp. That surprised me. I still have to find out how much difference the focus increment makes, and how clever it is.

POLA

There were a number of POLA violations. The first was that the “Live control” menu was no longer there. There are two different general menu displays, called “Super Control Panel” and “Live control”. The Super Control Panel (SCP) shows all the normal settings on one screen, while Live control shows each setting individually, along with all the options. I prefer Live control, but all I could find was the SCP. And that's a change since the last firmware revision. Read through the documentation. Couldn't find a mention (not helped by the fact that I couldn't recall what it was called). Spent 20 minutes comparing it and the documentation for Yvonne's E-PM2, which didn't seem to have an SCP. Finally discovered, on page 95 of the E-M1 documentation, a menu item “Control Settings”, which allows me to set which menu to use, and how to change between them. It used to be set to “Live control” on this camera, though there's a way past that (not mentioned on that page). Now it was set to SCP. And on Yvonne's camera it's the same, only it was set to “Live control” only. That, too, can be changed. But why did I have to spend so much time searching for this information?

Other strangenesses are this statement, on page 177 (changes in firmware 4.0):

 
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What does that mean? And what does the ♦ mean? It seems somehow to be related to the ♥ for the electronic shutter.

Then there's setting the flash parameters. If no flash is connected, I only get the option of “off” or “full”. To set “fill-in” you need a flash unit connected to the camera and powered on.


Two years of Stones Road
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Two years ago today we first saw the site of our house in Stones Road. Things have changed since then:


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More X configuration
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More playing around with my X configuration today. One of the remaining issues was that Hugin would not display the fast panorama preview on screen 1 of server 1 (which spreads a single display across all four screens). Tried again today. It still doesn't. But this time I looked in the log file:

[240548.886] (WW) NVIDIA(1): The GPU driving screen 1 is incompatible with the rest of the
[240548.886] (WW) NVIDIA(1):     GPUs composing the desktop.  OpenGL rendering will be
[240548.886] (WW) NVIDIA(1):     disabled on screen 1.

OK, that's understandable. The fast panorama preview uses OpenGL, which is probably one of the reasons it's so buggy. But can I switch it so that only screen 1 can do OpenGL? Read the instructions, but found no way to do it.


Mutt changes
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mutt doesn't seem to have changed much. It still writes lines with many trailing spaces. But

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/21) ~ 37 -> mutt
Error in /home/grog/.muttrc, line 6: alternates: unknown variable
source: errors in /home/grog/.muttrc

Did some investigation and found this page, which explains that I need to make this change:

-set alternates="greg.lehey@|gr...
+alternates "greg.lehey@|gr...

That's straightforward enough, though it's not clear why it was necessary. But what got me was the date of the message: 1 February 2004, nearly 12 years ago!


Which SD card?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

One of the consequences of this new functionality on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is that I need a faster SDHC card for the camera. But how much faster? The current card is a Sandisk Ultra class 10, marked “30 MB/s”. There are others out there rated as fast as 95 MB/s. When does the camera become the limiting factor? Even 30 MB/s is a lot faster than the camera writes to the card.

Further investigation revealed that the cards have speeds “up to” the rated limit. One issue is the camera, of course. But it seems that the write speed (important to me) is usually slower than read speed, sometimes much slower. For example, the SanDisk Extreme SDHC/SDXC UHS-I Memory Card claims 90 MB/s read speed. And the write speed? Depends where you read. Either “Up to 60 MB/s write speed” or “this card offers data speeds up to eight times faster than an ordinary memory card. Ordinary memory cards perform at up to 5MB/s write speed, ...”

Finally found this page, which told me almost exactly what I wanted to know. My camera has a maximum write speed of 33 MB/s, so anything faster makes no difference. And it shows real-world speeds for some cards only. The fastest (a SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s) manages 101 raw images in 30 seconds (3.37 per second). That's quite good, in fact: the average raw image size is round 13 MB, so this represents round 44 MB/s. I suspect the difference is due to the camera internal buffer.

The only problem I have with the page is that the cards they measured are not the cards I can now buy, and I need to understand the difference between (in the case of SanDisk) terms like “Extreme Pro”, “Extreme Plus” and simply “Extreme”. It would be tempting to think that they are secondary to the claimed transfer rates, but who knows?


Aw, Snap!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Another message from Bartosz Fabianowski about Chrome. It seems that these “Aw, Snap!” messages are Chrome's way of saying “SIGSEGV in renderer”. And I should be able to go to chrome://crashes and see what happened. But all I get is:

Crash reporting is disabled.
Crash reporting is not available in Chromium.

Still, running the browser from a shell shows that it's quite verbose on stdout (or is that stderr?):

  Received signal 11 SEGV_MAPERR 000000000000
  #0 0x0000008f798a <unknown>
  #1 0x000809d6db57 <unknown>
  #2 0x000809d6d24c <unknown>
  [end of stack trace]

With a few symbols it might even give some useful output. Do I care?


Sunday, 29 November 2015 Dereel Images for 29 November 2015
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Migrating my database applications
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the things that still didn't work were the database applications using MySQL Edit table. As I suspected, that was a matter of installing the php56-session and php56-mysql packages. I did that for Joomla! a couple of weeks ago, and complained at the time that the package didn't update /usr/local/etc/php/extensions.ini. So after installation, off to update that file. But this time the entries were there! The package hasn't been updated in the intervening time. What changed?

After that, my applications worked—sort of:

Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in
/home/grog/public_html/php/MySQL_table_edit_0.3/mte/mte.php on line 174

I deprecate deprecation! I was forced to move to MySQL Edit table less than two years ago because its interfaces were deprecated. Why do people want to make things so hard?

Spent a bit of time looking round for alternatives. Two ones to investigate at DbVis and MyWebSQL, both of which promise to do more than just database editing.


SDHC Cards again
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

More investigation of SDHC cards for my camera. People really don't make it easy. The comparison page mentioned cards that I couldn't find, and the one that looked good—a SanDisk “Extreme” 90 MB/s card, doesn't appear on their card list. Google helped, though, and found this page on their site, apparently orphaned. Why do people make such a mess of their web sites? The card claims to do 40 MB/s writes, comfortably more than the 33 MB/s that the camera can manage, so I bought one of them.


Monday, 30 November 2015 Dereel Images for 30 November 2015
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The daily upgrade issues
Topic: technology Link here

I'm still far from comfortable with my new FreeBSD installation. Addressed a few of the issues today, some with success.

The first was this horrible “highlight” colour that now seems to be the Emacs default:

 
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There are lots of customization menus that have appeared in the past few decades, and I found one that seemed to imply highlighting the region (with the appropriate default). After running through a maze of twisty little menus, all different, found one that offered to change colours of the highlighted region. Where? I forgot to lay out a piece of string. I could change the colours of some of the attributes, but not the main one. But there was a saving grace: I could edit the Lisp code directly, and ended up with what I wanted:

(custom-set-faces
...
 '(region ((((class color) (min-colors 88) (background dark)) (:background "blue3")) (((class color) (min-colors 88) (background light)) (:background "springgreen")) (((class color) (min-colors 88) (background light) (type ns)) (:distant-foreground "ns_selection_fg_color" :background "ns_selection_bg_color")) (((class color) (min-colors 88) (background light)) (:background "lightgoldenrod2")) (((class color) (min-colors 16) (background dark)) (:background "blue3")) (((class color) (min-colors 16) (background light)) (:background "lightgoldenrod2")) (((class color) (min-colors 8)) (:background "blue" :foreground "white")) (((type tty) (class mono)) (:inverse-video t)) (t (:background "gray")))) )

Surely there's an easier way.

Then there was the question of flash support for the browsers. I've been there before, so it should have been simple. I knew the name, for example, and that there was no package: I needed to build the port. But:

===>  Patching for linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4
===>  Configuring for linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4
===>  Staging for linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4
===>   linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4 depends on file: /compat/linux/bin/sh - found
===>   linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4 depends on file: /compat/linux/usr/lib/libssl.so.10 - not found
===>   linux-c6-curl-7.19.7_4 depends on file: /compat/linux/usr/lib/libssl.so.10 - not found

OK, where does that come from? No help. Ultimately I compared the linux- packages on eureka with those on lagoon. The first one that looked likely was linux-c6-libssh2, which also installed linux-c6-openssl, which was probably what I needed. After that it worked. But why do I always have to search like this?

Then there are the things that I didn't solve, notably these ugly xterm icons. I've seen this issue before with firefox. There I was able to get rid of them by deleting the icon files, if I recall correctly. But that didn't seem to work here. Neither did various settings in .fvwm2rc, though I did take the opportunity to get rid of “deprecated” (there's that word again) features in the config file. Looks like I'm in for a lot of code reading.

Web browsers have more issues in store. For some reason, the default font sizes are all over the place. firefox has tiny fonts, Chrome has enormous fonts, and it also enlarges images without asking. Probably there's both a good reason and a way to fix it, but once again I'm wondering what happened to POLA.


Unacceptable network performance
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've complained in the past about the reliability of my National Broadband Network connection. Since I started keeping logs 21 months ago we have had 205 outages! Today alone there were 9, and since 26 November 2015 there have been 16:

Date        Outages   Duration  Availability    Date
                      (seconds)
1448476513 1448476526     13  0.009 # 26 November 2015 05:35:13 26 November 2015 05:35:26
1448498696 1448498752     56  0.162 # 26 November 2015 11:44:56 26 November 2015 11:45:52
1448587783 1448587822     39  0.040 # 27 November 2015 12:29:43 27 November 2015 12:30:22
1448595997 1448596022     25  0.440 # 27 November 2015 14:46:37 27 November 2015 14:47:02
1448599962 1448600008     46  0.914 # 27 November 2015 15:52:42 27 November 2015 15:53:28
1448712959 1448712972     13  0.032 # 28 November 2015 23:15:59 28 November 2015 23:16:12
1448722004 1448722061     57  0.399 # 29 November 2015 01:46:44 29 November 2015 01:47:41
1448803784 1448803819     35  0.044 # 30 November 2015 00:29:44 30 November 2015 00:30:19
1448815243 1448815289     46  0.315 # 30 November 2015 03:40:43 30 November 2015 03:41:29
1448822301 1448822325     24  0.513 # 30 November 2015 05:38:21 30 November 2015 05:38:45
1448827698 1448827723     25  0.670 # 30 November 2015 07:08:18 30 November 2015 07:08:43
1448850321 1448850356     35  0.159 # 30 November 2015 13:25:21 30 November 2015 13:25:56
1448853574 1448853577      3  1.119 # 30 November 2015 14:19:34 30 November 2015 14:19:37
1448854450 1448854507     57  4.124 # 30 November 2015 14:34:10 30 November 2015 14:35:07
1448865075 1448865099     24  0.341 # 30 November 2015 17:31:15 30 November 2015 17:31:39
1448865606 1448865686     80  7.101 # 30 November 2015 17:40:06 30 November 2015 17:41:26

None are very long, but they manage to kill TCP, and today I had two phone calls terminated by the dropouts. It seems to be an NBN issue rather than an Aussie Broadband issue: sometimes the ODU lamp on the NTD lights up during the outage, suggesting a link-level issue. But of course I had to call Aussie. Spoke to Kevin, who wanted exact dates—isn't that in their logs? And of course I was able to supply them. He also wanted to know which were associated with an ODU error indication. Sorry, that's not going to happen. Look at the times of the outages. If the NBN tells me how to read the status of the NTD, I'll do so.

In the process, discussed on IRC what a reasonable level of service might be. Gregory Orange suggested not more than one outage every two weeks, while Peter Jeremy suggested 99.9% (that's still 8.7 hours a year). I think I could agree with that, but I'm getting neither.


The greenhouse lives!
Topic: general Link here

Chris Bahlo is also setting in to her house. She has taken a week off work, and Margaret Swan is here to help her enjoy it. They now have the greenhouse erected:


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I hope she finds more use for it than I did.


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