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November 2017
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Wednesday, 1 November 2017 Dereel Images for 1 November 2017
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Still no Police contact
Topic: general, technology Link here

It's now been 6 days since I received notice to contact the NSW Police. And despite all attempts, I failed.

OK, email to to customerassistance@police.nsw.gov.au, explaining the situation and asking for help. And how about that, I got a call back from Senior Constable Adam Ginnane within an hour, saying that he couldn't get in contact with DSC Todd, who was apparently out of the office on another matter, but that he had spoken with a colleague, and I would get a call back later in the day. He also gave me details of how to contact him if needed. It seems that Joan's comments yesterday were wrong: customerassistance@police.nsw.gov.au is in the same building as the help line I have called so many times, and they could have put me through.

Shortly later I got email with a reference number for the incident:

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2017 12:53:37 +1100
From: noreply-customerassistance@police.nsw.gov.au
To: Greg 'groggy' Lehey <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
Subject: Re: Unable to contact NSW police [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
Reply-To: customerassistance@police.nsw.gov.au

I particularly like the two email addresses in those headers.

Finally I got an email from Todd!

The email you received is a generic email that is automatically generated from our computer system when we create a report. This email does not have my current contact details of which I have no control over.

In relation to your matter, a police report has been created (Report Number- ....) and preliminary enquiries have identified the suspect account holder as being located in the area of Burwood NSW. As a result, your report has been transferred Burwood police station for further investigation. Contrary to the information supplied in the email you received, I am not the officer in charge of the matter as ACORN is an assessment centre and does not investigate.

OK, finally. But why this completely wrong information? And the most worrying thing about the matter is that nobody seemed to think that there was a problem.


More bank scams?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Another mail message today, ostensibly from ANZ, my bank, and also potentially related to the fraud case:

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2017 06:10:42 +0000
From: ANZ Customer Enquiries <CustomerEnquiries@anz.com>
To: "groggyhimself@lemis.com" <groggyhimself@lemis.com>
Subject: Your Pay Anyone Disputes - Do Not Reply To This Email
Message-ID: <5E045F2C4F1AEA4A9AA3177E0CAA1CC424CCFDF8@EXUAU020HWT151.oceania.corp.anz.com>
Received: from mail1.bemta3.messagelabs.com (mail1.bemta3.messagelabs.com [195.245.230.161])
        by www.lemis.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 5EFE31B72806
        for <groggyhimself@lemis.com>; Wed,  1 Nov 2017 06:11:37 +0000 (UTC)
Received: from [85.158.137.35] by server-1.bemta-3.messagelabs.com id A0/46-27020-89569F95; Wed, 01 Nov 2017 06:11:36+0000
X-Env-Sender: CustomerEnquiries@anz.com
X-Msg-Ref: server-8.tower-134.messagelabs.com!1509516664!23298582!18
X-Originating-IP: [203.110.235.80]
Received: from unknown (HELO EXIAU002MELP003.ecorp.anz.com) (203.110.235.80)
        by server-8.tower-134.messagelabs.com with DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 encrypted SMTP; 1 Nov 2017 06:11:32-0000
Received-SPF: PermError (EXIAU002MELP003.ecorp.anz.com: domain of
        CustomerEnquiries@anz.com used an invalid SPF mechanism)
Received-SPF: PermError (EXIAU002MELA002.ecorp.anz.com: domain of
        CustomerEnquiries@anz.com used an invalid SPF mechanism)

Dear Gregory

Please find attached our response to your recent enquiry.

*Please do not respond to this email as responses to this email are not monitored or accepted.

Should you have difficulties in opening this attachment please contact us on 13 13 14 (if calling
from overseas +61 3 9683 9999) or at an ANZ Branch.

Now doesn't that look suspicious? As if that wasn't enough, the “response” was a zip attachment:

-- Mutt: Attachments
  I     1 <no description>                                                                 [multipa/related, 7bit, 10K]
  I     2 +-><no description>                                                          [multipa/alternativ, 7bit, 7.2K]
  I     3 | +-><no description>                                                    [text/plain, quoted, us-ascii, 1.3K]
  I     4 | +-><no description>                                                     [text/html, quoted, us-ascii, 5.6K]
  I     5 +->image001.jpg                                                                    [image/jpeg, base64, 2.2K]
  A     6 14033095.zip                                                                [applica/x-zip-comp, base64, 60K]

OK, let's take a look at it. First save it, then:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) ~ 201 -> unzip -l /var/tmp/14033095.zip
Archive:  /var/tmp/14033095.zip
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
    49548  11-01-2017 14:10   14033095.pdf
---------                     -------
    49548                     1 file
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) ~ 202 -> unzip /var/tmp/14033095.zip
Archive:  /var/tmp/14033095.zip
[/var/tmp/14033095.zip] 14033095.pdf password: Enter
   skipping: 14033095.pdf            incorrect password

The only things that suggest that it's not a scam is that malicious email would probably not require a password, and that it contains a DKIM signature:

DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed; d=anz.com;
        s=June2017; t=1509516653; h=From:Subject:Date:Message-ID:To:MIME-Version
        :Content-Type; bh=ALDE6+K67TuaRaCybge2r09ohaeHGbu7aF3nn3dZBTg=; b=YwqJF6d
        U1zIuZcam8tcq01OnOPNDsyjphA69PHJ4JR/P2PPGY77YF7yMvlzvmkvt6VzV1JdxAtOurGq0
        53PVmmJY0xVorHc5pl9hjM9WRIuULqaMXY/M92W2F5LEei9/1bF7lqaM38uPVR1n8CnrZECe6
        gbkMzVNvNrGGftv0d6m5yrrJvCB82/wNPCV/HfLK1X6RcFQWaJMRCfoU8oGaZ8l5DpO2sm42M
        fLGLjJ5XNO57M9NqqdtKpQaHlLAOB7kOW7FWlUlWWU8Y1tUj5nwOZmnx21FpOIzZkWzGodpKi
        MCnoKrc8kvYIdaM3r2fwiaWo4FRcMHn3KlMkFMEgV2w==;

But is that signature valid? I probably understand email better than most, but it makes no blind bit of sense to me. In addition, there's no guarantee that the signature applies to the attachments as well. Effectively it's useless. By contrast, the SPF failures appear to be incorrect configuration.

And yes, I almost think that the email really is valid. Only people as stupid as ANZ could think up something that so closely resembles malware, but fails because of details.

People, the Internet has been with us for over 20 years. When will Big Companies grow up?


Reinventing the button
Topic: technology Link here

Chris Bahlo has an ancient Apple MacBook which, she says, has a defective video display. The display is on the motherboard, and when she took it to the Apple people in Ballarat, they told her that it was nearly 5 years old, far too old for them to have spare parts.

I don't use the display on computers that don't run X, so that was of no problem to me, so I asked her to give it to me. She did, but there's a problem: I can't find anything wrong with the hardware. Still, time to play around with it.

But how do I communicate with it? Yes, it has a keyboard and a trackpad, but no buttons for the trackpad! I confirmed that I can plug in an (old, mouldy) mouse into it and that it recognizes both buttons, but how do I operate them on the laptop? Went looking for instructions on http://www.apple.com/, but things like Get to know your new Mac seem to assume that you know the answers. After much searching, I found a reference to a Force Touch trackpad, not a friendly name. Do I have one? How do I know? After a bit of experimentation, I found that I probably do.

Recognition 1: to left click, press the trackpad forcibly just about anywhere.

And the right button? It has functionality, as my old mouse showed. But how do I activate it? Press anywhere on the pad and you get a left click.

So I asked on IRC. We have at least three Appleheads, and they all contributed bits of information. Edwin Groothuis told me that Ctrl-click simulates a right click, and also that two fingers on the trackpad simulate a scroll wheel. Jamie Fraser said:

apparently my laptops touchpad has a right click built in (that's not pushing down in the bottom right corner of the pad). double-tap and hold with two fingers
learn something new every day

It's not clear that he was talking about Apples, however.

Daniel O'Connor added:

tap with 2 fingers or hold control and tap with one depends on how it's configured ctrl-tap should work by default

This one was interesting because Edwin hadn't heard of it.

In summary, then: it seems that, for religious reasons, Apple has done away with buttons, just to spread confusion instead. Even experienced users don't know the details.

Apple Mac: the machine that you can learn (to click on) in a single day.


Thursday, 2 November 2017 Dereel Images for 2 November 2017
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Information rot
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been keeping this diary for over 17 years, and I link to a number of other places in the web. I'm amazed how many of them rot. Somehow xkcd summarizes it:

I spent a long time thinking about how to design a system for long-term organization and storage of subject-specific informational resources without needing ongoing work from the experts who created them, only to realized I'd just reinvented libraries

I've taken to keeping copies of all the images I link to.


Worse than a concentration camp
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The Government of Australia has earnt Australia a bad reputation for human rights by capturing refugees and interning them in concentration camps on Pacific islands. Fortunately there are courts, and the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea—but not the Australian High Court—declared the camp on Manus Island to be in breach of the PNG constitution, and that it must be closed.

That was on 26 April 2016, over 18 months ago. Finally, on 31 October 2017, the camp was closed. They had only just started building alternative accommodation, which was free but unprotected.

Where were the inmates to go? The honourable thing would have been to grant them asylum in Australia. But no, they were turfed out onto a building site without protection from the weather or hostile natives. The UNHCR has called on Australia to fix things. But no, they have closed down the facility, leaving hundreds of people in fear of their lives, staying in the remains of the camp despite lack of water or food.

Is this the Australia we want? I've seldom been so disgusted.


More focus stacking experiments
Topic: photography, technology, gardening, opinion Link here

Despite everything I've been doing, my curry tree still has mites. Time for a few photos. They weren't good. The first, using in-camera focus stacking, was pretty fuzzy:


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These images are at approximately 1:1 magnification (in other words, the width is about 17 mm). And yes, the mites (about 0.5 mm across) are recognizable, but none of them at all are really sharp. What about the postprocessing alternatives? Putting the same images through FOCUS projects 3 professional and Helicon Focus (which, I discover from the tutorial videos, is pronounced “Hīlicon”) gave me:


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Once again a completely garbled output from Hīlicon. Why? The tutorials show to do exactly what I was doing, but that this strange garbled view is an intermediate stage. Could it be that the merging failed, but that it was too polite to tell me? In any case, that demotes Hīlicon as long as I can find something else, especially as is wants a subscription model. It isn't FOCUS: that still doesn't manage to merge the images in full resolution, which basically makes it useless. Despite the good advertising, all this PROJECTS software seems to have been a waste of money. There's also Zerene (I hate to think how they pronounce it), which promises better, but I haven't had time to try it.

Still, I tried Hīlicon again with another stack, this time taken at f/5.6, and using the raw images. And how about that, it produced a real image, and one that was (marginally) better:


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So what have I learnt?

  1. Getting the initial focus is still very difficult.
  2. I can forget both FOCUS Projects and Hīlicon.
  3. By contrast, the in-camera processing puts up a pretty good show.
  4. f/16 is probably too small, creating diffraction artefacts.
  5. I seem to have a number of different bugs on my curry tree. None of them are obviously alive, but what are these?
     
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Friday, 3 November 2017 Dereel
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Debugging DxO PhotoLab
Topic: photography, technology Link here

After playing around with DxO PhotoLab on euroa, it reliably hung in about three different ways. I couldn't get it to work. Deinstalling, both with Microsoft's standard tools and with a hastily downloaded Ashampoo Uninstaller 6, followed by subsequent reinstallation, didn't help.

OK, time for a problem report. How do I describe it? A video clip sounds like a good idea. OK, let's try:

What a catastrophe! It reminds me of what I tried to do with my camera 50 years ago, before good photocopiers were available to Mere Mortals. Nowadays we'd take a screen shot, of course.

OK, how about a video screen shot? That must be possible. Yes, indeed. A quick Google Search found “Debut”, which is even free.

OK, try it out, and how about that, it Just Works:

There's little comparison in the quality of the two logs. In the first case, I had forgotten to refocus after positioning the camera, but it wasn't clear until I saw the results how bad the framing was. And the file was enormous, 25 times the size of the (longer) “Debut” log:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/27) ~ 224 -> l Photos/20171103/orig/
-rw-rw-r--  1 grog  lemis  715,734,344  3 Nov 20:22 1B038437.MOV
-rwxr--r--  1 grog  lemis   31,991,586  3 Nov 12:50 euroa-log.avi

About the only issue is that the cursor movements aren't recorded, and that possibly some popups don't display. But this one is definitely a “keeper”.

OK, time to submit the bug report? First remove the package again and see what's left. Just about everything! Somehow Uninstaller 6, didn't help. Something, maybe the symlinks, or maybe just the presence of non-installed files, caused both deinstallers to fail. And Ashampoo was also not able to remove the information, stored somewhere deep in the bowels of “Windows”, that I have another 27 days of free trial.

What a mess this Microsoft is! I'll have to make more investigation. A good thing that I have other machines to run the software on.


Minimal gardening work
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally it has stopped raining for a while, time to mow the lawn. Got that done with relatively little effort, but it occurred to me how little work I've done in the garden lately. And somehow, despite Mike coming all the time, the weeds are winning. Time to get somebody in and put in some real garden beds, rather than trying to reclaim lawn.


Saturday, 4 November 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Buninyong → Dereel Images for 4 November 2017
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“Asian” food at Woolworths
Topic: food and drink Link here

Off to Woolworths in Eastwood Street to look for breakfast foods like Laksa. Found a couple, including one that I haven't seen before, and also tried some Pad Thai mix.

It's not an easy business. There's so much dubious stuff, like this “Chicken Tonight”, which is available in at least three varieties: “Classic” (not shown), “Asian” and “Indian”:


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The contents themselves didn't seem interesting enough to warrant a second look, but I wonder what the people were doing in geography class at school.


More plants
Topic: gardening Link here

The main reason I went into town was to buy some plants for the garden. First to Formosa gardens in Leith Street, where we bought a couple of far-too-expensive clematis:


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We have space for one, and the other will need to wait until we dig up the garden again.

After that, off to Bella Gardens in Buninyong, really the private house of Amber, a Facebook friend of Yvonne (as she found out on arrival). Petra Gietz had told us about the place, and she was there helping out when we arrived. Picked up a number of various things, including unspecified orchid bulbs, Aquilegia, Valerian, thyme, sage, a ground cover that they call “Baby's Tears” (interspersed with what we think is forget-me-not), and what we think is a Kniphofia:


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Together it cost us as much as each of the clematis.


Dinner
Topic: food and drink Link here

No photo again for Saturday dinner. We had Königsberger Klopse.


Sunday, 5 November 2017 Dereel Images for 5 November 2017
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Tiny flowers: almost!
Topic: photography, gardening Link here

It's been three years since I first tried to take good photos of some really tiny orchid-like flowers, about 1 cm across. They're flowering again, and now I have a camera with built-in focus stacking. Time for some more attempts.

First with in-camera stacking, which is what Olympus mean by the term. A maximum of 8 shots, so my focus was limited. Here's the best of the three, taken at f/11, but still not covering the entire flower:


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OK, take a stack for external processing, which Olympus call “focus bracketing”. I had planned to take 40 shots at f/5.6, but once again had finger trouble, and ended up with only 20. Here's the result:


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That's almost as good as I would want it to be. I could have used some more shots—the tepal at top left is becoming unsharp—but I have almost all of it in focus. And this time it's not cropped, like the in-camera photos are. The biggest issue is the angle of view: the anther (if that's what it is) in front is only visible from the outside. Next time I'll need to position the camera more carefully.

One thing of interest is the depth of field. The flower itself is sharp, but the sharpness ends abruptly down the stem. That's to be expected due to the technique, but it creates an effect that you can't really get any other way.


Analyzing focus stacking Exif data
Topic: technology Link here

How does the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II focus stacking work? It provides you with two basic settings: “step distance”, a number between 1 and 9, and step count. This photo gives some details:

Richard Turton has done some investigation of the meaning of “focus step”, and come up with a relationship to the aperture for one lens, not completely coincidentally the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 Macro with which I took today's photos: it's the obvious choice for this kind of work. But in the process he introduced another parameter, “focus count”. What's that? It's reported by the camera in the Exif data in Makernotes tag 0x301, and he quotes:

OK, what did I get today? For the first (closest) of the 20 images I got:

0x0301 Focus Step Count                : 18714
0x0303 Focus Step Infinity             : 5392
0x0304 Focus Step Near                 : 18597
0x0305 Focus Distance                  : 0.185 m
...

I had thought that “Focus Distance” is a value calculated by exiftool, and I've already noted my irritation that it is only accurate to 5 mm. But it seems that it's a real tag, which doesn't help. “Focus Step Infinity” and “Focus Step Near” don't change in the sequence, but the count does:

0x0301 Focus Step Count                : 18666
0x0301 Focus Step Count                : 18618
0x0301 Focus Step Count                : 18570
0x0301 Focus Step Count                : 18522
...
0x0301 Focus Step Count                : 17802
0x0305 Focus Distance                  : 0.195 m

The “Focus Distance” is really useless. In my 20 shot sequence I only have three values, repeated many times. But comparing the focus steps with Richard Turton's graph is interesting. His values are much lower than mine. “Focus Step Infinity” must be round 1,600, while for me it's nearly 5,400. Is this a function of the lens, or of the camera? All of the photos I took today with the 60 mm have the same value, although I powered the camera down between shots. Looking further shows that that's a coincidence. The photos I took with this lens on 15 August 2017 show a value of 1223. Is that because they were taken with the E-M1 (Mark I)?

No: this photo, taken over a year ago, also shows the value 5,392:


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It was also taken with the E-M1. It's surprising that the value was exactly the same as today.

So, a hypothesis: there are a well-defined number of focus steps between “infinity” and near, and the real distance is dependent on focus_step_count - focus_step_infinity. That would imply that focus_step_near - focus_step_infinity is a constant. I had thought that the choice of focus_step_infinity was random, but it seems that it might not be that random after all. I suppose I should go looking at more photos.

The other thing that is apparent from Turton's graphs is that his lens appears to report a smaller value for focus_step_near - focus_step_infinity, round 10,000. My measurements show a step count of 13,205, both for today and last September.

What about in August? Damn! There I have:

Focus Step Count                : 2535
Focus Step Infinity             : 1348
Focus Step Near                 : 18597

So “Focus Step Near” is the same in all cases, but here I have a total step count of 17,249. Hypothesis busted. Is “Focus Step Infinity” maybe unimportant? That still doesn't explain why Turton's “Focus Step Near” seems to be round the 11,500 mark.

That still doesn't give a transfer function for focus step to distance. If Richard Turton is right, it could really be (intended to be) steps of equal unsharpness. I need to re-read his article and think about it. I should also analyse the relationship between “Focus_Step_Count” and “Focus Distance”.


Monday, 6 November 2017 Dereel Images for 6 November 2017
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Shiny macros
Topic: photography Link here

Yvonne has a tiny opal, about 1.5 cm long, which she got from Essey Deayton, who apparently found the raw stone personally. Yvonne wanted a photo. How hard can it be?

I failed. All the standard tricks didn't work, probably because the surface of the gem was polished and curved. After giving up, I went looking, and found suggestions like using a light tent. But I had already done that:


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The best thing about it was that I had an opportunity to try focus stacking. But that's another story.


More focus stacking
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Taking the opal photos was only the first part. Now I also had a good subject for focus stacking. In this case, of course, in-camera stacking works well enough, as long as you don't forget the crop, which is significant:


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I didn't even bother to try with FOCUS projects 3 professional, but I downloaded a trial version of Zerene and compared it with Helicon Focus. The results were interesting. Helicon is much faster, round 5 times the speed, it feels. But the results aren't quite up to scratch. Here Helicon on the left, Zerene on the right:


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That background pattern is a figment of Helicon's imagination. They're not all as bad as that, but I consistently come across problems with Helicon's rendition, while I have had none with Zerene. Here's another attempt, again Helicon left, and with the out-of-camera version on the right:


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There are minor differences between the first two (run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour), but they're very small. On the whole I think I prefer the Zerene rendition, but it's not clear that this would be the case for another image.

Other things I have noticed:

So which do I take? It's looking very much like Zerene, since there are too many bugs in Helicon. But is there maybe a third useful package lurking out there?


Unhappy Paulownia
Topic: gardening Link here

Our Paulownia kawakamii did not take the winter well. The main stem died, but we have new shoots from the sides. Two weeks ago it looked like this:


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Since then, I removed the protective mesh. And today we found:


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What happened there? My best guess is frost: a couple of days ago we had a frost, rather unusual for November, and it looks as if the leaves weren't prepared for it. Hopefully it will recover.


Police: we don't care about fraud
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Mail from the police about my fraud case today:

I am a police officer at Burwood Police Station in New South Wales. I have reviewed your ACORN report in relation to the issues you have had with a seller on eBAY. Unfortunately our current operating procedures are that due to not using PayPal, the recommended eBay payment option, no investigation will take place. Furthermore, the loss of $104.99 is not a sufficient loss to warrant a police investigation. The alleged offender has also reimbursed you some of the funds, which also suggests that this could be a civil matter and not suitable for the criminal court.

Just what Craig Weber said! Clearly he knows the ropes. It's sad, though, that the police are not interested. So now I need to find how to proceed with a civil claim.


Apple touchpads: the expert speaks
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Mail from Malcolm Caldwell today about my touchpad article a few days ago:

Recent trackpads on macs allow various options for right button (or as they call it "secondary click").  I use "two finger" clicks for right mouse button.  It has become so natural for me, so much a part of muscle memory, that I could not remember that without sitting at my mac and seeing what I do to activate right click.

This is actually well "documented", but in a completely non-obvious place: its under settings->touchpad.  There you can set how you want to activate clicks, secondary clicks etc.  It even has videos to show you how to each operation (the documentation).

As you note, the scroll wheel is also replaced by scrolling with two fingers.  And it works both vertically as well as horizontally, which is good when zoomed into photos etc.

You say that you suspect the touch pad had force touch touchpad.  Force touch was only added in 2015, so if the mac was 5 years old it is unlikely that it is that old.  The absence of buttons does not mean that the touch pad is force touch.  One nice part about the force touch pads is there is no moving parts. (There is a mechanism that simulates a click feel - haptic feedback)

On a touch pad, not having to find the buttons, but just click anywhere is actually very efficient, both in usability and in space on the laptop.

That's good to know, but it shows how difficult it is to find this information without the help of an expert.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017 Dereel Images for 7 November 2017
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More orchids
Topic: gardening Link here

Walking the dogs today, found this flower in the Bliss Road wilderness:


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It's a Diuris sulphurea, and not the first I've seen in Dereel. I thought that it was the first I've seen round Stones Road—the others were south of Kleins Road. But checking back, no, I've seen them round here in large numbers two years ago and even on our own property last year.


World's most widespread Unix
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

What is Unix? That depends on whom you ask. The lawyers have always had a different viewpoint from the techies. And while it's reasonable to say that Linux is Unix-like, can you say that about Android Yes, it has a Linux kernel, but the whole interface is foreign. In my book, not Unix. Similar considerations apply to Mac OSmacOS (barely fits my definition of “Unix” and iOS (doesn't).

Given my definitions, it's clear that macOS is the most widespread version of Unix. Or so I thought. Then I read this article: Every Single Processor that Intel has made in the last 8 or 9 years contains a hidden processor running MINIX. The mind boggles. The article is mainly concerned about security, but I'm more interested in the architecture, which it doesn't describe in any detail.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017 Dereel Images for 8 November 2017
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eBay manipulation?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I'm still annoyed about the way I've been treated regarding the matter with Craig Weber (eBay seller klearview_au). When I get over my anger I'll follow up. But today I was curious as to whether he was still registered with eBay. Yes. Not only that, since then he has become a top-rated seller!

And that with the feedback I left him! Went checking what feedback he had received since then—and mine was gone! So was another one of similar character.

Working my way through the little twisty passages of eBay links brought me to https://feedback.ebay.com.au/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedbackLeft, where I could enter the item number (352142223044), which the page obligingly removed, and then displayed:


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Mutually withdrawn? I wasn't even informed! And I most certainly would not withdraw it. Tried once again to contact eBay, and this time they have yet another way: call a number (1800-322-928) and enter an 8 digit password. Did so and was ultimately connected to Steph, who told me that she could still see the feedback. I made it clear that I expected the feedback to be reinstated, and that I expected an explanation from the people who do these things. She promised to follow up, and that I could expect a call back within a week at the latest. I made it clear that if she did not, I would follow up with the Australian authorities.

Somehow eBay seems completely chaotic. I'm left with the feeling that Craig knows how to manipulate the system, either by an undocumented bug, personal contact or just plain breaking and entering. High time Amazon expands into Australia. There's no reason to believe that they'll be better, but at least I'll have a choice.

As if to confirm my opinion, while we were talking, I received email from eBay:

Dear Greg Lehey,

Thanks for calling us. Because we weren't able to authenticate you during the call, we thought the information below might help you make sure your account information is up to date.

How to check or update your postal code, address, or phone number
1. Go to My eBay.
2. Place your pointer over the 'Account' tab, and then click 'Addresses'.
3. Under 'Registration Address', click the 'Change' link to the right of the information. You will need to enter your password again to change the information.
4. Make the changes needed and confirm by clicking the 'change registration information' button.

How to check or update your credit card information
1. Go to My eBay.
2. Place your pointer over the 'Account' tab, and then click 'Personal Information.'
3. Under 'Financial Information', click 'automatic payment method'.
4. Select 'Credit Card' and then click 'Set up Automatic Payments'. You may need to click 'Continue' if you're changing your information.
5. Enter your credit card information, and then click 'Continue'. If you're adding a new credit card, you'll be asked to authorise it.

To learn more about changing account information, please visit: http://pages.ebay.com.au/help/account/change-account.html

What the hell is that about? I had no difficulties with authentication. The time matches the beginning of my call with Steph. Did she have finger trouble?


Normalizing image stack sizes
Topic: technology, photography Link here

DxO PhotoLab creates output images that can vary in size by up to about 6 pixels on a side. That's not a big deal, much less than 1%, but it breaks various software that processes multiple images and expects them to be exactly the same size. What I need is a program that can take a stack and crop the larger images to the size of the smallest.

Where can I find that? I looked, but couldn't find anything. Maybe I didn't have the right search terms. In any case, searching became more difficult than doing it myself, so I wrote a script myself. It definitely needs improvement—currently it crops all images, even if not necessary—but it has enabled me to do some more work on focus stacking.


Zerene on FreeBSD
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Another potential advantage of Zerene is that there's a Linux version. Will it run on FreeBSD? Spent some time checking, and came to the answer “Yes”. The main issue proved to be, once again, that eureka is so down-rev that I can't run modern Linux binaries on it. But it worked almost out of the box across the LAN on lagoon. Yet another reason to upgrade eureka.


Guns and murders
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The USA has had another mass shooting. I'm surprised that they bother to report them any more. But there's soul-searching and finger-pointing every time it happens. A couple of graphic representations seem to help understand the issues. First this image from the New York Times:

This article, also from the New York times, represents it like this:

And Mikel Jollett tweets this image:

So: stop gun sales? Reinterpret the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution to restrict use to the kind of arms usual at the time it was written, and in militia-related contexts? Powerful lobby groups are going to prevent that, at least in the short to mid term. And I don't think that it would solve the problem, though it could possibly reduce the effects. Imagine somebody storming into a church with a couple of flint-lock muskets. But the real issue is the gun mentality that pervades US society.


Building dispute progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Call from Maggie Keenan of Domestic Buildings Dispute Resolution Victoria today. JG King have indeed had staff turnover, and the new manager is called Ashley Barker, who is still trying to get his head around the issues. Good luck to him. It might be easier for them just to give in.


eBay pain, yet again!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Mail from eBay today, coinciding with a routine access to “my eBay”:

Unauthorized use of your account -- action required

We have reason to believe that your eBay account has been used fraudulently without your permission. We’ve reset your eBay password. If you had your PayPal account linked to your eBay account, we've disabled your PayPal link to protect your funds. Any unauthorised activity, such as buying or selling, has been cancelled and any associated fees have been credited to your account. Any listings that we removed are included toward the end of this email. We assure you that your financial information is securely stored on a server and cannot be seen by anyone.

Dammit, when will they finally stop? If they have reasons, they should say so. But this happened in April, May and September this year alone, and possibly on other occasions that I didn't bother to mention. What is wrong with these people? My passwords are getting more and more insulting.


Thursday, 9 November 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 9 November 2017
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A trellis
Topic: gardening Link here

Into Ballarat today to buy stuff for the planned trellis in the garden. First to Bunnings, where Yvonne had identified some trellis-like dividers yesterday. But there was nothing there that I found even remotely usable. They're really not trellises at all, more dividers for privacy, and unsuited for climbing plants. We saw a couple that could barely have done the job, at prices that were out of proportion to the function.

Finally we found a latticework trellis in a completely different place, after first having to ask for prices of other equally unsuited arches. And we were ready to pay. But of the four people at the exit, only one was manning a cash register, although there was one on the other side:


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Finally we were away. How I hate Bunnings! And how I hate shopping! People who enjoy shopping clearly have no imagination, and are easily pleased.

On for some timber at Whiteheads, to DELA to order some soil and gravel, then home. Two and a half hours for almost nothing.

CJ Ellis along later on to sink the mounting posts:


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It looks as if I am going to have to mount the trellises myself. I hope I have the screws and things.


More focus stacking comparisons
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Two weeks ago I took some focus-stacked photos that were less than optimal. The results with the out-of-camera stacking were surprisingly good, but limited in focus depth (only 8 component images). I took another series of 84 images of a Burchardia umbellata, of which FOCUS Projects Professional made results that I wouldn't want to use:


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Due to the stack size issues, I haven't been able to get Zerene or Helicon Focus to produce any results. But now I can normalize the sizes. What do I get? I still need to RTFM for both products, but Zerene has two different ways of merging the stacks (PMax and DMap), and Helicon has three (A: weighted average, B: depth map and C: pyramid). Here are the results of each. First Zerene PMax and DMap:


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Getting results from Helicon was more difficult. Apart from the difficulty of selecting the input images, it crashed very frequently, more than I'm prepared to accept. I must have had 20 crashes so far. And here are the results from Helicon A (weighted average), B (depth map) and C (pyramid):


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Which are better? It's difficult to be sure. Helicon results have more contrast, but that's easily fixed. All images have a sharp background (the Drosera). The real issues seem to be sharpness and delineation behind the flowers, which have moved from one image to the next. Probably in this case the best results are from Helicon's C (pyramid) processing (run the cursor over an image to compare it with the next). There are things that I don't (yet) understand about the process, and it's possible that once I do, I might be able to get better results.

The sharpest image of the flowers themselves seems to be one of these two, Helicon C (pyramid) or Zerene PMax:


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At first it seems to be the first (Helicon C (pyramid)). But that's partially due to the higher contrast, and it suffers from noticeable ghosting, while the other (Zerene PMax) doesn't. This is also the one that kills FOCUS Projects Professional (third image):

 
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But then there's the issue of ghosting in that area, which is particularly obvious in Helicon A (weighted average) and Zerene PMax:


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I think that ultimately the Helicon C comes out best here. In some ways it's a pity, because I find it a pain in other matters. Time to RTFM.


Microsoft memory use
Topic: technology, photography Link here

dischord.lemis.com, my Microsoft photo box, has 16 GB of memory, still a comparatively large amount. But after my photo experiments today, the task manager showed it using about 15 GB physical memory. After stopping the photo software, it dropped to 2.23 GB:


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This is “Windows” 7, though I'm not too sure it would be very different in older or newer releases. But why do programs that aren't currently in use use so much physical memory? Is their Virtual Memory model really that bad? Or is this “soft” memory usage, where pages are in memory but are backed up on disk, and can be discarded without problems?

Jamie Fraser tells me that “Windows” 10 gives more details, and yes, much of this memory is available immediately when needed. It doesn't explain why the performance drops off so badly when memory is so “full”, though.

Friday, 10 November 2017 Dereel Images for 10 November 2017
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Gravel and soil delivery
Topic: gardening Link here

Ted from DELA along today with the 4 m³ of gravel that we ordered yesterday. He deposited it near the gate.

Half an hour or so later Jamie arrived with the 5 m³ of soil and tried to deposit it nearby. It didn't quite work:


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How did that happen? To get to where he needed to go, he had to go over the drain area. But unlike Ted, he stopped in the middle, with his drive wheels in the soft part of the drain. So he tried to drive off forward again, digging his way into the ground in the process.

He called back to base, and in another 40 minutes Adrian arrived with a truck and pulled him out:


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Not much hope for putting the soil where we had wanted it, so we put it in the drain area. Hopefully Warrick will get here before it rains.

So how did it happen? Adrian tells me that it's a pretty frequent occurrence—with that specific truck, about once a day in the winter.


Getting photos off Android
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday I took a couple of photos with my mobile phone: I hadn't expected to need to do so, and I had left my camera in the car. But how do I get them off the phone? I've grumbled about the opacity of the Android user interface in the past, but I've always managed to get them off there with a little bit of searching. But not today. WiFi File Transfer, a program that fills in for missing basic Android functionality, offered to find “My Photos”, “My Pictures” (what's the difference) and other Mys, but it couldn't find them.


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Neither could I. One of the problem is that this toy has no standard tools. Where's find(1) when you need it? wifi file transfer does quite a good job of tree-climbing, but that quickly gets boring.

So I decided to download the entire memory of the device so that I could process it on eureka. That will be useful as a reference in future. While doing that, however, I checked some of the other tabs. “Media gallery” found it. The photos were on the external SD card, about the only thing that gets stored there, in the relatively logical directory http://talipon.lemis.com:1234/storage/extSdCard/DCIM/Camera/, but for some reason wifi file transfer didn't look there. Now that I know, I can save the URL in a web page.

And that's one of the big issues with Android: each app does its own thing, and there's no way for another app to know what it is (though in this particular case it looks more like lack of trying on the part of wifi file transfer). But every time I use Android, I find something new to hate.


Olympus goggles
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Olympus has announced a new product, the EyeTrek Insight EI-10L

That report, from Digital Photography Review, is the most informative. Their own page is much less so, but shows some truly horrendous prices: the unit itself costs $1,500. Even the battery charger costs $249, more than I paid for Yvonne's E-PM2 with lens. It's billed as “developer's edition”, which I translate as “solution looking for a problem”. I have a suitable problem: I need a remote viewfinder for my camera for use out in the open. With suitable imagination, this device could be adapted. That would require something more flexible than OI.Share, of course.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

Off down Misery Creek Road again this afternoon to look for wildflowers. The season gradually seems to be over. The only orchid I found was Diuris sulphurea, in large quantities:


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Took a number of focus stacked images, but didn't get round to processing them.

Off also to Swansons Road, where I had found so many flowers this time last year. This time I found almost nothing. Yes, the usual stuff, but in particular no sun orchids and no Caleana major (duck orchids). Found one flower that I hadn't seen before, clearly not an orchid, but the photo will have to wait.


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Radiation Tower progress
Topic: general, technology Link here

The new Telstra radiation tower has now been erected, but they're still working on it:


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Still, it can't be long now before we finally get coverage.


Saturday, 11 November 2017 Dereel Images for 11 November 2017
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Focus stacking wildflowers
Topic: photography, technology, gardening Link here

Spent some time today processing yesterday's focus stacks of the wildflowers. There were slim pickings: in most cases I had managed to miscalculate the beginning or end focus point, and I ended up with results that were just plain out of focus. I really need a better viewfinder. One possibility would be a small normal monitor connected to the HDMI output.

There were only two photos worth looking at. Here's a Diuris sulphurea rendered by Zerene (first two images) and Helicon Focus variants A (weighted average) and C (pyramid). Run the cursor over an image to compare it with the other of the pair).


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I wasn't able to get any results for Helicon B (depth map): every time I moved the mouse towards the button, the application crashed. Yes, a reinstall might help. But sorry, Helicon, you're just too unreliable.

Which is best? Zerene DMap has some very unpleasant artefacts in the stems on the right, so for this subject it's not worth talking about. The two Helicon results are surprisingly different in the background. But in general I can't find much wrong with any of them.

The other subject was this wildflower, which I've been observing for nearly a month. Again, run the cursor over an image to compare it with the other of the pair):


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All of these look acceptable to me. Again, the biggest difference is the rendering of the out-of-focus areas, though this time Zerene PMax is the one that stands out.

This time I also took the trouble to measure processing times. My estimate of 5 times as long for Zerene proved optimistic. For the Diuris, Helicon took 14 seconds with either method. Zerene DMap took 138 seconds, effectively 10 times as long. But it's the result that counts


Raclette again
Topic: food and drink Link here

I've decided against photos for Saturday evening dinner for a while, until I get my technique sorted out. It's somewhat disruptive as it is, and I continually run into trouble.

Today we had Raclette, not quite in keeping with the weather (temperatures touched 30° today), but we've only used the new grill once before, and it seemed like a good idea before we knew what the weather would be like.

Once again we noted the difference in the distance between element and pans. The old grill had so little space that it was easy to touch the element, though the pans were shallower. With this one I'm coming to the conclusion that the distance is too great, and we need something to lift the pans:


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We'll find something better for next time.


Sunday, 12 November 2017 Dereel Images for 12 November 2017
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Vignetting?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

While taking photos of the bogged truck yesterday, I discovered some extreme vignetting when using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100 mm f/4.0 IS PRO at 12 mm. Tried again today under more controlled conditions, with what must surely be the most boring photos I have ever taken in earnest:


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The mark in the middle is the shadow of the tripod, and is thus of no importance. This was the raw image with no conversions, taken with a filter on the lens. Was the filter responsible? Or is this vignetting something that is corrected in software, either in the out-of-camera JPEG image or with external software such as DxO PhotoLab? Tried that too, after removing the filter (which made no difference). Here first the JPEG, then DxO results:


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DxO does something, but not much. I'm beginning to wonder if something is wrong with the lens.


Scanning old photos again
Topic: photography Link here

I have yet another request for old photos that I took in Kuala Lumpur over 50 years ago. This time it's of plans my father drew in mid-1965:


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That required rescanning, and I spent a lot of the day doing that, in the process refining my methods and discovering that I had many more films in my old negative album than I thought, like these forgettable photos from 19 February 1966:


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I had had my Asahi Pentax SV for over 6 months by that time. Why did I not get the first one in focus?


Chicken drumsticks sous vide
Topic: food and drink Link here

Grilled chicken drumsticks taste good, but it's really difficult to cook them correctly. Underdo them and the meat sticks to the joints. Overdo them and they get dry and stringy. And measuring the temperature is difficult.

Clearly a case for sous-vide cooking. So that's what I did yesterday, and today we grilled them. But things still aren't that simple. What temperature? Conventional wisdom (in other words, what I have written down) is that they should be cooked at 78°. But when I had done that, the juice coming out still looked pinkish, so I cooked some of them for another couple of hours at 80°.

Today the results were really visible:


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The second group (of three) was cooked to 80°, and the skin round the thin end has pulled apart. And what difference did it make? Both sets were much juicier than conventional cooking methods, but neither was really “falling off the bone”. Next time I'll try some at 82°.


Reinstalling DxO
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Time to run DxO PhotoLab on euroa again. The installation is still broken, and remained broken after “uninstalling” it. But when I fought my way the maze of twisty little directories folders after deinstallation, the files were still there. OK, rm -rf /cygdrive/c/Users/grog/Local/DxO/ and reinstall.

It worked. What use are these deinstallers? OK, I had put stuff in there that hadn't been installed, but surely they can deal with that. At the very least they can report the fact.

Microsoft!


Monday, 13 November 2017 Dereel Images for 13 November 2017
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Summer comes up like thunder
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Earlier this month we had frost. Now we have temperatures over 30°, which came in at an amazing rate:

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At 7:08, the outside temperature was 13°. An hour later, at 8:10, it was 24°. That's quite impressive.


JG King responds
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Got JG King's reply to my complaint today. I got the feeling that they didn't read it, and just restated their letter I received over two years ago. They even mentioned the bandaid to the floor levels that we had agreed on back then, and which was not part of my complaint. About the only new thing that they seem to have come up with was the windows: the contract specifies double glazing throughout, but some of the windows are single-glazed. Their statement (verbatim): “This was not raised on my inspection of the home but windows are as per contract”. And that's all. The sad thing is that this kind of lack of attention doesn't seem to do people any harm.


Hibiscus photos: finally!
Topic: photography, gardening, technology, opinion Link here

It's been over 18 months since I started trying to take focus-stacked photos of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers. So far technology has always got the better of me. Today I had another go, and finally I have a couple of photos which are almost acceptable:


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I need to look at it in more detail, but I don't see any artefacts. About the only issue is the depth of field. In each case, I took 20 shots, the first at f/4 (a little wide for this lens) and the second at f/5.6. But the first one was further away, and I ended up with almost the entire background sharp. The second, despite the smaller aperture, was only barely sharp to the back of the flower. I really need to create some tools to calculate the number of steps necessary.


Auxiliary viewfinder monitor
Topic: photography Link here

On numerous occasions I've complained about the lack of an adequate viewfinder for my cameras when taking macros. Yes, they all have at least two viewfinders, and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I can have three. But they're all connected to the camera body, which makes them difficult to use in situations like these:


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But the cameras have an HDMI output. Years ago I connected my GPS navigator to my Olympus E-30, and it worked. That was a composite input, but surely there are HDMI monitors out there.

Went looking and opened a can of worms. The cheapest I could find had the “standard” resolution of 800×480 and cost $56, and it seemed to do the job—until I discovered that it did not have a battery. The cheapest with battery cost $102, and it had a resolution of 1024×600. But then there was one from Viltrox, a name I know, specifically intended for my purpose, with flash shoe mount and sun shade. It also promises “pixel magnification” and focus peaking, which might also be usable. By this time the price has risen to three times the el-cheapo model, but maybe it's worth it.

Then I made the mistake of looking for reviews. Before long I had this review:

Another feature of interest is genuine 1920×1080 resolution (something that the cameras can output). But it seems that even the battery-operated models frequently come with neither battery nor charger. Somehow this search is getting more complicated than I thought.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017 Dereel Images for 14 November 2017
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More viewfinder investigations
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Spent quite a bit more time investigating viewfinder monitors today. There's an amazing choice. Some of the better ones seem to come from a company with the unlikely name Feelworld, which calls them “on-camera monitors” or “HDMI Camera Field Monitors”. But which? The current list (probably predestined to link rot) lists no fewer than 19 different models, in addition to 18 “SDI Field Monitors”. They differ at least in resolution and screen size. But even after limiting to 7" diagonal and 1920×1080 resolution, I'm left with 5 different monitors, with an actual resolution of 1920×1200. Why do they use this aspect ratio? More importantly, though, what are the differences? They don't offer a comparison. The differences I see are availability (I've only seen two of them available on line), and controls: some have a row of prominent control buttons, others don't.

The two that I could find are the FW760 and the FH7, with buttons, and the T7 (“New”), without buttons. What are the other differences? I don't know. The FW760 is clearly older, but it has the buttons, and also reviews, such as this one:

That shows a number of issues:

The last issue is a problem, but some people are offering kits with battery and charger. Prices in this configuration are round $230. Is it worth it? I think that it makes sense to have 1920×1080 (or 1200) resolution, The cheapest I can find there are round $170 without battery, from a company called Eyoyo, and the descriptions I have found haven't been very convincing. But clearly I'm not done yet.


ON1: No thanks
Topic: technology, photography Link here

Recently I heard of a company called ON1, who have just released a new version of their photo software. OK, I can try that. Fought my way through their web site: I needed to provide my (one-off) email address before they would talk to me, and for that I needed to tell them about myself and what kind (only one) of photos I took.

Finally I was registered, logged in and... had to tell them all over again. My guess is that this is a case of Hanlon's Razor.

Finally installed the software, and got the message:

 
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And they didn't think of that before? I don't mind trying out new software, but they shouldn't make it difficult. Not only do they not check what's needed, they don't tell me how to install it. Goodbye, ON1.


Ibis visit
Topic: animals, photography Link here

Found a lone Ibis wandering round in the garden this evening, accompanied by an inquisitive Magpie:


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They tend to be pretty gregarious, and I suspect he had lost his flock.


Wednesday, 15 November 2017 Dereel Images for 15 November 2017
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Garden flowers in late spring
Topic: gardening Link here

Middle of the month again, time for my monthly garden flower photos. Last month things were rather depressing, but things are looking a lot better now. The Paulownia kawakamii that had suffered so much in the frost earlier this month seems to be coming back strong. Here two weeks ago and today:


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The last image shows leaves that completely disappeared 10 days ago.

The Banksia that had suffered frost damage last month has also recovered well. Here the first two from last month, and now today:


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The Senna aciphylla that we planted last December has not only lasted out the winter: it's still flowering, something that we never saw in Kleins Road:


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And the roses are flowering profusely, notably this climber:


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It's a pity that it doesn't have a nicer colour.

The more established roses are also coming up well:


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But the ones in the new bed are not:


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I'm not sure why that's the case.

The tree ferns are coming back, though the first one seemed to be nearly dead, and I'm not sure that it will make it. But the other has come out with new fronds, late but strong:


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The Adenanthos sericeus (“wooly bushes”) that we planted behind the riding arena are gradually growing, despite the grass around them:


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Another plant that has taken its time is an Anigozanthos (“Kangaroo paw”) that the Marriotts gave us a couple of years ago, which Sasha then mutilated, and we nurtured back to health. It's doing very well now:


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This one was a surprise:


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It's a grass that Yvonne bought years ago for the colour of its foliage. We didn't know that it would flower like that.

A year and a half ago we also planted a couple of crawling Grevilleas in the D bed. Neither has done very well, but this one now finally seems to be coming:


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The Grevillea bronwenae that we bought in Pomonal last month doesn't seem to have changed much, but appearances are deceptive. It's coming up with lots of new buds:


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And the Eremophila nivea that we bought at the same time has also carried on flowering, though I suspect it would like less wind:


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The Hebe that was looking so sick last month is no longer looking sick. It's dead. But others are looking very good, notably this one:


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On the south (shade) side of the house, the Vinca minor seem to be taking over:


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The Buddlejas have had different results. These two are in a row together, about 3 m apart:


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It's not clear why the second is so sick, but hopefully it'll recover this year.

And this plant (wildflower? weed?) probably needs more attention:


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I've seen it before, but never really had time to investigate it.


Planting Clematis
Topic: gardening Link here

I've been dragging my feet about the Clematis plants that I bought the weekend before last. Part of the issue is erecting the trellis, for which I have found various grounds for procrastination. The other was the discovery that the Mandevilla laxa that I had wanted to replace was in fact not quite dead:


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So I ended up planting one Clematis (a General Sikorski cultivar, pruning group 2) a little to the left:


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That wasn't as simple as it seemed. Clematis tie themselves in knots, and on removing the plant from the pot, I managed to break one of the two stems:


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The flowers came into a vase, and I've planted the lower part in soil. We'll see if it takes root or not.


Black hole Sunshine West
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Received another parcel today which had spent the last 5 days maturing in Sunshine West:


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After turning the right way round, I established:

I've noted this before, but I never cease to be amazed. There must be some good business reason for this, but I don't see it. Is there really that little postal traffic between Melbourne and Ballarat? I'd love to find a plausible official explanation.


New display card for teevee
Topic: technology, multimedia Link here

The package that Australia Post so lovingly matured was a display card for teevee, my multimedia box (or TV driver). Yes, of course it has a display card, but it's full height, and I wanted to migrate teevee to a Lenovo ThinkCentre:


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How do I migrate easily and with fallback? I can't even just take out the disks from teevee and put them in the new machine (provisionally called tiwi): if something goes wrong, I'll have to rebuild again, and I won't have the option of comparing how they behave. In any case, there are two disks, and the ThinkCentre can only hold one.

The right way is to install a new operating system on a new disk, and use that. But that takes time and requires configuration. Instead I got an old disk and simply overwrote it with the contents of teevee's root file system. And how about that, it worked!

Put in the display card, which fortunately fit:

Fired up X. How about that, it worked out of the box! And yes, I could watch TV on it. One of the most painless rebuilds I've had.

Moved it to the lounge room and connected to the TV. Yes, that worked too, including the sensitive things like the remote control. About the only issues were files that were dependent on the host name, like ~/.xmodmap.tiwi and ~/.xmodmap.teevee. But all very minor.

But then I tried to watch a film, and I noted random artefacts, almost like scratches on a film. And from time to time the TV blacked out and took a few seconds to resync.

What causes that? The obvious culprit is the TV, with which I've had fun in the past. Connected up teevee (see, it's good to have a fallback), and things worked correctly.

X configuration? I hadn't changed it from the old config, but surprisingly that was correct. It turned out that the new card is electrically almost identical to the old one. The dmesg output is really identical:

nvidia-modeset: Loading NVIDIA Kernel Mode Setting Driver for UNIX platforms  384.90  Tue Sep 19 17:29:32 PDT 2017
nexus0
nvidia0: <GeForce GT 710> on vgapci0
vgapci0: child nvidia0 requested pci_enable_io
vgapci0: child nvidia0 requested pci_enable_io
vgapci0: Boot video device

What about /var/log/Xorg.0.log? Normally it's almost impossible to compare the two, but this time there were very minor differences, mainly related to the fact that I had inadvertently put in two sets of font specifications:

[    28.494] (**) FontPath set to:
        /usr/local/lib/X11/fonts/misc/,
        /usr/local/lib/X11/fonts/TTF/,
        /usr/local/lib/X11/fonts/OTF,
        /usr/local/lib/X11/fonts/Type1/,
        /usr/local/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi/,
        /usr/local/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi/,
        /usr/local/share/fonts/misc/,
        /usr/local/share/fonts/TTF/,
        /usr/local/share/fonts/OTF/,
        /usr/local/share/fonts/Type1/,
        /usr/local/share/fonts/100dpi/,
        /usr/local/share/fonts/75dpi/

That's clearly not the problem: in fact, this works on tiwi, while teevee doesn't appear to have the path /usr/local/bin/X11/fonts.

The most obvious issue would be differences in the frequencies of the output signal. But not only was the output similar enough to be easy to compare, there was no significant difference at all. About the only real difference was the fact that the old card also has a VGA output, so there was more information about the fact that it was connected.

OK, try 3. xvidtune. Oh. Can't run it over the network. But the man page shows me that there's a -show option, which just prints out a mode line, all that I wanted. Try that:

=== grog@teevee (/dev/pts/4) ~ 3 -> xvidtune -show
"1920x1080"   148.50   1920 2008 2052 2200   1080 1084 1089 1125 +hsync +vsync
=== grog@tiwi (/dev/pts/4) ~ 5 -> xvidtune -show
"1920x1080"   148.50   1920 2008 2052 2200   1080 1084 1089 1125 +hsync +vsync

They're identical!

What does this leave me with. Defective HDMI cable? Maybe the card has a defective HDMI output: I tried it via DVI in the office, and it worked there. Dirty connection? The obvious first thing would be to reseat the cable, reboot the machine, and see if the problem still occurs. If it does, try the new card in teevee and see what happens there.


eBay “make an offer”
Topic: general, photography, photography Link here

So I've decided to buy a FW760 camera (“field”) monitor. Caution is required: the standard offering comes with neither battery, charger (obviously) nor micro HDMI cable, though there are bundles with those “accessories”. The cheapest bundle I could find on eBay was for $225, but that was a bid, not “Buy it now”. The cheapest “Buy it now” was from LinkDelight for $230 or “Best offer”. OK, what's a reasonable offer? Sent off an offer for $220, which was refused. At the same time, they raised the price to $246! Sent off a stiff comment offering $225 as last offer, and got a counter-offer of $239.

Sorry, LinkDelight, this isn't the way to delight your customers. I'd rather pay more and buy elsewhere.


Pizza with mozzarella
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Pizza again for dinner today, although we had it less than two weeks ago. But on Sunday Yvonne was at Heldane's Icelandic stud on Sunday, colocated with Shaw River Buffalo Cheese: Amy Heldane does the horses, and her sister Thea Royal does the cheese, some of the only buffalo cheese in Australia. So of course Yvonne brought some Mozzarella back with her:


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Once again I had difficulty with the dough: I had to add about 7% to the stated quantities. I had a similar problem last week, which I attributed to incorrect measurements. Is this a problem with the different flour that I hadn't noticed before?


Thursday, 16 November 2017 Dereel Images for 16 November 2017
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Rain!
Topic: gardening, animals Link here

Yesterday I took my monthly garden flower photos, but only today things had changed completely. We had nearly 30 mm of rain, causing near-flooding in front of the house, despite all the precautions we had done earlier in the spring:


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Piccola was not amused:


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That also emphasized a problem that we've had in the central bed for some time:


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The patch of green in the first photo is the creeping Grevillea that I mentioned yesterday:


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But the second photo shows its partner, planted at the same time, but subject to repeated drowning. It's only barely alive: time for some rescue.

The pile of soil that Jamie delivered last week was in the drain from the road. We knew that at the time, and my response was “Hopefully Warrick will make it here before the next rain”. He didn't:


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The other thing that is becoming clear is that the drain from the street via the entrance isn't ideal. On the one hand it's clear that the entrance should be wider to cater for trailers coming round the corner, and on the other hand there's a natural drain to the left of the driveway:


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Completing tiwi
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's upgrade attempts for teevee were almost completely successful, except for the issues with the display. I established a procedure, and today I tried it out.

First, connect the cables again, paying special attention to the seat of the HDMI cable. And it worked! Was it really just a badly sitting cable? After some consideration, I've decided “yes”.

Next step is to move the physical disks around. My media are still on teevee, which is less than optimal.


More ibises
Topic: animals Link here

Our solitary Ibis hasn't returned. Presumably he found his mates:


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Trellis: finally
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been nearly two weeks since we bought the new Clematis plants, and a week since we bought the trellis. Time to put the trellis up? Yes. And it went smoothly. The biggest problem was untangling the plant (an Edo murasaki cultivar, pruning group 2) without breaking off anything significant. I managed that, but we lost all the petals on the two flowers. Still, it's in place now:


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The soil was pretty wet, but hopefully that'll go in a matter of hours.

LinkDelight: revenge is sweet
Topic: general, technology Link here

I was really upset by the way, far from accepting my “best offer” on eBay, LinkDelight increased the “Buy it now” price of the FW760 monitor from $230 to $247. But they also had one on auction, initial bid $225. OK, wait until the end and then buy... for $225, the price they had rejected yesterday. That feels good.

To be fair to LinkDelight, their price was probably really too low. But if you offer “Buy it Now” and “Best Offer”, you shouldn't increase the price when people make an offer, at least not for that one person.


Friday, 17 November 2017 Dereel Images for 17 November 2017
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teevee: Finishing touches
Topic: multimedia, technology, general Link here

Yesterday's work on tiwi.lemis.com (the new teevee) was successful but not complete. I still needed to move disks around and put the new box in the TV cabinet.

teevee has had two disks for a remarkably short period of time. My last upgrade started on 1 June and took over 3 weeks to complete. By comparison, this time was a breeze.

Last time round I added a new boot disk to teevee, leaving the old one untouched. That proved to be useful today: I was able to copy the entire root file system to it, greatly simplifying the transition. In fact, about the biggest problem was physically moving the machine from its provisional position to inside the cabinet:


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That also involved swapping names: the new machine became teevee, and the old one became tiwi. Of course, in the three months' life of the previous incarnation I accumulated something like 300 GB of content on the second disk, and I needed to move it to the system disk. That involved some finger trouble (note: don't NFS mount a file system on the same system). And then hours of moving files across the network. But it's working! For the first time in the over 13 years since I started using computers to drive TVs, I have a system that doesn't look (that) abnormal.


Boot problems?
Topic: technology Link here

Although I had no real problems setting up the new teevee, there was one strange issue. On boot I got an unexpected message:

gptboot: Invalid backup GPT header

That looks like some kind of data corruption on disk, and that's all that I found on the web. It's benign in the sense that it doesn't stop the machine from working, but it would be interesting to find out how to fix it.


More wildflowers
Topic: gardening Link here

I've identified nearly 30 individual Thelymitra pauciflora (“sun orchid”) plants growing in the 400 odd metres of nature strip on Stones Road north of here:


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They're amazingly difficult to recognize, and I keep walking past them. They flower only briefly, but I want to be there when they do. Here's a typical location:


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Yes, that looks like a Grevillea rosmarinifolia, not a Thelymitra pauciflora. And it is, easy to recognize. At front left, though, is a Thelymitra, and this photo is to help me locate it. The plant itself is here:

 
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Apart from that, I find I should be paying more attention to insignificant plants. Here's one I found just outside the driveway:


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Is it indigenous? Native? Exotic? I don't know, but I suppose I should find out.


Saturday, 18 November 2017 Dereel Images for 18 November 2017
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Garden update
Topic: gardening Link here

A couple of days ago I noted with pleasure the recovery of the tiny tree fern that we bought last year and which had suffered from the bore water spray:


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But today it doesn't look anything near as good:


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Where is it? You need to look much closer:


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Mick the gardener was here today, and he didn't see it while whipper-snipping. He did see a patch of weeds next to it (towards the bottom of the image), and carefully avoided them:


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He also planted the “Baby's tears” ground cover in front of the house, first tearing it into six pieces:


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Still, I suppose accidents will happen. I wonder if the tree fern will recover. Should I even try, or just buy a new one?


An end to “blogs”?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I've been keeping an online diary for over 17 years now, following on from a paper diary that I kept for nearly 8 years in the 1960s. In March 2009 I was informed that my “blog” had been added to the ACM Queue blog roll. Blog? I don't have no steenking blog. In fact, I created one to make my point.

Where does the word “blog” come from? “Weblog”, of course. Even the Oxford English Dictionary describes the term in detail, including this reference (under weblog):

1997 J. Barger Lively New Webpage in alt.culture.www (Usenet newsgroup) 23 Dec. I decided to start my own webpage logging the best stuff I find as I surf, on a daily basis:..www.mcs.net/~jorn/html/weblog.html.

Typically, that URL is now 404.

I chose to limit my diary for ACM: much of what I do is of no interest to their readers. And for quite some time I've been one of the most regular contributors. Looking back over the life of the blog roll (about 8½ years), I contributed 3,280 of the total 13,628 posts, about 24%. That's about 32 a month out of about 135 a month.

But times have changed. Today there were (so far this month) 35 posts, 28 by me. Last month (the last complete month) there were 47 posts, 36 by me. My average hasn't changed, but the overall average has dropped by round two thirds.

That's not just the last month or two. In June 2016 (the first month for which I can get statistics), there were 53 posts, 30 by me. In those 18 months the other contributions have dropped from 23 per month to 11 per month.

Where have all the bloggers gone? It seems that in this day of smart phones, typing has become “too difficult” (for once I'm in agreement), and people prefer more ephemeral means of communication. If Facebook isn't bad enough, consider Snapchat, a company with a philosophy that goes against all that I hold dear. Or, if you're a politician, there's always Twitter to limit your output to match your attention span.

I suppose blogs will go the way of USENET, with archived content and very little new content. I wonder how we'll communicate in 10 years' time.


Sunday, 19 November 2017 Dereel Images for 19 November 2017
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Object schema-validation controller throttled?
Topic: technology Link here

Tim Bray wrote an article yesterday days ago about the image quality of his Pixel 2 as processed by various software. Interesting, but not spectacular. How would a real camera have handled it? Decided to leave a comment. But of course there was a form to fill out. Did that (“How many sides does a triangle have?” Three, of course), and got an error message:

Insertion Aborted
Error: Object schema-validation controller throttled; exiting.

Huh? Deliberately obfuscated “error message”? It seems so. Subsequent attempts (including replacing “three” with “3”) brought no joy, but interesting variants on the error message:

Configuration Interrupted
Error: Subsystem normalization controller failed health check; exiting.

Initialization Problem
Error: Model parse controller has invalid index; exiting.

Queuing Malfunction
Error: Origin consistency-check initializer not authenticated; exiting.

Creation Malfunction
Error: Module synchronization activator mismatch; exiting.

Update Problem
Error: Microservice marshalling responder missing; exiting.

I wonder what the real problem was.


Leucospermum flowering
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

The Leucospermum cordifolium in front of my office window is gradually starting to flower:


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This is a halfway stage before all the stalks extend.

This also gave me another chance to take a focus stacked image, this time hand-held with 20 exposures. I can't see any evidence that Zerene had trouble with it, though it's gradually becoming clear that PMax creates cleaner backgrounds than DMap. Here PMax, then DMap (run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour):


This should be Leucospermum-cordifolium-3.-PMax.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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The other issue that I still need to address is the relatively flat output. Here the PMax variant in comparison with a single image:


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In this case, the single image might be preferable, though clearly the depth of field is insufficient.


Revisiting old focus stacks
Topic: photography, technology Link here

I'm gradually getting to the stage where my Zerene results are sufficient for most purposes. What about my older attempts? Can it help there? My first attempts at manual focus stacking go back nearly 5 years, but on that occasion I had to give up because my software wasn't up to it. Today I got:


This should be Garden-flowers.PMax.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Garden flowers.PMax          Dimensions:          4032 x 3024, 2735 kB
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That's not perfect by a long shot. It can't be: I only had two images, and there's an intermediate area that is out of focus in both shots. But it works, and in this case there's no significant colour or gradation difference.

Then, on 18 June 2015, I tried to merge a series of images of a Eucalyptus flower. By this time I had the version 4 firmware for the Olympus OM-D E-M1, but problems with DxO Optics “Pro” stopped me by giving me converted images with different sizes. That's still an issue, but now my scripts correct for it:


This should be Eucalyptus-flower-PMax.jpeg.  Is it missing?
Image title: Eucalyptus flower PMax          Dimensions:          4608 x 3456, 1541 kB
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In this case, the default DMax image has an even worse background:


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Image title: Eucalyptus flower DMap          Dimensions:          4608 x 3456, 1391 kB
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Started reading the documentation, which suggests that DMax really requires tuning to get good results, but that they can then be very good.


Bloody autofocus!
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Another series of horse riding videos today, like the ones I took three months ago. I wasn't keen: I had had serious focus issues last time, and I didn't know how to fix it. But Chris and Yvonne were insistent, so out again, this time with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100 mm f/4.0 IS PRO, using a medium-sized focus area and autofocus with tracking. And how about that, with one minor glitch the camera kept focus.

Or at least, it claimed to have done so. The focus system showed a green frame round one of the horse heads that tracked perfectly. But it was lying: the image didn't stay in focus, like here at about 1:20:


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That's really frustrating. What do I do?


Buddlejas: the fat and the lean
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

A year and a half ago we planted five Buddleja saplings to the south of the house. Their fate has been varied. The two at the end both died. One did really well, and the others look like they have barely grown. Here the westmost two:


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It's difficult to recognize the small one; it's at the extreme left of the first image, and the bottom of the second one. Why has it done so badly? My best guess is that the soil there is really poor, and there were no nutrients. I've fixed that now, and we'll see how (if) things improve.


Monday, 20 November 2017 Dereel Images for 20 November 2017
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Wikimedia error messages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Some while back I linked to some images on Wikimedia. Today I discovered that one wasn't loading. My loading mechanism includes some JavaScript magic, so all I saw was a “loading” message that took too long.

OK, follow the link manually. A remarkably vague error message taking up the entire height of a 2560×1440 screen:


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OK, page down...


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Wouldn't you think that they would have found a better way to report that particular error? The one they mention is Just Plain Wrong.


Wildflower photos
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

It's only been 3 days since I noticed this wildflower:


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They shot up all over the place, and I had planned some macro photos of them. But only today they seem to have finished flowering. Grabbed a couple and took them into the office, where I got at least one reasonable photo:


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Oh. That's not the same plant. Friday's flower looked like this:

 
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OK, still worth photographing. But it's really not easy. I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II focus peaking fails badly with extreme macros. And how many steps? How many times have I asked that? Once I expressed the opinion that a default of 99 steps was ridiculously many, but now it seems that it's only rather silly to say 99 and not 100. This image was taken with 20 images, and it's clear that only the closer half is in focus.


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The colour balance and contrast are also rather strange. This is a primarily white flower, but it looks almost grey. That's particularly obvious looking from the front, where at least most of the flower is in focus:


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Image title: Wildflower 7 PMax          Dimensions:          5184 x 3888, 2131 kB
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So what do I need to do? Optimize exposure and work out how many images to take. Yes, I could take many more, but somehow that goes against the grain. It must be possible to calculate the number of steps. But there are still too many unknowns.


Upgrading mplayer
Topic: multimedia, technology Link here

One issue I still have with teevee is “tearing” of the displayed image on images that pan (horizontally). That's a common complaint, but in my case it started after my upgrade in June, where the software stayed the same and the hardware got faster. No obvious reason why it should start tearing.

Went searching on the web and found the usual recommendations, including VDPAU. Looking at my wrapper scripts, I found that I didn't specify VDPAU anywhere. Try out with explicit -vo vdpau and got:

=== grog@tiwi (/dev/pts/1) /teevee/spool/Series/Deutschen 24 -> /home/local/bin/mplayered -vo vdpau Die-Deutschen-II-\(6_9\)-20171004-153000.mp4
MPlayer SVN-r37862-snapshot-3.4.1 (C) 2000-2016 MPlayer Team

Playing Die-Deutschen-II-(6_9)-20171004-153000.mp4.
libavformat version 57.36.100 (internal)
libavformat file format detected.
[mov,mp4,m4a,3gp,3g2,mj2 @ 0x215a810]Protocol name not provided, cannot determine if input is local or a network protocol, buffers and access patterns cannot be configured optimally without knowing the protocol
[lavf] stream 0: video (h264), -vid 0
[lavf] stream 1: audio (aac), -aid 0, -alang deu
VIDEO:  [H264]  1280x720  24bpp  25.000 fps  3155.9 kbps (385.2 kbyte/s)
Error opening/initializing the selected video_out (-vo) device.
Clip info:
 major_brand: mp42
 minor_version: 1
 compatible_brands: isommp42
 creation_time: 2017-09-28 09:16:17
 copyright:
 copyright-eng:
Load subtitles in ./
SUB: Could not determine file format
Cannot load subtitles './Die-Deutschen-II-(6_9)-20171004-153000.txt'.
==========================================================================
Opening audio decoder: [ffmpeg] FFmpeg/libavcodec audio decoders
libavcodec version 57.39.100 (internal)
AUDIO: 48000 Hz, 2 ch, floatle, 128.0 kbit/4.17% (ratio: 16000->384000)
Selected audio codec: [ffaac] afm: ffmpeg (FFmpeg AAC (MPEG-2/MPEG-4 Audio))
==========================================================================
AO: [oss] 48000Hz 2ch s16le (2 bytes per sample)
Video: no video
Starting playback...
Error opening/initializing the selected video_out (-vo) device.
A:   0.0 (00.0) of 2610.0 (43:29.9) ??,?%

Why that? In any case, it looked like a good time to upgrade my mplayer, not made easier by the requirement to merge my own patches. But that went relatively easily. This time I created a directory hierarchy /usr/ports/multimedia/mplayer-local, copied the contents of /usr/ports/multimedia/mplayer to it, and then merged my own patches. Surprisingly, it worked out of the box. And the total build time for mplayer was a little over a minute, quite surprising with today's bloated ports.

And it worked. In particular, I didn't need to specify -vo vdpau: the tearing went away without it. Is it invoked by default, perhaps?

It wasn't until we were watching TV in the evening that I discovered that the remote control didn't work. But that almost seems normal; somehow LIRC seems to have it in for me.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017 Dereel Images for 21 November 2017
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Propagating Clematis
Topic: gardening Link here

While planting the Clematis “General Sikorski”, I managed to break off one of the stems. Damn! So I cut off the bottom of the broken-off piece, prepared it with scraping and hormone and planted it in a pot. Not surprisingly, it's not looking very happy at the moment:


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While watering the plant itself, noted that the remnant stem was lying on the ground:


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So I tried to lift it up. And it wouldn't come. It had developed a root and attached itself to the ground:


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So: it seems that to propagate Clematis, you need to cover one of these nodes with soil. Not what I had done:


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Still, I can fix that—maybe, if it's not too late:


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We'll see how that goes. Apart from that, there's also the stem with the flowers on it, which I put in a vase. To my surprise, the flowers lasted nearly a week, though they're clearly past it now:


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But after trimming the flowers off, it seems that it, too, has developed vestigial roots:


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So that'll soak in water for a while, and then I'll plant it.


Sun orchids: finally
Topic: gardening Link here

While walking the dogs today, found what I have been looking for for over a week: the first flowering Thelymitra pauciflora (sun orchids):


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Image title: Thelymitra pauciflora 4 detail          Dimensions:          1113 x 983, 178 kB