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November 2016
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Tuesday, 1 November 2016 Dereel Images for 1 November 2016
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Progress of baked beans
Topic: food and drink Link here

How much water and colouring do you put into baked beans? Last time round they were a little watery. This time I put in less—I think—but I also took photos to show the progress of the cooking, when first mixed, during cooking, after finishing, and the last this morning after the mess had cooled down:


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It's interesting to note that the beans appear to absorb water while cooling. At a guess, that'll be the correct quantity. At least I have something to compare with.


Lens test charts
Topic: photography Link here

Last week's lens tests were quick and dirty, though they did show significant differences between the lenses. But how do you do it right? With a lens test chart, of course. In the past I have printed some out in A4 format, such as this one, but it should be possible to find a real chart printed more accurately than a laser printer can manage.

Surprise, surprise! I can't find anything worthwhile for sale. About the best I have is this guide. Maybe I'll end up printing things out again after all.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016 Dereel Images for 2 November 2016
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Display protector pain
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

I use plastic foil protectors on the back of my camera displays, but the current ones are wearing out. So I ordered some new ones, and the ones for Yvonne's E-PM2 arrived today, not in the best of condition:


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And yes, the folds went all the way through to the the foil itself:


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Clearly a case for a return. But in the meantime, tried it out on the camera. Not an unqualified success. First, how do you attach it? There are two foils stuck together, along with two numbered tabs. Clearly you start with 1. But what do you do with it? Answer: throw it away. It's number 2 that comes onto the surface:


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The lifted edge is clear: that's the fold in the foil. But why so many bubbles? I didn't have anything like that before. It looks as if there's dust in some of them, but I was able to move them, so it's not clear what the spots mean.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the second tab was glued to the foil with an almost unremovable adhesive (bottom left in the first image). Maybe I should try a different brand.


21st century junk
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

While walking the dogs, found an interesting device:


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Clearly an antenna amplifier, for once well marked. And the reason for its demise is also clear:


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Potentially it would work if the capacitor were replaced. But it's interesting to think that this sort of thing could hardly have existed 50 years ago, let alone be discarded due to a simple failure.


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

Yesterday I got an email from Dan Murphy's offering me Becks Beer for a bargain price. Only yesterday and today. But I could buy online and pick up in Ballarat.

OK, not a problem—I thought. But again they've put hurdles in my way. In this case I had the choice of pickup in 2 hours or ”in the next week”. That latter sounded good, but when I tried, they gave me a pickup date of 10 November. So I chose 2 hours.

And then the order was to go through stages. Order confirmation. Preparation. Ready to collect (what's the difference?). And when it was ready, I would receive an SMS.

How? I don't have mobile phone coverage. Did I even give them a phone number when I signed up? Yes, I did—without a mobile phone number I can't sign up. Stupidly, I gave 0401 234 567, not my number. So presumably somebody else got my SMS.


80 years of high definition TV
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

Eighty years ago today, the first regular high definition TV broadcasts began. How time flies!

High definition? That's a moving target, of course. In those days it meant “more than 200 lines” (vertical resolution including non-displayed timing lines). There were two resolutions: the 405-line system (“377i” in modern parlance) that continued in use until 1985. But there was an alternative: John Logie Baird's Intermediate film system with its staggering 240 line resolution, which only lasted 6 months.

Haven't we come a long way? It's clearly visible when you compare old TV serials like Upstairs, Downstairs with newer ones like Downton Abbey: the topics are similar, but the image qualities are worlds apart.

Have we reached the resolution goal yet? I think so. In the 1950s and 1960s great progress was made with HiFi, but since then nobody cares any more: the sound quality is now good enough. And I think we can pretty much say the same for TV, certainly once 4K TV catches on.


Thursday, 3 November 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 3 November 2016
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Identifying rye meal
Topic: food and drink, language, opinion Link here

Why did I get rye wholemeal in a sack marked “rye meal”? Called up Weston Milling (according to the bag), who call themselves Mauri™ anz online, on 1800 649 494, and asked how I could identify the stuff. After a lot of searching came the answer: wholemeal is in bags with brown print, normal meal is in bags with green print. Congratulations for the obfuscation! Even the phone consultant I spoke to agreed that it was silly.

Into Ballarat for a number of errands, and to the Wendoureee Wholesalers (conveniently located in Delacombe, not Wendouree) with my bag. They changed it without any issues—didn't even look at my receipt—and on the green bag I found the inscription “rye flour”.

What's wrong with this? Firstly, wholemeal is only one kind of meal. Secondly, as I have already noted, all definitions I have seen confirm that the term “flour” implies wheat. Now, however, I find that Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, writes:

Pumpernickel bread is usually made exclusively of rye, and contains a mixture of rye flour and rye meal.

They don't define what that is supposed to mean. But wouldn't it be nice if they described the contents more accurately? In Germany it's required by law to categorize the flour depending on its mineral content. That doesn't seem to happen at all in Australia. Instead it contains an analysis more suited to processed food, including a “serving size” of 100g.


Picking up the beer
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

To Dan Murphy's to pick up my beer, which took longer than if I had just purchased it off the shelf, and included having to show my driver license (“If you don't drive, you can't drink”) and signing a glass device with a squiggle. They're going to have to improve things if they expect to make money that way.


Citroën SM
Topic: general Link here

Coming out of Dan Murphy's I was about to turn into Mair Street when a shape caught my eye. Goddess? No, not quite: a Citroën SM:


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I don't think I've seen one of them in over 25 years. The owner came along while I was looking and gave me some details: it's a 1978 model with 3.5 litre engine and left-hand drive (thus the club permit; left-hand drive cars can normally not be registered in Australia). Also got some photos under the bonnet:


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The green elements are the hydropneumatic suspension, somewhat better laid out than in the DS. In the last image they are, from left to right: right-hand suspension sphere, steering (behind), high pressure pump, pressure accumulator, left-hand suspension sphere. The grey items should be more recognizable: clearly the right-hand one is the alternator, and the left-hand one looks like air conditioning (probably not original equipment). It's interesting to note that there's only one belt for the hydraulic pump; the DS had two, in case one failed.


Kitchen slicer: the issues
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I was relatively positive about the kitchen slicers I bought recently, but that situation hasn't lasted. The last couple of times I tried to slice bread, I had multiple problems. Firstly, the tray didn't travel far enough: it stopped before the bread was completely cut. Further investigation showed that the pressure needed to hold the bread against the blade was sufficient to deform the body of the slicer, causing the edge of the tray to run into the blade:


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And the blade housing is so thick that the bread needs to be bent through about 30°, which doesn't make for clean cutting:


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So I think that this, too, will go back. We're more or less resigned to buying one in Germany.


Health record transfer
Topic: health, opinion Link here

I haven't just changed GPs, I've also changed “healthcare providers”, the company that herds the GPs. We asked for transfer of the records, and I received an invoice for $19.95 from Tristar, the old provider: $13 “Patient Record Transfer Fee”, and $6.95 postage.

Postage? These things are kept electronically. Why don't they send them electronically? And if they have to send them by dead tree, why $7? In addition, they didn't do the transfer.

Today I got a reminder, along with a stamp Pre-payment required. I smell an attempt to annoy me. To whom do I complain? Called up Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 55 81 81. As expected, they weren't the correct address, but were able to give me a pointer to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on 1300 419 495 or (not advertised) 03 9275 9009. But they weren't the right one either; for this particular case it's the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner 1300 363 992, also (not advertised) 02 9284 9666.

There I was told that they were entitled to charge for the service, as long as the charges were reasonable, and that yes, indeed, I could put in a complaint, but it would take several months to process. And quite possibly there might be some animosity between providers that might explain their behaviour. That sounds reasonable enough advice. What do I do next? Acquiesce?


Friday, 4 November 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 4 November 2016
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Eureka Village again
Topic: general Link here

Off with Yvonne, Nikolai andLeonid today. For once, Bill was not in form to accompany me round the house, and instead Debbie asked Bronwyn, a volunteer (that's my status too) to accompany me. That turned out to be a good idea; she's much more outgoing than I, and that made a lot of difference to the people we visited. Bill's brother John spoke just about for the first time. Clearly I'm not the right kind of volunteer for this job.


Old Datamation humour
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Decades ago I read a surprising amount of humorous material in Datamation, almost certainly the April 1975 edition. I made (pre-Xerox) photocopies of some of them, but I have since lost them, and all I have is this page, part of the content of which Josh Paetzel recently quoted (and attributed to me) on Facebook:

K is the a kludge that you say
You require to avoid some delay
But that interim fix
Forms a habit that sticks
And you'll find that it's in there to stay.

But that page has a very incomplete alphabet (currently only c, k, n, u and z). Where's the rest? Hasn't anybody archived this stuff? It seems not. About all I found was this page.

Hopefully somebody will archive all old issues of Datamation some time soon.


Saturday, 5 November 2016 Dereel → Melbourne → Dereel Images for 5 November 2016
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Sasha qualifies
Topic: animals Link here

Off to Melbourne today with Sasha to have him assessed as a Delta society dog. It was only his second longer journey in a car (the first was when we got him), and he was not feeling overly confident when he arrived.

The assessment was indoors—we note the difference between town and country—but well organized. There were two assessors, and Sally, the one Sasha got, was considerably stricter.


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There was even another Borzoi there, a bitch from Western Australia whom Yvonne thinks we might have considered buying a few years ago. She showed considerable interest in Sasha; unfortunately the cramped quarters made it difficult to get good photos:


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Victoria Market again
Topic: food and drink Link here

After that, to the Victoria Market, the first time for food on a Saturday. The outdoor vegetable stalls are not open on Saturdays; instead there are various other salespeople there. But the indoor delicatessen, meat and fish people are still there, and we got most of what we wanted before escaping, screaming, out of Melbourne.


Do I need a Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Finally the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is available for pre-order—at a price well over double what I paid for its predecessor. Part of that is a change in the exchange rate of the Australian dollar, but even in US dollar terms it's very expensive. Is it worth it?

The instruction manual is also available, so I was able to answer some of the questions I had at the end of September. Here a brief comparison:

In summary, what the new model brings appears to bring is speed: up to 60 full-resolution shots per second, faster focus, faster storage. It also has a slightly higher resolution sensor. Is that worth $2,800 to me? I think I'll wait until DxO supports it. Maybe by then the price will have dropped slightly.


Sunday, 6 November 2016 Dereel Images for 6 November 2016
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Lunch with the neighbours
Topic: food and drink, general Link here

Graeme and Linda Swift from next door over for lunch today. We've known them for over 2 years, and I still didn't know their surname. Had a pleasant afternoon, though somehow lunch no longer fits our lifestyle. I think we should invite people for brunch instead if they don't want to come for dinner (or tea, as Graeme insists).


Rebuilding Melbourne
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Only yesterday I was commenting about the horrible traffic flow in Melbourne. It's definitely not the town I grew up in nearly 60 years ago. And today I found this page, which appears to agree.


Monday, 7 November 2016 Dereel Images for 7 November 2016
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More sausages
Topic: food and drink Link here

On Saturday we bought more ingredients for Bratwurst: 4 kg of pork shoulder and 2 kg of pork belly. The shoulder is a better cut, but the belly cost more than double the price of the shoulder. Clearly that's an indication of relative popularity, but why? My best guess is that people grill belly, while shoulder is considered only a poor relative of other roasts.

Both came with skin, of course, which I had removed when I bought it. But I didn't realize how much the skin weighs: 25% of the total, so instead of my 6 kg of meat, I only had 4.5 kg. For once, I barely changed the recipe, just halved the garlic. And the results were pretty much the same as last time. The only issue was the length of skin, which I greatly overestimated. The skins (“casings”) aren't cheap, and I ended up with an entire skin which I can throw away.


More gardening
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick and Mick along this afternoon to do more gardening work. At the end there wasn't much to show for it. The Strelitzia nicolai is now planted in the ground, along with our spectacularly unhappy looking lime tree:


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In passing it's interesting to note how unhappy our Gallipoli Rosemary is looking:


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I fear it didn't like the wetness of the last couple of months. Hopefully it will survive.

I had wanted to flush out the sprinkler lines, but the sprinkler controller (or possibly the power supply) seems to have failed, and presents a display NOAC, flashing so quickly that it's barely visible. Somehow it can't supply the current that the solenoids draw. That can't be the solenoids, since it happens with all of them. I never liked that controller anyway; should I buy something better or build my own, run off the computer system?


Tuesday, 8 November 2016 Dereel Images for 8 November 2016
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No news today
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

Recording the Deutsche Welle news is always touch and go: just about any excuse is good enough for the Special Broadcasting Service to forget its charter and broadcast football games from obscure places at the other end of the world. And today it didn't record either. What came instead? Nothing. It was in the programme listings, at any rate.

So what happened? Was the football game cancelled, and they updated the EPG too late for greg-GA-MA785GT-UD3H (the immutable name of what should be called ceeveear) to notice? There was no mention in the log files that it had even tried to record the programme.

But maybe it could be something more sinister. To be sure, tried to record a couple of random programmes. Mythweb hung, and I couldn't get it to respond.

OK, Microsoft time. Restart the server (daemon). How? From the man page for mythshutdown I got nothing useful; it's a modern program, so I needed a mythshutdown --help. And there it seems I need the option --shutdown, just to emphasize the intent. Tried that, and was disconnected. The system didn't shut down, just went partially catatonic. I could switch VTs, which showed something die with a general protection fault, probably on the VT with the X server, but I couldn't enter anything via the keyboard, and I wasn't able to shut down any more: big red button time.

After that it worked. But how did this happen? I've been running this version of MythTV for less than two months; the previous version ran better for 8 years.


Cooking from the Queen Victoria Market
Topic: food and drink, multimedia, opinion Link here

One of the programmes I recorded for test purposes was the rest of a cooking programme featuring food from the Queen Victoria Market. The first was mussels with Pulse Noodles (spaghetti made with pulses). Beautiful close-ups of them serving empty mussel shells.

And then chicken with fresh mumbleissa, probably intended to be harissa. You can buy it from one of the shops in the market. Which one? That would be telling. But though I know the market relatively well, I really don't know where I would go to find that. What use is the programme?

More to the point, though, are the quantities. Harissa is an extremely hot sauce, and a portion is about 1 g. Here they smothered chicken thighs in about 100 g of the stuff. Either it's not real harissa, or the resultant dish will knock your block off.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 9 November 2016
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More blood tests
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat this morning for what I thought would be a number of things to do, but in the end it boiled down to yet another blood test (this one not so expertly taken) and picking up my health records for transfer to the new clinic. Why, oh why, did they have to print them out? We still seem to be in the 20th century.


9/11: Catastrophe!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

How should I title my reaction to the USA presidential election? I thought of several captions, including “The people have spoken—the idiots”, “The system is rigged”, “Well, there goes America”, “USexis?t (that last one is a Regular Expression matching “USexit” and “USexist”). But the fact is, I just don't understand how this could happen, and I don't really understand what the consequences might be. All I know is that I'm horrified. “Make America Great Again”? I think he'll take America into meaninglessness.

But how could this have happened? It hasn't been a good year. There were three rounds of voting for matters that I considered important this year, and they all went the wrong way: Australia (barely) elected a conservative government that doesn't address (and hardly acknowledges) any of the pressing matters of our times. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. And now, it seems, the USA has voted to leave the world. I have seen many pages discussing the matter, but for some reason this one resonates.

And why didn't anybody expect it? That might be part of the problem: the silent majority, probably also the issue in the United Kingdom. They're so silent that even the opinion polls didn't find them. In that point, at any rate, Trump is right.

But maybe it won't be that bad? The constitution of the USA has many limitations on what the president can do. Maybe Trump will become more sensible. That's what I said about Tony Abbott three years ago. I was wrong.

Maybe he'll disqualify himself? A possibility. I could imagine impeachment as a real possibility. But that's not going to help the USA.

A sad day indeed. Somehow it's in good company. In 1923, 93 years ago, Adolf Hitler staged an abortive coup in München. And 15 years later he was Supreme Leader when his thugs vandalized Jewish property around the country.


Thursday, 10 November 2016 Dereel
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US election fallout
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

In the course of the day got to hear more opinions about the US elections, notably from European sources. I was gradually coming to the conclusion that there might be light at the end of the tunnel, but they're all surprisingly negative. This article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung mainly confirms the opinions I expressed yesterday, even using the same wording in places. Surprisingly, Google Translate translates it relatively well.

I respect the NZZ because, like Switzerland, it's neutral. It doesn't harm that it agrees with me in many ways. But it makes one point that I didn't know: most of the checks and balances in the US Constitution relate to domestic politics, and there's little to stop him doing what he wants in foreign affairs. No wonder people are worried.

Then there was the German reaction. Angela Merkel made her opinions clear in a masterpiece of diplomacy, congratulating Trump and emphasizing and enumerating the shared values of the US and German people, to many of which Trump apparently doesn't subscribe:

“Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier was blunter, and stated “... nothing will become easier, many things will become more difficult”.

All in all, not a rosy picture.


Trump of democracy?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

How did Donald Trump get elected? By a remarkably complex and almost certainly not rigged voting system. But it's interesting to note that Clinton got more votes than Trump, and in most countries she would have been elected. But in the USA the (“popular”) votes are consolidated on a state level, and based on the outcome each state casts a predetermined number of votes that contribute to the final outcome. It probably made sense 240 years ago, but it's not clear that it still does.

But why did people vote Trump? It surprised almost everybody, possibly including Trump himself. It shows how little people understand the demographics of the country. And it also shows a fundamental issue with representative democracy: the voters don't have to pass any kind of test to vote, and they don't have to prove that they agree with the US constitution, human rights, or many other things of importance to running the country.

So: the question people should ask is whether human rights, climate control and international relations are important to a country or not. If they are, then Trump is the wrong person. If it's democracy the way we know it, then he's the right person. I hope I still have the right to express my opinion.


New sprinkler controller
Topic: gardening, technology Link here

My current sprinkler controller is suboptimal. It is difficult to use, even more difficult to reprogram, and it seems to have a problem—after only 1½ years—that interrupts the flow at random. Twelve years ago in Wantadilla I had a relay board connected to an old computer, and a program and cron job to go with it. Why can't I do that again?

For one thing, I don't want a computer running all the time just for that. But what about an Ethernet-connected relay board? Do they exist? A quick search on eBay shows: Yes.

Accordinng to the description,

8 Channel Relay Network IP Relay Web Relay Dual Control Ethernet RJ45 interface

  • Ethernet RJ45 interface.
  • onboard WEB server, you can access and control through the web .
  • 8 channel 250V / AC 10A independent output relay , relay output line tin layer thicker .
  • 8 Road stem node ( passive / active ) input, you can directly control the relay output.
  • 7-24V DC power supply, and with self- recovery fuse.
  • can pick a router, access control via Android , for Apple, tablet , windows system For Apple systems , and can be controlled in the world can access any one place .
  • support state return , you can display the current status of the real-time relay
  • a key parameter to restore the parameter setting error or forgotten password can not connect to the network , you can use a key parameter to restore .

Firmware V5.0.5 update :

  • modify web pages , more humane, add fully open, fully closed operation
  • optimized mobile access , mobile phone screen adaptation, big screen small screen are suitable ;
  • deepen memory pool , speed up response ;
  • Repair IE, 360 and other browsers can not control and garbled bug, yet even UCweb browsers such agents can be used ;
  • Adding touch capabilities, and you can set the time for touch 1-255s
  • Add for mac modify , easy LAN networking ;
  • relay power-down state memory function, the function can be configured ;
  • inputs and outputs can be configured association ;
  • Firmware V5.0.6 update :
  • secondary development can modify TCP port ;
  • can modify the HTTP port , port mapping easier to solve the 80 and 8080 ports are shielded telecommunications issues

So I ordered one. Hopefully I won't find any serious issues with it.


Football fields as unit of measure
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

I've been watching a marginally interesting series, For the love of meat, on SBS television, about where Australian meat comes from. Some of the information is at variance with other sources—for example, he states that Australians as a nation are the second biggest consumers of meat in the world, eating 90 kg a year, conveniently 250 g per day. He doesn't say who the first are, nor the method of measurement. Wikipedia comes up with 111.5 kg carcass mass availability per person in 2009, third in the world. That is significantly more than the actual weight eaten—the article suggests round double. And most of the programme is similarly vague.

One thing that got me, though, was the way beef is raised in Australia. He showed a breeding farm in Queensland, 1,000,000 acres in size. Acres? What's that? 4,047 m². So this corresponds to about 400,000 ha, 4,000 km², or a square about 64 km on a side. I can relate to that.

But then he talked about forest clearing. It seems that half of Australia is already being used for cattle breeding, and they're clearing the rest. And here was me thinking that half of Australia was desert. But I suppose that depends on the definition.

In any case, it seems that about 300,000 ha per year (yes, this time he used hectares) are being cleared for cattle farming, a square of about 55 km on a side. Thit is, apparently, 40 football fields per hour.

I don't play football. I can relate to an area 55 km on a side, but how big is a football field? If I knew the time they worked, I could work it out, but like this I have to guess. If they're talking a 40 hour working week, 50 weeks a year, then a football field must be about 3.75 ha in size. If they're talking about the number of hours in a year (8766), then we're down to 0.85 ha. Which is it?

The fact is, there's no definition of the size of a football field. Practical football fields in Australia are “typically between 135–185 metres long goal-to-goal and 110–155 metres wide wing-to-wing”. That gives areas between 135 × 110 × π / 4, or 1.16 ha, and 185 × 155 × π / 4, or 2.25 ha. Yes, we're in the same ball park, to mix metaphors, but somehow the size is meaningless.

It's all the more so if you look at other games like Soccer and Rugby. Soccer fields should be between 100 to 110 m long and 64 to 75 m wide, considerably smaller at 0.64 to 0.825 ha. The latter comes relatively close to one of the calculations. I haven't found the dimensions for rugby fields, but so far we have a size ratio of nearly 4 to 1 between the smallest and largest football fields.

In summary, then, the figures he gave are meaningless. Why do they do it? xkcd sums it up:

Image


Yet another tagine
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We had decided on tagine for one of the meals this week, but weren't sure which. What makes a tagine? Partially the pot, of course, and certainly lots of vegetables, just about anything at hand. And Mohamed Ifadir has told me that the idea is to put everything in at the beginning, not to fry, and just cook gently for a number of hours.

Then it occurred to me that we had a number of green tomatoes from last autumn's harvest still in the fridge. Are they suited? Worth a try.

So I faked up yet another recipe, based loosely on this one, but without the chick peas. I also couldn't find any dried apricots, so I left them out too.

Yvonne returned later and showed me where the apricots were, so I put some of them in later as well, And while so doing I tasted the (far too copious) gravy and discovered it was far too salty. Thinking about it, that's understandable: the base recipe has 400 g of potatoes and 300 g of chick peas, both of which soak up the salt. Mine had neither.

What to do? In the end, I decided to put some chick peas in, rather late, and only to eat them if they were cooked. And I added some honey as well, so in the end the recipe wasn't that different from the base:

quantity       ingredient       step
1.5 kg       lamb, cut into 3-4 cm “cubes”       1
10 g       ginger, finely chopped       1
30 g       garlic, pressed       1
10 g       ras el-hanout       1
6 g       cinnamon stick       1
1 kg       green tomatoes       1
50 g       salt       1
270 g       carrot, in about 10 pieces       1
180 g       courgette, in thick slices       1
400 g       aubergine, in thick slices       1
100 g       dried apricots       2
140 g       honey       2
200 g       chick peas       3

And the result? After about 2 hours, the chick peas were almost cooked, and certainly edible. But there's a big difference between tinned red tomatoes and raw green tomatoes: the latter don't thicken the sauce at all, but they do release a lot of liquid, and the result was watery and clear. The taste was acceptable, but I don't think I'll go in that direction again, and that's one of the reasons I'm not putting this recipe on my recipes page.

A couple of other changes were more positive: more ras-el-hanout and ginger, and they'll go in to the base recipe.


Friday, 11 November 2016 Dereel Images for 11 November 2016
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A bug in Hugin!
Topic: technology, photography Link here

A problem report in the mail today: Hugin crashes. For once I had time to look at it, and in the course of the day made quite good progress. It seems that Hugin's way of saying “can't find control point detector” is:

/usr/local/include/wx-3.0/wx/strvararg.h(456): assert "(argtype & (wxFormatStringSpecifier<T>::value)) == argtype" failed in wxArgNormalizer(): format specifier doesn't match argument type

It's high time that Hugin saves its log files.

By the end of the day it was looking like a configuration problem, and (fortunately) not a FreeBSD port issue. At least I was able to do something; most of these bugs tend to hide in a maze of twisty little library dependencies, all different.


Tagine: no juice
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Comment from Mohamed Ifadir on yesterday's tagine attempt, pointing me at this video clip:

its also ok if you use carots bar as foundation for meat/chicken to not burn not use a lot of water a cup of water is enough let everything dry.

to optimize little bit let meat/chicken dry little bit for 15min on carots bars foundation, then add other vegetebles and oil and water close everything and let it cook slowly

quality test:

at the end you need to find.

1-little bit of water
2-some burning smell

That's very interesting; certainly it confirms that my last tagine had far too much liquid. But it doesn't quite match the video clip, and I can see other recipes where liquid is required. From the (chicken) recipe in the clip I note that the chicken is placed on an onion bed, and by the time it is cooked, there's quite a bit of liquid, half covering the chicken:


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But then it gets cooked uncovered for 15 minutes. I don't think that would cause all that liquid to evaporate. Still, the concept of drying out and charring just a little is certainly interesting.

It's also interesting that there are no Moroccan spices at all. She also uses a heat diffuser on the flame, which probably makes sense with traditional ceramic tagines; mine is made of aluminium, so there's no need.


Saturday, 12 November 2016 Dereel Images for 12 November 2016
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Hugin bug: identified
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

More examination of the Hugin bug today. It's quite simple, in fact: I have seen it before, but on that occasion I ran into the combined problem of C++ and poor problem reporting. This time I was able to establish that the real problem is that Hugin uses the temporary file path as the executable path—shades of firefox:

 39331 hugin    CALL  execve(0x81b60d380,0x81b605fd0,0x81b007000)
 39331 hugin    NAMI  "/home/var/tmp/icpfind"
 39331 hugin    RET   execve -1 errno 2 No such file or directory

But where does it set it? Once again I'm lost in a maze of twisty little wxWidgets. From src/hugin1/base_wx/AssistantExecutor.cpp:

   CommandQueue* GetAssistantCommandQueue(const HuginBase::Panorama & pano, const wxString& ExePath, const wxString& project)
    {
...

How I love libraries!


Orchids in Dereel
Topic: gardening Link here

To the Hall this afternoon to hear Emily Noble of Field Naturalist Ballarat talk about orchids in the Dereel and Enfield areas. To my surprise, 98 different species have been identified.

After the presentation, off to look for some orchids, first in the same place we went to last month. But this time there were flowers that we didn't see then:


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Well, I've seen the first one before: it's a Diuris sulphurea, commonly known as Tiger Orchid. And of course the second one has already flowered, but Emily tells me that it's a Sun Orchid.

The third is a Caleana major, not surprisingly known as Duck orchid. You really need to look to find any of them.

After that, off towards Berringa, not far from the old Mount Misery Creek Bridge that I've taken so many photos of, and exactly where I took a panorama of the road in May:


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There Emily asked me if I had noticed the Spider orchids (Arachnorchid) along the side of the road. I hadn't been looking, but she pointed some out at a distance. There's something about them that she can recognize, and after a while I saw a couple:


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Emily tells me that they're a Caladenia tentaculata (or was that Arachnorchis?), though the common name she mentioned was a kind of mantis orchid, which would be Caladenia atrovespa or Caladenia attingens. So far I haven't found any images to confirm or deny it.

There were also a number of Pterostylis species. In the past I had assumed that there were many, but I still have my difficulties telling them apart. How many do we have here?


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And then there was this flower:


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Emily wasn't completely sure what it is, but it's apparently a species of Dillwynia. It's very different from the bush I identified as a Dillwynia last year:


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On the way back, I kept my eyes open for where Emily said she had seen orchids. I recognized nothing.

Emily also mentioned a third location, in Bliss Road, just round the corner from where we live. We didn't go there, but there's plenty of opportunity for me to do so.


Sunday, 13 November 2016 Dereel
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More Hugin debugging
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

I consider myself relatively proficient at debugging code I have never seen before. But somehow Hugin has me beat.

The problem, as I have identified it so far, is that the configuration variable tempDir (which, as the name suggests, is the name of a directory for storing temporary files) somehow ends up as the path for searching for executables. As I said, shades of firefox. So an obvious approach to searching for it would be to find where the configuration file gets read in. The file is called ~/.hugin, so I can brute force search the source tree for that.

And it's not mentioned! Does it maybe derive the file name from the executable name (hugin?). That would almost make sense. So I went looking for config instead. And still I found nothing. What about tempDir? Yes, there's lots of stuff like this, in src/hugin1/base_wx/Executor.cpp:

        wxString tempDir = wxConfig::Get()->Read(wxT("tempDir"), wxT(""));

These wxWidgets again! Presumably the member function Read doesn't really read the configuration file; it has already been read in, and Read just extracts the value (conveniently obfuscated as a wxString). But this must mean that it's wxWidgets that reads in the file. What puzzles me is how few of the entries show up when scanning the sources.

In particular, though, I can't see anything that points to the other end of the puzzle. Probably the correct way to do this would be to run the thing in a debugger and see where things get referenced. But for that I need to build everything with debug symbols, including at least the wxWidgets library. And there's no shortage of libraries, 131 of them:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/29) /usr/ports/graphics/hugin/work/hugin-2016.2.0 12 -> ldd /usr/local/bin/hugin | wc -l
     131

Yes, having standard libraries is supposed to make things easier. But that only works if you understand at least the interface, and here there are just too many.


Monday, 14 November 2016 Dereel Images for 14 November 2016
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More mystery plants?
Topic: gardening Link here

One of the more interesting things I saw on Saturday's outing wasn't an orchid at all:


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Emily Noble says it's a species of Dillwynia, also known as Parrot Pea. But that's a problem: I had identified a very different plant as Dillwynia:


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And that's clearly something completely different. But what is it? I'm back to the start.

Then there are other plants in the same area (in Stones Road in the 300 m from the house entrance north to the turnoff to Progress Road):


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Could that be what Emily called a sun orchid? Here's one (already flowered) that she showed me on Saturday:


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And finally there's this insignificant bush:


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The flowers look familiar, but not on a bush.


Investigating medical records
Topic: health, technology, opinion Link here

Now I have my medical records, it's time to scan them in. There were over 60 pages of them! First the notes made by the doctors, conveniently in reverse chronological order, then the pathology results in chronological order. Neither set had page breaks, making it very difficult to understand. Somehow I begin to understand how a new doctor can come to incorrect conclusions after reading them, especially as some of the information about me is just plain incorrect (no allergies, never smoked).

How can we do it better? A few months ago I made a table of various blood test results. Table? Doesn't that sound like a database? Of course it does. Why don't they use them? Somehow we're a sixth of the way through the 21st century, and doctors are mainly using computers to emulate 20th century paper records. When will the breakthrough come?


Tuesday, 15 November 2016 Dereel Images for 15 November 2016
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More mystery flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Looking round the wildflower photos I've sen recently, there's a Caesia calliantha (also known as Blue grass-lily) on the Field Naturalist Ballarat site if you look for it hard enough (currently they don't display more than one photo at a time, and you have to search). It's small and purple. Here a photo from NatureShare:

Is that the thing we have growing all over the lawn? Today I picked one and took some photos, challenging enough in itself:


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No, clearly it isn't. More searching suggests that it's an Arthropodium strictum (or, for people who like breaking grammatical rules, Dichopogon strictus), also known as chocolate lily. Here the Wikipedia photo:


Garden flowers in late spring
Topic: gardening Link here

It's mid-November, time for the garden flower photos for late spring. Things still aren't as good as I had hoped,a but the real surprise were the roses:


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Given the lack of protecting, they're doing remarkably well.

The Solanum laxum that we planted last year still isn't dead, but you need to look for it:


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I think it's getting both too much sun and too much wind. But where can we put it?

The Anigozanthos that Sasha chewed up last year seems to have completely recovered:


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The Iris in the bathtub (to be put in the trough round the verandah, if we ever finish it) flowered relatively briefly earlier in the month, but they're already as good as done for:


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But gradually Gladioli and the Strelitzia reginae are coming:


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Indoors, it seems that we have finally found the right lighting for our Spathiphyllum:


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Previously it was either too dark (no flowers) or too bright (flowers that went greenish and died quickly).


Recovering underexposed photos
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When taking the garden photos, the camera was set to manual exposure (after having taken the photos of the Arthropodium strictum). So the first photo was completely underexposed (by 4 EV):


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OK, set automatic exposure and try again:


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But when processing the images, it processed them all, and the recovery was amazing:


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Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner.


Bore water filter
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the issues of using ground (“bore”) water is that it needs filtering. In particular, there is some iron compound dissolved in the water which precipitates what looks like ferric oxide after some time. So we have a filter, and from time to time I clean it. The last time was two days ago, and it looked pretty much the same as the mess from the previous time:


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But today Yvonne complained that there was no water at all. Indeed, it had already clogged up again. But this time it looked different:


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That appears to be clay, or mud or something. Is this the result of the heavy rain we've had recently? You wouldn't expect it to have much effect 40 m below the surface.


What focal length standard lens?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

When I got my first SLR, I decided against a wide-angle lens; it wasn't until six months later I bought a Super wide angle lens, 28 mm. And I was the envy of all my friends. My first digital cameras didn't come close; it wasn't until November 2004 that I found a camera with this focal length, and it was one of the main reasons I bought it.

But now it seems that every camera worth its name comes with a zoom lens covering the equivalent of 28 to 85 mm on a full frame camera. And where possible (electronic zoom) they set the default at full wide angle. Here's Yvonne's first attempt at the water filter:


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I've been looking for alternatives to this extreme wide angle for some time now, and that's part of the background for buying the 45 mm Zuiko and the 25 mm Summilux (equivalent to 90 mm and 50 mm respectively). I still need to see whether it's worth buying another 17 mm lens, but so far the images she takes with those two lenses show promise.


Apfelrotkohl
Topic: food and drink Link here

From time to time we eat red cabbage, which is available in prepared form from many places. Just heat up and serve.

But recently we bought some red cabbage from ALDI. Heat up. Oh. Raw red cabbage, not prepared in any way. So today I finally got round to doing something about it. Here's the recipe, loosely base on this one:

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
400 g       red cabbage, chopped       1
135 g       apple       1
130 g       onion       1
      goose fat       1
80 g       vinegar       2
10 g       sugar       2
2       cloves       2
2       bay leaves       2
10 g       salt (check!)       2

Preparation

  1. Peel the apple and onion and chop into small cubes. Fry gently in goose fat until the onion becomes glassy.
  2. Add other ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve.

That's what I did today. There's also a recipe page that may change.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016 Dereel Images for 16 November 2016
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Counting in the time of the web
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I have a number of saved searches on eBay for which I get graphic, incomplete, badly rendered and often misspelt emails every day. The number of entries displayed is limited to 12 and the text is broken almost beyond recognition. They made some changes recently. The good news is that they have discovered that the singular of “matches” is “match”, and not “matche” (presumably because they know that the singular of “lenses” is “lense”). But that's about the only improvement. The limit of 12 entries is still there, and the rendering, at least on firefox under FreeBSD, is completely broken:

 
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But the one I don't understand here is that there are 5 matches, and it only shows two of them. eBay has been in business for decades now. Can't they do any better? Do they even care?


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along this afternoon to do some more work. Gradually things are looking better.


We'll paint your lens red for only $1,150
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Leica is not exactly a new camera—their first prototype was well over 100 years ago. But it seems they have never created a lens with a red exterior. Now they have made up for that. For only $1,150 extra you can have a red Summicron 50 mm f/2, not exactly the fastest lens in the world:

The red version of the lens will available from 9th December and will cost $8950/£7575 – the current price of the standard black model is around $7800/£5600 while the silver version is closer to $8000/£6000. This is, according to Leica, the first time the company has produced a red lens.

I'm fascinated by Leica. How can they sell their equipment at these prices? Somehow they're giving away their pricing model if they think that anybody can believe that a different colour (usually without price adjustment) can be worth over $1,000. And is the Summicron really that good? It might have been 60 years ago, but my comparisons suggest that times have moved on, and my own Summilux 25/1.4 is also very sharp. And it retails for $600.


Orchids on our property
Topic: gardening Link here

So far the only orchids I have recognized on our property are species of Pterostylis. But today, in the house forest, I found a couple of Diuris sulphurea:


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Nothing overly spectacular about that—I've found them elsewhere on a couple of occasions—but it's nice to know that they are here too. Now what else?


Thursday, 17 November 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 17 November 2016
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More doctor stuff
Topic: health Link here

Into town to see Dr Paul Smith about my blood test results. All normal, maybe. But what about iron? It's nothing that we've looked at before, but it seems that the iron-related levels are not quite what he expected (ferritin 422 μg/l, should be between 20 and 300, and transferrin saturation, 51%, should be between 13 and 47%). So even now he has planned a blood test for them in February. Also my finger is not healing quite the way I expected, so I need another X-ray to see what's going on there.


Dillwynia or Cytisus?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I got mail from Kai Peters a couple of days ago, commenting on my “Dillwynia”. He says it's Ginster, the German name for gorse, and it's definitely not that. But he called it broom, a word I didn't know in that context, and on further investigation it seems that Germans call all species of Genista „Ginster“, while in English there are two names, gorse and broom. But the German name for gorse is Stechginster, or Ulex europaeus, not even a Genista species.

Is he right? Out looking for photos, and found a couple of convincing ones, from this page and Wikipedia:

That compares well with my plant:


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But they're not Genista at all, they're Cytisus scoparius, also known as Scotch broom. Further investigation shows that while the botanical term “broom” includes Genista, it's also applied to other genera, including Cytisus and Chamaecytisus.

Somehow I've opened a can of worms.


Friday, 18 November 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 18 November 2016
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Sasha does Eureka
Topic: animals Link here

Into Ballarat this morning with Sasha to visit the Eureka Village Hostel. It was his first time with me, and he was very excited. He certainly didn't want to go in, probably because he had to go past the smokers sitting near the entrance; I'm not sure he has ever smelt tobacco smoke before, and he certainly didn't like it. Bill was again not well, and Bronwyn took us round, this time much more quickly: many of the residents weren't there.


How to lose a billion
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the things that surprised me most about Donald Trump is the lack of transparency about his business dealings. About the only thing we know for sure is that he had a big bankruptcy decades ago, and that he has frequently refused to pay bills. So this satire seems to hit the point for me.


Fast cars of the 1970s
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Recently I had cause to remember the (legendary) Jaguar E-Type, one of the leading sports cars of the 1960s and 1970s. But how fast was it really? When I knew the car, I was in England, where the speed limit is 113 km/h. When I got to Germany, the land without a general speed limit, I no longer knew the car. So I was intrigued to read this table, showing a top speed of only 217 km/h. Even the Citroën SM was faster (220 km/h), as were my Citroën XMs, cars that I could really drive to the limit. The E-Type wouldn't have been able to keep up.

Of course, the table as it currently stands is missing a number of real competitors, including for example the Porsche 911, maybe because the article doesn't make it easy to find the information. But I'm still surprised how slow the E-Type was.


Quiche lorraine
Topic: food and drink Link here

We've eaten quiche lorraine before, but we don't have a saved recipe. Went looking for one today and found precious little. Joy of Cooking has one that includes cheese, which Yvonne considers ridiculous. Finally I found one in « la Cuisine de Madame Saint-Ange ». And for the first time an obvious error: for the pastry she wants 100 g of flour and 75 cl of water. That would be a slurry, not a dough.

And how much dough do we need? Our form is 24 cm in diameter and about 4 cm deep. Decided on the quantities below.

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
250 g       wheat flour       1
125 g       butter       1
100 g       water       1
4 g       salt       1
200 g       Schinkenspeck       2
50 g       butter       2
5       eggs       3
500 ml       sour cream       3
10 g       salt       3
      pepper       3

Preparation

  1. Mix flour, butter, water and salt to a dough and let stand an hour. Mix again, roll out and line the form.
  2. Cut Speck into strips and blanche. Drain. Place pieces of butter on the dough, add Speck.
  3. Beat eggs with salt and pepper. Add sour cream. Pour into form and bake for 40 minutes at 190° with recirculation and heat from below.

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Things didn't quite work out as planned. There wasn't enough Speck or salt, the sour cream wasn't sour enough (I'm not sure what I can do there), and there was nearly double the quantity of dough. I'm keeping the definitive recipe up to date.


Saturday, 19 November 2016 Dereel Images for 19 November 2016
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Breakfast with Lorraine again
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Lorraine Carranza along for breakfast brunch this morning, bewailing the election of Donald Trump. He may have a strong following in the USA, but so far here I haven't see anybody here who is anything but horrified by his election.


Off the net
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Lorraine doesn't have an Internet connection, so Yvonne wanted to show her some of the caricatures of Trump that she had found. But then she came to me and said “we're off the net”. How would she know? It could be a firefox hang or anything in the local network. But she was right. We went off the net at 11:25, and didn't come back until 13:46, only to go off again for another 6 minutes at 13:53.

When it did come back, the status indicators on the NTD were not normal: at irregular intervals the left two status LEDs flashed amber (should be green; the status LED is a primitive signal strength indicator). It didn't seem to affect the connectivity, but off to look for an explanation. Found this page, which already grates by separating the menu with backslashes:

Home \ Connect home or business \ Already connected? \ nbn equipment

One of the entries what looked like a video, titled:

The nbn™ Connection Box is a Network Termination Device (NTD). Find out what your nbn™ Connection Box does, what the ports are for and the indicator lights tell you. Also find out how to tell if your nbn™ Connection Box is working on backup battery power.

But that's “Error #2035”. And clearly it only relates to fibre NTDs. There's also a user guide—for fibre only, which irritatingly insists on referring to the NTD as “nbn™ connection box”. It does describe the LEDs, but they're completely different from fixed wireless. Tried to look at the directory (http://www.nbnco.com.au/content/dam/nbnco/documents/), but they're too 1337 to allow me to look at that. About the only thing that gradually dawned on me is that the network is called nbn™, not NBN. How long has that been the case?

nbn, you've been active now for several years. When will you get your act together?


Nonstandard nbn installation
Topic: technology Link here

A number of people in Dereel have problems connecting to the National Broadband Network because of the lie of the land, trees, etc., including at least one property in Stones Road. While looking for status LED information, found this page by an antenna company with the descriptive name “Telco”. But what they offer looks interesting, and next time somebody has a problem, I'll point them to it.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Lorraine arrived with a couple of wildflowers she had picked on the way: a Goodenia lanata and Pimelea linifolia (Rice flower). She also told us of orchids up near the letter boxes at the end of Spearys Road, so when we walked the dogs, took a look. Yes, there are lots of tiny little flowers, but I'm pretty sure they're peas of some kind, not orchids:


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There was also another flower that I may or may not have already seen:


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Many ducks
Topic: animals Link here


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Rani wakes up
Topic: animals Link here


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Sunday, 20 November 2016 Dereel Images for 20 November 2016
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NTD status docco: found
Topic: technology Link here

More searching the web for documentation for the NTD today, and finally I was successful. Not on the National Broadband Network web site, of course, but on boombroadband.com.au, apparently an RSP. The document clearly comes from nbn™, but I can't find it on their site. Here's the description of the signal strength LEDs:

 
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In reality, they look like this:


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Based on the markings, any sane person would assume that the LEDs light from left to right with increasing signal strength. But what I see is an alternation between all three LEDs showing green, and the two on the left showing amber, with the third not showing any colour. Is this telling me that the signal strength is inadequate (and if so, why?), or something that hasn't been documented? And why did they choose such a primitive interface, when even simple, cheap electronics modules now include a web server?


Finally the sun orchids
Topic: gardening Link here

We've been walking the same stretch of road for several days now, looking at suspected “sun orchids”. Today summer came, and the temperature went up to nearly 32°. Success!


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They're clearly Thelymitra pauciflora, and it's interesting to note that the photo on the Wikepedia page was taken at Rokewood Junction, less than 10 km from here.

Also a couple of other flowers that I need to identify:


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Another Google Maps failure
Topic: technology Link here

Used Google Maps to show me the distance from here to Rokewood Junction. But it doens't know where it is either:

 
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Rokewood Junction is the road junction at the extreme south-west of that map, as the name of the road leading there indicates. How did Google Maps place it in the middle of nowhere? And why can't I find a “report maps error” any more?


Monday, 21 November 2016 Dereel Images for 21 November 2016
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Firefox bloat
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne complained that her system was slow, particularly firefox. That's nothing unusual, but I wasn't prepared for what top(1) showed me:

last pid: 77440;  load averages:  0.51,  0.63,  0.79   up 20+21:20:14  17:17:53
72 processes:  1 running, 71 sleeping
CPU:  3.7% user,  0.0% nice,  0.6% system,  0.0% interrupt, 95.7% idle
Mem: 523M Active, 3358M Inact, 1129M Wired, 469M Cache, 806M Buf, 2444M Free
Swap: 20G Total, 91M Used, 20G Free

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME    WCPU COMMAND
60584 yvonne         54  20    0 26491M  1533M select  0 226:21  36.38% firefox
 1275 yvonne          1  20    0   957M 74324K select  1 107:32   0.00% Xorg

26 GB memory size! And that for a web browser! I've seen bloat, but this beats them all

It wasn't until the following day that I got to shoot it down. But then things looked completely different:

CPU:  0.0% user,  0.0% nice,  0.0% system,  0.0% interrupt,  100% idle
Mem: 209M Active, 3946M Inact, 803M Wired, 462M Cache, 825M Buf, 2502M Free
Swap: 20G Total, 91M Used, 20G Free

  PID USERNAME      THR PRI NICE   SIZE    RES STATE   C   TIME    WCPU COMMAND
60584 yvonne         47  20    0  1915M  1510M select  1 303:41   1.66% firefox

Where did that memory go? Looking at the swap usage, it seems that the additional memory wasn't memory at all, at least not initialized. But once again I'm left wondering what these modern programs are doing.


Understanding the NTD display
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My NTD is still showing alternate amber and green signal status:


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What does that mean? It took a lot of differential reading the documentation and the markings on the NTD to come to a potentially meaningful conclusion: the signal strength LEDs do show progressive signal strength. One LED means low signal strength. Two LEDs mean “medium” (acceptable) signal. Three LEDs mean good signal. But in addition, the one LED is red, two LEDs are amber, and three LEDs are green.

This is pure guesswork deduction, since it's not documented anywhere. But if that's the case (and Aussie Broadband support confirms the meaning of the colours), then something is wrong. When the system was installed two years ago, the measured signal strength was -86 dB, well over the (presumed) range for 3 LEDs. Why is it now amber? And what can I do about it? To quote Aussie:

Unfortunately as long as there is no fault present we are unable to raise a ticket through to NBN to ask them to do any further investigation.

What a company!


Autofocus reliability
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking photos of the NTD wasn't easy due to the position. Normal tripods are too high, so I used my mantis:


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It's not the strongest of things, so I used the smallest zoom lens I had, the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R. Getting it to focus wasn't easy, but finally I got the “beep” indicating that it was in focus. But it wasn't, not by a long shot. Here the worst and best images:


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What caused that? First I replaced the lens with the M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro” and tried again. And that worked with no problems at all.

Why the difference? Yes, there's a big difference in quality (and size!) between the two lenses, but I hadn't expected such a difference in the autofocus. It certainly explains some of the problems Yvonne has been having getting things focused properly.


Nikolai injured
Topic: animals Link here

Somehow Nikolai has managed to injure himself, with an open wound on his side. Pene Kirk recommended ointment, along with a shirt to keep him from licking it off:


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Not a happy dog.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016 Dereel Images for 22 November 2016
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NBN: not communicating
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I pondered over the meaning of the status lights on the NTD, but today things were different again: only amber. So it looks as if the signal strength is deteriorating. Posts on Facebook show that I'm not the only one to notice that.

At the moment, that's not an issue, but how is this going to continue? Amber, amber/red, red, nothing? Is NBN monitoring the situation? You'd expect them to, and maybe they're in the process of replacing a defective transmitter module: there are three antennae on each tower, and if something relating to one of them has failed, then they can fall back to another until they replace it. Maybe that's what's happening, but how can we know?

Coincidentally got an unsolicited call from Aussie Broadband support, in which they confirmed that NBN doesn't communicate with them. But do they monitor? How can we know? In this case, we can. It seems that Saturday's outage was quite widespread (which kills the antenna hypothesis), but NBN support didn't know anything about it until Aussie informed them.

If there's one thing that's essential for running a modern computer network, it's monitoring. Communication with others is high on the list of importance, but monitoring must be at the top, possibly just behind maintenance, possibly not. How can we get the NBN to fulfil their charter?


More flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

What's a Watsonia? I thought it might be this, which is growing in front of our house:


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But after a couple of warm days we found these down by the “schoolyard” at the junction of Stones Road and Bliss Road:


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Are they the same species, or a closely related one? I need to examine the flowers more carefully.

There are also a number of strange grasses that I have noted before, but for some reason never taken a photo of:


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Wednesday, 23 November 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Finger X-ray
Topic: health Link here

To the Ballarat Base hospital today to have my little finger X-rayed. The biggest issue was finding my way in. The hospital is enormous, and the referral slip showed four different entrances. On the way to the car park I saw that one (the main entrance) was shut, and returning from the car park it seems that the second had disappeared. The third was near the emergency entrance, where they don't like you going in, and the fourth was the other side of the hospital, about 500 m away. Fortunately they seem to have recognized the problem, and we're now allowed in via the emergency entrance. Hopefully they'll soon have their building work completed.

By contrast, the X-ray itself was trivial—almost no wait. But it's not clear if they'll get the results to my doctor by tomorrow. Why? They're in digital form, and they should be able to send them by email in a matter of minutes.


$90 Android tablet
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

I've been doing a lot of macro photography lately, and one of the issues is the viewfinder. Clearly the one on the camera is seldom in a place where I can access it easily, and the LCD screen is not really ideal for careful focusing. If my Android tablet hadn't died, I could try Olympus' appalling OI.Share. But as it happens, ALDI has a special at the moment, a 10" Android tablet for only $90, so while in town, I picked one up.

What can you expect for that price? Not even a charger, just a USB cable to connect to (and charge from) a computer. No GPS, not even phone connectivity. But the rest seems relatively normal, except that of course it has been a few years since I bought my last one, so of course there's a new version of Android with a completely different user interface. The only thing that remains constant is the lack of documentation.

Spent a bit of time playing around with it. First to install OI.Share, of course. “Your device isn't compatible with this version”. Ah, right, this stupid app wants the tablet to have GPS functionality. And that for a viewfinder!

What else can it do? 2½ years ago I came up with a list of 6 things I could potentially do with a tablet. Of these, three don't work on this browser: I can't use it as a phone, it can't control my camera, and I can't use it as a GPS navigator. In fact, I found the previous tablet pretty useless for these functions too, not because of the tablet, but because of the platform and the appalling quality that nearly all apps seem to share.

So what am I left with?

So do I keep it? I have 2 months to decide. If only I could find some apps that were worth using, I could buy a full-featured tablet instead. In the meantime, it's good for having something to read in waiting rooms.


Mowing the lawn
Topic: gardening Link here

While in town, finally bought a new battery for the lawn mower. The last one was only 3½ years old, but dead as a doornail: it only held any kind of charge overnight. And in that time the going price has gone up from $75 to $105! I had hesitated because I couldn't get any sign of life out of the mower even with a fully charged battery, but clearly the battery was part of any solution. And, as it turned out, it was all I needed. Though the old battery showed a normal voltage after charging, it must have dropped to nothing when I turned the ignition key.

So finally we have got the lawn mowed.

Mick the gardener along again today, and confirmed the cost of batteries. He needs a new one for his car, and they're asking over $200 for one. He had forgotten his push lawn mower, so went round with a whipper snipper instead, and got correspondingly little done.


Photo restoration software
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I'm working on some photos that I took on 5 August 1969. They need a lot of work to improve them. DxO Optics “Pro” helps up to a point, but somehow nothing seems to help recovering gradations, particularly in green. Then I have COLOR projects 4 , which, like all the PROJECTS software I bought, seems to offer nothing worthwhile. I tried that a couple of months ago and failed. It's really “special effects” software, not something that I can use for fixing colour casts. In general, the money I spent on PROJECTS software has proved to be a complete waste.

So I went looking for “photo recovery software”. Sorry, wrong magic word. That's synonymous with “file recovery software”. It seems that the correct term is “photo restoration software”, and I found a few.

First was Perfectly Clear, which, though expensive, is on special this week—some Black Friday horror. Is that like Black Saturday? I hope not. In any case, downloaded it, installed it, and went looking for the program. I couldn't find it. Then I RTFMed: it's only a plugin for various other software, such as Photoshop, so it's useless to me. For that, at $150 normal price, it's very expensive.

Moving on, another promising program was